The Corel World # 7: Viva la eBook Revolution!

A long time ago, in the dark days when MC Hammer pants were still considered fashionable, cellphones were the size of cinder blocks and Steve Urkel ruled the Earth with an iron fist, people did this really insane thing: they read books… made of paper.

I know, “Impossible!” you say. “A book? Made of paper? What kind of uncivilized hillbilly bumpkins existed in this horrible age?! Surely you jest!” Trust me. It’s all true.

Around that very same time, I was working as a lowly editor in the publishing industry and attended a conference held by a large Canadian printer. One of the panelists mentioned that he’d been speaking with several companies in the U.S. about the possibility of creating… digital books. He added that maybe someday the printed book might even become *gasp* obsolete!

Needless to say it caused quite an uproar. Fancy words were shouted, complimentary cheese pastries were hurled, papercuts were inflicted. People couldn’t quite wrap their heads around the fact that digital books might be a reality. It would never take off!

Fast-forward to today and it seems like you can’t toss a printed copy of the Hunger Games without hitting someone in the head using a Kindle, Kobo, Nook or other fancy schmancy digital eReader. And okay, I might be exaggerating a little bit about the demise of the printed word. It’s still hanging in there despite some tough times for publishers, distributors and booksellers (RIP to my homie, Borders – and hang in there, Barnes & Noble). But there’s little doubt that the world has changed and eBooks are here to stay. Just look at new products like (begin shameless marketing plug!) the WordPerfect eBook reader, which works with the newly released WordPerfect Office X6 and lets you create your very own eBook for smartphones and digital readers like the Kindle.

eBooks are clearly well on their way to becoming a dominant new technology. Yet as an avid book collector (which is a polite way of saying “someone who got wedgied a lot in junior high school”), I’d vowed long ago never to get involved in any newfangled e-whatchamacallems. I’d keep my paperback copy of the literary masterpiece known as Curious George, thank you very much.

Then about a year ago I actually picked up a Kindle and flipped through it for the first time. Much to my amazement, I fell in love with the thing. It’s an incredible piece of technology which really got me thinking about how the rise of eBooks might actually be a good thing.

First off, there are the environmental benefits to consider. I remember my old editor telling me about a visit he’d once made to a landfill outside Chicago that was literally filled with nothing but discarded books (for a lot of booksellers, the standard practice for unsold books is to have the covers ripped off and shipped back to the distributor as proof of delivery while the remaining pages are tossed into the garbage or recycled). Considering the waste involved in printing, eBooks might just be a valid alternative that keeps Mother Nature happy while still allowing Twilight fanatics to enjoy reading terrible tween vampire fiction.

The other great thing about eBooks is that it really opens up new avenues for writers. After all, getting published is often as much about luck and perseverance as it is talent, so the rise of the eBook really does level the playing field in terms of being able to reach a whole new audience. Take this dude here for example – a first time author who has literally sold millions of copies of his books on Amazon without so much as a publisher or any kind of print distribution.

So I’ve made my peace with digital readers and jumped on the eBook bandwagon. I’ve already started picking up a few digital versions of books here and there. It turns out that you can enjoy your Kindle and still keep your printed book collection at the same time. Yes, eBooks are here to stay, but don’t worry Curious George, you ain’t going nowhere.

Do you have an eBook reader like the Kindle or Nook? Do you think moving from a print to a digital format is a good thing or a bad thing for books?

About Adam Volk

My name is Adam and I'm a copywriter with Corel’s Marketing Department. In a past life, I've been employed as a book editor, journalist and video game screenwriter. I enjoy reading, biking and cheesy 80s action movies. I can neither confirm nor deny rumors that I am a massive nerd.
This entry was posted in Just for fun, Office productivity, Technology and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to The Corel World # 7: Viva la eBook Revolution!

