Techie Saturday – eBooks vs Paper

This week in our series about eBooks I want to show you some of the advantages and misunderstood disadvantages of going electronic. If you missed last week’s post you may want to go back and review it by clicking here.

One of the most obvious advantages is that it saves trees. I don’t know how many, but I suspect it is in the millions. Fifteen years ago I got most of my monthly bills in the mail. I would then write a check and post it back to the mail. I think you get the idea. The world is going paperless, and that is a good thing.

Another advantage is as I mentioned last week, it saves shelf space for those of us who are avid readers. 95% of my books from the last at least five years now reside on a device that is about half the size of an average paperback. I have about three hundred books that now reside there.

Note taking is drastically simplified with ebooks. No longer do I need to scribble out unreadable notes about what I read. I don’t have to worry about earmarking pages and highlighting paragraphs in hopes that I can find them later. Highlighting text for retrieval later is done with the flick of the wrist and then stored away for easy search and retrieval.

Ok, now let’s look at a few perceived problems with ebooks. One is that you have to buy them instead of just getting them from the library. I know Kindle books pretty well so I will talk about that, but I’m pretty sure there are others who provide similar services. If you don’t want to buy a book just take it out of the Kindle Library. With Amazon Prime or Kindle Unlimited, there are about almost 1.5 million books you can borrow for free with no due dates, including current and former best sellers. I get about half my books in this mode. You can keep ten library books at a time. When you reach that limit you have to return a book in order to borrow a new one. To see more about this click here

One of the biggest perceived negatives is that some of us just don’t like to do extensive reading on what we see as a glaring computer screen. I personally spend a lot of time in front of my Mac and understand that problem. But there are now ebook readers that are pretty much the same as reading a paper book. The technology is called e-Ink. It was originally introduced in 2010 but has been improved drastically since then. One of the distinct advantages of reading ebooks is that they are subtly background lit so you can read them without having to turn on a light. That’s pretty important for us old guys, and for those bed reader who don’t want to keep their spouse up at night. Another is that you can make the text size as big as you want!

Next time I will close out this series by discussing the tools that make ebooks possible and what I consider the ultimate secret advantage of ebooks.

E-Books Part 1

This Saturday post will start a short Saturday series about electronic books, otherwise known as e-books. For this particular post, I want to give you an idea of what it was like before technology came to the library.

When I was in college, many many years ago 🙂 I was a regular visitor to the university library. It was a humongous place. The main reading room had card file cabinets that were as long as a train. Now, remember this was a time before computers took over so everything in the library had a 3×5 inch index card describing where the book was and basically what it was about. The millions of cards were kept in the mile-long cabinet called the card catalog. I would literally spend hours there until I finally found just the right sources I needed for the paper I was writing.

Zipping now to the beginning of my retirement years for a personal story. When we were renovating our 1927 farmhouse in 2001 I built a ten-foot wall of bookshelves to hold many of the books I have read over the years. The shelves were designed around the ones I had discovered in Thomas Edison’s library in Menlo Park New Jersey a couple of years before. Within a year the shelves were full and overflowing with books and they started piling up at the front. Now zipping forward again to 2019 and all my paper books are now contained in two feet of the original fifty feet of shelves. The rest contains memorabilia from trips and vacations across this great country. I can’t say that I miss the other forty-eight foot at all. Many of the more treasured books are now converted to ebooks with the paper copies given to local libraries.

If you haven’t figured it out by now I do a LOT of reading. It is now split between books and electronic media sites such as the New York Times and Politico. Matter of fact, being deaf I probably spend a big majority of my day reading. Even TV is about reading the captions on the PBS Newshour 🙂

When I depended on paper books as the source of my reports I would most often cover several sheets of paper scribbled with little notes about the important things I wanted to remember. One of the problems with that was, as my class notes, my scribblings become unreadable to me within a week or two of when they were written. I write well but I don’t “write” well it seems. If my sources were my personal books, as opposed to the library’s, I would also have my highlighter handy and my personal page earmarking system.

Now that you have an idea of the “good old days” that our current MAGA president is trying to get us back to, it’s time to close out this post. Next time I will start to tell you some of the many advantages of having information in electronic form. That story will be like comparing the Space Shuttle to a steam locomotive. I will also show you some of the tools that make the task more enjoyable. It is really not as painful as you have been led to believe. 🙂