Ironically, it’s Technology Review website that’s arguing not to count the book out yet. The ebook backlash is coming. It’s not about dominating or disappearing, it’s about market share, say the tech gurus.
The backlash against ebooks by those who aren’t so in love with technology for its own sake has yet to begin, but it’s coming. Ebooks are adequate for reading novels, but the makers of the Kno, (in)famous for being the world’s most gigantic ebook, believe that their technology is the only way to replace the specialized class of books we rely on for our education — textbooks. If they’re right, the experiment in Clearwater, Florida is bound to run into problems.
And as for the death-by-2015 predictions of Negroponte, it’s just as likely that as the ranks of the early adopters get saturated, adoption of ebooks will slow. The reason is simple: unlike the move from CDs to MP3s, there is no easy way to convert our existing stock of books to e-readers. And unlike the move from records and tapes to CDs, it’s not immediately clear that an ebook is in all respects better than what it succeeds.
So the world is left with an unconvertible stock of used books that is vast. If the bustling, recession-inspired trade in used books tells us anything, it’s that old books hold value for readers in a way that not even movies and music do. That’s value that no ebook reader can unlock.