Ebooks are not going away, ever. Amazon now sells more ebooks than print books. In Canada, 16% of books purchased are digital. Ebook sales in the UK increased over 188% in the first six months of 2012. More and more people are consuming their books from a screen, and I’m having trouble mustering righteous anger about it–but if you stick your neck out and say the word “ebook,” you’ll still get people lobbing “those aren’t real books!” at you.
Can this argument be over? Is it possible to think of your preferred method of reading as your primary method, and the other options as supplements/choices/possibilities, instead of thinking of them as the enemy? While I don’t necessarily agree that all reading material is equal (you’ll never catch me saying “at least they’re reading!”), I do think that all reading methods are equal.
I understand that lovers of the physical book (and I count myself as one of them) are nervous that the rise of the ebook will mean the death of print, but I honestly do not see that happening. Publishing is a business at the bottom of its grubby, lovely heart, so as long as you guys are out there demanding pretty new hardcovers for your shelves, they will supply. And I understand that the feel and smell of books matters to you, that having shelves lined with books makes your house feel like the place where you belong. Just keep doing what you’re doing.
Digital folks appreciate not having to dust as much as we do. They appreciate that content is content, and they don’t crave the smell of tree pulp and ink. The convenience and pricing of electronic reading are impossible to resist for these readers. Their tiny apartments (or big houses, who cares) feel more open, they don’t have to carry as much when they move. There’s a zen-like minimalism to an ereader. Keep doing what you’re doing, too.
Perhaps it’s time to recognize that there is no content delivery method that is more noble than the other. While the two hypothetical types of readers I mentioned above represent starkly different aesthetics, the truth is that most of us are an amalgamation of the two. Almost every reader of ebooks that I know still owns physical books. There is no us vs. them–let’s stop acting like there is. This isn’t the hill we want to die on. Let’s move on to fights that are worth having, like saving our local libraries or fighting illiteracy.