Maybe you take what you can get • 23 November 2007 • The SnowBlog

Maybe you take what you can get

While having my lunchtime soup, I listened to Cory Doctorow being interviewed. He was talking about why he doesn't think e-book readers will really catch on. His reasons were a little bit depressing, and the diametric opposite of what most commenters on this blog seem to think. Of course you have to remember that Cory is a sci-fi author, so you can't really use the argument that readers are traditionalists with him - because his readers certifiably aren't. But instead of appealing to the rich sense-experience of paper books, he looks at the big picture. His thinking is two-fold: firstly, reading novels isn't that popular. Reading for pleasure is a minority interest these days. The big money goes into video games and iPods, etc; So there won't be any big drive for technology to conquer the book world, because it's too small to justify the effort. His second argument is that any device that's capable of being a good reader for books will inevitably get loaded up with other features: games, a web browser, a music player, a phone, a video player and so on. And the one thing we know about those features is that they are all more popular with the average citizen than reading. And stripping those features out isn't going to work, because why would you buy the e-book reader that just displays books when someone else is offering one that does all those other things? And given the option to do those other things, we know that most people will choose them over reading. His argument is that paper books help you not to get distracted in a way that no gadget with a screen ever will. Listen here for the full interview. But the summary is that he's agreeing with all the naysayers out there, but probably for reasons you'll hate.


The SnowBlog is one of the oldest publishing blogs, started in 2003, and it's been through various content management systems over the years. A 2005 techno-blunder meant we lost the early years, but the archives you're reading now go all the way back to 2005.

Many of the older posts in our blog archive suffer from link rot. Apologies if you see missing links and images: let us know if you'd like us to find any in particular.

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