It doesn’t matter how good or bad the product is, the fact is that people don’t read anymore. Forty percent of the people in the U.S. read one book or less last year. The whole conception is flawed at the top because people don’t read anymore.
I agree that the Kindle is a dud. Among my many gadget fanatic friends, none of them forked out the $400 (same price as an iPhone) for the wireless book reader. (Preetam went for the sold-out Cybook instead.)
But I optimistically disagree with Jobs’ (and others‘) obituary of that package of thinly sliced wood pulp known as the book. I think that the problem is that books need to reinvent themselves and discover a new distribution process.
Because (at least in the US) my iPhone is always connected to the internet, I can read just about whatever I want whenever I want. For most iPhone users, this probably means constantly scrolling up and down the sexy Digg interface for the iPhone. Or, worse, Facebook.
But just like it’s nice checking in on Facebook and getting immediate updates from my friends around the world, it’s also nice checking into Books and reading the latest from another new friend of mine, Benjamin Franklin. (BTW, happy belated bday Ben!) I started reading Benajamin Franklin’s Autobiography because, at the time, it was one of only four books available on the iPhone. But Franklin’s autobiography has turned out to be a complete delight to read. For a book published in the 18th century, it has none of the stuffy, flowery prose that is typical of the period. Franklin was a simple and straightforward writer. And, I can guarantee you that, were he born twenty years ago, he’d have one of the web’s hottest blogs today. The autobiography was originally written as a letter for his son, William, and so it has the same intimate tone that we find on many personal blogs.
There is one more parallel between Franklin’s life in the 1700’s and today’s Web 2.0 world which has stood out for me, and that is the concept of apprenticeship. Franklin more than paid his dues as a youngster working at his older brother’s print house in Boston. He slaved away, working 12-hour days, with hardly any pay, and very little recognition for all his hard work. But in the process he gained the skills – and eventually the notoriety – to later become published of The Pennsylvania Gazette and the infamous Poor Richard’s Almanacs.
Today’s globally connected Web 2.0 also has a sort of apprenticeship system. It is especially clear at Global Voices, where we all started working our asses off for nothing more than our ideals. We were apprentices. We were learning new skills, making mistakes, and becoming better writers and media producers along the way. Now we’ve got a paid staff of more than 20. It seems like every month we’re able to hire someone else who was formerly a volunteer.
A lot of people tell me how lucky I am to have the job that I do. I agree. I love my job, and luck certainly did play a part. But I don’t think they realize just how hard I worked to get to where I am. The same is true of all Global Voices’ paid staff. And the same could be true for you if it’s what you want and you’re willing to work hard enough. Start reading more. Start writing more. Start translating more. The opportunities are out there and they tend to go to those who are willing to work the hardest.