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Copy-prevention hurts ebook sales, ebooks don't hurt real-book sales

1
Squidnapper (PW)
04-18-2002
09:51 PM ET (US)
This guy threatens my entire worldview. His analogies suck (you're not 'taking a test drive' with a free e-book, you're getting the whole damn car), but the numbers he cites give me serious pause. They're counterintuitive, at least at first--but speaking as an author myself, dear God let him be right.

But before I just disregard a few billion years of natural selection for self-interest, let me suggest the following:

People *do* download Flint's books, as he says, to 'take a test drive'--they read a couple of chapters, and then go off to buy the physical artefact. Fair enough. But I worry that the only reason they do this is because e-text technology can't yet compete with the user-friendly comfort of a conventional book; it's simply too much of a pain to read an entire novel on a computer screen or a Palm Pilot. A *real* book is simply easier on the eyes, more portable, more tub-proof.

Here's my concern: what happens in 5-10 years, when that's no longer the case? When we have electronic paper, "empty" books that can be loaded with content of choice and taken to the beach, read on the can, stuffed in one's back pocket? When e-technology duplicates the feel and appearance and convenience of conventional books, with the additional perk of being able to carry the Library of Congress around in one's hand? And waterproof to boot?

Will Flint's (and MIT's) numbers persist when that happens? I profoundly hope they do. I profoundly fear they won't.

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