The humble e-book is a valuable tool for any student: read on for an irreverent introduction to this wonderful resource. Article may contain polar bears…By Thomas Bray.
Magic: it can only be magic. That was my response when I first encountered the e-book. For years, I had floundered around in some informational Dark Age, where the finest words known to humankind were to be found solely on pulp, kept warm and safe between plastic or cardboard, while the ephemeral fluff to which I had grown accustomed resided in the murky corners of the Internet. Then I came to university and was introduced to the e-book, and just like that I was ushered, a blinking frightened thing, into the twenty-first century.
As long ago as that may have been, I still have a whole lot of love for the humble e-book. Through my undergraduate days and my postgraduate daze, it has been a constant companion, the thymine to my adenine, the Sancho Panza to my Don Quixote. Here’s why.
1. Available all day, every day, 24/7, to your fingertips.
Here’s an experience common to everyone: you are writing an essay in the wee hours of the morning, making sterling progress, when you realise that everything you’ve been reading references a certain book, a book which you must now track down. The only problem is, you are writing your essay within the Arctic Circle, and the next plane to campus isn’t for another week. Well, you think, this is awkward.
Ah, but help is at hand! Literally and metaphorically! For you quickly connect to Library Search, enter the details of said essential tome, and lo and behold, the book emerges like some beacon of academic hope. A few clicks, and you are browsing those pages like there isn’t an angry polar bear lurking around outside (this excuse might, I said might, get you an extension, but don’t try it).
Of course, many of you will undergo the much more common experience of wanting to access a book at four in the morning whilst tucked up in your bed and wearing your only-slightly-ironic Power Rangers pyjamas…but you know what I mean. Even after the library has closed its doors to the knowledge-hungry masses, the e-book will still be there, like an old friend, or a favourite tea-spoon.
2. E-books can be read anywhere
If you can read your e-book whilst battling a polar bear, then you can read it whilst hiding up a tree or whilst waiting for a sunrise. In fact, you can casually switch between books if you like, casting your watchful eye over twenty texts in search of the perfect quote. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried fitting twenty heavy books into your bag, but take it from me: that way misfortune lies, probably involving leaving seven of the texts forever hidden in a treehouse.
You can do so much on the go these days, so it stands to reason that you should also be able to access new and exciting thinking on your chosen discipline. What is more, with unlimited data plans and free Wi-Fi now becoming more and more ubiquitous, e-books are becoming increasingly accessible. Academics are also getting hip and wise to the ways of the e-book, so there might even be a handful of texts on your module reading list which exist in the e-form. Who knows where your next great idea may hit you: in the bath, under your bed, or, indeed, fighting a polar bear. Pictures or it didn’t happen.
3. The e-book’s floaty existence means it won’t get wrecked.
Another common experience: you are beavering away like, well, a beaver, when you decide to take a short break and make a cuppa. The wafting aroma gets you back to you, so you place the mug next to your textbook, and wander off to tell your next-door neighbour all about that great new television series on Channel 5 (lol, jk, Channel 5 is generally substandard in its original programming output).
But when you come back you find that your beautiful tea and your beautiful textbook are now best friends, and both are ruined. You try to soak up the tea with a nearby biscuit, but to no avail. The book is a write-off, and all because it is a physical thing. Now imagine that you have borrowed it from the library: that’ll be a fun conversation. ‘Ummm…this book appears to be have been callously destroyed… Tell me, what is this strange liquid?’ You pause. ‘Well. It’s…polar bear venom. I was…fighting a polar bear. It was a matter of honour.’ This will not end well.
E-books, meanwhile, are not at risk of such tea-related incidences. The same goes for coffee, hot chocolate, curry, spray-paints, red wine, and that final bit of soup you can’t quite get on the spoon. HOWEVER, you should keep the computer, laptop, or tablet you are using super-safe. Don’t you be going fighting Arctic animals just because e-books are safe from spillages.
4. Search the book, delve down deep into its very essence.
Here’s a very short reason to end with. Let’s say you read the book a long time ago, and you know that there was a brilliant passage which used a cat as an example. Only problem is, you’ve forgotten where in the book this was. All you want to do is find the cat.
With the old, ‘classic’, physical book, you could have spent hours scouring the book, your eyes peeled for ‘cat’, your heart skipping a beat when you find ‘catastrophic’, ‘catatonia’, and ‘catalogue’. With the e-book, you can simply search for ‘cat’. A few minutes scrolling through the results, and Bingo! you’re a feline finder. Good for you. Now you have more time for Polar Bear Fight Club (first rule: you do not, do NOT, talk about global warming).
So there we are, just a few reasons why the e in e-book should be universally acknowledged to stand for ‘easy’, ‘efficient’, and ‘excellent way to fulfil your academic potential’. Physical books are still essential, don’t get me wrong, but mastery of the ways of the e-book will serve you well for years to come. People, I have seen the future, and it’s available online through Library Search. Be brave.
Image: Polar Bear at the Buenos Aires Zoo./Polar Bear/ CC BY 2.0
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