Book lovers, such as myself, have entered the dawn of a new age. Finally, most books are now being published as electronic books (or e-books) and can now be purchased online and instantly uploaded to electronic book readers such as the Nook or Kindle and computer tablets such as the iPad, Motorola Xoom, Samsung Galaxy Tab and many more.
Being able to buy books and transport more than one book with ease is attractive to book lovers and has made reading books popular again. Authors can easily promote and sell their books online and buyers can find these books at almost every online book outlet. Further, books that are currently out-of-print or have a limited availability can experience a resurgence through electronic book publishing. It's a total win-win situation for book authors and readers and the rise of book sales has proven this so.
But there is also a downside to the advent of the electronic book. For one, bookstores and chain book stores across America have experienced declining sales and many have shut their doors. Where independent bookstores have largely been overwhelmed by the larger chain bookstores such as Borders and Barnes & Noble, the chain stores are now also facing bankruptcy and closing many of their locations. In New York City alone, we have lost many independent book stores and even several Barnes & Noble locations no longer exist. The fate of used book stores, a favorite of mine, are also at risk. As more books are purchased online and electronically, this could also mean a decline in the availability of used books. Especially books that have only recently been published.
Second, many fear that the advent of the electronic book means the decline of the actual book. Simply put, the book as we know it may become obsolete. Is that really possible? Can the digital book replace the actual book? And can we actually live in a world without physical books? I'm not so sure. I think that while we love the convenience of electronic books and the ability to purchase them online with ease and for us voracious readers, the ability to transport and read multiple books by using e-book readers, I can't see digital books replacing all books.
For one, the book actually has a fan base all on its own. Some people simply have not gotten into digital books and refuse to do so. Second, most studying is done using actual books and not digital books. Surveys have shown that students prefer physical textbooks to digital books and classroom experiments have also verified this. Lastly, most libraries may not be able to convert to an all-digital book catalog and may not be able to do so. There are so many books that are out-of-print and not yet available electronically and there are also legal ramifications to the advent of electronic books that are still being explored. For example: How many times for example can a digital book be viewed without payment to the author? And can authors protect their books from e-book theft better than their musical counterparts? It truly is a delicate issue.
I have not yet purchased a digital book reader of my own and am looking at several options including the following e-book readers and tablet computers.
The Kindle, introduced by Amazon.com, was first introduced in 2007. Since then, it has had several updates. The more popular versions are the Kindle 3G, Kindle 3G with Wireless, the Kindle DX with 3G and now the Kindle Fire. The Kindle is one of the more popular e-book readers as it is directly linked to Amazon and really brought e-books to the forefront. It's famous for not having any glare and being ultra-light and thin. Its wireless capacities are free and built-in, stores over 3,000 books, allows web browsing and can read PDF files. Kindle books can be purchased through Amazon and applications for most smart phones.
The Nook, introduced by Barnes & Noble as a competitor to the Kindle in 2009. Its earlier version featured wireless and 3G, but the current version is only wireless. It has an Android operating system and features a color touchscreen, micro SD slot, a web browser and PDF capability. The Nook also has a larger screen and in color and offers more storage than the Kindle. It has had strong sales but may not be as popular as the Kindle.
The Sony Reader offers three current versions: the Pocket Edition, the Touch Edition and the Daily Edition. While not in color, they offer a touch screen, a stylus, search functions, several dictionaries, note-taking and highlighting capability and very user-friendly software. It also supports more book files than most readers, offers multiple font and font-size options, and memory card and memory stick options. Some users swear that the Sony Readers are better than their Kindle and Nook counterparts and have even turned in their Nooks/Kindles for one. The Pocket Edition is the most compact but does not feature wireless connectivity or audio/MP3 capability and can only be charged with a USB connection. The Touch Edition is the size of an actual book, has audio/MP3 capability but does not have wireless capacity. The Daily Edition is the largest in screen size and has all of the features of its smaller counterparts but is the only Sony Reader with wireless and web browsing capacity.
Apple introduced one of the most popular tablet computers. The original iPad was released in 2010 and like many other Apple products created a trend that has been followed by so many other electronic and media giants. The iPad in many ways is a larger version of the iPhone and has many of the same features including a touch screen, applications, wireless access, and the same operating system. When the iPad 2 was introduced earlier this year, it features a smaller and thinner tablet with front and rear cameras and many other new features. The iPad allows users to read books, browse the web and acts as a smaller and lighter laptop in many ways. Some users complain about the glare from the screen, but the colorful touchscreen and its many features make this tablet a very strong contender.
Samsung Galaxy Tab
This Android based tablet and the international edition features a mobile phone. Most critics consider the Galaxy Tab a strong contender to the iPad. In addition to the Android operating system, it features rear and front cameras, wireless capability and unlike the iPad, a micro SD slot for extra memory.
The Motorola Xoom is another Android based tablet with similar features to the Samsung Galaxy Tab and the iPad such as front and rear cameras, docking stations and video recording and watching capability. It has one of the more advanced Android processors but does not have a micro SD slot and Adobe flash as previously reported.
The digital age continues with new technology that continues to broaden and change the modern lifestyle. With the advent of the electronic book, book lovers now have more ways to purchase and read books than ever before. The tablet computer further expands these options and provides a great alternative to the modern laptop. This technology should be embraced and accepted while preserving some of the traditions that we already know and love.