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       Big Readers Forum Index -> What books are being discussed in the papers, online, on television, etc.?
mariathomas

Digital or paper books?

Well  according to my point of view, I think that readers are being pulled between traditional books and e-reading devices, Millions of Americans are abandoning printed books to pick up electronic reading devices, but also among people who are trying to decide whether they should stick with paper or step into the future and go electronic. I think that By the end of the year, 10.3 million people are expected to have electronic reading devices, buying about 100 million books. Last year, there were 3.7 million people with e-readers, buying 30 million books. Well Book publishers are trying to find ways to accommodate both traditional readers and e-readers with bundles — an electronic version along with a hard copy of a book.
Freyda

As one who prefers paper books, I was reading about Books of Hours recently and it occurred to me that it is much easier to access and research centuries of writings on paper - from the very grand like Books of Hours to the humble, such as household accounts and scraps of paper, lists, notes, random letters - than it is in other forms. Already, over probably less than 20 years, I have informal family records and so on in various forms I no longer have the functioning technology to look at - videotapes and even audio cassettes, since the tape playing bit of my music system has decided to crunch up the tapes, and it isn't worth investing in new, even if I could find it. Likewise the car tape player has been replaced by a CD player, and cassette tape is notoriously fragile. I know that you can get these things moved to DVD/CD but then that will soon be outdated too. Yet old diaries and photo albums are still available without any problem!

I enjoy watching the TV programme "Who Do You Think You Are?", and although the subjects often use the internet and computers to access old census data, it is very moving to see, and they are often very moved by handling, the actual parish records or old documents in which their ancestors' key life moments are recorded.
MikeAlx

I think paper's going - it's inevitable. The short shelf-life of storage media is irrelevant - it will simply be moved to the new media as technology develops - that's the beauty of digital data, very easy to copy/transfer. CDs, DVDs, USB sticks, all that personal physical media, will very likely disappear altogether over the coming decades - it will all be stored 'in the cloud', for better or worse.

The whole model of owning texts will change - probably it will be a pay-per-access rather than own-a-copy model. You will be able to quite easily access any text whatsoever at the click of a link - but of course it will cost you!
Mikeharvey

I don't expect paper books to disappear in what remains of my life. I don't think I'll be buying an electronic device. Not with all the unread books in this house.  
Will electronic books ever have the beauty of some traditional books? I'm thinking of my 'Midsummer Night's Dream' published in 1908 with tipped in pictures by Arthur Rackham.  My copy of Ray Bradbury's 'The Martian Chronicles' a large book bound in black cloth covered in silver stars. My tiny copy of Eleanor Farjeon's 'Mrs Malone' illustrated by Edward Ardizzone. My luxurious copy of 'A Streetcar Named Desire' illustrated by Al Herschfeld. And many othewrs which are things of beauty as well asa texts to read. M.
Freyda

However inevitable it  is, I still prefer tangible to virtual. I am a bit suspicious of the cloud and access to it (not that I really understand it). For example, my Norton-backed-up pc files - where are they!?  And the ease of transferring digital data does not get round the problem of things stored on pre-digital but non-paper methods.

I think also that tangible paper books may well become, as the other Mike says, valuable treasures, and will be produced perhaps as lovely artefacts. Have you seen the latest limited edition Penguins? (The only one I really fancy is The Secret Garden with a cut out tree on the cover.)
chris-l

Although I have to confess to being a bit of a Luddite, I'm not actually opposed to books in electronic format: I can see circumstances where I might well prefer them. At the moment, I simply can't afford to purchase the hardware neeeded, but I would if I could. I think it is often forgotten that the Codex book form is a relatively new invention in itself (relative to the history of mankind, that is) and the printed book a mere new-comer on the scene.

Having said that, I do love the traditional book, and have no immediate expectation of its demise. When I was a student of Librarianship, back in the 1960s, the death of the book was already being predicted, but it hasn't happened yet. More recently, it has been fashionable to talk of 'the paperless society', yet my experience has been that we use more and more paper. Whereas once we jotted down some information we wished to record on the back of an old envelope, these days, we hit 'print' on the computer and produce, at minimum, an A4 sheet.
Chibiabos83

I've linked to this before when the subject came up, but in case anyone's bored enough to want to read it, here's an online version of an essay I wrote for my MA a couple of years ago. I can't remember what mark I got, so it may be a bit irrepressibly drab and awful.
MikeAlx

I agree books will continue to be valued as artefacts - but they will become economically non-viable save as luxury collectors' items. The affordability of books depends on the mass market, and economically this distribution model simply can't compete with digital media in the long run, just as the scrolls and books produced by monastic scribes couldn't compete with those of the printing press.

