What Is A Book By Any Other Name?

What Is A Book By Any Other Name?

Roxana Theodorou (Hellenic American University, Greece)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8659-5.ch010
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For quite a while now there is an ongoing and fueled debate about the future of the book, the implications of the eBook, the act of reading and reading habits and so on and so forth. An eBook is primarily a piece of software, an application. And with that said, a huge world of possibilities opens up. The question that we should try to answer then, is, what exactly is the purpose of an eBook, what should it do, how should it be designed, used or consumed. Integration of multimedia, in a meaningful and practical way, gamefication, non-linearity, design and usability are a few of the concepts that are explored in relation to the eBook and how they can add value to a medium that has been significantly underexploited.
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There was a time when things were pretty simple. There were books. Books contained written or printed words that one could read, and sometimes, there could also be pictures and illustrations. In order to use a book, you only needed to know how to turn pages, to know how to trace the text with your finger and follow the lines and thus read. If you read one book, you knew how to read them all, essentially. But that was a long time ago.

The future of the Book is one of the favorite discussions or our time – and our profession. Everyone, from publishers, to printers, to authors, to booksellers, to readers seem really upset about what future lies ahead. Because the book is no longer one thing. It evolves, it changes shapes and flavors, it shifts and transforms. Although publishing is a huge industry that remained essentially unchanged through centuries, now, for the first time since the invention of the moving type, everything seems to be uncertain.

When the Internet conquered communications, everything changed. All disruptive technologies do that, one way or another. But, Internet is not just another invention, which brought up some changes in our lives. Internet changed the way people work, do business, communicate, think, act, react, teach and learn, spend their free time, their perception of property, personal space, the definition of friendship etc. Reading couldn’t be left unaffected, after all.

And, it should come as a surprise that books remained virtually unaffected for as long as they did. On a large part this was due to the fact that publishers refused to release electronic versions of their books online. On the other hand eBook readers were, until recently, hard to use, bulky and unattractive. And reading a pdf file on a desktop computer can hardly be considered comfortable and relaxing.

But things has progressed a lot and eBooks have changed, evolved and now eBooks account for 30% of all book sales in the US (Bercovici, 2014). Of course, the vast majority of these sales belong to Amazon and go through the Kindle store, which actually means that their readers use the Kindle app, if not a Kindle device as well.

The domination of one seller in a debatable point, and it is very easy to point out all the disadvantages that this may bring upon the publishing industry, the readers and the authors alike, but for the time being, the dispersion of the eBook is in by large the result of the pricing policies of Amazon, that made the eBook much cheaper that it print equivalent, and thus much more attainable by readers.

Subsequently, a very heated discussion has arisen, although this discussion is not in fact new, or unexpected, that debates the value of the eBooks, its pros and its cons, and how it can (from one perspective) reinvent the books and (form another perspective) destroy it all together.

The eBook adversaries have a multitude of arguments against it. Print books do not need a power source; they can function anywhere and anytime. That makes them extremely portable and safe to use by anyone. Τhey have increased readability; the majority of eReaders cannot be used in direct sunlight. Also, the print book’s contrast level is the best for easy, restful reading. This is especially important for the readers that enjoy reading for a long time.

Print books are tangible; you can smell, touch and feel a book, and thus have a more enriched and bonding experience. They can also be stored in a (physical) library and are more easily browsed and admired. Also, more than one can be used at the same time, by the same person. Finally, the tangible object brings a more intense sense of accomplishment when read, because of it visible length.

Print books can be used by anyone even if s/he is not computer literate. Although computers are a common good nowadays, this is only true for the western society and still 5 out of the 7 billion people on earth have never used the Internet, at least according to the CIA Factbook (2014). On the other hand the literacy rate is 85% worldwide. This means that books are still much more useful than eBooks.

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