Saturday, April 14, 2012

There is an important place for eBooks, but . . .

There is a very important place for digital books in our modern culture. After 15 years in corporate publishing (mostly print), I've been watching the industry move quickly into digital transmission and sales of our content. First this was a very slow transformation but now it is moving rapidly. This is a good thing for so many reasons. In many cases, it will benefit both publishing companies and their customers. There is also an incredible opportunity to use digital publishing to bring content quickly and efficiently to new places all around the world.

In 2008, my wife and I raised money to build what we called the "GeoDiscovery Library" at an orphanage in a remote village in Ghana. Through the support of a wide group of donors as well as a sponsorship from the National Geographic Society, we were able to construct the library shown above and in the following video.

While I am sure that the books and maps that we provided have presented new ideas and hours of entertainment to the children, I am sure that the most lasting investment that we made was enabling wifi internet access in the village, powered by a mix of solar and wind energy and linked to the internet through a satellite.

This sustainably-powered internet infrastructure was used by the WorldReader "one Kindle-per-Child" project to provide one Kindle to each child in the 5th year class and has been covered by Wired, the Wall Street Journal and the Huffington Post.

The use of digital distribution allowed us to open up a huge new library of content to these students and gave them the freedom to look for books outside of the limited collection housed in the 4 walls of that library. I have little doubt that this is a good thing.

Between this project, my day job at a major US publisher and as owner of Hudson River Publishing, I have worked in numerous ways to facilitate the digital transformation that is now guiding the publishing industry. I have, in my own small way, helped develop content and infrastructure that has enabled this transformation.

With this in mind, I recognize the value of eBooks. Still, I greatly value the printed book and believe that they continue to do their job perfectly.

I still love printed books, and I believe that I am not alone. That is why I am starting this blog.

Visual History of the Reading Device