E-books available at U of C bookstore

By Erin Shumlich

Electronic books have become more readily available in recent years. Book lovers across Canada now have access to hundreds of thousands of books available through the internet.

Google, the popular search giant, launched a new type of e-book in Canada on Nov. 1, a year after its initial launch in America, and will be in competition for other online book retailers like Amazon and Kobo.

In addition to the books available for purchase at Google’s store, more than two million books will be available free for download.

The University of Calgary has been working with Google e-books for 18 months in order for the e-books to be made available to the campus community at the same time as the Canadian launch. Google e-books were also made available at 18 other campus bookstores nation-wide.

The U of C bookstore was one of the first e-book sellers in Canada and has been selling e-books for eight years, but University of Calgary bookstore director Brent Beatty said they have not been a popular purchase for students.

“E-books have not been a big seller on campus,” he said. “The usability has not quite reached that point where students can really utilize it, but it’s a good option for students.”

Google e-books will sell primarily novels, but Beatty said textbooks might be sold in the future. Electronic textbooks have been available to U of C students for four years.

The Google e-book uses Google Cloud, a program different from other e-readers. The Cloud program allows the e-book to be available wherever there is an internet connection and in an open format that is compatible with almost any device, whether it’s an Apple product, e-reader or smart phone.

Beatty said the Google e-book has many advantages, including compatibility and cost. The price is set by the publisher, making it cheaper than a printed book.

Online e-book sales have been steadily increasing. In an Amazon press release, the company said it sold three times as many Kindle books in 2010 than it did in 2009 and for every 143 e-books sold on its website, 100 hardcovers were sold during the same time frame.

Karlene Nicolajsen, who works at Shelf Life, an independent bookstore in Calgary, said the sales of e-books have hurt the sales of independent bookstores.

“Every independent bookstore in North America is struggling,” said Nicolajsen. “They are closing everywhere.”

Despite plummeting sales, Nicolajsen said there is a certain appeal with paperbacks that will never disappear.

“Everyone said television would kill the radio, but the radio is still around,” she said. “There is a specific audience who wants books, buys books and come here for our books. We still have a customer base that wouldn’t want to go on Google Books in the first place.”

Nicolajsen said e-readers change the way people read.

When you have a book, you know how big it is, but with an e-reader you don’t. I can see people having trouble studying off an e-reader.”

For students, however, there may be advantages to using e-books.

“I think it’s an option that should be available,” said fifth-year business and actuarial science student Alexander Goh. “Everything is going more technological. I think a lot of students in the future will use it. People are trying to lower how many things they carry to school and how many textbooks they have to have, but I would never use it because staring at a screen is hard to do and might not be the best choice for everyone, especially if you are studying for long hours.”

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