Like many geeks, I love gadgets and I love to read. Since I've found that my rate of giving away old books is slower than the rate at which I get new ones and my bookshelf is always at eyesore-full capacity, I've wondered if e-books are everything they're cracked up to be?
Never pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel. Mark Twain's advice was apt in its time but sounds downright quaint these days. The ink-stained publishing world is battling against companies like Google and Yahoo that sell ads via any Internet-friendly gadget. And we know how that fight is going: The buy-ink-by-the-barrel types are struggling.
Against a backdrop of plummeting ad revenue for newspapers and magazines, and rising costs for paper and delivery, Hearst Corp., is getting set to launch an electronic reader that it hopes can do for periodicals what Amazon's Kindle is doing for books.
I can't possibly convey the wild excitement that surged through my heart when I first read about the Kindle. I can tell you the exact date: Nov. 19, 2007. The Kindle had just been announced, by Jeff Bezos himself. I read about it online, and my lust for a piece of technology that instantly implied a complete lack of technological expertise was immediately ... kindled. What a divine thing: It was simultaneously new and old. It was an homage to books without in any way promising their extinction. Within seconds of reading about it, I went to Amazon, pressed my one-click and bought myself a Kindle. I became so overexcited that I contemplated buying Amazon stock. A few minutes later I was so carried away with the thrill of it all that I ordered two more, for each of my sons. No socks this year, guys. No shirts that I like but you don't. No books that I already gave you and forgot that I did. I've done it: the Kindle. A great gift and what's more, a gift that promised to go on giving,
Back in 2000, the handheld electronic book was thought to be as much a part of the future as MP3s, broadband video, and ad-supported websites. That year, Forrester Research predicted $251 million in sales of e-book content by 2005. It seemed a modest goal, but today the market is so small that Forrester doesn't even track it. Held back by a lack of available titles and stifling copy protection, the e-book reader gathered dust while other dotcom-era innovations flourished.