More than a decade ago, while working in the computer hardware industry, I saw some data on the trajectory of screen resolution and capacities for the future.
Many pundits were saying that screens as good as paper were coming very soon, but one smart futurist showed us a graph of memory and processor capacities, the number of pixels and resolutions of display materials and just what it would take to have screens that weren’t a strain on eyes and cheap enough to be ubiquitously available.
The DATE for his chart where all of this came together was 2010.
Recent announcement of Apple’s iPad, improvements in Amazon Kindle devices and a multitude of other readers confirm what we’ve known is coming… That feeling that books are a better way to read is going to start fading away.
You may be like the hundreds of authors and readers I’ve talked to over the past decade who claim that they will never enjoy reading on a computer as much as holding a book. Culturally, that makes sense. We’ve had decades of lousy screens and centuries of wonderful books.
Book aren’t going away anytime soon. However, every author should get ready for a much more rapid growth in eBook and alternative electronic distribution.
We’ve been advising clients to get an eBook reader, try out the technologies.. see where the clash among format, digital rights management, hardware vendors and publisher is moving. Feel for yourself where the market is going.
One of the last big hurdles has been the complaint that you don’t get to own a hard cover book when you purchase an eBook.. and must rely on the storage system that too often breaks down.
That’s changing too.
Watch what Calibre Ebook Management Software has to offer.
I suggest downloading a copy to manage all those downloads you can’t find on your hard drive. You may still not ever read them, but just watching this video, I could see real progress from the tools I was using just a few years back.
Apple got us all using MP3 when they got the iPod right.. Maybe they will do this for books.. maybe not.
What do you think?
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I think this whole issue of real vs. ebooks is generational. For those of us who grew up with just books (not even a twinkle of the ebook concept in our eye), the idea of no physical books is an anathema. However, for the generations that grew up learning to read by playing video games and such, the evolution is not as hard- nor even a true evolution. They are already here! But as a small, independent publisher, we have to go with the flow to remain successful, and ebooks it is! That is what is so cool about human nature- we can change.
The difference has been generational to date. New readers will make it possible for old folks to use them too
I love my Sony Reader. I am an avid reader, and I definitely can't purchase any more physical books without purging from my physical library. The other thing that I like about the Reader is that it makes books more disposable. That is better than it sounds; I now feel more comfortable purchasing enjoyable 'trash' reads knowing that it will not cause a further space issue in my physical house. I am actually purchasing more eBooks that I ever purchased books. And when I find a book I truly cherish and love, I purchase a physical copy for my library.
In terms of the Ipad, I was disappointed. It promised to be a great device for book reading, but ended up with a backlight and no memory. That is a serious issue for people like me who, on a day off, will read a book in one sitting. And for people like me who have about 300 books on their Reader. The Ipad will be a great device for disposable multimedia publications like magazines, newspapers and websites. It can show pictures and content, but that content must be short lived and disposable because of the memory problem and LACK OF A USB SLOT. The device seems to be built for an audience and content that do not yet exists, magazines and newspapers aren’t multimedia heavy enough to really take advantage. What I am saying is there isn’t the MP3 equivalent for this device. Also, the Ipod had an ‘audience’ in music listeners; who identifies themselves as the audience for the Ipad? The whole concept is ill conceived which is surprising for Apple.
You are right.. the experience of reading on an electronic device gets better every year. I tell those who doubt to get a Kindle, and read a full book with the intention of returning the device if it isn't a wonderful experience.
Turns out most of the people saying “I will never give up my books” have never tried a modern reader.
Granted, they still don't look good on paper.. hundreds of dollars for a little device that you need to budget 50 books to pay for?
(above paragraph said by almost all non-users.. including ME, just before I bought my first Kindle)
You are so right Warren!
People CAN adapt more quickly than they realize now. We're a family of bookaholics, but we have been on an open ended, non-stop world tour since 2006, so obviously we had to find solutions even though we brought more physical books than anything (partly because we are educating our child as we roam the world & she is a voracious reader).
