Slashdot Redux – or more thoughts on ebook readers

You can tell that no progress has *really* been made in changing cultural expectations when the same arguments that were trotted out a decade ago continue to be pursued. A slashdot thread reprises the same debates about e-books that we’ve been having for ever…. “prefer real books”, “turning pages is nic”e, “price of ebooks is too high”, “nothing compares to paper”, “but free ebooks are cool”, “I read on my palm V etc etc”

And these are the geeks. Mind you they are the geeks that dismissed the first ipod as “lame” so the combined slashdot judgement is far from infallible. 

I guess my point is that if the arguments about e-readers have not really moved on, then they haven’t *really* been addressed by the new generation of devices like Kindle. Or if they have been addressed (by technical improvements in display technology etc), then the perception – and the culture – of those who read has not been shifted by their availability. At least not on a scale that matters. 

It merely re-emphasises the fact that cultural change is much more difficult than technical change, and I’m convinced that it will take more than just a killer device *by itself* to shift the culture. It will be driven by increased pleasure (convenience, new abilities, better access to more titles) or decreased cost. Or both. Sorry to say it, but to suceed, an ebook can’t be “as good” as a pbook. It probably has to be better.

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1 comment so far

  1. Adam Ruch on

    Hi Sherman!

    I agree with what you’ve said here, and to take the comparison to the iPod farther: The iPod is an MP3 player, but a very late-generation Mp3 player. The earlier incarnations of the device sucked, they were expensive, only held maybe 1 album worth of music, and so were similar to a walkman or discman, in that you’d have to stop at homebase to swap CDs/Mp3 files.

    Enter the iPod and you have a discman you can carry ALL your CDs on at the same time. This is a significant change, and for all the cleverness and technological Wow-factor the iPod has, it had significantly improve the portable music potential to be taken up. Something dramatically different will have to happen with an ‘e-book’ before we’ll stop buying regular books.


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