The ebook revolution is here

Some naysayers signal an upcoming apocalypse because people don’t seem to be reading books anymore… which would be sad, except for the fact that we may be undergoing a revolution towards reading ebooks instead. Unless you were lost on a desert island or tragically caught in a coma, it would be hard to have missed the publicity. Electronic readers such as the Kindle, iPad, Sony Reader, and the Kobo eReader have held the industry spotlight this past year. Time magazine reports that in 2010, at least in the U.S., ebooks outsold hardcovers, and are gaining on the leader, the paperback!

It would be foolish to think it’s any different here in Canada. At the Winnipeg Public Library, ebook and digital audiobook checkouts doubled from 2009 to 2010. Check out the growing list of titles we offer at winnipeg.lib.overdrive.com. (Now optimized for iPad use!)

The future seems to be touch computing, but it’s taken a while. I confess I was nerdy enough to be an early adopter of one of the first ebook readers. Back in ’98 I bought a monochrome, low-resolution Rocket ebook reader and loved it, for a while. There just wasn’t enough selection in ebooks back then. And it was kind of klunky. Fortunately, I was lucky enough to sell it on eBay.

Now with my own iPad, I’m enjoying the resurgence of ebooks — along with a lot of other people. (It’s great to have company.) Although I too enjoy the feel of ‘real’ books, and will continue to read tree-based tomes, ebooks are becoming my favourite medium for reading. Right now I have several on the go (including a great read, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak), but I don’t need to strain my arms carrying all of them when I go somewhere. They’re all tucked away, byte by byte, in a few “apps” on my iPad. My favourites are the Kindle and Kobo apps for iPad.

Other ebook benefits include: 1) you can change the font and text size at any time to suit your fancy; 2) you can read white text on black with the lights out in bed, so as not to disturb your spouse!; 3) you can add electronic notes in the margins or highlight favourite texts with ease; 4) you can check a built-in dictionary when new words arise; 5) making a bookmark by turning down an e-page seems a lot less harmful than folding a ‘real’ page in a pristine paper book; and, wait for it… 6) ebooks are cheaper, although to me they still seem a tad high given how much easier they are to make.

And did I mention that you can carry a library of books (plus magazines and newspapers), read and unread, easily under your arm in a compact, lightweight device?

It won’t be long before ebooks comprise the majority of book industry sales. For those who haven’t tried an ereader yet, I would recommend you borrow a friend’s or relative’s and give it a spin. You can also test drive a library ebook on your desktop, laptop, or smartphone and get ready for the revolution.

Just make sure you’ve charged the batteries before hitting the couch or walking out the door.

– Lyle

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