Thursday, January 6, 2011

Signs, Portents

We keep reading about reading - about the migration from paper to electronic screens. Probably as big a culture shift as the move from papyrus scrolls to printed books.

Against all my instincts, I now own a NOOK. Love it. But I will always love "real" books too. I don't think they're dead.

1) Sure some authors announce their future books will be ebooks.
2) Sure some (soon, I suspect, all) scholars release footnote-y info only electronically, as with the new Mark Twain Autobiography. Cheaper than printing a tome for a tiny audience.
3) Okay, lots of new books will go e... 'cause it's cheaper.
4) And ereaders like NOOK or KINDLE let the reader haul more books without a hernia. (I have all of Shakespeare, most of Twain, and a hefty slice of Dickens on mine.) Hail Project Gutenberg!
5) Even the great used book chain Half Price Books is now on-line and planning to sell ebooks.
6) ebooks and ereaders have advantages.


I'm reading As You Like It. From a huuuuge Globe Illustrated Shakespeare because: portentous adds to the fun; I color illustrations as I go, which slows me down; my brother's book is sentimental beyond the charm of crisp paper with dry-leaf smell. But I am also reading it on my NOOK. Easier to carry to the kitchen. I'll carry it to my meeting. And, eventually I'll read the play in a third form: a printout, script, or cheap paperback I can mark-up with scenic notes.

I think e and traditional books will co-exist. Just as Starbucks sells coffee but also rents a public sitting room, so books provide information and ideas, but also other things: a link to an author maybe as a signature, a sentimental gift, an experience... Some uses will be better served by e and others by physical books.

Watching this play out should be interesting...

I look forward to Half Price Books selling the first used ebook. Why not? My library makes you return ebooks. So, when those pixels get shelf-worn, will they sell them? I picture a wasteland of tired Da Vinci Code pixels.

I look forward to the first e pop-up book.

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