Jobs cuffs the Kindle

Steve Jobs was interviewed by the New York Times shortly after his MacWorld presentation on Tuesday:

…… he had a wide range of observations on the industry, including the Amazon Kindle book reader, which he said would go nowhere largely because Americans have stopped reading.

“It doesn’t matter how good or bad the product is, the fact is that people don’t read anymore,” he said. “Forty percent of the people in the U.S. read one book or less last year. The whole conception is flawed at the top because people don’t read anymore.”

This is really odd, because most techies will read about the MacWorld presentation through blogs or newsreports or through online versions of newspapers like the NYT. Millions of people have now read about Steve Jobs saying we dont read any more. An awful lot of what we do on the web is to read, so its simply a nonsense, no starter, non sequiter, not at all true, to say that people dont read any more. If you use the web you read a lot. The web is a literary medium to its core, down to the last little hyperlink.

The real challenge is that most publishers (of magazines, books and even newspapers) do not yet do a very good or reliable job of publishing their books, magazines and papers on and through the web. If most books were on the web, there would be a lot more reading of books. Contra Steve Jobs, the Kindle is flawed from the bottom up. He should have said people do an increasing portion of their reading on the web, so its kind of irrelevant (or ‘loopy’ to use a Jobs word) to build a specialist book reader. Books need to be on the web and playing their full part in the digital dance. A specialist book-reader also misses the point that Steve is missing. We want to read more through the web, and building a specialist and compartmentalised book reader risks further ghetto-isation of the book.

Not to worry, we are in a transitional phase. Almost all scientific, technical and academic periodicals are now published primarily through the web. Most scholars read them using their web versions (mostly PDF files). Fifteen years ago nearly all access was via print.

Where the scholars, engineers, doctors and academics have gone, consumer markets will follow. In five or ten years time we will happily access magazines and books mainly (but not exclusively) via their digital editions.

One thought on “Jobs cuffs the Kindle

  1. “The real challenge is that most publishers (of magazines, books and even newspapers) do not yet do a very good or reliable job of publishing their books, magazines and papers on and through the web. If most books were on the web, there would be a lot more reading of books.”This is not well thought out. The issue for electronic book content is twofold (a) protecting the intellectual copyrights, and (b) enabling readers to comfortably read.Yes, I read the web constantly, probably too much. But when I want to sit down and read a book, I want to be comfortable on the couch, in bed, etc. I want to exert minimal effort to turn a page. I don’t want to squint to read.With my Kindle, or a paper-based book, I can do all this.With an electronic document, I’d have to have my laptop out, or I’d need to sit across from a computer. That’s not how I want to spend two hours as I read a novel.Amazon tried using the protected PDF method, and I bought a couple books from them that way. I remember turning my laptop on its side so I could read while lying on my side on my bed. That really didn’t work at all.So, it is absolutely not an issue of publishers not publishing books on the web (they’d be stupid to do so because people could easily copy them).I suppose the alternative would be advertisement-supported boooks, but that’s the last thing I’d want.

Comments are closed.