Thus I refute Odysseus

My friend, the Port Coquitlam Odysseus, and some people at the BBC, feel that E-book readers, like the Kindle, will never replace paper books.  The main reason they give, as befits what a simple, Colonial-type Canadian thinks of the BBC, is highbrow:  When reading a book, it is difficult to add annotations and marginalia to an E-book version.

“Oh, I’m at the BBC.  I’m reading important books. I sometimes disagree with the author and feel compelled to make such known to… myself by writing in the margins.”

Here is my refutation (I don’t see any special reason to embiggen these pics, but you can, if you wish, by clicking on them):

I don’t normally read books on my phone, and only to stage a photo would I read from my phone at home.  But, I do read from it when I am on the go and find myself waiting.  Today, I read a few hundred lines while my little guy was playing at a playground.

What am I reading?  A Princess of Mars, by Burroughs, from the Gutenberg Project.  Highbrow, this is not.  And, the display sucks.  Words ar

e frequently split in the middle (as I have just demonstrated).

Still, my phone, an old Motorola, allows bookmarking, so that when I close my phone and return to the story some time later, it reopens to where I left off.

To take the pictures above, I set my tripod on my bookshelf, which is loaded in many places two-layers deep.  In my advancing years, I find myself more interested in non-fiction.  I don’t know if I am reading BBC-quality Important Books, but I am reading books that I will take notes on.   Still, I suspect I will never write inside these books.  I did with textbooks, but I have also thrown out most of my university texts after a few moves.

I want a better reading experience than my phone offers, but that is not a high bar to jump.

Another pro-ebook voice can be found on Odysseus’ blog:  commenter Jon felt that his child or grandchild will be surprised that we would ever cut down trees to make books.  I wonder about this point. The rare-earths that go into computer chips are not all that environmentally friendly to produce either.  Paper books could be considered carbon storage, I suppose.

I don’t know if E-book readers will replace paper books, but they will be become far more popular than Lisa Jardin at the BBC imagines.


somewhat on topic, the Korea Herald can be read on E-book readers now.  Perhaps they offer an ad-free version because the E-book version costs 7,000won per year.  That isn’t much , but the online version is free.

There is a two month free trial version. “Subscribers to the service can use it free of charge for two months. Now that the service is in an open-ended special promotion period, the subscription service will be available for 4,900 won per month after the initial two-month free trial,” said Cheung deck-sang, director of new media.

The Textore service is currently available only for Samsung Electronics’ e-book reader SNE-60K, which has a six-inch screen, wherever Wi-Fi wireless networks are detected through the device….

Last July, Samsung Electronics and the country’s biggest bookstore, Kyobo Book Center, joined forces to kick-start the growing e-book market, and the SNE-60K is the second e-book reader born at through that partnership, following the SNE-50K.

The device is being sold for 420,000 won ($370.90). Other features of the device include bluetooth, MP3 support and hand-writing recognition. Kyobo aims to sell around 15,000 e-readers by the end of 2010


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6 Responses to “Thus I refute Odysseus”

  1. John from Daejeon Says:

    In a million years, I never thought I’d listen to books on tape/cd/mp3, but that’s what happens with new technology when it makes life much more convenient, especially on the long drives I have back home in the U.S.

    Also, film replaced books for most people a long, long time ago. It isn’t like very many people have actually read “Gone With the Wind,” “The Fellowship of the Ring,” and the various “Harry Potter” books compared to those that have actually seen the movies. And while I’ve read “Romeo and Juliet” a couple of times over the years, everytime I think of it, a certain Olivia Hussey springs to mind before the words of the Bard. Come to think of it, “Iron Man 2” is about to rocket off into the stratosphere in a couple of months at the cinema, but the monthly subscription base is next to nothing as it isn’t even one of Marvel’s best-selling titles (Spider-Man, Wolverine, and The X-Men are tops there).

    Oh, I still read a lot of actual paper books, but nothing like I once did before those 500+ channels of satellite TV came along.

  2. pakalakamino Says:

    not related. but nice iMac.

  3. Nathan B. Says:

    Well, I don’t really think these pictures are going to persuade me that the book will be replaced by the kindle and other similar devices. Athena, the goddess of wisdom and war, my patron, tells me that books are sacred to her, and the kindle is a creation of her kid-brother Hermes.

    On another note, I’m glad to see you still blogging!

  4. surprisesaplenty Says:

    John, I’m beginning to enjoy driving these days specifically because I can listen to various podcasts while doing so. I can listen to them on the bus or while walking, of course, but they are making my drives more fun. I listen to radio science shows, recordings of lectures, and movie and book reviews. I used to listen to Escape Pod, which had/has a great short story every week. I can’t really say why I don’t listen to it much anymore but I can say that if I get a load of books from Amazon and am riding the bus, I will read those books before I will listen to the MP3 player.

    El Camini Packer: Thanks. my new uni has an online attendance system and I can’t use it at home because they use Active X – bad on it’s own, but a deal-breaker for the iMac.

    Nathan, the photos are meant to show that people (well, at least one person) will do whatever it takes to read, even if it is using the small, crappy screen of an old phone. The Kindle is not perfect, nor are it’s competitors, but I think now the fixes needed are more related to the content (sharing, and reading various formats, for example). The devices are a comfortable size, the lettering is clear and easy to read and features like note-taking have improved greatly. I love the words themselves, not the medium they are carried upon.

  5. Sean Says:

    Ebooks will overtake print books and it’s just a matter of time. The biggest hinderance to ebooks right now are dumbass DRM (I’m talking to you Kindle), no color screens and the price point on both devices and ebooks.

    The devices are overpriced, but what is really surprising is how overpriced the actual ebooks are. it’s not like there’s any shipping, materials or warehousing costs for an ebook, yet they are not that much cheaper than a print book. Personally I see ebooks having a high adoption rate once the price drops below $5.

  6. surprisesaplenty Says:

    Sean, I agree that price per book needs to drop dramatically. Perhaps the average price is lower than you think. Gutenberg’s books are free, although they are also old.

    The argument I think the publishers make is that they filter for quality. I recently read a self-published book and an e-book given to me directly by the author (a self-published e-book, I guess). I am uncertain if I could match the quality of the writing myself, but really, they were terrible.

    Considering that an author gets so little money per book with established publishers, it is possible that the future of books will see them sold (as e-books) for a dollar or two per. I imagine in the near future, new authors using publishers for their first few books to build up their reputation and fame. Once the contract is over, switching entirely to self-publishing e-books. Maybe co-ops or writing clubs will take over the oversight and quality control function that publishers fill today.

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