Ebooks Are Destroying Reading As We Know It

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Sigh. I’ve thought I’ve seen it all in the petty arguments against ebooks. I’ll admit that the author of this one at least tries to make an academic case that ebooks are ruining the world. But it still falls short in many ways. Even worse, the author reverts back to the petty arguments against ebooks that I see all the time.

The article, Will E-Books Destroy the Democratizing Effects of Reading? from the website Technology Review basically says ebooks are bad because you can’t share them like print books, ebooks are going to destroy libraries, blah, blah, blah.

Take this first example, where the author laments about print books being passed down by family members. Ebooks eliminates the secondary book market:

I challenge anyone reading this to recall his or her earliest experiences with books — nearly all of which, I’m willing to bet, were second-hand, passed on by family members or purchased in that condition. Now consider that the eBook completely eliminates both the secondary book market and any control that libraries — i.e. the public — has over the copies of a text it has purchased.

This argument fails simply for the fact that ebooks are so new that yes, most of us older than college age grew up with print books. Yes, I remember the reading my first books and going to the library.

What the author fails to mention is that in a decade or two, ebooks will be so common that children will have a different experience. They will grow up in a digital world of the internet, smartphones and even ebooks. They won’t know any different.

If the transition to eBooks is complete — and with libraries being among the most significant buyers of books, it now seems inevitable — the flexibility of book ownership will be gone forever. Knowledge, in as much as books represent it, will belong to someone else.

Print books aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. What I want the author to explain is: Who will the knowledge belong to? When I read a book, whether in print or digital format, I’m reading for the content. The format has nothing to do with the knowledge I gain from a particular book.

One in five children in the U.S. lives below the poverty line, and those numbers are likely to increase as the world economy continues to work through a painful de-leveraging of accrued debt. In the past, the only thing a child needed to read a book was basic literacy, something that our public education system in theory still provides.

Again, print books are still widely available, especially for children, and I think they’ll be around for a while. Basic literacy doesn’t have to be learned in print. An ebook can do just as good of a job, if not better. I’ve seen some pretty cool ebook apps for kids that can really help them learn to read.

As for one in five kids living below the poverty line; I won’t argue with that. However, I will say that this is the exact reason why print books will be with us for a while.

The biggest problem the anti-ebook folks have is that they are afraid of change. It’s easy to understand though; how many centuries have print books been around? But the world is evolving and progressing.

I’m sure people resisted the automobile when they replaced horses. Same thing when people could listen to music on the radio instead of actually going to a live concert. When records became available, people said it’d be the end of radio.

My point is that people have always resisted technological progress. But in all the cases I listed above, the progress ended up changing things for the better. Would you still want to ride a horse to go to the grocery store?

3 thoughts on “Ebooks Are Destroying Reading As We Know It

  1. I think eventually publishers will come to their senses and figure out that ebooks shouldn’t be encumbered by DRM. Once that happens, then ebooks can be passed down between family members and shared across generations.

  2. I came across this BLOG while looking around google for the reason Harry Potter books are not available for my kindle. I’ve had my kindle for a while and I am a huge Harry Potter fan, but I already owned the print versions so I never even looked for the digital versions.

    Well, now my 9 year old has an ereader and we are going on a 6 hour flight tomorrow. She wants to read the first book so I thought I would get it for her on her reader so she could take that along with several other books she is reading/wants to read. Three books is a lot to carry in a carry on, one reader weighs the same whether it has one bbook or 3000 books on it.

    After reading this article, I have three things to say to the woman who wrote the article about which the BLOG was written;

    1. You obviosuly don’t spend time with children in a class room. My kid’s teachers encorage reading beyond any other activity, and these TEACHERS who spend their LIVES with children, encourange it an ANY format. If anything, my daughter reads MORE now that she can have access to books in a matter of seconds. I am a single working mother, I do not have time to trot off to the library every three seconds to get my kids books, I love ereaders for them for the same reason I love my kindle for myself, I can read more, conveniently AND I can read more than just the best sellers….I can read (and my kids can read) indie authors and other artists who do not have the money to be full time published writers. I have read more in the last year than I have in the previous 5 combined. It is the same for children.

    2. Some e-books can be handed down. Some authors and publishers allow their books to be lent out, electronically. My mom and I spend a significant amount of time looking for authors and publsihers who allow this and we share books back and forth on our kindles all the time…JUST LIKE WE DID WITH PRINT BOOKS!!!!

    3. There is not a ton of content for young readers available in a digital format, so I cannot see print books for children going anywhere anytime soon. My daughter still reads more print books than digital books at this point, I hope to god that changes soon, digital material has changed the way I read for the better. Children do not learn to love to read because of the format, they learn to love to read by emulating their parents and by involved parents who encourage them to read. Whether I take my kids to the library or “take them” to the kindle store on Amazon, they will not have access to books unless I give them or encorage that access, period.

    Luddites, sheesh!