Monday, December 3, 2012

Investigation #3: eReaders & Digital Books

The newest way to read books, eReaders, such as the Kindle and the iPad among others, has been taking the nation by storm.  Nobody thought that the new technology would take off at such a high rate with consumers.  I do not own one myself, but I can definitely see why people own them or want to own them, there are many pros to this new technology, but there are also cons. 

For most the pros are obvious.  The eReaders allow book lovers to have all of their favorite books present digitally in a tablet.  Instead of lugging your books around everywhere, you only need this tablet, which is small and ideal for traveling.  The introduction of this new technology has caused book prices to drop, and as a result people are reading more now than ever, and it’s hard to argue that reading more is anything else other than a good thing.  Also, having books available digitally is good for the environment because we don’t need to cut down as many trees in order to produce books.  For authors this new technology can be a good thing because people can access their work for lower prices and it makes self-publishing easier which allows for them to be more creative with their writings and take more chances.  It is good for smaller independent publishing companies because they can adapt to this new technology much faster than larger publishing companies. 

There are also cons associated with these eReaders as well.  Authors that rely on visuals in their books are at the mercy of the eReaders technological limitations, many eBook readers have complained that he picture on the eReader tablets are not good and can be confusing.  Also publishing companies have hurries up the production process of these eBooks, leading to more proofreading errors. A major question that these eReaders are raising is whether they will do away with printed books for good.  The number of book stores has decreased from 20,000 twenty years ago to 2,000 as of two years ago.  This phenomenon is in part due to large corporations like Barnes & Noble’s putting smaller book stores out of business, but eReaders have also had an effect.  But how will it affect libraries if printed books go out of style and everyone turns to eReaders to read their favorite books?  Publishers have already set limits on the number of digital books that can be loaned by libraries; many of them have set the limit at 26. 

Perhaps the biggest issue I see with this new technology is how it will effect education.  Education, which in the most part is done through reading books, is all about the access to knowledge and is considered a public good, so everyone should have an equal right in accessing books.  The problem is that if eReaders lead to the decline of printed books, then libraries decline and with it the equal right of everyone to accessing books and thus knowledge.  Only the people who can afford eReaders will have access to most of the books being published, and the poor will be stuck to find another access to knowledge, or else another way to access the knowledge will need to be provided to them.         

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