Alexandria Online

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Where the Wild Things Are: Bigger, Stronger, Scarier Monsters

So I'm reading in various media sources about Android powered phones outselling iPhones, and Blackberries outselling iPhones and Google and Verizon working on a tablet to compete with the iPad. When I mention this to my wife, she says, "I couldn't care less about the iPad." And I say, well neither do I. But do you care about books? And she says, "Yes, I care a lot about the future of books."

The iPad is a great way to read books. The kindle is a wonderful way to read books. And the codex is also wonderful -- still the most wonderful way for millions of people. It's not like moving from vinyl to CD's or from CD's to mp3's. It's just not as clear-cut. Only a tiny minority of folks cling to their vinyl LP's; more cling to their CD's; but the vast majority of us made the switch to digital media really quickly. But the idea of digital books has been around for ten, fifteen years, and still it's a niche market.

But what if -- ah, "what if" -- what if you could suddenly get any book you wanted immediately on any device you wanted: your laptop, your phone, your TV, your e-ink reader? If you cared about books at all, you would sit up and pay attention, wouldn't you?

Loping along behind Steve Jobs is the biggest two-headed monster that ever lurked in a kid's closet: the Google-Verizon monster. Verizon has the best coverage of any network and the most access to the big pipes. Google has scanned over ten million titles and offers them for free, and is about to start its own bookstore, Google Editions, this summer. Google and Verizon are now working on a tablet device to compete with the iPad.

Apple has always thrived on being small, elegant and beautiful. But how will it fare against something as big and strong as Google-Verizon? A monstrous amount of content on a monstrous netork? If you care about books but you don't care for computers, this summer might be the time when you will finally think about reading digital books instead of printed ones.

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