Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Electronic Books vs. Printed Books

The topic of electronic books usually results in a heated debate.  Many people have a strong opinion and have trouble seeing the other side.

Let's start by examining the advantages and disadvantages of electronic books.  I will avoid listing the advantages and disadvantages of printed books, since those are readily apparent as compared to electronic texts.

Electronic books have these advantages.

1.  The text can be made larger or smaller.
2.  The text can be searched by keyword, finding a specific passage easily.
3.  Tapping on a word produces an instant definition.
4.  The books take up no shelf space.
5.  Text can be highlighted without damaging a physical copy.

Electronic books have these disadvantages.

1.  The book cannot be resold.
2.  The author cannot sign the book (electronic signatures are not the same).
3.  Stating the exact page of a quote is sometimes impossible, since many electronic books do not have page numbers. 
4.  Electronic books do not preserve the original font of vintage books.
5.  Electronic books tend to have more mistakes than printed editions.

Three groups of readers exist:  people who read only printed books, people who read only electronic books, and people who read both types of books.   I fit into the third group.

I have noticed that some people who read only printed books seem offended that others choose to read electronic books, and I am not sure why they are so upset.  It's fine to prefer one format over the other, but don't worry about how others choose to read their books.  After all, they are reading. 

I own more than 5,000 vintage books, and I would not trade those books for anything.  I do not want those books in the electronic format.  I prefer reading the printed books. 

I also do not wish to read electronic texts of my vintage books, because the electronic text may not be completely identical to the original version.  I have seen some transcription errors in the texts on Project Gutenberg, and that site is the source for electronic texts of vintage books.

In addition to vintage books, I also enjoy reading modern children's and young adult fiction books.  While I prefer reading the printed version of my vintage books, I prefer reading electronic texts of contemporary books.  The Kindle app for my iPad has exposed me to dozens of wonderful books that I would not have otherwise purchased.

The books would not have been purchased because they would have taken up too much shelf space.  Since I own more than 5,000 books, I have to be picky about which modern books I choose to bring into my home.  A 10th printing of a young adult bestseller is not going to have value at any point in the future.  The cover art of most new books is substandard and boring. I have no interest in having these books take up space.  Nevertheless, I do want to read them.

Some people who prefer printed books say that those of us who read electronic books fail to understand that we do not own the books and that Amazon could take the books back at any time.

I am aware that Amazon could take the books back at some point in the future, but I do not expect to read most of the books ever again.  Many people spend money going to the movies, $10 or more per ticket, depending upon where they live.  The cost of one person going to the movies is equivalent to the cost of one electronic book. 

I'm sure people who spend $10 to see a movie realize that they do not own the movie.  They have to purchase the DVD at an additional cost of $15 or more at a later date if they wish to own the movie.

To me, purchasing and reading an electronic book is like going to the movies.  I read the books for recreation, and the $10 (often less) is money well spent.  In most cases, I will not read the books again, so if Amazon takes some of them back in a few years, I won't care.

I was very cautious about purchasing new books to read prior to owning an iPad.  About the only printed contemporary books I purchased from 1995 to 2010 were Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, and Twilight.  That is a whopping 18 books.  I am not including reference books or coffee table books in my count, since those would have been purchased in a printed edition, even if I had already been reading electronic texts at that time.

Since 2010 and the purchase of an iPad, I have purchased more than 70 electronic books.  The vast majority are books I would have never purchased if I had not switched to electronic books for contemporary books.  I have greatly enjoyed the vast majority of my purchases.  Electronic books have been a blessing to this reader.

Both printed books and electronic books are an important part of my life.

Here is a list of the electronic books I have purchased since 2010, in no particular order. 

The Missing Series - Margaret Peterson Haddix
1.  Found, 2008
2.  Sent, 2009
3.  Sabotaged, 2010
4.  Torn, 2011
5.  Caught, 2012

The Shadow Children - Margaret Peterson Haddix
1.  Among the Hidden, 1998
2.  Among the Imposters, 2001
3.  Among the Betrayed, 2002
4.  Among the Barons, 2003
5.  Among the Brave, 2004
6.  Among the Enemy, 2005
7.  Among the Free, 2006

The Darkwoods Trilogy - J. A. Redmerski
1.  The Mayfair Moon, 2012
2.  Kindred, 2012
3.  The Ballad of Aramei, 2012

