I feel like just pointing at this blog post (Why We Need Books) from Heidi Turner, over at The Happy Freelancer blog, and saying, “What she said!” She makes some great arguments for why the real paper book should always stay in existence, no matter how electronic everything goes. They can exist alongside each other, but buying the paper version should always, always remain an option for any book.
Her #1 point (Just about everyone can afford books) is very pertinent to me. I got a survey from Random House Canada a couple of days ago, asking my opinion about ebooks. At the end of the survey when they asked for “Other” opinions, I asked if they would always at least make paper books available to libraries or something, because poor people simply couldn’t afford Kindles, the Kobo reader, or other readers. Or was reading going to be denied to the poor from now on?
Do you think that point is unimportant? I don’t. I don’t make a lot of money, and I can’t even afford to replace my aging computer, let alone blow cash on a Kindle.
Heidi’s #2 point rivals #1 in importance. She talks about upgrading. How many of us repurchased all our favourite music as CDs, when vinyl records went out of vogue and CDs came in? And how many have since repurchased all that music again, to put on their iPods? And what will be the next repurchase necessity?
I can tell you, as a Records Management person who worked in the industry for years that it only takes three generations of technology improvements before everything that was made four generations ago is absolutely unreadable in any way. Every time there’s a technology change, even supposedly in the same medium (say, reading magnetic tapes), the newer operating systems are less and less able to read files created with older systems.
How easy is it for files created with Windows 95 to be read by programs using Windows 7? How about Windows 3.1?
How much money do you have? Do you want to have to upgrade/repurchase every single digital book over and over again, say, once every five years or so, for the rest of your life? Funny — I’ve had some books for twenty years, and I’ve never had to “upgrade” them once because they had become unreadable.
Heidi’s points #4 and 5 deal with the fact that the readers are electronic devices. They need insurance, or have to be bought again if something goes wrong. And books don’t need batteries or electricity.
This issue was brought home to me just this morning, when one of my Twitter contacts tweeted about a client who had dashed into a store looking for a book because her Kindle had died in the middle of her reading the book. Funny – I’ve never had a paper book’s pages suddenly go blank on me.
And of course, after the Amazon.com debacle where they pulled Orwell’s 1984 off people’s Kindles, after the people had bought the book meaning it was supposedly their property – we saw another thing that can happen if we get digital books. They are NOT OURS. Someone else can tamper with them at any time, or that company could go out of business and we’d lose our book because their supporting servers were turned off.
And we can’t loan the book or resell it to a second-hand store. That will all be gone.
No, thanks. I may eventually get an e-reader for convenience if, say, I want to take 40 books with me on a vacation or something. But for durable, long-lasting reading pleasure, I will always prefer to own my books once I buy them, and have the freedom to read them for decades and do what I please with them for the rest of my life.