They made several fine points. Paul’s rundown of the difficulties with and backwards-compatibility of constantly evolving formats struck a chord, as did Jodi’s breakdown of the difficulties of pricing the various formats. But what stuck with me the most was a quote, hidden among their larger points, from the the VP of Amazon Kindle stuck with me:
Ian Freed, the Amazon Kindle vice-president, believes that the success of Kindle heralds the end for printed books, and has been quoted as saying “The only question is does it take three years, five years or 20 years?”
I’m not sure what surprised me the most about this quote: the absurdity, the audacity or the naiveté.
I suppose the quote could easily be written off as narcissistic self-promotion. After all, it’s in his company’s interest to make people believe that the paper book is on it’s way out. I, however, don’t think that it was purely self-promotion (the narcissism is hard to argue). Every time I hear some executive trumpet the end of the paper book, I wonder how someone so critically out of touch with readers can climb into a position of influence within the industry.
Ink and paper holds a critical, historical, mythical place in human history. One of the benchmarks of ancient societies was whether they developed written language, and the use of paper takes the society up another notch. Guttenberg’s press, and the bible it made possible, ushered in a transformation of the world and the way we learn.
These are not subtle milestones in the history of the world. These are bold lines in the time line of the Earth—before them is darkness, after there is light.
But aside from that, somewhere deep within our cores, we understand that there is something special, something magical, about something you can hold and touch. There is a magic involved in taking a thought and making it real and eternal by using ink and paper—a magic that’s lost when it’s recorded in electrons, ones and zeroes.
I’m no technophobe. I appreciate technology, and use quite a bit if it. But I also understand it’s limitations. It is not universal. It is not eternal. It is fragile. I understand that being able to carry a thousand books in my pocket, also means that I can lose a thousand books by dropping a small electronic device.
E-books and readers certainly have their place, especially in a future where we may want to take millions of books into space, or deep beneath the oceans, but the day they replace paper books is a long, long way off.
An eBook reader may be cool…
…but it’s not magic.
Besides, how do you get an author to sign a copy of their eBook?