Paper books vs digital

A slightly anecdotal analysis of traditional (paper) books and more modern digital ditto.

Paper book Ebook
Reading device and content rolled into one Reading device and content are separate; 1-to-many
Looks good on a book shelf You don’t need a book shelf
Only one book per unit and not possible to change book You can store multiple books in the same reading device and easily exchange and add more, often via an integrated book store or otherwise from another device
Rather hard to copy Requires DRM or black box approach to avoid piracy
Uses no electricity or other means of power The reading device runs on integrated rechargable batteries
Requires light for reading Depends on device type; see below
Certain creatures like them May contain bugs, but normally not the biological type
Information is completely static except for hand notes, and the mentioned creatures Information is dynamic, and can typically be annotated etc
Can be very heavy, and weight is dependent on information content Doesn’t change weight due to the book or amount of books stored
Can’t be used with the Internet Can typically communicate via the Internet for site browsing, e-mail and similar
Can’t be used for running applications, except Tic-tac-toe and similar Mileage may vary, but the trend is clearly towards a reading/application blend; see below
Books are bought in specific shops or ordered via the Internet; access is in the latter case is delayed (days) Books are bought and downloaded via the Internet (and often via the reading device) for immediate access

The same paradigm applies to music (CD vs downloaded) and videos (DVD/Blu-ray vs downloaded). Physical media for books, magazines, music and video will long term disappear. It will be considerably slower for books than for the other. Some behavior is though peculiar: Many still prefer a paper magazine that costs money instead of many more magazines for free on the Internet. When will that paradigm change? Many confuse CD/DVD with analog. Both are of course digital, yet taking physical space and are harder to distribute (legally or otherwise) due to the physical carrier. Of course it’s easy to convert a CD or DVD to carrier-less information, but then you’ve already purchased it on physical carrier.

There’s a convergence going on between reading-focused gadgets and tablets, that might be resolved during 2011 in terms of what feature balance/trade-off consumers prefer. Reading-optimized gadgets tend to have much better battery life and use paper-like display technologies and focus on relatively static information. Tablets are optimized for applications, interaction and communication.