David gave a terrific presentation, contextualizing the e-reading “fits and starts” very well, and giving an inside look at how Dartmouth’s experiences may foreshadow larger changes in user preferences.
One major observation he made is that Apple has become the de facto standard on their campus, offering a free iPod Touch to any student who buys an Apple laptop. These multi-use devices prove very useful to students, and the integrations invite usage. Single-use devices like Amazon‘s Kindle are never seen on campus. Kindle’s are “what my Dad uses.” Ouch.
That said, Dartmouth is undertaking a “Kindle library loan” experiment, loaning out Kindle’s to see what happens. This experiment should be complete later this year or early next year, if my memory serves.
David also did a nice job of pointing out the limitations of all these devices — annotation, collaboration, and sharing. The experience of reading on these is essentially a solitary one, and making notes and collaborating is trying at best.
However, Dartmouth is also finding a great deal of interest in e-reading among students. Many already use e-texts, mainly for non-linear (reference and research) reading, and a growing corpus of materials is emerging.
Given the broad acceptance of e-reading, but the preference for multi-purpose devices, David indicated that he thinks e-books and e-reading is now a real part of the landscape, and that its adoption will only increase, perhaps quickly.
For my part, I covered the available and upcoming devices here and abroad, platforms, companies, commercial models, and my own experience as an author whose novel is available in e-book form.
I also talked about the pending launch of Plastic Logic’s reader, showing the video below:
The upcoming Kindle DX seems close to the “killer” e-reading device, with its format and capabilities getting much closer to what everyone’s been imagining would emerge. Wireless integration with the Amazon storefront is what makes these devices so useful. That storefront is also what Amazon is not going to concede without a fight — hence, their release of a Kindle application for the iPhone and acquisition of Lexcycle’s Stanza.
E-books have only provided about 2% of the sales of my novel. It didn’t cost me anything to make it happen, but it’s a very minor part of commercial publishing these days. That said, services like Smashwords, Scribd’s new e-bookstore, and the rapid adoption of devices that support e-reading — along with trends among users — indicates that the Age of e-Reading might now be upon us.