For Father’s Day last year, our children gave me a Kobo Touch eReader, a marvellous little device about the size of a very thin paperback, with enough memory to hold thousands of books. Considering that we have been buying another bookcase every four or five years, this should be a big money and space saver. With the Kobo, I can adjust the type size for easier reading, a major benefit for someone battling macular degeneration.
I have found the Kobo helpful for finding older classics that I wanted to read, The Brothers Karamazov, for example. Such books can be downloaded at a very minimal cost, sometimes even free. I don’t have to deal with the musty smell of a used book or the small print of a paperback. I wanted to read Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America. I read that there was some disagreement about which was the best English translation, so I downloaded the original French text. Where would I buy that out here in Saskatchewan?
eBooks and eReaders are here to stay. Some people will use them much more than I do, most of us who like to read will adapt to a mix of the two technologies. I will buy some new books for my Kobo that I wouldn’t buy if my only option was a costly printed edition.
Authors don’t need to be afraid of eBooks. They should earn as much from an eBook that I download as from a hardcover that I buy in a store. When a publisher sells an eBook, he saves the cost of printing, binding, distribution and the cost of accepting returns of unsold copies.
So how come I’m still buying B.O.O.K.s? Well, the reality is that nothing electronic quite matches the technology of a B.O.O.K. An eReader does allow for a limited amount of book marks and highlights, but they’re just not as easy to do, or to find again. When I pick up a B.O.O.K., I can start reading right where I left off, without waiting for it to boot up. If I want to look back to something I read earlier, I don’t have to go back page by page. If I am not much impressed about the portion I am reading I can quickly glance at the following chapters to see if it gets any better. If I want to look up something in a reference book, indexing is a problem with eBooks.
I don’t believe that either books in print or bookstores are endangered species. Online book retailers like Chapters-Indigo and Amazon list a fantastic selection of books and are doing a booming business. Bookstores are adapting to the new market realities, becoming fewer and bigger, and providing seating for people like myself who want to have a good look at a book before we buy it.