Monday, 28 March 2011

The eBook

eBooks offer the following obvious advantages (assuming you have an ebook reader):

  • They're easily readable. Most readers offer zoom functions, letter resizing, and so forth.
  • They're easily portable. You can carry multiple books on one device.
  • They're much more environmentally friendly. You don't have to kill a few trees for each book, and let's not even talk about the ink. Recycling only goes so far.
  • Note-taking is much more powerful, and the notes you write can be found and referenced quickly and easily. And they don't have to be permanent.
  • Lighting conditions essentially become meaningless. Many readers incorporate display lighting allowing you to read whenever and whereever you like.
eBooks are useless without a reader. There are a few on the market, such as Amazon's Kindle, Jinke's Hanlin reader series, Sony's eReader series, and a few others. These are mentioned because they incorporate a technology called e-ink, which resembles paper very closely, and eliminates most eye-strain issues.
Some types of books especially suited for a reader are:
  • Novels or non-fiction books without many pictures.
  • Web-sites with html links and cross references.
The disadvantages of ebooks generally stem from the hardware you're reading them on. If it's a computer, you've got the normal computer problems which detract from your reading pleasure:
  • Eye strain and RSI. Long periods spent in front of a computer are healthy for nobody.
  • Power. Your average laptop has 4-6 hours of battery life.
  • Portability. Why lug a laptop around if you can simply carry a book?
The cons of the reader devices are a little more subtle:
  • You still have battery life to worry about.
  • Nasty software bugs in the reader can cause it to freeze up.
  • They're not very robust. If you spill <insert beverage of choice> on them, chances are that's the end of your reader. Not to mention scratches, dropping them, and so on.
In general, ebooks suffer from other cons as well:
  • They're not readily available, and format wars are making the decision to buy a reader very difficult. Will you go for the Amazon one, and buy books (only) there? Or the Sony?
  • The pricing model hasn't been worked out yet, causing some major discrepancies.

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