You probably could have predicted its eventual movement to the ubiquitous, all-encompassing Internet. You can buy groceries, pay bills and even purchase three-bedroom homes online. So, of course, reading an online book or e-book, or downloading and audio version onto an iPod, may not seem as outlandish as it did more than a decade ago.
Reading books has an established place in American normalcy. Readers can peruse their Mozilla Firefox or Internet Explorer versions of “The Da Vinci Code,” “A Million Little Pieces” and “A Purpose Driven Life” on planes or public transportation, without minor annoyances like torn pages, lost bookmarks and bent covers. You can essentially find any of your favorite books in the form of an online book or audio e-book.
Finding online books and e-books is easy. The simplest way is to use your favorite search engine, or you can visit some of the most popular e-book stores like www.bartleby.com and www.blish.com. To download the audio book onto your Blackberry or iPod, you can visit most music Web sites and download the audio books just as you would an mp3 file.
However, traditionalists and lovers of books may argue against the inherent worth of an online book. While convenience and the quick gratification elements of the Internet are often the arguments supporting the implementation of Web technology, the questions frequently following these assertions are the same for books.
Some believe the Internet is taking away from the most genuine aspects of reading—holding the text itself. Just as some musicians find the power in grasping the album cover, fervent readers and writers find the philosophical, emotional and revolutionary power in possession. Many also find reading online books can create physical discomfort. Researchers have found sitting at a computer screen for an extended amount of time can harm eye sight or create neck and back pain.
Does the design of a computer, its architectural layout—like the one you are currently reading from—affect how one reads? Or does the lack of physically turning a page affect how the reader progresses through and understands the work?