Will E-books Push Paper Books off the Field?

Charles Lee


It is a library as light as a pencil case and a dictionary at the touch of a finger. It is an e-reader.

“Frankly, there are no serious disadvantages,” Robert W. Sawyer, a Canadian science
fiction writer, said. “You can even put your e-book reader in a Ziploc bag and
read in the bath tub.”

Sawyer’s enthusiasm for the e-book reader is echoed around the world. The Kindle E-Book reader was only 33 months old when e-books first overtook the hard cover format
in sales just about a year and a half ago. Ever since Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos
developed new marketing models for the e-book reader, businesses have been
scrambling for e-book market share before Amazon devours it all. The whole field
heated up, providing e-book readers with convenient services. What was once a
dull electronic machine only a decade ago has transformed into the dominant technology that may forever change our reading experience.

“It’s the future; they will eventually replace almost all printed books”, Sawyer said. “Although I love printed books, and make my living writing them , it has always frustrated me that people in small towns can’t necessarily find my latest book and people anywhere might have trouble finding my older books.  E-books … solve that problem.”

Books, however, as some put it, are not just about convenience, but also about personal connection.

An American novelist Jonathan Franzen launched a passionate defense of the printed book at the Hay Festival in Cartagena, Colombia, just a month ago, arguing that
society’s need for instant gratification through electronic devices is damaging
our culture.

“Someone worked really hard to make the language just right,
just the way they wanted it.” Franzen said during his interview with The Telegraph. “They were so sure of it that they printed it in ink, on paper. A screen always feels like we could delete that, change that, move it around. I think, for serious readers, a sense
of permanence has always been part of the experience [of reading].”

Sharon Andic, a Northern District librarian, also believes in the importance and convenience of paper books.

“I don’t think print books will disappear for quite a while,” Andic said, “and
paper fiction will be around for a long time as there is no reliance on
technology which can fail, ease of use, [and] lose historical familiarity.”

In the midst of the Kindle hype, the CEO of Amazon chose words cautiously to not deter any print book lovers and made a note that “[Amazon’s] hard cover sales continue to grow.”

Many publishers agree that it is still too early to say that e-books are cannibalizing sales of paper books and some institutions such as Bertelsmann AG’s Random House Inc. have concluded that “there’s not data to prove any connection between growth in e-books and the growth or decline in paper book sales. If anything, we may be seeing a positive effect in which the steady pace of e-book sales helps to keep a book in front-of-mind for a growing number of consumers after hardcover momentum slows.”

Cindy Leech, however, who stopped buying paper books after acquiring her e-reader, is optimistic about eBooks’ effect on us and our culture.

“They provide another means of receiving information and enjoying novels, plays, and
poetry,” Leech said. “In most ways, they increase access to the masses
without even having to leave the comfort of one’s home.”

Leech also said that e-books will definitely help students, freeing them from having “to lug heavy texts around as [these texts] will be replaced with e-readers.”