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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

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Guest Post: Has Technology Changed the Way We Enjoy Books?

Hi everyone and happy middle of the week!

I'm extremely excited to have Caroline for Culture Coverage here on the blog today talking about technology and books - two combinations that are highly popular among bookworms today. Of course, that's not to say I don't enjoy holding a physical book in my hands every once in awhile - I definitely do (especially new ones since I won't be tempted to sneeze) - but with technology rapidly changing day by day, it's certainly made some impact on the way bookworms read.

(On a side note, we're looking for a new addition to the blog!)

Has Technology Changed the Way We Enjoy Books?

There’s no doubt that technology has changed the way we enjoy books and Bookwyrming Thoughts has already got newcomers covered with their post on reading apps for Android. I’m grateful that they’ve decided to allow me to share my thoughts on this with their readers too, as this is a topic that comes up frequently amongst book lovers and gadgets like the Kindle certainly don’t seem to be becoming any less popular.
Though there are likely a significant number of readers who will always prefer the hard copy, technology has emerged that makes it possible to save some shelf space and enjoy multiple books while on the go without purchasing a larger backpack.

Carrying books around with you can, unfortunately, be inconvenient, especially if you want to have different titles on hand. But e-readers have nearly solved that issue, allowing readers to access several different books (or e-books, to be exact) on one handy device that is smaller than the typical paperback or hardcover.

For those who don’t have the money to invest in an e-reader, smartphones give you the ability to read books on the go as well, the Kindle app being one example of a way to do so. If you haven’t enjoyed an e-book yet but are curious about the technology, here are a few ways to get started that will also give you an idea of how technology has changed the way we enjoy books.

Amazon’s Kindle
The Kindle was first released in late 2007 and sold out within the first five and a half hours it was on the market. It then took five months for Amazon to restock the Kindle, but its popularity didn't die down despite the initial shortage. Today, the Kindle has been updated to include new features, and there's always more than one model available on Amazon's website.

For those who are looking for something with even more capabilities, Amazon offers the Fire tablet, which you can not only read e-books on but also use apps and surf the web. Both are an excellent choice for those who are looking to digitalize their libraries. These two gadgets definitely come in handy, as you can listen to your favorite books on them as well (which could be especially useful when you’re on a road trip!).

Phablets
Between the tablet and the smartphone, we have a strange new breed of device that lends itself to be a very useful reading tool: the phablet. Small enough to fit into large pockets and big enough to read small text, phablets offer features that differ slightly from a smartphone. For instance, the Galaxy Note series allows you to write on things, making it possible to take notes as you read.

This is a significant step toward bridging the gap between devices and traditional books. Up until these devices appeared, books still carried the advantage of being something you could mark, but no longer. But this new functionality is just one of several benefits readers will enjoy by using digital media. There are other useful features as well.

Translations and Read Aloud
One thing that's making digital reading more accessible is increased access to translated versions of texts. Thanks to the ease of purchase offered by online book sales (particularly through Amazon), readers of different languages can find it easier to locate a popular book that’s been translated into their native language.

If that’s not enough, audiobooks have also been given a facelift because technology makes it possible to convert any book into a read aloud text. Apps with varying voices can simply scan the text and begin reading the book to you so you’re able to follow along even when you can’t actually look at the book (some people like to read while driving, if that makes sense).

Savings, Hygiene, and the Environment
Most of us are interested in saving money one way or another. If you’re someone who likes to read a lot of books, e-books have a lot to offer in that category. Because the actual cost of materials is virtually nothing, the cost of a book is usually considerably less than a physical copy (excepting some second-hand stores). It's also something you can't lose, as the book is generally tied to your account rather than a physical copy.

While not everyone is very concerned about the cleanliness of their books, make no mistake: books get very nasty since there's basically no way to clean their pages properly. With e-books, it's very easy to remain clean because tablets and the like can easily be wiped off with alcohol or electronic-safe cleaner (and increasingly these devices are gaining water resistance).

That cleanliness also extends into the environment. Producing electronic devices are by no means without their impact to the Earth, but a single person can also own dozens and dozens of books. Each of those books leaves a footprint and takes up space. Since you’re probably going to own a device one way or the other, I’d consider it a net gain for environmental friendliness.

Downsides
As with anything, there are a few downsides with moving more toward digital books. More books are becoming digital means bookstores naturally are losing customers and may end up having to cut workers or close stores.

More technology also means greater risk to security. When you go online to purchase an e-book (which is the only way to get them), you potentially open yourself up to nasty hackers or viruses, unless you use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to safeguard your devices. This is particularly the case for devices that you use on WiFi, as these networks tend to be unsecured (and can end in identity theft).

Lastly, the one regrettable loss to e-books is the loss of that freshly printed book smell. It might not sound important, but there is a subset of readers that truly enjoy the fresh odor of a brand new novel. That also means no “old” books to remember later in life, unless for some reason your grandkids are sorting through your Amazon account.

Overall, though, technology offers us more ways to read than before. In the long run, the effect will probably be viewed well. But what do you think? Tell us in the comments whether you think e-books are pushing us in a good direction or not.

About Caroline:
Caroline is an avid reader and a cybersecurity specialist. While she loves a good book, she hopes readers of e-books will stay safe by using the right type of security software and practices while browsing for titles. If you liked this article, check out some more of her writings on Culture Coverage.


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Sophia

Sophia is the owner and founder of Bookwyrming Thoughts, but also found on various parts of the internet. She's a 19-year-old communications major who has weird humor and doesn't fit the Asian stereotype (maybe a little). Books, chocolate, technology, and music are among some of her favorite things. For more of her work, visit her personal website.