Amazon is "teaming up with" Microsoft to deliver e-books (ach!) to the world. M$ is going to give it a customised version of its Reader software and Amazon, presumably, will provide the books. But hold on, before you get excited and start shouting "ze bastards are at it again", "anti-trust" or "Bezos and Gates for the electric chair", please bear in mind that Reader will be the "preferred, but not exclusive" software. That's okay then.
Basically, you download Reader, and then download books (for a fee) off the Internet and have a read either on your PC or your handheld.
Coverage of the announcement has included a load of "expert" comment. Publishers don't like e-books. We're not surprised. But then, depending on who you believe, this is because of shortsightedness, arrogance, selfishness, fear. We reckon it's because there isn't a market there. E-books are good because books out of print can be kept available because it costs nothing to store a file (it does to print a book). We don't buy this either - someone is going to have to type them up. That will cost money. Will they do it for a couple of orders a year? No, they won't.
Why aren't we singing the praises of online books? Well, this gives us the opportunity to state our philosophy of e-books to a wider public than old blokes in pubs. The fact is that just about everyone alive at the moment has the paper mentality - that being that they are more comfortable with the notion of something on paper. The effect of this is that for any text requiring high mental processes, we need it on paper.
Examples: spelling on any electronic document is far worse than in, say, a letter. We print out important emails. The Reg contains loads of typos, even though we're a pretty good lot grammatically etc etc.
Now, it is inevitable that our kids and their kids will grow more and more comfortable with the idea of information displayed on a screen to the extent that it becomes of equal par as paper. However, if you look at the information imparted to you over a screen, it is always far shorter than printed information. Why? Probably something to do with the fact that there is a light behind it. It's just not comfortable looking at a light for too long.
We remember a few people going on about electronic paper - which doesn't have a light source behind it - but that all seems to have gone a bit quiet. E-books simply won't take off until this paper is available.
The other thing is comfort. Sitting for too long reading something drives everyone nuts. You fidget and shift. With a PC screen, it is fixed, you can't move it around. A handheld is different, true, but then it has an irritating screen. Even ignoring the look and feel of a book - which any avid reader will go on about for hours if allowed to - it is clear than a small, moveable printed book is infinitely superior to a screen.
Mind you, it still hasn't stopped Microsoft trying to take the market over :-). ®