Books vs Nooks


In a digital age where books can be read on Nooks and music is streamed directly from Spotify or Pandora, will physical books and music be soon a distant memory? The allure of e-books is something not everyone may feel, but awareness of their growth is something that very few people can ignore. The iPhone has its own online bookstore, and just walking into the local Barnes & Noble, you are bombarded with a large advertisement for the company’s delve into the electronic world: the Nook.

The Nook and its different versions are not the only e-readers being produced, yet the general function of each device remains very similar.

A recent Pew Research Center study shows that adoption rates of e-readers have slowed in the last year and the numbers are not as staggering as one would think. The owners of either a tablet computer or e-book reading device, such as a Kindle or Nook, grew from 18 percent in late 2011, to 33 percent in late 2012. The report also showed that a modest increase in the percentage of adults who have read an e-book rose from 16 percent to 23 percent.

There are some areas in which the e-reader falls short of its paperback predecessor, and it mostly has to do with the physiological aspects of the experience. Something about holding a book or a record seems to appeal to the human senses.

“I enjoy the smell of new [books] as strange as that sounds, and I find great joy in physically turning a page to reveal what’s next,” freshman biology major Jennifer Campbell said.

Holding a CD or vinyl record and inspecting the artwork while listening to the tracks is an entirely different experience than streaming digital music from a computer or handheld device. Inside of Long Beach indie music store Fingerprints, music lovers still peruse through the stacks of CDs and vinyl as if it were 1989.

“People still need that tangible object,” said Fingerprints Music store manager Chris Baker. “There’s something about the art and having something they can hold and look at and appreciate.”

Along with the physiological reasons as to why many prefer hardcopy books, are the sociological considerations. According to CSULB sociology professor Dr. Cindy Donham, the reason corresponds to what humans are exposed to throughout their childhood.

Hardcopy books are a critical part of human development. Parents read to their children from hardcopy picture books.

“It is a holdover from their childhood and older generations, and it is what we get used to using,” Donham said of hardcopy books. “People are slow to change.”

Children are taught to read with hardcopy books. It is what humans are dominantly exposed to; therefore it is what most people prefer. Or is it?

Senior business marketing major Max Kayajanian has owned a Nook for about two years and said he prefers reading on a tablet versus a real book.

“There are a lot of things that come with an actual book, the sight, the smell, even the weight of it that you don’t get with an electronic tablet,” Kayajanian said. “Once you get past this and feel comfortable using it as a literature medium, it becomes the most convenient thing on the planet. If I want a book at midnight I can just buy it and start reading then. I wouldn’t read without it these days.”

Many students at Cal State Long Beach own e-readers, but some still prefer the traditional bounded paper book.

“It’s less stressful on my eyes,” sophomore international studies major Melissa Casas said of hardcopy books. “I spend enough time looking at screens on my computer and phone, and reading actual pages is a nice break from that.”

Some argue there are fewer distractions when reading a book in print. It’s tempting to click the home button on a tablet and start browsing the internet instead of focusing on the book at hand.

“When I have a physical book, it’s easier for me to concentrate,” said music major Ricky Medina. “I know that if I purchased e-books they would go straight onto my computer where the risk of being distracted by the internet is much greater.”

E-books raise the question of ownership and how an e-book can be shared. There is not always the option of letting someone else borrow or buy the e-book you have purchased. This brings into question the reality of the ownership of an e-book or any other online purchase of media. All of the e-book files that we “own” run the risk of being lost if the tablet or digital reading device malfunctions or breaks.

In the world of digital music, Amazon has created Amazon Rip, a service that will appeal to those who embrace both physical and digital formats. For every CD purchased through Amazon, Auto Rip provides buyers with a digital version of the album that can be played through their Amazon Cloud Player. The Amazon Cloud Player is a free, streaming music player that can be accessed through compatible devices. Amazon’s Auto Rip website says that this service was created as a way to appeal to people who still love to look at album artwork, while allowing listeners to take music anywhere they go.

Amazon is not the first to create a service to please the dueling sides. Individual artists and smaller music labels have already incorporated this kind of feature into album releases. When a record is purchased, the buyer is given a code that allows them to download the entire album to their computer. This gives someone the option to listen to it in more than one way. When a buyer decides to purchase new music or buy a new book, it seems as though there are more options than ever before. E-readers and digital music may not entirely eliminate real books and records, but simply expand the way they are accessed.

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