Who knew there was a "read an ebook week"? It’s apparently March 2-8 and in preparation a blog called Epublishers Weekly has posted a list of 30 reasons to read an ebook.
Link: 30 Benefits of Ebooks (via lifehacker).
Because I’m feeling snarky I’ll play devil’s advocate and tell you what’s wrong with the list, or at least the first 10 items for now.
I should say up front that I’m not totally opposed to ebooks. I think with the right design they’ll work, especially for travelling. I’ll probably even buy one as soon as they’re cheap enough, are free of DRM (and don’t make me pay twice to own both a paper and an electronic copy), and are pleasant enough to use.
The first item on the list:
1. Ebooks promote reading. People are spending more time in front of screens and less time in front of printed books.
How many of those people have the attention span when at a computer to read more than a few pages at a time without stopping?
Ebooks are good for the environment. Ebooks save trees. Ebooks
eliminate the need for filling up landfills with old books. Ebooks save
transportation costs and the pollution associated with shipping books
across the country and the world.
Ebook readers aren’t without environmental costs. And is there really a "need" to fill up landfills with old books? (Recycling? Hello?)
3. Ebooks preserve books. (The
library of Alexandria was burned and the collection ruined. Richard
Burton’s wife, after his death and against his wishes, destroyed a book
he had been working on for ten years. The original manuscript of
Carlyle’s The French Revolution was lost when a friend’s servant tossed
it into the fire.) Ebooks are ageless: they do not burn, mildew,
crumble, rot, or fall apart. Ebooks ensure that literature will endure.
Last week I went to a course taught by design guru Edward Tufte. Among the interesting artifacts he showed: a 400+ year-old first edition of Galileo’s book, and a copy of the first English translation of Euclid. These were not falling apart — far from it. He was walking around with them and flipping the pages. How likely is your favorite ebook format to last 400 years? Ebooks are far from "ageless". The idea that paper books fall apart quickly is a myth.
Furthermore, ebooks do not necessarily "preserve" books. This has been discussed recently with respect to Google’s book scans. OCR and plain text don’t save drawings and formatting. That same Galileo book had hand drawings in line with the text — easy to do 400 years ago but a pain to preserve with today’s software and electronic formats.
Fires happen and books get lost, but so does data, and when data goes it’s usually massive and instantaneous — there’s no fire extinguisher.
4. Ebooks, faster to produce than paper books, allow readers to read books about current issues and events.
Book printing and distribution can happen very fast (think of the 911 report and other recent current events books that were rushed out). Ideally publishers would post e-book versions in advance of print versions for early buyers, just as software is sometimes available for download before CDs are shipped.
5. Ebooks are easily updateable, for correcting errors and adding information.
True, but I’d rather have those corrections available as addenda on the web or as carefully planned second editions than have them made in real time to the book. Am I supposed to revisit the book every time the author changes a word?
Ebooks are searchable. Quickly you can find anything inside the book.
Ebooks are globally searchable: you can find information in many ebooks.
True, if searching is what you want to do (this is mostly irrelevant for fiction, for example). A good index can be easier to use than a search interface.
7. Ebooks are portable. You can carry an entire library on one DVD.
Can’t argue there. Portability is the main, and possibly only, thing ebooks have going for them.
8. Ebooks (in the form of digital audio books) free you to do other activities while you are listening.
It depends on the activity and it’s debatable whether you retain the information as well as when reading. It’s a different experience — you can’t easily back up to reread a sentence on an audio book, and you can’t search or browse it later.
9. Ebooks can be printable: and thereby give a reader most or all of the advantages of a paper-based book.
A stack of papers is less appealing than a bound book. Sure you could take it to Kinkos to bind it, but that’ll cost you more than buying a printed version in the first place. Book printing kiosks might work but the quality will probably be low. Furthermore, this argument is kind of silly — I could just as easily say "you can scan in your printed book and make it an ebook; therefore a printed book has all the advantages of an ebook!"
Ebooks defy time: they can be delivered almost instantly. Ebooks are
transported to you faster than overnight shipping: in minutes or in
It’s good to learn patience.