Dispatches from the Digital Revolution
Late last week an article in Digital Book World caught my eye: Why Some People Hate Ebooks; and Why I Love Them. The article’s author, Jeremy Greenfield (who’s also Digital Book World’s editorial director), discusses the animosity towards ebooks—some of which is deserved, some not.
He then counters with a list of why he loves ebooks, a list that includes price, convenience, an increase in his reading appetite, a new variety in the ways he can read, the opportunities for self-publishing, and finally, the excitement surrounding this blossoming format.
Which got me to thinking: Why do I love ebooks? It’s easy to criticize the format for its challenges, as evidenced by the recent article in Business Insider cited by Greenfield. Sure, the issues surrounding licensing and ownership, pricing, and DRM are valid ones, but how can someone simply disregard the positive influence of ebooks on the publishing industry and consumer reading habits? Hate is a strong word; with ebook technology still in its infancy, should we be so quick to rush to judgment? I think Greenfield has got this one right: Sometimes it’s good to reflect on just how awesome ebooks really are.
So please allow me to piggyback on Greenfield’s idea for a moment, and give you yet more reasons to love ebooks.
Syncability. I don’t think this a real word, but it should be. I love that when I buy an ebook, I can read it on my home computer, my phone, my iPad, or my work computer. And if I leave home on page 27 and open the ebook on my phone, it magically knows to land on that page. This feature makes the ebook even more portable: I can almost always find a way to access my ebook, even if I forgot the device I had planned on reading it with.
Searchability. Sorry, another non-word. For anyone who’s been in school at some point in the last five years, I’m sure you’ll agree that our newfound ability to perform full-text search is unparalleled in the pre-ebook world. When I have to write a paper, I know that the passage I kind-of, sort-of remember reading earlier in the semester won’t take me hours to find. Using ebooks in the school setting has made us more efficient researchers, eliminating the huge time-suck of endless page scanning.
Links to social media. Let’s face it: We have a tendency to share everything we do or think on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter—no matter how mundane the information. Capitalizing on this habit are social reading platforms such as Goodreads and Riffle. Communities of readers are now instantly available, and the possibilities for communal reading, sharing thoughts and comments with others right from the pages of your ebook, are becoming more real every day. The Institute for the Future of the Book, for example, has been experimenting with a communal reading plugin for WordPress called CommentPress:
CommentPress … seeks to promote dialogue within and around long-form texts in two primary ways: first, by structuring those texts around chunks that can be interlinked in linear and non-linear fashions, and that can take advantage of the ability to link to (and receive links from) other such texts in the network; and second, by allowing those chunks of texts to be commented and discussed at various levels of granularity, ranging from the document as a whole, to the page, all the way down to the paragraph.
Night reading. This is perhaps one of the most obvious reasons to love ebooks, but one that many of us tend to forget. Gone are the days when we had to fight with our significant others over what time to turn off the lights and go to bed. With the built-in backlight of ereaders, we no longer need to keep our bedmates awake while we continue to push through to the end of a chapter. My relationship thanks you, ebooks.
Privacy. I’ll admit it: I have the entire Twilight series in a hardcover box set. I’m not proud of it, but it’s true. Unfortunately for me, the stigma that comes with that series keeps me from bringing one of these books in public (or perhaps fortunately, if I mean to keep up any appearance of seriousness). If only I had the forward thinking to buy the series in a digital format, however, I could be reading the books and passersby would be none the wiser. Claire Schulz Ivett described her elation for the anonymity afforded by ebooks in a post last year:
I spent many years skulking about those ignoble aisles in Barnes & Noble and the grocery store, hiding my literary junk food under Nabokov novels and bottles of shampoo. Amazon was a balm to my embarrassment; I could buy “quality” books in public, and my smut would arrive on my doorstep in nondescript brown boxes. Buying an ereader and going digital would just be another step on the road to closeted, shame-free genre enjoyment.
The reasons to love ebooks are subjective, of course. Why do you love ebooks?