I think that Mark Pilgrim is exactly (and amusingly) on the money with his The Future of Reading (A Play in six acts). Ebooks just do not cut it when you factor in DRM and high device costs. I had been wondering how I could amortise a Kindle unit purchase over an anticipated device lifetime of two years on purchases of (say) two books a month – and that’s assuming that all the books I wanted would be available in the specified format. It just does not look a sensible option – and no electronic format available today is going to match the versatility of a simple book.
I suspect that the problem here is that Jeff Bezos and Amazon are trying to lead this market. The iPod came after the initial successes of MP3 and user driven format shifting for music. Apple made the format convenient and makes a bundle of money on the back of that convenience. There is no established format shifting mechanism for books. I suspect that “home copying” (more properly format shifting) of books will have to become a reality – fixing an effective digital format on the way – before eBook reading devices (if they turn out not to be an existing device) have a chance in the market place. It would be convenient to be able to carry around a couple of novels and a good portion of my technical library but the limitations (and price) of the current proposals from Amazon do not look that convenient.
The OLPC looks like a pretty good text reading device – so any ideas on how best to quickly and conveniently shift my newly purchased paper based books to a format that I can carry around on one of those?