Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Print Vs E-books

       I've been asked many times, most recently this past weekend, what my opinion is of e-books and e-book readers, such as the Kindle or Nook. I don't know but I suspect that many folk assume that since I'm a librarian who works with print books, that I must therefore suspect, fear or despise the electronic book. As it turns out, not so much.
      First of all, full disclosure here. I do not own an e-reader, but my wife does, a Kindle. I've picked it up and looked it over but I've never read anything with it. Years ago I wag given a PDA that had a text editor which meant that I could read books from Project Gutenberg, if I could stand only seeing one paragraph a t a time. It was OK, but not great. I read a few novels or parts thereof and went back to reading them on paper. I think I've since lost the PDA.
      Even today, I will use our library's e-book collection, by finding a book I want to read and then printing off a chapter or so, as allowed by the interface and then reading the print copy. I've never taken to reading long texts on a screen. I routinely print off STRATFOR articles or journal articles instead of reading them on-screen.
      Conversely, my wife uses her Kindle frequently. She reads for pleasure, as well as using it in class (she teaches literature as well as homeschooling our children) because it's more portable than a stack of print books, and she can keep all her notes in one place in a way that is difficult to lose. At the same time, she reads in print and listens to audio books.
This is just my opinion, supported by no studies or research, but I do not see the print book going away any time soon. It is a proven technology that has existed for millenia. Books have seen changes before: scrolls to bound books, hand-copying to printing presses, changes in paper, ink and printing methods, print on demand as well as competition from radio, television, movies and the internet. Print has endured. As long as I see piles of printed articles from electronic journals sitting unused by the printer, am not worried about the death of print.
      I see e-books and print books as co-existing very nicely for quite a while. Each format has its advantages and disadvantages, but neither format, in my view, is so superior as to make the other pointless.
      To summarize and answer the question, I think e-books are a useful technology, but one that for the time being I am happy to use only sparingly. I've no objection to anyone else using them but I am not myself that impressed with them.

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