Bill Gates Is Wrong
So, Bill Gates made some news yesterday, essentially predicting the end of the hard cover book. The money quote:
On the printed page vs. the screen: "Reading is going to go completely online. We believe that as we get the smaller form factor, the screen has gotten good enough. Why is reading online better? It's up to date, you can navigate, you can follow links. The ads in the online reading are completely targeted as opposed to just being run-of-print, where many of the readers will find them completely irrelevant. The ads can be in new and richer formats. In fact the only drawbacks of the digital form are the things associated with the device: how big is it, heavy is it, how many hours of power does it have, how much do I have to spend to buy it? But those are things that once you achieve that threshold, in terms of the convenience and the cost, then you see a dramatic change in behavior. Today, for people who read newspapers and magazines, even the most avid PC user probably still does quite a bit of reading on print. As the device moves down in size and simplicity, that will change, and so somewhere in the next five-year period we'll hit that transition point, and things will be even more dramatic than they are today."
Bill Gates forgets more things each day than I'll ever know, but he's just flat out wrong here. I'm sure Microsoft is developing (or already has) an e-book reader, and that's part of this. But a few things:
- Gates talks about how the new ad technology makes ads more relevant and better. Show me a hardcopy book that has ANY ads. This just makes ads less annoying and a better business tool; it doesn't make them something everyone wants to deal with.
- E-Book Readers are terrible -- I'm sure they will continue to improve, but in five years?
- Books as art: Sure, I've put all my CD's into folders and really could probably toss almost all of them since I virtually only listen to digital music these days, but I LIKE walking by my various bookcases and seeing the history of what I've read and will read. I can't be alone here - I just leafed through a Flickr photo spread of book stacks. People like BOOKS, not just words.
- My grandmother couldn't use WebTV or basic email -- but the elderly are HUGE book readers. An aging population will be more and more tech savvy, but again - five years? More like forty.
At some level, I feel like a luddite here, thinking this is all nonsense. And to be sure, I never thought there'd be a world where everyone carried a cellphone, or an mp3 player, etc. Technology moves faster than I certainly can predict and Gates is obviously someone who sees a lot farther than me. But books are simply not going away. The key is to find a solution that works for everyone