It seems like the proliferation of tablets, ereaders and smartphones at CES this year has been a great incentive for everyone writing blogs. It is amazing to read all of the comments and predictions made about the publishing industry and reading with each new launch or promise of a device that will be the killer app for literature. Sound familiar to walkman land pre-ipod?
Over at www.publishingperspectives.com Edward Nawotka has an interesting piece about this year’s announcements but there are some points that he makes that I think make assumptions based on what is traditionally referred to in statistics as recruitment bias. He talks about his habits, his family and a handful of older women he overhears talking in a bookstore to conclude we have something good enough. I am glad he isn’t developing the next generation of digital reading solutions.
It seems like we readers, booksellers, publishers etc. constantly make these kinds of conclusions based on our own experience and never think perhaps there is a different way. To think that everybody reads the same is a gross generalization of the history and reality of reading. I was about to say reading falls into two camps non-fiction readers and fiction readers but most generalizations like that and the ones made in the editorial are -if not wrong at least not very helpful for an analysis of the disruption that is taking place in the industry and the hope of preparing a business strategy with this disruption in mind.
Suffice it to say reading is not one thing or a static thing. Reading silently, reading with annotated text, texts with images are but the tip of the iceberg when talking about how reading has evolved over time. And wanting enriched content and usability for reading is not a marginal desire. Have you ever read a text and gone to the footnotes to see where the information came from and then gone and tried to find that book in a store or library? Wouldn’t you just want to click on that footnote and add the book to your library instantly?
I have to constantly remind myself not to blinded by my habits and experience. If I allow that to happen then I am going to be blind to what is happening with digitization in culture because I already get what I want. Lots or readers don’t.
And one more point about what Nawotka writes. He refers to himself as an early adopter because he has a tablet but he got that tablet in 2003 and has never upgraded. Usually early adopters do upgrade their devices, embrace the shortcomings of the current technology with an eye to the possibilities to come. If I thought tablet computing hadn’t advanced any further than what was available in 2003 crapware I wouldn’t think much of tablets either.