Wednesday, April 05, 2006

What's the trouble with eBooks?

I'm sorry to readers for being such a slacker in getting new posts on this blog. But, hey! I've been busy.....

Any way, the's technology section contains a remarkable article, "E-books, has your time come?" by Elinor Mills, who was writing for The article is a pretty good analysis of what's happening in the industry, but contains the following few paragraphs (below) in the middle of the article.

What's especially interesting about the article and the quotes is that the clear presupposition is that the technology will inevitably "evolve" from books to online, despite the comments from Project Gutenberg Director, Gregory Newby. It seems that everyone assumes (wants?) that books will eventually go away! As though somehow this new technology is going to change reality!

Can't anyone see that if e-books "take off" it may only be in a very small niche market and for a very small band of afficianados. Books may well remain the predominant format for books. (!)

I've excerpted a few paragraphs from the NY Times article for those who are subscribers to If you want the full text of the article click the link contained in this post's title, above, or click here.

"We don't see a lot of resistance to electronic books per se," said Gregory Newby, director of Project Gutenberg, the first electronic library, which offers 20,000 titles for free. "What we see are limiting factors in specialized readers and difficulty in finding good stuff to read." Plus, "publishers are charging the same amount for an electronic book as for a paper book."

There are other challenges too. With e-book readers, people may be able to store numerous texts in one small device and do things to make reading easier, such as changing type size, something that's impossible with print. But people also like to share books with others, resell them and hand them down to their children, he said.

"When you buy a book, you have it forever," Newby said. "With these electronic books, you often are prevented from doing those things that you can do with regular books. What happens when my device breaks?...Books aren't just words on a page. They are things you can trade, share and store for later."

To be compelling enough to trigger any kind of mass migration away from paper books, e-books will need to have compelling characteristics regular books don't, such as interactivity and mixed-media capabilities, Newby and others said.