Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Match point to print, so far

I think the main flaw of e-books is the expectation that they're going to be seen as a viable alternative to a printed, bound book, when they're really not. You can't expect people to be interested in a new electronic device that you can read books, blogs, newspapers and magazines on, because there's already one on the market -- it's called a laptop. And books themselves are about as low-tech as you can get.

Still, I'm always interested to see how this e-book thing plays out. The biggest hurdle is creating something that could standardize delivery of book and book-related content, and at the moment laptops and PDAs have a considerable lead.
Rival Sony has been selling its Reader e-book device since last year, with a new updated version now priced at $299, $100 cheaper than the Kindle. Sony has sold most of its e-books to customers who are 35 or older, Freed said, "particularly to the traveler and the avid reader." But e-books will face some technological challenges in trying to become ubiquitous among students and in local libraries, Freed said, because many still record documents and information on Adobe's PDF format, which isn't easily readable by e-book devices.

Until e-books become more popular and manufacturers figure out ways to overcome these existing obstacles, many libraries and schools will take a-wait-and-see approach.

"Anything that encourages people to read is something that libraries would applaud, but I doubt if it [the e-book] could replicate the written page," said Therese Purcell Nielsen, a Huntington reference librarian who is on the media committee of the Suffolk County Library Association. "There have been a number of electronic books like this. Some people just don't want to download books."

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