Time’s Invention of the Year

Time Magazine announced its invention of the year last week. (Why is it that November and December never seem to count as part of a year when it comes to such events? The iphone, not unexpectedly, won the major gong. And for all the right reasons. The reason why it comes up in a range of conversations (like a blog about books) is that it’s more than a phone; it has the potential to be a game-changer in a variety of realms. As Time says:

It’s a genuine handheld, walk-around computer, the first device that really deserves the name

As such, it has the potential to do anything… like, one day, be a great ebook reader.

And lost in the iphone headlines, Time nominated another book-related item in the ‘Living’ section of the Best Inventions Article. Just down from an injury-monitoring football helmet, came the Espresso machine, a $50,000 instant print-on-demand book maker that some cite as the missing link in the electronic reading universe.

In some ways, these two devices represent alternate pathways to an e-reading future. In the book, I argue for the purity of the electronic future. But in the short-term, I suspect those pathways will co-exist – until the iphone gets good enough and does exactly what readers want. As Time suggests:

Look at the iPod of six years ago. That monochrome interface! That clunky touchwheel! It looks like something a caveman whittled from a piece of flint using another piece of flint. Now imagine something that’s going to make the iPhone look that primitive. You’ll have one in a few years. It’ll be very cool. And it’ll be even cheaper. 

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