The great e-reader debate

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According to its report, six of the nine provinces do not consider themselves ready to introduce e-learning.

Pretoria - If current publishing facts and figures are anything to go by, the days when e-books could be pooh-poohed for not being “real books” are long gone.

Increasingly, e-book sales are accounting for a growing segment of book sales - not to mention the range and sophistication of reading devices (e-readers) that are available.

While “dead-tree” books are still well loved, South African readers are quite vocal about how much they love their e-readers, and the benefits they offer.

Says Charl Theunis Steyn, 30, of Moorreesburg: “I have a Kindle and I buy about one to two books a month on it (mostly fantasy). It has become my preferred way of reading books since I can take it with me wherever I go. I even pre-order my favourite authors’ books so I can read them the moment they come out. It also has introduced me to quite a few more authors whom I now read thanks to Amazon’s suggestions. Did I mention that thanks to the Kindle I don’t have to drive 100km to get to a decent book store?”

All is not plain sailing, however, as KJ Mulder, 30, of Prince Albert, a long- time reader of e-books says: “Digital rights management (DRM) is just a pain. Most people don’t know it exists until they run into issues. Most e-books only grant you licences to use it on five devices (PC, tablet, e-reader).

“Each time you upgrade to a new device that’s one of your licences being used. It’s a pain to find out how to deauthorise a device once you have reached the limit. Also the DRM used is dependent on the DRM server still being active. If Amazon decides to stop selling e-books, or Adobe stops supporting the ePub DRM scheme, you might not be able to download and use the e-books you have bought. You could lose access to your e-book library.”

e-reader 2

The Kindle Fire is an e-reader and tablet and has a 17.78cm multi-colour touchscreen.

AP

But though Amazon dominates the market, it does not have a strangle-hold on the industry, and other companies such as Kobo, Apple’s iBookstore, Sony and Smashwords, to name but a few, offer readers a large and ever-growing range of books in a variety of electronic formats, and some of them without troublesome DRM.

Brian Shortridge, 34, of Cape Town, enjoys the flexibility e-books offer him in his choices. He says: “I’ve got a Kindle with 3G access, though that’s limited to 30MB or so a month. It’s very light and easy to read on the train, even when the train is packed. When I first got it, I went about putting lots of free books on it until I realised it was a lot quicker to put books on than to actually read them… then I slowed down.

“It’s incredibly easy to buy books on the Kindle; in that way it’s a bit dangerous, since it’s like having a second-hand bookstore in your bag. Still, there are books that I’ve bought which I likely never would have had I not had the Kindle.

“I also use Moon+ Reader on my cellphone, which is useful for reading when I don’t have my Kindle with me. It’s easier to take your cellphone out of your pocket and read than it is to carry the Kindle with you, but obviously a little easier to read on the Kindle because the screen is bigger.”

But readers will remain passionate about their options. Johann Pollard, 29, of Pretoria, adds: “I love books and still buy quite a lot physical novels of authors I love and respect, and if I can get a signed copy, I jump at the chance. That does not stop me from buying the e-book first, since it means I can read it faster.

“It makes holiday reading easier as well, since everything is in one place, and I can pack a bag less for my holidays. Reading a monster 1 000-page book is much more comfortable on my Kindle, just from a weight point of view.”

And the way publishers price their offerings does matter to some readers.

Greg Hamerton, 39, a South African living in the UK says: “Mainstream publishers are still trying for prices close to paperback, which just means I’m currently choosing to read a lot of independently published fiction instead.”

Added value seems to be key to considering e-books versus their physical counterparts, with readers offered a wide range of formats.

In conclusion, Tammy February, 27, of Cape Town, says: “While my heart lies with print, I don’t see e-readers as print’s replacement. In fact, I think e-readers actually complement and enhance the literature and reading market as it gives readers different options in their approach to reading. At the end of the day, the content remains the same; it’s just the format that differs.

“As a reader and book reviewer, I find that my Kindle has really come in handy. I often use it to highlight noteworthy passages which I then use as a reference for my book reviews. I wouldn’t trade my e-reader for anything in the world.” - Pretoria News


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