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December 8, 2011 at 5:07 am

Literary eVolution

photo credit: Kathleen Stogin


Come Christmas morning, millions of people will be eagerly ripping off bows, tearing apart colorful wrapping paper and opening up the gift of a book. Some of those people will be flipping through paper pages and staring at thousands of words in black ink, but many others will instead be pressing a power button and staring at pixels on a six-inch screen.

According to the Association of American Publishers, e-book sales increased 202 percent from February 2010 to February 2011. And the popular e-book, Amazon’s Kindle, has seen more success than Amazon’s paperback books. issued a statement in January saying their Kindle outsold their paperback books for the first time ever. For every 100 paperback books sold, 115 Kindles were sold.

There’s no doubt e-books are becoming a hot commodity. Soon, they’ll be making an appearance on Marquette’s campus, too, as Raynor Memorial Libraries announced in November the acquisition of an ebrary, a large e-book collection of more than 70,000 titles from more than 500 publishers.

But as we’re seeing readers take a dramatic shift to e-books, we’re left to question if there’s still value in a traditional, paperback book.

Marquette English professor Amara Graf thinks there is.

From the pungent smell of fresh ink and paper, to being able to manually flip through pages and place a bookmark where you’ve stopped, paperback books have a certain experience for a reader, according to Graf.

“I think the value of a traditional book is that it allows the reader to experience the sensual aspects of reading,” Graf said. “(With an e-book) the reader is deprived of all of this sensation.”

Katie Sass, a freshman in the College of Nursing, says she prefers a traditional book for classes and homework. “I’d rather have the book right in front of me to highlight, underline and write notes in the margin,” she said. “(It’s) easy access to both the text and my notes without the hassle of turning on a device and having to charge it.”

Sass isn’t alone. Chris Conley, a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences, hasn’t given in to the e-book fad. Conley said he’s tried reading the Economist on a friend’s Kindle, but “I just didn’t like the format of it,” he said. “I felt like I was holding an Etch A Sketch or something, not a book.”

The definition of convenience seems to be different for traditional book and e-book readers.

“My (Barnes & Noble) Nook allows me to have multiple books at one time without carrying too much. I can carry 20 or 30 books without actually carrying 20 or 30 books,” said Lauren Richards, a sophomore in the College of Arts & Sciences. “There are also features like a built-in dictionary that allows you to just click on a word and get the definition.”

That convenience can go a long way for some e-book enthusiasts. Kirsten Poston, a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences, finds it’s easier to take books home to
Georgia when they’re on an e-reader.

“It’s light and can hold a ton of books,” she said.

Poston also likes using her e-reader to download PDF files. “Professors assign a lot of PDF readings and I don’t like having to read them off a computer screen,” she said.

But while e-book sales continue to grow, traditional book sales are experiencing a drop in sales figures — 34.4 percent in adult trade (paperback, hard cover and mass market) according to the Association of American Publishers.

Nonetheless, even e-reader users can agree there is still a value in the traditional book.