Last August, academics, librarians and privacy advocates gathered at the University of California Berkeley Campus to discuss the implications of Google Library -- a project to bring online 50 percent to 70 percent of all books published since 1923.
For them, the concern was obvious: Privacy. Public Libraries - while public - are known for allowing patrons to remain anonymous. It is a place where they can pursue and read about their passions without having to disclose their identity to anyone or worry about their browsing history being tracked. While Google, via Eric Schmidt, has time and again reassured everyone that the company does its best to protect the privacy of its users, privacy concerns are still ever present.
For publishers, Google Library and even the whole idea of creating electronic copies of published materials pose another, perhaps more serious concern: Co-existence. Can publishing companies continue to do business at a time when copyrights can be retrieved online? Are readers still going to buy printed books or magazines at bookstores if they can just buy e-books with the same content via the internet or even get them as free download?
I recently stumbled upon this video from TVNZMedia7 that discusses the future of book publishing industry amidst the boom of E-books and online media. Watch it here:
As an avid 'actual' book reader myself, I personally think that E-books can never replace a classic, printed copyright. As Stephanie Johnson said in the video, there's something about the printed book -- the feel, the smell, the nostalgic feel that the browning pages give you -- that E-Books cannot replicate. Perhaps, it is even safe to say that printed books possess a character of their own apart from the content.
This is, however, not to disregard the power of the electronic or online material. I also believe that e-books and even author blogs can supplement the reader experience. The internet brings the author closer to the reader (if that is, at all, needed) and even allows for a more convenient creation of a reader community. E-books, on the other hand, can make discussions on chapters and pages more lively as the material can be shared easily. So if you're going to ask me if E-books can replace printed books, my answer is 'No.' but they can surely make the reader experience more interesting.
What do you think?