Windows into the Imagination

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Future of Reading - Or How I Learned to Love My Kindle

What is the future of the publishing industry? The consensus appears to be…no one really knows and anyone who claims they do must have precognition and as scientists will tell you, that is a class 3 impossibility.
Change is happening. That's a given. But what is that change?
With the advent of ebook readers and tablet computers, the explosion of the power of social networking and internet access, the world as we know it is changing.
First, came the internet, which I won't touch on because it's not new within the context of this article. Social networking will be the focus of next week's Monday 'In the Ether' feature.
Today, I'll talk about ebook readers, iPads and tablet computers.
Amazon has the Kindle, Chapters uses Kobo readers, and now there is the inevitable proliferation of other brands of eReaders. These are about the size of a normal pocket book, and thinner. They are in monochrome. Yes, real books are in black-and-white and it does give it a book feel, but guys, grayscale in this age? That's not going to fly for long, is it? Plus magazines without the pictures…nah. I'll pass. Can you imagine GQ or Home and Garden without the pictures?

But still, I have a Kindle and I love it. I can finally clear up space on my bookshelves and get rid of those boxes of books I have in my storage room. You know the ones. Books you don't want to part with because you might want to read them again, maybe. But with my Kindle, I can store over 3000 books. And take them all on vacation with me. No more trying to decide which ones to take. I can take them all. Imagine that. A friend of mine uploaded a lifetime's worth of writing projects and fanfics to her new Kobo reader and she's in heaven.
Amazon seems intent on horning in on the publishing industry. They set ebook prices (until things began changing recently and only for some large publishers), and provide publishing services, but only to those who publish their books using Amazon. I know, because I considered using their marketing services until I discovered the restrictions.
Then we have the launch of the iPad. Snazzy, in colour and runs far more applications (65,000) than an ebook reader, which is basically, only for reading book, plus a very limited internet capability. The iPad seemed Sci-Fi-ish. A touchscreen computer that you can carry in your purse, although it had better be a large one. Just like those datapads we see on Sci-Fi shows and far less clunky. Star Trek, here we come.
The next generation of iPads is thinner and lighter and has more computing power. Plus the price is dropping because other companies are coming out with similar products:  the Android, the Playbook, the Iconia, and a sea of others. In the stores now, there is a new category of PC, tablet computers, which wasn't there a year ago.
So that begs the question, where do ebooks go from here?
Amazon has a vast library of ebooks (950,000) and growing by the minute. One of its major drawbacks was its proprietary format. It can only read Kindle Mobi format and pdf. Other eReaders read ePub (which is, more or less, the industry standard for ebook formats) and pdf, but not Mobi. Though, as with all things technological, there is probably a way around it, if you know how.
There has been scuttlebutt recently. GoodeReader has reported that, “Four publishers in the last week have confirmed that Amazon has indeed told them they now have an option to submit ebooks to be listed in the Amazon store in ePub format.” This has not been confirmed by Amazon yet, but the change that is coming is considered huge. We'll have to see whether this is true and if it is, will it place Amazon at the forefront, flattening the others with a one-two punch?
In future, in order to grow, they will have to go to colour or they won't be able to keep up with tablet PCs. But why would anyone want to own an eReader if their tablet does the same thing plus thousands more?
Or is that the huge change that is rumoured? Will the next generation of Kindle be closer to a tablet PC?
The hold back for tablets seem to be price, and the gap is closing slowly, and the vast library of ebooks. But then, you can buy and read Kindle books on the iPad, which seems self-defeating in terms of the Kindle reader. Or is it more a case of, if you can't beat them, join them?
I guess we'll find out, and probably far sooner than anyone would like to think.

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