Electronic Books on the Rise?

May 11, 2009 in Technology by pacejmiller

There was a time when I thought I'd never be able to use one of these

There was a time when I thought I'd never be able to use one of these

Like many other people, I haven’t been a big fan of the electronic book (e-book).  You know, those little hand-held devices where you read the book on the screen.

One of the major players on the market is of course Amazon, and they’ve developed the ‘Kindle’, which is a hardware and software platform for reading e-books.  I must confess, until a couple of days ago I had never even heard of Kindle (perhaps I was just out of touch), and for the most part I believed e-books wouldn’t be too successful, or at least would take many years before being accepted as a genuine alternative for the old-fashioned paper book.

And so I was shocked when a friend sent me this article which says that when Kindle versions of books are available on Amazon, Kindle sales make up 35% of sales.  In other words, roughly 1 in 3 would buy the Kindle (ie e-book) version of a book rather than the hard copy version where Kindle is available.  Apparently, this is a huge jump because back in February (when ‘Kindle 2’ first went on sale) it was only around 13% of sales.

That’s a big surprise to me.  Maybe people are getting used to reading things on the screen.  Personally, I had been pretty prejudicial towards e-books, even though they look kinda cool (as they are made to look like books).

My main problem with e-books is the strain on the eyes.  Regardless of whether I’m working or studying, I have to sit in front of a computer for long hours almost every day.  Back when I was working I used to always prefer to print things out and read them on paper.  Environmental considerations aside, it was just easier.  Thank goodness I got laser-eye correction because when I used to wear contacts it would dry my eyes out severely.  I’d look like a red-eyed demon after a couple of late nights.  The last thing I would have wanted before or after a long day in front of the monitor is to read a book on an even smaller screen.

The second issue relates a view which I’m sure many others share – that is, I prefer to feel the paper in my hands.  The crisp sensation and smell of a brand new book has always been a part of the appeal.  But perhaps we just need to get used to e-books.  If e-books became widespread, think of all the paper we would save, the space we would save – not to mention how light it would be to carry around literally hundreds of books at the same time (I’ll no longer be restricted to 1 or 2 books on a long holiday!).  It also opens up other possibilities, like mixing moving artworks with literature, hyperlinks that can quickly guide us to other relevant information or sources.  Needless to say though, there will undoubtedly be a plethora of other less exciting issues, such as compatibility with other devices, copyright problems, piracy, pricing, just to name a few.

There was a time when I thought I’d never get used to reading lengthy documents on a screen, but after finding out how expensive printing is at the university over here, I’ve had to force myself to read on the laptop all year.  And gradually, I got used to it.  Maybe it’s not that bad after all.  That being said, I just bought a printer (for exam purposes!) – but I have to now go out and buy the USB cord to connect it to my computer.  Stupid HP!  What type of company sells a printer without including the critical USB cable?  What a scam.