I’m not a fan of digital textbooks. Before my hard copies come in the mail, I’ve been forced to pore over previews provided by Google Books. Besides the fact that the books have put me to sleep once or twice, the experience wasn’t otherwise enjoyable. Having to stare at the tiny letters for over an hour isn’t my idea of fun. But if I wanted to stay caught up while waiting for my real textbooks, I had to persist. I did – but only grudgingly.
Yet, every quarter I think I find more offerings to download my books online. For the most part, it’s cheaper. And it’s also greener. There are no production costs and no paper used! While this may seem like a blessing I’m frightened by the downfall of the physical textbooks and regular books. I stare at a screen all day anyways; I prefer not have to stare at it while I’m enjoying light reading. Yet I could metaphorically hear the nail being hammered into the coffin when I got the news that Borders is filing for bankruptcy. Barnes and Noble is still strong since it’s riding the ebook wave with it’s eReader the Nook but there doesn’t seem to be demand for companies that just sell books in print.
Borders has always been a favorite store of mine. While Barnes and Noble seems almost formal with its bustling Starbucks carrying customers and forest green designs, Borders has always seemed more comfortable and relaxed. I’ll be sad to see its stores go. But in order to survive you have to compete. Without an e-reader out, Borders doesn’t really stand a chance.
Something that’s even more telling of the popularity of digital texts is the rapid growth in the tablet PC market. After Apple’s iPad launch last year, it seems like other computer companies are scrambling to catch up in the race for the best tablet. This year brings us the Apple iPad 2, Motorola XOOM, HP TouchPad, and more. More people than ever own tablet PC’s. A tablet PC isn’t the same as an eReader, but consumers purchasing more and more of these products it doesn’t make sense for the average person to own both devices. People are going to have to choose but either way, the ebook market wins.
Even public libraries have jumped on the digital bandwagon. It’s inevitable that sometime in the near future, people will be more reliant on ebooks than traditional hard copies. Even in the past few weeks, I’ve talked to students deliberating between buying a Kindle or suffering through carrying their books around. And considering Stanford’s efforts to be both green and up-to-date with current technological trends, it’s a wonder of how long it will take our student body to make the conversion. For print texts, with its popularity declining, the end may not be imminent but it’s definitely getting there.
O, and in the spirit of Valentine’s Day, if you’re a fan of e-readers here’s a few gift ideas and deals.