Since the Kindle was first released to the world in November 2007, Amazon’s revolutionary wireless reading device has divided opinion throughout the literary world. With the announcement on Radio 4 this week that Waterstone’s are to launch their very own e-reader in early Spring 2012, we look at the debate surrounding the move to the digital world.
The effect on the environment is a question which crops up time and time again. As with all technological advances, what will happen to all of the Kindles and iPads when a shinier, newer version comes out? We’re all guilty of it, going out to buy the new iPod or the new mobile phone. Electronic waste is a huge problem in the modern world, with e-waste often ending up in landfills or incinerators instead of being recycled, and toxic substances contained within contaminate the land, air and water. A book, on the other hand, can last hundreds of years and then upon its demise it can be recycled. Also, drop a book and you may bend a page or two, but drop a kindle and you’ve just made electronic garbage, a problem for the same reason.
On the other hand, publishers can often print too many books, many of which then get destroyed. A point in question was the story just less than a year ago that showed 80,000 copies of Jonathon Franzen’s novel ‘Freedom’ had to pulped due to typographical errors, with the pulping process involving a complete waste of energy, water and paper. Comparatively, the e-book version could be easily updated with one software update. Also in the e-books defence, few books are printed on recycled paper and much of the ink used when printing is far from natural. Also, there’s the environmental impact of the books being distributed to the bookstores by plane, ship and by road. It would seem the question of which really has the smaller environmental footprint has no conclusive answer.
Unlike a good old-fashioned book, the Kindle does not allow you to fill your living room shelves with pretty books that can be read and passed on to family and friends. Sharing is, to many, at the heart of reading. Bearing this in mind, sites separate to Amazon such as www.lendle.me and www.booklending.com allow users to ‘lendle’, providing the facility to share and read e-books for free. However the loan is only for two weeks, after which time the e-book is returned to the original user, giving a lot less flexibility than a real book can offer.
It would appear Amazon has joined this train of thought, with a report today highlighting that Amazon is looking to move into the e-book rental market. The move would see Amazon making a deal with publishers, where customers would pay an annual fee to access a library of content, another move in Amazon’s growing domination of the online book trade (a discussion for another day!) But if Amazon does move into the book lending service, what will this mean for libraries? If publishers were to buy into the service, it would give you the access to borrow an e-book without having to leave the house at all. A positive or a worrying prospect?
Compact as it is, and subsequently useful for long trips to store book upon book all in one place available for your perusal at any time, the Kindle does not have the look or feel of a nice printed novel. With no real pages to turn, the process loses its tactile quality, a sad fact also in the digital movement already seen with music.
Interestingly, a study by the Nielsen Norman Group in July last year found that people thought books are ‘faster’ and ‘more relaxing’ to read but iPads and kindles are ‘more satisfying’.
But what do you think to all of the above? Do e-books or real books win? We’d love to hear your thoughts…