I initially passed this opportunity to Dr. Alex @Halavais, whom I knew was in the process of digitizing his entire personal book library. He had given me great advice on the evolution of media industries from analogue to digital, specifically on how the book publishing industry is likely to mirror the course of music and movies industries into the digital domain.
Here are some questions from CBC News, as well as my responses:
1. Why are eBooks taking so long to turn mainstream?
Short answer: Aesthetic experience. Music and movies tend to be experienced same way be it analogue or digital (i.e. screens, headphones), while the experience of browsing a physical book hasn’t been replicated in the electronic form. I think we’re compensating by recognizing the new-found features of ebooks, including the ability to search within books and to carry along more books with us than physically possible.
2. Who are going to be the real losers here? Bookstores, publishers?
If we were to look at the demise of Tower Records, or the state of Blockbuster today, it’s quite certain that if ebooks were to take off, then the brick and mortar bookstores would be next to go. As much as we romanticize the loss of physical browsing, bookstores might have to adapt themselves around alternative aspects of business. I’m seeing many bookstores take the Starbucks route by turning themselves into The Third Place, which focuses the business on communal aspects of books, such as operating cafes, hosting author readings, and catering to book clubs.
3. Which device do you think will lead the ebook revolution?
I personally enjoy reading on my Amazon Kindle, as well as my iPhone. They compliment each other very well, and the convenience and comfort these devices bring to reading ebooks make them strong contenders as mainstream devices for the publishing industry.
If you’re interested to see why the Kindle and the iPhone rock for reading, check out this recent discussion I had with my fellow Kindle fans.
UPDATE: The RamblingLibrarian now offers his thoughts on ebooks as well.