Since I got a Sony e-Reader for my birthday, my parents have been utterly dedicated to cutting out clippings from newspapers about e-books and either mailing them to me or leaving them on my desk when I come home for some family event. When I came home last night I was met with about 7 clippings, and there was a front page article in today's New York Times that was already highlighted for me before I came down for breakfast. They all pretty much say the same thing, which is that e-books are new and awesome and libraries are using them to reach digital readers and Sony and Amazon are lowering their prices to battle for the market in e-readers (finally). A lot of the articles have noted that people can't get library books or Google books on the Kindle, which is exclusive to Amazon and the reason I got a Sony. Very few articles have much to say about the publishing industry other than this must be good somehow, because all things internet are good until they're bad and destroy industries (music and, slowly but surely, movies).
I would have reported on my e-Reader early but honestly, I don't use it that much. I own a lot of books. Way too many books. I have too much to read in book format at the moment, and I haven't been on any vacations where carrying 503 books around in one slender case in my backpack would have been helpful. That's how many books I have on my e-Reader, by the way - 503. How much did I pay for them? $0. I read a lot of public domain books - classics, translations of classics where the translation is in public domain, and non-fiction books that were written earlier than 1932. Google Books could literally provide me with millions of these if I could afford that many memory cards. Oh, and that's just if I stay legal, and don't take advantage of the fact that people have been massively digitizing their private collections (mostly sci-fi) for years and posting them as torrents. So far I've had no reason not to stay legal, but to be honest, sooner or later some book is going to come along and it's going to be overly expensive and a used copy isn't going to be available, the library copies are not going to be available, and because I hate the author or something I'm going to download it to read it.
There are some kinks to the e-Reader. The version I have seems to drain its battery if you don't use it for awhile, so when you turn it on after a couple weeks it barely has enough life left start up. Sony's having some software problems with the book version of iTunes, and the books won't sync properly to my computer and I have a lot of doubles on my memory card. Books scanned by Google instead of being designed for the reader can be hard to read, as in the text will be small and up in the corner of the screen if it's a .pdf or if it's an .epub, not all of the text will translate. The software that translates it will pick up some old fonts as different letters and some dirt on the ancient pages of a library book as marks so the text you're reading is only 95% there and your mind has to make some jumps. And frankly, I'm not as impressed with the e-Ink technology as I first was. It looks a lot like text, but the screen is still glass/plastic and therefore there's a glare from bright lights or sunlight. It's obviously not a book. Still, 503 free books on a single device? I'm going for it.
This device will not destroy publishing, but it will reshape the industry as we know it.
The biggest issue I see here is the market for classics. Publishers make huge amounts of money on public domain books, and once the e-Reader becomes advanced enough to feel more like a book (like they finally decide to put in a second G-ddamn screen so you can open it like a book) and becomes cheap enough, the market for classics and other public domain works will fall out. Not entirely, but it will take a large hit. Some imprints dedicated to these books will fold. Also once publishers digitize more of their own books, more will be leaked (I've never heard of drm technology stopping anyone) and you'll be able to download thousands of current books with torrents or whatever the next generation of downloading software is. Current publishing (new books) will take a hit. Textbook publishers, who have been screwing over students for years by publishing a new edition of everything every year to make sure nobody just hands over their old copy to a new student, will insist that schools only have licensed copies of their e-versions, and charge a lot for the licenses. Like, thousands of dollars, like Adobe does for photoshop. After many years of enjoying the program, I actually went to buy photoshop in gratitude, only to discover it was a thousand dollars. How the hell was I supposed to buy that? How was anyone who does photoshopping for fun?
In the end, the book market will survive because its essential medium is not something that cannot be digitized, unlike music, tv, and movies. It's paper. In your hand. But man, will it take a hit. And from the looks of all of these articles, nobody's ready for it.
(PS I'm out a lot this weekend so on top of Shabbos, most comments won't be approved until Sunday because I won't be around to approve them. But by all means, leave them for approval)