As an author who is self-published, I find myself at pains to make a choice to finally take the leap of faith into e-readers!
Since my professional background is software development, one would have thought that I would embrace just about any gadget that comes along, but nay.
My reason for not accepting e-readers in their variations is quite simple really. I own a few laptops and a netbook. If I count the gadgets I own, it does not make sense for me to invest in another of those. I have three laptops, one netbook and a smart phone. Now there is an e-reader and tablet to consider. These things are just too much. How on earth am I going to use all of them?
So I still do not own an e-reader nor a tablet. I think people bought these things without really thinking about their use. Tables are for people who want to surf the web and maybe read emails, that’s it. I am not in that category at all. You see, I write a lot on my machines, so a keyboard is a must for me. These touch screens just won’t cut it.
But as an author, I have my work available as e-books, yet I refuse to use e-readers!
What is the impact of these gadgets on our reading population? I have found that people who actually love reading, love printed books. Computer screens are not friendly to eyes and are not meant for prolonged reading on them. So they are not suitable to reading things like full texts. But I have to wonder because that is what these gadgets are used for these days, to read novels and stuff.
So where does this leave printed books? Bookshops are dying like there is no tomorrow. You are lucky if you still have one in your area. Those of us who still love printed books, what are we to do? It looks like we are doomed! Amazon has made a storm and everyone is following them onto e-books. And since e-books are so cheap, it makes economic sense for people to use them. But I still refuse to read a novel or full text on an e-reader. Screens are meant for occasional reading, not serious reading. The next pandemic the world will face is blindness from digital gadgets.
I believe bookstores are dead, and that is a shame. Amazon has not replaced bookstores with anything; instead they are now a world power that determines the direction of literature. That is not a healthy state of affairs.
But I love e-publishing! While I may not like having to use e-readers, I fully embrace the idea of digital publishing. I will continue to buy printed books for as long as they are available. But in regions like Africa where telecoms costs are ridiculous, it does not make sense to totally rely on e-books. I personally think both models should co-exist, without one wanting to upstage the other.
In fact, I believe digital books should be the first release of any publication, so people can try it out first, then decide if it is worth having in print. This way we will have quality books.
While these changes are taking place, we have forgotten that the majority cannot afford these digital gadgets. To me that is a systematic exclusion from active participation in the economy. And that will lead to further gaps between the haves and the have nots. Cellphones cannot be relied on as e-readers, the experience is horrible. The biggest cellphone has a 7″ screen, what can you do with that?
Let us be considerate while we push the digitisation of books. In the absence of printed books and bookstores, what should the majority of this country read?
- Fezekile Futhwa