September 27, 2021

A Rich Reading Ecology

I happened across an interesting piece on e-readers called “Whatever happened to the e-reader tsunami of 2010?”. Indeed. You may recall at the beginning of the year there were many pieces on how we were going to be inundated by next-gen e-readers, using such new technologies as “e-paper” and “e-ink”. Well, besides Apple’s instant hit of the iPad, and Amazon’s long-simmering Kindle and some Kindle knock-offs, where are they?

But the most surprising part of this piece wasn’t that it pointed out the obvious lack of e-reader releases so far this year, but rather this astonishing paragraph:

“Now that I’ve gotten used to reading on the iPad, I’ve ditched my Kindle entirely. I’ve now gone back to buying my books in dead-tree format for at-home reading, both because print is more relaxing and because it comes without DRM. I also have a few Kindle copies of some of my books on my iPad for when I travel. So in some cases I’m paying twice for the same book, but the print copy is mine—I honest-to-God own it—while the electronic copy is more of a fee that I pay to be able to read the book on my iPad when I go on a long trip.”

I’ve long suggested that the future of books would be quite a bit more diverse,  nuanced, and surprising than the “all digital all the time” predictions of many commentators. But to find someone stating this rather clearly seemingly so early in the process of change caught me by surprise.

Yes, Mildred, we will have print and digital alongside in many cases. We will in some cases buy books in multiple formats, as was stated above and as we have already experienced with music. I mean, how many formats of Dark Side of the Moon must one person buy?!

We are not entering a period of digital only. We are entering a period of increased format options, increased interaction options, and a world of consumer choices at various price points and capabilities. So if you like to read as I do, you will welcome this rich reading ecology as do I.

Roy Tennant About Roy Tennant

Roy Tennant is a Senior Program Officer for OCLC Research. He is the owner of the Web4Lib and XML4Lib electronic discussions, and the creator and editor of Current Cites, a current awareness newsletter published every month since 1990. His books include "Technology in Libraries: Essays in Honor of Anne Grodzins Lipow" (2008), "Managing the Digital Library" (2004), "XML in Libraries" (2002), "Practical HTML: A Self-Paced Tutorial" (1996), and "Crossing the Internet Threshold: An Instructional Handbook" (1993). Roy wrote a monthly column on digital libraries for Library Journal for a decade and has written numerous articles in other professional journals. In 2003, he received the American Library Association's LITA/Library Hi Tech Award for Excellence in Communication for Continuing Education. Follow him on Twitter @rtennant.


  1. “Whatever happened to the e-reader tsunami of 2010?”

    The early adopters jumped to a new toy.

  2. Chris Rusbridge says:

    ‘Twas ever thus, surely? There are very few new technologies that have completely supplanted their predecessors. The shellac record supplanted the wax cylinder, and that’s about it, as far as I can see. A while ago I might have suggested the CD had supplanted the vinyl record, but the latter has had a little (albeit specialist) rebirth. Paperbacks didn’t supplant hardbacks, and e-readers won’t supplant paper books, as long as there’s a vestige of a business model in the paper.

    That said, I’m not throwing my CDs away (unless my wife _forces_ me to!), but I do relish the flexibility that the digital versions give me, much as I hate iTunes the program itself! Sometimes I want to listen to your choice of CD programming, but quite often I want to listen to mine!

  3. Chris, “‘Twas ever thus” is a great way to put it. As someone who has just about every technology for music in the last century (and the requisite machine to play them on) except the wax cylinder and the 8-track tape (although I had some of those at one time!), all I can say is “Hear! Hear!”