Monday, November 19

Books aren't dead. Neither are e-books the Next Big Thing

I don't think Amazon's Kindle is going to change the book world, though I hope I'm wrong.

I can see that the world would be a better place if there were no more printed books leaving forests denuded, taking up retail shelving, needing to be resold, recycled or worse once you've read them.

I concede that the Kindle is a major step forward in e-book tech, featuring better screen, easier nav, longer battery life and more storage at a lower price than ever before.

Two reasons why I don't think it will be successful:

1. It doesn't solve a problem for the consumer; and
2. It confuses the medium with the media.

It solves problems, but Amazon's problems, not the consumer's. The consumer does not have a problem. People don't walk out of book stores complaining about how unpleasant it is to quietly browse for a while. Nobody throws a book down in disgust and cries, "I just can't deal with the resolution of this typesetting on this paperstock!" and very few of us complain about the price of books (at least, not those of us who might be able to afford an Amazon Kindle.)

The Kindle, and the Sony e-book gadget and all the others are lovely showcases for the latest technology, but they confuse the medium with the media.

The media (the information, the narrative, the opinion, the pictures, ideas and all the rest of it) absolutely do not need to be on something that looks and works like a book (the media) to find an audience.

Modern authors know this from publishing their books online and by writing blogs. The music industry has known this for the past five years or so as they've seen their media transfer from one medium (CD) to another (.MP3) so fast that it's almost killed their industry. But now the music industry is starting to adapt, and is realising this is their biggest opportunity since the invention of radio.

The "word industry" (for want of a better name for it since it's not just a book publishing industry - that again confuses media with medium) just needs to learn not to confuse media with medium and it will stop wasting time with ebook readers and sell large numbers of words... some of them very long indeed!

The only issues the consumer complains about are the very issues that are created by the word industry itself trying to maintain its exclusive control of the creation, distribution and sale of word-based works. The Kindle is mainly an attempt to wrest control from the book publishers and their retail distribution networks and hand it straight to Jeff Bezos.
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