First, in shopping for a new apartment, my wife and I went to Bed Bath & Beyond. As I arrived before she did, I was wandering around the store when I saw an e-reader (pictured right) sitting on the shelf near the door. Yes, an e-reader in BB&B. A color one with a touch screen for under $200, at that. Barnes & Noble is the content provider, but from the options, it seems a lot like a Kindle. I couldn’t actually hold one since the display was quite fixed and non-interactive, but it really made me do a double take. Is it any good? I have no clue. But it’s being sold on the shelf of a store that does not come to mind when you think books. This really reinforces the my notion that, within five years, a company like Amazon will throw in a Kindle for free when you order five or more books.
I looked at a Nook on a recent trip to Barnes and Noble. Immediately I could see some real reasons why I like the idea of eBooks. I like the idea of loading two or three books on an eReader before going on vacation. My wife can attest to the fact that it would limit the weight of the luggage that we bring on a trip.
I like the idea of reading in the dark, when I have insomnia. I could sit in bed and read from a well-lit screen.
I also like the idea of being able to manipulate font sizes so that I would not have to tote around a large print book again.
However I will never, never BUY an eBook. I could give romantic reasons as to my decisions; the smell of new books, padded covers of collector's editions etc. Yet these are not the reasons that I would never BUY an eBook. I would never buy an eBook, because the book would never be permanent. What do you buy when you BUY an eBook? You buy the rights to download the eBook to a portable device or to a PC.
What's wrong with this? The books I buy I do not buy to hold temporarily. I don't buy bestsellers. I don't buy the next big thing. I buy books that I plan to keep for a lifetime. EBooks are the antithesis of this. Individuals who buy eBooks don't plan on keeping them forever; filling Kindle after Kindle with classics; libraries of flash drives alphabetized.
The failure is not the technology. The capacity to download, store, and recall hundreds if not thousands of books is impressive. The ability to replicate the look of font on paper is incredible. Each generation of e-book devices is rapidly outpacing the previous incarnations with additional features such as internet browser, PDF support, wireless updates, subscription support, and multiple e-book file types. The technology in and of itself is grand and a true marvel of the modern times.
The failure is how the e-book reader companies do not consider libraries as a viable customer.