Its about 11am and I am close to finishing the book “The Quants” by Scott Patterson, a very dark and intriguing look at how the sheer reliance of big banks and hedge funds on their quants’ investment formulas drove wall street into the biggest financial anarchy of the 21st century. This book grips you from the very beginning, but I digress from what I truly wanted to discuss - Books and Reader Technology.
Books and newspapers have been the traditional medium of knowledge acquisition and current world awareness. However, we all know that the Kindles and IPads are eating into their market share. Bookstores like Barnes and Noble are up for sale due to their inability to cut in-store overhead. Their continuance in investing large sums of revenue can potentially bankrupt the ex Mega Mogul bookstore. The outlook of the “Nook”, Barnes and Nobles’ competition to the Kindle looks bleak. The concept of buy a coffee, locate a book in store aisles and browse for hours has been replaced by locating a book online via e-store searches, social feeds and crowdsourced recommendations. The coffee, however, has its place firmly engrained in the optional zone.
So, will e-readers one day replace books? We can explore by understanding why can and will books become obsolete.
1. One stop shop: If all your books are located, in one place, you arent spending time looking for them. Not to mention, the imposition of hardcover books in terms of weight capacity and space restrictions; I bought three books at Hudson Books at BWI airport quite recently and my carry-on luggage, suffice it to say, wasn’t my best friend.
2. Multi-task system convenience: Although not true for all e-readers, we can download apps, check email, listen to music, plan our day, take pictures and communicate with friends globally very easily from the same platform where the book is located. The sheer volume of e-readers sales (12.8 million in 2010) is enough justification to the price a customer is willing to pay for convenience.
3. Improvements in technology:The E Ink Reader of the Kindle has 16 shades of grey, designed to simulate newspaper reading. The Kindle 3 will incorporate E Ink Pearl Technology, a supposedly significant improvement in reader technology to make reading from an e-reader less straining on the eyes.
4. Environmental Concerns: This is a long term and potentially invalid concern currently. Possibly in the long run, we can justify the number of trees saved and how going paperless should be an international standard. For the time being, I have my reservations on this being used as a valid argument.
These maybe some of the laundry list of reasons why the e-reader has and will continue to grow traction. However, to answer the question of whether books will become obsolete, I will say not yet. There are multiple individuals, myself included, who still love the touch and feel of a book cover, the ability to flip a book and the convenience to physically versus “virtually” lend a book. Our current and previous generations will keep boutique stores and book printers alive for a while. However, can we expect the same from the post Y2K generation? With the the new advents in technology becoming a daily phenomenon, this remains to be seen.