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Are eBooks All Hype?

February 22nd, 2013 . by Peggy

Are eBooks still all about hype?I’ve read a number of articles lately about how eBooks are “still a bunch of hype”. Seriously? What year is this?

I work with both eBooks and print books every day, typesetting print books and doing layout for eBooks (mostly Kindle), and designing covers for both. I know this is going to get me some virtual kicks for saying this, but I have to say, these articles read like they were written by someone who doesn’t really understand digital book platforms. Of course eBooks are not going to be just like paper books. They can’t, because they serve different markets. It’s like comparing Texas BBQ to foie gras. Both are delicious. But they come from opposite sides of the world. Neither is perfect. We consume them for totally different reasons.

Libraries have issues, definitely, due to the immaturity and polarity of the eBook industry. We’re not yet good at making it easy for eBooks to support public and open-source community. Do people read differently on paper than they do on a device? Of course – I do, too. But is the eBook killing paper books? Hurting Authors and readers? Absolutely not. That’s a rather fearful and immature thing to think. (Yeah, another kick.) Many might argue that the reason eBooks are becoming such a hot debate is because it’s one of the relatively few intimate ways that technology touches more people than ever before. Banking electronically is a huge part of our lives, but it’s not emotionally-based, ie, intimate, like our reading choices.

The other main thing that these commenters seem to have forgotten is that eBooks really are still in their infancy. Think about it this way: we have multiple influencers, all with their competing idea of what might be the perfect format and platform. Nobody can agree on anything, even the uber-simple stuff like how to align text or handle fonts. The devices are still, for the most part, single-purpose, which has no place in our future. We will look back years from now and realize how ridiculous this argument is.

I must say this, no matter how cruel it sounds: to debate the whether-or-not of eBooks as having a place in our reading world is very behind the times. I mean, of course we’re going to continue to distribute and archive content digitally. (Duh.) Whether or not is the question – it never was. What is worth debating is the how. We’re in the toughest phase of any new industry, which is deciding on standards. In all likelihood, nobody will be happy for a while, because we’re still not working together for common platforms, and all of us still (wrongly) think we’re in competition with each other. It’s silly.

 

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