Sunday, September 5, 2010

Would you prefer an ebook to paper book?

Got this very interesting article in today's paper. Since I love reading a lot, I could not help but share this article. The original can be found here (among many other places I am sure).


There are very few battles in the technology space that actually make sense. The Plasma vs. LCD display was a good one till it lasted; the HD-DVD Vs BluRay was plain stupid; the three-way skirmish between gaming consoles Wii, PS3 and Xbox 360 is exhausting and the all new smartphone OS war is actually moving from dull to a pretty good slugfest. But rarely does technology wage a war against the old guard – truly established old school vs. the all new wiz bang of gadgetry. Yet, a classic battle of epic proportions is taking place right now – Ebooks vs. paper books!

We’ve had paper book fans talk about how they’ll never switch and there have been reams of columns on why Ebooks can be a better experience if only you would give them a shot. Fortunately this little war will be played on many fronts – consumer preference being just one of them.

Those who swear by paper books usually move into emotional and nostalgia mode. They seem to be incapable of reading without the heady smell of paper, the melodious rustle of turning a page, the olfactory experience of fresh ink, the eureka fact that their paper book will never suddenly run out of battery, that they can read while their aircraft is taking off or touching down, that they can hand them down to their friends and family and mostly that there is no strain of looking at a screen for a long period of time.

On the other hand, Ebook warriors seem to be getting a new arsenal everyday. Ebook prices are lower, they are a much greener option with no paper, no distribution, no warehousing, no retail space being used. Paper books are heavy and bulky and you can’t carry too many, while you can store thousands of books on one device, search, mark, look up definitions, make notes and share book passages on Twitter and Facebook in a second. Most importantly, you can set up font size and readability levels that are perfect for you.

Things seemed fairly well balanced when suddenly, Amazon announced that Ebooks now out-sell hardcover books by a factor of 1:2. All hell broke loose with typical hogwash headlines like ‘the beginning of the end’ and ‘it’s all over’ appearing across world media. Is it true then? Are the days for paper books truly numbered?

It has been about three years since the first real Ebook readers appeared. Prices since have fallen by almost 80 per cent, it’s the largest selling device on Amazon, almost every major book seller and consumer electronic maker has a model or two available, authors now release books directly to the public, bypassing the publisher and distributor, the iPad and other devices are pretty good Ebook readers on their own, thus creating some incredible momentum. It would seem that paper books are truly on their way to being dead and buried, right? Wrong! Sales of paper books have actually increased by quite a bit in the last three years. Some say by more than 40 per cent.

It seems that reading itself is staging a huge comeback and it’s now being fuelled on both sides by this very war. You try a Ebook on your phone and suddenly rediscover your passion for reading. Rather than watch a movie on a flight, you now read a book. You curl up with a book instead of sitting up at night watching television. Reading is going through a rediscovery revolution like never before.

Unfortunately it may not be all that balanced in the future! Here are a few controversial predictions. First, in about a year or so, Ebook readers will be given away free. Price are already at the sub $49-100 mark and it is not difficult for retailers to give them away with a contract where you promise to buy 12 Ebooks over a six month period. Second, prices of Ebooks will fall dramatically. This will put a lot of pressure on paper book prices and will make entire industries like paper and publishing go into a tailspin. Libraries will close and second-hand bookshops will be more like antique stores. None of this sounds good for an industry that has been there for literally thousands of years and is an invaluable resource.

There’s a lot to preserve here, a lot to cherish and not give up on. For a gadgety column, this may be a oxymoronic wish – but I really do hope that this time, technology will not triumph in this battle of the heart and mind. Otherwise, as a friend of mine once joked, in the near future we may all be reading an Ebook while keeping a piece of paper alongside. To crush at regular intervals and nostalgically relive the feel and smell of reading a real paper book!


  1. My own viewpoint is that I would rather have a real paper-book than an e-book. I, however, want to have an e-book version of the book as well because at any moment I might want to read any book and thats a flexibility that paper book doesnt afford...

  2. Personally, I agree with you. There is something about holding the book in your hand, leaving it in various rooms of the house...the smell of fresh paper that is quite irreplaceable.

    On the other hand, I'm pretty sure that e-books will have the maximum market share in a few decades and normal books will become obsolete, and one of the biggest reasons will also be that e-books will be cheaper.

  3. @Sakhi... somehow I don't thing that the paper books are going to become extinct or obsolete... I, though, think that the while the e-books will prosper like anything owing to the ease, portability and convenience of formats; the paper books need not have any fear of extinction

  4. Well, maybe not extinction, but definitely they are going to get endangered and become antiques... :(

  5. could be possible, but I somehow doubt if any format would be enough to replace the touch and feel of a real book... Well I, for one, will not let the real books slip up!

