From the moment my mother first introduced me to the written word I have been a book worm. Always curious, always questioning and always devouring new stories and adventures – eager to dig in and become all consumed.
I love the smell of pages, the weight of the story in my hands, the dog-eared corners and scribbled margins. It was for these reasons that I was wary of the eBook phenomenon. As part of the education field, I knew all the reasons they were great. I had no problem with the concept of them. I didn’t fear their sometimes predicted obliteration of the printed book.
I just didn’t want to read a book that wasn’t a book book.
I flirted with the idea of buying an eReader for two years before I finally gave in late last year. It wasn’t through peer pressure or a curiosity about the medium, rather the frustration at lugging so many books around with me. At any one time, I would have 2-3 books on my persons – the idea of having it in one tablet was attractive.
So I bought one.
And I did nothing with it for two months. Some may argue that’s because I chose to go with a Sony Reader model instead of the much lauded iPad but really I felt unfaithful. It took a publisher sending me a review copy in digital form to change my mind. Ever attempting to read a 250+ page manuscript from a stack of papers confined by a rubber band? It’s not fun.
It took a further trip to an online book store to further propel me into the eBook world. Though using their categories to sort the wheat from the chaff was a chore unto itself, I found new authors I wanted to read and old books that had fallen out of traditional print. Before I knew it, I was standing on the tram, keeping my balance whilst smothered between fellow commuters and reading quite happily.
My book consumption and purchase rose through the roof.
As did my traditional book purchasing.
You see, I don’t believe in choosing sides. I have preferences. Sometimes I want the convenience of reading a book on a tablet, or purchasing a book immediately when it isn’t possible for me to get to the bookstore. However, there is nothing better than snuggling into an armchair and indulging one’s self in the weight and comfort of an honest to goodness book.
In dipping my toes into the eBook waters, I was reading more frequently which requires more materials. With the purchase of my Sony Reader my eBook and traditional book purchases increased enormously.
I don’t believe the traditional book will go the way of the dodo. Its form has weaved its way into our lives and is threaded throughout our memories from childhood to adulthood.
I attended the Children’s Book Council of Australia National Conference in May this year and the much celebrated children’s author and illustrator Oliver Jeffers spoke about his work while accompanied with assorted visuals. Pictures from his life, representations of his work, as well as the different mediums his work has now undergone. One was a short animated version of ‘Lost and Found’, another was the app for ‘Heart in a Bottle’ narrated by Helena Bonham-Carter. The app was simply amazing and supported Jeffers’ belief that his eBooks will not kill their printed brethren, instead it is a tool for helping kids to decode, play and engage with the story. He also believes that “…the digital revolution will only negatively affect disposable publishing – good books, especially kids’ books will benefit”, and I cannot hope more that this is true.
Regardless of genre – books are a vital part of our history, our storytelling and our ability to empathise with others – storytelling has always changed form. It is not surprising that it is zigging and zagging again. While there are many issues that are impacting the publishing industry with the advent of the eBook, some genres have jumped on board. It is in looking at the children and romance markets that you can see the attraction of the new medium. Last year I heard, international romance best seller, Stephanie Laurens questioned on eBooks. Her response? They are not an issue, she has been available in eBook form since 2002. Children’s books, through the ePlatform, can be increasingly accessible for students struggling to engage on many levels.
From a user standpoint, the eBook has many benefits.
I am relatively new to these advantages. But while I still love the books that beautifully grace my shelves, well loved and well read, I have come to realise that you can have the best of both worlds.