Sunday, January 20, 2013

Ebooks: Much Ado about Nothing?

Print is here to stay. Hey! It was reported in the Wall Street Journal that print isn't going anywhere any time soon. Nicholas Carr reports
Half a decade into the e-book revolution, though, the prognosis for traditional books is suddenly looking brighter. Hardcover books are displaying surprising resiliency. The growth in e-book sales is slowing markedly. And purchases of e-readers are actually shrinking, as consumers opt instead for multipurpose tablets. It may be that e-books, rather than replacing printed books, will ultimately serve a role more like that of audio books—a complement to traditional reading, not a substitute.
I like ebooks in practice and in principle, but I prefer pages. And not just because I can continue to read when the doors close on an airplane, though that has something to do with it. It's so annoying to have to turn off all electronics until 10 minutes after take-off. That's a lot of reading time!

Josh Catone of Mashable reports Why Printed Books Will Never Die but suggests that ebooks have an advantage over print books. We see kids who know how to "page" on an iPad and who try to do the same with actual books, but we also know there is a different kind of interaction in being able to see and hold the whole book. Most of Catone's work is focused on why printed books have advantages over ebooks that we hope those kids will discover.

A lot of us talk about the experience of sitting with a book. Of being able to annotate, even in different colors or with different kinds of lines, or to be able to write in the margins. And there's just something about holding an actual book, the feel of the pages.

Don't get me wrong. I think there's value in the ebook, but I don't think we should rush to say that print is dead or that ebooks are superior. As with anything else, I think we'll find certain situations in which ebooks might make more sense and others in which books are the best option.

As long as people are reading, I'm not sure I care.