The Born Trilogy - Tara Brown
1.  Born, 2012
2.  Born to Fight, 2013

The Uglies - Scott Westerfield
1.  Uglies, 2005
2.  Pretties, 2011
3.  Specials, 2011

The Ashes Trilogy - Ilsa J. Bick
1.  Ashes, 2012
2.  Shadows, 2012

Gone Series - Michael Grant
1.  Gone, 2008
2.  Hunger, 2009
3.  Lies, 2010
4.  Plague, 2011
5.  Fear, 2012

The Candy Shop War - Brandon Mull
1.  The Candy Shop War, 2007
2.  The Arcade Catastrophe, 2012

The Beyonders Trilogy - Brandon Mull
1.  A World without Heroes, 2011
2.  Seeds of Rebellion, 2012
3.  Chasing the Prophecy, 2013

Fablehaven Series - Brandon Mull
1.  Fablehaven, 2006
2.  Rise of the Evening Star, 2007
3.  Grip of the Shadow Plague, 2008
4.  Secret of the Dragon Sanctuary, 2009
5.  Keys to the Demon Prison, 2010

Delirium Trilogy - Lauren Oliver
1.  Delirium, 2011
2.  Pandemonium, 2012
3.  Requiem, 2013

Matched Trilogy - Ally Condie
1.  Matched, 2010
2.  Crossed, 2011
3.  Reached, 2012

The Forest of Hands and Teeth Trilogy - Carrie Ryan
1.  The Forest of Hands and Teeth, 2009
2.  The Dead-Tossed Waves, 2010
3.  The Dark and Hollow Places, 2011

The Tapestry Series - Henry H. Neff
1.  The Hound of Rowan, 2007
2.  The Second Siege, 2008
3.  The Fiend and the Forge, 2010
4.  The Maelstrom, 2012

Unwind Dystology - Neal Shusterman
1.  Unwind, 2007
2.  UnWholly, 2012

Brixton Brothers - Mac Barnett
1.  The Case of the Case of the Mistaken Identity, 2009
2.  The Ghostwriter Secret, 2010
3.  It Happened on a Train, 2011
4.  Danger Goes Berserk, 2012

The Birthmarked Trilogy - Caragh M. O'Brien
1.  Birthmarked, 2010
2.  Prized, 2011
3.  Promised, 2012

Books of Ember - Jeanne Duprau
1.  The City of Ember, 2003
2.  The People of Sparks, 2005
3.  The Prophet of Yonwood, 2006
3.  The Diamond of Darkhold, 2008

Enclave Trilogy - Ann Aguirre
1.  Enclave, 2011
2.  Outpost, 2012

Divergent Trilogy - Veronica Roth
1. Divergent, 2011
2. Insurgent, 2012

The Hunger Games Trilogy - Suzanne Collins
1.  The Hunger Games, 2008
2.  Catching Fire, 2009
3.  Mockingjay, 2010

Life As We Knew It Series - Susan Beth Pfeffer
1.  Life As We Knew It, 2006
2.  The Dead and the Gone, 2008
3.  This World We Live In, 2010


A said...

Some other concerns with electronic books:
*Ownership of the book if you change devices. Can you still access it?
*If non-fiction, does the electronic book list sources.
*Has the book been edited, proofread, and checked for accuracy
*Artwork and design are often bad with electronic books I've found. I assume this is to keep price down and whip out a product quickly.
*The smell and the feel of books is irreplaceable
*Long term consequences for humanity. Those who own information have power. How do we verify the book hasn't been altered if only a few individuals own the source material? Will Amazon still let Tiny Tim live 300 years in the future? Will Barnes and Noble allow Romeo and Juliet to be star-crossed lovers? Think of the film "The Time Machine" (the Rod Taylor one) where the books crumble in his hands and the people are ignorant. Frankly, the ramifications are scary.

Jennifer White said...

Regarding your last point, let's take it even further. So much of what we do is now online. People are using Facebook as their photo albums. This blog won't last forever. Someday, all of the information will be erased. It won't exist in 100 years. All this information, and none of it is permanent.

Ryan said...

For me personally, I don't like when people use all electronic books because I don't want it to faze out printed books. I hate reading from a screen and if printed books are ever obsolete from stores then I'd probably only read from my personal collection.

On the plus side, though, electronic books mean people are trying to get rid of their paper books ^^