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Understanding Ebooks

posted May 2, 2016, 5:46 AM by Kanika G   [ updated May 13, 2016, 3:36 AM ]

Ebooks have been around for a while now. About a decade ago Sony introduced the first e-ink reader and that was when my journey with them began. Before that ebooks existed but reading a long novel obsessively on a PDA or computer screen was difficult, because the back-lit screen causes significantly more eye strain and headaches than paper. That is why a reflective screen was important for avid readers to take to ebooks.

Sony's libprs500, to my knowledge, was the first such reader. Soon after a number of other such readers cropped up. But none was as successful as the amazon kindle that was launched over a year after the Sony reader.

The kindle made ebooks popular among the non-geeks too. But even today, there is a lot of resistance to ebooks. The biggest complaint seems to be the absence of a feeling of comfort and nostalgia associated with paper books triggered by a sense of smell and touch.

In my experience once I start reading a book I enjoy, I get too lost in it to notice its smell or feel. So this has never been a problem for me. I like ebooks because:
  • The reader is a comfortable size and always has the same dimensions no matter which book I read.
  • It automatically book marks where I last left off.
  • I can keep multiple books in it, that makes it very convenient on a holiday.
  • I can adjust the font size to my preference
  • The classics are so easy to access on project Gutenberg and absolutely free as are most books that have fallen out of copyright.
  • Ebooks do not take shelf space.
  • They really are forever if you are careful enough to back up your digital data.
  • If you are a bibliophile, who likes to organise and catalogue your vast collection,  you can use a free program like calibre to manage your ebooks, get awesome covers, browse through your collection, update metadata, add comments and rate the books.

Although I do not have any mystical love for paper books, I do recognize that ebooks have several shortcomings. Here are some that I have noticed:
  • Page turning is not very efficient. So it is harder to go back a few pages and check something out.
  • Annotations are not as convenient
  • E-ink devices do not come in colour. So illustrated books are no fun to read on e-ink devices. Illustrated ebooks can be read on back-lit devices but that can cause eye strain.
  • Screen sizes are typically not suitable for heavily illustrated books, especially children's books.
  • Toddlers cannot use them effectively. I read children's stories that are text dominated (including my own Tania Series books) to my daughter using my ebook reader. But I can't let her try to read them on her own. She is still learning to read, and finds it difficult to point at words and read them on the touch screen.
  • Many noted publishers use DRM to restrict sharing of ebooks, but in the process prevent reader from formatting their ebooks for their own convenience. Unfortunately DRM does not really curb piracy, as most forms of DRM have already been cracked. It only inconveniences legitimate users. Hopefully this will change sometime soon.

I personally publish ebooks because they are easy to self publish. They can be distributed free. But, since I publish children's books, I realize the shortcomings of ebooks in this particular genre and I make paperbacks available too.

May be someday ebooks will be more convenient and popular. But for the moment they have their pros and cons, and I use them when they are convenient. But I must say, that ebooks made it possible for a lot of people, including me, to become authors, because they are so easy to publish. Some of us, might not have managed, otherwise.