Digital Books versus Physical Books

June 2, 2010

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/30/opinion/30sun4.html

I have become a recent convert to the world of digital books. Yes, I have read many things online before such as fanfiction, but I have only bought my first e-reader in the last few weeks. Friends of mine have had the Kindle and I did hear a great review of the Nook but I was not at the point of converting myself to a device yet. I bought the Sony Pocket Reader and added 56 books onto it within the first day of owning it. Coincidentally, I read an article in the editorial section of the New York Times this past week and wondered if I was betraying my literary roots by enjoying the convenience of my reader.

Many of the books I have read have been from the library but I do have a vast selection of books I own as well and I find my e-reader to be easier. I do not need to leave my home to borrow or buy a book that I want. I can make the text easier to read. I can search within my books for certain quotes or selections that I want to share. I understand this may be not right to others but I like it when things come to me. Our world becomes more of an open and sharing place every day and the library has always been a shining beacon of this type of thinking. With the advent of social networking, there is more connection between people though it may be through a computer screen. Digital books are a natural evolution. You can fight all you want against it but the printed word is now likely to be printed on a screen as well as on paper. One could even argue it is more environmentally conscious to have books digitally presented as we no longer need to cut down trees to make the paper to use to print our books. I will always love the smell of an old edition of a book but I also enjoy having more than one book at my fingertips.

Some comments from Klinkenborg I will agree with are the commercialization of books. I do not enjoy that certain companies including Apple and Barnes and Noble encourage only the purchase of books but you must remember that these companies are in business to first and foremost make money. They do encourage more reading but they can only do this if they remain in business. Also, a digital reader’s guide has become necessary but where is the best physical book guide? How many translations of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey have been published that have been at times wonderful and horrendous? The questions I present is does it matter? I want people to read and if a new high definition, best quality, newest edition ever has been released and it will encourage more people to discover the beauty of reading and reading often, is that wrong? If more kids will read Wuthering Heights because they have reprinted it with a cover reminiscent of Stephanie Meyer, is that wrong? In my mind, no. once we have the readers hooked, we can present them with better editions, more options, and similar books and turn them into a voracious supporter of the written word in all of its forms.

I found this article to be very interesting but I cannot agree with the complaints of Klinkenborg. Reading and literature is always evolving and that is one of the most enduring aspects of it. We are now living in a world where we read and write more than we have ever before. The world may feel smaller because we can connect with people everywhere with the touch of a button but that means we can expand our reading into worlds we have never before explored. This is my vote for the digital revolution!

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4 Responses to “Digital Books versus Physical Books”

  1. Jessica Says:

    I really want a reader, but can’t justify it since I mostly read scholarly stuff that’s rarely available in ebooks, though it would be awesome for articles, especially for travel. What’s sony’s policy on DRM? That’s the big thing that will stop me from getting a kindle, since I don’t like the idea of my books expiring after 5 years, and on principle I don’t want to have to strip DRM from everything I buy.

    Since you can get older books from google and the internet archive for free, and amazon has started heavily pushing predatory self-publishers and sketchy firms that will sell you the “original” version of homer, (an unproofed out-of-copyright translation with nothing on the page to suggest who actually did the translating 😦 ), I really can’t see an argument against digital books being equally “literary”.

    Did the times article dismiss the ability to search within books? Because that’s an incredibly useful scholarly tool (in addition to saving tons of time when you remember a snippit of a scene from an author who’s written 20 novels).


    • Off-hand, I do not know their policy on DRM but I highly doubt it is anything like Amazon’s. They are just trying to be crazy controlling and books are supposed to be shared and enjoyed. I appreciate that the Kindle can have books direct from Amazon but they are still rather expensive to me and I can use my Sony just fine for what I want.

      I agree there is a problem with digital books and their copyrights at this time but as the books evolve more, I really believe it will get better and people who are extremely worried about it can do the research to see what is the best.

      The article said nothing about searching within books, probably because you and I and the author all know that this ability is crucial to scholarships these days. Yes, older professors may believe that today’s readers do not have to suffer through the trials and tribulations like they have but this is a good thing. Lazy is bad but convenience is good so more people can access it, more people can understand it, and more people can submit an opinion so that we can share our knowledge and everyone can become more intelligent!

  2. Jessica Says:

    Sorry that was long and babbling 😦

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