What is a book in the digital age?

This is the question … what is a book in the digital age? I still read (and buy) paper copies, but have also bought and read digital / eBooks. I like both formats for different reasons.

What is a book in the digital age?

The article ‘What is a book in the digital age?‘ covers the questions very well, highlighting how we perceive the differences between paper and electronic, the pros and cons of the two formats, and the advances being made in the ‘richer reading experience’. 

For me the disappointment in the question is there seems to be an either / or mentality: which is the future, electronic or digital? Does it really have to be, or indeed need to be like this? Let’s look at the music industry. I’m not even going to go into the details of the impact Napster and the iPod had to it in the 90’s (but this will help if you want), but the recent upward trend in vinyl sales has not dented sales of digital music, but could almost be seen to enhance it (I myself am currently digitising some 300+ vinyl albums and singles). The sales of CD albums continue to decline, but is this due to the format war, lack of new music, inadequacy of the CD album in the iPod-age (by this I mean are people still interested in 10-15 tracks as an album, or are they buying only the tracks the want/like)?

The same is true of eBooks – some books I want paper copies (textbooks, reference books, etc.) and some I’m happy to buy the (cheaper) eBook, usually something unknown or new. I’ve been reading the digital-only Frontiers Saga by Ryk Brown, currently at the 10th episode of the saga (Frontiers Saga Ep.10: Liberation). I would not fork out £6-£10 for each of episode if they were in print, but £1-3 for each episode was well worth the money. The Frontiers Saga is available in print, but not at those prices, not for me.

  • The 10th episode is currently £1,87 for the Kindle version, or £8.51 for the paper. Considering the author is advertising 5 parts to the Saga, each part having 15 episodes (75 episodes / books in total) that’s another good reason to buy digital / cheap too).

Could the rise of eBooks also herald a shift, in time, for paper copies too? As many readers will know I wrote and self-published a book on QR Codes in electronic format. Since then I have also researched, prepared, and published a paper print-on-demand edition too, which has been well received and is gaining steady sales.

What do you think? Does paper still have it in it to continue, if not flourish, in the digital age?

Image source:  Zoe Sadokierski

  • joan gavin

    Hi David,
    great article as always. I too love both paper books and e-books. there is nothing quite like the smell of a new book and even the act of turning a page can be a pleasure. for me, reading is a few stolen moments of me time in a busy life of working and looking after a family. Wether I read on my Kindle or read a book, the pleasure of finding a bit of time to indulge myself with a cup of tea, something engaging to read and a few minutes of peace and quiet is the same.
    However, looking at things from a student perspective, i think e-books come into their own as potentially, a student could have all their course texts held on their device which cuts down on them having to lug heavy books around, or hire lockers to store their books in.
    E-books as student texts are relatively new and here at Plymouth we are still negotiating contracts with publishers, so not all course texts are currently available to all students.
    E-books have featured in a few recent Horizon Reports, so I think they are definitely going to become more embedded within Higher Education over the coming years.
    As they become more popular, they may even become more interactive, and contain mini-assessments at the end of each particular section. Future cohorts of university students will have been immersed in a digital world since birth and will be more familiar with electronic media. Therefore your question of will books still be around in the future is an interesting one. As a lover of the kinaesthetic pleasure a book gives, I would like to think they will still be with us in years to come.

    • Thanks Joan. I would have thought that, by now, eBooks should have dropped off the scope of the Horizon Report? If they’ve been touted as the next best thing (you know what i mean) for the past n-th reports then they *should have* passed into mainstream culture now? If they haven’t then what does that say about either the current providers and options available for eBooks, the state of education and it’s inability to make the most of what’s available, or the lack of influence or foresight the Horizon Report really has?

      Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for eBooks, especially in the realm of improving access to resources for distant learners, but should it really be taking this long? Where’s the bottle-neck, how come it’s not developed as quickly or as comprehensively as we thought it would?

      As usual, answers on a postcard … !

      All the best, David

  • Pingback: What is a book in the digital age? | Technology...()

  • Pingback: What is a book in the digital age? | Technology...()