Those of us with a sentimental attachment to books (I include myself) will go the way of all flesh, and newer generations will wonder why anyone ever got attached to such an inefficient and limited medium in the first place.

(Caveat: this is of course no more than speculation, though I've left all the 'probably's and 'perhaps'es out)
MikeAlx

Only skim-read your piece Gareth, but unless I missed something you didn't mention some of the key advantages of digital text, such as searchability, indexing, hyperlinking, cross-referencing and annotating without harming the source text. Also, all of the above with multi-users in a collaborative environment.

The finger-turning and other tactile elements of reading have already been addressed to some extent by devices like the iPad, and we can expect more of this in the future (tactile interfaces are an exciting research area at the moment, even extending to technologies that give an illusion of touching solid objects where none exist - though all this is in its infancy).

It's only fair to confess that I don't yet own an e-reader. This is because a) I tend to be a late-adopter, and b) I'm also a tightwad!
Chibiabos83

I think I probably mentioned searchability, but I'm too lazy to check. But if I wanted to I could do it in seconds.
Evie

I think if books ever become obsolete, I will have to kill myself.
Ann

....and we'll all have to chip in for a floral display in the shape of a book to remember you by.
That is a tasteless joke for which I apologise but I couldn't resist it. Sad
Castorboy

The feel of the glassy screen of an Ipad can't be compared to the tactile, possibly sensuous, feel of stroking fingers over a glossy page of text or photographs. Real feelings versus virtual ones!
MikeAlx

Personally I would miss the smell of a new book more than the tactile experience. There is of course no reason to suppose we will be stuck with glass screens indefinitely. We may even have true "smart paper" within a few decades. The point is, this tech is still in its infancy. But the economics and potentially lower carbon-footprint of digital distribution suggest to me that the future lies with ebooks.
Mikeharvey

Talking of tactile - I have a copy of Virgil's 'Eclogues' with engravings that are so beautifully printed that I can feel their inky outlines under my fingers.   Incidentally I suppose you can get E-books with illustrations?
I wonder will old E-books acquire the patina of old books.  I have dozens of old books with the signatures of previous owners, and some with their annotations. I love reading books that have been read by others 100 years ago and more.  And what about copies signed by their authors?  My copy of 'The Martian Chronicles' referred to above is signed flamboyantly by Ray Bradbury in red felt-pen sprawling all over the fly-leaf.
county_lady

Mikeharvey wrote:
Talking of tactile - I have a copy of Virgil's 'Eclogues' with engravings that are so beautifully printed that I can feel their inky outlines under my fingers.   Incidentally I suppose you can get E-books with illustrations?
I wonder will old E-books acquire the patina of old books.  I have dozens of old books with the signatures of previous owners, and some with their annotations. I love reading books that have been read by others 100 years ago and more.  And what about copies signed by their authors?  My copy of 'The Martian Chronicles' referred to above is signed flamboyantly by Ray Bradbury in red felt-pen sprawling all over the fly-leaf.


Mike I'm green with an envy I could never feel for ownership of any ebook.
MikeAlx

Lately some people have been giving away their ebooks for free, then selling physical 'souvenir' copies to fans. They have recognised that for many the physical book is a kind of trophy or memento - many readers like to keep books on their shelves after reading, despite never intending to read them again.

Signed copies and first editions is another interesting one - perhaps the ebook will develop its own equivalent in the future - a personal video message from the author, perhaps? Numbered, limited editions?
Evie

Ann, that's not tasteless at all - glad someone took my comment in the spirit it was intended!  :0)

I hadn't even thought of the loss of secondhand books - no more 'To Daisy on her 21st, much love from Uncle George, September 1935' etc.  I love all that.  Thinking about who has owned and read the copy before...yum.
mike js

I gather Stephen Fry's latest book is being published as an ebook, an iPhone app and a hardback leafy thing.

I've long thought that the electronic hardware is no challenge to physical books, but things are certainly improving. The software, the format fumblings, and digital rights arguments are all serious weaknesses, I reckon, and might be a more serious threat to truly long lifetime of the word.

A book is still rather fine technology - so good its hidden - and I do hope that books will continue to thrive as more than antiques.
Chibiabos83

mike js wrote:
I gather Stephen Fry's latest book is being published as an ebook, an iPhone app and a hardback leafy thing.

