Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Print vs E-Book: The Battle Begins

I've always been a fan of stories. Any story. When I was growing up I would spend hours in my local library, scouring the shelves looking for my next word fix. Nowadays, the technological world is prolific and dominates our daily lives. There was never any doubt it would eventually spread to the written word.

What does this mean for books? Will hard copies eventually cease to exist? An e-book costs so much less to manufacture and is so much easier to distribute and acquire. What is the future that lies ahead for books?

Personally, I have always been a fan of hard copies. There's nothing like holding it in your hands and opening that first page. The feeling can't be beat. I used to be put off my e-books. Reading from a screen never seemed 'natural' to me. But as a book reviewer, many of the books I receive are electronic. It goes back to ease and costs.

I've grown fairly used to e-books now (more out of necessity than desire), but still covet the physical thing. It made me wonder what other people think. I know a lot of people (especially those like me, who grew up with little to no technology) prefer hard copies. No surprise. But a fair amount of readers enjoy their e-books too. They can be instantly accessed and downloaded automatically. You can browse through your entire library in seconds, and take as many books with you as you desire when you travel, without them weighing down your luggage.

There are pros and cons to both sides, so really it just comes down to preference. I'm happy to get e-books, but overjoyed when I receive hard copies. However, I do realise that's not the most realistic thing. Shipping an actual book costs more than attaching a file to an email, or providing a coupon code for download. The book itself costs more to manufacture, so more to sell. So you're spending more sending a real book than a digital one.

It seems that most self-published or new authors take the e-book route. For good reason. Especially when they're sending books out to reviewers. There's no guarantee they'll even get a review, let alone a good one. A lot of people who request books from sites with giveaways (such as librarything and goodreads), don't really want to review them. Given the choice, they may opt out. Some will 'review' the books with short, non-descriptive sentences. I've seen 'reviews' that are one sentence long. 'Reviews' like 'didn't like it' or 'loved it'. Thanks for the opinion, but there's not much information. No why, no what, no who. It's not really worth the cost of sending out a print copy. So it can be in an author's best interest to err on the side of caution and send out digital copies for less cost.

Added to that, some reviews are factual, but don't necessarily praise the book. In that case, what the author is basically paying for is bad publicity. Yes, the reviews may not be sponsored, but the authors/publishers are giving away something for free that would normally cost money. They cover the costs. Essentially they are paying for reviews. Truthful, honest reviews. Most important thing to remember. They may not necessarily like or agree with the reviews they get. I know the saying goes 'there's no such thing as bad publicity', but give something enough low stars and I'm inclined to disagree.

So from an author's point of view, e-books are revolutionary. It's also why I don't mind reviewing them. I understand that it keeps costs down, and actually provides more copies for reviewers because of that.

But, when I'm itching for a new read, the first place I go is not to the e-book section of some site. It may be an online retailer, but it's a print copy I'll be ordering. Yes it costs more for what is essentially the same thing. Yes it takes longer to get to me, but it's the same opinion I have towards DVD/digital downloads. I much prefer the physical thing. There is no comparison. You can take them anywhere, you don't need to worry about technical problems or viewing them on different devices. You can lend them to people and receive them as gifts. Would you send someone an e-book over a print copy? Probably not. Plus, think about hand me downs. When I have kids, I'd like to pass down my passion for reading to them, and I can't quite picture storytime with an illuminated screen.

There's something you get from reading a physical book, that can't be got from the digital equivalent. How sad it would be to see bookshelves devoid of books. Browsing websites instead of bookshelves. We live in a technological era and screens are becoming more and more prevalent in our society. Kids are on computers or iWhatevers instead of outside. Reading a hard copy is one of the few things left that doesn't require or depend on technology.

I do love my technology- the ease of it- and I by no means want it destroyed or lost. But there are some things I would like to keep separate. Technology is there when I need it, but I like to know there's something left without it.

Besides, curling up with a good electronic device just doesn't sound quite so tempting. 

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