Ebooks Vs. Print: Showdown of Our Century

To all the sentimental print lovers out there, I say: ‘Get on the bandwagon, or you will be left on the side of the road amongst the sullied remains of 8 track players and beta-maxes!’

After reading a New Yorker article about the Kindle, I’d like to bring up a few thoughts on the ebook vs. print argument. Many of the arguments I’ve heard against ebooks encompass an emotional attachment to paper books, cite the lack of a range of choices in ebook stores, describe annoyances of reading on a device, etc. I have an emotional attachment to paper books, too. I love the smell of an old book, and the feel of a well loved paperback. However let’s be real, the market is moving toward digital, not because the reading experience is that much better, not because the product itself is that much better than print, but because it is fantastically easier and cheaper to produce and distribute digital material, period. Devices and their accompanying ebook stores maybe rife with problems, and oftentimes certainly it is easier to just buy a print book, but we need to keep in mind that the market is just starting to develop, whereas makers of print books have had centuries to establish their distribution methods. Recall the switch from vinyl to cassette tape to the CD. Many, even today, will extol the reminiscent virtues of listening to records over digital music; however when the cassette tape came out, it was an obvious improvement, (and I daresay cheaper and easier to produce), thus the market, and necessarily the listener, adjusted. The same happened when CDs hit. Now even the most sentimental music enthusiast will admit that they own and listen to digital music, because it is easier to manage, portable and is now the only way to access new music. I believe we are already beginning to see this process with literature. So to sentimental readers, librarians and educators alike, I say get on the bandwagon, or you will be left on the side of the road amongst the sullied remains of 8 track players and beta-maxes. I don’t say this to anger bibliophiles, but to rally them. The sooner we stop looking for problems with what’s new and arguing over its acceptance, the sooner we can start to intelligently design standards and set precedents for digital literature.

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