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John Howard Reid

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E-Books Versus Real Books
by John Howard Reid   
Rated "G" by the Author.
Last edited: Monday, April 26, 2010
Posted: Monday, April 26, 2010

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Have you thrown away the keys to your library because you've invested in a kindle or a nook or a blackberry? Think again!


E-Books versus Real Books

A question I'm often asked is what advantage (if any) a printed book has over an e-book and/or the internet.

These are really two separate questions, so let's deal with the net first. I'm asked for instance that if a fan is interested in classic movies, why not simply look up all the information he or she requires on a web site like the Internet Movie Database?

Certainly web sites like the above are very useful. I use them myself. I even write for them. But there is a limit to the help they provide. True, if you're a peripheral fan who will watch "Star Trek" on TV and maybe buy "Star Wars" on DVD, and leave it at that, then a 320-page, large format book like my "Science-Fiction & Fantasy Cinema" that brings a vast amount of information together in one place, does not necessarily qualify as an essential item. 

On the other hand, if you are a really persistent fan, and therefore prepared to spend a great deal of your time checking the internet's cross references, you could in the space of six months or two years, gain a fair amount of the information contained in a book like mine. Not all of it, of course. I would estimate around 50%. But let's say, two-thirds!

The fact is that a book such as "Science-Fiction & Fantasy Cinema" contains a large amount of information that is simply not available on the net, no matter how hard you look for it.

Take a movie like "The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes" (1970). My book provides complete cast and camera credits, plus release information. True, this is virtually identical to the info on the net, but, personally, I find the book much easier to read. You can find everything you want to know at a glance. You don't have to click on at least five separate pages. That's right. At least five! Next time yor visit an internet site, count up how many times you have to click before you finally end up on the page you actually want! 

The book (1) then provides nearly two big pages of extensive notes and reviews. So does the net (2), you will say. But there's an enormous time-saving difference between (1) a selection of carefully edited comments by experts and (2) an endless grab-bag of amateurish ravings, ridiculous complaints and irrelevant side-issues, interspersed with a few sensible and sensitive appreciations that are almost impossible to find among all the dross!  

A book not only brings a vast amount of informative data together in an easily accessible form, but makes facts and comments even more interesting and appealing with a selection of fascinating and appropriate illustrations.

In my opinion, a book cannot be compared to an internet data bank. True, the internet is ostensibly free, whereas the book costs money. But isn't your time, your convenience and the extra pleasure you gain worth a few extra dollars?

And above all, isn't a book like "Science-Fiction & Fantasy Cinema" by far the easiest way to discover and find out about other movies in a particular genre that you would enjoy watching? How many times have you used this feature on the net? I don't use it at all because the net almost always makes stupid, totally irrelevant and completely ridiculous "suggestions"!

Furthermore, impressions read in a book tend to stay in the mind longer. So, if you've read the book, the next time you visit your DVD shop and you see a movie called "The Snow Creature" in the $2 bin, you resist the impulse to buy it, beause you remember reading a review in the book that said the movie was one of the tamest ever made. On the other hand, you see a movie called "Arabian Nights" in the Price Reduced section. It stars Maria Montez, whom you've never heard of, but you buy it anyway because you remember it described in the book as a masterpiece of escapist fantasy.

Oddly, the net is often a very good source of information on obscure movies if you know what you're looking for. So I'm not denigrating the net. It has its usefulness. But books are my preferred choice. I use them all the time. The net is an adjunct to my books, not vice versa!

True, the net does serve as an excellent adjunct so long as you don't waste time looking up popular movies where the comments section is swamped by dozens of "reviews" by people who tell you their feelings but provide little if any guidance or information.

For guidance, information and inspiration, you can't beat books!

So what about e-books? They do have obvious advantages of portability and storage. But some of the devices are not as easy to read as their makers claim, and they all have a tendency to induce the viewer to skim through rather than actually read and absorb the material. This tendency to give an e-book only half your attention can be fatal if you're reading a novel. And as for poetry on one hand, and metaphysics on the other, don't even bother to try!

And last, but not least, e-books are NOT cheap. True, there are free books and there are books as cheap as 99 cents. But do you want to waste your time on these?

I looked up twenty of the books that I would buy if I was convinced e-books were the way to go. Would you believe seven of them were more expensive as e-books? True, the price difference was usually no more than a few dollars, but one e-book was $16 compared to the printed paperback of $9.50. Admittedly, the paperback was "on special" but its normal price, $14, was still cheaper than the e-book! 

Only four of my twenty e-books were less expensive by a dollar or more. The other nine were roughly the same price, give or take fifty cents or so.

Adding up my whole basket of twenty books, and even including postage, the printed books were still less expensive by $1.80. Not a great deal of difference but a book is so much nicer to hold in your hand. It's what I call, reader-friendly! Can you say the same about an e-book?


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