Thursday, July 26, 2012

Print Books vs. eBooks

Gutenberg Press reproduction
Printing Histroy Museum, Lyon, France
When Johannes Gutenberg manufactured his first printing press in 1450, he revolutionized the book, making books available to more than nobility, church, and the very wealthy. In addition to printing many copies at once, the printing press could use cheaper paper (instead of vellum) because the paper wasn't destroyed by laborious and time consuming hand printing process. While the next 550+ years saw vast improvements in book printing, from fixed type to moveable type to digital printing, the book was still printed on paper. Even though paper may seem like a temporary medium, books that were printed on the first Gutenberg press are still around today. Paper has proven to be remarkably permanent. 

Although the first portable ebook readers became available in 1998, they didn't seriously challenge the print book until 2006 when Sony coupled its portable ebook device with an online ebook store. Amazon followed in 2007 with their Kindle™ and e-ink technology. From that point, sales in ebooks have really ramped up where there are more outlets where you can buy ebooks, including Google Books, Barnes and Noble, iTunes, Kobo, etc.

I have to admit that I'm on the ebook bandwagon. Not only have I have bought many ebooks, but I have also published my books in as ebooks. Normally, ebooks are priced lower than print books. However, I hesitate to buy a reference book only in ebook format because they seem to be ephemeral. Paper is a proven medium—paper books that were printed over 500 years ago still exist. As much as I love the convenience and space saving qualities of ebooks, I'm not so sure be able to be able to access them even twenty years from today. 

And now for some fun, enjoy this YouTube video about when book technology changed from a scroll to a bound book:

Public Domain Photograph from Wikimedia Commons
eBooks: 1998--The first ebook readers
EBook Readers History and Beyond

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