Thursday, May 22, 2008

On the road in Vancouver (again). . .

I'm back in Vancouver for two conferences, the first one being the Canadian Library Association conference. It's wonderfully bright and sunny in the city and despite getting up yesterday at an ungodly 3:45 am to catch a 7:00 flight, I'm feeling surprisingly energetic. One of things I love about Vancouver is all the lush foliage. Coming into the city from the airport along Granville Street, it's impossible not to admire the enormous hedges (hiding many a secret garden, I'm sure) and the multiple varieties of topiary - all on a huge, gigantic scale. There is so much construction of high-rise condos going up everywhere in the city, and yet inbetween the bustle and dust, one stumbles on the odd pedestrian square - a tiny little oasis of verdant green which is so pleasing to the eyes. Such as this:

I've come with lots of reading material as usual, but for the first time, some of it is in a new format. My company has recently issued some Sony Readers to the reps in order for us to download manuscripts of upcoming books. Now, I've been the biggest sceptic of electronic reading devices in the past, but I've been pleasantly surprised by how light and small this gadget is (it's slightly larger than a mass market book and very slim - fits easily into a purse) and how comfortable reading the type is. You have a choice of three font sizes and I had no problems with eye strain reading for a solid two hours on the flight. I love the environmental benefits of saving all that paper and also it's ideal for travelling - manuscripts can weigh a ton. Currently I've brought nine with me on the Sony reader - I'd never have been able to pack that many into a suitcase. So, for work purposes - I absolutely love it. But then manuscripts are not books - they are just large and heavy piles of paper.
So would I use the Sony Reader as a consumer and book buyer? No - I don't think they can ever replace actual books, especially for the generations that have grown up with the real thing. (What the future kids may start to read with is anyone's guess). I can see a healthy market however, for the Sony Reader in downloading academic textbooks and journals, travel guides and other reference material. If the technology improves so that one can scroll through the pages very quickly (say as fast as scrolling through songs on an iPOD), then I'd definately load one up with several dictionaries, a thesaurus, language verb tense guides, maps, and other reference material and carry it everywhere. But for fiction and trade non-fiction, it just can't replace the aesthetics of an actual book (at least not for me). It can't replicate the tactile feel of the paper and the joy of gazing on a beautiful cover. I also am constantly dog-earring pages, underlining passages, and writing notes in the margins of my books and while the future technology will probably allow one to simulate these thing electronically - I want to continue to do it in my own handwriting; I want to make my books my own. So I don't think either the industry or book lovers need to panic. Yet.
And in addition to my nine electronic manuscripts, I still packed two books and two printed galleys and I'll be hitting more than a few bookstores on this trip.

1 comment:

praymont said...

I bought the Sony Reader a couple of weeks ago and I'm already hooked. It's actually a disappointment now when I realize that a book I want to read is one that I actually own (as an old-fashioned paper book), so that I can't read it on the Reader.

However, Sony needs to make a bigger selection of books available on their Reader. Why don't Chapters and Barnes & Noble get together with Sony and use their marketing leverage to persuade more publishers to get their books into the Sony format? It's the only way they can compete with the Kindle.

Also, they need to make it easier to put academic journal articles (in pdf or whatever) onto the Reader.