Monday, May 24, 2004

eBooks: maybe NOT the wave of the future?

The wave of the future in books and publishing about ten years ago was the eBook. The Rocket Ebook excited the "cutting edge" reader-library world. That is to say, some of us. There were a few hardware readers, and there were a few software readers you could get for reading from your desktop screen. the first book I read this way was by Robert Rosenberg, his first, "Crimes of the City." I read it in plain text on a blue background even before I had Windows 95. Well, that all changed with Microsoft Reader, Adobe Reader, and several other handy book reader utilities I actually preferred, because plain text readers suited me very well and still do. Today the Palm Reader is on my desktop, and the excellent options make it a joy to use. It doesn't of course display plain text. There is always the html option. Several sites offer online reading and downloads in html zip files.

We were all very excited for awhile, but it became obvious to me that no hardware reader was going to remain viable because of the rise in popularity of handhelds PDAs which can do the job of a book reader as well. A somewhat small reading area for me - I would have preferred a Rocket eBook in a lighter and slimmer body with some of the nicer features of today's PDAs. Now I have to wonder what the future of the ebook is at all because of the pricing of the books.

At AMAZON today I saw a brand new book I had just cataloged into the library. It sells for $10.50 in hardcover, and is a very nicely bound smallish book with an attractive dust cover. I saw that it is also available in both Adobe and Microsoft Reader format at a cost of $17.50. WOW. I had to laugh. Who is going to pay for the eBook when they can have the hardcopy. And, in fact, it angers me to think that this is the way publishers have responded. They could have had a really thriving market for eBooks. It would be so convenient to travel with the laptop and read at leisure when business could be set aside. But, as is not unusual in the world of publishing and music publishing, foresight is less than common, and a market was never expanded to fill the potential. Someday...

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