Tuesday, March 09, 2010

The Future of Books

Don't Believe the E-book Skeptics says Nathan Bransford, agent extraordinaire (well, at least, blogging and twittering). EBooks may not be that big a thrill now, but they will only get better. Being an ebook aficionado myself, I like to believe that. Right now, I like eBooks for their portability and ease. It's wonderful to travel somewhere carrying my ebook in its case, which is about the size of a medium hardback, but lighter, and know I have some 80 books to chose from inside. I look forward to the newer developments and the ability to one day be able to update my ebook reader with the same ease I update my MP3 player.

I can't deny there are downsides to current ebooks. They aren't very pretty, and I can't find every book I want in a digital format.
I have worries about ebook sellers having more control over my books than I do. Issues with Digital Rights Management (DRM) concern me.

However, part of me refuses to give up my printed paper books. Part of that is I'm always aware that ebooks are device dependent, and devices are notorious for not working when you want them to work. They run out of power and can't be recharged. They get dropped or bumped or spilled on and their delicate inner workings cease to function. They become outdated (rather quickly) and have to be replaced with new technology. They can require specific formats of books to work. The books they contain are also limited in that I cannot share them with others easily.

There is also the beauty of books themselves, on several levels, and that's what
Jonathan Jones reminds us when he says Print is beauty bound – even in a digital age.

I get a very specific satisfaction from a book as a physical object. I can look at it, touch it, hold it. I appreciate the feel of good paper and binding. Some books are marvelous for their sheer size and presence -- something difficult for any electronic book to replicate. I imagine books as threads through time. A specific book I own can pass into other hands and other lives. I might make notes in it and start a conversation with those who read after me, even commenting on notes made by someone who had the book before me. I don't see those particular qualities of books ever becoming part of an ebook.


Scott said...

The main problem I see with e-books is the ridiculous prices for the readers. Don't the manufacturers of these contraptions realize that poor people read books, too? I refuse to even consider buying an e-book reader until the price gets below $100.

Sherri said...

Theoretically, prices SHOULD drop in a year or two as 1) the tech evolves 2) more readers hit the marketplace. However, I think it's tied in to the recent war about ebook pricing -- these people want to make money, and if they are selling the books cheap, they won't sell the reader cheap. If the reader is cheap, the books will have to be a little pricier -- although I hope they work that to be more like regular book pricing, with older titles being cheaper and only brand new titles from high ranking authors being spendy.