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Jumat, 14 September 2012

E-Books and Printed Books, Which Are Better?

A new paper book weighs a ton; actually, if it's successful, it weighs a good deal more than that. I checked it out with a novel; at 396 grams, if that book sells 1,000,000 copies, it weighs 436.5 tons without any packaging.

These days, books are marketed worldwide, if you are involved in it, believe me, even sending out review copies, you notice the postage cost! Now that you have noticed it, I need say no more about the energy cost and green issues, without even mentioning printing or redistribution and storage.

Last year my wife and I finally took action over the piles of books lurking in practically every room of the house. No matter how many bookcases you buy it seems they are never enough; this time we went for the 'nuclear' option, we had an entire wall of a study area lined with bookshelves. The building of this was a little short of the stuff of divorce; where we live, not only would reliable cabinet makers charge more than storage could justify, but they are pretty much unavailable. After redesigning the wall to come within the competence of the help we did have, I must admit, it looks pretty good - would you believe it is already full?

Perhaps, as a private person, you ignore the cost of the books you buy. Just take a moment to calculate all you have spent over the years, it is bound to come to very many thousands of dollars, pounds or any other currency. Believe me, schools, businesses and libraries are well aware of this cost.

So books are an extravagance - but they look nice, there is a pride of possession, think of the private collections you find in great houses. Very well, take a look at the books on the shelves of private collections in great houses. Would you really want to read them? Check for yourself: in England you can see any number of private collections in National Trust properties, the bookcases may be locked, but would you really want to read the average three-volume Victorian novel, or the Army List for 1910, or a book of 'natural history' written in 1840? Forgive the choice of words; books do have a limited shelf-life.

So what is the choice? Actually a very good one. You can read PDF (portable document format) reliably on any computer, even a 'palmtop', there is Sony and Kindle and Apple with their respective formats. These can take indexing and cross-referencing to new dimensions using hyperlinks. You can copy and paste. Ah yes, but these are not 'proper books', with pages you have to turn. For that reason we have e-Book readers, those companies I mentioned obviously see the potential, giving us an object, like a book, but which can display any page you like of more books than you could ever read. You can, quite literally, put a major book collection in your pocket.

As the major corporations do their market research, we will have the feel, the size colour, weight, size of print and appearance of our choice. Better than a book.

Ah yes, but what about the cost of the e-Book reader? How many books would you have to buy to make it cheaper to buy the same books in an 'e' format along with the reader? Depending on the books you buy, that number may be no more than around a dozen.

Having absolutely no connection with the makers of e-Books, but finally having woken up from my habit of a lifetime, I offer these few thoughts, along with the embarrassment that I still own so many physical books I do not know what to do with them.

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