E-Cookbooks: Now We’re E-Cookin’?

books

First there was the music business, which shifted radically when people learned to download music digitally. Movies are up next, and like music, the challenge for the movie studios is to figure out how to get people to pay for movies that they’re downloading digitally. And the next frontier is print media: newspapers, magazines, and books.

A few of my friends are traditional journalists, the kind of that get paid to write for newspapers and magazines. Whenever people say that blogs are going to take over the news, I’m not so sure. Food bloggers can easily go into the kitchen and whip up a batch of brownies, but until political bloggers start paying their own way and going to the front lines of the war in Iraq, there is still an argument for conventional journalism. But still, in order to make it work, there needs to be a way to pay for it.

The publishing industry went into a tailspin the past few years, and is trying to find its footing. Books have rebounded but many magazines and newspapers are barely hanging on, and few good ones disappeared. Those that remain reduced their staff and payroll, and with the media asking bloggers and others to work for free, it doesn’t seem to me like a sustainable business model if you’re relying on free labor to keep afloat.

Thankfully, cookbooks have been a bright spot in publishing and few people want crack open a computer terminal and get cookin’. Cooking is a visceral activity and while a lot of cooking is following a recipe, the popularity of food television and blogs shows that somewhere in the mix, technology does intersect with the act of doing what we do to fulfill the most basic of our needs: To cook and to eat.

As an author who publishes books and maintains a blog with recipes, I’m happy I get to do both because I think they both fulfill different needs. (For example, no editor is going to let me publish a potato soup recipe with S&M overtones.) But I’m interested in the future of cookbooks and publishing am rather intrigued by some of the modern, and more efficient ways to reach and interact with cooks and bakers. The publishing industry isn’t quite there yet when it comes to “thinking outside of the box”, because their model has been entrenched for so long. But the time has come for new possibilities and some of the new e-readers and touch screen tablets that are on the horizon offer them.

Here are some of the options that are currently either in operation, or about to be launched in the near future.


qook

QOOQ

Introduced by an amazing video on their website that blazes across your screen, Qooq is the French entry is a tactile touch screen device, which costs €349 (and includes 500 recipes), and for a non-recurring monthly fee of €12.95 you can access to thousands of other recipes as well as chef videos and wine pairings. The touch screen allows cooks and readers to scan recipes and move elements around the pages.

The downside to this device is that you have to pay quite a bit for it, a machine that has limited capabilities. You can’t use it to surf the internet, and if it’s not in the Qooq library, you can’t have it. And how good are those recipes? Are they tested? But still, imagine if a publisher or television network was to offer a device like this to consumers at a discount, with the offer of downloading books and videos, as well as special “subscriber-only” presentations from their proprietary chefs and authors, they might have a hit on their hands.

vook

Vook

I hadn’t heard of the Vook a concept of a video-book, but during a recent conversation with Jaden, she brought it to my attention and I found it intriguing.

Right now there’s only a handful of books, but cookbook author Eric Gower has hopped on. His ‘cookvook’ costs $3.99 and contains 16 professionally-shot videos of him shopping in ethnic markets for ingredients, then making the dishes and demonstrating cooking techniques.

The advantage to these video cookbooks is that one don’t need to buy anything else; you can use your computer or iPhone, and the price is within reach. You can also take them with you to the market or when traveling. I found this interesting, personally, because I could imagine it’d be fun to take readers to where I buy chocolate, virtually, showing them how it’s made, then head to the kitchen to make a chocolate cake with it. Or head to the market and shop for berries, which might get churned up into Strawberry Ice Cream, using cream from my fromagerie, that we’ve visited together.

kindle.jpg

E-Readers

The most well-known is the Kindle, Amazon’s hand-held device, which is also available for the iPhone or your PC. And soon, the Mac. Other companies also have their own e-readers, most notably the Nook and the Sony Reader. These are all in the $250-$300 range.

At first met with skepticism, people of all ages are flocking to e-readers now that they’ve become sleeker and sexier. And Amazon has made them incredibly easy to use. A friend told me his elderly dad loves his Kindle! I was one of those people, initially thinking, “I don’t want to read a book on a screen.” But like the other devices mentioned, if they had the capability of adding a video and color element, the possibilities increase dramatically. Imagine a textbook of world history, accompanied by videos of moments in time like elections and wars? Or in the food realm, a recipe for Pad Thai, accompanied by a trip to the Asian supermarket where the guide shows you what the ingredients are, with snippets of how they’re made and used.

I think these will change as the technology evolves and predict the next generation will include video and touch screen commands. The great thing is that they’ve made it very simple and fairly economical to access a wide library of books. For cookbooks, I can see downloading recipes and books, but as they stand now, I’m not sure bringing a black-and-white electronic tablet into the kitchen is how people want to cook.

iphones

iPhone Applications

iPhone applications like the one for Simply Recipes, Ratio, and 101Cookbooks, allow you to bring the recipes in to the store with you, when you’re doing your shopping and access recipes. The cost is free, or nominal, and a big advantage is portability.

You can access recipes and tips from your favorite food blogs and magazines in a snap with the touch screen and connectivity to the internet. There are also recipe applications where you can download thousands of recipes for just a few bucks. Like other downloadable recipe sources, one needs to be mindful of where are the recipes coming from, and are they tested? With a trusted food magazine or website behind them, with apps like the ones above, you at least you know there is a real person behind them who likely tried and tested the recipe numerous times before publishing it.

The biggest advantage to the iPhone is that with an estimated nearly 50 million people owning the device, who’ve made it an integral part of their lives, meaning there’s enormous potential for a great many cooks and authors to connect.

joojoo

Tablets and the iPad

Th hottest of these is the iPad, a tablet-like device from Apple. But others, like JooJoo, have gotten a bit of a jump-start on them. They’re only taking pre-orders on the JooJoo, but this tablet is full of interactive elements and features a touch screen as well as video capabilities. Another interesting device is the Courier from Microsoft, which looks like a book. And interestingly, you can write notes in it like a paper notebook.

ipad

The iPad is similar to the JooJoo and doesn’t rely on proprietary information, as in, pre-loaded recipes like the Qooq. So conceivably you could download a video recipe file from a number of sources; magazines, websites, and blogs, and use them with these devices.


The good news about all these devices is they mean that there are many forward-thinking folks out there, looking for alternative ways of disseminating information. And usually once these technologies take hold, their cost reduces significantly and makes them more accessible to the masses. (My €5 USB key holds four times the information of my first computer.) And just as self-publishing options offer the opportunity for anyone to get exposure, these devices might open the door for some of the new voices out there.

On the flip side, information has to come from somewhere and the people that provide content, from musicians to writers and journalists, need to be compensated for their efforts. Variety means choice, but quality content is an important consideration, too.

So what are your thoughts. Do you own one of these devices and use it as a cooking reference? Will subscription-based capabilities in these machines save the newspaper and magazine industry? Would you subscribe if it was a fee-based model, or do you prefer an advertiser-driven that might be free?

Or are you holding out, waiting for the next big thing? And if so, what kind of features would you like to see in a device or application? Or are you simply one of those people that will never let share their kitchen with anything but a regular printed cookbook? I’d love to hear your thoughts…

113 comments

  • I’ve been in the Internet business for 15 years; yet I don’t glom onto the next big craze ‘just because.’ I hold dearly to some long established practices and reading cookbooks is among them. I’ve put recipes online for all of those years too and my first site remains a repository of some of the best but must tell you that my high tech method of taping a printed copy of a recipe at eye level on a cabinet door has always worked best for me!

    Like Ashley, I think there is something very special about bringing out a time worn book, touched by many hands, that adds a level to cooking that a laptop or Kindle never will…at least for me.

  • Just yesterday, while making rice, I put too much turmeric in the water. This gave it an off flavor. Because I have downloaded The Flavor Bible on my new Kindle, I simply turned it on, opened the book, typed in turmeric and found that lime is the natural flavoring to use with turmeric. So I squeezed a lemon into the rice and it instantly became delicious! They said an acid was the complement.

    The Kindle was so much easier to use than the computer because by the time I could get online, google it, etc. etc., I had already squeezed the lemon.

    Another feature that I really like about the kindle is that the size of the letters is so easily changed. Now I won’t need to write them down.

    Love the Kindle!

  • I think this is a really interesting topic and something I’ve been wondering about.

    It feels to me like these progressions will make it easier to monetise digital content as the value added will be so much more obvious. By that I mean text on a screen or text on a page is still text and the divisions between what should be printed and what should remain as pixels are ambiguous.

