The Print Versus Digital Books Debate

The whole print versus electronic debate alludes to the larger contention between tradition and technology. Tradition is something that the present generation inherits from the previous one, and which carries with itself a sense of continuity with the past. Technology comes with a hint of revolution and novelty. Tim Wu, the author of The Master Switch,  points out that “technological evolution is more important to humanity’s near future than biological evolution. ” The devices we use change the way we live much faster than any contest among genes.”

Although we fashionably call the contemporary era ‘the digital age ‘, yet there is a vast multitude that do not or cannot flow with the tech wave. And precisely because of this,  the claim of a number of tech experts who opine that digital books are rapidly replacing the publication of books, newspapers and magazines is gravely erroneous. There will never be a shortage of people who’ll vehemently defend their love of printed books.

But this article is in no way a panegyric on print culture. Ebooks definitely have their merit,  otherwise Kindle reader and Google Play Books would never have taken the market by storm. You can easily download ebooks on your phone, laptop, ipad or ebook reader without going all the way to the market. There are a number of popular books that can be downloaded in pdf format for absolutely no cost. Ebooks have easy scrolling and sharing features. You can share your favorites with your friends via emails and bluetooth. The font size is adjustable, and people with visual impairment can conveniently zoom the text and read. For those who travel a lot, ebooks are more friendly than printed books as a large number of them can be simply carried in phones, laptops and tablets without feeling the weight. However, there are battery limitations and sometimes you can lose your books to electronic malfunction.

The proponents of printed books find ebooks cumbersome and hard on the eyes. Although many people go for both printed and digital books, yet only a lover of a tangible, printed title can tell you what it is to feel the smell of the paper, flip the crisp pages, stare at the glossy cover, and proudly display one’s collection on the bookshelf. Pick up your book anytime, put colorful stickers on your favorite pages, and mark your favorite lines with pink, red, blue, green glitter pens. Hold your book to the heart and marvel at the wonderful creation. The virtuality of an ebook can never compare to the sheer physical beauty of an actual book. Josh Catone, of the website Mashable, interviewed a number of people for their views on print and digital books. I quote some interesting views. Author Joe Queenan feels – ” People who need to possess the physical copy of a book, not merely an electronic version, believe that the object themselves are sacred.” For novelist and entrepreneur Jack Cheng, “Having a hardcover on my shelf is like having a print by one of my favorite artists on the wall.”

For me, the words of Don Linn, a publishing professional, holds true – “I love the ‘book as object’ almost as much as its content and have a difficulty separating the two.” Notwithstanding the speculations of tech reviewers about the future of print and ebooks, one need not displace the other for survival. The choice between the two is personal, and there will always be people who will choose one or the other, or even both.

Dipanwita Ganguly

This is a person who feels that adding a Bio about herself is the most unsavoury thing! Yet, I am a lover of Literature. Easily baffled by the contradictions that I find in myself. Spiritual and try hard to be positive. I have lots of things running through my mind, but when it comes to expression, I suck!

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