  1. Adam, I would suggest that one more paradigm needs to be added to your observations: “economies of scale”.

    The increase in paper usage between a 200M population to 300M, is probably less than 60% of what the 300M ~ 400M jump would need, if not for the advent of digital content. For whatever number of decades it might take to flip the percentages of the paper/digital debate, the idea of using paper in much larger quantities than we have to this point, the impact of economic and transportation costs on factors like book length, size, content, quality, etc – we have already passed the point where ANY amount of wood we could hope to grow would still not be enough to even keep pace with demand at any specific time. Forget about continued growth in demand…

    I get asked from time to time about why devices like flat screen TVs, monitors and the like are so important and necessary. I answer that have they ever seen a 27″ 1989 RCA tube TV hanging on anyone’s wall – waiting for a 5-year old or a dog to get crushed underneath…

    Yesterday was my 48th birthday. I can easily recall the weeks and months of being blasted by my old Gateway 17″ CRT monitor… the headaches… the eye strain… the errors made because I could not manage the stress. I write and shoot photography for a living. Looking at paper books as an outlet would be a depressing way of trying to get my work noticed and sold – not to mention the delays and expense involved…

    • Adam Volk says:

      Hey Anthony,

      Thanks for the great comment. Your definitely hit the nail on the head with your discussion about “economies of scale”. I will say in defense of the printing industry that a lot of publishers are trying to be a little more environmentally conscious by using recycled paper or trying to reduce their carbon footprint by using more eco-friendly printing processes (something that was only just coming into fashion when I worked in the book publishing industry). That being said, as you pointed out, there’s only so much paper to go around, so switching to a digital format might not be a matter of taste, it might just be matter of necessity. On a related note, having once dropped a 30-inch tube TV on my foot, I feel your pain.

  2. Matthew says:

    I do have a Kindle Fire. And for things like tech books for my job I actually like being able to have the book on one screen and the replicated work on another. But that’s where my love for the ebook ends.

    I’m still very tactile in nature, and swiping my finger over glass is not what I consider tactile. So for me holding, feeling, flipping, through a book is so much better (not to mention lighter, but it’s my fault for going full tablet).

    The e book is here to stay and I’m okay with that. So long as they either never get rid of actual books (to me a book is not just the story or topic written out it’s the full package, covers, paper, ink), or so long as I can print them out.

    I will, myself, go through a publisher should I ever decide to write a book. I know I’m not good enough to do it without help. xD

    • Adam Volk says:

      Hey Matthew,

      I’m with you. The Kindle Fire is a pretty awesome little gadget, but even despite the ability to store a bajillion eBooks on one handy device there’s something to be said for having an actual printed book in your hands. I love the look, feel and yes, even the smell of a good book (maybe I’m a bit of a weirdo in that respect). There’s also a lot of collectors out there who love having an actual library of books which they can display, re-read and share. There’s also some books that I think just work better in a printed format. The graphic novel in particular is one type of book which I don’t think translates nearly as well as an eBook. Oh and if you do ever decide to write and publish book (with our without extra help) let me know. As long as it’s not a tween vampire novel, I’ll pick up a copy for sure!

  3. I’ve actually had co-workers tell me that they never thought they’d switch to an e-reader, and now they are happily seated on the bandwagon with a cocktail in hand. I’ve also heard that you can consume more books using e-readers, and it is very planet friendly. The one thing I found most interesting are the e-book publishers now popping up everywhere. Self-published authors are now turning (knowing the trend) to sites like BookTango.com, Amazon’s imprint and others. Super smart idea to move into the e-book publishing realm I think.

    • Adam Volk says:

      Hey Chris,

      A bunch of my friends and family are the exact same way and have recently become eBook fanatics. And that’s interesting that people are more likely to read more with an eBook – yet another advantage over paper books (if our society spent more time reading and less time watching Jersey Shore, I’m pretty sure we’d be a lot better off). And good point about self-publishing. As I said in my blog, one of the amazing things about eBooks is that they’re a fantastic way for first-time authors and self-publishers to get their books out there. In fact, I think the whole eBook revolution has really made traditional publishers re-evaluate what they release. The result is more diversity, more selection and more great books making their way to the market both online and offline.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s