    But for richer content, videos and the like, there is a clear differentiator between pixel and page and the two can complement each other rather than compete.

    I could imagine the likes of Serious Eats might well use it to charge for some of their content. But then again, I guess you’d have a better insight into that than I would!

  • Great Piece! You’ve given us a good overview of what’s currently out there and what may come. Although I’ve always been an “early adopter,” I didn’t hop onto the eReader train, but when the Nook was announced and I saw that there was more capability built in other than black and white “ink,” it piqued my interest. I took a look at the QooQ a few months ago and it did nothing for me with it’s limited capabilities. The idea has merit, but I need more than a small quantity of recipes to browse through. There are apps out there for that which are free on my already paid for iPhone.

    What I do like is what you suggest about the potential for video capability. I’d love to go to the market in far off lands for a virtual experience with foods and cultures I have yet to experience or to take viewers/readers to see what it’s like in my local market or out in the field when it’s time to go berry picking in the summer, etc. Of course there’s a whole heck of a lot of potential for these devices to deliver more than food-centric content, but I do think there’s great potential to bring people together to share, watch, discuss … food with this type of evolving technology.

    Thanks for writing this up.

  • Several of the “mom blogs” were giving away spiffy computers around the holidays and while I’m happy with my Mac, I loved the feature of “read me the recipe” so you could boot up and cook without having to run back and forth to the screen, wake it up with floury fingers, etc. With small kids, that’s something that would help me a lot! Otherwise, for now, I’m happy with both forms of food media (digital and print) and suspect I will be for a long time. (I also like to make comments in my cookbooks in the margins; it’s not as elegant on-screen.)

  • Many years ago I declared to my tech-geeky husband that I would never, NEVER, have a computer in the kitchen. Cooking was visceral, I loved paging thru cookbooks seeing several butterflied open on the counter as I explore multiple recipes for whatever I was cooking. Fast forward to the last year or two when I have a laptop set up in the kitchen for only food perusal.

    I think it all has a place. I still love cookbooks and own too many to mention. And my poor kitchen laptop is covered with flour.

    Love your Tweets, your blog and The Perfect Scoop is so dog-eared it’s ridiculous. Thanks for doing what you do.

  • I don’t have any of these gadgets and probably will not be getting any of these gadgets until it becomes impossible to live without. I’m probably two or three years away from getting one of those eBooks. I have heard ecstatic reviews from people who have iPhone cookbook applications, so it’ll be likely that I will be purchasing an iPhone this year.
    Personally, I would pay for a subscription to trusted and well-regarded sites. I’m not sure how advertisements are going to be integrated into the content of these downloaded cookbooks, but I certainly think there should be options for consumers who want either.

  • I think that e-reading is definitely the way to go in many ways. I cook daily and use recipes that i know off by heart, but when I want to cook something different, I always use my computer (ie the internet). I have my laptop on in the kitchen all the time, and buy few food-books these days. Eventually everyone will own these readers, and they will all become easy to handle (that’s called progress!) so that we will be buying best seller novels like this too. I think we can’t get away from this fact, so everyone will have to learn to live with it, including writers and readers. Much as I love to hold a book in my hand, the fact is that paper has also become an endangered species!

  • I have cooked from my laptop in the kitchen, but splashing a bit of stock on a cookbook is nowhere near as consequential as getting some in your keyboard. (Hasn’t happened yet, but I’m wary…) Nothing will ever replace an actual cookbook in the kitchen for me.

    Speaking of publishing and magazines, and maybe you’ve talked about this in an older post, which current periodical do you think best replaces Gourmet, David? I’m lost…

  • At first I wasn’t sure about e-Readers, but if you’re someone like a student who’d otherwise be lugging textbooks around, or, say, and American who lives abroad and wants access to English-language books, then they do have merit. That said, I am a fan of bookstores, especially small ones like Omnivore in San Francisco, that found a great niche (cookbooks) and have author events, which is one way they can have an advantage over online and big box bookstores.

    Karen: That’s great that you used that to fix your rice. I think the whole backbone of successful technology is often: “Find a solution to a problem.” Although sometimes tech creates more problems than it’s worth.

    Anthony: I agree that if it’s something in your hand, people feel it has more value. It does bode well for the likes of newspapers if people will pay for subscriptions on devices like Kindle. But if they’re not willing to pay for it on their computers, it’d be interesting to see if the ‘portability’ factor of an iTablet might make it worth people’s while to pay for it otherwise.

  • you’re making me feel old. and i’m 23.

  • This is a topic I’ve been dreaming about for a while. Actually, ever since my dad set up a “portable” computer in our kitchen and tasked me to enter recipes into it back in the late 80s to early 90s.

    This is my dream gadget that’s close to becoming a reality, just not affordable reality.

    I want a touchscreen computer wall-mounted near where I do most of my cooking. I can search the web for any recipe I want, or I can search my own recipe files using the internal software. The “cookbook” section (where all recipes are entered in a consistent manner) could be voice activated and read things allowed to me when my hands are busy. So I could be stirring fudge and say “Cookbook: list ingredients. Cookbook: Read step 3.” And the computer says, “Step 3. Heat mixture until the temperature reaches 236 degrees F.” Then I say, “Cookbook: Next step.” And it says, “Step 4… ” and so on and so forth.

    I’d also like it to sync with an RFID reader that keeps inventory of my pantry/fridge and then can automatically generate a shopping list when I create a weekly menu.

  • As someone who is at the oldest end of generation Y I must admit that I really enjoy using my laptop in the kitchen (mostly just on the kitchen table – right next to the cookbooks). I find the internet a great resource for finding recipes provided I know what I want to make. I also occasionally use my i-phone in the kitchen but generally just stick with the laptop. However, I find the internet somewhat overwhelming if I am just looking for a bunch of ideas for meals before going to the grocery store and have learned it is a much more effective use of my time to peruse my cookbooks. That said, I almost exclusively use cookbooks with pictures for almost every recipe. I’m not sure if this is because I am a visual person or just based on the proliferation of internet recipes with pictures it is what I am conditioned to expect. I’m somewhat of a beginner in the kitchen feel much more comfortable attempting something new if I have a picture of what the outcome is supposed to look like.

  • Well, your article is a timely one – and as always it’s well written and well thought out! Always a pleasure to read you David!

    I think that the pleasure of holding a book in one’s hand is never going to fade away, at least for our generation. But I’m sure that we’ll all have to go with the flow of technology just like we’ve had to do with music.

    All in all we live in a time that is very exciting and so full of potential, but admittedly a bit uncomfortable. Let’s see what the future brings us! I personally can’t wait to for the tablet computer to be released. If it’s anything like the ipod and iphone then we have many reasons to be very excited!

  • You might have mentioned Jamie Oliver’s app for the iPhone and iPod Touch, because it goes way beyond what could ever be put in a book.

    Jamie has a photo, text, and audio for each step of a recipe, a shopping list feature, and technique videos. It’s a huge app, but quite beautiful. And certainly above and beyond a typical cookbook.

    TasteTimer turns an iPhone or iPod Touch into a new kitchen gadget. Timer recipes are included, but it’s also a timer.

    This is what is so exciting about these new platforms. They don’t have to be designed like a book with chapters, ingredients, and photos. Video, audio, and actual tools can be part of the cooking or baking experience. There are several conversion apps. The Fromage app is a database of cheeses.

    I can’t imagine a kitchen without cookbooks, but I can imagine a blend of cookbooks and handheld computers.

  • I use the internet if I’m looking for a specific recipe or tip, but for pleasure reading I prefer real, printed cookbooks. Then again, I mostly read those for entertainment and learning, not necessarily to cook from. I recently purchased Living Cookbook to try to organize all my emailed recipes, bookmarked recipes, etc. and I think that will be really handy.

  • I love browsing at bookstores, finding books I would not have known otherwise. However, I have a friend living in outside a small town in the mountains, and an aunt whose dizzy spells are limiting her driving, and each rave about Kindle. These new mediums are ideal for those isolated in different ways. I still love a book in my hands, and seeing where a favorite recipe is from the increasing splatters on pages.

    Have a wonderful, happy new year.

