Hot on the heels of the Time article about how epubbing has changed publishing, another print news source has examined the ebook. As usual, I take a silly pleasure in reading Crain’s New York Business because it’s a newspaper devoted entirely to something I don’t know jack-all about, but I always learn something.
This week, there’s an article about… the “newest ‘it’ gadget”—e-book readers.
Really? Is it new? I would have said that a year ago when it was Jane in the wilderness trying to convert us from the trees, but since I fell out of my treehouse into the somewhat irritable embrace of my Kindle about 8 or 9 months ago, I don’t think I can call myself an “early adopter.” If the Kindle has sold out twice, is it “early?”
The article itself is such a general survey of the entire phenomenon that I have to wonder how far behind the coverage of the ebook market by mainstream business and print media really is. The distance probably isn’t measurable, but this article makes it seem like, in this specific case, a general survey of the stats isn’t nearly enough to bridge the distance between where ebook reading and epublishing actually is, and what mainstream media print outlets have to say about it.
Citing an erotica fan who found Ellora’s Cave five years ago, the article begins by mentioning the three most common methods through which people have arrived at ebook reading: from palm devices to ebook reader devices and/or iPhones.
The iPhone has become, according to author Matthew Flamm, “the most popular e-reading device,” and paired with the success of Sir Kindle, of the House of Fusspot, “electronic reading has suddenly gone mainstream.”
Has it? Or did it already do so a good bit ago? I’m with the latter, but then, I am within a community that is perfectly suited to ebook reading, as Jane so aptly recognized a long while back. (Note to self: ask Jane for next year’s lottery numbers. She appears to have The Sight).
Flamm details the advantages of e-reading, from lack of clutter to ease of travel, and the real point of awesome: reading a book on an iPhone doesn’t necessarily look like you’re reading a book. It looks like you’re checking email or looking at a calendar, unless someone can see the references to heaving bosoms on the screen. Eliot Borenstein, a NYU professor, noted that “staring at a phone during a meeting is somehow not as bad as pulling out a book.”
Good point, sir. Good point.
Mostly the article cites stuff that we romance ebook readers already know: the convenience of not being stuck with only one book, in case you’re not in the mood for it, or if you finish it on the way to work.
The article is positioned as a “Here’s what the cool, savvy, and financially-attuned folks are doing for their reading” type of piece, and while it touches on cost and the options available for reading ebooks, it doesn’t really do a whole lot in the way of creating new persuasions for people who are curious to pick up an e-reader, but haven’t done so yet.
Mostly it’s “Hey! ebooks are cool!” Which, overall, is fine by me, but I wish mainstream print press would examine the issues raised by ebook publishing and e-print in general that point to some flaws inherent in their present practices—practices that might need to change if print media wants to survive, given that print has been in a steady profit decline for a long ass time. In short, print needs the prod of epubbing to take a hard look at its own printed undergarments. And so far print media seems to take a look at ebooks and say, “Oh, look, shiny!”