"There are only two ways of telling the complete truth—anonymously and posthumously."Thomas Sowell

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The Ebooks Are Coming! The Ebooks Are Coming! No, Really!

What’s a guy with a carefully developed collection of books to do?  

My father-in-law was a high-level academic librarian for many years.  He always said the book is so good at doing its basic job, there will probably not be a solid replacement for it.

I’m beginning to suspect he might have been wrong about that.

Exhibit A:  I saw a fellow reading a book on some sort of electronic notepad device (possibly a tablet PC) recently.  He also appeared to be able to electronically mark it up.  Looked very good.

Exhibit B:  Michael Hyatt’s weblog keeps mentioning that something like an iPod for readers is coming and it will have a big impact on the market.  Since Hyatt is the president of big publisher Thomas Nelson, I think he knows whereof he speaks.  His latest post really has me sweating it.

Why am I sweating it?  

Because I realize that someday my collection may become quite obsolete and I will be able to do more, faster, better, etc. with a massive collection of books on some tiny media device.

Of course, I’m a Ph.D. student now and can’t wait for even next year.  Still, it hurts a little to know I keep moving all these boxes of books when obsolescence is around the corner.


Tlaloc said...

I doubt personally that ebooks will really replace books. Supplement sure, but hell I've had a cd with some 150 bok titles on it on my shelf for years. It's nice to know that I have them if I need them but a physical book is still far more gratifying (if , as you say, heavy).

Amy & Jordan said...

You may be interested in reading a piece I did about the publication of academic journals in print and electronic format: “Scholarship at the Crossroads: The Journal of Markets & Morality Case Study,” Journal of Scholarly Publishing 36, no. 3 (April 2005). I essentially conclude that we'll need both for the forseeable future, for a number of reasons.

I am intrigued by the possibilities of digitizing my own article collection...you know, you need a journal article, you go to the library, you copy the article on their copier, you have a hard copy.

Now those copiers can make nice PDFs and send them directly to an email address. Having the article accessible in PDF format in the first place would cut out that troublesome middle step, but until efforts like JSTOR become entirely comprehensive and cover all the relevant journals, it will still have to be done.

You might also note the existence of a "back to paper" movement in the developed world.


JC said...

For "serious" work or research, I almost always prefer "ebooks" or electronic resources. They're so much easier to catalogue, search, link, etc.
For recreational reading, there's nothing like curling up on a chair or couch and reading a (physical) book. I doubt that will ever disappear.

Hunter Baker said...

The point Hyatt makes is that the ereaders may become just as satisfying as the physical book. Think of it. You wouldn't even need a lamp. And your nicely book sized reader could contain, oh, say, every book you would ever need for your dissertation. No more typing quotes into a word document. Just highlight and save them all.

Devang said...

Tim O'Reilly, the publisher of mostly computer related books (which you'd correctly think of as someone trying to market to early adopters) doesn't like the idea of e-books unless the content can be updated and enhanced with hyperlinks. To add features of highlighting, commenting, and cataloging you're looking at what's basically a browser on some sort of a PDA. Just making the content electronically viewable adds almost no value, much less $300 worth. The E-ink screen is coming to PDA's I believe.

And to be truly useful it will have to be free of any DRM, although supporting the pdf format is a start. From the BW article:

"In 2004, Sony launched an e-book reader in Japan that also failed to take off. Called the Librie, it won plaudits for design, but its high price and draconian antipiracy technology -- users could only "rent" books from Sony for 60 days before the tomes deleted themselves -- scared off consumers."

Replacing books will take a very long time.

Personanlly I'd love such a reader, mainly because it would be lighter than a laptop, and, You'd be shocked at how most popular books are available for download in a non-searchable pdf format.

Hunter Baker said...

Part of why I take it so seriously is because of Hyatt's insistence it is coming. It is against his interest for it to be so, thus his strong feeling that it is so would seem to mean something.