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Industry Insight

Apocalypse Not Yet

“Could the publishing industry get Napsterized?

By Jmhershey
Published: February 21, 2008

“Could the publishing industry get Napsterized?” Whether that’s food for thought or a tempest in a teapot depends upon your point of view. In a recent column for Newsweek magazine, Stephen Levy discusses the Atiz BookSnap, reportedly the first consumer device that enables the user to “release the content” of a book by transforming printed words on a page into digital files that can be read on computers and handheld readers.

Levy wonders aloud if the device (which Atiz calls a “book ripper”) is a sign of an “impending apocalypse on Publishers’ Row” or at least “an early warning of turbulence to come.” Given the clumsiness of the 44-pound, $1600 device – “an ominous three-foot high construction…that looks like a Goth puppet theater” but is said to digitize 500 pages per hour at higher quality than flatbed scanners, an apocalypse is not likely anytime soon. (Besides, cheap scanners with OCR software have been around for a long while, even if you do have to turn the pages yourself.)

6.gif However, the developers of BookSnap believe that this device and cheaper versions to follow will encourage people to scan their collections so they can search and grab “a shelf’s worth of reading for a trip across the world or on the subway.” Obvious potential buyers would include “college students, bibliophiles and just plain folks who want to digitize their own library.” (It does get expensive hauling hundreds of pounds of books from one location to another during a move, although some of us are comforted by the exercise – and what would we do with all that wall space exposed by the absence of bookshelves?) The Napster angle comes in when Levy speculates what might happen if someone gives copies of scanned books still under copyright to one friend, or to “a few thousand friends via an Internet file-sharing site.” Ad he points out that a real threat of book ripping might arise when some company – Amazon? Apple? – produces “the iPod of e-book readers,…creating demand that won’t be met by publisher-authorized releases of copy-protected digital books sold at prices similar to the bound volumes in stores.” In that case, says BookSnap inventor Sarasin Boopanon, the book industry is bound to follow the music industry into Napster territory.



By Friedrich Henzler on Feb 22, 2008

Any kind of digital-reader will IMHO produce some kind of "electronic-smog" and visual irritation. So even if you can't smell or sense this consciously, people will always feel more comfortable reading printed or written media (of good resolution) than digital. So "Printed" will always be the "Real Thing", even if more expensive. This new device is an interface to the digital world, and it can only help printed media to enhance it's value. Fried (from Germany)


By Hal Heindel on Feb 25, 2008

"And he points out that a real threat of book ripping might arise when some company – Amazon? Apple? – produces “the iPod of e-book readers . . ."

A little too late for that, isn't it? The $399 Amazon Kindle is selling at such a record rate that is has been on back-order for months:

1. Wireless connectivity (no charge) enables you to shop the Kindle Store directly from your Kindle — whether you’re in the back of a taxi, at the airport, or in bed.

2. Buy a book and it is auto-delivered wirelessly in less than one minute.

3. More than 100,000 books available, including more than 90 of 112 current New York Times® Best Sellers. New York Times® Best Sellers and all New Releases $9.99, unless marked otherwise.

Right now, the only thing that's not available is the Kindle!

I'm convinced books, of the ink on paper variety, will be around forever. Marshall McLuhan pronounced the printed word dead years ago, and to prove it he published eleven books. What is dying, if you exclude e-mail and texting, is reading. With that in mind, technology such as the Kindle is probably not a bad thing.


By Mike on Feb 25, 2008

These should be illegal like VCRs, CD/DVD burners and the cassette tape recorder. The last Harry Potter book was leaked before it was released by someone taking pictures of it. Lets lobby our nations leaders to keep print alive.


By Dr Joe Webb on Feb 25, 2008

This device will be just amazing for libraries, especially academic ones, who need to provide access to research texts, especially historical ones. I'm even considering getting one for myself! It certainly would cut down on the office space I need. As far as the Kindle or Sony E-Book Reader go, the Kindle is definitely better designed from a practical standpoint. The Sony is a technological marvel with a horrible e-store interface. The Amazon folks have it right. One day, tablet PCs will really work and have fewer problems... and that will be what "everyone" will have. The iPhone is actually a very tiny first step that shows what amazing things can be done in handheld computing. And while we're at it we should ban LP records and reel-to-reel recorders :) As far as lobbying leaders to keep print alive... just look at how much paper it takes to print the Federal budget and the tax code. I don't think we need any more of their "help." :)


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