Thoughts on Google Books

With the release of Amazon’s Kindle, as well as other prototypes that followed, scholars and readers alike have begun to question the future of the book. Will the book eventually become extinct? Can it survive in the move to modern technology? Google’s recent move to digitalize books online has only pushed these questions further. How can the written word survive against other media forms?

This topic has caused nothing but heated debates in my numerous English classes. Most people seem to dislike the move to digitalization. After hearing their point of view, it’s understandable. Many of my classmates are creative writing majors, and having their work published would be a dream come true. Of course, their idea of being published has always been in a book format. They desire to hold the product of their labor, the bound book they spent hours, days, and months working on. Never did they think that publishing could one day mean having it put on the internet, as the industry considers doing. This idea contradicts the dreams they have had since they decided that they wanted to become writers.

I have mixed views on the wave of digitalization. I am an English major and do enjoy picking up a novel and reading it for my enjoyment. To be able to crawl into bed or sit on the beach with a good book is so relaxing. If I could do that everyday, I certainly would. There’s something about holding the book, turning its delicate pages, and smelling its unique smell, that gets me every time. I am sure that most, if not all of you out there reading this can agree. So I don’t mind dropping a few bucks here and there to buy a new book. The way I see it, I’m simply feeding this indulgence to read and fill my already packed bookshelf with more and more great books.

On the flip side, having books available online would be very beneficial, especially to poor college students out there like myself. In class the other day we started talking briefly about buying textbooks from the school bookstore. Of course, the company and people that run these bookstores want us to buy all of our books from them. But with their high prices, students are forced to look elsewhere because they just cannot afford to spend so much money on books, even if the bookstore is convenient location-wise. As an incoming freshman, I ordered all of my books from my school bookstore about two weeks before school started and spent about $500 for just one semester worth of books. Four months later, I sold them all back to the same bookstore. I was lucky to have made $150. That semester was a learning experience for me. I started to look online for used books at a cheaper price. This semester, I managed to spend no more than $250 on my books. That’s half the price I paid that first semester! While that is much cheaper, $250 is still a lot of money to pay for books I’m going to use for four months, then sell back for a fraction of the price. Buying college textbooks feels like a scam. It’s a process that makes the broke even more broke. We are already paying an arm and a leg for tuition, so why do we need to be charged so much for just one book?

If Google wants to digitalize books online for public use I have to say I’m all for it. It would be cheaper and more convenient for students across the country, and across the world. While I certainly love the book format, the shift to digitalization seems impending at this point. I don’t completely support this movement because I would hate to see the day when books become extinct. But at the same time, we have to realize that Google is on the verge of something beneficial to a lot of people. We need digitalization in this time of economic crisis, and Google couldn’t have begun it at a better time.

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