I’ve spent most of the day attending a class and meeting with a job counselor, so I just now spotted this topic over at Web Worker Daily. It emphasizes the interesting point that e-books are likely to survive by finding a niche of their own when it comes to certain types of publications rather than by replacing the books we read for pleasure. Anne Zelenka sees e-books as being better suited for text books and work related reading than their paper and board counterparts and, since e-books are electronically searchable, I tend to agree with her.
Why will e-book readers succeed? Not because e-books are good replacements for paper books — but because they’re good complements to paper books and documents, especially for work-related reading rather than pure pleasure.
Time and again we see that technology doesn’t have to mean an end to the old ways of doing things. Tech tools allow us to do things in different ways or to do things we couldn’t possibly do before, adding new value to our lives, not just reproducing value we could already access.
There are other reasons e-books and e-book readers may have value even in a world where paper books don’t become obsolete. Students could benefit from electronic textbooks, carrying the equivalent of a backpack full of books in a small tablet. Knowledge workers might prefer to read technical articles or lengthy professional documents on an easy to read, lightweight reader rather than printing them out and carrying them. Imagine taking hundred-page spec documents onto a plane with you just by carrying a reader loaded with them, and being able to search them electronically instead of using a table of contents or index. Service people could carry readers loaded with installation and repair manuals.
You can’t take an e-book reader into the bath tub with you, but so what? There’s room in the world for electronic and paper books.
I seriously doubt that e-books will ever result in much of a change in the way that we read for pleasure. Holding a book, turning the pages, placing the bookmark and all of the assorted tactile pleasures that come from doing those things will never be replaced by squinting at some rigid electronic books reader. Just won’t happen. But I would love being able to quickly search some of the business and non-fiction books that I read rather than having to mark them up and flip through hundreds of pages looking for exactly the definition or reference that I vaguely remember seeing somewhere along the way.