Burn your books, readers are coming

This is fairly off topic for me but today I will write about technology [and I do so knowing the proper tech blogging crew probably covered this three years ago!], namely the hand held gadget called a Reader. I recently received one for Christmas (my wife gets me all the cool stuff I own – iPods etc.) and despite being a confirmed bookworm I am totally impressed with the Reader, and of course there are other makers as well (amazon etc.).

So why burn your books? Well, find some storage anyway because the written word is likely, over time to go the same route as music did. It makes sense on several levels and the points are below.

1. Books take up space, physical space, my house is full of books, my desk at work is too, I am a book lover, I wouldn’t say I have a ‘private library’ but I do have a damn big book collection. If I could fit all of these onto a small hard drive and then using flash cards put them on a reader as I see fit it would be great. Ebooks save space. Steven King had tried and ebook only release a few years ago but reading on a monitor is still hard work and not pleasant on the eyes, but a reader page looks just like a regular page, no glare and less eye strain as you can magnify the text (no book does this yet!).

2. Distribution: Amazon are moving -and it’s smart of them – into cloud computing, is that because the book market will face decline or is it pure innovation on their behalf given the amount of server CPU and storage they have? I would wager it’s both, but from a purely practical perspective – going online and getting an ebook would do a few things, it would mean less paper is required (less trees felled), less postage and shipping (carbon footprints of planes and delivery vehicles as well as no packaging), indeed electronic deliver is the most efficient method I know of getting something from point A to B, that’s why email is so popular and software downloads are largely replacing physical CD’s of software right?!

3. Competitive pricing: Many of the books I like to read – confession of being a nerd apparent- are university publications and short runs which makes it really hard for me to get them, and when I do they are very expensive, an iTunes for books is a business waiting to flourish! And it doesn’t preclude profit to the author or distributor (piracy aside) because much of the cost of a book in a bookshop is going towards premises rent, staff etc. If an author was able to get the same amount the wouldn’t really care how it was distributed, indeed, we would hurt the environment less by using electronic distribution. I haven’t figured out how to download a car or a sandwich yet 😉

The downside would be job losses in printing houses, distribution companies, book stores etc. but this would not be instant because the industry won’t change fast.

The ability to keep a library in a small space is what drove the popularity of the iPod versus owning hundreds of CD’s. Computers in business keep lots of information that used to be kept on paper on hard drives and readers are no different.

I suppose the thing is this – the ‘early adaptors’ stage has passed, I base this on the fact that I now own one and I have never been the cutting edge of anything, unless ‘getting into trouble’ is a cutting edge.

One of the greatest tragedies in the history of learning was the burning of libraries/books which was a hallmark of the Dark Ages, they represented potential knowledge that might thwart simple minds, nowadays we know that is tripe, and information is moving faster and faster, but wouldn’t it be great to see readers getting to kids around the world, giving them access to whatever their minds desired? the infrastructure doesn’t need to be even half of what getting them on the web would be and therefore it might be a better route of getting the children of the world a better education, learning has a way of breaking the poverty cycle.

Anyway, I’m a convert, and as of today I will have more future room in my house, as I won’t be filling it with more books.

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