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Are you a confirmed bookworm? Do you ferry books wherever you go? Do you eat, sleep, and dream books? Do you spend a good portion of your earnings, and a huge portion of your free time, on books?

If so, are you aware?

We may be on the verge of a revolution of sorts. If you haven’t heard it already, well, the news is that technology is soon going to render obsolete the very pages that you flip. Not the books, just the physical pages.

Duh?!

I am talking about eBooks and eReaders. The technology skies seem pregnant with this thunderstorm, and it might blow shortly … have you aligned your mind to/against this possibility? Or are you going to get drenched?

Naah! What the hell! How can they just stop books and ask us to switch to some electronic nonsense! Anyway, it will be decades before all this touches our lives! — Is this your first reaction? Hehehe — read on!

The Stats

  • In the second quarter of 2010, for the first time in its 15-year history, eBook downloads outnumbered hardcopy book sales on Amazon.com. (Of course, you may know that Amazon.com is America’s biggest online retailer…)
  • BookBoon.com is the world’s largest publisher of eBooks. Can you guess their sales in 2009? 10,000,000 downloads. That’s right TEN MILLION copies sold.
  • eBook readability is a major point with almost all electronic product (mobile phones, tablet PCs, etc) releases. The Apple iPad (released April 2010; sales expected to touch 28 million by 2011!) comes loaded with eBook reader software (iBooks). Also see this.
  • One in ten Americans own some kind of eReader device.

Of course, the penetration is still too low to compete with real books. Check Wikipedia here for more info. See here and here and here about eBook readers.

However, it is the future that I am trying to portend. See this, this, this, and this. For debate’s sake, also see this. Then again, this and this.

Well…?

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This might well be THE biggest debate of modern technological times, and surely figures in the list of hottest “vs” comparisons of all time.

I have been using the PC for about 20 years now. I started off with DOS, then came a phase where DOS 6.11 and Windows 3.1 were used together, then Windows 95, Windows NT, Windows 98, Windows 2000, Windows ME, and finally Windows XP. I rate Windows XP as the most stable version that Microsoft has put out. I now use Windows Vista in my company-provided laptop, and I don’t like it much.

On the other hand, I have used a Mac desktop for about 3 months. My line of work involves project-managing and typesetting books for Western university presses, and it just so happened that one of my large (3500+ pages) book projects had been copyedited shabbily. I used to be a copyeditor in my previous janam, and it came upon me, in the very last stages of the project, to set everything right. Copyediting + proofreading + typesetting … all in one go. As opposed to Microsoft Word, which is the universal platform for copyeditors, I had to work in Adobe InDesign, a typesetting software with a huuuge memory footprint.

Well, I thus learned to use a Mac, and learned typesetting using InDesign, at the same time, and liked it. Liked it a whole lot.

The Apple platform is, in my opinion, very polished. The screen is, well, just too good. You have to see it to believe it … the same images look so much more vibrant when viewed on the Mac screen.

The keyboard is a work of art; the Chicklets keys are superb. The flowy, roundish design, with the backlit Apple logo imparts a very delectable high-end feel that even the top-end PCs are unable to achieve. The mouse is a gem to use. There are not 10,000 wires to fiddle with. The machine itself rarely hangs … no “blue screen of death” here. It doesn’t take ages to do anything. Everything just works well, and looks and feels simple and beautiful.

After the project uploaded successfully, I had to return the Mac to IT, and I kinda missed it.

So, I am living proof that Mac is a much better experience than the PC for the same functions. Which brings us to why I am writing this piece. And, no, Steve Jobs is not my cousin. I’ll prove it.

Take a look at this. Mr Rockwell is a well-known photographer, and I have been following this website for years, and using it as one of the reference points in my ongoing education on photography. He has made the same points that I have been trying to make above, albeit with much more first-hand proof, on a much wider array of scenarios.

(Of course, he seems to equate India with inefficiency, but that’s worth another post…)

Now, to the lunge. I said, “Mac is a much better experience than the PC for the same functions.” That’s the key word. “Functions.”

If you have a set array of functions, you’re better off with a Mac. If you are generally adventurous and prowl the Internet, download software like it is going out of style, and have no problems in shifting to a new software if you think it is better, then the PC is your mate.

The next key word is “choice” … the PC environment promises you hundreds and thousands of software packages that come in free and shareware versions. YOU get to choose which software suits your mood/need/pocket. With a Mac, this library is way too small. The available software generally tend to be of very good quality, though.

However, there are segments like games where the Mac fails miserably. Of course, there are titles that are released for the Mac, but they are very few, and pale in comparison to the choice available in Windows. Plus, there are niche-segment software (e.g., POP Peeper, RoboForm) that I am not very sure the Mac platform, with its puny list of software, will be ever able to offer. I use BlogDesk for my blog posts … I found this after sampling dozens of software packages. I suspect will not have this luxury with the Mac.

If you want to customize and build your computer, the Mac falls short terribly. It is not possible to get the Mac custom-built, and hardware customization possibilities are very limited. Of course, you can increase the RAM and upgrade your HDD and such, but your choices are limited even here. The number of brands available are very, very limited, and hence the possibility of competition bringing down the prices too is nonexistent. Another problem is that Mac parts can be difficult to source and very, very expensive. We have, in my office, several Macs that have been “earmarked for deletion” merely because it is cheaper (and easier) to get PCs than go hunting for the failed parts.

(Also, I would beg to differ with Mr Rockwell on the reliability of the Macs to such a large degree as he professes, since we do see Macs breaking down here … of course, unless Apple is choosing to sell lower-quality components in India, in which case Mr Rockwell’s claims about Apple’s honesty would need reconsidering…)

There is, however, a singular point that could alleviate the software problem to quite an extent … take a look at this, this, and this. Then again, look at this !

( Of course, the compatibility will fall short of 100%, especially for some software…)

To sum it up, if you want a classy and beautiful experience, go for the Mac. If you frequently experiment with software, and play computer games, choose the PC.

What will I do? I will save up and buy a MacBook, and I will try to run Windows applications on it…

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