Advantages of electronic books

I’ve seen quite a bit of stuff lately dissing ereaders and ebooks and claiming that there is no way that this new newfangled technology would ever be embraced and that it was preposterous to call it a revolution.

Electronic books and their readers are a revolution, get used to it.

If the current crop of display technology is a little slow and dodgy, that will improve, and you won’t have to buy your library again. If the first breakout product is riddled with DRM, the followers will go DRM free as a point of difference (which has already started to happen).

There are numerous advantages to ebooks over paper books:


All my books could fit on a couple of memory sticks. holy smokes. Moving house will be a gazillion times easier. I can have all my books with me at work, at home, and on the bus. and at conferences. and everywhere. holy smokes.


I can keep multiple copies of my books spread around different places. This will keep me happy.

smaller carbon footprint

Not chopping down trees, not using nasty inks, not shipping books from the other side of the world


The ability to do a text search of all my technical books. Or even my science fiction books. holy smokes. Just finding the book I’m after at the moment is difficult, let alone finding a particular part of the text.


I don’t want my tiny little corner of the earth completely taken up with bookshelves.

3 Responses to “Advantages of electronic books”

  1. Russell Stuart Says:

    I just luv playing devils advocate!

    portability: Ink on paper, the most widely portable format on earth. Everybody understands it. Even OCR scanners understand it. A kindle book: the least portable form of information on earth. Only the device it is DRM’ed to will read it.

    backups: Do you actually own one of these things? These are the devices Amazon retrospectively deleted a novel already purchased, paid for and 1/2 read. What good would the backup be when you don’t have rights to read it on a difference machine, let alone restore a copy retrospectively deleted by the copyright police.

    smaller carbon footprint: Pity about they depend on non-renewable, non-recoverable and very limited supply of rare earths to function at all.

    searchability: but since google already does a better job of searching 1 Trillion web pages and books than any device does of searching the 30 Gb or so under its control, you will probably continue to use google like you always did.

    declutter: come on, you are not telling me you have these books because you read them. Everybody knows the whole point of having a wall covered in books is show the world you what are big intellectual wanker you are. How on earth can a 64Gb micro SD card the size of your small finger nail come remotely close to doing the same job?

  2. Karen Says:

    Carbon footprint really depends on how often you are going to upgrade your reader and how often you have it switched on, doesn’t it? Also, how many paper books you would otherwise buy. Your reader will have to be turfed in a few years; a book could potentially be re-read and re-sold for maybe 100 years? Even if you buy a crappy book that nobody else wants, or drop the book in the bath ;), the paper can be recycled rather more easily than electronics.

    I would have thought that the greenest solution by far would be to use a library or buy second-hand books (preferably locally) and sell them again once you’re done. A second-hand book is cheap enough that you don’t need a backup – buy another if you accidentally leave it on the bus. Library fees are a pain in the backside, but at least you don’t have to pay anything to read books if you return them on time. Sell your second-hand books or return your library books to solve the clutter problem.

    My suspicion is that people are embracing e-readers because they love gadgets, not because of their green credentials or any of the other points you list above. The kinds of people buying them are those who are already serial purchasers of mobile phones, ipods, game consoles…(no offence intended to anyone who fits in this category!).

    Who cares whether it is a revolution? The question is whether e-books are truly an improvement on traditional books. In my book (ha ha, pardon the pun), the answer is definitely no. But then again, I have loved paper books as long as I could read, and have a sentimental attachment to the way paper books (particularly old ones) smell and feel. Perhaps I’m just a nutter. ;)

  3. rdb Says:

    I own an IRex Illiad, but don’t use it much – same eInk tech as the Kindle and Sony. The Illiad has some design choices that limit it’s battery life, but carbon footprint in use, should be minimal. Physically moving books is likely to be more of an issue.
    What rare earth elements? (Transparent electrodes?) or battery.

    The eInk tech at least is not quite there yet.
    166dpi and 1/2 A4 page sizes, but for material formatted for the device it is comfortable to read
    – certainly to replace paperbacks, which yellow, have the bindings crack … Being able to increase the font when your eyes get tired is nice too.

    Something like a clipboard with side by side A4 pages at 300dpi would be very nice for anything that works at grayscale. When ebook readers manage that kind of display size and resolution, cheaply, then there shouldn’t be much reason to upgrade, until something like the Diamond Age Primer comes along. The current readers are there for standard size paperbacks now.

    Charles Stross describes the institutional problems with ebook acceptance in a post on his blog.
    Would I like to replace my collection of books, cheaply with ones that are searchable, backed up, not DRMed, can still be loaned out, take up minimal space, … Sure.
    Paying for them twice – no way (ie Records => Cassette tapes => CDs), (VCR => DVD => BluRay)

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