  • I use my laptop in the kitchen but it is not as convenient as flipping to a page in a book if I have to keep scrolling down a computer screen with flour or sugar all over my hands. My dozens of traditional cookbooks are splattered and stained with food from decades of use and they wear them like badges of honor. I can’t say that my computer (or an e-book) would be so happy to be likewise marred.
    Besides, I make notes beside the list of ingredients and amounts to indicate what worked, what I liked/didn’t like and it’s not so readily easy for me, (at least not yet) to do this with my laptop. Maybe in the future we’ll all be electronically focused when it comes to cookbooks, but for now, I’m not rushing into the fray.

  • I don’t have any just yet. But I have been doing research. I travel a lot and bringing books on the plane can make my carry on pretty heavy. I did a little research and the newer Kindles do allow you to put your own PDF and image files on them. I love this because then I can get a book from any source and load it on. Then when I finish one book due to a 3 hour delay I can easily move onto the next.

    But I think I would still buy my magazines. The pictures are so vivid and when I find a page I like I tend to rip it out to make it easier to find and file away according to my own system. This would be a little hard with an e-reader…

  • Interesting that you posted about this today — my brother told me this weekend
    about the Mac touch screen rumor. I love cookbooks, but simply don’t have room in my kitchen or house for anymore books and paper recipe files, so would welcome something that was like a Kindle and iPhone combined with color photographs, video etc. I love books but lately I’ve slowly evolved to using my Mac more that the cookbooks for recipes, but still use both. I love reading cookbooks before I go to sleep at night! However I can see that it would be so much more practical to have them all stored on a computer. Currently I’m using both and it just isn’t practical. I LOVE the idea of being able to accompany someone like you (via video) to the Paris markets and shops to actually see the products, vendors, and places that you talk about. I work on a Mac so have to go back and forth from kitchen to office to check recipes and print them out for my kitchen. I have a laptop and a desktop, but haven’t taken my laptop into the kitchen yet since it is more for my design business and don’t want to risk spilling something on it. I plan on getting an iPhone soon — just can’t resist them after seeing what my friends and family can do with them. I love the idea of using them for lists shopping and being able to access recipes and even whole cookbooks while I’m out. Since I’m a designer, the black and white Kindle doesn’t appeal to me — I love the visual part of a book, but I’m also fascinated with my Mac and all it’s capabilities. For me to use Kindle for cookbooks they will have to evolve to be as visual and fun as the internet.

  • hello,
    not about e-books, but i just realized i’m headed to paris this wednesday, and i wondered if you’d like some “meyer lemons” the tree is overflowing this year and i so loved the lemon curd recipe, but i still have tons,
    let me know…… i can leave them at a location of choice if you’re busy?
    Bonne Année
    Jordan

  • I don’t have one of these devices, but I’ve built part of the back-end for what I hope will eventually be my Kitchen Computer. Essentially, I set up a wiki using MediaWiki (the same thing that runs Wikipedia), and I’ve been loading information on ingredients and recipes in to it for the last 3 years.

    What I hope to do is use an LCD and one of those rubber-coated keyboards in the kitchen, so I can access the internet as well as my wiki.

  • I keep my laptop in my kitchen because that is where I am most of the day. I own a sony reader which I find great for travelling… no need to lug lots of books when you can download more onto it than you can probably read on a vacation. I don’t use it at all for cooking; the screen is small and I don’t want to get it trashed with food residue.

    I subscribe to both Cooks Illustrated on line and paper, so what I do is pull the recipe I want and then find it in paper. I don’t care if it gets stained and then I can mark it up. I also just like to read each issue and see what they and the readers are thinking.

    I love cookbooks just for reading. There is something about holding the volume in your hands and looking at the photos or if there are reference sections to the recipe flipping the pages back and forth. Maybe it is a generational thing… I still like to get regular mail too!

    I am sure that in the future you will be able to walk into your kitchen and say “I’d like a recipe for pad thai or ice cream or what ever the need is”, and it will pop up on some screen on your fridge or counter. You could probably get an ingredient list to take to the store with you or have it downloaded to your phone. I suspect it isn’t that far off when you can ask your car navigation system for a restaurant reccomendation!

    Happy New Year to all.

  • I love the stained pages of my first cookbook, The Moosewood Cookbook, although there are probably only two things I make out of it, and the stains made by mother, who passed away years ago, in her copy of The Settlement Cookbook. What e-tool has that kind of sentimental value?

    PS My 15 year old picked up The Sweet Life in Paris after she saw me using it to make your spiced nut mix and ripped through in a day. Now my 10 year old is curled up under the covers with it. But would either of them cook dinner tonight? :)

  • I have been loving my iPhone in the kitchen (dreaming about the tablet nightly kept me from getting a kindle for Christmas). I have downloaded several apps (ratio, taste timer, mise en place, grocery IQ and locavore) and cookbooks (the flavor bible is amazing). The only thing holding me back right now is the lack of cookbooks available through the Barnes and Noble and Kindle apps for the iPhone. I do hope that with more media rich alternatives you do not have to sit through videos or recordings just to get to a trusted old recipe in text.

  • I’ve used my laptop in the kitchen when I need to look up a quickie substitute and I’ve downloaded a few cookbooks on my Kindle, but it’s not the same – I like pictures! The iPhone apps are great! After reading some reviews on here, I might have to download Jaime Olivers!

    I did see a new thing called the Demy, it looks great – but currently out of my price range ($299). You can download your own personal recipes and is splash resistant.

  • I own none of those…
    Not because I don’t want to…It’s just at the moment I can’t afford to…And most likely when I do it maybe the Iphone….Until then I’m probably going to stick to my good old fashioned books and the web.

    Not to mention I’m always behind on technology…. : P

  • Things will change and probably more rapidly than one can imagine.

    My cookbook collection was once in the thousands, and as I downsized I donated numerous books to schools and a local library) – retaining a still significant number of incredible cookbooks THAT I WILL NEVER PART WITH!

    I spent part of this morning setting up pages (that I print) of fabulous recipes I have discovered on various online blogs. I like to set up pages that are easy to read
    with the image(s) included…and when I decide to make something, I print the page.
    Putting handwritten notes on these printed recipe pages, which go into a three ring binder keeps my favorites close. (but NEVER/jamais handwritten notes in one of my fabulous cookbooks).

    The new devices may need to consider ‘personal sticky notes.’

  • Like you were at first, I am reluctant to read a cookbook–or any book, really–from a little electronic screen. Even though I’ve published my own ebook, I don’t find them particularly easy to read and tend to avoid them.

    However, given the positive comments about Kindle (from your first commenter and others), I’m leaning more in that direction. As the options increase and the prices decrease, I suspect that I, too, will eventually jump on the bandwidth wagon as well.

  • Hm, expensive electronic gadgets in my kitchen? I’d rather not try that, I am a bit clumsy at times. If they were water resistant, had a screen that could be cleaned easily, then: yeah, why not. Karen’s comment clearly explains the use of such a gizmo. At the moment it is easier to jsut call my mum, though (Yeah, I’m a 31 year old guy and still call my mum for those things sometimes).
    At the moment I think that nothing beats dead trees when it comes to information display and conservation, as everybody who had a hard disk die on them or a webservice canceled will agree.

  • I use my laptop in the kitchen all the time, and I would really love something more convenient. I use Big Oven recipe software, which I really love because I can copy and paste stuff from the internet, or enter recipes manually, and then the recipe is searchable by ingredient or other types of tags. I wish I had a monitor that could be in a wall or fridge in the kitchen, so that I didn’t have to haul the laptop in.

  • David,

    Great questions and hopefully we are just around the corner from some realistic options to help not only monetize for the author, but add great value to the work that will benefit the publisher, author and consumer…

    I started writing a response to you question and ended up on my 7th paragraph before I realized the comment was simply too long… I think I will have to think this through and post something on the subject very soon… it is that time of year for my annual post on my feeble blog page…

    Thanks for the great, thought-provoking question…

    Best wishes for the new year!

  • I would say I don’t *want* to cook with electronic gadgets in the kitchen but that’s how I usually wind up cooking, with either the iphone or the laptop, even though I have tons of cookbooks. If I don’t have room for a laptop or if the recipe is actually in a cookbook (so rare these days), I take a pic of the recipe with my iphone (ingredients, then the instructions) and use that. I love that I can go to simplyrecipes or any number of trusted sites so the Qooq device seems to be a bit out of touch with what people want and need, which is free variety from reliable sources and ol’ stand-bys.

