Have you seen all of the links pointing to The Future of Reading, a “Newsweek” article by Steven Levey? Well, there’s one if you haven’t. What the excitement? Amazon.com releases their ebook reader, called the Kindle, tomorrow. Along with it comes a wireless content purchasing system. The article is worth a read and it claims that the print book will be a thing of the past in 50 years. Gasp! I’ve heard that one before, but to be honest, the more time goes on, the more I think it could be true.
O’Reilly thinks the device is somewhat irrelevant and finds the wireless book purchasing/download aspect more interesting. This makes sense coming from a publisher, and probably librarians too. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: anywhere on demand delivery is a potentially strong threat to public libraries.
Speaking of libraries, they’re mentioned once in the article and not in the typical doom-and-gloom-the-sky-is-falling-on-them way. In fact, it kind of makes it seem like we’re a step ahead of Bezos and the Kindle.
Bezos explains that it’s only fair to charge less for e-books because you can’t give them as gifts, and due to restrictive antipiracy software, you can’t lend them out or resell them. (Libraries, though, have developed lending procedures for previous versions of e-booksâ€”like the tape in “Mission: Impossible,” they evaporate after the loan periodâ€”and Bezos says that he’s open to the idea of eventually doing that with the Kindle.)
Of course, this statement isn’t accurate. Libraries haven’t “developed lending procedures,” have we? No. Vendors and publishers have. In a pretty crumby way. The article makes our ebooks seem pretty cool though with a comparison to Mission: Impossible. Librarians reading the article will find the Mission: Impossible comparison apt but for entirely different reasons.
Mystery novelist James Patterson (did you know he came up with the slogan “Toys ‘R Us Kid?”) thinks ebooks will supplant paper books soon and reasons:
“The baby boomers have a love affair with paper,” he says. “But the next-gen people, in their 20s and below, do everything on a screen.”
Kids these days, I tell ya!
Other good bits from the article include thinking of ebooks as potentially social documents. Authors could update content easily. Users could comment, or even hold book discussions within a book. I like the idea of having different layers of a book that can be turned on and off at will.