The eBook Dilemma
When Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in 1439, he couldn’t have anticipated that in the future, his influence would lead to the creation of eBooks, a seemingly conscious effort to render his printing press obsolete. But perhaps obsolete is an inappropriate term to classify this juncture in the history of the book.
It seems fitting that the collaborative effort behind the eBook, Project Gutenberg, bears the name of the inventor who made this new medium possible. EBooks made their first appearance in 1971, and were invented by Project Gutenberg founder Michael Hart, who passed away September 6th, 2011.
Despite this significant loss, Project Gutenberg continues to uphold its mission statement to, “Encourage the creation and distribution of eBooks,” a goal that it most certainly achieved.
But what does the future hold for traditional print books? While it’s fair to say that print media is suffering considerable challenges on an industry wide level, it’s my belief that our beloved books are not going to vanish anytime soon.
Instead of conceptualizing this industry shift as a battle for a shrinking market, one where the print industry is pitted against the eBook revolution, I prefer to see it as an intersection of traditional publishing and technological advancement.
I think that the potential outcome will produce a more adaptive and sustainable industry, one where literary-minded folks will find themselves working with developers and programmers to help elevate literacy among the masses. It’s clear that with companies like Goodreads gaining ground, along with others, this trend is beginning to happen quite naturally.
While I can’t promise a future free of environmentally taxing printed media, I’m certain that this new technology is less likely to have a detrimental effect on the industry if it is embraced, instead of being cast as a job destroying conspiracy spearheaded by mysterious Internet goons.
As Dan Agin commented recently, there are legitimate concerns, and it’s clear there are several parties interested in the outcome of the eBook. The consensus, however, seems unclear on which path to choose.
Several well-known authors, among them the late Science Fiction Novelist Ray Bradbury, have weighed in on the value of eBooks, and it seems appropriate that they should.
To come to a successful conclusion about where this new technology is headed, I’d hope that some of the people most directly involved in the creation of literature would contribute valuable insight into the resolution of the eBook dilemma.
Whatever the future holds for eBooks, I stand firmly behind this new advancement.
You can imagine my delight when I recently found out that Marvel Comics released many of its earliest prints in eBook form for only $1.99 a piece! Where else would I be able to read the 1st issue of The Amazing Spider-Man?
Maybe I’m too easily won over by the prospect of what the eBook has to offer readers, or perhaps instead of debating the value of this new technology we should all simply enjoy it, taking our libraries with us in our pockets, instead of lugging them around in a cumbersome book bag.