Lynn wrote with questions about how eBooks work and I did my best to answer them in part 1 and part 2 of this series. She also wanted to know what I thought the pros and cons of eBooks versus physical books are. I’ll go over my list, but feel free to add your comments on what you like and don’t like about eBooks.
I want to start off by saying that I don’t feel physical books and eBooks are in competition with each other. I love both of them and I don’t see why purchasing one would ever exclude you from purchasing and enjoying the other.
Space saving- You can put thousands of eBooks on an eReader or tablet. You don’t actually need to keep your entire library on the device. Most of your books will stay in the cloud and only be downloaded to the device as needed. You can have an unlimited number of books without running out of space, developing dust mites or running the risk of the crew of a show called “Hoarders” turning up your doorstep. When not connected to the Internet, you’ll only be able to read the books downloaded to your device. So if you plan to be away from WiFi, make sure you have what you want to read on the tablet.
Portability – An eReader or smaller tablet is much lighter than a hardback book and certainly much lighter than carrying around multiple books and magazines. If you’re planning on taking a long flight or going on vacation, you can load it up with lots of reading material. I envy the students of today packing one tablet instead of 10 books in a bag.
Use on multiple devices – You can install a Kindle app on a tablet, smartphone and your computer. That enables you to read your book, no matter which device you happen to be using. The book will sync across devices. If you open it up on your smartphone, it will be exactly where you left off on the tablet.
Accessibility Options – eReaders and reader apps usually allow you to adjust the size and style of text and the brightness of the screen for ease of reading. You can also often choose to have the book read aloud to you.
Cost – eBooks can often times (but not always) be less expensive than physical copies of books. There are a variety of free and low cost eBooks available, but you will pay more for major releases and best-sellers.
Instant gratification – eBooks can be downloaded in a matter of seconds and you can start reading immediately.
Library access from home – most libraries will allow you to borrow digital copies of books to read at home. You don’t have to leave the house and you never have to worry about library fines. The books just expire from your device.
Cloud backup – When you purchase books from Amazon or Barnes & Noble, a copy of your book exists backed up in the cloud. If disaster were to strike and your physical books were destroyed, they would just be gone. Your home owner’s insurance might pay for replacements, but you’d have to acquire the library again volume by volume. If your tablet or Kindle were lost or destroyed, your library would still be backed up in the cloud and you could access it as soon as you had a new device.
Interactivity – eBooks can contain interactive features and video content. Some eBooks or eMagazines are actually fully functional apps. For example, a cookbook could include a video demonstration of a recipe. eBooks and eMagazines are sometimes searchable for content. Kindles offer definitions of words and Wikipedia entries that explain events or concepts you might not be familiar with.
Physical books are just special – you can’t proudly display an eBook on your shelf. You can’t inscribe something heartfelt in the front of an eBook or have an eBook signed by the author. eBooks do not begin to smell faintly of vanilla as they age. It’s difficult for a file to become a treasured keepsake that you pass down to someone.
Loaning books – you often times cannot loan an eBook to a friend. Some titles will have a feature that allow you to loan them once and Amazon and Apple both offer family sharing of eBooks for people who live in your household, but loaning an eBook is not like just handing a copy off the shelf to a friend and saying, “Take your time reading this.” This also means no used books. You cannot donate or give away an eBook when you are finished with it.
Device limits – You must read Amazon purchases in a Kindle app, Nook purchases in a Nook app and Apple purchases in iBooks.
DRM – Theoretically, your eBook provider could go out of business and take the digital rights with them, leaving you with a bunch of worthless electronic files. This hasn’t happened yet. When Sony got out of the eBook business , they turned management of their library over to Kobo, so the users books were still usable.There are eBooks available with no DRM, but new and popular books usually come with some type of rights restrictions.
Devices need power – You can still read some items on an offline tablet, but if the power is out for any extended period of time, your tablet will eventually run out of power.
That’s my list, but feel free to add yours in the comments.