** I thought I had copy and pasted my document in initially but noticed that I only had the title published. Sorry – I feel quite stupid!**
Advantages and Disadvantages of the eBook
It’s always difficult to shift out of what we are comfortable with and try something new. This is how I feel about the eBook. For me, It’s unchartered territory, a whole new adventure beyond the paper pages and linear set up of a regular book. Although I am comfortable reading online articles and course work on my laptop, I have been pushing away impulses of purchasing an e-reader for a long time. However, after taking 540 this term I am ready to take the plunge and the Kubo is at the top of my Christmas list.
The electronic book has many advantages as Bolter mentioned in chapter 5 of his book Writing Spaces. It automatically turns the text into hypertext making it easier for the reader to search for what they are looking for. A traditional book offers a table of contents and an index but the hypertextual nature of the eBook goes well beyond that. “(T)he reader can search for the occurrence of words and phrases throughout the text, so that the whole text becomes immediately available to the reader in a way a printed book is not.” (Bolter, 2001, p.80) The search feature is instant and cuts down on reading time to find particular information. Readers can still highlight text, circle words and make notes in the margins like they can printed books. Additionally, readers can search keywords and instantly find desired information.
The most notable advantage of the e-book is the capacity it has to store many texts at the same time. A traditional book is just one text that gets put away on a bookshelf until the reader wants to look at it again. Devices such as the Kindle or Kubo can upload a number of books so the reader can have them on-hand, contained in a book like device. eBook devices can use Bluetooth technology, or be connected to the computer for quick download of a variety of texts with a USB cord. Carrying an ebook reader such as the Kubo is much easier then packing five or six paper copies of books for a vacation. It saves time and space! As eBooks can be bought or borrowed on-line there is no need to physically go to the store.
Bolter fails to mention what I believe is the most powerful feature of the eBook. The backlight and ability to change the font size has given the ability to read back to many people who are unable to read books in print. For example, my Grandma suffers from macular degeneration in both eyes and the eBook has enabled her to read again. This is truly remarkable and has given her, and I am sure many others more independence. Previously, she had the option of listening to audio books or having someone read aloud to her. The backlight feature is key for her needs. The accessibility the ereader provides is the selling feature for me.
It’s also important to note some disadvantages of the eBook. Depending on the device you buy, reading off of a screen can cause eyestrain quicker than reading text printed on paper. The Kubo screen feels like you are reading paper with its E ink technology and companies are working to remediate the problem. Dropping an ereader is much more serious then dropping a book – readers must handle the device with care. Another drawback would be the battery power. Although companies of ereaders market long battery life, the risk of it running out on a long flight is something important to consider. I often participate in book exchanges and unless you are willing to lend your device to a friend, eBooks are not conductive to this type of sharing.
As Bolter published his book back in 2001, it is interesting to think about the leaps technology has taken since then. Libraries now lend out e-books and there has been a significant increase in the sale of digital books. In fact, last July Amazon stated that eBook sales had surpassed books in print. They reported that they sold 143 eBooks for each 100 printed books sold in print in the previous three months. However, it’s important to think about the economic impact as eBooks often retail for less than their print counterparts. I wonder if this trend will continue and if the eBook will become the mainstream way of reading text in the future.
Can eBooks and printed books co-exist or will the eBook slowly surpass the printed books? Are people willing to give up the tactile enjoyment of flipping pages for convenience? I guess only time and personal preference will tell. I have mixed feelings about the above and invite you to comment with your opinions.
Bolter, Jay David. (2001). Writing space: Computers, hypertext, and the remediation of print. Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Teather, David. (2010) Retrieved November 26th, 2010: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/jul/20/amazon-ebook-digital-sales-hardbacks-us