Book Corner: the end of dog-ears?

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There was an interesting piece in The Economist a couple weeks back about digitized books. As you probably know, Google has been scanning books and putting them on this corner of their site. But what you probably didn't know is that they're doing this at a rate of something approaching 3000 books a day or 10 million a year. Apparently there are approximately 65 million books in the universe right now, which means the whole job might be done before the icebergs melt completely and Google's server slides into the Pacific.

From the piece:

As books go digital, new questions, both philosophical and commercial, arise. How, physically, will people read books in future? Will technology "unbind" books, as it has unbundled other media, such as music albums? Will reading habits change as a result? What happens when books are interlinked? And what is a book anyway?

Change is least likely in the physical medium of books. Electronic books do exist; the best-known is the Sony Reader, a book-sized gadget made by the eponymous consumer-electronics company. Sony currently makes 12,000 books available online for download, but "our mission is not to replace the print book," says Ron Hawkins, the Sony Reader's marketing boss.

There is an obvious analogy between what Apple's iPods have done to CD players and what electronic books may do to the printed page, but the shift is unlikely to be quite so comprehensive. The simplest difference is that transferring one's old music CDs onto iPods is easy, whereas transferring one's old books onto an e-book is impossible.

The Economist then asks a question I thought I'd pose to you all, just to get a sense of what the smarter population thinks on the subject. As an author, I'm of course curious about my books' respective futures, and therefore ask:

"So who is going to read the millions of pages that Google and its colleagues are so busy digitizing?"

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April 16, 2007 - 2:00am
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