My official title at Ignatius Press is ‘E-book Editor’, so I’ve had a few people ask me questions like: Can you compare e-books with paperbacks? What are the advantages and/or disadvantages of electronic books? Is this the end of libraries? Is this the beginning of the end of print books? Don’t you miss the smell of real books? Can you borrow/lend e-books? Are e-books the devil? The list goes on… To an avid reader, such as myself, these questions are important, and I’ll try to answer them as best I can.
I began my e-book editing/designing career back in 2009, when Fr. Fessio invited me and two other students from Ave Maria to come to San Francisco for the summer. I had no experience with writing HTML code or OCR text recognition or typesetting or editing (beyond my own school assignments), or publishing for that matter. I came into this field with a clean slate, so I have seen it develop, change, and grow quite a bit. Now, I can tell you exactly what happens to a book, from the time it’s an idea in an author’s head down to the finished, printed and beautifully bound print book and, of course, the e-book.
At first, I wasn’t sure what would happen to the e-book. In 2009, Amazon’s Kindle had only developed the 2nd generation Kindle and it was still over $100. The e-book was only beginning to gain popularity among the traveling businessmen and older rich women who enjoyed carrying their Kindle on airplanes. There were a few problems with e-books, as well: no pages, no page numbers, you can’t view more than one page, no tables, no perfectly clear images, very few text books, very few children’s books, etc.
Then, as time went on, like the digital music and film market, the digital e-book market began to grow and the technology improved. Amazon’s Kindle became more user friendly, and thousands of books became available at the click of a mouse or a flick of the finger. E-books could even be read on iPad, iPone, iPod, etc. Now, some schools are using iPads and Kindles to store text books for their students, which means fewer books to carry home and less strain on your child’s back. Even some children’s books are available in electronic format.
So, what does all this mean for our friendly print books? The ones you can smell, flip through, write in, and are the building blocks of impressive libraries and offices? Well, in my humble opinion, I don’t think we will be saying goodbye to the printing presses anytime soon. Print books still have a lot to offer that e-books simply do not, such as page numbers and columned formatting, better images, tables, etc. Print books are still pretty important to the common world. But, that being said, e-books are kind of great! And here are a few reasons why:
- You can carry hundreds, even thousands, of books with you on one device. Being able to carry around your entire library all the time? Um, yes, please.
- You can have a book delivered to you within seconds. No more waiting for it in the mail or putting your name on the waiting list at the library. The good Lord knows that patience is not one of my virtues…
- You can borrow and lend e-books! Many websites and your local library offer this service. There is a time limit, but you have a due date for borrowed print books, too!
- No more bookmarks. Your device can pick up right where you left off… on all the books you are reading.
- Don’t know a word? Just click on it and your Kindle dictionary will look it up for you. Bam! New vocabulary!
- Bored on your commute? No problem. Your e-reader will read your book to you!
- Electronic books make reading ‘cool’, so more kids want to read. And they can help kids learn to read too! (Just as long as they aren’t those ‘enhanced’ e-books with distracting videos and such.)
- Are you blind, like me? You can change the font size to fit your reading needs!
- You can make notes and highlights, just like in a print book.
- You can search your books for terms, words, or phrases. No more indices!
- And almost all Ignatius Novels are available as e-books! :)
So, no, e-books are not the devil. And print books are still going to be around for a good while yet. So you can still hold and sniff them to your heart’s content. And enjoying a good e-book every once in a while is not against your religion. Happy reading!