In a way, I write this as a response to Eoin Purcell’s excellent article, ‘Why The Kindle Fire Worries Me’ which you can read HERE.
In his article, Eoin expresses his fears of the new Amazon tablet device, and how Amazon are now hedging their bets not only in making ebooks available to the masses ‘within 60 seconds’ but also other media. The Kindle Fire is definitely geared toward delivering movies, TV shows, music, etc, directly into your hands, and rightly so Eoin expresses his concern that with that content becoming instantly available in the same way that the Kindle made ebooks as readily available, it just means that there is further distractions to people actually reading a book.
“There is only so much audience attention to go around and as mobile gaming, tv and film watching and web browsing become possible for everyone, it is just possible that digital books will lose out*. Of course maybe the audience that moves digital will be big enough for this to not be an issue, but even so book publishers and authors will need to compete with movies, games and music much more directly and immediately than they have in the past.”
My response is: Don’t worry.
Reading suffered with the advent of Radio. It suffered with the arrival of TV sets into everyone’s homes. And then came home computing, and the internet, and mobile phones that could surf the web and play movies… and now tablets…
What I’m trying to say is that it’s always suffered. As our society develops, and our technologies along with it, the act of reading comes under more and more pressure. But what I think is ‘Does it really matter?’
I love books, and I hope they’re around at least for my children’s lives and the lives of their children’s children. But one day they won’t exist.. at least not in the form you’re used to.
It matters a lot to us right now that people aren’t reading enough, but one day it won’t matter all that much. Books will probably become integrated with movies and music to become an entirely multimedia digital-only experience. That’s most likely going to happen. And when it does, books as we know them will be dead. They will be something else. Perhaps just the further evolution of the ebook medium, which even now in its early stages of creation is a separate entity to traditional books.
Centuries ago, we conceived of taking what we were writing on paper and binding those pages of text into volumes of text. This act shaped the future of our race in many ways. We’re doing the same thing now. We”re combining movies, music, the internet, gaming, and books together into one device… and one day, one medium.
I don’t think it’s anything to be worried about. It’s nothing to fear. It’s just evolution.
But saying that it doesn’t stop you feeling a little sad knowing that one day Dicken’s ‘Bleak House’ will be integrated with the TV series of the same name, the soundtrack, the wikipedia entry…. etc…. Maybe even in 3D! (Argh!)
The future of ebooks will be change. We just have to accept it.
Eoin, don’t worry!