Follow by email

Monday, 28 February 2011

The digital future

The following piece was originally published on the Archive a millon years ago in late 2008 - were we ahead of the curve on eBooks? At the time of writing the eBook industry was only just starting to flex its muscles, and many people thought eBooks were a novelty that would vanish in a few short months. And yet here we are in 2011 and much of what is written in the article, has come to on and see what you think.

E-Books - is this the way forward for the humble old book?

Will digital downloads ever replace the traditional book? Will bytes do away with paper? Will pixels replace ink?

Never - no way - emphatically no way. There's some magical link between author and reader when you hold a book, the smell of the thing, the feel of it in your hand. When you buy an E-Book you don't even get anything physical, anything real. No real paper books are here to stay!!!!

However look at it this way.

When the MP3 revolution started people scoffed that these digital downloads could ever threaten physically owing a CD and yet these day CD's are all but obsolete, or at least quickly becoming so. The charts are now compiled largely from downloads. I'm a huge music fan - I've thousands of CD's as well as a decent vinyl collection. And yet these days I've always got my 80G Ipod Classic with me - it stores a few thousand albums and when I link it up to the car stereo I have bags of choice, not to mention the podcasts it includes as well as video. I still have my CD's but I rarely play them now. MP3's when recorded at the highest rate sound just as good as discs and I've even bought a few albums off Itunes in MP3 format.

If MP3's can win me across then they can win anyone.

The younger generation have no problems with downloaded music - so maybe digital books are the way we've all been looking for to encourage the younger element to start reading again. I've seen the Borders own E-books reader in action and it's superb - weighs next to nothing and it looks so cool. It can also store a couple of hundred books in its memory. Sony also have a reader on the market (pictured) and Amazon are championing the Kindle.

The fact is that these E-book readers are not only limited to digital books but can deliver your daily newspaper, blogs and anything else you care to throw at it. They are, in fact, super cool gadgets and no doubt we are only around the corner from mobile phones (a favourite with kids) being used to read digital books. Imagine it - kids will be able to buy an entire package digitally - the movie, the tie-in novel and the computer game and use them all on the one gadget.

Yep, the writing's on the wall. As much as we book lovers are horrified with the thought of real books vanishing, it is inevitable that digital books will eventually rule the roost. Real books will be around for some time but take an imaginative leap forward say ten years. Will paper books be looked upon as a primitive, not to mention wasteful way to deliver information?

The advantages of digital books are that nothing ever needs to be out of print - course the pricing needs to drop somewhat before market dominance is achieved. And there's no reason for it not too - after all the production costs with digital books are minuscule in comparison to real books. Books will also be easier to sell in different countries, no shipping costs and waiting around for the thing to arrive. Just click "BUY" and in seconds the book is on your PC, reader or phone. There will be a new phenomenon in books then - that of piracy which is an issue affecting both the movie and music industry. But the answer to this is to price the product fairly because the book industry would be ill equipped to survive widespread piracy.

There are so many ramifications to consider but it's no use burying heads in sand - the day of the E-Book is coming. What that means to myself as a writer, I'm unsure but at the same time I'd rather look to the positives. Being able to get my books to readers all over the world at the click of a button sounds good but not having shelves full of books is not so.

Real books will be here for some time yet and digital will probably find a comfortable co-existence but, like it or not, the days of digital books being the main medium are not that far distant. We can either embrace the technology or get swept aside.

No comments: