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Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Scratching at the Surface of the Rising e-book Market

Andy Evans & Vesna Kovac begin to scratch at the surface of the rising e-book market

Last week we spent a little time scratching away at the surface of the advantages of e-books and their availability to all of us today.

Without delving too deep we concluded that;

a) As of e-books 2009 it was reported over two million were available for free download.
b) E-books are stored electronically so can never go out of print, unlike their traditional counterparts.

c) No more clutter! E-books remain confined within one tiny space of memory within the device.
d) Websites supporting e-books often have the ability to translate the written contents into many different
languages.
e) Unlike paperbacks, e-books have the ability to be readable in low light and even in complete darkness.
f) Finally, the cost. E-books can be readily purchased at a fraction of the cost to paperbacks.

Unfortunately, now we have to look at the drawbacks.

Formats for e-books continue to be developed and change as technology advances. The traditional paperback, once printed can be read as long as the paper survives. As e-readers change over time, files need to be copied and converted to a new carrier or file type in order to be readable.

The lack of a single universal standard could significantly affect the longevity of some works and their availability or readability in the future as a result of the format(s) used at the time of production

Not all published books are available in electronic format. Paperbacks have always been given to loved ones as present during special times. The receipt of a confirmation e-mail will never quite replace the brightly packaged, ribbon enhanced offering nestling neatly beneath the Christmas tree. Neatly laden rows of books upon the study wall are, to most, visually appealing.

E-books cannot offer the actual feel of the paperback. There is no personal touch as folding over neatly the page corner, or the adornment of a favourite physical bookmark to remind us where we last stopped reading.

Paperbacks will never simply turn off or succumb to technological failure. Print books are not as susceptible to climatic changes such as extreme cold, heat, water etc.  

There is no used e-book market. Second hand bookstores have, for generations, been the answer to low cost ownership of our favourite written pieces. E-book consumers cannot recoup some of their costs by selling on an unwanted title they have finished.

The e-reader is far more likely to be the target for the opportunist thief than the solitary paperback carelessly left unattended in full view of the parked car or sitting room window.

Until technology advances, screen resolutions of reading devices are currently lower than actual printed materials. With paperbacks there is never glare on the screen to cause distraction to the reader.

E-book readers require various toxic substances to produce, are non-biodegradable, and the disposal of their batteries in particular raises environmental concerns. As technologies rapidly change and old devices become obsolete, there will be larger amounts of toxic wastes that are not easily biodegradable like paper. Paperbacks require paper to be produced. However in today's environment of climatic protection, wood sources can easily be regenerated and sustained.

Next week, the way forward for both sides of the argument.

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