I own books. Lots of books. I love books. I even still have text books from school. And I didn’t think that I could ever be a fan of ebooks if I loved books. I didn’t understand the concept. A phone isn’t a book, it’s a phone. A tablet is something that you take when you’re sick. Try not to laugh at me here. At university I was the only person who had a mobile phone that looked like a brick with a solid aerial, and the only person who had a three and a half inch floppy disk. They had flip phones, and phones with no aerials and little stick things they were putting into the computer. I could save work onto my disk and my phone could achieve making a call, which was its sole purpose. I got looks. I shrugged. I would progress when I got around to it, but there was no need yet.
I used to listen to cassettes, I had boxes and boxes of them, and a cassette player in my car. When they brought out compact discs, they said they wouldn’t catch on. What was I missing? Nothing I assumed. Until I had to upgrade my car and it didn’t come with a cassette player because cassettes were obsolete. I shrugged. ‘Better start buying CDs’. I used to watch video tapes and always made sure they were rewound when I finished. They started getting scratchy, and lines started appearing in them, but they can’t be replaced. The things I taped off TV, ads and all, to watch later, were gone. The video player stops working, they don’t sell them any more, but for a short time you can get a combined video and DVD player and record your video tapes onto DVD. I shrugged. ‘Better start buying DVDs’.
So cassettes and videos became obsolete and were replaced with a technologically advanced medium (some may say usurper). I look at the pile of videos, the pile of cassettes and even the pile of records, and think ‘now what happens to you?’. I even wonder if they recycle them like they did my old mobile phone. Box them up. Reprieve? For a moment there was a kind of ‘retro’ movement and they released combined record, cassette and compact disc players. So you can play them, and bring your ‘oldies’ back to life, but the main aim is possibly to transfer the information from the record and cassettes onto the compact disc. “Compact discs will last forever,” they said. “Buy CDs,” they said. I shrugged. ‘Sure I can do that.’
Then, while I wasn’t looking, because I was wondering why my Discman wasn’t working (turns out the hold switch was on), people now had mp3 players. But, but, my records and cassettes are on compact disc and I can make a mixed disc to listen to my favourite songs! Sure, but now I can’t take my Discman out in public. People are listening to thousands of songs, running the battery for days, and I’m going to need to change discs in an hour if the batteries last that long. I shrugged. ‘Now what do I do with all my discs?’ Ah, technology. There’s a computer program to change your CDs into mp3 format so you can put them on an mp3 player. ‘Okay, I can do that. I just need to get an mp3 player.’
The thing about books and ebooks is that ebooks aren’t replacing books. They both still exist. You can have a book and a digital version of the same book. You can carry hundreds of books with you, on your phone, on your tablet, on your computer, and when you get home you can curl up with a book or sit your coffee on a book or hit a bug with a book. Things that aren’t recommended for your phone/tablet/computer. If you aren’t anywhere near a bookstore or they don’t sell the books you want in your country or your locale, you can order them off the internet and have them posted out maybe or you can read an ebook. Maybe that’s the only access to books you can have, digital. Maybe you’ll like the novelty of an interactive book on your phone or tablet where you can flip the imaginary pages, turn it how you want, make the font bigger, change the lighting, search for words. Maybe you won’t.
I love books and I don’t think ebooks make paper based books obsolete. I don’t think that only being able to publish/read a book digitally means it isn’t really a book. I don’t think you have to choose one over the other. I think they can coexist, that you can have both, and I think they both have their merits. I also think, over time, that anyone could learn to love an ebook. I did.