It, as they say, is most assuredly on. On Monday Google launched their Google ebooks effort, a direct shot across the bow of Amazon who already has a commanding lead (and so far, a superior platform offering). With perfect timing, Amazon volleys back with the release of their browser-based reader, Kindle for the Web. Nice!
With two major players in the game now (and a smattering of also-rans fighting over the remaining scraps) it seems even more certain than before that long form reading is destined to go digital.
I’m torn. I’ve done short-form reading on a computer screen of one form or another for most of my life. Emails, web pages, short news articles, etc. were no problem to do without any paper. But I’ve had an almost luddite-esque resistance to doing any kind of long form reading without having the content printed out and in my hands. If anything, I preferred the old-school method precisely because it was so oldschool – detached from the grid that otherwise has hooks in me most of my days. Reading offered an escape – novels, magazines, even comic books. Just having to hold something, look at it, and focus on it at the expense of everything else was liberating.
About a year ago, I started to give in. As part of a larger effort to get back in touch with the current state of technology being offered outside of the Microsoft bubble, I picked up an Android phone. Not long after that, I was in a conversation with a friend who talked about his reading habits and how he did most of his via his phone. I balked at the idea, with such tiny screens I reasoned a phone would be a miserable way to do long form reading. Still, I decided to try it out. Bam, I’m hooked.
Fast forward to today. I’m working my way through a single book using 6 different electronic platforms depending on where I am at the moment. Because I’m using the Kindle platform
, I’m able to buy the book online once and keep synchronized copies of it on my desktop PC, my Windows laptop, my Mac laptop, my Android phone, my iPad, and on the Kindle device itself. Ironically perhaps, I find myself using the actual Kindle device only about half of the time. It’s easily the best reading experience of the various offerings due to the e-ink screen, and it feels the most like reading a book because of the physical form factor. But what got me here, and where I find myself spending the most time chipping away at a book, is the small screen phone application. It’s simply a matter of convenience – I rarely lug a book around, but I always have my phone in my pocket.
Now that Google (which owns and operates the platform my phone is connected to) is opening up their own book system, I’m giving that a try also. So far the user experience is nowhere near as polished as what Amazon has to offer via the Kindle platform, but it’ll be good to see where the increased level of competition takes the ebook industry. As a (admittedly recent) convert to reading electronically, I’m excited to see what customers will be offered.
Those comic books, magazines, and books on my coffee table are starting to look as obsolete as the collection of CDs, movie DVD’s and video game discs I’ve slowly been weeding out of my world. Between Kindle, iPad, and Google the last forms of physical media in my life to leave may be the ones that get abandoned the fastest of all. Not sure how I feel about that.