revolution themesThe way we listen to music has evolved from vinyl to 8 track to cassette to cd to mp3. Books have been, well, books. Paper, words and binding. Even the way they are made hasnt changed a lot since the Guttenberg Press in 1440. A book from back then, is very similar to a from book today. We hold it in our hands, read the words and turn the pages.

But this week, you’re encouraged to try something different. It’s Read an eBook week.

An eBook can be published as a word document, a pdf, or a website. It can be read with a dedicated eBook reader, like the Kindle from Amazon, or you can just read it on your computer screen, scrolling down and turning the pages with a mouse click.

Of course, you can also print off eBooks, but that defeats one of the purposes of their invention – they’re environmentally friendly.

According to Rita Toews, creator of Read an eBook Week, “Up to 35% of books printed for consumers are never read. They are returned to the publisher and end up in landfills.”

eBooks are almost environmentally perfect. They’re created and exist in digital form costing nothing more than bandwidth to distribute around the world.

Cory Doctorow, is an award winning SciFi author who offers his eBooks for free. A tactic he says helps sell more copies.

“If I give you a free electronic book, chances are that you’re going to be so distracted by the million different ways your computer wants you to do something else while you’re doing any one thing, that if you like the book you’re going to buy the print edition to enjoy that too.”

The ease of publishing is what draws authors into the realm. You don’t have to deal with a publisher, you don’t have to deal with agents. You write your book, you put it on a website and you’re published. In many ways, the eBook is doing for authors what the mp3 did for independent artists; it’s giving them a chance to find an audience.

“The problem for most artists isn’t piracy, its obscurity,” says Doctorow, “and for most of us, the biggest challenge we face is having people who might be interested in us, know about us.”

This article originally appeared in 24hrs Vancouver on March 4, 2008.

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