Why eReading came of age

As I assemble an eReader app for my novel, I get a great sense of deja vu. It was my final year project in college to write an eReader for the PC. The technology hasn’t changed much – got a little smaller. My latest foray into eReading has made me wonder why it is such a popular option now, whereas it never really took off in those “olden days” (15 years ago) when it was limited to just a few curious early adopters.

Oh sure, the old arguments against eReaders are still there: “nobody will read an entire book from a screen.” Those arguments haven’t changed. There are only two factors that have changed in the intervening years, combining to make eReading a viable medium in this era: portability and ubiquity.

No one was ever going to sit down to their PC to tuck into a good book. PCs were for work; the last thing you wanted to see when you felt like a recreational read. Reading was always something to take to a special place, or fit in when and where you had some down-time. Neither of those apply to a PC. But the era of personal portable computing devices has arrived. Like a book, we can take those personal devices around with us; unlike a book, we can even slip a computer into our pocket.

In the olde days, the only way to get the book bits onto an eReader was on a “floppy disk” (look it up), or the very fancy new medium of “Compact Disc”. No USB keys back then. Now we have the ultimate form of digital distribution – the wireless internet. Download any book over-the-air from anywhere. Book access is now ubiquitous, as ubiqutious as the marketing-driven popularity of Amazon’s Kindle or Apple’s iPhone/iPad – the eReading devices that have become de rigueur.

There is nothing new in software technology, only hardware. All the software tools and techniques I use every day were all invented decades ago. But what is new, is this singularity – the creeping convergence of all technical factors to make the right time and the right place for something to just … take off.

Next … eReading moves beyond the constraints of the old medium to which it is currently compared … matures in its own unique aspects … comes of age … and becomes something new.

Add comment May 21st, 2010


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