Richard MacManus at ReadWriteWeb has written a pair of articles considering the advantages that e-books and printed books have over each other. E-books get the nod for social highlighting, notes, look-up of words, ability to tweet and Facebook quotes, and search; paper books get it for feel, packaging, sharing, keeping, and second-hand books.
I can’t help but find both of these lists a little lame.
The e-books list seems to place an undue emphasis on social networking (the ability to tweet and Facebook quotes? Really? Something that only the Kindle has, and even it only got in April?) and leaves out such huge advantages as the ability to carry dozens or hundreds of books in one pocket-sized device, the instant gratification of having a book in your hand immediately after you decide to purchase it, or the way any e-book can be large-print with a simple font setting tweak.
Furthermore, despite the claim in the paper books list that they can’t, e-books can be “lent” in some cases more easily than printed ones. The Nook allows you to “lend” an e-book to a friend, for instance (though the feature does come up a bit lacking in the actual execution)—and needless to say, any book without DRM can be “lent” by e-mail.
As for the paper books list: again, why should “feel” even be in the running as an advantage? It’s nice and all, but I don’t consider the tactile experience to be a factor in any purchasing decision. And as for “keeping”, e-books can be copied, backed up, and stored in ways that paper books can’t. (And what about the days when books were printed on acidic paper that slowly crumbled away into dust? How “keepable” were those books?)
Still, I do agree with MacManus’s conclusion:
In summary, there are pros and cons for both paper books and eBooks. The eBook market is ripe for innovation and breakthroughs in how we read, so eBooks will only improve over the coming years.
In the final analysis though, the real value of any book – whether read via paper or electronically – is in the words.