What makes both opticians and environmentalists happy?

Google recently launched its ebooks service. Of course it already had GoogleBooks, but with this new sub-service (at the moment only available in the USA) they are directly starting competition with other ebook sellers like Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Apart from the obvious economic reasons why they entered this business, this made me reflect on eBooks in general. I am still not quite sure wether to embrace technology in this context, or rather be skeptic.
First of all, I have to admit that I still buy actual books (through the Internet, though), despite the fact I have them in an electronic format on my computer as well. The reason for this? It’s hard to explain. It’s a feeling… . To actually feel a book, flip through its pages, fold it, write on it, spill coffee on it, live it! Open it for the first time, inhale the fresh smell of paper and ink while gently going through it (whispering “my precious…”). In general, the whole process of buying a book, crashing in your couch, unpacking it, etc. is really a romantic moment in which you have eye for nothing else than your book. One can easily make the parallel with the evolution in the record business (LP’s => CD’s => mp3’s).

There are however some advantages to e-books as well. You have all the books in the world at just a click away, wherever you go, on just this tiny device. It is (often) possible to copy pieces, look up certain parts/words and sometimes even make your device read the book to you. Additionally, one could say the environment immensely benefits of it as well. Having your book in a digital format also offers a whole new range of (interactive) possibilities ‘writers’ can add to their works. Finally, e book stores offer a whole new kind of peer recommendations. People can rate books and you can see what other books were read by people who also bought your book. And all of this on a global level.
From a more economic point of view, they benefit publishers enormously. After first being a bit skeptic towards it, they thankfully embrace e-books now. With this new format, they do not have any production costs, no distribution costs, no shop costs, etc. The prices however, stay more or less the same! Additionally, when you ‘buy’ an e-book, you do not actually ‘buy’ it. Just as with digital music you enter in a license agreement with the publisher. You do not ‘own’ the music/book, you can just use it. As a consequence, you cannot do everything with it as if you would have had it in a physical format (or as legal scholars would say: fair use is blocked)… .

In short, e-books are more efficient and portable; less damaging to the environment; more interactive; etc. Old-skool books at the other hand, are more romantic, more beautiful, more personal and you can lend them to your friends, etc.

It is clear that the arguments pro e-books are a lot more ‘objective’. The very subjective and personal counter arguments make traditional book-lovers very fierce in their defense. Rational people will switch to e-books more easily than romanticists… .
One could think of a discussion between wife and husband. The first starts talking about her emotions or why she feels a certain way, whereas the latter comes up with practical arguments to solve the issue. Instead of doing so, he should just listen and be quiet. The wife, at the other side, should not get even more agitated because he just tries to hand some reasonable arguments. The two, instead, should just live together in peace… .

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