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Pulped Fiction & Paperless Books

Sandra Prior
Aug 8, 2008
Close your eyes and imagine you're on a beach straight out of one of those rum adverts. You're in a tropical paradise surrounded by sun, sea and sand. You stretch out on your towel, liberally applying suntan lotion and reach into your bag for a good read. Out comes something the shape and size of a hardback, but instead of pages it has a screen.

You idly page through the scores of novels you downloaded from the Net before you came on holiday. And you idly rub your shoulder, reflecting on all the weight you didn't have to lug through the airport because you weren't carrying 20 different books. You select John Grisham's latest lawyer tale, roll over on your front and begin to read. Five minutes later, thoroughly bored by legal blandness, you flip over to some Scottish swearing courtesy of Irvine Welsh. That's better. Not so much a page turner as a real screen scroller...

This is the reading utopia promised by the en masse arrival of ebooks, heralded as the greatest revolution since the advent of the paperback. Most online book sellers enable you to download books or periodicals from the Net for a fee. They offer illuminated screens for night time reading and the ability to bookmark pages, make notes in the margin and search the complete text. No more pencil scribbles or dog-eared pages. Most are in Abobe's PDF (Acrobat) format.

Already some of you will be squirming in your seats. Reading novels off a screen? Ridiculous. Who'd want to take a glorified laptop to the beach or in bed with them when they want a good read? The idea of reading a novel by Dickens from a screen is mad.

Maybe. But there's a distinct method in the madness of the ebook manufacturers. The reason why they have emerged, is the ever increasing prevalence of the Net. Reading has become sexy again, thanks to the Web which, despite all the whiz-bang grooviness of animations and streaming audio, still remains a medium primarily of text and pictures.

People who complain about children not reading books forget that they're spending an increasing amount of time online, reading Web pages, sending email and using search engines, all of which develop literacy. Thanks to the Net, more and more people are becoming used to the idea of reading from a screen, and computer monitors have come on in leaps and bounds in the last few years.

As such, the arrival of the ebook is the natural extension of this secret love affair with the screen. It's easy to see why the ebook manufacturers are initially targeting students, academics and business people as their main audiences.

There's also a distinct similarity between paperless books and the MP3 music format. Both technologies revolve around a different perspective of books and records. While we're currently used to the idea of a record or book containing a particular chunk of information, technology is changing this.

The ebook and MP3 are moving towards the concept of the book and music player as simply containers for content, whether it's literary or musical. You buy the device, then plug in only the titles or tracks you want.

Save trees, hug an ebook.
About the Author
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