Friday, February 04, 2011

The e-book is the future ~ By Phil Elmore

The e-book is the future. Publishers, to remain relevant, are evolving. Readers, for good or ill, must do the same.

In this column, Phil examines the trend of the electronic books (e-books), and what it means for the readers and the publishers. Will it catch on? The answer is a definite yes, as the transition is already happening at a rapid pace. And yes, there will be people that are "traditionalists" that would rather have the hard-cover and/or paperbacks over the e-books.

However, will they always have the option? Will people be able to buy paperbacks, much less magazines and newspapers, for very much longer? That day could come soon when there will not be a choice. (Think green...) I actually predicted several decades ago, when I bought my first Apple II computer and had a 300 baud modem and AOL that the day would come when everything would be read on computers, and that was BEFORE Al Gore invented the internet!

The e-book is the future
By Phil Elmore

February 03, 2011 ~ 1:00 am Eastern

© 2011

"I don't want an e-reader," I've groused. "I like reading real books." But am I right to object to e-books ... and does it matter that I do? Last week, CNET reported that Amazon is now selling more e-books for its Kindle reader than it is selling traditional paperback books. When e-books outsold hardcovers, this was no real shock, given the high prices hardcovers command. The paperback, by contrast, is the standard by which leisure reading is judged. For most of the years of my teenage and adult lives, a stack of paperbacks was my constant companion. Paperbacks went with me in my briefcase, my shoulder bag and my jacket pocket, entertaining me in waiting rooms, coffee shops and at home. For the venerable paperback to be replaced by virtual books read on devices costing more than 20 or 30 of those paperbacks, a truly major shift must be occurring – both in consumer preference and in producer offering.

Interestingly, Amazon won't say exactly how many Kindles it sells, although its website proclaims the device their best-selling item. This is impressive given the traditional hurdles e-books must overcome in supplanting printed, paper books.

As I have previously discussed in Technocracy, a major criticism of e-books is that such books are treated as software and sold under what could be construed as a software licensing model. We naturally resist this. Whether we put it on a shelf or level the coffee table with it, we figure a paper book is wholly ours, forever. What we forget is that licensing limitations constrain what we may or may not do with the paper books we purchase. You cannot take your new paperback, run photocopies and sell those copies on eBay. You can't scan it and put the resulting PDF file on Scribd for all the world to enjoy. You are, therefore, as limited as you are when "renting" or otherwise licensing a piece of software. You just aren't aware of it.

Early missteps involving the yanking of electronic books, unannounced, from users' readers – appropriately enough, over issues of licensing – did not help build confidence in this new model of literature sales, distribution and enjoyment. As we adjust to the idea that software is ephemeral and impermanent, that books are not fixed in space and time so much as they are read, archived and either backed up or lost, we step closer to a world in which "book" means an arrangement of data rather than a physical object that happens to convey the same. The e-book focuses the reader on the reading, not on the delivery system.


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