Everyone prefers real books, books printed on beautiful paper, books with amazing illustrations, with photographs and extensive references. Don't they? Even Amazon has opened a real book store in the US...
But E-books can be wonderful too. E-book and paperback fiction sales are catching up with each other and it's not hard to see why. With e-books and e-book readers you can increase the text size, have the books 'read' to you and, especially with out of copyright texts, you can get them for free. And however many pages they stretch to you won't feel that carrying one is a substitute for weight lifting exercise.
Of course the texts you can read aren't confined to books of all genre, you can now get most newspapers, magazines and journals in e-book format. Most charge a subscription fee, but you can still find free or reasonably priced edtitions. The Times, Independant and Guardian and most of the tabloids have online versions. Magazines are too numerous to name but they include the Oldie which now has an app for ipads which is very good for poorly sighted subscribers.
You can read texts on any computer but the new Kindles and Kobo readers are designed for the purpose. The main advantages of these readers are that they are lightweight, the batteries last a reasonable length of time and the screens make it easier to read the text than on a desk top computer. They are basically tablet computers and similar to i-pads, but they are generally single function devices. The main disadvantages are that they are tied to a main supplier, such as Amazon (Kindle) and WH Smith (Kobo). And although you can 'bookmark' pages and highlight text you can't add pencil comments!
The adverts always stress the fact that you can carry 100's of books around on one small pocket sized device. But, I don't know about you, but I can generally only read one passage at a time and don't normally have more than, say, two books on the go at the same time. Since my student days (and my mature student days, too) I haven't needed to dip into various texts and keep them all to hand. And e-readers are mainly written for the fiction market in mind anyway. So OK, if you want to take a few books on holiday with you or you have a sudden urge to declutter your book shelves then you may want 100's of books on one device.
One worry I have is that, although it is likely that real books will survive, it's also likely that some small booksellers will go out of business, especially if people just go into them to browse and then buy the book online or in the form of an e-book. And their existence provides an argument - not a good one, I think - that we will have less need for libraries. I certainly hope no-one listens to that one.
Still - if you are a fiction writer looking to publish it may be worth investigating further. If you are the rest of us might be interested to hear your story....
Web sites such as Project Gutenberg, http://www.gutenberg.org/wiki/Main_Page
and BookShouldBeFree http://www.booksshouldbefree.com/ are well worth investigating.
If you really want to go into the technical details this article may give more than you ever wanted to know:
and this one is useful:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E-book_readers There's an interesting reference to some research that says these devices are as popular if not more so with older than younger readers!
Share your thoughts
What do you think? Do you think e-books are really useful for older readers? Do you think technology is for everyone, not just the young? Do you want more information about them?
It would be good to know. E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Please also see my article on Painting - watercolours and my blog at http://chrisbakerwatercolours.wordpress.com