Briefly Noted: “The book is great technology, but it’s not good for everything”

Some ebook-related thoughts, courtesy of GigaOM: “The book is great technology, but it’s not good for everything.”

Sure, the gist of it all is that ebooks can do some things beyond the print and ink reading experience. Yet, and perhaps somewhat obviously, the social aspects of reading books — as in, the type of interaction that occurs between readers in the nondigital world — offer compelling reasons to think that ebooks are a great technology, but are also not ‘good for everything.’

Think in particular of independent bookstores and libraries, which “are perfectly positioned to capitalize on the social aspect around books as both educational tool and entertainment.

While large retailers like Borders have gone bankrupt, smaller independents have had some success by offering real-world events around books such as dating nights, cooking demonstrations and author signings. Libraries are even better positioned to offer those kinds of social experiences, he said, because they aren’t so focused on generating a profit by selling books.”

As useful (see also: “Thoughts on Social Reading”) as online reading can be, there’s something about real-world bookish social activity that can’t be replaced. Digital tech can produce fairly-convincing surrogate experiences (for example: “How do you sign an ebook?”), but you know, it’s just not the same. Don’t you think?


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I run the ThinkLab at the University of Cambridge, and research digital habits, productivity, and wellbeing.

tyler shores cambridge

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