A Tide of Social Reading Can Improve the E-Book Experience

Accepting the prestigious French National Library Prize at a ceremony in France, the renowned Czech writer Milan Kundera declared that he wanted to see his un curso de milagros published only in the traditional print format. What the celebrated writer voiced was not his opinion alone; there are numerous writers and book lovers all over the world that hold a similar view. Some of the reader comments on internet sites stand testimony to this.

“Nothing beats the smell of old books.”
“For me, the e-book reader is just for airplane reading.”
“The books that are for keeping, I always buy in print.”

Maybe it is the physicality of the printed book that contributes to its appeal. To many, nothing can effectively compensate for the pleasure of curling up with a good book when it’s raining or snowing outside. Somehow, the e-book fails to impart that sense of warmth guaranteed by the print version. Again, opinion polls prove that the vast majority prefer a beautiful printed book as a gift to give or receive.

Reading Not a Solitary Activity with Print Books

If you have a good book, your joyful experience of reading it is enhanced when you share it with others. The print book allows you to mark favorite portions, annotate and underline as you wish. And if you lend it to others, it may come back with some of their impressions thrown in as well. Now this is one of the things that make the print book score above the e-book. The excitement inherent in discussing a favorite book is something that a genuine reader will not forego.

While there is a rich possibility of sharing in this digital age, there is a lack of integration between communities discussing / discovering books and the books themselves. This predicament is brought about by the existence of Digital Rights Management or DRM among most of the major publishers. Though DRM has been implemented with the good intention of protecting authors and publishers against piracy, it prevents readers from fully exploiting the books they have bought.

While there may be many reasons that make people argue in favor of print books, we cannot pretend not to see the reality. Surely e-books are here to stay with the many advantages they offer. The question is how publishers can ensure an experience akin to that offered by their hard copy cousins.

How to Get the Reader Excited about Owning an e-book

Dropping DRM will encourage readers to buy the e-books they want because they would be able to read the book on any platform they want. Another welcome advantage is the possibility of lending, sharing, and discussing the book with likeminded communities. It will allow voracious readers to re-read their favorite books just as they do with print books. When e-books incorporate these characteristic qualities of print books, readers are bound to get excited about owning them. Added to these is the ecological advantage offered by e-books. Being paperless, they ensure that whatever remains of the forest and oxygen on this earth is preserved for future generations. Other attractive features of e-books are their weightlessness and capaciousness.

E-books are already topping the sales, according to the Association of American Publishers’ net sales revenue report. Adult e-book sales were at $282.3 million, while adult hardcover sales were at $229.6 million during the first quarter of 2012. So, with a few strategies incorporated to improve reader experience, e-books can also provide an experience unique to them, though maybe not things such as the “aesthetic value” or the “pleasant tactile sensations” offered by a print product.

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