You’re reading this on a screen

Yesterday I was checking out Amazon’s announcement of the Kindle 2. Over a decade ago, I investigated electronic publication and publication on demand for a small operation that might have benefited from them, but the technology then available wasn’t ready.

Nowadays, it is. There hasn’t been a mass-market breakthrough, partly because of the bizarre nature of the publishing business, but within that business, thousands of editorial types use Kindles or Sony Readers to do their jobs. These devices reduce the editorial schlep of manuscripts and books to a simple insertion of light device into small bag.

Somewhere in my reading yesterday, I was referred to this long, hilarious information- and opinion-packed article by John Siracusa, who, among other things, takes this jolly view of the march of technology: “To put it bluntly, people die. Indeed, death is arguably the single most important driver for all human progress…Did you ride a horse to work today? I didn’t. I’m sure plenty of people swore they would never ride in or operate a ‘horseless carriage’—and they never did! And then they died.”

Siracusa believes that Apple is the obvious eventual owner of the e-Book universe, but that Steve Jobs, et al. consider it too small a market for them to bother with. He thinks that the e-Book reader of the near future is, in fact, the iPhone, and he advocates using it with good, available reader software like eReader or Stanza to get a taste of the future. But Apple refuses to draw all the threads together, and Syracusa says that most of what’s happening with what could be a great platform is “the e-book equivalent of a dog humping a tree. I admire the enthusiasm, but it is perhaps not the most productive course of action.”

It’s a terrific, funny, and possibly important article (great links, too). Well worth a read, even if you aren’t remotely interested in reading on an electronic device (which, of course, you’re doing right now). When you’re finished, if you’re so inclined, you can go for a ride on your horse. Or let your dog out.

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