Written on: December 8th, 2009 in Blog Posts
UPDATE: All of this content was written BEFORE the January launch of the iPad by Apple. Library Journal columnist Roy Tennant had this immediate response, noting Apple’s announcement validated his earlier claims that the Kindle, as a single-function device, was dead but hadn’t yet realized it!
UPDATE (Feb. 22, 2010): here’s another interesting link, a presentation from the O’Relly TOC Conference that compares the e-book buzz from 2000- the last time that ebooks were supposed to take over the publishing world..
There’s a continual buzz about e-reader devices such as Amazon’s Kindle, Barnes and Noble’s new Nook, and other e-reader devices that are supposed to replace the printed book at some point in the not-quite-now but decidedly imminent future. The Kindle was first out of the gate, with it’s “whispernet” wireless book downloading being the killer app that put earlier devices such as the PC-dependent Sony Reader to shame. The recently announced but already out-of-stock Nook raised the bar by emulating one of the most desired features of the physical book- lendability- and implementing a feature by which users can send a copy of a downloaded book to another Nook user. Of course, Amazon didn’t win many supporters by it unknowingly ironic decision to secretly delete unlicensed copies of 1984 from devices over the summer
In library-land, we’re all a little cautious by nature, but especially cautious about legitimizing a device that increases the cost of access, eliminates privacy, and weds access to information to commercially-defined technological dependencies. We’re funny like that. An e-reader may made a great Christmas present (if you can find one!) but there are plenty of nay-sayers both within and without the bibliographic world who think that once you disentangle the commercial hype from the grand pronouncements, e-readers might not only not be the solution (to a problem that probably hasn’t been defined) but also may be obsolete at birth- the buzz may be their vendor’s last ditch effort to make sure they unload units before there’s a realization that it may not be a great decision to commit hundreds of dollars to a bulky device that only does one thing, doesn’t necessarily do that one thing as well as the format it is trying to replace, and in any case, doesn’t really belong to you anyway!