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How are e-books doing in Jordan?

By Jean-Claude Elias - Feb 21,2014 - Last updated at Feb 21,2014

You browse the web several times a day, sometimes for hours, it’s all understood. But do you still buy and read hard copy printed books or do you go for e-books? Or perhaps you opted for a combination of both, for the time being at least? Of course the word book is understood as novels, thrillers, classics, history books, romance, poetry and the like. Online news, blogs, reviews and otherwise precious reading material on the web don’t count or qualify as books.

It is one of the most striking social transformations that the web has brought on us the last 10 years or so. It is taking place and evolving more quietly than social networking, in general, but it is definitely happening and the drive continues unabated.

Looking at statistics in the US for example gives us a foretaste of things to come in Jordan in a few years, since it is always the way it goes. According to Pew Research, market penetration of the product was 20 per cent in 2012 and it is estimated that it has practically doubled since. The success is not only due to the aggressive marketing of e-reading devices such as Amazon’s Kindle but also to the wide availability of libraries that have already implemented convenient lending of virtual books.

There are no statistics about e-book reading habits in Jordan. Based on hear-say only, one can only guess that in the capital city Amman less than 10 per cent of the population who has access to the Internet regularly reads e-books. As for the rest of the country, even a wild guess would not mean much. Perhaps the excellent, dynamic Department of Statistics in the country should tackle such issue.

The possibility to borrow e-books from libraries would constitute a huge boost to the phenomenon. For that libraries would have to be fully equipped with huge databases and complex systems, something more or less similar to e-banking, a system that is definitely working alright in Jordan and widely adopted by the population.

When you think that Amazon.com doesn’t even allow you to buy and download MP3 music tracks from its website because the service is restricted to the US, borrowing an e-book from there remains a remote possibility. Unless of course local libraries in Jordan start building their own virtual system and offer local lending. Given that the question of the protection of intellectual property is not yet completely solved in the country — this is an understatement — the implementation of legal e-book borrowing probably has to wait, the two notions being closely intertwined.

There is still reluctance from those who swear by nothing than a solid, hard copy book, printed on good old paper. These will argue that holding the paper in their hands makes them to better connect to the story they are reading. It’s all about “feeling” the book they will tell you. These are the same who thought that blackboard and chalk would still prevail at school in the twenty-first century.

Whereas it would be hard to foretell the actual impact of e-books in more than 15 or 20 years from now, it is safe to predict that the phenomenon will continue to grow significantly over the next few years and that it will cross the 50 per cent barrier soon, globally. 

The quality of the devices, the low cost, the convenience and the wide availability of reading contents, not to mention the positive impact on the environment, it  will all irremediably change the way we approach books and read them. Again, it’s about full books and stories, not about news, blogs or specifically web-formatted information. How quickly will Jordan catch up on North America or Western Europe remains to be seen.

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