eBooks Entering the Mainstream

The WSJ yesterday published a fascinating article by Jane Spencer on The Blackberry Squint: PDA Use Triggers Eyestrain [subscription required]. There was a nice mention and photo of the Sony Reader device, whose reflective E-Ink display I personally much prefer to light-emitting LCDs. Eyestrain associated with LCD displays is a real concern – albeit not well-supported by research findings, as evidenced by the Journal’s including anecedotal quotes from a couple of optometrists, rather than referencing any studies. But the real “ah hah” for me was the subhead and lead paragraph:

Gadget Makers Offer Features to Improve ‘Readability’; ‘The Da Vinci Code’ on a Treo
Chris Kwak, a 31-year-old financial analyst, spends hours a day glued to the tiny screen of his Palm Treo hand-held computer. He fires off emails, check stock prices – and recently plowed through the novel ‘The Da Vinci Code’.

So here we have reading an eBook matter-of-factly included, along with emailing and information retrieval, as a basic user behavior (!). While this surely doesn’t track to typical current usage, it’s yet another signal that eReading is, directionally, becoming a mainstream activity. Treo users are clearly still somewhat early adopters, especially in the “over 30” set, but there’s a generation coming up that’s used to consuming all their content digitally. Elizabeth Mackay, GM of eReader.com, quipped last week that “if you’re not on their screen, you’re not in their world”. Publishers have clearly gotten that message too, and the coming flood of digital content will be a further impetus to broader adoption of eReading.