Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Old-Style Books vs Ebooks

The following are the features of old-style (OS) paper volumes that make them superior to e-books:
  1. Look good and they encourage browsing. They offer a window into the interests of the owner. If you come to my house and don't carefully peruse my library (let alone fail to even mention it), I won't say anything, but, quietly, I'll judge you. I'd feel like a weirdo showing off my Kindle library.

  2. Practically immune to data rot (that is, the inability to access information because the equipment to access it it is lost...for example try to play your old 45pm records...try to access the data on a 3.5 floppy).

  3. Robust hardware. You can drop an OS volume, step on it, let it get dusty. It doesn't care. Heat, cold, sunlight, careless reading will shorten its life but any volume accepts more abuse than e-readers. With care, even a pulp paperback might last over a century. Upscale ones with good binding and acid-free paper last longer. The books printed on sheephide are still accessible after 1000 years.

  4. Versatile fair-use. I can loan it out as many times as I like to anyone at all without violating the copyright. Also, I can resell books to recoup some of my investment in them if I decide I don't like them or lose interest in. I can buy used books -- e-books are always "new" and never show up in remainder bins.
X. Portability. When it comes to carrying multiple volumes e-readers are better at this than OS volumes; but, most individual volumes are still small enough to fit in your coat pocket. An IPad could never do that which is considered an improvement over the Kindle's tiny screen. In order to do all the things we want an e-book to do, you have to increase their size until their portability is compromised. And, anyway, their delicate nature makes carrying e-readers around willy-nilly a risky venture.

XX. I might have added that you can't get your e-books signed by the author or illustrator, but then such copies often become off-limits for reading anyway. So it's a wash there.

Things I wish my old-style books could do:
  1. Allow me to transport my annotations (that might include interactive hyperlinks or pictures) to email, Word, whatever.

  2. Include an embedded dictionary.
No e-reader yet supports feature #1 the way I want it to work (not event the IPad, I think, since it doesn't support multi-tasking). But there are some books I only use for reference that would be convenient to have in electronic version.

One day, I hope, when you buy the hardcopy of a book, you will automatically have access to the electronic version as well. This would encourage people (like me) to buy new books rather than used ones.

Update
It just so happens that I came across a YouTube ad to just the sort of technology I was thinking of. What I want next is the ability to apply Ubimarks to the books I already have.