The eBook revolution is still going on at full speed, with eBooks overtaking print books in different genres already.
Yet, the difference between print books and eBooks is one of reading support mainly, like switching from carving written material onto stone to writing on papyrus, or from handwriting to printing.
It certainly makes portability and storage much easier, whereas the process of reading remains pretty much the same.
Now, especially when talking about fiction, if we look at the difference between reading a book and watching a movie, we are talking about two vastly divergent processes.
Whereas both processes initially imply a writer, when the writer wrote a book, he conveyed a story and characters that would be immensely modified in the imagination of the reader. If we could take pictures of mental images, it is very likely that John Doe’s mental image of, say, Harry Potter, has little to do with the image J.K. Rowling had in mind. That is actually great, since it enables John Doe to create bridges between Harry Potter’s personae and his own reality.
The growing interest in bibliotherapy clearly indicates the potential healing powers of narrative, but that implies letting the reader’s imagination roam free and create whatever mental association that will impact his subconscious and help healing woes.
However, watching Harry Potter’s movies has a completely different impact than reading the book, as physical appearance and body language, soundtrack and camerawork are reflecting the producer, actors, composer and cameraman imagination in addition to that of J.K. Rowling. This leaves much less room to the viewer’s imagination and considerably lessens the potential healing effect of the narrative.
This leads us to enhanced eBooks. Enhanced eBooks introduce new elements in the concept of books. Some of those elements, such as hyperlink instead of footnotes for example, are not significantly modifying the reading experience. The addition of ads at the top of bottom of the page in order to maximize revenue can be perceived as ads in magazines and readers will soon learn to ignore them, so these will likely have minimal impact on the reading experience as well. Other elements, that are developing fast, include adding sound tracks, miniclips or interactive games. These will considerably modify the reading experience in ways that cannot yet be fully understood.
So the debate over whether eBooks will replace print books is a valid debate, since basically both print books and eBooks have the same fundamental function which is to provide readers with books. Whether enhanced eBooks will replace books, whether print or digital, is far less likely since the fundamental differences between eBooks and enhanced eBooks mean they will provide different functions, and enhanced eBooks are no more likely to replace print books than movies.
On the contrary, enhanced eBooks might lure movie aficionados back to reading books by providing them with an incentive to actually open a book, albeit enhanced…