  • I confess to getting a little crabby when it comes to the new technology…even though I thoroughly enjoy visiting this blog. Sometimes it seems that all that’s keeping our sorry economy afloat is the constant replacement of gadgets with new and redundant gadgets featuring ever-so-slight improvements. For me, I’ll wait til things settle down a bit before jumping on. One thing that’s never addressed in these conversations is economics. There must be more than a few people out there who simply cannot afford an iphone and it’s monthly fees, numerous laptops and book-reading machines. When it comes to the Kindle and such, I’ve never felt the need to get more reading material faster. What I’d really love is a device that could create more time in my day for consuming the reading material I already have. Now, I’d be the first in line for something like that. Reading I’ve got down. If they come up with an ap that can make my bed and put away my laundry I’ll be in seventh heaven.
    We hear so much from the cheerleaders, I just thought I’d add a little snark to spice up the conversation.

  • David,
    Forgot to answer some of your questions — I prefer an advertiser-driven model to a fee based one. I don’t like to give out my credit card over the internet, no matter how safe they say it is — I always manage to have problems after those transactions. I will buy a Kindle type device or Mac tablet when they have books with color photos like there are in actual books and video would be a great addition too. Would like a device like a laptop, but smaller and something a little larger than an iPhone for reading. A tablet would be great to have in the kitchen — something that is not a susceptible to spills, and could be mounted on the wall if need be. I don’t know if these will save the magazine and newspaper industry — I guessing “no” unless they figure out a way to make digital media profitable for them.

  • Hi David!!

    As always, another great blog post!! Well, here are my “two centimes ” for what it’s worth!! I am a “mac girl” through and through – love my iphone and my laptop and am waiting with baited breath for Apple’s tablet!! I store my recipes on my computer and gleefully surf the web in search of recipes, answers and inspiration. Having said that though, you couldn’t pry my favorite cookbooks out of my sugar encrusted hands for anything!! I can’t imagine not being able to browse through a bookstore either! The publishing houses will adapt (writers still need guidance on their work) and people still want to know what is going on in the world. I see where we are now as a “free trial” period and believe that we are on the verge of an online subscription world – which is how it should be – as you said, those who do the writing, producing, etc., etc. need to be compensated for their work. People have always had to pay to read a newspaper, magazine, etc. (well, except at the library!) and that isn’t going to change nor should it- only the format is. I also don’t think we will go purely digital in my lifetime if ever. For the independent writers, designers, etc. (such as yourself) the best part is that I think each person is going to have a lot more control over how they are compensated, – they will get to determine how they charge for their content (advertising vs. subscription) or if they want to charge for it at all. The advantages of this new “media age” though is that the barriers for new writers, etc. have been drastically lowered – all they need is a website and they can put their work out there and don’t need a publisher or their own trust fund to do it!

    Would I pay for some web based blogs!! Well, depending upon the price, you bet!!! (And yes, your blog would be at the top of my list!!!) As the famous commercial might one day say ” subscribing to David’s blog, that’s what Mastercard is for.. assuaging my longing for Paris? Priceless!”

  • David,

    Isn’t the issue here the content rather than the technology? There are few bloggers who are a “go to” sources for recipes as most talented cookery writers see commercial success via the standard publishing model rather than giving away content on the web. Bloggers who are good, have something to say, write well, and have lasted tend to move successfully into print (yourself included). Many bloggers who are initially interesting quickly run out of things to say and fade, stopping posting or posting infrequently (Chez Pim, World Foodie Guide as examples).

    I use cookbooks as “trusted sources” of information and I buy them based on strong reputations. I use my PC as an adjunct to them but usually to look for more from the same trusted source (your salt butter caramel ice-cream is a good example, not in the book but on the web). Will I use a tablet or kindle? Obviously it will need good content, but is there more? Does inspiration come from flipping through the pages of the book? Something I don’t think will be the same on the screen. My prediction is that books will still be the true source material (aren’t sales rising) whilst tablets and the internet will be useful tools to fill in the gaps i.e. where do I find a recipe for liquorice ice cream?

    Regards,
    Phil

  • Agree with comment by “The Local Cook” and others – I think both have a place. If I want to make something specific, I will look it up on a trusted site online. However, for me (as with many others I suspect) there is still great pleasure to be had from holding and (in my case) snuggling up to a good cookbook – not necessarily when I want to cook a particular recipe but for inspiration, guidance, learning more about technique etc.

    For me, reading a good cookbook is like having a conversation with the author; a much more personal experience than looking something up online via a gadget like my laptop or phone. Somehow, even though the words may be the same it loses something in translation from paper to screen.

    Don’t get me wrong – I am not a technophobe. I love my gadgets and technology and am well versed in both. I just don’t think it’s time to consign cookbooks to the scrapheap yet.

  • Nothing could ever replace a written cookbook for me. I pour over its content, I read it cover to cover like one would a crime-thriller or a racy novel.

    Sure, I get recipes online, but my cookbooks are my treasury-I can’t imagine life without them!

    When I get recipes online, if I make them, they are stored in a binder.

    Maybe that’s old fashioned of me-but I believe the digital age has its place-and it ain’t in my kitchen.

  • David,
    I would say that there will always be a place in my heart for my favorite cookbooks, but in my work I am slowly moving from paper files to digital files and wonder if eventually cookbooks will follow that path too. However, my work files are more practical as digital files and cookbooks are mostly for pleasure so I guess the two can’t really be compared.

  • I loved this overview! Your description of how you would use video add-on would keep me coming back again and again. But I still don’t understand why the reader/viewer would need to pay for this sort of content. If a content developer delivered enough eyeballs, wouldn’t somebody sponsor him or her with advertising so we could continue to read and view for free? Information wants to be free! The content provider wants to be compensated. The advertiser is our broker.

  • I pull up recipes off my RSS from blog sites, or commercial sites like Food Network or Epicurious. When I find a recipe I like to try, I pull it up on my crackberry and take that into the kitchen with me. Granted it’s a small itty bitty screen,but I’m not willing to go to an iPhone. Since counter space is a premimum, I hate bringing my laptop in there, or using the netbook. The only downside was I got molasses it the usb outlet, but it cleaned up alright.

  • I do like to go online to get recipe inspiration, but it’s too clunky to actually use the device while preparing the recipe. Like others, I like to store online recipes on my PC, but only after I’ve tested them.

    My cookbook shelf is only 3 feet long, so I recycle often.

  • I am looking forward to the day when a chip containing all cooking information available and which would be automatically updated can be inserted into my brain. No wires, no pesky little tablets, no need for wonky voice activation (I will be able to see and hear directions simultaneously), no fears that I will damage pricey equipment.

    Until that time, I will make do with scraps of paper stuck (recipes which are often synthesized from web research) into my 20 year old Fannie Farmer cookbook, having my office right off the kitchen with its desktop, and the server my husband set up for our housewiki (info including maps, shopping lists, stores, staples, preferred brands) which can be downloaded into our ipods so we can be kept current on what needs to be bought in what shop when we are out in meatspace.

    We are both approaching sixty so we are a bit different from our peers. I never enjoyed print media and bought probably 5 food magazine issues and maybe 10 cookbooks in my life despite being absolutely infatuated with cooking. They always seemed stale and stuck in time. I used the Fannie Farmer one to teach myself the basics and to have a solid reference for cooking. But now I just walk a couple of steps to my office, spend about 20 minutes, and get so much varied info that I can mix and match, that is current, and from blogs, lots of saucy wit and excellent photos, showing technique (Like Joe Pastry).

    My husband is working on doing a RFID database so we can add that to the wiki without having to go downstairs to the root cellar and pantry to see what we are running low on.

  • A few odds and ends: I would not pay a fee for content. The ipods were gifts from a computer museum in which my husband put in long volunteer hours, otherwise we would not have them as they are too pricey for our budget. We are focused on custom making our home via technology (like the homeweb via a server which is some old clunky computer and the ipod gifts) combined with the programming expertise of my husband. Not only do I think superfluous technology is stuffed down our throats, I think the celebrity chef business is atrocious. I tell my relatives if they must get me a cooking book, make sure it is written by a relatively unknown author.

  • I also said I never wanted to read books on a screen, especially one as small as the iPhone. But I also travel overseas a lot, and am currently living abroad temporarily. Being able to travel with dozens of books on both my iPhone and my laptop is a huge help with packing and overstuffed luggage. Plus, if you’re waiting in a line, you can easily get in a few pages of reading on your iPhone. In fact, my only copy of your book The Sweet LIfe in Paris is on my Kindle for iPhone app! And I’ve used it and my laptop to (mostly) follow recipes in the kitchen. (Not to mention the field guides for trees, birds, etc. that they are turning into applications for your phones!) I love being able to carry all these books with me anywhere, and not having to feel bad about all the paper they took to make!