And an audiobook and probably several other formats. I'm going to see him on Friday in the hope of getting my copy signed. Bearing this in mind, I thought it was better to buy one made of paper rather than turning up with an iPad and a thick marker pen.
Evie

Gareth, you should ask Stephen Fry (who loves his gadgets...!!) whether he has a solution to the signing problem with electronic books.   Cool
Chibiabos83

I'm sure I'll be entirely tongue-tied and in a queue of about 1000 people, but I will attempt to bear it in mind while I'm fretting about not being able to remember my own name. Of course, I suppose he could sign an e-book reader on the back, but then if you go to a lot of signings there will come a point when you run out of space.
Castorboy

Which will give a whole new meaning to the Space Race computer
MikeAlx

It may be of interest that the final instalment of Stieg Larsson's crime trilogy sold more e-book editions than hardbacks - over 1 million in fact. This is believed to be the first mainstream book to do so.

Also, at the last Frankfurt Book Fair, over 40% of book buying professionals surveyed believed that ebooks will be outselling printed books generally within a decade.

At present the overall pattern is that printed book sales are staying static, whilst ebook sales are doubling every year.
Billy the Fish

My current objection to ebooks probably shows how much of a luddite I am, but aren't we always told to keep backups of electronic data we want to keep? In the form of MP3s, my backups are CDs; does this mean that for ebooks I still need a copy of the book?!

Other people have mentioned the luxury editions and I notice in the most recent LRB there's a review of a new edition of Finnegan's Wake, £250 for illustrations, notes, etc with a link to an E-version showing textual glosses, variants, copies of previous usages etc. This may well be the future.

Mostly, though, I think the main problem here is the same as the great CD swindle - ie, every few years there's a new format coming out for music: vinyl, then tape, then minidisc and CD and MP3 and so on, each time necessitating a purchase of the same piece of music on a new format. Then lo and behold, vinyl comes back 'in'......!

Oh, and as far as searchability goes I find there's no substitute for a good memory, a notebook, and (shock! horror!) underlining things in the book........
TheRejectAmidHair

Excellent post, Billy the Fish! I agree with you wholeheartedly!

I have one day off tomorrow before returningto work, and I plan to spend it in the Malt Whisky Society with one of those beautiful Library of America editions of Herman Melville's late fiction. It just wouldn't be the same sitting there with some electronic screen!
spidernick

The Kindle looks wonderful, but many of us have an emotional attachment to books that you just wouldn't get with an electronic reader.  I also like having books around the house.

Mike raises some interesting points, but I'd only want a Kindle as a space saver if I was going travelling for a year (unlikely, alas).  They are more environmentally friendly thought, I'll give you that.
Castorboy

TheRejectAmidHair wrote:
I have one day off tomorrow before returning to work, and I plan to spend it in the Malt Whisky Society with one of those beautiful Library of America editions of Herman Melville's late fiction. It just wouldn't be the same sitting there with some electronic screen!

I suppose the Southern Hemisphere equivalent is sitting in the sun at 7 o'clock in the evening, a temp. of 23 degrees and a glass of Pinot Gris (Riverstone Vineyards, Auckland) and a Wodehouse in hand surrounded by dusky maidens (those last two words are a fantasy but still possible in the Pacific – I wish!).

Having spent part of the afternoon listening to Mozart on Radio 3, my big decision is do I move my chair to follow the sun before pouring another glass or should I pour the glass FIRST and then move the chair?

(Why didn't one of  the literary critics after the war tell me about the quality of  the Wodehouse prose? I dutifuly followed their advice and read Maugham, Conrad, Orwell, Huxley, D H Lawrence but where was the champion of P G?
I gathered the impressiion that he was the English equivalent of William Joyce and that to read Wodehouse was to be a traitor to all the values that Churchill had striven for all those war years).
If I have got those facts wrong, I claim the Himadri Defence, in that if I did any research there wouldn't be time to post anything!

Must stop waffling – the smugness about the climate rises as the pinot gris goes down – here's to another year of tactile books rather than the virtual ones, excluding those Seasonal Shorts which are inventive.
Evie

Must admit that I am gradually being won over to ebook readers - partly because I am away from home for two months of every year, and a month of that travelling which means weight and space in my luggage are at a premium; but also because I do love gadgets!  I was teaching on a course in Oxford last year, and a student mentioned a reference in a Hardy novel related to something we were looking at; he very quickly found the reference on his Kindle, having recently purchased the complete novels of Hardy for his device.  The chances of having the right book available in hard copy at such a moment are slim!  I know that's just a minor advantage in this context, but I can see that in learning situations (as I am a teacher), it could be very useful to have such easy access to a high number of texts (the Kindle can store up to 3500 books).

