In the future we’ll all be carrying little electronic devices that offers us complete entertainment centres – audio, video, books, games all on the one device. But wait a minute that’s no futuristic prediction, that is the here and now. Take the humble iPod, in technology terms it’s getting a bit long in the tooth. But it can carry hundreds of albums as well as movies upon its miniscule hard drive; miniscule in physical terms at least since my own iPod which I’ve owned for several years boasts a 30GB hard drive. Basically this device makes my life easier, more convenient – I do a lot of driving and always listen to music or an audio book while doing so. There are only so many CD’s you can jam into a glove compartment and the cases always crack, the discs themselves get scratched. But with my iPod I no longer have to carry CD’s and yet have several hundred albums with me at all times. A little cheap device sends the signal through the car sound system and I can groove whenever the urge takes me.
Now MP3’s don’t exactly equal CD’s in terms of sound quality but the electronic format has overtaken the CD in terms of popularity.
The answer is simple – convenience!
Go into any electrical store and most of the HI-FI systems now come with a dock for the iPod or at the very least a socket for the output lead from your MP3 player. Indeed many high-end sound systems no longer include a CD player at all. And only a few short years ago I would have laughed at anyone who said MP3’S would replace CD’s, but now I wouldn’t put money on CD’s even being here in five years time.
But where does this relate to books?
Books and music are entirely different mediums – and that may very well be true, but there is one common factor between them – they are each designed to entertain and inform. In the future it’s going to be all about getting that entertainment into the hands of the people.
And those hands are going to be full of the latest electronic mass media devices.
Let’s ignore the electronic possibilities for non-fiction books and they are many, and for the purpose of this article we’ll look at popular fiction. The most popular form of consuming such fiction has long been the paperback and yet for most people this is already a disposable medium – the book is read and then given away or even binned. Of course many people, myself included, never part with books and build up quite a formidable collection but the fact is many people do not. For these people, those that consume books rapidly and then move on, the electronic format is particularly appealing.
"Try jamming a dozen books into a glove-compartment!"
So is that it? Is the ability to carry around several hundred books in one slim device enough to challenge the standing of the mass-market paperback?
There’s so much more to eBooks than that – dedicated eReaders often use technology called eInk and the display provided by this is amazing and looks just like paper. There is no sun glare on the screen – in fact, it does to some extent, feel like reading a traditional book. And once you’ve read a few books on your eReader and forgotten that electronic gadget in your hand you’ll soon lose yourself in the story and the delivery medium will become irrelevant.
"The true soul of a book resides in the words and not in the medium by which it is presented!"
Younger readers, the Harry Potter/Twilight generation that have been brought up with smart phones and iPods will have no trouble using eReaders. Indeed the fact that eBooks are out there and able to be consumed on their favourite gadgets may encourage new and lifelong reading habits. Imagine the possibilities – it’s 2020 and you’re a twelve year old kid who has just been blown away by the new 3D, SMELLOVISION, Realsound movie version of Sherlock Holmes and now you are curious to discover the ancient texts that spawned the character. With one click of the jogwheel on your thingie and the book is there for you to read on the screen. And magazines, newspapers, even the users daily appointments will all be delivered in the same way.
"When paperbacks started to gain popularity critics claimed, they were not real books and would not last."
As a writer I hope my books come out in the traditional paper method for many years to come (there's a kudos in seeing them lined up on the shelf) but, ultimately eBooks are the future, and so I don’t shy away from the medium – I run towards it.
For I have seen the future and it's electronic.