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Monday, 1 October 2012

To “E” or not to “E”, that is the question?

By: Praba Naidoo

What I have always enjoyed most about reading is that a good book keeps me involved and engaged. I relish a great novel that takes me to some far off place or a profound biography that enables me to completely understand the life of the person I am reading about. But most of all the smell of a new book is pleasantly intoxicating and the very act of physically turning the page of a book is in itself the greatest delight.

We all know that technological advances have made our lives easier than ever before. We have embraced these advances and sometimes ponder on what our lives would have been like without them. The idea or decision to move to “E” is worth investigating.

The question about e-books is not whether they will surpass print, but what is the readers’ actual preference? As you know the classic paper/print book is a written or printed work of fiction or nonfiction and is usually on sheets of paper which are bound together within covers. According to Hawkins (2000) an “e-book is the contents of a book made available in an electronic form.”

The examples above are different formats/mediums that enable one to read a book. Now does the format really matter? Or does one format actually enhance your understanding of the subject matter?
What’s the latest buzz around the e-book versus the print book debate? Let us start by looking at some of the advantages and disadvantages of the print book and the e-book.

For one, print books are easily obtainable from various bookstores at our malls and at our universities. Print books can be easily transported and they don’t normally cause significant strain to the eyes. And what about those lovely picture, photo and coffee table books? A coffee table book is intended to sit on a coffee table where guests sit and are entertained, inspiring conservation or alleviating boredom.

Can the Amazon’s kindle, Jinke’s Hanlin reader, or the Sony’s eReader series have the same aesthetic appeal?

Another important factor to bear in mind is that the print books don’t need electricity to work. They can be read anywhere with sufficient light and are perfect travelling     companions for exactly this reason.

E-books also have some useful advantages, and this is after    taking into consideration one already has an e-book reader. 

 They are easily readable and most e-book readers offer zoom functions, font resizing, and built in lighting where external lighting conditions essentially become meaningless and allow you to read whenever and wherever you like.
The great function of an e-book is that they are amazingly portable and you are able to carry multiple books on one device. How exciting it is to be able to carry a copy of Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina”, Melville’s “Moby Dick”, Bessie Head’s “Maru” and a range of your university prescribed set books on this single device?

Taking our environment into account, e-books are most definitely more environmentally friendly, hence allowing us to save our trees. Disposing of an old e-book is simple and   costless, as the reader just deletes it.

Let us now consider the obvious disadvantages of print and e-books.
Print books are bulky and heavy. Carrying our university books around campus can cause tremendous strain on our backs. Packing a range of recreational reading matter when going on holiday can take up much space in our luggage.

The disadvantages of e-books are that they are obviously useless without an e-reader. Then there is that question about battery life to consider. And what about those nasty software bugs in the reader that can cause it to freeze up? You could also lose all of your books if you lose or damage your e-reader.
I am still undecided on what format will actually suit me. Would I prefer to curl up with a screen instead of a print book? What are your thoughts?

Hawkins, D. T. 2000. Electronic books: a major publishing revolution. Online 24(4): 14-28. http://libres.curtin.edu.au/libres12n2/ebooks.htm (Accessed 30 August 2012).