I have been asked several times in the past week why I stopped blogging last year. There's no simple answer, and certainly nothing succinct enough to write here. But the questions - combined with the fact that there is lots going on in the UK book industry at present - suggest that it seems a good time to pick up the reins again.
Tomorrow I fly to Salt Lake City for the 2010 AAUP Annual Meeting where much of the talk will be of ipads, kindles, nooks and other digital reading devices. (As up-to-the-moment as ever the panel I am participating in focuses on maximising export impact for print books). Therefore I thought I should begin to revive this site with a reprise of last year's eggs and e-books post.
You may recall that the Eglu and its feathered occupants arrived shortly after London Book Fair last year. The Eglu has been everything that the marketing blurb promised. Easy to clean and funky. And as predicted it has retained its value despite being used by the ladies every day for over a year for purposes ranging from egg laying to excreting - eating to sleeping. It has been left out in the freezing cold for weeks on end (see pic). Yet if I were to ebay it tomorrow I could set a reserve close to what I paid for it and be sure to sell. The girls might be a little grumpy about losing their home and it would be a poor way to repay them for the over 700 eggs and huge entertainment they have provided.
On the other hand, the Kindle arrived in January this year. It was the focus of much attention from me for a few days, and was then commandeered by the younger generation, who were more comfortable with it, and who loved being able to sit in bed late at night, finish one book, buy the next in the series and start reading it before I'd had a chance to say "lights out". All went well until after about a month - when carrying a pile of exercise books - Hannah slipped dropping the kindle on our tiled kitchen floor. Suddenly I remembered why I like print books so much. They don't provoke panic and inconsolable tears when dropped. The screen of the Kindle has been frozen ever since, and although I understand from Martin Gardner at Amazon in the UK that I could get it sorted out - somehow none of us has mustered the energy.
Meanwhile we've also acquired an iphone and an ipod touch. Since using them the Kindle doesn't seem worth reviving because the black-and-white display and lack of touch screen seem so very analogue in the face of the shiny new-world ipad. Felix - owner of the ipod touch - has discovered the app store. Thank goodness we linked his impossible-run-up-an-overdraft cash card and not my credit card to his itunes account. To cap it all last week, Trevor, my ex-business partner and ex-husband (but very much my present-friend and present-father to E, H & F) acquired not one but two ipads. Which I suspect knocks the final nail into the coffin of our Kindle.
In a recent blogpost Seth Godin proposed the "Paperback Kindle" as a low-cost mass market information tool as well as commercial e-reader. I suspect Amazon won't give up the e-reader fight easily - but whatever their response - it is going to have to be radical. Even without a broken screen, our Kindle is no longer worth anything like what we paid for it by any measure of value.