Some months ago, I made a post about why it wasn’t such a good idea to invest in ebooks. The thinking was – and still is – that investing in ebooks with unresolved questions such as being able to read books across devices, the long-term viability of certain ebooks, and even the various containers that encourage or prohibit ebook reading makes for a tumutilous time if you are wondering if its a good time to go ebook or not.
And the truth is, I am not sure if it is a good time yet. Yet, today, I took the plunge by purchasing my first Kindle book on my iPad. And for the type of reading that this is, I think I can see where ebooks do have a profitable, and actually advanteageous niche.
The book that I purchased is titled Abusing Scripture: the Consequences of Misreading the Bible and is basically an academic, theological, and sociological look at different abuses to handling Scripture that have occured within evangeltical (and to some extent, all) Christian circles. This is a book ripe with footnotes and endnotes and is the kind of read that not only takes time, but is one where I’ve on several times texted friends encouraging them to either purchase the book or to share a quote.
With a print book, this is a simple matter. You see something you like and either type it verbatium or take a picture of a piece of the passage and then share it via MMS or email. There’s nothing illegal about doing this (it falls within fair use for snippets, not entire books). To my friends, they probably have a bit too much information coming their way, and probably would like a better way to triage it.
I had gotten about 90 pages through the paperback when I realized that I didn’t want to pick up or carry the paperback again. It wasn’t that it wasn’t portable enough, nor that it wasn’t intimate enough. I just knew that in the midst of reading that I’d want to do more than highlight or bookmark. I wanted to dig a bit deeper, and here’s where simple paper failed me. For a person that has grown up in increasingly informational times, there are those reads that are just great (immersive) reads, and those reads like this one where it adds considerable value to the reading experience to be able to cross-reference and dig a bit deeper.
So, I pulled out my iPad, downloaded the Kindle app, and purchased Abusing Scripture in less than 5min. It took me a while to find where I left off, as the page numbers for the ebook didn’t equate to the paperback, but once I did, I was just as comfortable reading on the iPad as I had been the paper. A person watching me read (the iPad was on a table in front of me) even asked how I liked the Kindle. Though letting her know that it was just the kindle app for the iPad, it was still readily apparent that I was reading differently and at the same time little changed.
It is a bit of a two-edged sword to go this route. I’ve spent weeks looking at the various ebook formats and ebook stores. I’m even considering selling the iPad for the latest Kindle (seriously). Because of this, I made some choice value judgements: what ebook companies will be around for the forseeable future; what kind of content will I stick to purchasing in print versus digital; what are potential hurdles; and a number of other questions. I really wanted to make sure before I went with any ebook solution that I was choosing right.
But, the choice became easier as I looked at the types of books that I read and those which I am likely to want to recall for reference, versus pass on as library material. For one, books like Abusing Scripture are great books to co-read with another person. It doesn’t make for a good gift-book because of the type of content and the conversations around it. That being said, after reading it, I’d want to reference it for other readings or writings.
Another aspect to ebooks that works in their favor are in those perodicals that I’d like to read. I’m a huge fan still of magazines and much of my time in bookstores is spent in the magazine section looking at covers, trends, and just glazing content (and offline web browsing experience if you will). I’d like to have a similar experience on the iPad (Kindle, iBooks, or any other reader), but be able to choose those more immersive reading apps like Wired or Popular Science if the content dictates. Ebooks are perfect for such a format.
Where ebooks fall down for me is in those more story-like readings. For example, I have the book Boundaries. I really dig that book, but its one of many that the stories presented always adds the kind of layers to conversations where pulling out the book just makes more sense. Those kinds of books are also the kind where you don’t feel so bad letting someone borrow them. The Nook has a great solution here electronically, would be nice to see other books jump at such a method.
Bibles (and their notes) are different. While I do have a Bible app on my iPad, I’m not yet sure of the right Bible format for larger screened mobile devices. On one hand, having a reading experience that’s similar to a paper bible works, but its an ebook, I’d really like to see something more revlutionary take place because the content is so interconnected. Then also there’s the notes, highlighting, bookmarking aspect of reading the Bible. I’m still not yet pleased with solutions there – but some interesting stuff is happening in this space that’s worth waiting for.
All of this being said, yes, there’s now a book on my iPad. And for the kind of book that it is, having it in an electronic manner makes sense. At some point, perhaps in the near future, perhaps in 5 years or so, this won’t be a decision that needs to be made. It may very well be that the point of paper books will be for those very quality, treasured works to where there is a point in retaining them in that manner. For everything else, having access to it, no matter the device you are reading from, makes more sense. There will need to be some considerable innovations on the side of licensing and formatting, but it will come.
Until then, make careful decisions on what goes ebook and what doesn’t. And then read for longevity where possible. If it is something that will become a box of books that will eventually be recycled (not donated), then ebook just might be the better call.