Guest Column: E-books: Reading Like It’s 1999
The only thing truly new in the e-books space is the iPhone. And while there are various apps one can use to read books on an iPhone, books have not yet been fully integrated into the overall iTunes experience. So people may indeed be reading on their iPhones, but it is not yet a seamless or intuitive experience.
This is not to say that anyone is necessarily to blame. Everyone’s heart has been mostly in the right place during the last decade: Publishers want to sell books and introduce great authors to readers, and device manufacturers want to find new and better ways for people to use their gadgets. The problem is that we’ve allowed the obstacles we once viewed as hurdles—things we were going to handily leap—turn into fences that have grown so tall, we’re starting to get boxed in. If we don’t make some breakthroughs—and soon—the walls around us will be insurmountable.
This is important because the idea of electronic reading remains, and is valid: People want to read, and they want to consume content electronically. The fact that blogs, social networks and Web sites are so popular proves that people hardly shy away when it comes to staring at a computer screen for long periods of time. In fact, the biggest difference between now and 10 years ago is how pervasively digital our society has become. Web sites like Google are so ingrained in our culture that it’s part of our everyday lives and language. iPods are everywhere, everyone’s sending text messages, and most people wouldn’t think of going a day without updating either their Facebook profile or Twitter feed. The electronic reading of linear text one day will be similarly commonplace.
I don’t know how long it’ll take for us to get to a world where the e-book experience is the one that’s long been promised, and that finally strays from the template introduced a decade ago, but it will indeed arrive. In the meantime, maybe I’ll settle down for a quick nap—just as Rip Van Winkle did—and, by the time I wake up, we’ll all be reading e-books (in whichever year that may be).