So Amazon and Google are wading into the rather stagnant waters of the E-book, hoping to get something roiling. New York Times has the article, which chronicles a bit of the history of the E-book, which everyone keeps on saying will take off but it hasn’t quite yet. The obvious comparison is to the success of the IPOD, but there are crucial differences.
1. People listen to the IPOD while doing other things, while an E-book reader will require all of a person’s attention.
2. People like to switch from song to song to song, mixing and matching artists, and so conceivably like to have a huge music library to choose from, but when reading, people don’t want or need 75 books to choose from – they probably just want to read one, which they can comfortable carry.
3. The IPOD is so much lighter than any E-book reader out there – even the Sony one, which I tried out at the UCLA book fair six months ago – which makes for much easier carrying.
4. While I prefer not to have a huge stack of CDs occupying floor and/or wall space in my apartment, I actually enjoy having the physical presence of books – I think the boxy symmetry of a bookcase decorates beautifully, and it’s ever so nice to be able to scan a row of books.
All that to say that the E-book reader faces some significant hurdles. The first time I played with an IPOD (in the Swiss Alps), I immediately believed it to be the greatest invention of the last few decades and set in motion extreme methods of saving so I could purchase one. With E-book readers, they don’t thrill me in any way. And even though I might not be the target demographic (perhaps it would be wise to capture kids just as they start reading in elementary and junior high), I still wonder if they will be as thrilled to read off a screen, even if it isn’t backlit. I suppose the future will tell.