Paper or Electrons?

I have been reading more and more negative posts about the electronic book lately, compared to the earlier rush of positive ones.  Seems folks are not finding the new technology as useful as had first been expected.  A good one from today’s reading of the blogs comes from a highly “tech” source such as ‘Wired.’


So far, here is my short list of pros and cons:

In both columns I have tried to arrange them in ascending order of priority, meaning my biggest reasons are at the bottom of each column:

Pros Cons
Eye Friendly – More consistent “view” lighting – ie. I find I can see an electronic book in better light.  The only issue I have found is that reader models vary widely, and none of them seem to mitigate bright sunlight as well as paper. Marking – Maybe in the future they will overcome this, but despite all the work so far on the e side, paper is much easier to mark up anyway I choose –  with the ebooks, I have to stick to their marking choices
Speed of return – No lost places, bookmarkers, dog ears; open and boom, you are reading. Versatility – Similar to “marking” I find that bound books are more versatile to use (I can pass them around without getting a nervous twitch), I can loan them out, I can use them physically as weight, as a door stop, build air forts for my kids, etc.  They actually “exist” whereas ebooks only work as ebooks.
Speed of acquisition – what book lover would not like the fact that you buy it and instantly (or momentarily, come on task bar!) have it? Sound – It cracks me up that many ebooks allow for this, but with obviously fake sound effects of page turning.  This is related to marking, as I even enjoy the sound of my pen makes on good paper as I annotate a good book.
Searchability – I have saved this till last as it constitutes perhaps my largest pro – I can find passages very quickly, whereas the paper is much slower Smell – weird but true; I love the smell of a good book, usually including some mustiness, but also leather, paper, dust, etc.
Cost – Definitely makes book acquisition cheaper, especially with apps that let you pay one set fee for the month and read as much as you want. Ambiance – I can get a little bit of a jolly from swiping my finger through the covers of all the ebooks, but really does not do it like just sitting back in my wingback and being with my books in the library of my house.  Not even close.
  Friendship with the book – I have a relationship with my books, but can’t seem to have the same with electricity
  Variety – this will fade, I am guessing, but for now there are way fewer titles in e-form than in paper form.  And even as the e-form list grows, I fear that publishers (see Rights) will determine more and more what gets made available purely by its ranking in sales, not any other considerations.
  Sharing with friends – for very good copyright and authorial reasons, you can’t share eBooks.  While this would save me countless dollars from unreturned treasures (you all know who you are), it also prevents one of the greatest pleasures I know – giving friends my books ON LOAN!
  Ownership – just as with mp3’s, I don’t really own anything other than electrical property, and that is not tangible.  Much easier to “lose it all.”
  Cognitive Difference – Just does not interact with my mind the same way as a paper book – the eye/hand/mind coordination is different.  This can be seen as simply, “I am more used to a book”
  Rights – this is huge to me, and seems the hardest to explain to others.  EBooks are collectivist – very few vendors who control what is and what is not available to the consumer.   500 years in, paper book publishing has its multiplicity of niche publishers, and book runs of a few hundred of the most obscure things you can imagine.  Read Amazon’s fine print and anything I “own” from them can disappear at anytime.  Another way to put this is: It is much harder to control the possession of physical books than electronic ones.

I could go much further with this, but it might become a book!  I hope at least for now it makes you think with me on this important subject.


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