Saturday, April 12, 2014

Preservation and Will The eBook Replace the Traditional Paperback?

Hi all,

After watching a program recently about eBooks and the effect they were having on the traditional publishing industry it got me thinking about some of the points they raised and how as a society we had grown to rely on our electronic gadgets.
Think back, it’s not that long ago we were all watching video tapes, well my generation was. I reckon if I go up in my loft I’m bound to find a box or two with a few old VHS films in it. I’ve even got some recordings of my children when they were much younger, I remember my wife pushing them through the park in their buggies. At the time, all of these recording devices were at their peak, high quality, something that we’d keep forever. Sadly I don’t think I have a VCR player in the house to watch them on now. No problem you say, you can get them converted to DVD. Yes you can, but with use, they say a DVD will last approximately five years, a Blue Ray, I imagine the same.

So what’s next on the electronic trail for saving data, it is after all only a collection of 1’s and 0’s but if a few of those binary numbers disappear, what happens?
Memory disks or sticks? Can you really trust them? Especially with those precious family photos. By the time our youngest daughter was born the first digital cameras were affordable to the general Joe’s like me. The camera was the size of a house brick and we took it everywhere. All of her baby photos were on it, they were downloaded and saved onto disks, and guess what, now we don’t have a PC with a disk reader – luckily we had them put onto a DVD.
Hard Drives, again only have a life of about eight years. So how do we keep our data safe, yeah today there are other ways to back files up, Dropbox, Cloud etc. But what if all of those 1’s and 0’s go wrong at what point do we risk losing it?

We sit back and put too much faith in our devices and the companies that supply them. I own a Kindle and I love it, I read loads of eBooks and to be honest I couldn’t see myself without it. But being a writer I do worry about the long term effect it could have on the industry as a whole, to the bookstores we all love to browse around, and for the new authors trying to break through, we have to ask. Will the eBook kill off the traditional?
Did you know when you purchase an eBook from Amazon you can never actually own it?
I only found this out myself recently, Google it, I did here’s one site from many I found Do You Ever Own You eBooks?
Apparently you are only buying the licence to read it, and if at some point Amazon decide to withdraw that book, whether it be for copy write reasons as they did in 2009 with George Orwell’s Animal Farm and 1984, or for some other reason they have in their Terms and Conditions small print, they will do so.

So to answer my own question – Will the eBook kill off traditional?
In the long run, I don’t think so. People will eventually get that they don’t actually own something they’ve paid for, yes they’ll be those that don’t care, but I do.
Electronic media is unreliable and is prone to breaking down, it can be easily damaged and data can be too easily lost. And on the other side of it, can we keep up? The advances in technology are being thrown at us so fast nowadays that today’s latest technological releases are all too soon yesterday’s news.

In the title of this piece, I mentioned the word Preservation. Our whole history revolves around this word, and most of it has been by either hand or the printed letter. Could we really have trusted the history of humankind to be documented all along electronically, how long would it have been until a few 1’s and 0’s disappeared?

Manuscript on vellum, illuminated by the Masters of the Zwolle Bible and the Masters of Margriet Uutenham. Netherlands, Arnhem and Zwolle, c. 1470.
c1470 Looks as if it could have been printed yesterday.

I will leave you with a fitting quote on the subject…
“Books are no more threatened by Kindle than stairs by elevators.” – Stephen Fry

All the best,
Daniel Kaye x