Monday, November 2, 2015

What EBooks Could Be

Some bloggers have been lamenting the EBook bust.

As one who writes for younger readers, I observed that the EBook boom never happened for them. Neither picture books nor novels for pre-teens have been great sellers in that format.

Why? Aren’t young’uns crazy about devices? Don’t they want their books on a handy-dandy virtual page, like the rest of their social life?

A writing friend commented that the problem with EBooks is that they fail to use, really use, the electronic features they are capable of having that would have made them different.

EBooks, as they are now, are just computer files with nothing more than the print text and the ability to enlarge it, or even find certain words.
The capability that we have come to expect from any website or digital article would make books better, in ways, than print. Digitized text could be made to have "extra layers" not only in the way DVDs contained more features than the film, but so much more. EBooks could have highlighted words that would take the reader to side videos, moving clips, or extra material, which includes sound.

This would mean higher production costs, but publishers get a near-free ride with EBooks as they are now. No warehousing, shipping, printing or dealing with worn returns. For a single process of file conversion they have a product that costs pennies, with a few more to the distributor, (mostly Amazon) and is “in print” forever. It behooves publishers to make a different and distinctive product if they really want to make true “electronic books,” or EBooks.

But we are so not there yet. As it is now, there is no compelling reason to read on kindle even if the price is right and you can haul a whole bunch of books in one light device. Few kids read a whole bunch of books at once anyhow.

Where they do use it, increasingly, is for textbooks. As school systems force this conversion, kids don’t mind not having to haul those books. But this is different from pleasure reading.
And no matter what, you can’t hug your favorite volume, your most beloved book, if it’s a file on an E-reader. That is why they need to give us something more in exchange.


  1. My daughter loves being on my Kindle and the iPad, but she prefers to read books in print. I think it's that kids like to point to the words when they read to keep their place, and that's awkward on a screen. You wind up activating the dictionary feature or swiping the page.

    1. Good point^ about the pointing on the touch screen, Kelly. I hadn't thought of that. That's one down for EBooks...

  2. I see the push for e-textbooks but we've splurged on the print ones because you simply cannot compare the visual of a 2-pg spread in a physics or biology book to an itty-bitty snippet on the kindle. Maybe the computer but for whatever reason, the ability to thumb through the book is far superior in a print version than an electronic format.

    I am a huge NF reader and cannot read NF on a kindle. That's only for fiction that I race through ... So my bookshelves are overflowing still along with piles of books everywhere.

    That said my kids use the kindle mostly for entertainment -- games, music, movies, news but rarely a book. Sigh.

  3. I love the thought of links in nonfiction works, but for fiction, I really want to get into that uninterrupted zone when I read.
    My eleven year old is a total techie,and even he still prefers printed books. He usually has three or four in his backpack on any given day - in fact, as soon as he gets home from school, we're headed to the bookstore to pick up the new Wimpy Kid book :D

  4. Great points, Mirka. I agree completely. Textbooks are about the only type of reading that it really makes sense to have as EBooks only. All others should at least have the option for hard copies.

  5. I have two young teen granddaughters and they actually prefer to read a book over a tablet etc. I guess I'm glad they enjoy the best of both worlds.

  6. Absolutely. I bought Kindle because I could change the font size, but I can't use it when I'm feeling delicate after or before a migraine and I can't navigate it as easily as flipping through a book, I can't share it with friends as easily and as you say I can't hug or smell its leaves with pure pleasure either. I am glad real books are back. Hoorah!

  7. I have nephews who do enjoy reading on a tablet but most kids here still read print books. As long as they are reading ...