Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Books Have Gone Digital

Growing up I disliked reading. I remember in grade six my teacher set up a construction paper road around the classroom with a little cut out car with numbers on them for each student. My car was a baby blue speedster with the number 27 written on it. To move your car along the track you had to read a chapter in a book. As you progressed further on the road the track would change colour (from blue to green for example) and you would need to read an extra chapter to progress further on the new track. While a lot of my classmates enjoyed speeding their cars around the “reading road” I had a tough time getting number 27 along the track.

A lot of time has passed since grade six and I am pleased to announce that over the years reading has become one of my favourite pleasures. But, my joy of reading has come at a cost and like any addiction the first step is admitting you have a problem – I have a habit of buying too many books.

I purchase books faster then I can read them. I love waking up on weekends and traveling to my favourite bookstores where I walk up and down the aisles searching for literary treasures. For some people it’s shoes and for others clothes, but for me it’s books.

A couple of weeks ago I walked into the bookstore and noticed a rather large group of people gathered around a table in the center of store. At first I thought the crowd might have been attracted to one of the latest releases by a big name author, but as I grew closer to the table I realized what the commotion was all about – digital readers.

Just as television, magazines and newspapers are giving way to the Internet and going digital – so to is the case with books. No longer “hard to read”, the new generation of digital readers are supposedly so good that some describe their experience with digital readers as “perfect”.

Now I don’t want to sound like the guy who would rather use a typewriter instead of a computer, but I am not sure if I am ready to trade in my book for a digital upgrade. There is something to be said about “physically” owning and holding a book. I can take it with me wherever I go, I can drop it, throw it in my bag, lend it to a friend and most importantly if the book goes missing I don’t get too upset because hopefully the person who finds it will enjoy it as much as I did.

The average cost of an E-Reader ranges anywhere from $199.99 to $600 depending on what company you go with and how big you want your screen to be. The big benefit of owning an E-Reader means that you will be paying less per book. A new book that would have cost you $26 will come out to $9.99 if you download it. In my opinion, this is where the benefits end. You might be paying less for a book, but can you lend it to a friend once you are done? What happens if your screen cracks? How much will a charge chord cost if you misplace your original? What happens when technology changes again? We know Amazon, one of the leaders in online book sales, has already upgraded from their original product the Amazon Kindle to the Kindle 2. At the current pace of technology are we going to be paying another $200 dollars to replace our digital readers in two years?

I hate to sound skeptical, but I know a cash grab when I see one. Market researchers in the US are already predicting that the Ebook market will jump from their current $1.3 billion revenue totals this year to $2.5 billion by 2013.

While E-Readers may be the natural progression we need to head toward to save our planet and our trees - I would hope that after 2000 years of books that mankind could find a route that didn’t involve removing the actual book altogether.

I came across an interesting saying that reads, “When money talks, nobody notices what grammar it uses.” At the end of the day forces greater than me will decide the fate of the book industry. The posters in future grade 6 classrooms may read, “Curl up with a good E-Reader.”


Bobby said...

no e-reader will be able to give that fresh book smell when you first crack the spine. just like pencils and paper will not be going away because society has a keyboard and mouse. books will not go away because we have e-readers. as our dependance balances itself out on each of the technologies, so will their roles in our lives.

Anonymous said...

As much as I can appreciate your concern, I don't think electronics (of any kind) will replace the simple pleasures in life. During the school year, I found myself consumed by my laptop. Now, I spend my days walking along the beach and reading books on my porch.

Buying and reading books is one of the greatest pleasures in life. When people remark at my collection (and the cost!) I always tell them that books will never go out of style. It's nice to see that you share this view as well.

Happy Reading Sean

Ashley-ki-ki said...

I am with you Sean! I too have a book buying addiction-- only problem is I also have a shoe, clothes, handbag, make-up, etc addiction.... lol

I am saying NO to the eReader.... Although the Chapters Kobo does come with 100 FREE books.... ;)


Who was your teacher in grade 6?!

Sean Raposo said...

Mrs. Dennis and Mr. Abdilla in Grade 7 - And I. I took the road less travelled by!