Technology is here to stay. New apps and social media platforms are being created daily – and we all use them. When’s the last time you bought a newspaper to find out the breaking news? You probably can’t remember because your favourite news channel broke the news first online.
Smartphones, tablets and laptops dominate our lives because it’s simply cheaper, easier and faster to read things.
The debate pitting hardcopy enthusiasts versus digital adopters has never been more polarising.
Yet it’s somehow a huge leap for some to go from reading books as physical copies to downloading their favourite read onto a Kindle or a Kobo.
It seems like e-books are the final frontier of technology and the debate pitting hardcopy enthusiasts versus digital adopters has never been more polarising.
The pull of the past
So my question to hardcopy fans is this: why baulk at the inevitable? Why challenge change instead of embracing it? Why are you happy to read your favourite magazine or newspaper on your mobile phone, yet it’s a stretch to suggest reading your beloved book on a Kindle? If you’re going away on holiday – isn’t it easier to use your precious suitcase space for more clothes or an extra pair of shoes, rather than heavy novels? You can have your cake and eat it: carry all your essentials in a suitcase and pack your e-reader (which is lighter than most smartphones) in your bag. Surely this is a win-win?
Many hardcopy enthusiasts argue that it’s ‘the smell’ and ‘the texture of the papers’ which add to the overall ‘experience’ of reading a book.
Yet some people don’t see it this way and I think nostalgia plays a big part in this. Many hardcopy enthusiasts argue that it’s ‘the smell’ and ‘the texture of the papers’ which add to the overall ‘experience’ of reading a book.
Yet the same enthusiasts also complain about how heavy carrying several books can be – particularly if they are students travelling to-and-from class with several books in their bags, or frequent flyers who make difficult compromises between packing their shoes or making space for their books. Others complain that books are too expensive – particularly those who live outside countries’ capital cities, where they either spend hours travelling to their closest (and over-priced) bookshop, or they pay extra fees to purchase and deliver their books, which ironically they do online.
Tech to the rescue
Technology has made our lives simpler and more convenient. Think about everyday basics like emails and online search engines, which we take for granted. Thirty years ago – it was unthinkable that we could instantly communicate at the press of a button. If I wanted to send a letter: I would have to handwrite my message, purchase a stamp and envelope, before posting and praying (if I had a deadline) that it would safely arrive on time. Twenty years ago – it wasn’t unusual to purchase the Yellow Pages – just in case I needed a few numbers handy. Today – Google sorts this out for me: if I my garden needs trimming, I Google ‘gardener’. If my boiler is broken? I type in ‘plumber’.
Costly, hardcopy publishing has been shunned by nimble publishers.
Whole industries have been transformed due to the digital age and book publishing is no exception. Costly, hardcopy publishing has been shunned by nimble publishers like us at Bahati Books – and more readers today as setting their heavy novels down for lighter e-readers which can save in excess of 1,000 books.
Still not convinced? Let me give you a few more things to think about.
E-books can be stored on e-readers, tablets, smartphones and laptops. You’re basically taking a virtual library with you everywhere you go if you carry any of these gadgets.
Tired of your current read? No problem, just switch to another e-book on the same device. Stuck on a packed morning commute with little space to flick through your novel – no problem, your e-book is small enough to fit in the palm of your hand and you won’t have to worry about nudging people each time to swipe past a page.
What if I told you there was a way to read more books without killing more trees? E-books are an environmentally friendly alternative: there’s no need to chop down trees each time your favourite author releases a book.
Getting published has never been easier. This is a win for those who lack money and connections to the large publishing houses, which constantly overlook their manuscripts.
The gatekeepers are gone, thanks to e-books, and new digital publishers are providing great online platforms for authors to get their books out to you.
Probably the most important factor of all: e-books are cheaper than printed books, and the cost of buying an e-reader is steadily decreasing. Everyone knows this – including large book publishers. An e-book today is half, if not a third, the price of its physical copy. This is a win both for the reader who wants to save more cash, and for those who live far away from decent bookstores – they can now instantly download the e-book version. Also if you don’t own an e-reader – you can always download an e-reading app to your phone or laptop and get reading.
The tide is turning and my message is clear: go digital or get left behind.
I would love to hear from you. If you agree or disagree – come along to our ‘Digital Debate’ taking place at Africa Writes on Saturday 2 July 2016, at the British Library. Make sure you sign up by following this link!