According to a study by Pew Research Center, an American research organisation, electronic book (e-book) readers increased by 17 per cent in 2020 compared to the previous year. This little data indicates the fact that e-books have become a strong alternative to printed books. And then the pandemic happened which pushed the growth of e-books further.
E-books started circulating in the 1980s. However, with emerging e-book sellers like Amazon, e-books.com, Apple Books, this electronic version of books gained popularity at lightning speed during the past decade. So how is it winning readers' preference?
The biggest advantage of an e-book is that it is easy to carry and can be read any time, from anywhere with a device. Once people had to struggle to carry a few books; now they can carry a whole library in their pocket. On the other hand, e-book pages can be marked, they won't be spoiled in any way, and won't get torn or yellowish. Also, foreign books that readers would struggle to collect are now easily accessible, thanks to e-book.
Jebin Ahmed, an 11th grader from Cantonment Public College, Rangpur, said, "You don't have to spend pocket money to buy an expensive book. E-books have made it easier for students like us. Having the book while at home saves a lot of time as well."
A very important aspect of e-book is that it has enabled readers to avail any book, regardless of age. Nuayer Tabin, a fourth grader from Dinajpur Zilla School, shared how easily she can now download books from her brother's computer. "My mother had to go to the store to buy a new book, but now I can collect the e-books myself," said Nuayer happily.
Anika Rahman, a BBA second-year student at the University of Chittagong, said that she feels more comfortable reading an e-book than a printed one. But reading e-books for a long time causes her eye pain. She also mentioned her concern regarding no age restriction. "Any type of book can be availed from the internet which is not suitable for all ages. So, I try to monitor the younger siblings at home."
Also, technology has been one of the prime reasons for people's decreasing attention span. While e-book itself is a technology, it is highly distracting. Reading a book on the phone screen can easily distract one's attention to other apps like social media or video gaming.
Nevertheless, printed books are far from losing readers' attraction. Research suggests that printed books may stimulate the human imagination. Readers pay more attention when reading printed books. And then there is always the romanticism for the smell of new pages.
Afzal Hossain is a retired government employee. According to him, reading books is part of aesthetics. "I have a special fascination with the scent of new books. On rainy days during my student life, I spent many evenings reading a book with a cup of tea. Those feelings are still pretty alive. E-books can never give me that."
When e-books were taking the books market by storm, many thought printed books might cease to exist. But it didn't happen and printed books are still out there, strongly. Usually, those who remain mostly busy prefer e-books while others love reading printed words. It varies according to readers' profession, personality, age and taste. Whether e-books can completely replace printed books is something to be decided by time.