E-books, the real reading experience?

So I must admit I have always had a pretty set and sure opinion on e-books. Let me start by saying this, I just can’t see myself sitting down to read Jane Austen in the sunshine then looking down to find myself staring at the pages of her novel on, well essentially, a computer screen. Where has the magic gone? I don’t get to feel the pages or fiddle with the edges or mark my place with the bookmark my Grandma gave me. I love books, walking into a book shop, casting my eyes over the hundreds of titles, feeling surrounded by words and ideas. That feeling, in my opinion, just can’t be equated into browsing through a list of links on amazon.com.

But when I began my research I was willing to open my mind and see if I could be convinced that ebooks were the way of the future. So let’s consider the pros based on my research. First and fore mostly I had failed to consider the environmental benefits of an ebook, as Remez Sasson writes,

‘No trees are required to manufacture paper for the pages of ebooks’ (Source: Remez Sasson 2012, ‘The Benefits and Advantages of Ebooks’, Accessed at: http://www.successconsciousness.com/ebooks_benefits.htm ).

Next of course comes the portability of an ebook, lighter and smaller than most conventional books, there is obvious benefits with storage and transportation as Sasson also notes,

‘Ebooks take up less space. You practically don’t need any space to store them. You don’t need a library or a room for them. You can store hundreds and thousands of ebooks on your computer or reading device.’ (Source: Remez Sasson 2012, ‘The Benefits and Advantages of Ebooks’, Accessed at: http://www.successconsciousness.com/ebooks_benefits.htm )

Similarly noted in the article ‘The Ebook debate’:

‘…with my Newton I immediately recognized the potential of digital readers, since I quickly filled it with a number of books that I could carry around all the time.’ (Source: ‘The Ebook debate’ 2008, Accessed at: http://www.humanismus.com/_/The_Ebook_Debate.html)

I do see the potential in this aspect of the ebook and it’s ability to make life easier for the user. During my research I encountered the suggestion that perhaps the market for ebooks is for heavy textbooks, medical texts etc. That maybe the need isn’t there for novels, but perhaps for these forms of text an ebook presents great potential. This idea supported by Walt Crawford who states,

‘Forget replacing mass-market paperbacks; ebook vendors should look to replace bulky, overpriced, hard-to update, print books.’ (Source: Crawford, W 2006, ‘Why Aren’t Ebooks more successful, Econtent, vol. 29, no.8, pp. 44-44. Accessed: http://web.ebscohost.com/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=2f3d9440-e24e-40c4-a52f-47c6a2017df7%40sessionmgr110&vid=2&hid=125)

On the contrary many still argue on my side, that the magic of books is simply that ‘the magic of a book’. But also the sustainability of the resource, a book essentially has the ability to last forever, although an ebook’s technology has the potential to become outdated. This idea is supported by the author Franzen, as noted in Anita Singh’s article for ‘The Telegraph’, ‘Jonathan Franzen: e-books are damaging society’:

‘“The technology I like is the American paperback edition of Freedom. I can spill water on it and it would still work! So it’s pretty good technology. And what’s more, it will work great 10 years from now. So no wonder the capitalists hate it. It’s a bad business model,” said Franzen, who famously cuts off all connection to the internet when he is writing.’  (Source: Singh, A 2012, ‘Jonathan Franzen: e-books are damaging society’, ‘The Telegraph’, Accessed: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/hay-festival/9047981/Jonathan-Franzen-e-books-are-damaging-society.html)

Finally Franzen supports my somewhat nostalgic ideas of books and memories of childhood and reading my great grandmothers copy of ‘Winnie the Pooh’ and feeling a connection to the history of the pages.

‘Speaking at the Hay Festival in Cartagena, Colombia, Franzen argued that e-books, such as Amazon’s Kindle, can never have the magic of the printed page.’   (Source: Singh, A 2012, ‘Jonathan Franzen: e-books are damaging society’, ‘The Telegraph’, Accessed: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/hay-festival/9047981/Jonathan-Franzen-e-books-are-damaging-society.html)

My question, can an ebook every emulate this history and magic?

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Flipped Lecture 3: ‘2057: The City of the Future’

The documentary ‘2057: The City of the Future’ is presented in a creative manner, aiming to illustrate the development of technology into the future. Integrating real scientific advancements and a fictional narrative of the ‘City of the Future’ in 2057, the documentary attempts to demonstrate the positives that can be linked with the development of technology, as well as the dangers in relying so heavily upon technology in the future.

What I found most interesting within this documentary was the real scientific developments it documented, such as; self driving cars and the development of robots. But what I found most intriguing about these developments in science was the fact that almost all the scientists noted how a computer is many, many levels below the human brain and it’s ability to face challenges. So this begs the question by creating these new technologies we aim to remove human error, but really by doing this are we just increasing the dependence upon technology and thus making society more susceptible to technological errors?

I did some further research into the potential technological developments of the future and found an interesting website, futuretimeline.net. This website like the documentary predicted future developments in the future, specifically for 2050-2059 the following ideas were listed:

 

‘2050-2059 timeline contents

2050 – Humanity is at a crossroads | Nearly half of the Amazon rainforest has been deforested | Wildfires have tripled in some regions | Smaller, safer, hi-tech automobiles | Major advances in air travel comfort |Continent-wide “supergrids” provide much of the world’s energy needs | China completes the largest water diversion project in history

2051 – An interstellar radio message arrives at Gliese 777 | Britain holds its centennial national exhibition

2053 – Moore’s Law reaches stunning new levels | Genetically engineered “designer babies” for the rich

2055 – Spaceflight has taken a leap forward | The vast majority of countries have achieved democracy |Global population is reaching a plateau | Traditional media have fragmented and diversified

2056 – Global average temperatures have risen by 3°C | Fully synthetic humans are becoming technically feasible

2057 – Computers reach another milestone | Handheld MRI scanners

2058 – The Beatles’ music catalogue enters the public domain | A radio telescope is built on the Moon

2059 – The end of the oil age | Mars has a permanent human presence by now’

(Source: Future Timeline 2012, 2050-2059 Timeline Contents)

This source alone in comparison with the documentary demonstrates that it proves very ambiguous to attempt to predict the future, as both sources presented different interpretations about how the future of technology and thus the world may look. Ultimately I think the documentary was aiming to highlight the infinite possibilities for technology in the future. Whilst also warning it’s audience that as a human society there is definite harm in relying too heavily upon technology to dictate all facets of our lives. I think this quote from PCWorld’s article ‘The Next 25 years in Tech’ highlights the weakness in attempting to prove the technological future, by drawing upon  the past:

‘The future ain’t what it used to be. In the pre-PC era, futurists predicted huge changes in transportation. By 2008 we would be flitting about in personal jetpacks and taking vacations on the moon. But the communications revolution spurred by personal computers and the Internet wasn’t on anyone’s radar.’ 

(Source: PCWorld: ‘The Next 25 years in Tech’ 2008)