e-reader and printed books

various e-book readers. From right to left iPa...

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“Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.”

Harry S. Truman (1884 – 1972) – 33rd US President

Harry Truman, did not know that in time, one could carry his or her entire library on a 6 inch device. We find ourselves surrounded by information. The Information explosion leads most of us to suffer from information overload. There is so much information that it has impacted the world of books as well. In our daily lives, we not only have to keep abreast of the news, blogs, RSS feeds etc but also have to decide on the books to read.  Now, if you are like me that means scouring the resources, I just mentioned and creating lists. I always managed to lose my paper list until I found the Amazon, ‘Wish list’ feature and the LinkedIn ‘Reading List’ (powered by Amazon). Now, all I have to do is purchase the book from Amazon or visit my town’s ‘online’ local library database, to check if it is stocked.

That is all well and good but I do have a problem with all the books that I end up purchasing. I am not a library builder and believe that books should not be kept on shelves. If books are kept in cupboards/shelves then they are not benefiting anyone. I strongly believe that books should be read and given to book charities or to someone who could benefit from the book. That is an age old practice and as far as I know, no one has ever been sued by any publisher for reading a borrowed, presented or purchased book at the local jumble sale.

I have been debating and following the progress of the e-reader and recently on a trip abroad thought that I ought to take the plunge and invest in an ‘e-reader.’ That would shave some weight off my luggage (especially my hand luggage – weighed down by my books) and give me the opportunity to carry my own library around with me. Herein lies my problem:


The average price of an e-reader is approx £100. Now, I could buy an awful lot of books for that amount. Once I finish reading those books, I could ‘pass’ them around to many benefiting others. I am not so sure, I could do that with all the security that is embedded in e-books, such as Digital Rights Management (DRM)


Portability of e-books is a lesser problem as for example, Amazon’s Kindle Apps allow e-books to be read across multiple hardware devices. Not so sure though that if I purchase a book in 2011 that it will be readable by my e-reader in 2030 though. I do know though that in 2030, I will have no similar problem with my printed books!

According to an article in The IET;

“Many books are now published as e-books at the same time as the hardback version is released. But some authors, including big names such as JK Rowling, have so far not published electronically. According to Neil Blair, a partner at literary agent Christopher Little: “We have been looking into the options for digital publication of our client JK Rowling’s Harry Potter books for some time now – evaluating the market and determining the right time and method. This evaluation is on-going. The truth is that we wanted to take the time to make the right decision. The market is developing very quickly and this vindicates our strategy of ‘wait and see’.”

Publishing and buying an e-book can be a bewildering process depending on the different software and digital rights management (DRM) restrictions involved.

Firstly, there are a variety of file formats for e-books, with EPUB being the most wide-spread. This can be used on a variety of devices, but interestingly, not the Amazon Kindle, which is one of the most successful e-readers on the market but uses a different file format. Secondly, there are a variety of DRM restrictions which are used to limit copying, printing, and sharing of e-books, with the level of restriction specified by the publisher or distribution agency. So lending a friend one of your books is now often not possible. Because buying e-books is an anonymous and instant process, publishers have found an increase in demand for erotica and other unusual books.

Despite the unprecedented growth in e-book sales, many people do not believe that e-books will mean the end of books in dead-tree format. Jon Howells, a spokesman from book seller Waterstones predicts the company will have sold one million e-books by the end of the year, but that this does not signal the death of the paper book. He said: “There will always be a place for the physical book. The format has been unchanged for 500 years.”

Where do I stand at the moment then? Well, undecided as I remain unconvinced that I need to purchase an e-reader at that cost. Besides, inspite of all the tax cuts, we still have libraries and I haven’t reached a stage where I have exhausted all the reading material that I have access to…

For More:
The IET article – Will e-readers dominate this year’s Christmas market?
Comparison of e-book readers

ebook readers review

ebook reader review

E-Book Reader Matrix

A publisher’s point of view on e-readers – Accolade Publishing


About mubbisherahmed
I am passionate about IT and its ability to deliver cost effective, value for money solutions that can enhance performance and in many cases provide competitive advantage by using a range of solutions and approaches in innovative ways.

5 Responses to e-reader and printed books

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention e-reader and printed books « Engaged IT for the CIO -- Topsy.com

  2. mubbisherahmed says:

    Rachel Coppieters said the following on a social media site:

    I use my e-reader mostly to load the PDF reading material that we get the courses.

    Rather than having to sit at the computer, or printing them, to read these PDF papers, I can read them anywhere.

    I also download some of the classics that are really inexpensive, from Amazon.

    I find that I get so absorbed that I sometimes try to manually turn the pages, and then realize that this isn’t a real book. I really love my e-reader.

    I replied:

    That’s interesting, as I do have PDF’s that I have collected over the years from the Net (The FREE reports etc), so perhaps, if I was to buy one, I could start by using them.

    Would you go back to reading the printed version? Is your e-reader an indespensible tool now?

    Rachel replied:

    The thing with the printed versions is that if you are working on a home ink-jet, it costs a lot. Never mind, the real-estate to store all the printed versions. I already have walls and walls of books at home, that are harder to move than my furniture !!
    I still have a soft spot for paper, but I prefer the e-reader to reading off the computer because of the fatigue of being in the same position all day, and then all night when I study for the MBA for another 25 hours a week.
    Being able to read in any comfortable position, either on a lawn chair or curled up on the couch, is a major plus.
    I have friends who tried the Sony e-reader and didn’t like it much and then bought a Kindle a few months later. That is what I have and I like the non-glare surface for when I am reading with a bedside lamp. I can even clip a reading light on to it. Some of the covers come with a built-in reading light.

