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E-Ink - Are E-books a Better Read Than Traditional Books?

Updated on May 20, 2013

The Kindle - The Device that Started a Revolution

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It's All About the Reading Experience

Did you ever read a magazine article that you will never forget? I have, and one in particular sticks out in my mind. In November 2007, writer Steven Levy penned an article in Newsweek magazine entitled,The Future of Reading.The article was about the just launched Amazon Kindle, the first popular electronic reader or e-reader. I was mesmerized by Levy's article. A device that could hold hundreds of books (that was 2007 - the newer models can hold thousands of books), have a battery life of up to 30 hours and technical features that a paper book could never handle. The secret was the invention of electronic ink or e-ink, a technology that made the electronic page as easy on the eyes as the printed page.

I made an on-the-spot decision, something I don't often do. I ordered the Kindle from Amazon, shelling out the original price of $359. I was an early adopter. I got a message from Amazon saying it would be delayed a bit because they just came out with the Kindle 2. So I had to wait a couple of weeks. It was worth the wait.

After the Kindle exploded on the scene, there soon came many other e-reading devices: Barnes & Noble's Nook, the Sony E-reader, and, of course, the Ipad, among others. Ebooks have taken the publishing industry by storm. The New York Times Book Review now has a separate Best Seller list for e-books.

This article is not a comparative review of the various e-readers on the market. Such an article would have a shelf life of a couple of days, if that. There is a very good article on CNET comparing the Kindle, Nook and Ipad, and it seems to be regularly updated.

This article is about the experience of reading on an e-reader compared to a regular hard cover or paperback book. Some people hate e-books, and they wouldn't dream of replacing their beloved printed books. I shall not denounce these folks, because, although I am a huge fan of e-books, I share some of their concerns.

The Great Things About E-Books

I too love regular books, and I will discuss why later in this article, but for now just let me say that I find that the benefits of an e-reader outweigh the benefits of a regular book. Here are the benefits that make me an e-reader fan. I am a Kindle user, but most of the functionalities that I discuss are common to any e-reader.

· Reading becomes a one hand experience. Because you turn a page by tapping a button, you can prop your e-reader up on a stack of napkins in a diner, eat your breakfast, all the while turning the page with your pinky. How cool is that!

· E-readers are light and easy to handle. At eight inches by five and a half inches, my Kindle is about the the size of a thin trade paperback book, and weighs 10.2 ounces. When Walter Isaacson came out with his wonderful biography Steve Jobs, my wife and I had to have it immediately, so we bought the hard cover book while shopping, even though we both have Kindles. The huge book just looked so inviting we just went ahead and bought it. While reading it in bed, as is my habit, I dozed off, as is also my habit. At 658 pages, the book weighed as much as a car battery. It tipped over and almost broke my nose (or at least it felt that way). The next day I flipped for a few bucks more and bought the Kindle edition, for safety if no other reason.

· E-readers help your vocabulary. I was taught to always keep a dictionary nearby while reading so that I could immediately look up a word I didn't understand. The e-reader trumps this activity in a way that's so great it's almost shocking. Simply hover the cursor next to a word and the dictionary definition appears on the screen. This, to me, is one of the greatest benefits of an e-reading device.

· Bookmark or jot a note? No problem with one of these devices. Just navigate to the function and you can bookmark a page or add a note, a terrific function when you're doing research.

· Search feature. What would an electronic device be without a search function? E-readers, of course, are up to the task. If you come across a character in a book who you forgot because he first appeared 200 pages ago, just go to the search function and hit enter.

· Going on vacation? With e-books you no longer have to decide which books to lug with you on vacation. Your reader can hold thousands.

· Sharing with your spouse. If your spouse or partner has an e-reader like yours you share a family library.

· E-book apps for your smart phone. I have a Kindle app on my IPhone and IPad. When I want to continue reading a book I started, I simply access the book on my device. Sitting through a boring speech has gotten a lot easier.

