About Ebooks

This is a 2008 article from Epublishers Weekly about ebooks, but it does talk about some good reasons to read ebooks, one of my favourites being that it’s good for the environment.

There also a great Feb. 2009 article by John Siracuse in ars technica about “The once and future ebooks.”  Siracuse starts by saying:

“people don’t get e-books.” This is as true today as it was ten years ago. Venture capitalists didn’t get it then, nor did the series of owners that killed Peanut Press, nor do many of the players in the e-book market today. And then there are the consumers, their own notions about e-books left to solidify in the absence of any clear vision from the industry. […] Here’s an awesome, obvious, inevitable idea, seemingly thwarted at every turn by widespread consumer misunderstanding and an endemic lack of will among the big players.

This is so true. Even after more than ten years being involved with ebooks, I’m still fighting the Huh? factor, and the stigma that ebooks are only from self-published authors. I’ve been arguing that the ebook is a medium for content, like print books, and Siracuse agrees:

the conflation of these two concepts in the nomenclature of print naturally carries over to the digital terminology, much to the confusion of all.

This is not the case with music, for example, where the medium and the content are separate. The medium changes—vinyl, 8-track, cassette, CD, MP3—but music is still music. Music is the product. Music is what you’re buying. The medium is just a vessel, and that vessel changes ruthlessly. When a better, cheaper, faster, or more convenient medium appears, the music follows—with or without the content owners.

But Siracuse uses a cynical — if true– argument for people eventually accepting, and reading, ebooks:

To put it bluntly, people die. Indeed, death is arguably the single most important driver for all human progress. […] The next generation, though influenced by the prejudices of their parents, are nevertheless more likely to judge new technologies on their merits, and so on for each new generation.

He then goes on with a funny –if true again– analogy between horses and ebooks:

Books will never go away.” True! Horses have not gone away either.

Books have advantages over e-books that will never be overcome.” True! Horses can travel over rough terrain that no car can navigate. Paved roads don’t go everywhere, nor should they.

Books provide sensory/sentimental/sensual experiences that e-books can’t match.” True! Cars just can’t match the experience of caring for and riding a horse: the smells, the textures, the sensations, the companionship with another living being.

Lather, rinse, repeat. Did you ride a horse to work today? I didn’t. I’m sure plenty of people swore they would never ride in or operate a “horseless carriage”—and they never did! And then they died.

And Siracuse sees a bright future ahead for ebooks:

All of that said, there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the business side of the e-book equation. There are now some powerful players making moves, with others that seem poised to do so.

Soon publishers, ebook sellers, and readers will see it as natural to use the medium that suits them best: electronic or print, who cares, as long as the content is there?

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