January 28, 2008

In Search of the Elusive Digital Book Platform [8:32 am]

A Kindle reviewer wants us to believe the time has come — I’m not so sure, although I don’t agree with Steve Job’s take, either: Freed From the Page, but a Book Nonetheless

Building a portable electronic reader was the easy part; matching the visual quality of ink on paper took longer. But display technology has advanced to the point where the digital page is easy on the eyes, too. At last, an e-reader performs well when placed in page-to-page competition with paper.

As a result, the digitization of personal book collections is certain to have its day soon.

Music shows the way. The digitization of personal music collections began, however, only after the right combination of software and hardware — iTunes Music Store and the iPod — arrived. And as Apple did for music lovers, some company will devise an irresistible combination of software and hardware for book buyers. That company may be Amazon.

[...] [W]hen Mr. Jobs was asked two weeks ago at the Macworld Expo what he thought of the Kindle, he heaped scorn on the book industry. “It doesn’t matter how good or bad the product is; the fact is that people don’t read anymore,” he said. “Forty percent of the people in the U.S. read one book or less last year.”

[...] The book world has always had an invisible asset that makes up for what it lacks in outsize revenue and profits: the passionate attachment that its authors, editors and most frequent customers have to books themselves. Indeed, in this respect, avid book readers resemble avid Mac users.

So, why will digital books take off, then?

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