The Great Things About the Traditional Book

Hardcover and paperback books will be with us for a long time. Are the days numbered? The sales figures are amazing. As of June 2012 the sales of e-books had outstripped hardcover sales. as of that date e-books sold 282.3 million while hardcover books numbered 229.6 million. If we take 2007 as the beginning of e-book popularity with the introduction of the Kindle, the acceptance of this new way of reading is a phenomenon. But traditional books, both hardcover and paperback, have their pluses. Let's look at some of the great things about the traditional book:

· Books look great on a shelf. Some people consider their book collection as a representation of themselves, a visual display of who they are. When you entertain, your guests naturally gravitate to your bookshelves. Great conversations often start with a guest who noticed one of your books. This can't happen if your entire collection is inside your Kindle.

· Picking up a book and looking into it is one of life's pleasures. People who love to read also love the look and feel and even the smell of a bound book. Sometimes it's difficult to explain, but people often describe the experience in terms of excitement, the beginning of a new journey. You read the back cover, look at the author's bio, and perhaps you then go to the table of contents. You may flip to a random page to get a feel for the writer's style. Don't over analyze the experience; it's simply fun.

Browsing in a book store beats browsing online. Browsing in a book store is one of those activities that is stimulating and calming at the same time. What new worlds await you? Even browsing the stacks at a big box store like Costco or Wal-Mart is a fun experience. Browsing online is more efficient, to be sure, because you can search as well as browse, click on reviews and look at other books by the author with just a few mouse clicks. But it's just not as pleasurable as browsing in a book store

Browsing for Books - One of Life's Fun Experiences

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The Great Debate that Shouldn't be a Debate at All

Some people are passionate about reading books in the traditional paper format. They are booklovers, period, and they will hold no truck with their reading enjoyment becoming digitalized. Well that's fine. What I am suggesting in this article is that traditional booklovers open themselves up to the e-reader experience. I love books too, and I admit to a tension between my love of books and the way that I read them. I love reading e-books, but yet I am saddened that my physical library is not growing. There is no answer for this dichotomy, and nobody is wrong. In my opinion, e-readers provide a more satisfying reading experience than the traditional book. It's your choice.

Copyright ©2012 by Russell F. Moran

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    • Lynn Savitsky profile image

      Lynn Savitzky 2 years ago from New Jersey

      This is a great article. I still swear by traditional books, but I'm considering an e-reader for the future. You actually bring up a good point about them being useful on vacation, I can never decide which books to take when I travel! An e-reader means I don't have to worry about weighing down a suitcase.

    • cookie12 profile image

      cookie12 5 years ago

      jfmoran i agree the price cut will burn a hole in the pocket.

      penlady i agree the times are changing and writers and those of us who love to read will have to just.

    • penlady profile image

      penlady 5 years ago from Sacramento, CA

      Just as newspapers have faded out, so will books. I'm just thankful that as book writers, WE have faded out completely! :)

    • cookie12 profile image

      cookie12 5 years ago

      I agree, I feel ebook only allow the reader's to purchase a book at a lower price. The days of sorting out books by title with the name of the book title located on the side of books, are soon coming to a end. I still enjoy looking at the different colors of my books and reading the title's of books placed on my book shelves. I have written a cook book and it still amazes me to see my book in the form of the ebook. Time will heal all wounds.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      It's hit and miss my friend; I have one that is fairly consistent and seven that flounder...but it doesn't cost a penny to do and it only takes one to get hot to make it all worth it.

    • rfmoran profile image
      Author

      Russ Moran 5 years ago from Long Island, New York

      Thanks for your comments Bill. I too love books, it's just that my Kindle is so much easier to read. I have two books out that are available as e-books, and the sales are disappointing.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Here is a weird perspective: I have eight ebooks currently published but I hate reading an ebook...but it is the way of the future and old-timers like me will have to scrounge garage sales for our kicks. Great hub and info.