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Old 06-02-2011, 12:20 PM   #1
Prestidigitweeze
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*Steampunk* Coiner Predicts the Death of eReaders

Science fiction writer K.W. Jeter, who coined the term steampunk and whom Philip K. Dick (twice Jeter's age) cited as an influence, writes a blog in which he predicts that eReaders are on the way out, and that mobi will become the dominant standard:

http://steamwords.wordpress.com/2011...-yet-but-soon/

A few quotes:

"I love my Kindle; I think it’s one of the neatest consumer electronics products ever devised. . . . And in general, I’m a fan of 'mono-devices,' i.e., devices that do one thing, and do it well, and at an attractive price point.

"That being said, . . . as the prices of tablets come down and the form-factor aspects improve, this is where the ereading market will migrate to.

"IMO, the practical takeaway from that development, for writers self-publishing ebooks, is that Amazon wins, and its ebook format (or the 2.0 version of it) becomes the standard. Amazon has the vastly larger market share for ebooks, the content, and the bankroll. Whatever promotion Barnes & Noble does to push the Nook ereader, Amazon can counter it with its own promotions. B&N doesn’t have that kind of firepower, plus it’s still saddling itself with red ink-generating bricks-&-mortar stores. Whatever promotion B&N does to supposedly lure people into the stores and download ebooks there, Amazon can match or better it on-line.

"Which means, also IMO, self-publishing writers will feel less and less compulsion to publish to formats other than Kindle (meaning the handheld Kindle and Kindle for PC, Kindle for Mac, Kindle for the iPad, and whatever other tablets are out there)."

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Old 06-02-2011, 12:34 PM   #2
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If you look at it as B&N vs Amazon, yeah Mobi would look like the clear winner, but the thing is, it isn't that clear cut.

And yeah, I think dedicated readers will eventually die out, because if you look at things in the long run, that is always how it is. Who uses a calculator anymore? Outside of school, most people use computers, cellphones, etc. General purpose devices always win out in the long run, because to the unwashed masses they're "good enough".
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Old 06-02-2011, 12:46 PM   #3
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If you look at it as B&N vs Amazon, yeah Mobi would look like the clear winner, but the thing is, it isn't that clear cut.
On the one hand, I do think Jeter's looking at it from an overly American-identified POV, hence the reduction of the market to those two stores. He might be doing that as the side-effect of his personal experience with the Kindle and its attendant marketplace (where eBook editions of two of his books are in fact available).

On the other hand, he's smart enough to be conscious of those limitations, demonstrably decent at predictions, and quite invested in understanding culture in the rest of the world. I think he's not wrong to reduce the diversity of even the world market to its most boolean tendencies.

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General purpose devices always win out in the long run, because to the unwashed masses they're "good enough".
Words to live by, Hellmark.
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Old 06-02-2011, 12:50 PM   #4
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General purpose devices always win out in the long run, because to the unwashed masses they're "good enough".
The great unwashed are the ones buying all the books? I thought it was people that actually care about reading.
Eventually there will be a merging of ereaders and tablets but the screen tech has got to dramatically improve first before I'll be reading on one.
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Old 06-02-2011, 01:00 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Hellmark View Post
General purpose devices always win out in the long run, because to the unwashed masses they're "good enough".
That's only true if they possess the same qualities, by and large, as the specialist devices. Calculators may be a bad example; if I need plotting, equation solving and the rest of the advanced stuff I use my computer, while for a simple addition my cell phone will do. The middle ground is really small here. Even so, dedicated devices exist, and cheaply at that.

Why should that be any different with ereaders? I can read epubs on my cell phone, if I must, but I don't enjoy it. Ereaders have superior displaying capabilities and battery life. General purpose devices will have to address these issues first.
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Old 06-02-2011, 01:01 PM   #6
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I would say more people are buying on their iphones and the like, than with dedicated readers. Most people don't read that many books, at least not enough to make buying a $100-$150 reader worthwhile. They may read a handful of books a year, and for those occasions, I'll stand by my statement that they think a general purpose device is "good enough"
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Old 06-02-2011, 03:06 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by bZkindle View Post
The great unwashed are the ones buying all the books?
Youth is wasted on the young.

Throughout much of my lifetime, anyone who read Science Fiction, Fantasy, or Romance not only was part of the unwashed - they were in fact so tainted by the very act that there could never be any thought of redemption.

So by definition, yeah, many of us here are the great unwashed. There was a thread devoted to this some time ago.
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Old 06-02-2011, 03:34 PM   #8
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And yeah, I think dedicated readers will eventually die out,
Maybe so, but I certainly hope not. Multi-function = multi-glitch. I won't be making the leap to a Tablet (or anything like a Tablet) anytime soon--if ever. And I'm certainly not going to read on a device with a backlit screen less than 6" like a cell-phone. As for who might eventually win the format war... I just don't care.
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Old 06-02-2011, 03:38 PM   #9
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People are looking at Hellmark's Unlaundered Despecialization Curve (as it will suddenly be defined in Wikipedia) too inductively. The point isn't unwashed = illiteracy. It's that Swiss army knives beat beautifully made single-purpose pocket knives in the consumer market.

Any hypersensitive person can reduce any subject to elitism vs. populism, but how interesting is that ultimately? You can fisk every statement for signs of snobbery in a state of perpetual suspicion or you can rise above intellectual and anti-intellectual snobbery and try, as I'm trying, to look at what's in front of us. If you or I prove mistaken, sobeit. But let's have fun guessing together regardless.
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Old 06-02-2011, 03:47 PM   #10
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Oh, I hope not.