    Thanks for the great blog, btw! Looking forward to your posts in 2010!

  • In the 90’s there was a software for recipes called Mangia. It was wonderful, friendly to use, made my grocery lists. I put all my personal recipes on that system …. and …after the 2nd revision the company closed. There are many of us online crying in our soup because we can’t pull out the recipes. I am all for new technology but how long will that technology stay around

    Having had that one disaster I am very careful about what I do with my recipes and will only use Microsoft Word or Adobe pdf files. Figure they will be around for awhile.

    I prefer actual books but with arthritis in my hands the design of the book is important. Some have gotten so heavy or the binding is so close to the start of the text it is hard to keep them open. Some books, I have actually taken apart, punched 3 holes in the side and put them in a binder. The book then becomes more user friendly or I can take a section out at a time to read. With books I can make notes in the margin. Some new toys will allow that but most aren’t there yet.

  • Funny thing. I have this publisher who is completely enthusiastic about the contents outline and just waiting on the 1st chapter of a book on kids and nutrition to sign me, the proof and the pudding and all. But part of me is not sure if I want to write such a book or make a blog out of it. I know (?) that most food bloggers dream that someone will call with a publishing offer, so obviously I’m nuts (mind you, I do earn a living as an ad writer specializing in food and ghost writer for other people’s cookbooks anyways). You have done both, and are very conversant in eFood, what would you do?

  • While I do appreciate being able to hop online to look for recipes there’s just something about holding a book in yours hand, the feel of the paper the printed word in “real life” that will never change for me. I suppose I’ll proceed with a mix but my cabinet will always have more space for my newest favorite cookbooks alongside my old, trusty ones.

  • There is definitely a revolution going on in the print world. While I will always love to pick up a real book to read and thumb through cookbooks for inspiration, technology has its place. I use my iPhone iDisk application while I am in the kitchen to access my own recipes, and have used Ruhlman’s Ratio application, as well. A few years ago, I published some CD-Roms with recipes + tips for entertaining at home. It feels so outdated now!

  • My “Joy of Cooking” is on its second cover (after the dustjacket fell apart, I bought a book cover for it — not terribly attractive, but highly effective!)

    The binding is broken and pages fall out — it’s dogeared, stained, has pages that have stuck together and been prised apart, the margins are full of notes (yum…increase liquid…roast for xx minutes…and the odd ‘forget this one, like lead’) The red satin ribbon sewn into the binding to serve as a bookmark is still in one piece, but fraying at the end.

    I have friends who have decided to buy a copy from the states because I’ve gained a bit of a reputation as a pretty good cook, and they figure if I use that book that often, it must be good. I need a new copy, but that means I’d have to go through and transfer all my notes…do I want to? Can I rebind it somehow?

    My son says it’s been loved hard…and it has.

    I routinely obtain recipes from the Internet, but there isn’t a glowing screen in the world that could ever take the place of my poor old wrecked cookbook.

  • Serena: That’s a good point about reading cookbooks and discovering something to make you normally wouldn’t have. The same is true about magazines and newspapers; online, you tend to click on headlines and only read articles that catch your interest. I subscribe to The New Yorker and I sit down and read it cover-to-cover, and I’d say half the articles are about things I never would have read otherwise.

    Lynne: I can’t answer that for sure. But I do tell people that they should only write a cookbook as a labor of love. There isn’t a lot of money in it and for the time and energy it takes, the biggest reward is the satisfaction of doing it and getting your recipes out there. You might want to check out my post: Writing Your Own Cookbook, which offers additional insight.

    Karen: I was thinking how much fun it’d be to have an interactive cookbook with Julia Child talking to you while you’re cooking! But regarding advertising: Unfortunately ad dollars are scarce and as is the case in magazines and newspapers right now, there’s not enough of them to support the content. (Even with people paying for the magazine.) There has been an uptick in online ads, as advertisers realize that online, they can be much more targeted and can reach a very specific audience. But like the publishing industry, I think some are still in the “old school” of thinking of television and print media, although I could be wrong on that.

    PhilD: I was just thinking about some of the food bloggers who started way back when, around the time that I did, or before. Many decided not to have any sponsors or ads on their blogs and I think one of the reasons they stopped is because they realized how much time and commitment it takes. And once your blog reaches a certain point, you need additional server space, web assistance, etc, etc. But perhaps as you say, maybe they just ran out of things to say or lost interest.

    (And can’t help you out on the licorice ice cream, since I don’t like licorice!)

    Anne: I learned to cook with The Settlement Cookbook! The first thing I baked from it was a chocolate soufflé. I think when I was 15 years old : )

  • All I can say is ebooks are great as long as your laptop never runs out of battery or electricity or internet connection or drop/splash whatever you are cooking on your laptop. :p That said, I do cook sometimes with my laptop in the kitchen looking at my own recipes online. I still love cook books on prints. I love the feel of the paper, the much used splattered pages or folded corners, the pictures of the end products etc. Something that I can pass down from generation to generation whereas with ebooks, as soon as technology changes (very fast), we are quite doomed with all our data saved in our computer or any computer glitches or virus will wipe it all out in seconds.

  • though resistant at first, we are now proud new parents of a baby named kindle, and it’s addictive and life changing!

  • I have both a Kindle and I-phone. I love them ! At the same time I love a cookbook that I can write comments on the page and drool over the pictures. I worry about the loss of my daily newpaper. It has diminished to practically nothing. I miss Gourmet!! There are plenty of blogs to read, but many of them don’t provide the same knowledge as food editors have provided us in the past. The exception is your blog. Still the question of what to do about paying writers to do what they do best? I do not know the answer, but I can tell you that I do like paying $9.99 for a best seller and not even leaving my house to get it. It is the same with textbooks. They are so expensive that I can only have a class set in my room. Loved the post!

  • I’m like Sunny above with well-loved and falling-apart cookbooks. My Joy of Cooking and Julia Child’s Kitchen books are a mess but I still go to them time after time. And David, my copy of your Sweet Life in Paris has the ultimate compliment – a page smeared with an errant drop of chocolate. I love reading an actual newspaper in the morning, going to bed with a real book at night. I use the internet all the time for recipes, ideas and my favorite blogs though and realize that the future is now and holds some very cool stuff for all of us.

  • I just received a Kindle for Christmas and I love the portability and accessibility of the device. (Just finished reading your book on it to be honest!).
    However, I will probably continue to use mostly physical cookbooks. There’s just something about opening a well loved/used cookbook with notes scribbled in the margins, dustings of flour, and smudges from butter/chocolate/spices that speaks to me. I have many of my mother’s old cookbooks and my grandmother’s old recipe box and I love the nostalgia and memories that those bring as I cook…

  • I bough your last book for my Sony Reader and I love it. I take the reader to the kitchen to cook, works better than cooking from my MacBook.
    I read Simply Recipes in my iPhone all the times… I love all the new possibilities

  • I continue to enjoy finding new recipes daily on the food blogs. I appreciate the time you & others take to share. Thanks!

  • I for one, would be first in line to purchase an ENTIRE cookbook written by you, with S&M overtones…

  • I think that nothing can replace the experience of a real book in hand, especially when it comes to cooking. That tactile experience is what people are looking for… it has been waning but I think it is actually experiencing a renaissance. People WANT to use their hands more.

  • I have hundreds of cookbooks, and like many others have said here, I love to read them, write in them, spill blobs of whatever on them while cooking out of them. (Aside: my mother kept her recipes in an old Good Housekeeping cookbook without covers. She would say, “Hand me the chocolate cake recipe, it’s on yellow paper with spaghetti sauce on it.”) I would hate to give up the pleasure of having an actual cookbook in my hands. I do look up recipes online occasionally, but usually only if I have exhausted my own sources–the quality of many online recipes is so poor, there is no way I would rely on them exclusively (and I hope no one else does, either). In answer to your question, I’m not willing to pay for recipes — although I still subscribe to Cook’s in print even though it, too, is getting old. I love food blogs, however, and find them an excellent source of recipes and information. Yours is a veritable fount!When I find a recipe in a blog or in the newspaper I cut and paste it into a word document, save it, print it out and carry it down to the kitchen. Then I have to find a place for the print version, but that’s another story. At least if I can’t find something fast, I know I have it on my computer. Which is why, before my sons went to college, I spent hours typing out all our family recipes, then gave each a disk and a spiral bound copy so they wouldn’t call me every time they made dinner (which they do anyway, and I love them for it). So one more vote for printed cookbooks!

