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On eBooks vs pBooks

Dan Brown’s Inferno came out last week. It is now the first book I have ever read cover to cover as an eBook. It downloaded to my reading device at a minute past midnight on the day of release and I finished it before Waterstones opened in the morning. The experience of it was not the same as a printed book. There was no gratifying feel of paper in hand or bend in the spine, no smell of wood fibres. I turned the pages by pressing a button. There was no need for a bookmark - the reader remembered where I had got up to when I turned it off. I don’t regret it. Airport novels are the literary equivalent of the newspapers around your fish and chips. You’re happy to devour their contents once and do so quickly, but it’s unlikely you’ll want to use them again once you’re done. It was also cheaper - which made me feel less bad for buying the latest Dan Brown in the first place.

eBook readers still get a lot of flak for trying to replace paper books but the truth is that eBooks and pBooks are complementary formats, and not mutually exclusive. You may still buy each new novel in a series for your bookshelf but it’s a lot simpler to take the digital equivalent of that entire bookshelf on holiday and a lot lighter too. You’ll regularly find quality reprints of many books in stores (for example the Everyman Library, Penguin English Library, and Subterranean Books) but the idea of a collectible edition of an eBook is anathema. It’s a pleasure to browse through bookshelves to see what might take your reader’s fancy today or to rediscover tomes you’d forgotten you had, but it’s a pain to search or browse through those same bookshelves as digital entities on a device. And so on.

The point is that eBooks are here to stay but unlike music downloads, they won’t destroy the market for their current physical equivalent because the two offer sufficiently distinct experiences to co-exist. Don’t be put off trying an eBook because it’s not a physical thing. A news website isn’t a newspaper and the BBC iPlayer isn’t a television but that hasn’t stopped you using them, has it?

Posted on May 20, 2013   #Nothing in Particular  

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