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For many, one of life's great pleasures is the ability to sit down and enjoy a good book. What we term a 'book', though, is no longer an obvious answer. From the mid-1990s, books have been available in more and more non-paper formats; from tape recordings, to CD-ROMS, then internet-only text files. In the late 2000s, the market underwent a massive change with the advent of the first 'ebook' - essentially a full piece of literature, in digital format, that can be read on a smart, portable, lightweight screen.
Ebooks themselves have become varied, as many major electronics manufacturers have moved towards gaining a share of the market. Despite the different gimmicks and features of each, though, the fundamental principals are the same - onto your small electronic device, you can transfer full books or novels (usually from the internet or the digital section of your local library), to read at your leisure. The only restriction to the amount of prose you can have on your ebook is the amount of memory that your device holds. However, if you feel you need more, extra space can be purchased with ease. Needless to say, the physical space saved by having your entire library in the equivalent area of a normal book is gargantuan - useful for those with limited shelf space.
Transferring the digital media onto your ebook is straightforward (most librarians will be happy to assist, too) and, when powered on, the device has a menu which allows you to instantly select a book from your library. Once chosen, the electronic 'pages' can be turned by running your finger over the screen - giving a pseudo-paper effect. Although they are electronic devices, most newer ebooks have long battery-life, meaning that they can go for longer stretches without needing to be charged. Font size, typeface and background colouring can be changed at the touch of a button; while bookmarks can be made electronically, negating creased pages. Although initially somewhat daunting, ebooks are generally easily navigable and technophobe-friendly!
Although there are many benefits, it must be said that the purchase of an ebook is not for everyone. Due to the competitive nature of the digital publishing business, some publications may be incompatible with your specific purchase - leading to frustration and the possibility of having to pay for the same digital work twice. As with any electronic equipment, things can fail - batteries, chargers, screens are all susceptible to faults; which can take time and money to put right. Many who don't choose the digital route, though, simply prefer physical books - due to comfort, familiarity or ease on the eye. In fact, there is a growing anti-ebook sentiment - with many fearing the death of the physical book and local library.
Clearly, there are positives and negatives to both formats. Certainly for those who lead quite a nomadic existence, involving public transport or holidays, the benefits of the ebook are enormous. However, for those with bountiful space and minimal travelling, a physical library may well be preferable. Or you could be like some of us, and mix and match for the best of both worlds!
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