Ebooks are convenient but at the same time restrictive.
The ebook will never replace a real printed book. So many people have said this over the years since the introduction of the ebook by Sony, and then shortly after, by Amazon.
There has never been a topic as controversial and divisive in the book publishing industry as the electronic book. But the only salient fact is that ebooks are here to stay.
Amazon has been the biggest driver behind the success of digital books. But sadly for the ebook market, Amazon’s competitors have not been able to break the back of Amazon’s almost monopoly market share.
In fact, the word Kindle has almost become a synonym for an ebook, such has been the Amazon market domination.
It reminds me of how the word Hoover came to replace vacuum cleaner in the English language in many parts of the world.
Aside from the (short) history of ebooks and the use of the word Kindle, ebooks have definitely seized a sizeable chunk of the book market. While it has varied in percentage terms over recent years, according to Statista, ebooks represent around 25% of total book sales worldwide.
That’s a large enough chunk of the market of people who read books to say ebooks are here to stay.
The Pros – So, what’s so very good about ebooks?
Portability and convenience
Probably the biggest advantage of ebooks over real books is that they weigh absolutely nothing.
Whatever electronic devices you use to store and read ebooks, such as a Kindle Paperwhite, iPad or smartphone, they can all easily store thousands of ebooks.
When it comes to having a book to read when you are on holidays, on a train, at a bus stop or passing the time in a doctor’s waiting room, you have your complete ebook library in the palm of your hand.
That is one huge advantage over traditional books.
Any device will do
With Kindle especially, it has apps for almost any device with a screen, and the ability to sync between them all is a huge winner.
Start reading on your Kindle in bed, then the next morning, pick up exactly where you left off on your iPhone while you are on the train.
Then at lunchtime, continue reading on your iPad. Add the fact that you get a free ebook every month with Amazon Prime and it makes paper books seem primitive.
My eyes love ebooks
Being able to increase the font size, change fonts, read dark brown text on a sepia background or change any one of many viewing features, makes reading ebooks so much easier for me.
I don’t know how many times I have had to abandon reading a paperback because the font size was far too small for my eyes.
With a paperback or hardcover book, reducing the font size in books saves a lot on production costs. That might be fine for young eyes, but for me, it’s a tremendous handicap reading paper compared to a screen.
If I hunted around, I might be lucky enough to find a large print edition. But why would I pay a fortune for a large print copy when I can probably get the ebook version for only a few dollars?
Did I mention cheap?
Ebooks are almost always much cheaper than a printed version, and if that is too expensive, there are thousands upon thousands of free ebooks on Amazon alone. For school students, in particular, it is a free way to read.
And now, with the advent of ebook subscription services like Kindle Unlimited, ebook reading costs pennies per day.
It is especially economical for people who read a bundle of ebooks per month.
The Cons – Okay, so why are ebooks bad?
An ebook is not a book at all
When you have read a physical book, you can lend it to a friend, give it to your local hospital or sell it to a secondhand bookstore. With an ebook, there is no such possibility.
Some ebook retailers have an extremely limited lending facility, but unless the ebook is totally DRM-free (Digital Rights Management), there is no easy way to pass an ebook around to your friends.
Big Brother might be watching you
Because an ebook is an electronic file, similar to an email, a web page or an online message and is used on a device connected to the Internet, it is open to being monitored.
By who? Who knows?
But did you know that authors and publishers get paid now by a per-page read calculation on Kindle?
Therefore, if Amazon can count the pages you have read, it is proof enough that your reading can be and is being monitored.
You are only renting
You never buy an ebook. You pay for the limited rights to the digital content. You access it and read it under the terms and conditions of the retailer, which of course, you have never read.
If you did take the time to read these draconian pages of fine print, you may be surprised to discover that the service provider or retailer reserves the right to deny access to any ebook you have paid for, and can even wipe your e-reading device.
Another negative aspect for ebooks is in the case of an ebook retailer closing down. DRM protection can mean the loss of all your ebooks when a store closes.
The most recent case of this situation was with the closure of the Microsoft ebook store. Although Microsoft offered refunds, it still meant that all customers lost all of their ebooks that they had purchased.
Ebooks are convenient, cheap and easy on the eyes, but have very definite drawbacks with regard to ownership and privacy.
If you plan on writing your memoir so your grandchildren can read it, make sure you publish in paperback and stash twenty copies in the attic because your ebook version might well be long gone before you are.