Digital Is The New Paper

23 Nov

Digital books, or ebooks, have been in business for more than a decade. First, in 1990s, it was pdf files or static html pages. A few years later, a lot of interactivity was added in the form of multiple-choice questions or navigation buttons. With the advent of broadband, videos and multimedia elements (mostly flash animations and flash videos) found their way into ebooks, making them engaging and more interactive. In the last 3-4 years, the ebooks are getting more and more social, with features to communicate and share with friends and instructors in real time. The latest trend is ebooks on iPads (and other tablets) developed by  hot startups such as Inkling and Kno.

There is no doubt that the digital format is better than print in many respects. A print book cannot embed multimedia elements, cannot have interactivities, cannot give feedback, and cannot bring the current events to the users. And digital is cheaper than print with almost zero marginal cost of production. These reasons make the ebooks very attractive to everyone, both from learning effectiveness and cost savings standpoint. On Amazon.com, the sale of ebooks is increasing every year compared to print books.

Paper, however, is still a very popular medium. A few reasons:

  • You can spill water, coffee, or soda on a book and still wipe it clean (with some or no damage) :).
  • Reading on a computer screen is inconvenient and strains the eye. E-ink displays are as good as books, but they are good only for text-heavy books and do not render color or images well. Color e-ink displays exist but have  not been commercialized.
  • Reading on a computer screen slows you down.
  • iPad is too big and heavy to hold in one hand. Smaller tablets such as Samsung Galaxy Tab, Kindle Fire, and Nook Color are light but the 7″ screen is not fit for all books.
  • You can throw a book on the couch and never have to charge it.
  • Books help you focus on reading, and not tempt you to check email, play games, or waste time on facebook.
  • You can instantly start reading and not wait for the device to wake up.
  • You can display the books on a bookshelf and show your literary taste to the world.

For older kids, ebooks offer an excellent learning solution when they are motivated to learn and do their homework. I prefer my kids read books, at least the first few years of childhood, and understand the joy of holding, touching, and feeling a book. I’m hoping this develops a love of books in them. An ebook, on the other hand, is just like another app on a tablet.

Books are for reading. For everything else, there’s a tablet, or a laptop, or a smartphone, or …

Related readings
For Their Children, Many E-Book Fans Insist on Paper

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