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Is the eBook already dying?

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I just came across the following video via Anthony Molaro:

I agree with one of the sentiments of the talk: that important content need not be restricted to books. Having been a serious blogger for at least  six years now, I would make the claim that some of my most important content is to be found online. Still, I don’t have many academic articles to my name, and there certainly aren’t any books on the horizon. But even for more seasoned academics the reality is started to get somewhat blurred in terms of the quality in output.

For the other aspect of the talk, I agree there is considerable promise in blurring the lines between the Internet and books. That said, for all the advances facing us, I’m not convinced by the great blurring that is apparently upon us. For one thing, I find interactivity to be a toy, and even though it looks cool, a lot of it doesn’t really offer any value-add to the material I’m reading. Even in the cases referred to in the video, we are still faced with items that appear to be more of distraction and, like 3D-TV, somewhat of a fad. I suspect in years to come there will still be a considerable preference for the simplicity offered by text on a page. Just look at the wonderful Readability. In short, I think there’s a reason why eBooks have been phenomenally successful, and it is because they’ve taken on the characteristics of traditional books. 

Vestigial behaviours and practices associated with reading aren’t going to die out any time soon. This includes having certain reading materials structured in a certain way. If you look at the way in which reading technology has evolved over the last few years, then it has not been strictly a one-way street toward making content more adaptable for use on the Internet (the video makes a similar point). Instead, the technology has adapted to become more like the traditional book. This makes intuitive sense: it’s easier for technology to become more accessible by changing it to suit existing practices and behaviours, than it is for us to change books to suit existing technology. Cultural products that have survived for a long time are products that work well.

Old is good and adaptable; it’s unlikely to be disappearing any time soon.

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