Electronic books are here to stay. Reading an e-book on an electronic reader isn’t a passing fad that will lose its appeal after the novelty wears off. E-books are already part of the literary landscape, and instead of mourning the change, we should be excited about the new possibilities e-books will bring.
Amazon introduced the Kindle, its electronic reader, in 2007 and now has over 400,000 electronic books available for customers. In Christmas 2009, for the first time ever, more e-books were sold on Amazon.com than traditional print books.
Even the St. Thomas O’Shaughnessy-Frey library has started to realize that in a few years, the print books languishing on library shelves collecting dust will be bypassed in favor of electronic readers.
The library recently purchased five Kindles, loaded them with popular novels and non-fiction books and made them available for students to check out. The library is acknowledging that this is the way the future is moving. Every one of the Kindles has already been checked out, and most have waiting lists.
Although none of the Kindles contain St. Thomas course textbooks, I think it’s an idea that deserves consideration. Imagine how much cheaper textbooks would be if students could purchase them on library Kindles instead of through the bookstore. It would be just one of the many benefits of having electronic readers available on campus.
Of course, many people will say nothing can replace the feel of paper between their fingers or the faint scent of ink as they flip the pages. They will claim there is something special about holding a book, that it connects the reader to the material in a deeper way than reading words on a screen.
And they may be right. Those are all aspects of the traditional book that, in the near future at least, electronic reader manufacturers have no way of replicating. But electronic readers such as the Kindle have their own unique attributes that make them even more alluring.
For example, portability. The Kindle 2 holds up to 1,500 books. Lugging around that many traditional print books in a backpack would get a little heavy. The Kindle condenses all those books into one 10.2 ounce item that’s easy to slip into a purse or hold in your hands.
When I traveled to Greece and Turkey for J-term, we flew on two flights for a total of 12 hours before we reached Athens. Due to the stricter luggage weight limits on international flights, I had to limit the number of books I could take along. I would have loved to have an electronic reader with hundreds of books on it to distract me during those long hours in-flight. Instead, I used up the two books I brought on the first flight.
Electronic readers are the iPods of the literary world. Just as purchasing a song for an iPod takes less than a minute, Kindle users can purchase a book and start reading it in less than 60 seconds. The new iPad, made by Apple, is even more technologically glamorous than the Kindle and should attract additional converts looking for a quick and easy way to purchase reading material.
Electronic readers could even be the key to saving the struggling newspaper and magazine industry. A one-month subscription to the New York Times on a Kindle costs $13.99, and that’s $13.99 more than people currently pay to read articles on the newspaper’s website.
The New York Times also worked with Apple to create an application for purchasing the newspaper’s content on iPads. These moves will bring publications much-needed revenue while making it even more convenient for people to keep up with the news.
Technology moves forward, not backward. Electronic readers and e-books won’t necessarily replace traditional books, but they will provide people with even more reading opportunities. I think we can all agree that’s a good thing.
Katie Broadwell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org