Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Update #13 – I Invented the eReader

Let me tell you a true story. In the fall of 1988, the DOM (Director of Maintenance) and I were marlin fishing on the east cape of Cabo San Lucas. As usual we were very successful and celebrated heavily. There is nothing better than warm oceans, big fish, and cold beer (ask Sharon O’Mara). Throw in yellowfin tuna tacos and you could mistake the sharp blue sky and long hot beaches for heaven.

Stacked on our Spartan room’s table were 10 inches of books that we were reading, with today’s cost of baggage, their costs exceeded their value. Anyone who knows me knows I have a high level of creativity and the ability to come up with more ideas than I know what to do with. But it’s often the execution that’s the problem (in some educated circles this is called ADD). Me, I call it, “NEHITDS, Not enough hours in the day syndrome.”

Well, sitting there by the pool, cerveza in hand, I began to noodle in my journal. Could there be a device that would store all the books I wanted to read, to have all the information of the libraries of the world in your hand and not have to carry an extra ten or twenty pounds whenever we travel. Oh I know what you’re thinking, lot’sa people came up with that idea: Sony, Apple, Nook, Kindle, currently over thirty eReaders are available, and lord knows those people are a lot smarter than a drunk by the pool in Mexico.

A close friend, Paul, and I spent a good bit of time trying to build a business model around the thing - we knew it would be successful - but there were two issues that nixed it in the bud. The lack of a readable screen (this was fifteen years before the Sony screen), and the issue of writer/publisher copyrights (only took a few billion dollars to iron that one out). So, as are many good ideas, it was gently set aside, another beer was ordered, and as they say: “The past is history – Stevie ol’ boy, I could have been a contender!”

My Original Reader Design and Notes - 11-1-88, be careful Sony, notice the name.

Page Two of My Notes

But this was years before the internet and ebooks. My point is simple, the eReader was going to be developed, it was only a matter of time. It’s now the proverbial game changer, whole publishing institutions are being shook to their foundations, printing companies are closing (I lost a great shop who was printing GI Town in Charlotte), there are mergers (another long story), and it’s a factor in the closing of Borders and other bookstores (local and national). I wonder how You’ve Got Mail would look under the new paradigm, would Meg Ryan’s character be gloating over the failure of FOX Books, would Tom Hanks wonder where it all went? Would he be trying to develop his own version of the Nook? Would she be excited by the new look at niche bookstores?

Well, to make a short story shorter, I finally bought an iPad. Of course I still call it my invention, and still scream into the wind that: “There, but for the grace of a design patent, go I.” 

And the first books I downloaded were my own, so there!!

I can carry a couple of thousand books, more than enough to rebuild civilization (along with a solar charger). I can now download the Wall Street Journal, NY Times, Pravda, and the Traverse City Record Eagle. I can keep count of my calories, order Chinese food, book an airline ticket, the damn thing will even wake me in the morning (my dog somehow resents the intrusion). I can carry every picture I took, every favorite Lang Lang recording of Rachmaninoff, every Beach Boy album (pardon me, CD, or digital or whatever), and record my every thought, if I want. And I can listen to my favorite music over Pandora (highly recommended). There’s an app for that!

I am at a crossroads, we are traveling and for the first time in fifteen years, I will not be taking my laptop (that has, itself, shrunk from 8.5 lbs to 2.7 lbs.). The withdrawal, I hope will be worth it.

More later . . .

PS, Elk River has gone to my editor, see Dennis De Rose left column, top. Looking for a mid-summer publication date, cover art underway.

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