Publishing industry maintains calm in the face of digital innovation
WINNIPEG (CUP) ? As Amazon releases the latest version of their e-book reader?the Kindle 2’some wonder what will happen to the book industry.
Chad Friesen of Friesens publishing in Altona, Manitoba, acknowledges that some aspects of the publishing industry will be affected more than others.
?We’ve known that digital has been a threat to print for some time,? he said. ?But people haven’t been able to put their finger on how because It’s a new technology.?
Friesen thinks that newspapers will be hit hardest, but full-colour printing like the yearbooks they produce will remain unaffected for now.
The Kindle 2 is one of a few hand-held devices released in the past couple of years that use digitized books, otherwise known as e-books.
These e-book readers offer convenient access to libraries of material without the bulk of the printed page. E-books are available for download from various sources including Amazon.com, and run about $10 per book.
Critics of the technology acknowledge that e-book readers will hurt the publishing industry, but nobody predicts the death of the novel.
?Books are our tie to the past,? said University of Winnipeg creative writing student Justina Elias. ?The thought of replacing it all with technology makes me nervous.?
Though she is wary of what the impact will be in the future, Elias remains optimistic.
?My gut reaction is positive. This might make reading more appealing, and That’s never a bad thing.?
As a writer, Elias likes paperback books, but finds the technology attractive as a consumer.
Some already view the impact as positive, like U of W English major Matthew Rygiel.
?As a physically disabled person, some books are hard to read,? he said.
Rygiel has a skin condition that makes it painful for him to pick up and carry heavy objects.
?Newspapers are a pain to read as it is,? he said. ?Having them delivered [to the Kindle] would be good. If It’s easier to read, That’s good.?
Some writers have worked with the technology: Stephen King is releasing a book exclusively for the Kindle.
Winnipeg author and U of W professor Catherine Hunter notes the novel has survived all of its previous threats.
?This is nothing really new,? she said. ?The book is an art form. Its value far surpasses mere data acquisition.?
Friesen agrees. He notes that during the 1990s, CD-ROM books and other digital versions of publications threatened the industry, but fell short of replacing the novel.
One place where electronic book readers can’t compete is in colour. The Kindle 2 has a black and white display.
It does have other competitive features, like free access to certain Internet sites like Amazon.com and Wikipedia.org.
Friesen remains confident the electronic readers will not replace the novel’s aesthetic value. ?It would be tough to curl up in a hammock at the cabin with a reader,? he said.