Remember the written word? It used to convey information. If you like to read and discuss what you have read, this group is for you.
September 10, 2009 at 2:20 pm #80103
From gartner blogs:
My personal comments as a reader and a writer, and a former connoisseur of fine, hand-crafted bookcases.
September 9th, 2009
Author: David Mccoy
I have some books left over from my college days. Since 1978, I have opened my Pascal programming book about 10 times. 9 times were simply to see if I had left any dollar bills as book marks. My “Legal Environment of Business” book from 1986’s fun class of the same name sits unopened since ‘86. My accounting text does too. They are in the mausoleum bookcase, the home for ancient books that no longer matter, but that I cannot yet give away…yet
Most of our paper books exhibit “structural fidelity” – we can read them, and they do not fall apart in our hands – but they are hardly keeping up on “intellectual fidelity.” Some of my grammar and linguistic books from 1978 are appalling to read now. One reeks of “stick it to the man” kinds of language, reminding me that 1970 took a leave of absence from clear speech.
There are books that maintain adequate structural and full intellectual fidelity. My collections of short stories: Pushcart Prize, O’Henry Prize, Best American Short Stories. My favorite authors: Salinger, Capote, etc. These are still vibrant, but even there, they are getting worn. Structural fidelity does not last forever, even if intellectual fidelity does.
But my technical books… so very sad there. I have a 1942 book on radio electronics. I have it for nostalgia and some basic electronics/tube theory that is still exciting to boutique guitar amp manufacturers but not to the mass of humanity (even though the theories underpin our daily experiences). My Qualitz et.al. book on finite state automata is a classic that I keep because of the beautiful red cover. Turing’s and Church’s theorems are still accurately described in the book, but there have been so many better renditions since… this book is outdated, yet it looks perfect. There is incredible structural integrity, yet the intellectual integrity – still there – is less relevant in 2009.
So, e-readers will have to deal with structural fidelity and intellectual fidelity. Does this ‘book’ fall apart after so many years of use. Will it deteriorate just as my college dictionary has? If so, will I be forced to buy a new one… but that seems odd… buying new copies of the same bits. It also seems unfair. But, aren’t we about to see the entire Beatles catalog re-released? If I have perfectly workable vinyl, why do I want it in MP3 (or MP4) format? Hmmm. So, there is a reason that we will buy anew that which we already have in an ‘inferior format.’ Inferior? Hmmm… “less popular.”
For those e-books that can maintain structural fidelity (migration paths, upgrade paths, escrow, etc.) then we still have the issue of intellectual fidelity. Will a book on “Secrets of the Backstreet Boys” be of interest in 30 years? Ignore the occasional pop culture historian or the insane masters degree thesis topic. What about the mass market? So, even if I have an e-reader that certifies readability in 30 years, it may be a moot point if the e-book is a load of dated crap.
I say that all the DRM, storage, cultural, and technical challenges to e-books are simply bumps along the road. Once we can conceive of a world where mass readership is via e-ink or other new digital means, well… I don’t see the “ink on dead trees” model as a long term win. My death notice, hopefully no earlier than 2050, will be printed on paper… I will require that in my will. But, I fully expect that most of my remaining friends will get my obituary delivered wirelessly to their portable readers. I fully expect that they will open the message, gasp (or smile), mutter a prayer for my family, and then return to reading the latest weight loss book or political novel or programming text they were reading before the interruption – content beamed from whatever constitutes ‘the bookstore’ in that distant future.
Bring it on. I will be moving a lot over the next 20 years… try being married to a new Methodist preacher and not moving from church to church. I have a vested interest in e-books. Have you ever tried to pack up an entire house full of books? How about doing it every three years? It’s much easier to carry a 1TB external drive, or two… or three.
DISCLAIMER: My comments here are not as an analyst covering this technology. I once was the lead analyst on document imaging and document futures, but that was a long time ago. These are my personal comments as a reader and a writer, and a former connoisseur of fine, hand-crafted bookcases.
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