Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Next Big Thing

They are going to get me for this.

They (and I won’t mention any names) have been telling me that e-books are the Next Big Thing for a while now. Meanwhile, I’ve weathered iPods and iPhones, YouTube and Google, MySpace and Facebook, but despite all those other Next Big Things, they insist that e-books are going to be the Next Big Thing. I don’t believe it.

Now, maybe if they gave the electronic book readers away, I might be interested, but the ones I’ve seen cost a lot of hundreds of dollars. Additionally, you have to pay to load books into them. That’s quite an investment, considering that books-on-paper (as I guess we’d better call them from now on) are pretty inexpensive. I can buy books at a variety of prices, most of them quite reasonable, about the same as a new-release DVD. I even know places where I can buy books secondhand. I can take a book anywhere, and start reading it right where I left off, and when I’m done with it, I can give it to my wife to read; with the Next Big Thing, we would need an extra electronic book reader, and I could barely afford the first one. Better yet, I can drop a book from the second-floor window, go outside, pick it up and start reading it again. Just try that with the Next Big Thing.

To my mind, some activities simply aren’t asking to be automated. They’re quite nice the way they are. Relaxing and reading a novel—that is, a basic old book-on-paper—is one of those activities. Not having to worry about the battery running out, or dropping it, or locking it up at night, are all part of the bargain. Putting it on the shelf when I’m done and remembering it fondly is part of the bargain. Passing it on to a family member or friend is part of the bargain. If e-books really are the Next Big Thing, I’m afraid this is one big thing on which I am going to take a pass. What's your take on this?

—Jim

1 comment:

UK reader said...

I can't wait for the 'breakthrough' ebook reader to arrive - Amazon's 'Kindle' may not be it. Books aren't very environmental, need to be thoughtfully disposed of (who can just chuck one in a bin?) and are never to hand when you want them, eg stuck on a train or plane. Brand-new hardback books with good quality paper are a pleasure, but I can envisage living with a lot of the cheaper paperbacks that are churned out today. Imagine, instead, the benefits of being able to take a dozen or so e-books on holiday and not decide which one to read until you get there. And you'd have the travel guide loaded up on the reader as well - how handy is that?