ebooks and the new media paradigm

Monday, October 13th, 2003

I grabbed this quote by following a link from Dennis Jerz concerning the issue of ebooks:

David Steinberg, president of corporate strategy and international in New York with HarperCollins, said: “There was a format war. They compete and are not compatible. That creates resistance.”

“Three years ago, there was a huge amount of hype but we did not get caught up in it. We steered away from digitising all our works and dumping them into cyberspace,” he told Reuters.

He said e-books, still a tiny part of the overall business, have a “30 percent plus” annual growth rate with HarperCollins putting out the complete works of thriller writer Agatha Christie electronically.

But the reader’s love affair with the printed word is far from over because, as Chris Barnard, technology analyst at IDC consultancy, concluded, “One problem is that e-books are up against a very established technology, namely books. And most people are very happy with that technology.”

Writing has been around in digital form for many years: I’m reading a hypertext novel by Bill Bly at the moment. Scanning books into “book form” and selling them as ebooks misses the point, in my view. For example, I’m also studying Syberia, a work which allows for mutiple renderings of a single narrative event: a text telling, a cinematic telling, and a puppet-show telling. New media allows for this. Certainly a publisher can scan a book into digital form and distribute it for PDA. But is this an effective and affective use of technology? Books are not hypertexts and hypertexts are not books. Then: Christie scanned into digital space would therefore turn Death on the Nile into something else: is there even such thing as an electronic book? Isn’t this like claiming that a flight simulator is a plane?


Comments are closed.