There is a common belief that we would one day live in a paperless world where every piece of printed writing will be replaced with electronic display screens. How feasible is this presumption? Will digital displays one-day replay paper documents? Will tablets one day replace textbooks?
Personally, I see no chance of this happening. Not anytime soon, nor anytime in the future. On paper, it does seem plausible that devices such as tablet PCs and ebook readers will replace books. You can after all read, highlight texts, bookmarks and make notes on a digital ebook, just like how you can on a real book. With that said, all you need to do is to make a visit to your local bookstore to know that the printed media (be it newspapers, magazines or books) are here to stay… forever.
The first thing that you will notice when you walk into a bookstore is how visually diverse it is. The hundreds and thousands of books and magazines that are displayed on the shelves comes in variety of design, colors and form. Books for instance can be as little as 2 inches in dimensions all the way to 3 feet pictographs atlases and children books. Newspapers and magazines too come in a variety of sizes and materials where each are specifically designed to fulfill a specific purpose.
Newspapers like the New York Times and many of the most respected newspapers around the world for instance, are huge for various reasons. These newspapers are designed for people who are likely to not only scan through, but also read through many of the news pieces that are written for that day. Being large enables the reader to scan through more news at any one time without flipping though too many pages. ‘Second Tier’ newspapers on the other hand tend to be a smaller in their size, more closely resembling that of a large magazine. These ‘second’ tier newspapers are catered towards the demographics that are less interested in knowing ‘everything’ that is going on around the world, but rather looking out for juicy interesting news.
The same goes for books. Each type of books is designed differently to cater to their audiences. Novels for instance, are almost always made in either 5 x 8 inches or 6 x 9 inches in dimensions. This size is perfect for holding up with one hand for prolonged periods of time. Reference books and school textbooks on the other hand, are almost always larger, usually to accommodate more photos and images that help illustrate a subject. Then of course there are pocket size books like pocket dictionary and gift books, all which have forms that fit their function.
So as you can see, the printed media is multi-dimensional and much more than mere words being printed on paper. Many of these dimensions could never be replicated on a single electronic device. Lets take a science textbook for instance. Science textbooks usually contain a huge amount of graphs, data tables, photos and images for the purposes of illustration. On a traditional printed textbook, you could view several of these illustrations all at once on a single page.
On a tablet or ebook reader (which are typically smaller than the average textbook), it is most likely that you would need to pinch zoom the image to get a closer look at it. Could you image the experience of studying for a text for an entire month by just using your tablet or an e-book reader? You would be pinching, clicking and typing on the tiny little devices on hours on end. It is hard to image that to be more pleasurable of an experience than using a physical textbook. Also, when you use a traditional textbook, you can make notes, draw diagrams and highlight in different colors on them, something that is currently not possible on an e-ink, black and white ebook reader and I imagine would be quite a task on a tablet PC.
So the answer to whether tablets or ebook readers can ever replace textbooks is a unfaltering ‘no’. Textbooks maybe a little heavier and bulkier than you Kindle Fire or iPad air, but they are absolutely irreplaceable and are here to stay.
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