“Whenever you read a good book, somewhere in the world a door opens to allow in more light.” –Vera Nazarian
We’re not sure about the rest of the world but most Indians seem to agree. According to a news report from 2016, India is the sixth largest book market across the globe and is also the second largest among English speaking countries. About a year prior to the publication of this report, estimates suggested that there were about 19,000 publishing houses in our country. The fact that we are a country of book lovers is evident from the fact that each year over 90,000 book titles are published here and some of the world’s best-known book fairs are held in India. India’s book market was pegged INR 261 billion (2015) and expected to go up to INR 739 billion by the year 2020. So now that we have settled the “book or no book” debate, here’s a new one that has avid readers split down the middle – “Which is better – print (paper) books or e-books?”
Where is the Space?
One of the biggest problems that the introduction of e-books solved is that of storage. One of the greatest woes of a voracious reader is that of storage space. Books are bulky, heavy, and difficult to store/maintain. Then came in digital readers such as the Kindle and a little device, hardly larger than a thin book came to hold thousands of books! What’s more, these devices connect to the Internet making book exchange, purchase, rating and reviewing a matter of a few clicks. These come with backlights and touch features making reading possible anywhere. You can carry an entire library in a small bag or case.
According to a study, about 70 percent of the publishing houses in the country have started to digitize their books. Self-publishing has propelled the e-books market to greater heights. The sheer simplicity of the e-commerce platform that makes it easy to buy and read e-books without the need to visit a store or wait for delivery has further increased the popularity of digital books.
One of the popular arguments that colours this Printed books vs. e-books debate particularly in the Indian context is one of cost. E-book readers such as Kindle are quite expensive. The average Indian may not be willing to pay in thousands for such a device. On the flip side is the fact that the long-term costs involved in reading digital books often work out to our advantage. E-books are almost always cheaper than printed books. This is because the publishing costs of e-books are far less than paper books. While devices such as the Kindle reader do indeed come with a pocket pinch, we much consider than there are many free reading applications ready for download on smartphones and tablets. Combined with the fact that there are millions of pdfs and digital copies of books available online (many of them for free), digital books is a clear choice for those who are cost conscious.
The Smell of New Books
While we can be certain that printed books are here to stay, we may be equally sure that there are very strong reasons for the enduring life of paper books. The touch and feel of printed books is a quality that most of us avid readers have come to love. The smell of books is one of the heady experiences that a book lover is very attached to. So much so that the smell of old books or libraries distinctly remind us of people or memories from childhood. The joy that comes with gifting books, scribbling small notes of affection in books, passing down a favourite through the generations, and crafting creative bookmarks – the beauty of the intangible but very real pleasure of reading a printed book cannot be replaced by a reader or a handheld device.
One of the greatest advantages of a digital book that cannot possibly be denied is that it is extremely environment-friendly and does away with the need to cut down hundreds of trees for a single publication. Printed paper books can, however, be shared while e-books cannot be. The social and family bonding of sharing a book, of sitting with your children and looking or reading together cannot be replaced. While the world is quickly moving towards a technology based digital experience, reading seems to be on a different plane altogether. Crime thrillers do not seem to have the same thrill when read on a mobile device.