Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Is it a book or something else?

There was a column in the New York Times magazine this week by Virgina Heffernan talking about the difference between a "regular" book and an ebook.

Specifically, she was talking about their differences, and how her small son said a book on the computer is "more like a movie or a video." A book is that thing with covers and paper pages, that you hold in your hand and turn. An ebook, especially if its interactive or has links to other information, is not the same thing. Or to use my own example, a blog is like a journal, but it's not exactly the same. (For one thing, it's public, not private.)

What else could you call ebooks, which have the same words as the paper edition?

I like etexts. According to Mirriam-Webster, text means "the original words and form of a written or printed work (2): an edited or emended copy of an original work b: a work containing such text."

Sounds like an ebook to me.

However, etext does have another, more specific meaning (as a Google search revealed). Apparently it also refers to text in ASCII character encoding.

I like etext and would actually prefer it. Too late, though. I think the term "ebook" is here to stay, no matter how many bells, whistles, links and interactive frills are added.


Kimber Chin said...

Text sounds scholarly though. Book is more everyone friendly.

If a common format is ever decided upon (one of the issues with eBooks), we could simply call it by that format.

Amy Ruttan said...

Yeah I agree with Kimber.

Text makes me think of text books I used to lug around.

I can only imagine my old college professor's reading one of my "Etexts" right now. LOL.

Margaret Moore said...

Point taken. :-) And really, I do think it's too late for any change. Ebooks it is.

Whatever you call them, I would have sold my soul for ebook versions of all the books I had to lug around in university. The hardcover anthologies were a particular pain, because I'd have to tote the whole thing to class to study one poem.

And let's not even get started on the cost of my son's computer science textbooks which became obsolete after about six months, or so it seemed.

Kimber Chin said...

Computer science texts are obsolete the moment they are written.

One of my buddies (a MicroSoft millionaire) said he didn't learn a single thing in university. When Bill Gates told him he was costing MicroSoft money by going back to school, he didn't.

That burned my boots because he used to write programs for me (for fun) to cut down my schoolwork. Plus I was out a pub buddy.

When I bellyached about Redmond being too far and that he should mention it to his buddy Bill, he gave me Bill's direct line and told me to tell him myself. I never did though. I wish I had. Redmond is still too far.