  • I have to agree with some of the others – I don’t/won’t use electronics in the kitchen because of dirty hands. I’m working on improving how often I wash my hands when cooking (although it’s usually just for myself, so I don’t particularly care), but every one of the cookbooks I use has at least one stain. I’ve been through the pain of drying out a laptop once and don’t want to do it ever again. It would be even less fun to get flour out of a keyboard.

    although I’m going to go look for a timer app for my new ipod touch.

  • If it’s not from a cookbook or mag, I’ll print out the page from the online recipe I’m using and bring that into the kitchen since I don’t want to spill anything on my laptop. Frankly, I’m still struggling with the decision to buy a smart phone since they are supposed to be the worst for radiation. But this neurotic, late adopter really wants an iPhone!

  • Books, especially cookbooks, need to be read and touched. I love the turning of pages. I write in my cookbooks, Doesn’t everyone? How did it work? Was it well receieved? What changes should or could be made? One knows immediately what cookbooks are cherished by the condition. My original Julia Child books are broken and food stained with notes in the margins..

  • I’ve found keeping recipes handy on my phone for travelling and those occassions spontaneously cooking at friends’ homes. Started doing this way back when with a Palm Pilot. Remember those?

    But I have to say, Youtube was hands down the fastest and easiest way for me to learn to braid bread for any number of strands higher than 3.

    Am I ready to part with my favorite trustworthy cookbooks? No. Do I embrace technology in the kitchen? Absolutely!

    I wonder if the model of $0.99 a recipe would work? Credit to the creator, pick from trusted cooks, a new way to publish,….

    Love your blog, always great food for thought!

  • David – you say:

    I was thinking how much fun it’d be to have an interactive cookbook with Julia Child talking to you while you’re cooking!

    Yes, that would be really cool, but when I read Julia’s books, I can hear her voice and I feel like she is talking to me. I know – I sound like I’m channeling Julie Powell (arrghh!) – but I think a good cookbook editor makes sure to include the strong distinctive voice of the author. Those kinds of books appeal to me much more than the ‘just the facts’ type of books. That’s also why I am often wary of recipes on the internet – unless I also read the comments (which are the distinctive voices of the people who have actually made the recipe)!

    sandi

  • Well, it is true that published media has been hit, but in general print publishing has been growing at around 4% each year for the past decade. There have even been studies done which indicate that the people who buy books regularly (the industries cash cows, as it were) actually like the physical presence of books. Many people will even have digital copies of their favourite books as well as print versions.
    The last thing I want is an e-cookbook on my kindle. I have a feeling electronics would not take kindly to being accidentally drenched in sauce espagnole. A friend of mine actually dropped her e-reader in a deep fryer.

  • I have a ton of cookbooks from way before the internet and some after (like yours). I find I’m getting less interested in the books except those few I keep as a reference. The only books that I really enjoy are the ones where the authors personality come through. Irma Rombauer in the older versions of Joy of Cooking was famous for her quips that make you feel that you got to know something of her and it made you feel that anything was doable. Same with Julia Child, but it took her being on TV to see that side of her.

    Blog sites, even those run by non professional cooks, writers or photographers, have photo’s professional looking enough to inspire me to try a recipe and the dialog, though sometimes a little too cutesy or affected, gives the same personal touch that I like..and I really like that you can get answers to questions about something in a recipe. I can’t tell you how many times I go back and reread the text on a blog where I’m using the recipe for some insite. And, of course, the feedback in the comment section is invaluable. You don’t get this from books or magazines, unless like Gourmet or Bon Appetite, they are online.

    I do love the idea of using a tablet as a cooking tool. It would be ideal to be able to wi-fi a recipe from a blog or anyother format from your computer to the tablet. I’d be willing to pay for that service. I’d probably just stick a plastic bag over it in the kitchen to keep it from getting splattered! It seems the perfect size and it would keep me from running back and forth to my office! (I only have a desk top computer! ;(

  • Although I’m only 52, I could be defined as a dinosaur! Perhaps I’d be better labeled a traditionalist & that would be OK with me! Although I’ve embraced technology when its meant work is easier for me, I am reluctant to give away the satisfaction I’ve always felt when I’ve chosen a book that I hope will bring me hours of pleasure.

    No doubt, it’s handy to use the internet to look up a new recipe, but the joy of preparing a new dish begins with leafing through the pages of a new or beloved cookbook. Over the years, I personally have had no need for cookbooks with pictures. I can sit back, read a recipe & get a sense of whether or not the flavours suit my palate. I am far from a schooled cook, but my love of food has given me the confidence to contemplate how a new recipe will feel on the tongue & what mood it will evoke for me &/or my guests. What could be better than this???

    My opinion refers not only to cookbooks but for books read for pleasure, be them fiction or non-fiction! The click of a button on the internet can bring us almost instant results….BUT….the thought of not having the pleasure of settling in with a good book for hours on end, or if only to steal a few moments at a time, is terribly sad! From the time I was a very young child, a book was a friend…ready to be devoured & contemplated, sometimes just for entertainment, other times to gain knowledge. In any case, the sensation of holding a book in my hands & savouring the paragraphs (especially if it was a story that engulfed me), has always been & will forever be, sublime!!

    I have nieces & nephews in their teens & early adult years, raised by readers & non-readers alike, who share my love of holding & reading an actual book. I truly hope that this pleasure isn’t replaced by devices less intimate than print on paper!

  • I have to say I still like paper, David. I enjoy going into a bookstore and seeing what colourful cookbook cover (or any book for that matter) catches my eye and makes me pause and flip thru it’s pages reading an excerpt here and there. I like the feel and weight of the book and for me it is comforting to just sit down and know that I can read it from front to back or flip thru randomly for some edible “eye candy” and inspiration. I like finding a potentially great recipe to try and putting a sticky-note to mark the spot for future referenence, sometimes with a few personal notations for changes or improvements to remember. I like the look of them on my shelf and enjoy when friends spot one and take it down to look thru it and share.
    I have a daughter who just joined the ranks of the publishing industry and another daughter graduating with the same intentions. I fully support the publishing industry and hope that it gains back some strength. I know these gadgets are the way of the future, but personally I’d like to continue turning pages and using a bookmark to save my spot :)

  • I love both cookbooks and using my laptop for recipes it would take too long to find going through the volumes of loose, torn-out pages I seem to collect as well…the only hitch is that my screen gets the odd bits of olive oil, cake batter, etc. on it, and they are the devil to get off…not to mention having to clean the keyboard of flour and other stuff. Love the new technology, and still lust after cookbooks that are in print, bound, with pretty pictures. I own waaay too many of the latter, but it doesn’t stop me from buying more. I think technology, my pile of clippings, and cookbooks have their places in my life.
    Gwen Meyer

  • And you said you weren’t a techie.

  • It is not a surprise actually that those things we normally do will have an E in front of every word. The internet now is the most influential thought it is not the most credible. Normally, I browse through my thick cookbooks but now, one click away is all I need!

  • DAVID.

    You may have missed Jordan’s comment and will regret that later. I hope this gets your attention.

    (Sorry. I am in no way affiliated with Jordan or her lemons. Have no idea who she is, honestly. I just wanted to make sure you saw the comment, cuz it seems like something you might regret later.)

  • Wow, what a great discussion to wake up to. The idea of having an interactive cookbook with Julia gave me the chills. Oh… what a world that would be! As an avid reader who’s been living in Europe for about eight years, the Kindle is unbelievable. It will never replace the happiness I get when I’m holding a good book in my hands but it’s great when you’re living in country filled with books not written in your language. I’m able to go online, purchase an ebook and have it within minutes. Cookbooks on the Kindle however have a long way to go. For now I’m happy with my lovely cookbooks and occasionally setting up my lap top in the kitchen with a towel ready to throw over it when things get messy. (which usually happens) I have to admit that I’m looking forward to reaching the Jetson future where every kitchen comes with a wall screen where you can access millions of recipes from around the world with only a simple voice command. Meet George Jetson….

  • Sandi & Susan: Yes, getting the author’s voice in there is important. Julia and her editor were particularly good at it. But you should read one of Maida Heatter’s books; I don’t think anyone else could pull of describing a chocolate cake recipe like she could. A lot of cookbooks are bland (which I call the “This goes well with tea in the afternoon!”-syndrome), meaning that that’s all the recipe writer can say about the dessert in the headnote. Which is just kinda boring and isn’t very inviting. But on the other hand, someone left a comment on Amazon that in my ice cream book, the descriptions were too much and they just wanted to ‘get to the recipe’. So not everyone wants to hear a story, some people just want a list of ingredients and a method, I guess.

