It is no secret that computers of all types are an integral part of nearly everyone’s life. The idea of e-publishing has been the darling of a certain crowd since the early part of the decade. Tens of millions of venture capital dollars have been dumped into the concept that people have grown tired of reading paper bound books and will jump at the idea of staring at a computer screen to fill their reading needs. The first round of epublishing died off the second the venture capital money ran out. Book people were book people—period. The e concept is attractive for a variety of reasons, with the main one being that the production costs are pretty much non-existent. The idea of cutting the printer out of the picture is not new. The problem is getting the consumer on board and I just don’t see it happening anytime soon. It’s not that it doesn’t work at all. You might be reading the e-version of the publishing basics book right now but I’ll bet you a dozen donuts that if you are, you have printed out the PDF and are reading a pile of printed paper. Another situation perfect for e-books are study guides, such as Cliff ’s Notes. Picture yourself back in college on a Sunday night and you are just getting around to studying for a test in the morning. The bookstores are closed so the only way you can get your hands on the material is to go online and buy the e-book. But even in this example, couldn’t the study guide people do just as well offering the same information for a fee, on their Web site?
The latest entry into the black hole money trap of e-publishing is Amazon with their Kindle reader. All of the press clippings would have you believe that every other person out there is shelling out $399 and reading their books on their Kindle. Actually, if you read in-between the lines a little on the latest press hype, all of the Kindle functions except for the reading of books are mentioned. One last note on the subject; I ride the train to and from work each day with four hundred thousand other commuters into New York City. I take an informal poll each day of who is doing what to entertain themselves during the hour commute. I have yet to see a single person with a Kindle doing anything, much less reading an e-book. How about you?
Have you seen one? That’s what I thought.
The race is not over and it’s hard to say exactly how it will turn out, but for now my advice is to save your money. It’s less clear than ever whether the e-book will be the next CD or MP3 or just another 8-track.