Wednesday, August 10, 2011

eBooks and Print

Disclaimer: These are the opinions of Thomas Schilb, not necessarily those of Dick Smith Library or Tarleton State University. If you disagree, please post a comment!

As a steady reader of The Guardian, I always find it interesting to see what the British have to say about libraries and books. Awhile back I came across this article that talks about how the most likely business model for publishing will be that print books aren't going anywhere, and that the new eBook format is also here to stay.

Here's my 2 pence: there's this enduring nonsense that the book is "an aesthetic" that shouldn't be messed with, and this attitude is WRONG.

Now before anyone gets their pages in a tizzy let me clarify my position. Technically the codex (sheets of paper bound together, what many of us think of when we say "book") is a very efficient and powerful medium which continues to present its message effectively. It's been around for centuries, and I fully understand the sympathy most of us have for the medium.

The problem here is that the book is simply impractical for some forms of information. For my masters program this fall I have one 168 page book that is going to cost OVER $150. It's over social media and Web 2.0, a subject that changes annually, sometimes MONTHLY. It doesn't seem worth it to me to go spend all the time and effort required to publish this material when, by the time it hits shelves, it will be out-of-date.

The digital version (eBook), which can be updated frequently and relatively hassle-free, seems to be a much more valid option. This can be applied to any science where new content is constantly being released.

Novels, though, and other materials whose content is unlikely to change significantly via revision or new data, are an ideal candidate for the codex medium. The nature of the style lends itself to a more relaxed pace, which means a longer time spent with that material. It's easier to let a friend borrow a codex than navigate the DRM mess that always crops up with eBooks. Truly, I don't see a downside to this medium so long as its advantages are realized and accounted for alongside its disadvantages.

Again, these are my thoughts on the subject. What are yours?


Anonymous said...

I agree.

Melissa said...

Once the readers are up to snuff, I can see e-textbooks being an excellent choice. Right now, e-books can be the cheaper way to go when getting your textbooks, but there are certain tradeoffs, one of them being the capabilities of your reader. With a print book, you are interacting more directly with the text. If you're the sort of person who likes to flip back and forth between sections, who likes to highlight important bits, or write comments in the margins, e-books may be annoying to deal with still. There are a lot of e-readers I haven't tried yet, but, from my understanding, all or many of them haven't yet managed to get to the point where you can do everything that you might want to do to/with a print book as easily as you can with a print book.

When I was a student, the cost of a print textbooks might have lured me into buying/renting e-textbooks, but considering how clunky the highlighting and note-making tools are on my Nook, I'm not sure how happy I'd be with that decision. I'm sure companies are looking to improve those capabilites, though.