Ebooks Versus Paper Books, Read Ducks

Wired lists five reasons ebooks are not “there” yet, which is five reasons why the particular writer isn’t fully sold on ebooks as permanent replacements for printed books. Boiled down, they are thus:

1) An unfinished e-book isn’t a constant reminder to finish reading it.
2) You can’t keep your books all in one place. [That is, in one file format/application.]
3) Notes in the margins help you think.
4) E-books are positioned as disposable, but aren’t priced that way.
5) E-books can’t be used for interior design.

Here are some reasons why nutbar Brian J. Noggle does not own a portable ebook reader and is not going to replace his extensive library with one:

  • Theft.
    An electronic gizmo is the target of theft; should this occur, you lose your investment in your device and your investment in purchases for it. No one is going to steal my library without a dump truck and frontloader.
  • Damage.
    Again, by centralizing a large investment in a single place, if you drop it or leave it on the roof of your car, you’re in danger of losing the library instead of a $1 book you bought at a book fair.
  • The rapid expansion of technology.
    You’ve bought the gee-whiz Kindle now, and it can hold thousands or billions and billions of Carl Sagan books. But in a year, publishers are going to embed videos in the books to justify the price of the books. In a couple years, they’ll embed three-d videos and memory-intensive applications so you can create a community with other readers. Suddenly, your device can’t hold the robust complete edition of The Chronicles of Narnia.
  • The rapid obsolescence of technology.
    Your device can hold today’s ebooks. Will they hold ebooks developed in 2017? You are new here, aren’t you? Device creators will need reasons to get you to buy new ebook devices, so they’ll make new bells and whistles (hey! Customizable skins!) And suddenly, six months after you buy your reader and load it with books, you could find that the device maker is ending support for it. There will be no more ebooks for you until you spend money to upgrade your device and maybe even your entire library.
  • You don’t own ebooks.
    Ask any purchaser of this Kindle edition of 1984. They own the content and they let you borrow it. Read your license agreements and, if you understand them, weep.
  • If the lights go out, you have nothing to read.
    I’m not just talking about TEOTWAWKI. In very recent memory, parts of Missouri have lost power for weeks. If that happens, will your electronic device have enough battery to keep you in books and to help you with that reference material you need? You’d like to think so, but you won’t know so. Also, in the actual event of TEOTWAWKI, your device will only briefly heat your hovel and will release toxic chemicals to do so. Meanwhile, I can burn old Dungeons and Dragons novels for hours.

I don’t think any developments in ebook readers will ever dispel my reservations about them. I’m not enough of a luddite to proclaim that I’ll never own something like it–probably eventually some smartphone with text holding capabilities–but it won’t replace real books.

Andrea explains why the list items do not apply to the Spleenville book lifestyle. I’d like to dialog with her text a bit.

“E-books (sic) can’t be used for interior design.” Well, duh. I can’t scatter the internet about my apartment either — not unless I waste ink printing out a bunch of websites. That’s not the point. Some people don’t want books “cluttering up” their domiciles. Yeah, don’t ask me, I don’t get it either, but as meaningful as the idea of needing physical paper books everywhere to make me feel like my house is a home, I accept that some people aren’t like me and don’t think of books as augmenting their “interior design.” Unless they’re like those sad, sad people who buy random books in bulk with jackets all of the same color merely for the purposes of making their living room or stairwell look like that one they saw on HGTV.

Strangely enough, the wife of a former office co-habitant did just this. We went to some garage sales one weekend, and she bought books based on their cover/jacket colors and whether they would go in her living room. The content of the books didn’t matter.

Real bibliophiles go right to the bookshelves when they visit a place for the first time to see what the host reads. Or, in her case, that the host does not. You can’t do that with an ebook device, can you?

“3) Notes in the margins help you think.” This comes straight out of academic thought patterns, and is irrelevant to readers of novels and other “light” fare. Unless you really think that readers of things like the Twilight books carefully write their thoughts (“I heart Edward! I wish he were my BF!”) in the margins. Anyway, if you really can’t “think” without scribbling all over your books, maybe e_books are not for you. Or maybe you should carry a little note pad, or maybe you should learn to think without having to depend on notes.

Yeah, I remember being encouraged to “dialogue with the text.” That came along with the wide-margined notebooks so you could comment on your own journal entries about what you were thinking or feeling about things you were covering in the class. I haven’t written in the margins in decades. The only dialoging I do with text these days is when I throw the paperback copy of a book by a liberal author to the floor and stomp on it.

Frankly, because I’m not an academic, going over and over the same narrow niche for years of full-time work, I’ve gone back to something I’ve read for something I wrote in its margins. I have, on the other hand, gone into this blog’s archives for something I wrote about something I read.

At any rate, as I said, I’m not rushing out to buy an ebook device. I am, however, rushing headlong to profit from ebooks. See also John Donnelly’s Gold.


UPDATE: Thanks for the link, again, Ms. K.

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