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Cory Doctorow on e-Books

Cory Doctorow has a nice piece in Locus magazine concerning e-books and the cliché argument that people don’t like reading on a screen. Actually he points out people do like reading on a screen, and many do it all day long.

I don’t like reading off a computer screen” — it’s a cliché of the e-book world. It means “I don’t read novels off of computer screens” (or phones, or PDAs, or dedicated e-book readers), and often as not the person who says it is someone who, in fact, spends every hour that Cthulhu sends reading off a computer screen. It’s like watching someone shovel Mars Bars into his gob while telling you how much he hates chocolate.

Publishers (admittedly, myself included) keep waiting for the “killer e-book device” to magically launch the e-book publishing revolution, but perhaps the problem is not in the technology but in the books!

The problem, then, isn’t that screens aren’t sharp enough to read novels off of. The problem is that novels aren’t screeny enough to warrant protracted, regular reading on screens.

Bingo! Cory is speaking specifically about novels, but I think this applies to most books, including the technical publishing that I do. Maybe we need to stop thinking about e-books as just the electronic copy of the book, and start thinking of them as a different product. This seems to mesh with the “bite-sized” content I posted about previously.

What do you think?

  • mjh
    I'm one who spends all day reading 3 computer screens, grazing the bite-sized content you've mentioned. Even longer blog entries (or comments ...) lose me.

    As a consumer, I'd like the option with technical content to read the gist in a blog-like entry then click a link for "more," which might well take me to the chapter of a book. Give me the first and last pages of the chapter and I might even make a small payment for the rest. peace, mjh
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