"It doesn’t matter how good or bad the product is; the fact is that people don’t read anymore,” he said. “Forty percent of the people in the U.S. read one book or less last year.”
The latest response is by Randall Strauss, a professor of business at San Jose State. After the inevitable "we do too read, so there!" statistics, he says something interesting:
The book world has always had an invisible asset that makes up for what it lacks in outsize revenue and profits: the passionate attachment that its authors, editors and most frequent customers have to books themselves. Indeed, in this respect, avid book readers resemble avid Mac users.
The object we are accustomed to calling a book is undergoing a profound modification as it is stripped of its physical shell.
It seems to me that Strauss has two kinds of "books" in mind here: the physical, dead-tree object that people are as passionate about as Mac users are about Macs, and the "object we are accustomed to calling a book," which exists somewhere between cyberspace and the reader's eye. What this separation does is raise more questions than answers about Steve Jobs's comment:
For the record, I like my books served up dead-tree style, with a side order of interesting -looking covers and decent fonts, so that I can mark them up and find things. (No SEARCH function on a Kindle can be as fast as my blizzard of Post-It notes stuck to pages.) But I'm willing to recognize that that's an old-school, increasingly esoteric notion, as evidenced by the few students I've had who bring laptops with the texts online instead.
Maybe what Steve Jobs is really saying is that a taste for reading books on paper is what's passé and that those of us who like them are going the way of eccentric button collectors in an age of zippers.