Yesterday, Google released their eBooks initiative, a project to make the reading and annotation of books on the web easier and more efficient. Google ostensibly has 3 million books available in their eBook “store,” an impressive number to be sure, but Amazon, makers of many fine reading devices and apps, is trying to do them one better by offering current titles (books people actually want to read) available through a web interface.
According to a ComputerWorld report, the new website “store” will “enable users to read full books in the browser and [enable] any Website to become a bookstore offering Kindle books.” Basically it’s a version of the Kindle Reader for the web, presumably with some safeguards in place to prevent piracy.
This makes a lot of sense for Google and Amazon both. With the rise of multiple reading platforms, there is no reason to dedicate resources to developing standalone apps for multiple platforms. However, this does make us wonder how you would read titles in offline mode on a Win7 tablet, for example. It makes sense, then, for Amazon to offer the web reader for stationary PC reading and apps for Android, iOS, and presumably WinPho7/Win7 down the line. What doesn’t make sense, however, is the maintenance of standalone readers like the Kindle and the Nook.
Obviously most folks don’t like to read books on their computer monitors. I’ve been doing it for the past two years doing research for my book and I’ve found the experience to be frustrating at best. Presumably a better interface will fix things and presumably the next generation will move to screen reading as their primary source of input, but there’s just something nostalgic about curling up in a chair with a cup of Kaluha-spiked kochumba and a blanket and slowly, methodically pressing the “Next Page” button on a dedicated e-reading device. I worry our kids won’t be able to experience the visceral feel of the e-reader in their hand and that delicious “old e-reader” smell you get after storing it away for a few days. The web can do a lot of things, but will it be able to recreate the thrill of stumbling into a cloud-based WhisperNet bookstore on a rainy day with a person you’ve just met (and maybe think you could fall in love with) then browsing page after page of new titles until finally selecting the title you both want and downloading it using invisible radio waves to your e-readers?
I think not.