05 November 2009

Downsides of the Ebook...

I have been ruminating about ebooks and Amazon's Kindle recently. I am not a Luddite and believe they have their place but I am not of the "this changes everything" school. About 18 months ago one of the Motley Fool crew wrote a piece about 'Why Kindle Will Change the World' - this was a sort of U turn after initially calling it a $399 paperweight. On examination the main reason he thought it was so fab is that he managed to publish a novel in Kindle form with a few key strokes. It was a 'cheesy' coming of age novel ( The Last Perfect Fathers Day) that he had written as an intense young student and had lying around on his hard drive in MS Word. 'In seconds, Amazon chewed it up and spat it back out in Kindle's HTML…' He priced it at $2.59 and it already has a couple of reviews and is 25000th in the Kindle charts. There is something marvellous about this and before long a work of real genius may appear just in this manner.

There is no reason why computers, printed literature and Ebooks cannot co-exist --Dell, Book and Kindle as it were. But there are some disadvantages to these devices (Kindle, Nook and the Sony Reader etc.,) which I am happy to enumerate.

1. A printed book is a delight to handle, it doesn't need a battery and it has worked well for 555 years. Call it low technology.

2. If you are on the move a paperback is easier to carry around.

3. You can't wedge a ebook under a wonky bed or table.

4. You can't throw it across the room in disgust (actually you can but it's an expensive gesture.)

5. You can't press leaves and flowers between the pages.

6. You can't lend it to a friend (Nook reckon they have sorted this out but it's just not the same.)

7. You can't get it signed by the author.

8. J.K. Rowling won't allow any of her books to appear in this format (however Dan Brown is only too keen.)

9. They don't smell of anything.

10. You can't proudly shelve it and you can't show off or boast about your book collection.

11. You can't watch the books go up in value. You can't sell the books.

12. You can't donate it to a library.

13. You can't marvel at the beauty of its hand coloured illustrations, chromolithographs, pochoirs etc.,

14. You can't have it finely bound in leather with silk endpapers and fine filigree work.

15. You can't slip press cuttings in it or hide bank-notes in it.

16. Thieves can steal it right out of your hands (this cannot happen with a real book, thieves are just not interested.)

17. They are not biodegradable and as time goes by the current models will look as dated as a Psion organiser (hence expensive updates...)

18. A book can be looked at for a few minutes with the reader flipping backwards and forwards (browsing) effortlessly. You
can then convince most people that you have read the book. Much harder with an Ebook.

19. You can spill coffee or wine on a book and it's still legible, with an Ebook you are suddenly down $399.

20. Lastly (for the moment) if you had an EBible you couldn't swear on it with any conviction, let alone bash it or thump it.

More thoughts on this to follow -reading books on an Iphone, the concept of the Cloud Library, why indexes don't work on hand-held devices and some consideration of their advantages...
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