E-Books, Still a Niche Hobby?
When I look at the state of ebooks and ebook reader hardware today, I am reminded of the good old days when dinosaurs roamed the earth and people with an interest in technology bought Apple IIs, TRS-80s, Timex-Sinclairs, Commodore 64s, and various other, mutually incompatible computer systems. To get the most out of these systems, many of us joined up with local fellow enthusiasts in computer user groups devoted to each system. The closest thing we all had to the internet then were local bulletin boards and Compuserve accessed over a 300-baud dial-up modem, so it was easier to meet up in person once a month to demonstrate new hardware and software, exchange tricks and tips, and generally help each other troubleshoot any computer problems. It was the golden age of the computer hobbyist. Then hardware and operating systems got standardized and computers became ubiquitous and fairly easy to use. Having a home computer was no longer special, and most user groups faded away. It was fun while it lasted.
MobileRead is like a world-wide, 24/7 virtual user group for people with a keen interest in reading digital books on various mutually incompatible e-reading devices. We spend a lot of time speculating about the future of e-reading and helping one another out with systems, software, and conversion tools. It's a nice online community. When ebooks become standard and universal, and the market for e-reading devices is dominated by one or two big players, e-reading will lose its hobby status and most of the MobileRead forums will become obsolete. When ebooks are truly mass market, will it still be fun?