The Doomed E-book

DH passed along a terrific article in ComputerWorld magazine about “Why E-books are Bound to Fail.”  I’m in agreement with the author, never having understood the appeal of the things, myself.

He has some very cogent arguments and the article is worth a read.  My favorites:

They’re expensive.

There are many subtle, minor disadvantages to e-books. For example, they’re expensive. The hardware costs hundreds of dollars. Worse, books tend not to be hugely discounted in electronic form. The paperback version of “The Google Story: Inside the Hottest Business, Media, and Technology Success of Our Time,” by David A. Vise and Mark Malseed, costs $11.20 on Amazon.com. The same book in electronic format on eBooks.com costs $9.95. You save $1.25. The reason is that the value of a book lies mostly in the intellectual property, not the wood pulp that constitutes the physical book. So e-books aren’t cheaper.

People love paper books.

In other words, e-books are not, and cannot be, superior to what they are designed to replace.

People who care enough about books to spend $25 billion on them each year tend to love books and everything about them. They love the look and feel of books. They like touching the paper, and looking at words and illustrations at a resolution no e-book will ever match. They view “curling up with a good book” as an escape from the electronic screens they look at all day. They love to carry them, annotate them, and give them as gifts. Book collecting is one of the biggest hobbies in the world.

Boy, that’s me in a nutshell, as DH will attest.  We have books in almost every room of the house.  (I refuse to put them in the bathrooms, but they’re pretty much everywhere else.)  I buy books like some women buy shoes.

The author goes on with a very good point:

So many predictions about the future have failed because futurists tend to overemphasize the possible over the desirable. They give too much weight to technology and not enough to human nature.

Yes, yes, yes.  I would posit that the codicil to that is “Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.”

He concludes,

[…]do people want to “curl up” with a battery-operated plastic screen?The obvious answer is no.

And that’s the simple reason why e-books will never even come close to replacing paper books.

Amen, brother.

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2 Comments

Filed under Libraries and Librarianship, Techie stuff

2 responses to “The Doomed E-book

  1. DBF

    Actually, you buy books like YOU buy shoes.

  2. Well, I’m very influenced by my DBF…..

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