In this week’s issue of Nature, I write about the revolution that technology is bringing to the world of books. It’s a subject that’s been on my mind a lot recently. I’ve been experimenting with e-books myself, and I’ve been giving some talks about them (I’ll be helping to lead a discussion at Science Online 2012 in January).
My essay is accompanied by this funny picture. The guy looks a lot like me, but, strictly speaking, it should be my wife sitting atop the pile of books, with seagulls for company:
In the summer of 2010, on a tiny island off the coast of Maine, I saw the future of books. I had been invited to teach a writing course at Shoals Marine Laboratory on Appledore Island, a beautiful bulge of rock covered in scrub and herring-gull nests. During a break at the beach with my family, my wife finished reading her book with typical supersonic speed. She craved another, so decided to experiment with her new iPhone.
She tapped the screen. In seconds, an e-book had streamed invisibly through the air into her hand. Swiping her thumb like a windshield wiper, she soon finished it. She tapped the screen for another. Out of the ether, another e-book appeared.
Now I see, I thought. Everything was in place for a revolution in how we read and write. And the pace of that revolution has surpassed my expectations. Since Apple launched its iBooks application in April 2010, some 180 million books have been downloaded. Analysts estimate that Amazon will have sold 314 million e-books for the Kindle in 2011 alone. The radical change extends far beyond sales volume: the e-book ecosystem allows writers to reach readers in ways that did not exist before.
You can read the rest here. (Sub. required.)