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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Finally Understand The Lure of eBooks

It seems that everywhere online reports keep popping up that Amazon is selling more digital downloads than hardcover. First reaction, people have finally took the bait and are willing to see if digital is better. The question that is now begging for an answer is: Does this mean printed copies are on the way out? This debate has been going on for decades with no clear answers for the defense and the dismissal of the printed copy. Then the proverbial light bulb turned on and with it came the realization why eBooks are here to stay and perhaps die hard fans of books may have to give up the pages and ink.

If you are an avid reader the need for eBooks was not pressing. Why would we need an electronic device to do the same job that our hardcover and paperbacks have been doing for years. It is economically and efficient way of feeding our minds with information or imagination. Again why would we want to be bothered with downloads, memory chips and the list goes on and on. The art of reading has not changed in over 2,000 years. Why change it now? This is where the logic is fails. Ebooks are not changing the way we read, but they are changing the format and delivery of what we read. When books were first printed, they were expensive to produce. This meant they were not available to the general population. Which is one reason why most people could not read. With the advent of new technology, the printing press made it inexpensive to print and thus the written word was available to anyone who had the desire to read. Who can argue with that progress?

It now seems that modern readers are at a crossroads in history. Books are not on the way out tomorrow, but their usefulness is is being tested. Are eBooks here to stay? Yes, after all it is just a smaller, portable version of the desktop computer, and who now could live without their computer? There is a paradox here that worries this reader and librarian. Since the format is changing, the expense of reading has gone up a bit. When new technology hits the stores, the prices tend to be quite high. The Kindle is going for $189 while the iPad is going for about $499. Either way, its an expensive piece of technology that in these economic times, most can not afford the luxury of giving up that much income for a new computer. Add in the fact that one will not have a very fun time with their ebooks if they can't afford to download a copy. Where does this leave the economically challenged? Looking for the written word the old fashioned way: paper and ink. Is that such a bad thing? No. In our society, there has to be a level playing field for everyone to succeed. Reading is the tool that allows for everyone, rich or poor to find their own success, Which leads to libraries and why they are so important. No matter the format of reading, one constant should not change, libraries should be at the forefront to providing information for all. There will be a day in the not so distant future when eBooks will be inexpensive, making it affordable for everyone to clear out their bookshelves. Until then, the printed and electronic formats will have to coexist. However, in my personal library, there will be always be room for the printed books.
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