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The Future of Reading

Written by Alcides Fonseca at 2007/11/18

Yesterday Steven Levy published on Newsweek an article about The Future of Reading based on the opinion of Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s CEO.





In the pre-dot-com-bubble, Jeff believed on a worldwide online bookstore. He brought his vision to the real world, and today we have Amazon, as he has billions of dollars in his bank account. Pretty fair. Now he believes this is the time to change to books 2.0 (or the so called e-books). From my researching, the first e-book can be traced as far back as 1946, but only in mid-90s companies tried to sell them. I remember back in 2000 everyone was talking that e-books were going to be the future along with Pocket PCs. Microsoft Reader and Adobe PDF e-books were so promising, but 7 years later I only see some e-books being shared on P2P networks by those who don’t want to pay writers.



But if someone can successfully launch e-books, it’s Bezos. Everyone buys books from Amazon and they are in position to demand e-books from publishers. But how will they make consumers change ideas? I believe they should do to books the same as Apple did with music back when they introduced the iPod. Everyone was attached to the physical format of the CDs, just like we are to books, but the advantages of the MP3 were no match for most people. Everyone now downloads musics from the Amazon of music: the iTunes Music Store and move a few to the device. The same will happen to books. Bezos has already thought on the device for reading e-books: it’s called Kindle and has being developed since 2004. Of course I don’t believe this will be the revolutionary bookreader, but a simple prototype. The real one will be much more appealing to users.





But do I real believe books will be replaced? I still have my doubts… I’m an avid reader and I do value the physical experience of reading page by page and most of all, having them on my shelves. I need to know that they are there and I do own them. But that’s me, someone who loves fantasy and sci-fi books. But as for daily feeds, and technical books I sure read them on the computer. The interactiveness and, above all, the Ctrl+F make me use my computer for my reading. But that’s me.



The average Joe doesn’t read so much (in Portugal almost nobody reads, but I know it’s not that bad everywhere else) and the e-book will be a nice way of improve those statistics. When I went to Barcelona, one thing that amazed me was the book vending machine! A lot of people read books in the metro in the everyday commuting to work. For those people, the e-book with a Amazon online bookstore was a pretty nice innovation. And they could just go to the nearest Starbucks and download a new romance, just like you could download a music.



The crucial factor will be price. E-books will be a lot cheaper than physical books of course, and this will make young people pick the electronic version rather than the traditional one. And they are who will decide the future technologies. Of course the real lovers would still want to buy books, and there will be always those available (maybe more expensive?!) just like you can still go the a FNAC store and buy a few CDs.