E-readers and "print" media

This is a really interesting article from The New York Times. It's one of these articles that at first glance is about something really simple--chicks like to read their magazines on the Nook Color--but it also touches on some really interesting questions, like, Do people want a single-purpose simple gadget, or an all-purpose Swiss-Army-knife gadget? and, How will Barnes & Noble survive? (Apparently by selling a better gadget. I've said this before, but there's a lot of denial out there on the Interwebs, primarily by people who don't know squat about business, so I'll say it again: B&N is not even pretending that it can survive as a traditional bookseller.)

The thing that makes me happy is that a traditional print media now has a little electronic gadget that promotes its use. If you think of people trying to figure out how to spend their limited leisure time, print used to have this big advantage--you could pick up a nice, portable book/magazine/newspaper any time and get your story. But over the past few decades, a tremendous amount of technology has gone into making things like video and music easier to use: It became common to have devices in the home that let you watch or listen, and then it became possible to watch or listen whenever you wanted to, and to top it all off, music and video became extremely portable.

At this point, if you have the right kind of little device, you can watch or listen to whatever you want, whenever you want, wherever you want, without expending too much effort (and it's only going to get cheaper and easier). Indeed, while print used to have the advantage of portability and interruptability (?? not a word, is that? I mean you can put a something you're reading down and start it up again whenever), it is now at a disadvantage--you have to make a special trip to a bookstore or library or newsstand to get something to read. But if you can get whatever reading material you want on some electronic device that you are already carrying around with you (like your phone), well, then, that's at least going to even the playing field. Given the size advantage of print files over, say, video files, it may even tilt it back toward print. This is why, although e-publishing is going to suck for people who work in traditional publishing, for people who write, or read, or just think everyone else should read more, e-publishing is not a bad thing.