eBooks: It’s about reading and access, not gadgets

At the Frankfurt Book fair, I was amazed that a pretty much technical panel debate could draw a crowd of some 100 people for almost an hour.

I had the pleasure to host the talk with UK consultant Mark Bide, Piero Atanasio of the Italian Association of Publishers, and Simon Juden of the British Publishers’ Association about some pretty dry outlooks into the digital future. Everyone agreed on 2 things:

1. There is a lot of change ahead (not a surprise)

2. Things may be much less controversial than expected, because much of the hassle could be sorted out by technical innovations, instead of lawyers and litigation.

Today, various news wires bring the confirmation that the legal showdown between Google and the US publishers’ and authors organizations has been avoided and replaced by an out of court settlement (here is the release of AAP), opening doors, libraries and screens for tons of digital books online, and certainly encouraging Google to push even stronger in its digitization strategy.

A few days ago, I read – as it had been expected since one year – that Random House has signed an agreement with Google book search for all their  English language books.

In the meantime, all the hype about gadgets seems to cool off quite a bit as no release date for Amazon’s Kindle in Europe has been given in Frankfurt. No relevant Kindle 2.0 announcement has been made. Sony Reader is not available in many places in time for Christmas.

So I feel pretty much confirmed in my expectation that digital change is ahead, yet it is about access and reading, and it is much less about little plastic boxes of any kind.

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