I have been reading ‘Print is Dead – Books in our Digital Age,’ by Jeff Gomez. I have now completed the fourth chapter ‘Generation Download.’ In this chapter, Gomez begins by comparing what has happened with the music industry with what has begun to happen with books and reading. A generation that has embraced a digital way of life, along with the gadgets that go with it, is out-growing the traditional book and craving digital technology and digital forms of entertainment. Music itself did not die with the coming of the digital world, only the form in which it was presented. The same resistance that the music industry applied to digital technology before it embraced it, is now being witnessed in the book industry – though I would argue that ebooks are taking a little longer to take off. Gomez argues that it is only a matter of time before an acceptable digital format is found that will have ebooks off and running, along with some form or forms of digital devices on which ebooks will be accessed. Perhaps the growing boom in Tablets and Ebook Readers is an indication that that time is now upon us.
Certainly I am a convert, having been previously a doubter of ebooks and the way they were accessed. More mobile forms of accessing ebooks, such as the Kindle, iPad and even Notebooks, have enabled me to transform my thinking, from one in opposition to being one who has fully embraced the technology. Being able to carry vast libraries on mobile devices is simply breathtaking to me and incredibly appealing. Not having to have huge spaces devoted to a large library and actually having the space to store a huge library is simply brilliant – I had long ago ran out of room for my books and needed to cull quite a number, which I did reluctantly. Now I am able to recall those dismissed books via the digital medium and not loose them again. Old friends are again welcome.
In the following chapter, ‘Generation Upload,’ the focus is on the savvy Internet user (which is generally most connected folk these days) who not only downloads material but also uploads modified material, uniquely created material and so on. This has been so with music and video, with the various play lists, mash ups, parodies and the like, as well as comments, contributions, etc. Will the same happen with books is the question raised by Gomez and predicted. Just how far consumer interaction will be with ebooks is yet to be seen, as also the form it will take. There are opportunities already existing for commenting and reviewing, with developments being made in the way of sharing quotes (Pinterest interaction, Quotista, etc), and likely many more ways yet to be invented or passed on convincingly to the masses.
‘On Demand Everything,’ the next chapter in the book, brings the attention of the reader to what we already know – we expect to be able to get pretty much everything whenever we want it and that better be soon. No longer do we need to wait for our media to arrive at given timeslots on the television, our CD music to arrive in the mail, etc. We now have the ability to access it all as soon as we want it and then to keep it in mobile gadgets that we can take with us and access whenever we wish. This then is surely the future of books. Gomez believes we will want to be able to divide large books into bits and pieces that we can access and use in whatever way we like – which would certainly be true of some forms of literature. However, it is unlikely that we would want to divide up novels for example, into little pieces. The ability to bookmark, highlight and clip pieces of text (among other possibilities) for various uses, is certainly increasing the appeal of ebooks and bringing them a more familiar feel, which will I think increase their usefulness considerably. Being able to find quotes, parcels of text and the like via search capabilities, cataloguing, etc, will all be very valuable tools that will bring ebooks into the realm of what is now possible with music, videos, etc.
In the next chapter, ‘Ebooks and the Revolution that Didn’t Happen,’ Gomez examines the reasons why Ebooks didn’t take off when they first appeared – which doesn’t mean they won’t take off at some point (which I do believe will happen at some point). His arguments certainly capture some of my own thoughts at the time of their first appearance, so if I was typical of people (at least of my age) at that time he may very well have hit the nail on the head. Some of the original issues still exist, such as the number of file types and matching them with the various readers and access to the files across a variety of devices. Perhaps when these issues are thought through with a bit more commonsense ebooks will become more popular sooner rather than later.