I like .epub and the fact that you can get it from so many different places and put it on so many different devices. It was my second criterion in choosing an ereader 6 months ago, and the reason why I ended up not getting a Kindle.


As for the general use vs. dedicated use, I'm with the ones that are for having several different devices do their job well, rather than one that does it all but worse.

I have an iPod for my music and audiobooks, my Reader for my books, my (mom's) camera for pictures and my Blackberry for phone calls. Even though my smart phone is capable of taking pictures and playing music and I can read books on it, all of those things it does worse then their designated devices, and I dislike it. So I walk around with several gadgets in my bag, even though many people have said "Why carry all that when you have a phone that can do it all?"
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Old 06-02-2011, 04:04 PM   #11
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Any hypersensitive person can reduce any subject to elitism vs. populism, but how interesting is that ultimately? You can fisk every statement for signs of snobbery in a state of perpetual suspicion or you can rise above intellectual and anti-intellectual snobbery and try, as I'm trying, to look at what's in front of us. If you or I prove mistaken, sobeit. But let's have fun guessing together regardless.
Fine. I'm guessing that I'd like dedicated ereaders to survive for quite a few more years. No snobbery, no elitism, just honest-to-god straight-up preference.

But for the sake of conversation; yes... I believe dedicated ereaders will survive for quite a while yet. Because I don't think eInk (or similar low-power consumption screen technologies) are suddenly going to be completely abandoned in favor of the same old back-lit LCD screens used in tablets and cell-phones. And since the new screen technologies are not ready (feasible or what have you) for devices that need fast refresh rates for video and other applications--not to mention the lighting issues--I don't think I need worry about the dedicated ereader's obsolescense just yet.

So yes... while I think that eventually a screen technology will come along that will bridge the divide between Game/Apps and plain-old book reading requirements, I don't think I'll be watching a hi-def youtube video on an iPad-like device in full sunlight anytime soon.
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Old 06-02-2011, 04:11 PM   #12
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I don't think anyone here is disputing the value of a dedicated reader -- Jeter professes his love for his Kindle in the very first post. It's not about our conforming to a reductive future but rather guessing what the future will do with or without us.

I think it's likely that eInk might linger for another few years, but not with the same level of focus on advancing the tech.

I still have a fifteen-year-old ADAT recorder at home and a clasic Neve EQ module that was decades old when I bought it. That doesn't mean a significant market share cares about using those pieces of old and specialized tech. Or perhaps some smaller or niche companies will pick up where Sony, Amazon and B&N leave off. We'll all become eInk purists, the tech-reading equivalent of audiophiles or people who hoard old typewriters, minidiscs, Stax headspeakers or two-inch reel-to-reels.

If we're lucky, someone will start a reader specialty repair site that changes internal batteries and replaces cracked Pearl screens: Vintage e-Ink.

Even so, Diap, I'm secretly hoping you're right. I really wanted a Mirasol reader with a fast processor and a switchable backlight. Kill me with cool variables, Korea!

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Old 06-02-2011, 04:29 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by Prestidigitweeze
I think it's likely that eInk might linger of another few years, but not with the same level of focus on advancing the tech.
So you think the focus will just go back to LCD? LED/LCD? Or do you think there will be Grand Unified technology that allows people to read for long periods of time on a backlit screens with no eye-fatigue AND watch Youtube videos in full sunlight?
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Old 06-02-2011, 04:31 PM   #14
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Multi-purpose devices ALWAYS win out in the end.

That's why we got rid of our big screen TV once we were able to stream Netflix to our 6" tablet computer.

Oh, wait...

In all seriousness, I do like multi-function devices, but the idea that multi-function trumps all is, I think, a fallacy. Unless LCD screens are going to suddenly become as glare-resistance as e-Ink, the dedicated e-Ink devices will always exist for the beach crowd, which is good for the e-Ink purists. (Cue Kindle commercial: "I paid more for these sunglasses!" )

The bottom line is that if a multi-purpose device is going to put a single-function device out of business, it has to duplicate ALL the functions.

And even then, how many people on Mobile Read complain that tablets "distract" them from reading? I see that every day. And then there's the battery issue - people in MY corner of the world still buy dedicated MP3 players because listening to music all day on your phone will leave you with a dead battery after a few hours.

I don't see e-Ink going away any time soon as it has too many advantages over the multi-function devices. But I don't blame some guy sitting at his computer for not thinking of beaches and battery life - you tend not to notice those things until they suddenly become a major issue. And then you buy an e-Ink reader.
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Old 06-02-2011, 04:35 PM   #15
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Fine. I'm guessing that I'd like dedicated ereaders to survive for quite a few more years. No snobbery, no elitism, just honest-to-god straight-up preference.

But for the sake of conversation; yes... I believe dedicated ereaders will survive for quite a while yet. Because I don't think eInk (or similar low-power consumption screen technologies) are suddenly going to be completely abandoned in favor of the same old back-lit LCD screens used in tablets and cell-phones. And since the new screen technologies are not ready (feasible or what have you) for devices that need fast refresh rates for video and other applications--not to mention the lighting issues--I don't think I need worry about the dedicated ereader's obsolescense just yet.

So yes... while I think that eventually a screen technology will come along that will bridge the divide between Game/Apps and plain-old book reading requirements, I don't think I'll be watching a hi-def youtube video on an iPad-like device in full sunlight anytime soon.
See, thats the thing, I don't think that eInk will go anywhere, but rather be improved to the point that it gets used in more mainstream devices.
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