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Monday
Dec262011

Books vs e-books

I came across an interesting post by Jeff Thomas, in which he refers to an Infographic by Newsweek, which compares printed books with electronic or e-books. (An infographic, by the way, is a graphical or otherwise succinct way of presenting a lot of information quickly. Newsweek’s books vs e-books graphic is one of the few easily readable ones I’ve come across, but that’s neither here nor there.)

But not all books are created equalThe infographic does a good job of comparing the two formats from the reader’s point of view, and includes factors like weight and cost, and even carbon footprint.

Strangely, there’s no direct mention of the one thing that all book lovers seem to cite as a reason for not buying e-books, which is the feel of a “real” book. However, that is probably implied by the statistic that only 15% of e-book readers say they stop buying printed books altogether.

A few of words of caution about this data, interesting though it may be. First, it comes from the USA, and reading and buying habits of e-book reader owners may be different in the UK.

Second, the data cited was published a year ago. A lot can happen in a year.

Third, I wonder if the type of book makes a difference. For example, although there are advantages to looking up word meanings, say, in an e-book, such as being able to bookmark the page and even annotate it, there are distinct disadvantages to a writer.

In particular, you're unlikely to come across interesting words while you're looking for the word in question. I don't think I have ever managed to look up a word in a dictionary without being sidetracked by adjacent entries, thereby enriching my vocabulary (and, I hope, my writing) in a serendiptous manner.

I can see how that might be an unwelcome unintended consequence of using a printed reference book if you're in a hurry. Nevertheless, I think "Serendipity" should have been a criterion considered by Newsweek!

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