Pardonnez-moi for the pun on the title of Charles Darwin’s famous publication, but I really mean to analyse the rise of the ebook and what direction it is going to take in the future. It is not the first time the Bright Old Oak treats this subject and poses question of how humans will read in the future. This time, the focus should be on ebooks themselves, not just about what risk they pose to books but which risks are posed upon them.
Only time will tell if ebooks will completely take over the landscape of the publishing industry, the reading habits of people and the space left on the shelves of your favourite library. Personally, I tend to think this will never happen. Yes, ebooks are a fine contribution to the world of reading and makes many more things accessible to our reading needs, but seeing a book cover, touching it, flipping through its thickness and (even) smelling those freshly published pages is a pleasure few people would be ready to renounce.
How did the ebook originate? As usual, prototypes of new invention are usually found to be around for decades as they get perfected and ready for the commercial market. This would usually happen in the past, as now new inventions are either tested with the public in their rough form or get perfected through the release of new versions. Tentatives of having digital books date back to the 1940s, but you can imagine how they would have looked or how ebooks went such a long way since then. It was only in the 1990s and 2000s that ebooks came to life in such way that they resemble what we have now, but I seem to recall a boom in sales and public interest only in the last few years. All those who were used to reading much on the internet and stubbornly brought their laptop with them everywhere in order to do so, choosing digital over paper, had finally found a way to have a light, small device to bring along. It was a matter of ‘natural‘ selection: ‘technologically‘ natural.
What now? Can technology turn from benefactor to key factor of a possible demise? The tablet was recently released as as evolution of the laptop and netbook and bears striking resemblance to many ebook readers. Are these two elements going to merge? As new tablets are full of applications (namely ‘apps‘), there was no doubt it was going to provide its users with tools for their reading needs.
As promised, it’s on the future of the ebook that I wanted to focus on. I have recently read a blog post on this topic and realised a few theories needed to be laid down.
Let’s leave books out of the question, as the battle is between ebooks and its competitors in the technology field: tablets. Which factors are more important for the readers?
The release of tablets makes ereaders look like tablets that ‘can only do one thing‘ and therefore ereaders and their ebooks would be doomed, but actually I’m not a fan of multi-tasking all-doing devices and I’m not sure it’s because I was born in the 1980s and haven’t fully adapted to new technologies, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks so. I just think I’d rather have one tool for one specific need. That said, what was that saying? “Two dogs strive for a bone, and the third runs away with it“. Books might still have the last laugh!