Wired.com Throws Ebooks Under The Superficial Bus

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I really hope this article from Wired is a joke. The title is ’5 Reasons Why Ebooks Aren’t There Yet.’ When I saw this title, I thought maybe they’d discuss serious issues like ebook quality control, lack of a standard format, or the failure of the publishing industry to fully embrace ebooks.

Sadly, I gave Wired too much credit. Rather than addressing the serious issues, like the ones above above, the article gives us a few new shallow reasons why ebooks are still inferior to print.

Only this article seems to take it a step further. Take the first reason, for example:

1) An unfinished e-book isn’t a constant reminder to finish reading it.

Two months into 2011, The New York Times tech reporter (and former Wired reporter Jenna Wortham) wrote excitedly that she had finally finished her first e-book — how is such technological tardiness possible for someone so plugged in? Wortham had an excellent explanation: She kept forgetting to pick up any e-book she had started reading.

She couldn’t remember that she was reading a book? That sounds more like a personal problem rather than something intrinsically wrong with ebooks. In all the years I’ve been reading ebooks I have never once forgotten to keep reading something I had started. I’ve given up on books for one reason or another, but never forgot about the book entirely.

The next reason is not quite as superficial although it is very misguided:

2) You can’t keep your books all in one place.

Books arranged on your bookshelves don’t care what store they came from. But on tablets and smartphones, the shelves are divided by app — you can’t see all the e-books you own from various vendors, all in one place. There is simply no app for that. (With e-readers, you are doubly punished, because you can’t buy anything outside the company store anyway).

Really? Because all the ebooks I buy from Amazon are available on my brand new Kindle, iPad, iPhone and computer. That’s pretty darn convenient. The article assumes people buy ebooks from different places, like Amazon, B&N, Sony and so forth. But I’m inclined to think that most people are loyal to one vendor or the other.

The third reason is also misguided. I’m beginning to think the author has never even studied all the features ebooks have to offer.

Books don’t offer much white space for readers to riff in, but e-books offer none. And what about the serendipity of sharing your thoughts, and being informed by the thoughts of others, from the messages in shared books?

The Kindle (and the Nook) allow the user to make notes, highlight passages and share them. Not only that, but your notes and highlights are stored in your account so you can access them from multiple devices. Furthermore, social media makes it possible to share thoughts and messages with even more people than a print book ever could. Ebooks are very social media friendly.

The fourth reason they give is about pricing, which I actually kind of agree with. Paying $12.99 for an ebook is a bit much, especially when you consider the cost of a paperback is a few bucks less. I’ll give the article a pass on this one.

I’m not even going to dignify the fifth reason with a response because the main criticism is that ebooks can’t be used for “interior design” purposes. Yeah, a bookshelf filled with books looks good in any room, but it’s beyond shallow to use that as a criticism against ebooks.

In the end, the biggest blunder the Wired article makes is trying to hold ebooks and print books to the same standard. They both serve the same function (reading for entertainment, information, etc.), they just do it using a different medium.


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