Paperbacks vs. ebooks – the battle continues.

 

Reading and writing, the two things we had almost lost to Xbox and Playstations and Wii and other gaming gadgets, are seeing the light of day once again. The rising number of readers and new-age writers is amazing. It not only instills faith in the fact that the younger generation is not all that spoilt, but also brings forth new contemporary literature.

But my point today is not about honing such talents or praising them. Not today.
I recently had a lengthy conversation (read: debate) with a friend regarding the growing popularity of ebooks over paperbacks. The age old battle of ebooks vs. paperbacks seems to be haunting many a readers.

I can’t say that ebooks will completely take over paperbacks. No, that’s not all that easy. But yes, the market has seen a substantial shift after the advent of the ebooks and electronic readers.
With many electronic ebook reading gadgets flooding the market, trying to outdo one another, the choice itself becomes quite a task. So whether you should lay hands on Amazon’s Kindle, or Jinke’s Hanlin reader series, or Sony’s eReader series, or the Apple iPad or eReader, or Nook…the decision is taxing!

 

Both, the ebooks and the paperbacks, have quite a few advantages over each other. So I thought I’d jot them down and ask you all to chip in and help me as well.
Paper books continue to be the primary source of textual information. This traditional way of data collection and distribution keeps us rooted to our culture as well.

Advantage ebook:
Apart from the fact that reading from a Kindle or an e-reader is considered far more superior, people have vouched for the ease of portability and ease of handling.

Cost
This is amongst the most important consideration today. Thousands of ebooks are made available, in various readable formats, to the readers, free of cost. It does in a way promote the habit of reading.
Space and Convenience
An electronic reader virtually takes no space. Some readers can store more than 500 ebooks! Add a storage card to it and you can multiply the space four folds. Imagine carrying around your personal library everywhere you go! And the convenience of sitting around reading from an e-reader is much more than handling a book with pages folding away, getting doggy-eared or torn.

 

 Features
Electronic readers have quite a few intelligent features.

You can mark or highlight text, without the fear of it spoiling the look of the book.

You can search for a certain word or a quote without much hassle.

The text is easily readable. With features that help you zoom in and out, reading any text or  noticing the minutest detail in a picture is much easier than before.

The instant use of a thesaurus helps you understand a word or look up the meaning in a jiffy.

You can share the digital format of the text easily with friends and not worry about your book never coming back to you.

It also helps a bit in self-publishing. You can get your essay, blog, short story converted into digital text at bare minimum cost, to be shared with friends and people across the web.


Ease of reading

Most e-readers have a back-light. So you can read it whenever you wish, in whatever lighting conditions you are in, without disturbing others around you and not getting tormented with bad lighting.


Durability

Electronic readers are much long lasting than paperbacks. Almost zero degrading quality raises the charm of an e-reader over paperbacks. There are no papers crumbing due to the high acid content; there are no ink variations; there are no bindings that fall apart.

AND yes, they are much more environmentally friendly. No cutting down trees.

BUT
The basic disadvantages of ebooks generally stem from the hardware you’re reading them on. If it’s a computer, you’ve got the normal computer problems which detract from your reading pleasure:
Eye strain; Power source, because eventually the battery does run out; the hassle of carrying a laptop around instead of a small book; etc.

For electronic readers:

Yes, battery life is a concern.
Software bugs tend to “hang” the system.
More careful handling required compared to paper books. Imagine the horror of spilling coffee (or beverage of choice) on your electronic reader!
They are more easier to lose. They are small gadgets which are more prone to being stolen / flicked or lost.
Certain electronic readers recognize only a certain digital text format.
Most readers show pictures and text in bits and parts, ruining the flow of the story.
Some ebooks are a bit more expensive than regular paperbacks. Not to forget the expensive readers in the first place.

Advantage Paperbacks:
Paperbacks are easier to attain. With umpteen bookstores everywhere, paper books are available much easily than ebooks. And if it’s too much of a pain walking all the way to the store, just order online. Not many people manage to find their way across the web to a source for ebooks.

They cost lesser than an e-reader and sometimes lesser than e-books too!

They can be carried anywhere.

They do not cause eye-strain.

They do not face the fear of being hacked, corrupt, or erased at one go! (Unless stolen of course!)

They do not face “battery low/dead” problems. When there’s a power cut and the battery eventually runs out, avid book readers resort to lighting a candle to continue reading.

White or off-white paper printed with black ink displays a precision and quality that is unobtainable in any kind of ebook reader. Even the highest-grade screens have a quality of about half of what books have been offering for hundreds of years.

Paperbacks bring alive the whole reading experience. Paperbacks have more of an emotional quotient than ebooks. Paperbacks are still a major choice for most book lovers. Let’s face it, a Kindle might not be as loved as a coffee table book.

And can you imagine reading a book without a “bookmark”!!! (Yes, it is quite a point – have you seen the creativity reflecting in bookmarks today?)

BUT
Paperbacks are bulky and heavy, compared to their electronic counterparts. Carrying more than 2 or 3 does become more of a “task”.
You do need proper lighting to read them.
Highlighting a certain text or a word, or making a note, does leave a mark – forever!
And the mother of all disadvantages: too many trees are being cut to produce paper!

 

The winner?
Both! I guess.
It’s funny how the disadvantage of one, becomes the advantage of another.
All said and done, paper books will not disappear from the face of Earth. At least not soon. And ebooks certainly are more environment friendly.

There will never be a clear winner. But I, for one, belong to the old school. I love paper books. They are my prized possession. And will always be!

(Post by Sanjana Kapoor)

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