A new, to me, take on e-books from if:book:
[W]hat I’m getting at here is that the e-reader is being treated as though it is a viable vehicle for long-form writing, in a way that ignores the essential fact that long-form writing and reading is rooted in paper, and book manufacturing.
So, back to the ‘iPod for reading’ metaphor. Its proponents generally don’t dig deeper than ‘here is a small square device for storing and consuming lots of music’. The implication is that we can hop blithely from that to ‘here is a small square device for storing and consuming lots of text’. Regardless of stirring promises of e-books containing audio, video, fancy schmancy links and so on, the common understanding – and, indeed, the hope of the publishing industry – remains that this is a digital device for reading long-form texts. But this ignores the effect that iPods – or, more generally, mp3s – are having on how music is distributed. Once sold as albums, whether on LPs or CDs, music is increasingly sold by the micro-unit – a single song. A unit of content typically around 3 or 4 minutes long rather than 60-75 minutes.
It makes economic sense to sell LPs or CDs at a runtime of 60-odd minutes. It makes economic sense to sell books of around 80,000 words. But music for iPods can be sold song by song. So, extrapolating from this to an iPod for reading, what is the written equivalent of a single song? In a word (or 300), belles lettres.