A message from our Chairman • 27 September 2006 • The SnowBlog

A message from our Chairman

          Here, by way of introduction, is a note from Rob, our chairman. I am his puppet - he has all the good ideas and I pass them off as my own. Over to you, Rob:

"I keep reading criticisms of e-ink e-readers and I think most of the complaints miss the point to such an extent that it almost seems wilful. 

Complaint: It's a heck of a lot (~£200) for a crippled PDA when books are cheaper and better.

Answer: I remember when electronic calculators and portable CD players both cost more than that. This is still about refining the technology - it's not  a mass-market roll-out yet. What about when they cost £10, contain as many books as you want plus encyclopedias, dictionaries, maps, your favourite blogs and maybe the Top 100 bestsellers, each of which you only have to pay for if you read more than three chapters?

Complaint: But books look, feel, smell better. I love books; I despise gadgets.

Answer: The implication is that everyone feels like that. But ordinary people crack the spines of their paperbacks and then drop them in the bath. Some people love books; some people merely tolerate them because that's where the words are. Paperbacks aren't especially lovely things, but an e-reader designed by Apple might well be lovely.

Complaint: You'll never get rid of paper books completely.

Answer: Sure. Of course. Why would you? But even selling 30% of new novels electronically would represent a huge shift in the publishing market - and there's every reason to think it will happen.

Complaint: No one wants to read books on a horrible, flickering screen.

Answer: It's worth getting hold of an e-ink reader to see just how good they are. Zero flicker, crystal clear, readable in the brightest sunshine. Far prettier to look at than cheap ink on Bulky News.


And consider what happens if the gorgeous, paper-like display of the e-reader finds its way into some other device - a mobile phone, a Blackberry e-mail thingie, a PDA. You're carrying round this device anyway; why not load it up with a few books? Click, click, click and it's done. Touch a word if you want it translated/looked up in a dictionary/looked up in an encyclopedia/searched for on the web. Plug in your headphones and have the book play you music while you read. If you don't feel like a novel, push a button and have it be a newspaper instead. You'll still want beautiful editions of your favourite books on paper, but will you really insist on your airport thrillers being a two-inch-thick slab of fibrous paper with a lurid cover rather than a file on your slinky, gorgeous Apple Slate?"  


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