Rekindling Reading

Like probably anybody viewing this, I’m an avid reader. I read everything – books, blogs, even bottle labels (you never know what’s in there).

So, I’ve been watching the development of the eReader for a decade. After years of fits and starts, it looks like the era of the eReader has finally arrived. It took the release of the Kindle by Amazon to put the gadget in everyday consciousness.

Granted that might still be the consciousness of the really early adopter. The Kindle 2 is almost $400, is proprietary, and is unavailable in Canada because of cellular network issues.

But there are other eReaders out there that are workable in the country. And there are thousands of books online that can be read on them. For example, Chapters Indigo plans to start selling individual chapters of books on iTunes soon. The eReader isn’t ubiquitous just quite yet. But we’re talking about tipping points here and it looks like the technology that was long predicted to disrupt the publishing industry may finally be here.

This isn’t a debate about preference: whether you’d rather curl up in bed with a good book or with an electronic device. I would prefer the book myself, but others might not. It’s about disintermediation. Just like iTunes broke the record companies’ hold on music distribution, Kindle and its confreres will likely break traditional publishers’ grip on distribution of books, newspapers, magazines, and other information. It won’t end tomorrow, but it’s starting.

You’d think from the reaction of publishers, many of whom are still locked in a traditional system and can’t see an alternative, this signals the end of the world.

Chill, people. An eReader is just another channel of distribution, and so presents an opportunity not a threat.

It may require doing things in new and different ways, which is scary to some.

But the net effect is that it will increase reading of newspapers, magazines and books, not decrease it.