By Noah Benjamin-Pollak
Print book fans got some good, if unexpected, news this week: the industry announced that e-book sales are down about 10% this year – the biggest drop ever – while print held fairly steady.
Some observers say the new numbers mean the e-book mania of a few years ago was a fad – and that ink-on-paper will remain dominant.
E-book fans insist the drop is mainly due to e-book price increases. They argue sales will rise again when e-book readers and formats inevitably get better.
At the National Book Review, we are platform agnostic, though we have a soft spot for print (our logo is a manual typewriter). But in this week when they are suddenly out of favor, Noah Benjamin-Pollak offers, in rant form, 10 reasons to love e-books:
1. You can search them. While this is especially true for textbooks, isn’t it great to be able to find that one scene in a play, or figure out which Compson is which. (And if you don’t have trouble with this, re-read Absalom, Absalom and then get back to me. There are three, and they are only referred to by their last name. WHY?!) Searchability is the future, and when I need it I refuse to go back!
2. The environment. This should be obvious, but nothing gets killed in the making of eBooks. Save the planet kids, join team e-book.
3. THEY ARE CHEAPER!!! Never pay $25, $30, or gasp $40 for a hardcover again. E-books are $13.99, or $7 – some are $1-2, and some are *gasp* free! FREE BOOKS! Who doesn’t like free? Not me certainly.
4. Size. Ever go on a long vacation? I used to have to pay Delta their $25 of blood money every time I left the country because my beach reading broke the holy 50-pound barrier.
5. No one gets to see the title and judge you for your terrible taste in literature. Really, Mom.
6. Getting published is cheaper so there are more authors, and more authors mean more books! Who doesn’t like more books?
7. You can have your book anywhere, since you are already carrying your cell phone. This is underrated. You should never be bored waiting in line or on a subway platform when you have the entire universe of literature at your fingertips.
8. Project Gutenberg. Did you know that you can get almost any public domain book for free? Almost 50,000 books, free. Pride and Prejudice, FREE! Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, FREE! Beowulf, The Yellow Wallpaper, and The Prince, FREE, FREE AND FREEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!! I hate to be a shill, but since it’s a non-profit I feel no guilt: https://www.gutenberg.orgGo forth and claim your FREEEEEEEEEEEEE BOOOKSSS!!!!!!
9. References and citations can be hyperlinked! This is amazing, and has revolutionized how I read non-fiction. In the middle of the chapter if the author talks about something that sounds interesting, if I want to learn more I can just click the hyperlink in the footnote and BOOM I’m reading the primary source. This is totally underrated and I learn much more when reading history.
10. You can read in the dark!
Noah Benjamin-Pollak is Managing Editor of The National Book Review. Follow him on Twitter at @PostmodernWorld