Cedar Crest College newspaper since 1923
Rachel Morgandale, Co-Arts Editor
We’ve all heard about the Mac vs. PC debate and the Firefox vs. Chrome debate (Internet Explorer was knocked out of the running a while ago). Technology has presented us with another debate. Is it better to read your books on paper or on a screen?
Writers and readers alike have been concerned about gloomy sales figures in the publishing market for a while now. A surprising majority of published writers can’t make a living from their book sales, but must teach or keep some other day job as well. With eReaders and eBooks flooding the market some have called this a “reading renaissance.” Senior History major Jessica Gilman says, “I think they (eBooks) are getting people more into reading and that’s excellent!”
The figures have certainly been impressive. In a recent article in The Guardian, Amazon UK announced that eBook sales have overtaken their sales of paper books. Suddenly, the possibility of carrying hundreds of books with you on a device has made buying books seem practical, even trendy again. The devices are attractive, high tech accessories that have functions beyond just carrying your books.
With this sudden explosion of eBooks, some have begun to wonder what the risks or costs might be. Does reading on a screen give you the same experience as reading from an actual book?
Earlier this year Time published an article called “Do E-Books Make It Harder to Remember What You Just Read?” The article shows that studies suggest material read from a physical book is absorbed more quickly and more fully. Perhaps the trend toward electronic textbooks might be bad news for students trying to cram for examinations then.
Gilman admits, “I have a Nook Tablet, but it just sits unused on my desk because I’ve yet to buy any interesting eBooks. Frankly, I thought I would be saving buckets of money because I was buying an eBook, but it isn’t that much cheaper. I’ll stick with my paper and new and old book smell for now, thanks.”
Another student who isn’t convinced by the eBook trend is Senior English major and SAGE student, Sascha Fink. “All of the tactile and sensory experiences of reading are removed when using an ereader. Tactile and sensory experiences are absolutely necessary for children who are learning to read. I don’t support their use for children and I will personally never use one. In the attempt to jump forward I believe we are taking a step back.”
Fink also raises another concern, that of privacy and censorship, “An issue I have is the lack of intellectual privacy. While I can be tracked when I take library books out or when I pay with a credit card, I still have the ability to purchase books privately using cash or purchasing from a used book store. When we download books everyone knows what we are reading. I was quite amused when all of those copies of 1984 were remotely deleted from eReaders because the store wasn’t sure if they were legally sold.”
That particular incident in 2009 saw Amazon removing copies of Orwell’s novels from eReaders because the copies were distributed by a company without the rights to the book. It seemed to some like a scene from the books itself. Gillman says, “I could go off on a 1984 rant and talk about my distrust of eBooks and how I feel we should always print our books, forever, but that would be long and useless.”
For all the benefits of eReaders, paper books seem to be around to stay. For now at least.