Saturday, March 3, 2012


I perhaps might be considered as a traitor to the literary establishment if I were to even entertain the notion of the superiority of e-books over that of the traditional printed word. There is, in general, a lot of romanticism over the printed word- the weight of the book in the reader's hands, the act of turning over the crisp white pages as he gets lost in the plot, the distinct aroma of a new book straight out from the bookstore, the nostalgic aroma of the browning pages of a steal from the garage sale and the pleasure of reading on a long train journey and dozing off as the book gently falls into your lap.
There are obviously some merits to the printed medium; some are aesthetic and others are more practical. A printed book, if sufficiently cared for, can stand the test of time; a book of poetry awarded to a little girl in Edinburgh in 1898 now rests safely in my collection. But the environmental aspects are to be wondered about. What might be the environmental impact of printed media be in the modern day world?

The utilitarian soul cares not for the aesthetics and the subtle pleasures surrounding the act of reading but rather reading itself. The words, the plot and the characters are all the same regardless of whether they originate from the bound volumes of print or from the screens of e-readers. With the latest e-ink technology, reading itself has taken a digital turn and allows us unheard of portability and ease of use. For under a hundred dollars, an e-reader in the United States can hold up to 1400 books, boasts of a long battery life and gives the readers access to even newspapers and online magazines. I am a serious reader, but often I just don't have the space for storing the books I've bought and I end lending most of them to the library or disposing off the truly horrendous ones. Not anymore. I can store away all my books in a digital format and keep a print copy of only some truly cherished books. But e-books are sometimes riddled with spelling errors; don't work on the e-reader of your choice; comes with a file extension that your reader doesn't support and finally turns out into a jumbled mess when you've tried converting it. Also piracy is also a major concern as it's easy to file share them over the Internet. But the true nail in the coffin is the plethora of proprietary file formats that e-books come in. This could spell trouble for transferring files between e-book readers. And this can also be a bit troublesome for independent publishers who are trying to get their work online to be recognized and purchased.

The future seems somewhat grim for printed media, but it will certainly be a long, long while before the vast majority of us have a slim e-book reader to substitute that voluminous Lord of the Rings trilogy.

1 comment:

banti said...

-Good piece of information.