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Another Reason E-Books Rock: Who Has Room for Nine Buses Full of Books?

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Another Reason E-Books Rock: Who Has Room for Nine Buses Full of Books?
350,000 books in your pocket vs. a fleet of buses for the paper equivalent.

350,000 e-books will fit on a stack of SD memory cards under one inch tall, while 350,000 dead tree books will fill nine 72-seat buses (with the 72 seats removed).

Image by Brad Moon

I came across this article in the Toronto Star about a Saskatoon couple and their nine month odyssey to move 350,000 books they bought from a neighbor. After the collector passed away, his widow was faced with disposing of the books (which filled a 3-storey house) and was considering a book burning until the couple intervened and bought them. Needless to say, transporting and storing a library of this size wouldn't be quite so Herculean a task with an e-reader and e-books. However, the sheer scale of difference between the digital and paper formats might surprise you.

It's difficult to come up with an exact figure for how many e-books a memory card will hold. Different e-book file formats generate different e-book file sizes, illustrations and cover images can vary from title to title and then there's the issue of system files taking up space on cards. If you consider the numbers offered up by the different e-reader manufacturers, you get something like this:

  • Kobo claims up to 30,000 e-books can be stored on a 32 GB SD memory card.
  • Barnes and Noble says 1GB of storage space is sufficient to hold up to 1,000 e-books on a NOOK.
  • Amazon's Kindle with 4GB of onboard storage holds up to 3,500 e-books, but that's after the storage required for the Operating System and associated files.
  • According to Sony, the 2GB of onboard storage plus a 32 GB memory card give its Reader Touch the capability to tote around up to 50,000 e-books.

For the purposes of this thought experiment, let's stick to a round number and assume that 1 GB of storage = 1,000 titles, based on an average e-book being 1MB in size.

Most e-readers support a maximum 32GB SD card and a 32 GB card = 32,000 e-books.

Kindle users may net fewer e-books per GB than others claim, but the Kindle is pretty much out of this exercise anyway, as Amazon's e-reader lacks a memory card expansion slot.

Back to the Toronto Star article. The couple with 350,000 books is looking at storage requirements that are pretty overwhelming. That many books would fill 7,000 boxes or nine buses with all the seats removed. And that's not extrapolation, the couple literally packed that many boxes with books and transported nine full loads in a 72-passenger bus with the seats ripped out.

So what would the storage equivalent be if these were e-books instead of dead tree versions? Using that 1,000 e-books per GB figure and assuming 32GB cards, there should be some room left over with 11 memory cards. That's a stack of memory cards (if you can call it that) measuring 1.26 inches by 0.94 inches and 0.88 inches tall (even smaller if you're using Micro-SD cards).

That's right, from filling nine passenger buses — with the seats removed no less — to basically a one inch cube. 

That's one good reason why e-books are the future.

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