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Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Future of eBooks

Believe it or not, this is the tenth anniversary of the launch of the Kindle.  And yet, it feels as if the eBook reader has been around for ever.

In the beginning, it was hugely successful.  The "print" run of the first model sold out in less than six hours.  Everyone thought that this was the future of reading.  Print book sales would plummet, and digital books had a golden commercial future.

Well, it didn't work out like that.  People who cleared their shelves of traditional books came to regret it very fast.  After all, there is nothing like the weight and intimacy of a printed book in your hand.  And, have you ever tried reading a Kindle in the bath?

So, while it is hard to put a figure on it, digital books have hung about the 25% of total book sales mark.  And now, the blame is being placed on the Kindle itself.

The first evidence that the Kindle was clunky came when reading eBooks became possible on other devices -- tablets (the iPad in particular), phones and laptops.  But still there are huge drawbacks, a major being the stress on the eyesight.

And so the gurus and geeks in the back rooms of Amazon are working on a digital device that you could easy mistake for a proper book.  It has pages that can be folded and dog-eared, and hold a proper bookmark, instead of that annoying digital tag.  And, at the same time, it can be connected to the internet.

But will it bring more readers to the market?  Maybe, but maybe not.  Because the sad truth is that people are reading fewer books than ever.  Because of social media, the entire industry, both traditional and digital, is facing a serious threat.

Post inspired by an article, "E-book tech makes for page-turner" by Cas Carter in the Dominion Post. 

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