Reading is has grown to be a fundamental success factor in our modern society, as be it completing a job application or just reading the daily paper it has become basically second nature to the majority of the population. To facilitate this exchange of information, the medium for the past several centuries has been “paper” based, however as drivers discussed in several prior blog posts, we are quickly approaching a tipping point where “paper” books will be replaced by the “electronic” eReader.
This will mean a significant socio-economic change will take place as the public “reading” paradigms will shift rapidly due to this new electronic “medium”.
First to the nay sayers out there which believe this will never come to pass, I say look at digital photography as the [photo] industry said “digital will never replace film“, and within a few short years digital became the norm rather than the exception. As once the tipping point had been reached, primarily denoted by a sharp drop in film and processing purchases. The photographic paradigm shifted rapidly as the “key commodities” lost their economies of scale and we found ourselves in a new “information model”.
However reading as the great equalizer of our society will change as most publication systems where “open” whereas the “medium” and the “message” where tied together as one. Take for example the daily newspaper; here both components were transportable together at one cost to the consumer. So you laid down your buck and a half and received both the medium (paper) along with the message (the printed word). Together they were “transportable” and “exchangeable” in the fact when you finished reading the paper you could hand it to your seat mate on the plane or train and they could also read it and in turn pass it along again. Thus, a base societal value system was created in the process where even a homeless person on the street could have “free” access to yesterday’s news at minimum.
The magazine front is also similar in that my wife typically gets a bevy of subscriptions and once she finishes reading them, passes them along to family, friends and neighbors. In this chain the typical numbers of “passes” are at least three deep before they reach a trash can.
Also what about libraries, where a tome sits on a shelf and is shared out over and over year after year to anyone in good standing with a library card? Here in this place, anyone regardless of socioeconomic standing can come in and borrow away no cost as again the “media” and “message” where “bound” together.
In short the world will start to separate along class lines as not only will the medium (the eReader)be out of reach of those at the poverty level, however the message will also be a “pay as you use” rather than “pay and own“. While great for the producers of the message, not so great for all those that has to pay who lack the means. Maybe one can say the cost of the message will be reduced, however even “something” is still more than nothing especially if your pocket is empty.
While I am sure plans will be hacked for some half-baked set of ideas similar to Amazons proposed “sharing function” within the Kindle App. However based upon the roasting they [Amazon] took on the “read aloud function” on Kindle 2, this will either be crippled by the necessity of the authors permission (as in the current read aloud function) or some other form of limiting management to promote the protection of digital rights putting us back in the same boat as we started, pushing the class separation even wider.
All in all, history appears to be repeating itself as in earlier times the ownership of books was a sign of wealth as tomes of the day where not cheap. Many times they were passed from generation to generation as a form of intrinsic [family] wealth. While in the digital age the aggregate cost for a printed book which retailed for $24.95 can now be had for 10 bucks on kindle, as the top down view is $10 from $24.95 is a savings; however $10 from an empty pocket is an impossibility.