How the E-Book Will Change the Way We Read and Write

According to Steven Johnson's piece in The Wall Street Journal, the "breakthrough success of Amazon's Kindle e-book reader, and the maturation of the Google Book Search service"  could "make 2009 the most significant year in the evolution of the book since Gutenberg hammered out his original Bible." Johnson goes on to explain why e-book readers (like the Kindle) will stimulate book sales (never a bad thing for a battered industry), and why it will also transform the way we find, read, talk and write about books. Definitely worth a quick read. And if you have more thoughts on what the digital book universe will look like, add them to the comments below.


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  • Carol A says:

    Getting the formats right is going to be a painful period, but some research into the background of writing reveals a lot of teething problems when we first started to scribble – which direction? (Left to right, right to left) the format of books/scrolls. What we really need now is a cheaper bookreader! I can buy a lot of books for the price of one gadget, and would probably have to send away for one overseas. But this will happen, look at the price of MP3 players now compared to a few years ago.

  • Debi says:

    I have an Ebook from Sony, and I read more than ever.

  • Bob Price says:

    In the future reading books will become an entitlement for the people able to afford the hardware. Libraries will be gone due to budget cuts. Paper will be gone due to our green concerns. Our wireless home networks will send information to flexible displays we can fold or roll-up for easy carry to our destinations. The poor will have cell phones that will serve as text displays.

    I think I need to switch to decaf.

  • Dan Colman says:

    A quick thought on the price of e-book readers. The Kindle is admittedly pricey right now. But you should keep in mind that new Kindle books are often 1/3 cheaper than paper copies available on Amazon. And sometimes they’re much cheaper. (You can buy public domain classics for $1-$2.) If you were saving $5 per book on average, then you would cover the cost of the $359 Kindle over 80 books. Once prices come down, as they inevitably will, you’ll eventually get ebook readers for closer to $100 and then you’ll cover the cost over 20 books. From there you’re saving money. That doesn’t seem too shabby.

  • Gaurav says:

    I was wondering what will be the impact on textbooks. There are not that many textbooks available in Kindle right now. And with constant back-referencing and marking required, is it even suitable for textbooks?

  • bob schulties says:

    Print publishers are killing themselves because of greed.

    Other than basic improvements that need to be made to Kindle hardware/software (it’s too hard to use Kindle book as reference — too hard to flip back and forth on pages), publishers need to wake up with pricing.

    Dan it’s great that you think $10/book is a good deal, but it will ultimately fail. $10 for something that has essentially no cost once the first book is done is a total ripoff. There are no delivery costs and no printing costs. That means no trucks, fuel, warehouses full of paper, etc. Nothing.

    Want to save publishing? $3/book the same way Apple did with music (well, they did it at 99 cents). And the reader has to come down in price pronto.

    Once people realize the ripoff of $10 books, they’ll figure out how to bootleg them. Or worse… just never read them.

    The music industry totally screwed themselves with $18 CDs and once people had enough and the technology was there, people bootlegged. And while Apple didn’t totally save the industry the music industry owes Apple quite a bit of thanks (even if the industry is now screwing Apple by giving Amazon a better deal than Apple).*

    And, no, this is no guarantee that people will read the books, but I bet they buy more of ’em.

    bob.
    *It’s amazing how stupid the music industry is. The movie and TV will surely follow music industry.

  • Dan Colman says:

    Bob,

    I am wondering how much you would charge overall, and how much would that leave for the author, the editor, the publisher that puts the text together, etc?

    If we can remove publishers from the picture and move to a direct digital publishing model, I could see selling these books at a very low cost. But I’m just not sure that this model is very feasible.

    In the end, authors, editors, publishers need to eat too. And they’re generally not living that large to start with. Do we really want the book industry to go the way of the newspaper industry?

    Dan

  • Seth Harwood says:

    But right now the Kindle is still too expensive. It’s also getting killed in the sales world by iPhone and iTouch to the tune of 850,000 Kindle 1 & 2 sold and 38 Million iPhone/iTouch. Given that the Kindle books cost around $10 and book apps on the iTunes App store cost about $5, which one of these seems more sustainable?

  • Seth Harwood says:

    In terms of books, I’m not sure what the future will bring. Kindle still has a lot of drawbacks that make it harder to adopt than the iPod ever was–you can’t put the books you have already onto it, for instance. Amazon would be wise to give away some free eBooks, at least the books you’ve already bought through them, but I’m not holding my breath.

    Truth is, the future of books is going to be Kindle, iPhones, books, Trade Paper, Hardcover, all of it. As writers we need to work on getting our work onto as many platforms as possible. Ultimately, it’ll be the readers who decide how they want to read; I just want to be sure my book will be an option to them on the platform they choose!

  • Bob Price says:

    In Dan’s response comparing the demise of books to newspapers, both are ultimately directed by publishers. We know the newspaper publishers are driven by greed since ad space determines the news we eventually see. Too many book publishers seem to follow greed also. If the business model for publishers doesn’t evolve with the technology for reading books, we’ll watch them go to La Brea also.

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