Not Born Yesterday

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The Great E-Book Controversy

The Wi-Fi Generation Weighs In

The technology in today's world would have seemed "Buck Roger-ish" in my day, when telephones plugged into the wall, and a "text" was a schoolbook. Think of all the new terms that have come into the language since then, too: Internet, laptop, e-mail, upload, download, website, iPad, Wi-Fi, SmartPhone, and e-books, to name a few.

A newspaper article on the latter -- e-books -- caught my eye not long ago. It was a pro and con debate, two views on the subject, written by a couple of spunky high school kids. The Pro side called e-books "an eco-friendly approach to reading," the Con took the position that "e-books provide readers with limited options."

The Pro argument went like this: 

(1) E-books are eco-friendly because they save on the number of trees being cut down for paper. Statistics show that the world consumption of that commodity has grown 400 percent in the last 40 years. What's not to like about slowing down tree genocide?

(2) An e-reader, such as a Kindle from Amazon or a Nook from Barnes & Noble, weighs less than the average printed book and can hold 100 times more material. Think of carrying all that around in your backpack! 

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(3) The condition of the books on an e-reader remain the same no matter how many times you read them. Your dog can't chew them up, you can't ruin them by spilling coffee on them or leaving them out in the rain.

(4) Despite the initial cost of an e-reader, they are economical, too, because books are cheaper to purchase -- on average, less than half the cost of a print edition -- and many websites give away books as bundle discounts or simply for free. Try asking your local bookstore for that kind of a deal! 

Conclusion: E-books make more sense, ecologically and economically, in modern times.

The Con side of the debate had this to say:

(1) It's true that e-readers are the latest must-haves in the world of "techno-gadgets," but there are a few facts to consider before going digital.

(2) Want to share a favorite book with a friend? With a printed copy you simply hand it over and hope to get it back someday. Unless you are willing to part with your pricey Kindle or Nook for the time it takes him to read it, you're stuck.

(3) Although there are people who buy books as investments, the average person only wants to read them a single time. This means that borrowing from the library or buying used is a better deal than paying up to $9.99 to view them once on your Kindle. Add in the initial price of the e-reader and it's costly, especially If you're an avid reader.

(4) There is no limit to where, or how long, you can read a printed book. E-readers can only be used so long before their batteries need recharging. And some have screens that cannot be used in direct sunlight. For people who like to read at the pool or the beach, an e-reader just won't cut it.

(5) And then there's the look, and the feel of a printed book with a hard cover, a shiny dust jacket, and real paper pages that you turn yourself. E-readers may look flashy, but they can't compete with all that. 

Conclusion: E-books limit your options, compared to "real" books.

Both sides were convincing in their arguments, but neither mentioned the fact that the size, and even the style of the font on an e-reader can be enlarged and changed, a huge advantage over a traditional book for readers with poor eyesight.

I have a personal interest in e-books because my latest work, a memoir titled In Love and War, has just come out in digital. It was my publisher's decision and I was not sold on the idea at first. I complained that I didn't own an e-reader, and don't know a lot of people who do, so without a print edition, how many will ever read the book?

Forced to put aside my objections, however, I recently bought a Kindle "Fire" and downloaded the new book, along with my other two, which also have digital editions. Now I have to admit that this technology shows the photos, many of which are in color, to wonderful advantage over a print edition.

Who says you can't teach old dogs new tricks?

E. E. Smith is a playwright and book author. Her new series of murder mysteries debuted in 2013. The first is titled Death by Misadventure. 

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