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Real books vs. eBooks

books vs ebooks

Will real books ever become extinct?

Recent Pew research claimed that surprisingly, 16-29 year olds are still reading traditional print. That got us thinking about the future of real books. Will they ever be replaced by the electronic version? We take a look:

David McCormack border"The Book is dead. Long live the eBook," says David

I love the feeling of writing on paper and still prefer it to typing notes on my iPad or computer, especially in lectures, but my love of paper doesn’t translate to a love of books; especially when you’re carrying 12 of them across campus in a overstretched and unwieldy carrier bag - daily. Real books are painful, unwieldy, out-dated and outmanoeuvred. It’s time we got over our sentimentality.

When everything else is moving online, why should books be exempt? Especially when they’re greatly enhanced by their virtual format. You can’t use Control – F on a hard book to find what you’re looking for: you either have to try the inadequate index or the contents page (good luck with that). There are no broken spines and worn out pages on my eBook collection. I don’t have to use heavy ornaments in my room to keep my books open at the right page, spread out around my desk like I’m a character from Homeland – instead I just minimise them for when I need them or display them on my second monitor for easier reference. Why would you still break your back carrying a stupid amount of books when all you need is one super light tablet or e-reader?

But wait; I’m not done. eBooks don’t run out in the library a week before that assignment is due, forsaking you to trawl Google Scholar for a single reputable source. eBooks can be copied across numerous devices, meaning that you can pick up where you left off even if you’ve forgotten your tablet. eBooks don’t have to be crammed into a clearly too small bookcase and aren’t lost and forgotten under the bed or round that friend’s house (who you should really stop lending stuff to. Seriously.)

Is there a compelling argument against digital books? No. The only reason I can think of to still buy real books is to stroke your own ego by displaying your book collection for all to see, and even that’s a quaint little old idea. Tweet about it, post on Facebook and actually have a discussion, rather than a glib remark about the size of your book collection. Who was ever actually impressed that you have a copy of Atlas Shrugged wedged between your Friends boxset and your stationary box anyway?

Yet I bet everyone wanted to play with your new iPad.


Sarah Yeomans border"The book will live forever," says Sarah

Yes, eBooks are handy when you’re commuting or dashing from lecture to lecture and don’t want to lug the entire course reading list or Shakespeare’s greatest works around, but they’ll never truly replace the traditional book.

Call me old fashioned, but there’s a romanticism about loving a book so much that you’ve worn out the spine, you’ve read it that many times. They’re warm and sentimental: how many of us remember and think fondly of our favourite books from childhood? It’s something you can’t replicate with a hard, shiny tablet. People give books as gifts – first editions or collectors’ editions, special illustrations – and it’s deemed a really thoughtful, personal present. Kathy in Friends wouldn’t have appreciated the collectable edition of The Velveteen Rabbit anywhere near as much as she did if Chandler had downloaded onto her iPad using the Kindle app.

In a world where everything seems to be going electronic, we have to keep some things sacred. The faceless, functional purchase of an eBook doesn’t begin to touch the experience of wandering around a second hand bookshop on a lazy Sunday afternoon and stumbling upon an old gem, perhaps even a book with a message for its previous owner; a little piece of history? I don't think we'll ever lose the romanticism, nostalgia and physical presence of real books.

With books, I also love the idea that you can pass it on: once you’ve read a book, you can give it to a charity shop or swap books with people you meet on holiday or on the plane. A book collection at home is a great thing to dip into and it adds your personality to a room. You might say that you don’t need books if they’re all on your tablet, so then I’m assuming the same goes for your CDs and DVDs too? I guess it’s OK if you’re embracing that whole minimalist look that’s so hot right now.

Having been quite sentimental so far, I’ll end here with something practical: let’s not forget that if you lose a book, or spill coffee on it, it’s not the end of the world. If you do that with an eBook, then it’s not just the book that’s lost, it’s most likely the life that you keep on your e-reader or tablet.


What do you think, can eBooks ever truly replace real books? Let us know in the comments below!

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