    That is one of the good things about food blogs; there’s so many voices out there, and readers can choose from such a variety of them.

    Bih: Videos are good because sometimes it’s so difficult to explain something, like braiding bread or tying up a chicken, that a short video would show it better than 2 pages of text. And be less-intimidating.

    Hilary, Elycooks & Susan: There are various keyboard covers, for those of us racing between the kitchen and the keyboard. (I should probably get one myself…) I see them on computer in professional kitchens all the time. Or just drape a piece of plastic over it?

    LB: I would love to see a picture of that deep-fried e-Reader!

    jordan & Hannah: Thanks for the offer. Unfortunately I’m going to be traveling and won’t be a lucky recipient of them. Have a great trip.

    Michmom: Yes, for those of us who live abroad, and have both limited apartment and luggage space, e-books can be great. I still like regular cookbooks, since I like the feel and heft. But for novels and guidebooks, the e-format I think has lots of merit.

    Donna: This is an exciting time for publishing, as it offers new possibilities. A friend just got hired to oversee the digital publications at a major publishing house, which means they are taking the new medium seriously.

    It’s unfortunate to see a great magazine, publishing house or newspaper struggling to survive. I just think they really need to grab hold of the new technology and figure out how to harness it rather than complaining about it. I had dinner recently with a well-known food writer for a major magazine who was put out of work and when I told him that with his knowledge and writing ability, he should start a blog. He scoffed and said it was “too much work.” Well, that’s the reality of the world and now authors are free to publish their ideas, recipes and stories themselves.

    Just like the music business flipped with Napster, they should have thanked them because Napster (although illegal) taught millions of people how to download music and got them in the habit. Then iTunes came along with a low-cost way to do it legally, which provided income for the artists and people that create the music, in a win-win situation.

  • Great article, David. I have been wanting a laptop for my kitchen for a long time, but really didn’t have the room. Not so much to cook from, but to search for a recipe from my personal recipe file or search for something on-line without having to go upstairs to the office to do it. As a MAC lover, I have been watching the iPad/iSlate rumors for months and now it looks as though the rumors may be materializing in March/April. This will hopefully provide the ability to have recipes close at hand, but to also access the internet, read an e-book, view photos, listen to music, etc. I love my “real” cookbooks and will never part with them (there is something so comforting about curling up with a cup of tea (or coffee or wine) and a brand new cookbook), but I love the technology to have everything close at hand while you’re cooking and the portability.

    For Stephanie who commented above about the desire for an RFID reader to keep an inventory of your kitchen and then generate a shopping list, Microsoft has been developing just such a technology in their “House of the Future” near Redmond, WA. Every time you use an ingredient, the “house computer” will add it to the list. I think this is a long way off, but personally, I think this will be incredible!

    Thanks, again, David for bringing this up – great topic.

  • Hi David,
    I am from Chile and live in the Netherlands, one day sick of eating Dutch cakes that have to much cream on them I search for a tarte au citron recipe and that how I found your blog, after reading and making some of your recipes I bought The Sweet Life In Paris in paper format from Amazon in Germany (my only way to buy English books that arrive fast).

    I could’t imagine having an e-book. I like to put post it in my books and despite it makes my suitcase much heavier every time that I move, I carry my preferred books.

    I do use the internet when I am cooking or before to see some substitutions, or some measures converter, but I spend most of my day in front of the computer and for me is refreshing open the book and cook, or simply open the book and laugh with your stories… for me the Kindle (one of my friends has one) is too-efficient, too not-relaxing…int the evening I have some 20 books from which to choose, and even then it’s difficult to choose one so I can’t imagine how would be to have 300 in a small thing.

  • I do have an Iphone, but I have as yet to use the free Amazon kindle app on it. I am also very leery of the “splash” factor on electronics, having ruined home phones because of unfortunate mishaps. So, if you are going to have one of these great devices, how does one protect this against the “splash” factor. I certainly read through recipes and measure out in advance, but depending on kitchen layouts, there isn’t always a nice clear place to keep a device to read the recipe at a safe distance and then have something get all over the screen, which inevitably can get into the circuitry below and have it crash.
    I love the concept, but I’m still a fan of the printed page. Sure, I have many cookbooks with stuff that got on the pages and stained them. I have recipes torn out of newspapers or magazines and then filed in clear plastic sleeves and saved in a binder that I only need to take that recipe out of instead of the entire binder getting in my way.I also have a binder of your recipes, which has grown exponentially. I do have a cookbook stand, but it doesn’t have a protective cover, as some do.
    I think it boils ( excuse the pun) down to personal preference …..

  • I have a medical computer tablet in the kitchen, designed for operating theatres and other hospital applications, it can be dropped, wiped down, has a camera and barcode reader inbuilt, has a soft keyboard and runs wireless internet. It really is mother’s number one kitchen helper. At $6,000 retail it is overkill for home cooks, but luckily for me, this baby comes to work during the day and then multi-tasks in the evenings and weekends! Hurray for modern technology!

  • PS – This medical tablet also has an RFID reader, but it is overkill in my kitchen – but who knows, perhaps if we had an intelligent house or pantry we could also have an inventory of dry foodstuff and widgets and appliances.

  • So much has been said already, please bear with some more…

    1- I save the clear plastic bags that my clothes return in from the cleaners to stick my laptop inside when in the kitchen; no issue with greasy floury hands this way, and screen keeps clean; I just throw the bags away after 1 use in the kitchen; I keep the computer at least 2 meters away from the fire.

    2- I use it to search quickly to ammend mistakes or for a picture on what a particular dish should look like.

    3- I mostly search the net for different takes on the same recipe, then copy paste to compose my own text, and print to use in the kitchen – I too write comments on these pages !

    4- would certainly use a Kindle like device with my own copy pasted arranged recipes especially if I could write in my comments; not a kindle owner yet – too expensive, too raw.

    5- books and bookshops will never go out of fashion for me – I know what my great grandmother, grans and mother cooked from the stains on some pages of their favourite cookbooks; i also cannot resist the smell of new paper print and leafing through the novelties at my local bookstores; when I travel, i always visit a good bookstore in over there and try to come home with a reference cookbook of the land I visited. But it is much easier to search for specific things on the net and learn from comments to a particular recipe.

    6- I would not pay for a recipe service, unless it was really wow, and I still don’t know what shape wow would need to take to catch my attention and money.

  • I love the QOOQ promo!
    The French are ahead of us all when it comes to embracing new tech.
    Remember the Mini-Tel?
    Merci David!

  • I am a relatively recent convert to the ereader and have to agree with Stephanie’s post on the ideal kitchen computer. I use the internet to find and compare recipes, usually using bits and pieces from many to form the one that works for me. However, nothing will replace the pleasure of reading a cookbook in bed.

  • I love books and own so many I don’t have a place to put them, but I wonder about their future. I recently read about a school library in the US who got rid of all their books last year and have gone entirely digital. When more cookbooks are available
    for ebook download from my library, I will definitely use them — a great time saver!

  • Many of these devices (in their current incarnations, at least) seem suitable only for amateur cooks. An amateur cook, for example, may need a video guide to hold their hand while doing something in the kitchen for the first time, but a more experienced cook would likely find it frustrating to have to sit through (or click through) a video primer on how to crack eggs before getting to see whether the cookie recipe they’re interested in is one that looks like it’s worth trying. With a printed recipe one can look right away and see, for example, that a recipe calls for margarine instead of butter, or that it doesn’t call for any salt, or something else that drops major hints about the author’s cooking style and about what sort of results to expect. And is anyone really going to watch a video guide about shopping for unfamiliar ingredients more than once? Maybe once at home, then once more while stumbling around at the Thai grocer? I can’t see such a thing being more useful than a book with a good index, which has the flexibility of allowing novices to read a whole section and experienced cooks to just have a glance to remind themselves how to, e.g., deal with a block of tamarind. Likewise, the Qooq seems likely to appeal to cooks who don’t have enough experience working with recipes to understand that there can be tremendous differences among recipes for the same dish, and that by limiting themselves to one content provider they are limiting themselves to that provider’s tastes and writing style.

