I know, paper book lover, you are offended even before you start reading this post. And, believe me, I completely understand your love for this dear old object that dates back to the 1500s, following the development of the movable types by Gutenberg (although in Asia this happened even before). I even share that warm feeling towards the smell of newly-acquired books. Just like you, I’m also awed by its amazing endurance, after all it’s been around for more than 500 years with little variation.
However, I’m sorry to herald the news that its days are numbered. And the process of replacement will be faster than you think. Print books will always be valued, but more and more they will become a relic, used more as an ornament, a piece of decoration, having the status we give to contemporary coffee-table books. They will be regarded as a beautiful, yet a bit funny, object of a previous era, very much like the clay tablet, papyrus scrolls and parchments we respectfully admire in museums today. I don’t remember seeing anyone reading the latest Paulo Coelho on a papyrus scroll on the subway recently! Print books will represent something antique and valuable, but I doubt people will use it practically. E-books will progressively replace them. Starting from school materials.
At the risk of sounding pretentious, I honestly believe that I may have been among the first Brazilians to have a Kindle. I know that because I ordered the hardware the minute it was available to Brazil, meaning that the download of books would work here without the need for any hacking or tricks. That happened two years after its launch in the US. However, I had been reading digitally even before that, as I owned an e-reader account in the medieval days of Palm PDAs.
But let me tell you the reasons I have loved e-books from the first moment I heard about them.
1. Availability of titles in English
If you couldn’t read in English, there was no point in having a Kindle at its inception, as most books available were in this language. I’ve always read more in English than in Portuguese (despite the fact that the latter is my native language), and it was always a bit frustrating not to have access to some of the books I wanted hot off the press. Whenever I traveled to the US, I would come back with a huge load of these Gutenberguian objects, which made my backpack really heavy and uncomfortable. To this day I can’t get over the fact that any content is now just a mouse click away to be ordered, whenever and wherever you are.
I’m always reading three or four books at the same time (sometimes more). I get easily bored, and like to move from one topic to another very quickly. How can you do that with print books when you are away from home? I must confess that this volatility of mine got even worse now that I’m able to carry my library around on my iPhone. Print books begin to feel awkward to carry and even to read from, once you get used to tablets and smart phones. Try accessing the left-hand page of a thick paperback!
Whenever I come across an interesting mention about a book, I instantly access Amazon.com and download a sample. I must admit I tend to purchase it later, which makes me a very easy prey for these kinds of ultra-smart marketing tactics.
There is a lot out there to catch up with and I have only a lifetime. Somehow you move faster on digital text, there are many reasons why, one being the very fact that you avoid losing seconds – that add up – turning pages. All you have to do at the end of a digital page is to tap on it and you are instantly taken to the next one. I have just read about a new speed reading app, called Spritz (http://www.spritzinc.com), and tried it out. I realized it’s pretty addictive and I’m sure I will be moving on to it as soon as it’s available. Yes, I know about the Woody Allen joke: he speed read through War and Peace and all he remembered at the end was that it may have been about some kind of war in Russia. If it gets this bad, I will quit trying to increase my pace, promise.
5. The size of the font
One is not twenty years old forever, and the eyesight suffers with time. Even with glasses, very small fonts are irritating. So, to be able to choose and control the size of the font you are reading in is a great advantage.
6. Instant access to a dictionary
I love words, and the process of making new acquaintances, stumbling upon prospective friends and identifying them is made a lot simpler and quicker on a e-book. Click on the word and the definition pops up.
7. The fact that you can highlight, bookmark and annotate orderly and beautifully
These are some of the things that always comes up whenever I listen to someone defending print books. They say they can’t move on to digital books as they love to highlight and comment on passages. Obviously, they are unaware that these have always been features of e-books, since their dawn. And you can do it in different colors, without ever having the problem of your marker running out of ink.
I’m sure that, by now, you, print book lover, are hating me even more, if you ever got to this point in the text, and certainly will want to hit me in the head with one of the heaviest of these outdated objects you might have at hand: The Complete Works of Shakespeare? I will duck and try to run away, carrying with me not only a similar copy in my e-library, but also, the Complete Works of Lewis Carroll, Oscar Wilde, and Edgar Allan Poe…plus the Bible! Ah, and, classics as they are, they cost me nothing, or only a couple of dollars on Amazon!
NOTE: You might want to check out our eBooks available from AMAZON.COM. Just click here to know more about the series TEACHING ENGLISH WITH ART: http://wp.me/p4gEKJ-1lS