    I added:

    Rachel, very grateful for your comments and will certainly help me to make the transition!

  3. mubbisherahmed says:

    Dave Shorrock said the following on a social media site:

    What are the last 3 books you bought? Are they available as e-books? if you are interested in books on architecture or photography, how do they look on an e-reader? When did you last lend a book to a friend? Just some thoughts that might help you decide.

    I replied:

    Dave, thanks for your thought provoking questions. Will certainly come in handy.

    Would you be without your e-reader, though?

    Dave replied:

    OK, I confess, I don’t have one. I prefer the look and feel of a bound book. I look at my bookshelves and see a reflection of my life.

    That said, I read the NT Times every day on my iPhone (but then newspapers are ephemeral). And I expect to buy the new iPad when it’s released.

    I replied:

    No probs, I think like yourself, I will just have to take the plunge and find out for myself!

    Roger Wilson added:

    I am an avid reader and have been since a young age. My wife bought me an Amazon Kindle for Xmas and I have to say it is incredible. The ‘pages’ have the look of a book and with a cover (not one of the overly expensive one’s I might add!) it feels like a special bound book. That said, I don’t think I could ever migrate completely away from paper books. Perhaps it is withdrawal symptoms but I alternate between the kindle and the inevitable back log of books I keep by my bedside table. Thus, both have a place in my life. Oh and I do have a daily newspaper on my kindle…the only thing that’s missing is sudoku but I was never very good at it anyway!

  4. mubbisherahmed says:

    Richard Whaley said the following on a social media site:

    I asked myself the same question about 3D tv a few weeks ago as I purchased a new TV system for the family for Christmas. Of course, the evolution of e-Readers is of paramount interest to me as a publisher.

    Certainly, the e-Reader technology is improving. Accolade had made a decission not to publish on the Kindle due to the limited and poor graphics. But now with the IPAD, we are re-evaluating our decissions.

    Digital rights are a significant issue for a publisher. Writers must be compensated for their work and it is the job of the publisher to collect fees from readers and pay writers to ensure a continued flow of quality material. To release a book in PDF format provides that book for free to all who wish to “borrow” a copy from a friend and fails to compensate the writer. We, as are many other publishers are looking at the Digital Rights Management (DRM) options of various platforms.

    When this issue is resolved and the technology becomes stable, meaning we publishers do not need to support dozens of different formats each year, then I think you will really see a move toward electronic publication.

    Read more about this on our web site: http://www.AccoladePublications.com

    I replied:

    Richard, good to hear your thoughts once again on a completely different topic, especially from a publisher’s point of view.

    Yes, I agree with you, I suppose the issue of writers being compensated for their intellectual property is analogous to the music industry and writers need to be compensated as without their contributions, where would mankind be?

    DRM and multiple format support is hindering progress and I think you are correct that once that is resolved adoption of e-readers will mothball.

    Very appreciative that you have given your thoughts from a publisher’s perspective and I have included a link on my blog to your thoughts as well, as I think writers and readers should view the opportunities and challenges that e-readers present to both publishers and writers.

    The link is at the bottom, under For More:

    A publisher’s point of view on e-readers – Accolade Publishing


    George Sagan added the following:

    I own a Kindle. For sequential reading through a fiction book it’s great. For non-sequential reading of technical or reference manuals, not so great.

    1. You can change the size of the text as your eyes get tired.
    2. The Kindle is not backlit. It relies on light reflecting off the screen like a piece of paper. I don’t understand why, but I find this far easier on my eyes than looking at a backlit LCD.
    3. Because it’s B&W only, all the pixels are dedicated to greyscale, providing a very sharp image–much sharper than color, and the contrast is very easy to read.
    4. The image requires power only to place it on the screen, after which no power is required to maintain the image. So the battery live is several days. I sometimes read two or three books between recharging.
    5. You can read in direct sunlight. The brighter the light, the easier to read. The image does not wash out like LCD’s. Reading in the dark is easy with the built in external lamps on many of the sleeves.
    6. Very slim, lightweight, and cool (temperature, not Fonzi cool). The Kindle is lighter than a paperback book and very comfortable to hold in one hand while reading. It generates no detectable heat. The screen size is comparable to a small paperback. The unit can fit in a coat pocket.

    1. For non-sequential reading, such as reference books, where you jump around in the text often, it’s simply more cumbersome than a book or a touch screen enabled reader such as an iPad.
    2. You cannot scale the text for non-Kindle formats such as HTML, pdf’s, and xpf’s; so for documents based on 8.5 x 11 sheet size you have to pan the screen as you read or switch to landscape and page down a lot.
    3, Without shrinking the text down to unreadable size, you cannot view long sequences of text or large images on one page. For installation steps, checklists, cross-reference tables, etc., the dedicated readers just aren’t as good as an 8.5 x 11″ sheet of paper.
    4. While you can annotate, you can’t just scribble all over the page free-form. User notes show up as a link.

    I replied:

    George, it is a real pity that I cannot rate answers on discussion forums. Very thoughtful list of Pros/Cons. It is so good that in another Group, someone was hesitant to buy a Kindle, so I posted your feedback (anonymously) to help his decision making.

    Very grateful.

  5. mubbisherahmed says:

    Greg Wanlin posted the following on a social media site:

    I read a lot of books when travelling, in particular on flights. For me, e-readers are a non-starter as long as electronic devices have to be switched off for take off and landing.

    I replied:

    Greg, that is a unique perspective. I hadn’t quite thought of it that way!

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