As I'm sure everyone has heard by now Amazon's Kindle has pressed e-books out into the public eye in a way that no product has done before. In the days that ensued the official release of Kindle the product certainly lived up to its name, but not in the way Amazon predicted. Regardless of its criticism the Kindle has really opened up debate on the future and even the necessity of e-books. I feel that although in its infant stages e-books are gaining little headway, in a few short years given the right direction we will see a paradigm shift in the realm of literature and I would like to explain why.
Many have suggested that the Kindle is the iPod for books to the rebuttal that such a comparison is illogical. Most say that music was never a material to be tangibly possessed. Music has always been audible and you can't "have" music like you can "have books. The same critics say that e-book readers will never take flight because people want to own their hard copy literature too badly. I believe that that simply not true.
When the iPod really caught on it was still a goal for many to have a large collection of music that they could show off in a library just like books. People would amass their records on shelves and their CDs in those horribly designed, Wal-Mart produced CD racks in their living room. The iPod changed the rules. Now music is collected digitally but a highly regarded library is still sought, only now on the computer screen using coverflow. Imagine if e-book readers with the help of programs like delicious library could do the same thing. E-book readers could do this, but not in their current stage.
Adapting to the consumer
There are several steps that need to take place in order for e-books to truly establish themselves as a practical tool. In their current stage e-book readers are lack-luster, but they can become viable.
First, the readers must come down in price. Understandably the product is going to have to be expensive, but $400 is really much too much. The average person needs to feel that they can justify the purchase and that means that the price has to be in the average buyer's range.
Secondly, there has to be a way to share content. Loaning out books is paramount. This, for me, is the biggest issue. I am not certain about the copyright laws here, but I believe that if I wish to give a book away that is within my rights. With e-book readers the copy is digital and publishers will argue that copies will be made which cheats authors out of their cut. However, if an there was an effective way to ensure that only one user could have the content at a time then the ball will start rolling. This is a tough issue, I understand that, but one that needs to be addressed and hashed out for the benefit of all parties concerned.
Finally, all e-book readers need to come standard with several features to ensure their practicality. Capitalism dictates that no "official" rules can be set, but for if anyone really wants to see e-books become the new standard and to sell their reader then they have to concede to a few standards.
- The readers need to have some sort of mark-up feature. Taking notes and underlining passages is a must for many readers.
- External memory. An absolute must, lets not play the iPod game here
- If you are going to use the same networks that cell phones use then you need to be able to turn that feature on and off. This way users can still read on flights during take off and landing.
Why e-books need to succeed
I believe that it is imperative that e-books become a standard. There are several reasons for this. First and foremost is the environmental concerns. Producing mostly digital copies of books will certainly have a huge impact on the environment. Some say that this is not a just enough cause, but I feel that is mostly because of nostalgia. To that I say, too bad. No one should feel nostalgic about hard copy books, especially if you check the New York Times online for news. Digital content is the future. I really think that people need to come to terms with that.
Additionally, I believe that e-books will stem interest in literature and literary criticism which has taken a decline as of late. According to many notable critics and others in the realm of literature, literary criticism has been on a decline. This is not so good for literature in general. I believe that e-books will turn the tide here and spur more reading. With that will come a new wave of literary criticism, e-criticism. Hopefully e-book readers will be offer a service where users can look up criticism of the work the have downloaded.