E-books: The End of the Print Book?

As some of you may already know, these past few weeks I have been working on a research paper exploring e-books, their history, their characteristics, and their effects on the book industry. As I delved more into the subject and planned out my paper, it slowly took shape, and the final product ended up doing many different things. To give the reader a bit of a background into my topic of discussion, I begin with a definition of e-books and a brief overview of their characteristics. I then introduce the main questions my paper aims to answer: Will the advent of the e-book bring about the end of the print book? How does the e-book affect the book industry?

My paper provides a short history of the e-book, as well as an overview of the technologies used to produce and read e-books. Interestingly enough, the e-book began with Michael Hart, who founded Project Gutenberg, a project aimed to make collections of literary works available to readers at no cost. Project Gutenberg’s ebooks can be found on the Project Gutenberg website. They are available for download under various formats, depending on what format is compatible with the reader’s device. The first text converted to an e-book was the Declaration of Independence, which Hart digitized using ASCII (pronounced “askee”), an encoding scheme based on the English alphabet that uses letter to represent numbers and reads as text on a computer screen. Succeeding the first e-book were many other innovations that strove to digitize texts and provide digital supplements for print texts, such as the CD-ROM. My paper subsequently discussed the benefits of e-books and the challenges and potential implications accompanying a full conversion to digitized texts and complete separation from print texts.

Rhetorical strategies I used in my paper included providing a brief background of e-books before presenting the questions my paper sought to answer. I think this enhanced my ethos as a writer and benefitted the reader, because, armed with a general knowledge of my paper topic, the reader would be more prepared to follow the questions I pose and my answers to these questions based on my research. In order to maintain objectivity and keep the paper informative rather than argumentative, I include the limitations and challenges of e-books in addition to the benefits. E-books provide many advantages to readers, including convenience and portability, but they also come with limitations, both to readers and to publishers. Providing both explanations of the benefits and the limitations provides the reader with a thorough knowledge of the pros and cons and contributes to making the reader informed on the topic of e-books.

Ultimately, I hope that readers of my paper walk away with a renewed, enhanced knowledge of e-books. E-books are a burgeoning trend among readers (that have been making multiple appearances in the hands of readers in little sidewalk coffee shops), so it is important that potential buyers of e-readers are informed of the pros and cons of purchasing books electronically. There are many assumptions that e-books signal the end of the print book, or that e-books are more cost-efficient for readers, or that e-books are more environmentally friendly. While these are not untrue, each reader has their own preferences, and it is important for readers to know whether an e-book or a print book is a better fit. I hope this paper helps readers determine that.

“It seems to me that anyone whose library consists of a Kindle lying on a table is some sort of bloodless nerd.” –Penelope Lively

6 Replies to “E-books: The End of the Print Book?”

  1. I have an e-book, but I typically find myself wanting to buy the physical copy of the book. I’m still one of those people who likes to turn pages and stuff. However, when I get involved in a series I am thrilled to have my e-book. It downloads the next book in the series in seconds, and I can continue reading without much delay. It’s also nice when I’m running short on cash, and I need the cheaper version of a book.

    1. Same here! I recently bought a Kindle, and although I can’t deny how nifty it is, I still like the feel of a physical book (and is it strange that I like the smell of books too?). I think for the latest, trending books, e-books are a great option for getting your book quickly and reading through it. But, for classic books, I prefer the physical copy. It comes with endnotes and a lot of helpful front and back matter that I can access by marking the page and flipping to it when I need to. I can’t do that with Kindle though (or at least, I haven’t figured out how), and most free Kindle versions of classics don’t have all the notes that I find helpful.

  2. I bought a Sony e-reader before Xmas because it allows for downloading library books. I thought it would be good for a month long vacation that was coming up.
    Sad to say, I didn’t enjoy the e-reader and have instead brought books along!
    However, I have my mini hp notebook with me and when I’ve finished my books, I can read library downloads from it. (Very hard to find books in English here).
    I returned the e-reader.

    1. Oh wow, how was the Sony e-reader? How would you say it compares to other e-readers? I currently have a Kindle, but I don’t use it as much as the physical books–mainly because my classes require certain editions and it’s easier to annotate on a physical book. I’d recommend you check out the Project Gutenberg website. You don’t need an e-reader to view their e-books, and a lot (if not all) of their e-book downloads are free and in English.

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