The saying ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’ is passé. ‘Don’t judge an e-book by its thumbnail’ is what the current trend seems to be.
In recent times, every hobby and interest has been finding its cyber-counterparts: Footballers became FIFA players, anyone with a camera became a photographer, writers became bloggers, and readers became online readers. The vast cyber-space leaves us with endless possibilities to expand the new hobbies. Similarly, books are now e-books, magazines are webpages, and short jokes are tweets.
There is only a minor difference between reading from a physical book and an e-book. What part of this is making a difference? Is there a difference? How different is it to read from holding a book and looking at a screen and reading from it?
In early 2012, the amount of eBook downloads in Amazon for Kindle was at 180 compared to every 100 hardcovers that were sold and this has been steadily increasing. During May 2012, the sale of eBooks increased a staggering 160 per cent and in 2013, it has further shot up to 207 per cent. This means, in some corner of this world, there is a parent reading a bedtime story to his/her child from an iPad/Tablet/Kindle. Try to picture that and compare it with how it was read to you. What trade of values are we doing here? How different is flipping through a page compared to scrolling down a pdf file?
Going with changes
In a practical sense, it comes down to convenience. We have “on-the-go” versions of everything and in such a fast-paced society; no one finds the time to go about reading a book at leisure. Moreover, an online article is convenient to read while you are on your way to somewhere. You cannot lose it and you can share it with all your friends accompanied by “A must-read, guys!” or “An eye-opener!!” amongst other cool phrases.
Another attraction to online reading is the pace at which you get information and also its ability to put everyone on the hot seat. A place from where you are not merely a spectator but also a critic. Online social networking and blogging have given people this edge of being in the front seat and “reviewing” it.
Online content writing is a profession like any writer’s in today’s world and the market is big. Every new publication and magazine have their online versions to cater to their on-the-go readers who only have that 40-minute bus ride to their college or work to get some reading done. Plus, you don’t have to chop a tree to make an article online.
The reasons for online reading to have reached the height which took books over thousands of years to achieve, is evident. So, the only difference between an online article and a book is the packaging. The content can be exactly the same. In which case, how does the packaging affect the feel of reading?
Samdura Gupta, a UI/UX designer from Think Places and an ardent reader from his childhood feels that the entire act of reading has completely changed in recent times. “The newspaper/magazine reading has gone online for me. I would still read a real book, if it’s for leisure. There’s something about a nice cosy corner, with a dimly lit light and a nice book in hand. But online reading isn’t half as intimate as reading a hardcover but it’s the way forward and definitely more eco-friendly, at least at the outset.”
Incorporating these changes, from a business point of view is always a hard task to accomplish. Businesses and industries have been moulding their infrastructure and marketing to suit current trends.
Old world charm
A book is a book; a physical copy that you hold and share an invisible bond with. It was a gift from a friend who managed to get the author’s signature on it. A book is right there, in your shelf. You still have that chocolate wrapper that you flattened out and kept in there when you were in Std VI. The book has aged with you. The blot made from a tear drop when you read about Dumbledore’s death in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. It is all there and we covet it.
I wonder how it would feel to be emotionally touched by something that came through an electronic display. A newspaper even, in this respect, can be seen as something valuable — the cut-outs from when your junior division football team’s picture came on the local paper or when you had won the science exhibition. These are the private moments we share with a physical copy. The words are alive and the content is valuable sometimes merely cause it has been ours and in our room the whole time. There is a certain vibe we get off a book which online reading lacks.
All in all, reading a book is your private affair while online reading is like a movie theatre where everyone is there and you are very much conscious about watching a movie the whole time. It is just a matter of choice.