Immediate Gratification and E-Books

I feel about e-Books the way I felt about digital photography a decade ago: devices (whether dedicated, PDA, or notebooks) are not yet nearly good enough to displace the analog experience, but it’s now clearly just a matter of time. Datapoints from early adopters are multiplying, such as yesterday’s E-Books to the Rescue (via Daily Book Report):

Two minutes after making payment, I had the text of my “book” right in front of me … My stress born from a lack of information subsided as I started to read … as I scrolled its pages upward, one after the other, I realized that I was reading it more rapidly than I would a physical book … When my eyes grew fatigued, I zoomed in on the text using the Adobe Reader; my fatigue dissipates. When I need to “highlight” something in the electronic text, I use the highlight function in the comment section of the Adobe program; no need for Highlighter-Brand markers unless I wanted to get a noxious-fume buzz…. The next day, I looked at my shelf of paperback books and realized I was looking at the written-equivalent of a large, 1980s-era CD collection. The books were taking up a lot of physical square-footage, when they, like modern music or video downloads, would more efficiently serve me as electronic files. And, the books showed wear and tear, I couldn’t enlarge their text, and I needed markers to highlight the segments that were important to me, and I couldn’t cut and paste their text to a word document. In sum, my physical books seemed archaic, like art-pieces that should be displayed, but hardly employed as modern resources of information.

Wow! I admit I’m not personally “beyond paper” in my own reading preferences, and, per Paul Saffo, we shouldn’t “mistake a clear view for a short distance”. But as with digital cameras, I’m convinced that once we have good enough reading quality on electronic displays, the tipping point will come much faster than most of us imagine. I’m excited about the prospect of helping to accelerate making access to the world’s knowledge more universal. Indeed our local Seattle Library recently began offering 24/7 access to e-Books and audio books. Our new Koolhaas-designed building is impressive but it’s only open 50 hours a week. And I probably couldn’t get in wearing pajamas.