Part of Yolo County Library’s eBook collection is now available for Kindle, Amazon.com’s digital reader. Library members can check out an eBook in the same way they would check out a real book – the book is available for three weeks, and then the content is disabled.
This jump from paper to digital books is not uncommon in today’s marketplace. Seeing someone reading a digital book on the bus is equally as likely as seeing someone reading a real, paper book. This shift, while impressive, should be taken in stride and should be thought about critically.
Books, which became prevalent after the printing press was invented around 1440, have shaped our culture into what it is today. While the advent of digital books is fascinating, we should realize that it has a direct effect on our culture and our lives. Just remember, the invention of the printing press helped the Protestant Reformation take form.
The benefits of digital readers are clear. An eBook is much lighter than a normal book, and you can carry around as many books as you like in one tablet. Book prices are often cheaper on eBooks, and font size and brightness can be adjusted to the reader’s desire. And let’s face it, who doesn’t think they look cool carrying around a trendy, digital device?
While these benefits clearly apply, the negatives of eBooks are also there. When a reader is reading an eBook, they lose the physical connection to what they are reading, along with the general experience of holding a book in their hand. While you can virtually dog-ear a page on an eBook, there is clearly a difference between a digital action and physical action. Spilling coffee on a paper book can be easily fixed with a hair dryer and some patience. However, spilling coffee on an eBook is an overall disaster.
Digital readers also hinder the sharing process that is so vital to book culture. When someone is done reading a book on their Kindle, it is unlikely that they will want to lend their $79 device to a friend so that they can read the same book.
As digitalization becomes more prevalent in the academic world, students should be wary of the abrupt shift. If all textbooks are digital, how does a student take notes in the book? What if a student can’t afford an eBook? These questions should be considered before society welcomes digital books with open arms.
Some readers have attempted to balance the difference between the digital and paper world by switching back and forth between each medium. This alone shows the confusion that society faces as eBooks emerge as a prevalent mass media distributor.
While there are positive and negative effects of eBooks, it is most important that we as students notice the change, and understand how it will affect our lives.
And just remember, paper books don’t run out of batteries.