Almost every IT expert in the world is agreed that the book faces a revolutionary challenge from e-books and e-paper. [The Friday Project Editor Paul] Carr says: 'In the next five to 10 years, maybe much sooner, we'll see a decent, ultra-lightweight, portable e-paper device that allows book lovers to download titles straight from the internet, either legally or illegally.' Dick Brass, a retired Microsoft vice-president with wide experience of e-readers, agrees: 'Tablet devices are getting lighter and cheaper. Eventually, and I'm betting it will be before 2020, one of these devices, like the iPod in music, will offer an experience close enough to paper to shift the paradigm to digital distribution. That will mark the beginning of the end of the age of paper books.'
So "almost every IT expert in the world is agreed" that this is the beginning of the end of paper books, huh? Big, hairy deal. Aren't these the same folks who told us we'd all be using PDAs by this time? I don't have one, do you? (Okay, my husband has one. But he's always yelling bad words at it, so I'm guessing he doesn't see it as a tool that has simplified his life.) And do you remember when desktop computers were heralded as "the end of paper" in the office environment? The filing cabinet in my office is full. How about yours?
"Simplicity" books, magazines, TV shows, and websites abound. How do people like Mr. Brass account for this widespread resistance to technology that appears to have little or nothing to do with its affordability?
Paper books aren't going anywhere, although sales will undoubtedly drop as e-book sales pick up. But Mr. Brass' assertion that the perfect e-book reader will "shift the paradigm to digital distribution" and "mark the beginning of the end of the age of paper books" is ludicrous.
It's no surprise to find one of Google's most outspoken critics, Nigel Newton, chairman of Bloomsbury, coyly hinting at 'a very big announcement' in the course of 2006. Newton is certain that 'within seven to 10 years, 50 per cent of all book sales will be downloads. When the e-reader emerges as a mass-market item, the shift will be very rapid indeed. It will soon be a dual-format market.'
Sorry, I'm just not buying that within seven to ten years, 50 per cent of all book sales will be downloads. I know people who haven't even gotten around to buying DVD players yet--surely it's going to take a while for "everyone" to make the jump to e-books, even if the new readers are as cheap as DVD players. And they won't be.