  6. @Catalog: First off, Welcome to the world of my wandering thoughts!!! Feel free to explore more

    Secondly, even I feel that I would never be able to replace the paper books with e-books but rather supplement them. But, we do not know enough about the future to predict the pattern in which things may emerge... but as they say "pehla pehla pyaar" (First Love)... thats what paper books are to me!!!

  7. @Web: Welcome to the world of my wandering thoughts!!! Feel free to explore more!!!

  8. eBooks might make their own domain, but they can't replace the paper books. I have experienced that the reading speed decreases when one is reading something on a screen. Also regression and pause in concentration is rampant as one wanders from the eBook window to other application. Getting entirely lost in a words of the book is completely natural thing which can't be replaced with any eBooks. Paper books are not as defenceless as DoDo.

  9. @ Abhishek: Welcome to the world of my wandering thoughts!!! Feel free to explore more!!!

    and yah I agree with you that paper books have a feel and following of their own and that is something that can never be replaced by an e-book. and nobody can say that paper books are defenseless... you cant throw an e-book at someone but throw a paper book and it is sure to hurt :D

  10. Nice topic & glad u put it up here!

    I would personally have liked or loved reading a paper book, or the real book, because you can go on reading a book for ever, until you finish the book, but then reading an electronic copy is not the best of things for your eyes i guess, i kinda have to stop reading very often, while reading an E-book!

    But then, e-book has an advantage as it doesn't ask for cutting down trees, and for that reason, that one reason alone, i would prefer E-books, plus you can carry them in a flash disk or a laptop, to where ever you go!

    A Journey to the Unknown Spaces

  11. @Naveen: Nice view about e-books saving trees and all. I also agree to them, along with the fact that they are really convenient and offer great portability...

    But, being a voracious reader, I find that paper books are the best way to read any book; especially when you are reading it on a cold day, tucked into a blanket, and devouring (!) something hot :D

    So, as I have been saying earlier as well, I will prefer a judicious mix of both; I want a paper book for real reading and e-book for binge reading whenever and wherever I want to!

  12. @Medyum: Welcome to the world of my Wandering Thoughts... feel free to explore more...

  13. @Smoke: Welcome to the world of my Wandering Thoughts... feel free to explore more...

    Even I feel that e-books will play a major role both because of convenience and the environmental aspect... But I feel that the proper book reading feel comes only when you are reading a paper book... Though I also want and e-book for impulse reading :D

  14. @Greensmokes: Firstoff, Welcome to the world of my Wandering Thoughts... feel free to explore more...

    Secondly, I totally agree with you about the involevement thing, but I sincerely feel that e-books will be a big thing in the future. I, myself, go for a liberal mixture of e-books and paper books!

  15. @420: I could not agree more with all of what you said! I personally feel the same and always prefer a judicious mix of both E-books and paper books :D

  16. @Cheese: Welcome to the world of my Wandering Thoughts... feel free to explore more... What you said is very true. And I end wanting both!

  17. I prefer e-book over paper books. When it comes to convenience, it is better to use e-books. You can read a literature anytime without having to worry about getting your paper book crumpled. It is also cooler to read an e-book compared to reading a paper book. At least that's what I think. LOL.

  18. @foto: Welcome to world of my Wandering Thoughts... Feel free to explore more! Dont know about cooler or not! But I feel that the real feel of reading any book comes only when you are reading it is paper format! Otherwise it seems like cheating! Though e-books have a definitive advantage of being convenient!

    @Criminal Attorney: Couldnt agree more with you! I too feel best reading from paper version and order a couple of books every week, despite having all the e book versions available!

  19. @Credit cards, Speeding ticket lawyer: Welcome to the world of my Wandering Thoughts...

    The two views that these 2 posts represent are on opposite ends... and frankly I support both of the views! I prefer having books and reading them; depending on whether paper of soft copy version suits me more at that point of time!

  20. @Robin Hood (I always wanted to say that :D)... Welcome to the world of my Wandering Thoughts... Feel free to explore more! And BTW my views exactly on the e books vs. paper books!

  21. @Blood Test, Anelli, Online Education, DUI attorney, LA DUI lawyer, drontal, knitwear: Welcome to the world of my Wandering Thoughts... Feel free to explore more!

    @Blood Test: Well that is one aspect I completetly agree with... read online partly what you want and buy a hard copy if u find it interesting... and e formats makes life so much easy to search and sort through relevant stuff!

    @Anelli: True... nothing compares my favorite paper books... I still order a couple every week... but I also want e books to read through some random chapetr as and when I wish to do so
    @Online Education: I, too, have a large collection of paper books with me but i also have a hard drive full of various e books, academic and otherwise. As i said, I want e books for convenience and paper books for pleasure.
    @DUI attorney, @LA DUI lawyer, @drontal: Very Very true... I do want a mix of both... and the convenience of e books is very apparent!
    @knitwear: I dont think it so much of weighing as it is about wanting both and actually having all!


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