From Paper to Pixels

From Paper to Pixels

By Tooba Asim – Freelance journalist

Don’t have the time to go and buy the original text of Shakespeare’s Othello for the school project? Or would you rather spend that money on something else? Fret not, for now you can get that and millions of other books free of cost in the ‘land of unlimited possibilities’ – the Internet.

E-mail has changed the face of the entire mailing system. E-banking, e-commerce, e-shopping and other such electronic equivalents of conventional means have revamped the way things worked. And now, e-books are making inroads in the world of paper and ink.

Electronic books, better known as e-books, are defined as the ‘electronic equivalents of conventional books’. Technically speaking, an e-book can take quite a lot of forms: image files, rich text format, hyper text mark-up language, CHM format, etc. To put it simply, it’s text on screen or text read aloud.

So what is it about them that makes them so interesting or rather advantageous?

Imagine a library full of books – the kind which has hundreds and thousands of books stacked in neat and orderly piles in old wooden shelves with a librarian behind the desk. How about having those heavy volumes of books in a couple of CDs? Or better yet, how about having a digital library? This is where e-books are set to bring the book industry to.

Gone are the days when one spent money on ridiculously expensive volumes, which were also very difficult to manage. Not only are e-books a cheaper alternative, they are also extremely convenient to keep. A stack of CDs might just be equal to a big library!

The Internet is one of the major sources of e-books, both free and paid for. They can be downloaded and read on screen, or they can be printed and transferred on paper. Here enters the e-book reader.

This amazing little hand-held device is all set to repaint the book reading scenario. Be it the Amazon’s Kindle or the Barnes and Noble’s Nook or any other brand, e-book readers are fast gaining popularity amongst the tech savvy book lovers. These dedicated book readers are especially designed to enhance the onscreen reading experience by having the right hardware to providing all the necessary software without additional hassle. They come with wi-fi as well to enable easy access to books online.

The trend of digital libraries is also growing fast all over the world, especially in schools and universities. The Higher Education Commission of Pakistan also has a National Digital Library Programme for universities. The idea is to provide the students with access to international research journals, articles and a collection of hundreds of e-books. Apart from providing easy access to material, the digital library also ensures that latest and up-to-date collection of journals is available.

With the trend of e-books fast catching up, it’s no more a worry to find an old beloved classic online and that too at no cost at all. Most e-book websites on the Internet provide old classics, but the Pandora’s Box that the Internet is, you can find almost all titles ranging from classic novels to latest popular fiction for free!

Millions of people daily acquire electronic books by paying for them and buying them in the form of audio books or by downloading them on their book readers. Considering the time an average Karachiite spends in the car stuck in traffic jams, audio books or e-books are actually quite a good idea!

Like all other technological advances, e-books are only very slowly making themselves known locally. It’s still very difficult to get hold of a decent collection of e-books in a bookstore. Most don’t even know what they are.

However, the big question is, are book lovers really ready to switch over to the electronic medium to pursue their hobby? What about curling up on the sofa with a cup of coffee and your favourite book on a Saturday night or a lazy Sunday? And that smell of new books and the yellowing pages of your grandparents’ cherished collections? Oh and what about discovering dried up flowers and bits of paper in an old book?

Also, computers, being machines, may snub you at the end of the day if they break down, catch a virus or your internet service provider stands you up. It also involves more complexity as opposed to grabbing a book anywhere and any time for instant pleasure.

Hopefully, the e-books will just compliment the use of traditional books and not replace them.

Some popular e-book sources: [The HEC’s National Digital Library Program] [a meta index of e-books available online]