Reading’s Future

Behind, somewhat, on working my way through my reading pile, I came across an iPad article from the April 5th Newsweek, “What’s So Great About The iPad?” (Anna Quindlen). I’ve been fond of her writing for awhile, so this was a must read, especially considering the synergy between writer and the subject. She isn’t as focused on the iPad, rather the state of reading and the impact (iMpact?) of e-readers on the book and reading. I’ve been wondering for awhile how the iPad, or any of these devices, will change the market…much less reading. Perhaps, just maybe, this could be a more productive way to manage my reading?

Is the book dead? No. Transforming? Yes. She points out a few key statistics. First, it’s not youth that are driving the new market. Rather, it is middle-aged men (her statement was that specific). I don’t know if her assertion that this might be due to adjustable font sizes is the driver, or that simply they’re the ones who can afford the devices? Another thing that middle-aged men (especially those with significant discretionary income) tend to travel a great deal. They would be a major beneficiary of the ebook’s prime benefit: one device with hundreds of books. Besides, the changes in other sectors (CDs and MP3 for music; tv, vhs and dvd’s for video), well, the ones that result in major demographic transitions, get driven by youth first and then flow up to the other age groups (think Facebook). Additionally, she points out a significant up-tick in the number of people currently reading a book “currently” (18% in 1952, 47% in 2005). So, I don’t expect that the electronic reader will displace the paper book anytime soon. Not until the cost comes down dramatically, at least. And the gee-whizz app comes onboard.

As I consider the subject, I’m reminded of vinyl records. CDs were going to kill them. And, actually, they had…at least to the naked eye. Turns out there’s still demand (and companies selling), and a debate about the superiority of the CD. I love Ms. Quindlen’s statement, “Americans, however, tend to bring an either-or mentality to most things…”. We do love hyperbolic drama…look at politics and political speech. Anyway, I’m reminded of all the discussion, back in the 90s mostly, about the demise of Apple, Inc. as they didn’t have the largest market share. Microsoft had the largest market share, so everyone else is dying. No consideration of the profitability of the company. Now look at things. The prognosticators and now, of course, predicting the demise of MSFT. Much like the immortals in Highlander, they feel there can be only one. I find the notion laughable. There is room for more than one technology. One can exist without being dominant in the market. And, shocking from me I’m sure, new isn’t always better.

I’ve wondered if having all my materials in one place, i.e.: a Kindle or iPad, would enable me to work through the pile quicker. If nothing else, having it with me “all the time” would provide more chances to read through the pile at odd moments. Perhaps, though, I benefit from not fitting every moment with productivity. I feel pressure to fill every moment with productivity…what I have I completed today? How many items on my task list have I checked off? Quiet and calm have value. Just like paper books. They may not be the most efficient, or most dazzling, but they work. We need to remember that the can be more than one medium, more than one platform, more than one way of doing things. We’re better for the diversity.


One thought on “Reading’s Future

  1. I don't have any kind of digital book reader, other than my PC itself. So my view is slanted. But, I can't see the book ever being replaced. Electronics still have to run on a power source and use light. My favourite time to read a book is caught between being in a coffee shop and being in bed late at night or early Sunday morning. In bed at night anything that glares up at me is not going to be fun to read. In the coffee shop, I can sit there for a few hours reading, people watching, pausing to write or draw something. I'd likely outlast the battery supply and then not be able to read. I'd also miss just having a book in my purse, the physical object. I like the smell of a new book. I have gone to the book store and sniffed the fresh pages, especially the hardcovers which seem to keep the smell longer. In the long run, a book can fall into the bathtub and still be readable, can't say the same for an ebook.

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