Why Read Books?

That I read books probably lowers my highly coveted geek cred. Instead, e-books read on the computer screen, phone screen, or e-book reader should have long ago replaced reading on dead wood. Unfortunately, I am intentionally avoiding reading books much on computers, phone, or readers.

  1. Why I need a purseNo purse to carry more stuff. I have big fingers, so I need stuff with big buttons. Things like iPhones are maddening to use because I cannot seem to hit the buttons correctly. Things with lots of big buttons tend to be big which makes them a pain to carry.

  2. Never underestimate my ability to break toys. Only the most resilient of electronic toys survive me. It isn’t uncommon for my laptops, phones, or cameras to experience 5 foot falls. Everything I carry with me ends up with marks from the abuse even books. Paper can take the abuse. I have no faith e-book readers could maintain their screens from being around me.
  3. Computers tend to tempt me to fail at multi-tasking. When I shut down my computer to go home, I typically have at the minimum a dozen windows. (Even the client I use to connect to my servers usually can fill that dozen.) Reading on a computer rarely will result in more than a page of reading every 10 minutes. Because blog posts are usually pretty short, distractions have less chance to interfere with reading them.
  4. Books are common enough people accept them as normal. Cool toys attract attention. I’d expect an expensive phone or e-reader or laptop to attract the kind of attention which results in theft. Books are cheap few would care to go to the effort.
  5. Phone are becoming more like computers. What I don’t want is a phone (or another device) which I treat like my computer, aka failing at multi-tasking. Just today I squared 1024 on paper instead of using the calculator on my phone. Having access to the Internet through my phone could be bad for keeping me on task.
  6. Why faux paper when you could use paper? The e-book readers market how much their technology looks like paper. Paper looks, feels, smells, and tastes like paper.
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  7. Spending money on a device to get to read seems counter-intuitive. The devices should be subsidized by the content. But that would mean Amazon $10 books would cost more like $20.

Typically I don’t change until I have a problem with what I am using. Books don’t cause me problems. So I am happy to continue to read books for the¬†foreseeable¬†future.

The Digital Switch

The Long Tail claims consumers, given more options, will reflect their widely varied interests. Physical stores cannot fill all of the demand, so bytes stored on disk are the fastest, cheapest method for getting stuff to consumers. We see a mostly example of this shift in the shift to digital music.

Vinyl records were the first physical music media form I used. Later, cassette tapes (1980s) and compact disc (1990s) achieved dominance. In 2001, I started the transition to digital music. There were some stumbles along the way because of technology changes and trusting vendors saying Digital Rights Management is good for consumers. At present, I only listen to digital music when using my own collection.

Digital video seems more complicated. Web sites streaming and on-demand television have the potential to fit the Long Tail model where consumers have access to insanely varied content when they want it. DVRs neither fix the when (just shift the airing to another time) or the insanely varied content. Movie rental distributors like Blockbuster and Netflix are moving toward distributing digital movies and TV shows in setups similar to on-demand. Nothing has even come close to winning.

Digital books may yet get some traction. Computers screens cause eye strain. Laptops don’t feel like a book. PDAs, Blackberrys, and other handhelds with small screens require a ton of scrolling. A recent solution to this is “epaper” which doesn’t constantly refresh. The Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, and Sony Reader are the biggest players. (The Long Tail is not available for the Kindle but is for the Reader. WTH?)

Remaining issues for me:

  1. Ownership is dying.
    • I really like the idea of playing music on my iPod or from CDs. I play DVDs on my computer because I can’t play my DVR stuff in a hotel. So streaming and on-demand only solutions bother me as long-term solutions. If it is easy for distributors to store it because it is just bytes, then it is easy for me to do so as well.
    • I have books from 20 years ago I can still read. Technology changes too much to depend on something I buy today working tomorrow. So maybe “renting” is a way better approach for digital media?
  2. The black markets for music and movies prove consumers want everything any time. Companies must embrace consumer demand and make it easier for consumers or suffer. I think companies changing to accommodate consumer demand is the only reason the music companies have survived. Litigation cannot solve it.
  3. Hardware investment gets expensive every few years.

My solution? Wait and see.