Bookageddon is Nigh!
Reading has changed. Major bookstore chains such as Borders and Joseph Beth are closing down stores and filing for bankruptcy, newspaper and magazine sales are dropping faster than a priest’s pants at a choir boy convention, kindle and nook online stores are selling record numbers of ebooks, and book traditionalists have started claiming that the end of the printed book is upon us!! I’m not sure that I’m drinking that kool aid just yet.
My first experience with an ebook reader was the Nook Color which I bought for school use and found it very useful. Mostly because I didn’t have to print out multiple 20+ page journal articles. Now that college is behind me I can return to my pleasure reading. I have an iPad now and while on vacation, the best time for book nerds to read, I noticed some interesting habits about how I chose to read.
In the morning we would go to one of the local coffee places for breakfast and I would download the paper almost every morning onto my nook before we left. I loved the variety of papers I could get and it becomes much simpler to read the articles and find the sections you want rather than having to flip to the back to finish an article; then flip back to the front again to keep looking, all the while covering up your entire coffee table with the clutter that comes with digging out a specific section of the paper. I think that the time of the newspaper is at an end as people become more eco-conscious of the amount of paper wasted, the rise of internet journalism, and the technology becomes cheaper and more widespread. The bigger papers (NYT, Wall Street, even The Onion) have already started making the change as its time to adapt or die.
Books are an entirely different story. If you have ever seen my bookshelf you would know that I have always been a reader. For the past few years though, I haven’t really had much time for pleasure reading. School kinda took the fun out of it honestly, but I still try to read a new book or two a year. I look at my bookshelf and I see some copies that are old and worn from the numerous reads and can smell the age on the paper. Some look almost new. Some are paperbacks, and some are textbooks. Each one is different however, and for me the tactile sensations of reading a book are something invaluable that a computer screen can’t compare with. I don’t know why it is that books are so important to have in their physical form compared to say dvds, which I recently sold most of my collection of after backing up their digital copies, but I think that it is something worth never losing.
The one area I think that could have the best improvement from a switch to electronic format are textbooks. (See… told ya I’d bring it back around) Everyone that has been to college has had the experience of purchasing a 175 dollar textbook and being told that they can’t sell it back at the end of the semester because a ‘new edition’ is coming out or else you’ll get 20 bucks for it and they’ll wrap it in plastic and sell if for 120. College textbook shops know they have you by the balls and they aren’t afraid to twist. From what I understand, most textbook manufacturers are afraid to make the jump to digital right now as they don’t understand the technology and are worried about how much profit they will lose from the re-buying cheap and selling high scheme they have going. The advantages of an electronic textbook are that other media (video, sound, games, etc.) could be integrated into the lesson plan and books could be leased out for a rental fee for a set period of time and automatically retrieved when the payment ends.
I recently found out that my old high school will be getting rid of their textbook fee and switching to an iPad fee which students will be allowed to use to access their books. I think this is an interesting idea but that seems a little young for it to be of real use yet. Judging from how I used the school computers, there will probably be more pocket tanks being played than studying going on.
I did download an amazing book, Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, and didn’t complain a single time, often spending hours reading . Having an entire (and relatively cheap) library at your fingertips is an amazing achievement and technically the things is a marvel. A quick finger flick replaces stuck together pages. Autosave replaces the bookmark. I am able to search for additional information about anything I highlight at any time. When I finished Outliers, I immediately went to the island Barnes and Noble to get my hands on the weight of a book and eventually came away with a leather bound edition of the entire Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy series. Added bonus, ribbon bookmark built in.
Now that I have an iPad, I think the true potential of ereaders are magazines and comics. Getting the monthly issue of Wired each month with supplemental video and audio reports and moving covers makes me feel like I’m in the future as well as enhancing my reading experience. I love my local comic store as much as the next guy, but digital is superior in almost every way. The art is brilliantly rendered and it is so easy to load up and binge. I read 98 issues of The Walking Dead over a week long vacation. Amazon’s new comic store makes it incredibly easy to download comics to your device of choice through the Kindle app, and has almost every major publisher – sadly excluding Dark Horse.
What do you think about electronic vs paper debate? What does the future of books look like to you? Is it a stupid idea to give a 16 year old an iPad and expect them to use them responsibly?