  • terry: Interestingly, I was having coffee with a friend who writes books about Apple computers and he is preparing something about the iTablet. But he said to me, “What it is going to do that an iPhone doesn’t?” Which was kind of true, but that’s when I mentioned cookbooks and videos, which he agreed was one way it could be used. (You could do the same thing on an iPhone, I suppose, but it’s so small.)

    hmm: Those are some valid points you mentioned. But let’s say some of these devices offered various skill level programs. So someone who wanted to learn how to cut up a chicken could click on that, and get a video tutorial, but others could just zoom through to the recipe that calls for pre-cut chicken? Or perhaps these machines could remember (or could be programed) to not include recipes that use things like margarine or Crisco, and those recipes could show just the options one has pre-selected?

    That’s one of the limitations of cookbooks, too. Someone commented elsewhere online that my ice cream book should’ve had detailed instructions to make a custard in each and every recipe rather than explained at the beginning of the book. (With over a few hundred recipes, that would’ve been one helluva long book!) As a cookbook author, one has to decide with each book that readers have a certain level of knowledge. Or not. In one of my books, I was once asked if when I said, “Butter a cake pan” that meant “The inside, or the outside?” So sometimes, I need to be more specific than I think. (Although I saw a 3-page recipe in a US cookbook for standard brownies, which was overkill.) Perhaps devices could be geared to various levels of cooks for the same recipes, but I agree that devices like the Qooq are limited because you can only use their recipes. And who knows if they’re any good?

    Natalia: One thing good about these e-readers is that books that were previously unavailable in other countries now can be acquired in seconds. Book distribution is cumbersome and expensive, especially overseas. So I think time will tell if these e-readers really do change people’s buying habits on a global scale.

  • I look at blogs and like yours for inspiration and sometimes follow the recipes (and have my laptop in the kitchen even with caramel spitting), but I would never have bought your books have it not been for discovering it on your blog – so I think the two feed each other.

    I use my iphone for shopping lists, for converting foreign measurements and looking up ingredients I don’t know, but since the the internet I’ve bought more books and cooking books than ever before thanks to having a whole world library so easily accessible from amazon and abe etc. Also you can’t really compare reading Elizabeth David’s rants on the quality of flours in bed with some random blogger who is dabbling with her first cupcake recipe and feels the urge to document it to the whole world…

    ps. I think free (with ads) sites work better.

  • Bonne Annee, David!
    The only device I would consider as a valid substitute for (my beloved and tactile) cookbooks is the Amazon Kindle…but in color. If the new Apple tablet were similar and large, I’d consider that also. I have an i-Pod Touch, but the screen and text is just too tiny to use in a kitchen.
    The owner of Amazon, and inventor of the Kindle, was on Martha Stewart recently. Martha said she loved the Kindle, but would not consider allowing any of her cookbooks (with photos) to be released as ‘Kindle editions’ until the Kindle is available in color! Bravo, Martha. Per Amazon, color technology is in the works.
    I wish I could say I am cutting edge when it comes to technology, but my real motivation is SPACE. I have so many cookbooks that I have to purge a few every few months, so electronic storage would be great. That’s not to say I wouldn’t sneak off to PRINT recipes for use in the kitchen! I’ll always love an old-fashioned, book in-hand…no matter what.
    PS: David, you deserve big $$$$ for your blog! It’s just fabulous…packed with great recipes, great information, and lots of laughs!

  • I use both my iPod Touch and an HPMini netbook as ways to get easy access online recipes (from blogs or recipe sites like Epicurious) on my countertop. For that reason, devices like the Qooq don’t interest me at all, while applications that allow me to use my existing technology to access recipes (or just avoid killing trees to print out something I’m likely to only cook once) seem appealing.

  • Thanks for bringing up such a relevant topic. From conversations with other cookbook connoisseurs, I’m convinced that the passion and enthusiasm for cookbooks will never be replaced by technology. Food is tactile, not technical.

    You have a fantastic blog!

  • one day the technology will eat us XDD

    I love your blog :D

  • So honored to be included here! Thank you David.The Vook was fun to do — we shot all 16 videos in a single day! I’m glad to get the Breakaway Japanese Kitchen out into the world in this format, since the book is completely sold out and ridiculously expensive in used form. My next book — a vegetarian book — will have tons of video in it as well. Still on the fence in deciding whether or not to even bother printing it at all, it might just live in digital format only.

    Keep up the great work! This is a delightful blog in every way.

  • Hi Eric: Thanks for your message~Another good thing is that with e-books, you don’t have to worry about books going out of print, which happens for a variety of reasons. With e-books, they’re always in stock and always available at a reasonable price. So your Breakaway Japanese Kitchen book could live on in eternity, as it deserves to.

    Congratulations on being a pioneer and good luck with the next video project!

  • I think we’ll all end up in tablet land eventually (even if we retain printed editions), so here’s what I want:

    Hyper-linked recipe text: a specific word (e.g., an ingredient or technique) can be linked to a wiki-like definition, an image, or video (particularly useful where it’s an involved technique or shows you how to select an ingredient). If you already know the word or technique — you wouldn’t bother clicking.

    Searchable recipes, based on ingredients: when I go to the farmer’s market and find something irresistible, find me a recipe that showcases that ingredient. I could expand my repetoire, shop seasonally and look for the best ingredients, rather than falling back into my comfort zone of tried-and-true recipes.

    Scalable recipes: If I’m cooking for 3 or 7 people, convert the ingredient list and offer some guidance about cooking time (which might be imprecise, but perhaps better than a blind guess). Too many times, I’ve tried to convert 1.5 times of a recipe and botched the math.

    Integrate flavor pairing profiles (such as from the Flavor Bible) so I can replace some of the flavorings/ingredients to create a completely different dish, but there’s a reasonable chance it will still be tasty. It may not always make sense to transform what was an Asian stir fry into a Mexican-inspired burrito filling , but it could be fun to try. I’ve used the Flavor Bible to modify recipes successfully, but an e-cookbook could be linked to a flavor pairing database: click an ingredient in the recipe and substitutions or additions could be offered.

    Well, that’s a start…

  • I think tablets will be quite common by 2020, considering the time it took the iPod to go from exclusive (2001) to ubiquitous (for a couple years now). They just make sense. I think the content that drives tablet use at first will be popular bestsellers, whereas cookbooks are definitely more special.

    My mom has had some of her cookbooks, some passed down from her mother, for over 40 years. They’ve spent that time soaking up the smells of the kitchen, and no tablet could really replace that. It could still provide a recipe to follow, but it’s not going to be that special artifact that a cookbook or collection of recipe clippings can be.

  • While I do not currently own a Kindle, its on my wish list. I feel, for recreational reading, e-readers make purchasing and reading books much more convenient for me.

    However, for cookbooks, I still love buying physical books. As many commenters have already expressed, thumbing through a cookbook, earmarking “to try” recipes, and jotting down notes makes the art of cooking and baking that much more enjoyable to me. Not to mention the badge of honor that a well-loved cookbook develops over time.

    I came across an interesting article today that is along the same vein. In a nutshell, it states that printing the NY Times costs almost twice as much as it would to send every subscriber a free Kindle (Business Insider). Who is to say if these technological advances will mean the ultimate end of print media. I think it will take a long time to get there. But as you touched on in your post, I agree that these traditional types of print media are going to need to rethink their model of doing business.

  • for cooking, i think a cook book is a better solution than an electronic device. imagine spilling something on your kindle! having said that, i got a hankering to bake some cookies and recalled a recipe i’d seen on a website and was able to pull it up on my blackberry and forge ahead with the recipe right there in my kitchen. but generally, give me a good ol’ paper book everytime.

  • Never thought I would fashion this opinion, because I am a “print” graphic designer and my husband is a print production manager for a large university. Switching to design of web sites would have been smart for me, but did not do it and now I am retired…he continues to work. Print has been our bread and butter, and I will never stop buying books and magazines, but digital is a sweet alternative.

    Think a flat, small digital “slate” would fit my likes. I “read” cookbooks and magazines, but gravitate to the internet for new recipes and for quick ideas…THEN print out what I want. If I had a small “slate” device, however, I would find them on the net (even old recipes like snickerdoodles), store the recipes, pull them from archives, and cook reading from the “slate” lying on the counter.

    Books and magazines are a passion of mine (love to hold them), but the internet is so “neat”. By that, I mean tidy, uncluttered. I have no piles of paper (magazines, books) around, except what I print out. Thus, I would enjoy a small device near me as I cook. Oh, yes, please make it impervious to splashes and drips.