Monday, October 26, 2009

All You Have To Do Is Listen

My prediction: Ebooks are here to stay and will be an accepted and even assumed part of publishing forever. I find it fascinating that for several years, devices and technology have been improving, and the quantity of ebook content increasing, yet we are still surprised when wide scale adoption actually begins. Which it has.

I am not ashamed to admit, even though I am thoroughly embedded in the book publishing world, that I am already tired of the endless analysis and statistics on ebooks. I just don't understand why everyone is so surprised that tomorrow is now and regular people are buying ebook devices and ebooks. We are heading up the adoption curve. Embrace it.

I promise, I won't get conciliatory and console you that, no matter what, print books are here to say. Of course they are. I won't tell you that some content lends itself better to print, and other content lends itself better to ebooks. Of course it does.

What struck me was this blog post in the New York Times. I started reading it and began to think that maybe I wasn't being analytical enough about the impact of ebooks. Do I really need to know about focal and peripheral attention? Perhaps I am doing myself a disservice by not reading up on ebook consumption in a more scientific way. How can I be in the publishing industry and not know about peripheral attention??

But then again, I am a guy who relates to tangible things. It struck me that my own experiences are probably the best barometer I can read on the adoption of ebooks. I started off reading on my Palm Pilot years ago. It was ok, but eventually abandoned. Back to print books. More recently, I started reading on my iphone. That was ok too in a 'convenient on a delayed airplane' sort of way. But I can't use my iphone for everything - books, email, phone, gps, moveies and expect the battery to last all day. The experience wasn't really there for me either.

Then I bought my Kindle in March 2009, and haven't put it down since. And I bought one for my wife Grace, because she couldn't put my Kindle down either (potential marital friction averted). We have since bought hundreds of dollars worth of ebooks - exponentially more than we would have bought in print form. You can read about our Kindle experience in this blog post (I promise, no stats). For further proof that adoption is now, read Fran Toolan's blog post The Day It All Changed. It has some stats, but I guarantee you it is the passion that is most telling.

It has struck me, then , that to appreciate the immediacy and viability of ebooks, all you really need to do is listen to readers - listen to what they are saying and how they are acting. They (we) are talking to us.