So when I am travelling, it would solve my annual dilemma of which book(s) to take, and the slight anxiety over taking something I end up not enjoying and then being without a book!

It will never replace a hardcopy book in my life, but as a complement to my conventional books, I can see it won't be long before I splash out on an ebook reader...
MikeAlx

I can see advantages too, but won't buy until the economics shift a little (ie a lower price point). Part of the reason is that despite my best efforts I keep acquiring more books than I have space to store accessibly, and most of which I'll probably never read again.

I think the future will be mixed media for a while, because there are certainly books I would rather have a hardcopy of - for example, the beautifully-produced Alasdair Gray: A Life in Pictures which I got for Christmas. And art books in general, really - even an iPad wouldn't do them justice. Rather inconveniently, they also tend to be the books that don't fit on most shelves!
Apple

My husband keeps on at me to get one so the house isn't cluttered up with my "bloody books" and that the shelves can be used for something more useful (his definition of useful would probably be computer games and DVDs) but I'm not keen to be honest there is something about books the feel of them and the smell of them its just not the same with a chunk of plastic, plus I'm a little wary of what happens if something goes wrong and you lose the books stored on your reader?
TheRejectAmidHair

Castorboy wrote:
If I have got those facts wrong, I claim the Himadri Defence, in that if I did any research there wouldn't be time to post anything!


Well, absolutely! Also,when you've got opinions you're rather keen on, research may well turn out facts that render your opinions invalid, and that's a most unfortunate state of affairs.

On the matter of Wodehouse’s prose, it was absolutely perfect for what he set out to do, although, I’m sure, many will point out that what he set out to do was narrow in range: it is hard to imagine Wodehouse writing prose that communicates tension, for instance; or which communicates any depth of feeling; or which communicates with clarity difficult ideas; and so on. But for his purposes, it was perfect. Indeed, his humour depends entirely on the language used: you try re-telling one of his comic passages using your own words, and the humour falls completely flat.

As far as e-books are concerned, I have nothing against them in theory, but I remain too emotionally attached to paper books. It’s irrational, I know, but there it is: this is one aspect where I really am too old to change.
Evie

Re losing books - with the Kindle, at least, Amazon stores the books you buy, and you just download them again for free if you delete or lose them.

But like others, I definitely have a huge emotional attachment to books, and will never prefer reading a computer to holding that satisfying chunk of paper, the feel of it, the ease of use, the smell, as you all say.  As mike js pointed out once, the book is an extremely good piece of technology!  As well as being an object of great aesthetic and sensual delight.
Jen M

Like everyone here, I love books; I love the feel of them, I enjoy browsing in bookshops, and when reading, I like to be able to see how far I have got, and to be able to flick forward to see if I have time to complete the next chapter.

A colleague of mine has recently bought a Kindle, despite being a bibliophile as described above.  She has now been partly converted; the advantage for her is she has a long commute and can choose what she reads depending on her mood.  Another colleague has a Sony e-Reader; one lunchtime I borrowed both and did a bit of 'test reading'.  For various reasons I preferred the Kindle.

I could, possibly, be tempted to invest in a Kindle because of the space the books take up; like Apple's, my husband is not a reader and just about tolerates my books; a Kindle would enable me to have many books without them taking up space in the house.  Perhaps he could treat me.  But I can't see myself ever doing without actual books, or giving up browsing in bookshops.  And Christmas and birthdays would definitely lose something.
Green Jay

Never thought I'd say this but my brother got a Kindle for Christmas and has just been giving me a guided tour. I rather liked it... Embarassed For certain circumstances it might be rather useful. Like others above, I am highly attached to the thing-ness of a proper book, even a tatty paperback. But now the evil little techie-manque geek in me is beginning to nag away.
read2
Ann

Ive just been away to stay with my niece and she lent me her Kindle to try it. She downloaded Phineous Finn for me since I knew it would be free and it is something I was wanting to read.
I quite liked it - especially being able to change the font size. My main annoyance was that I had to be careful how I held it as I could inadvertantly press a button and lose the page I was on, or turn  a page forwards or backwards by mistake. (I am quite a fidgety person and hold my book in lots of different positions as I read.) However I liked that I could pick it up and instantly go to the page I was on without a bookmark that might fall out. I don't think it would replace a book for me, certainly as long as libraries exist. However I think Kindles are an excellent idea for travelling as I have said before.

       Big Readers Forum Index -> What books are being discussed in the papers, online, on television, etc.?
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