Someone is conducting an interview and asked me what are the advantages and disadvantages of ebooks. Here are my answers, based on years of experience with ebooks, both as a customer and as a creator.

Ebooks are basically text, images, and even audio/video packaged into a single electronic file. For example, if you type a document in MS Word (or OpenOffice Writer), then save that document, that is already an ebook.

As you can see, you may already have been involved in ebook publishing without your quite knowing about it.

While an ebook can exist in different formats (i.e., PDF, EXE-compiled HTML pages, PDA format), they usually share similar advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages of Ebooks

1. Multimedia format. Unlike your usual printed books, ebooks can contain not only text and images, but also audio and even video. This way, if the reader isn’t the type of person who likes to read paragraphs of text, he or she can choose to listen to the audio version.

Some ebooks even have flash applications that allow the reader to “interact” with the contents (i.e., drag images around using the mouse). This is useful for kinesthetic learners.

2. No shipping cost. Since we’re dealing with electronic files, you can simply download them from the web. There’s no need to ship any physical product halfway around the globe, and you won’t have to wait as long as you normally would when ordering books from, say, Amazon.

3. Searchable. A number of ebooks sport a Search button, which allows you to quickly jump to the page containing the word you’re interested in. Ever try opening a dictionary (the printed one)? Try an electronic version and marvel at the speed of the search feature.

4. Low update cost. When the author needs to update certain parts of the ebook, she simply edits the electronic document, saves the updated version, and then informs customers about the new release.

The customers are either sent to the download page on the web, or are emailed the new version.

In the case of a printed book, the publisher will probably have to make a minimum production run of 1000 copies. This takes time and money.

Disadvantages of Ebooks

1. Printing cost. It’s painful to read off a screen, and some people prefer to read text on paper. If you distribute an ebook, your customers will most likely print it. And if your ebook is quite long, the printing cost will be shouldered by your readers.

A printed book, on the other hand, is already bound and ready to take anywhere.

2. Piracy. In the printed book world, people who want to “share” your book will photocopy it, and then send it to their friends. With ebooks, your file can be easily emailed to someone living thousands of miles away. It can even be placed in a public server for anyone to download.

3. Not convenient to read. Who wants to sit in front of a computer or screen for hours just reading your ebook, right? Aside from gaining weight, sitting for prolonged periods of time can cause muscle strain, backache, and even an elevated cholesterol level.

With paper books, you can easily read even while standing (inside the elevator, for example). That’s not the case with ebooks.

—– SIDENOTE—–

Here’s a sample citation of an email interview:

Viloria, Manuel. “Ebook Advantages and Disadvantages.” Email to the author. 21 February 2008.

And here’s the citation of a web page:

Viloria, Manuel. “Ebooks: Advantages and Disadvantages.” ManuelViloria dot com. 2008. 23 Feb 2008. <http://www.manuelviloria.com/archives/ebooks-advantages-and-disadvantages/>.

—– end of SIDENOTE —–


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