Kindle versus ebooks: Not ready to turn the page on paper

by | Nov 22, 2013 | Opinion


Olivia Roger, Managing Editor

With the Christmas season approaching, e-readers seem to top every gift guide. The Kindle and Kobo are the hottest e-readers currently on the market. These devices can store thousands of books, ready to be read at the tap of a finger. Many find this new technology appealing, although it puts other markets at risk.

We can’t ignore the tides of the digital era. Movie rentals, DVDs, CDs and now paperback books have felt the wrath of new technologies. Even this very article—which I’d prefer to be published in a newspaper—will also have a life online. It’d be foolish and ignorant to assume that modern technology will ever stop progressing forward. Our parents—and their parents—have repeatedly told us that, when they were young, they didn’t have these newfangled contraptions called “TV.” Are we destined to be the generation to tell our kids that we had these archaic things called “books?”

The question of which is better, books or e-books, results in passionate testimony.

E-readers haven’t won the battle just yet, but their dominance of the market seems inevitable when we consider what has happened to the music industry. From records to cassettes to CDs and now with the omnipresence of MP3s, the music industry has been forced to evolve. Books haven’t seen much change since the advent of the printing press, and the tomes before its invention have existed for millennia, even before paper. Only now are books advancing drastically in their shape and form, threatening libraries and bookstores to hastily adapt—or face failure.

Amazon is the frontrunner in the destruction of the printed word. It has already threatened independent bookstores with its heavily stocked online database. It wasn’t until it introduced the Kindle in 2007 (having since manufactured five generations of the tablet), that the company officially became known as the number one seller of books in North America.

Big box bookstores have tried to compete with the online marketplace. Indigo, a Canadian company that has threatened its fair share of smaller independents, is now feeling some serious heat despite buying into the e-book business with the Kobo. Why should anyone leave the comfort of their own home when a new book can be delivered with a single click?

Despite the announcement that the big six publishers (Penguin Group, HarperCollins, Hachette, Random House, Macmillian and Simon & Schuster) have recently agreed to make their electronic content available throughout libraries in North America, libraries remain a service that could face serious staff cuts and facility closures.

E-books and e-readers are a perfect example of convenient technologies trumping job security. The e-reader industry phases out librarians, shop owners, publishers, and illustrators just to name a few.

E-books foreshadow a society where no one owns tangible objects. We are on the verge of living in a paperless society, where even newspapers and magazines have to make themselves available online to sell their product. I can’t help but wonder if taking class notes with pen and paper will, one day, simply no longer be done.

A paperless society might derive from our obsession with minimalism. In terms of interior design, we see houses as clean, neat and organized if the shelves and tabletops are bare, and furniture is sparse. Photos are no longer displayed in albums or printed for frames. Movie posters no longer line the walls. Bookshelves are seen to be a waste of perfectly good, empty wall space.

If you have more than 20 books displayed anywhere in your home today, The Learning Channel might brand you a hoarder.

Having hundreds of books displayed proudly on shelves used to convey worldliness, wisdom and intelligence. The more you had, the more cultured you were. They were great conservation pieces as guests mingled in the den. Now, people hide behind their devices as they read Fifty Shades of Grey and other embarrassing exploits on the subway.

I wouldn’t consider myself to be a traditionalist but I can appreciate possessing a physical copy of a book rather than an unidentifiable piece of plastic. It’s saddening that our future generation may never know the words “paperback” and “hardcover.” They may never get their books signed by their favourite authors, and they may never see the beautiful illustrations as they were intended.

No matter their weight or size, books are like old friends who deserve a home on any shelf. I’m not ready to turn the page on books just yet.