I'm in my 50's, about as far away from a Geek as one can get and never even owned a laptop until we took off in 06. We still love physical books, but have also fallen in love with e-books and e-libraries. (By pure luck we brought our library cards & we happened to belong to innovators in this area).
Even my 82 year old mother who had never owned or wanted a computer before we left has adapted easily!
Just based on our experience, I think the transition even for non-digital natives will go quickly.
So true. The people who argue about this usually haven't even tried it themselves 🙂
When you said:
“One of the last big hurdles has been the complaint that you don’t get to own a hard cover book when you purchase an eBook.. and must rely on the storage system that too often breaks down.
That’s changing too.”
What did you mean by that? What are the changes?
Did you mean “watch the calibre video to learn more about said changes”?
I don't think there is that much of a problem with storage breaking… you can have online backup of everything.
Did you watch the video and try Calibre?
I've tried to comment but I don't believe it got through.
Kept asking for valid email address. I entered it but it kept asking.
Myrna Caudill, http://www.myrnarcaudill.com
Cold Case Fallout
I wee your comment about trying to comment.. looks like you got it right.
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I'm not even sure the generational gap is that big an issue. It may be an issue in determining how quickly paper books become just a minority of published books, but I have actually met a number of people eligible for Medicare who swear by their kindles. I don't think it is going to be a serious issue holding ebooks back. I say this as someone who is a technophile but has not quite pulled the trigger on an e-reader yet. My reasoning is simple – I will not pay $10 or more to “rent” a book, so until they address the DRM issue to my satisfaction (at a bare minimum I want to see a $%#ing standard from everyone) , I would only only books under $5 range. I still may buy a kindle just to read the growing body of very cheap ebooks out there.
Regarding the IPad, I have to agree that it is ridiculous as far as being an e-reader, both in price and design. I think Apple is gambling that people will buy it for other reasons besides reading books and then start reading books on it because they already have the device. I honestly don't know if the non-book features are compelling enough to make it a big hit – they might very well be. They aren't the kind of features that interest me for the most part, so I cannot judge.
the iPad is just a giant iPod Touch.. new feature evolutionary.
We are getting closer to alternatives besting books. I have not seen any credible research that price point is the determining factor. The trend is easy to see, the tipping point where new tech takes over is not so clear
Thanks for the comment.
J.A. Konrath's experience is sure suggestive that price is a determining factor, and to me it's very logical that content would wind up being cheaper than $10 (a complex topic on which I've blogged before). However, I don't think anyone knows for sure (and yes there is no “credible research” pointing to either side), so you may be right. I wasn't suggesting that my own personal likes and dislikes were shared by others – I am pretty certain that DRM alone will not be a sticking point for the vast majority of readers. I totally agree with you that ebooks and readers are poised to take off, and there isn't much standing in the way – a lack of uniformity (beyond DRM) will hinder it somewhat, but a defacto standard will likely evolve soon. I don't see it being based on kindle or IPad, however.
After talking with a few hundred Kindle users, I found that my experience was about average. All the price and tech issues go away once you read one book. Once a user commits to finish one book, the other factors fade away. It just works
Incredible software – this does make having a collection of ebooks viable and manageable.
I was “playing with” the Nook today at Barns and Noble – nice, especially the big type 🙂
Looks like some great potential to me.
Most readers have font adjustment. Is there anything else that makes you choose Nook over Kindle, iPad or others?
I like the colored covers – I think Kindle now is able to read pdf books too.
Probably because I was able to hold a Nook in my hand in the store – and the Kindle I can only see a photo.
I love the calibre software!
when we are looking at the colors, we are mainstream.. cool.
I'm already there and have been for a while — since my first Palm device (about 2002 or 2003). Looking forward to where this technology is going.
I just checked in my EVO (Android) phone using the new Kindle reader. Like the books scattered around my office and home, the ebook devices and audio players are all cued to something different all the time. I can't imagine just picking one 🙂
They all have something good. I'm hoping for an iPhone someday (love having multiple uses for one gizmo, rather than carrying a bunch of them around).