When I bring this up, some people seem to misunderstand what I’m asking, they deliberately misunderstand or ignore the question – so I thought I might take a moment to see if I could clarify myself.
How will the eBook “revolution” affect the poor? Tangent to that, if eBooks hold sway, will reading become something only a person who can afford an eBook reader can do?
There is already a gap between those who read and can afford to either buy books or take them out from the library – which is “free” (Free libraries posit an economy of surplus). It’s just that the discussions among writers, agents, and publishers seem to EXclude everyone but those who read in the developed world.
Hmmm…I don’t know if I’m making myself clear even to me, so let me try again: many people seem to be saying that eBooks will eventually be the most common way to get new books. The Kindle appears to be a hit (http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/05/14/amazon-may-sell-750-million-in-kindles-by-2010-thats-a-lot-of-kindles/ ) and a lot of chatter on blogs and websites I read seems to agree that eBooks will eventually be IT. My question: what about readers in developing countries?
Right now, paper books are scarce enough in developing countries. When I was in Nigeria, Cameroun and Liberia, books weren’t available there the way they are here. There were no B. Daltons, Waldenbooks, or Borders Books, and certainly, in 1983, Barnes and Noble didn’t have a Lagos store. I did read ROOTS, THE FAR PAVILIONS, THE THORN BIRDS, ON THE BEACH and CENTENNIAL, but I picked them up off the bed stands of mission stations where they were warm, dusty, dog-eared and slightly yellowing at the edges -- but still readable. Schoolbooks in most places were shipped in from the UK or the US or Australia or Canada and were typically second hand at best, but lovingly cared for, pored over and passed on.
What will it be like if the wave of eBooks washes over the developed world and books old and new require an expensive reader using even more expensive batteries that require an even MORE expensive power plant to generate power to recharge from? Even with solar cells…well, my observation has always been that the more complex a bit of technology becomes, the more likely it is going to be difficult to fix if it breaks. Once our Kindles are dead, we’ll toss them away along with whatever novels or textbooks were stored in them. I doubt there’ll be a collection point for used Kindles that will be recharged, reloaded with books, boxed up and shipped to developing countries.
More likely, the developed world will continue to develop as it always has…and the developing world will stop dead in its tracks…at least as far as reading goes.
Anyone out there offering a brighter scenario will be gladly believed!