Sunday, January 27, 2008

"Freed From the Page, but a Book Nonetheless"

Today's New York Times includes an opinion piece with a title that will resonate with audiobook addicts: Freed From the Page, but a Book Nonetheless. Although author Randall Stross uses the term to describe the Amazon Kindle, he makes some points that apply to the digitization of books in the audio format as well. I thought his argument that the Kindle may be the tool that will champion the eBook with an "irresistible combination of software and hardware for book buyers" connected with my desire for a crystal ball to predict the dominant format for audiobooks in a decade's time.
I am waiting for that combination of software/hardware that frees the audiobook from not only the page, but from the whole digital rights management murky mess. Will the cell phone be the distribution medium that will replace the CD? Audible does have their cell phone download option Audible Air, but the setup doesn't have a point-and-click simplicity that will allow universal ease.
And Stross' quote from Apple's CEO might explain why some of the DRM battles exist for audiobooks. Here's what Steve Jobs thinks about books and the need for a killer app for digital reading: "Yet, when Mr. Jobs was asked two weeks ago at the Macworld Expo what he thought of the Kindle, he heaped scorn on the book industry. “It doesn’t matter how good or bad the product is; the fact is that people don’t read anymore,” he said. “Forty percent of the people in the U.S. read one book or less last year.”" Read Stross' article for a rebutal to Job's numbers.
And Stross' conclusion praising Amazon's support of the eBook is equally valid for the audiobook industry: "The object we are accustomed to calling a book is undergoing a profound modification as it is stripped of its physical shell. Kindle’s long-term success is still unknown, but Amazon should be credited with imaginatively redefining its original product line, replacing the book business with the reading business."

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