Those big corporations don’t seem to realize that the public simply isn’t interested in electronic books. Back in 2000 and 2001, when I was working for SLJ, I had an opportunity to talk with folks from several companies that were marketing reader devices onto which people could download heavily copy-protected e-books and carry around an entire library on a device that weighed “only” a few pounds. The reader device looked something like a laptop screen and cost $400 to $500.

The only problem was that nobody bought the devices or the e-books. The Palm company also tried to sell e-book documents; I remember trying them on my Palm. They went nowhere, either.

The Children’s Book Council recently asked me to write an article revisiting the idea of e-books for kids. It appears in their current issue of CBC Features (unfortunately, it’s not available online). For this article, I visited The New York Public Library’s electronic media collection – e-audio, e-video, and e-books – and analyzed how easy they were to use. The audio and video files are easy to download, and I recommend them; as for the e-books, by which I mean documents filled with digitized text, which are still heavily copy-protected, well, um, let’s move on.

Many larger libraries are now offering these kinds of collections; Phoenix Public Library does, for example. But as a librarian who every day helps folks looking for the material they want, I just don’t hear or see any demand for electronic books.

Yet the front page of today’s New York Times business section features a big article on “the next chapter” in the story of e-books. Amazon is supposedly announcing in October that it will be selling a new e-book reader device that will cost – ahem – $400 or $500. Google is getting into e-book retailing, too, at about the same time – do you remember all those books the company’s been scanning from libraries into its database? So far neither company will comment on its plans.

I still predict that e-books are a technology with too many strikes against it to truly succeed. And e-books for children and YAs? Unh-uh, folks; not happening without media, motion, animation included.

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