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Old 09-10-2007, 12:47 PM   #1
kilohertz53
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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?
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Old 09-10-2007, 02:19 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kilohertz53 View Post
When ebooks are truly mass market, will it still be fun?
It's not a matter of being a niche market. It's that we like our reading devices and the things they bring to us like the ability to have lots of books onhand, a small size, a given weight, no need to lug around some big heave hardcover book, and while the wow factor may be gone, the practical reasons will still exist.

And to answer the question ... yes it will still be fun. I didn't purchase my reader for the wow factor. I purchased it to actually read ebooks. I've wanted a device to read ebooks, but did not want some sort of palm/PDA.
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Old 09-10-2007, 02:29 PM   #3
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I think it's a good comparison. I personally don't think we'll see ebooks really take off until we have multifunction devices that are easy enough on the eyes and have long enough battery life to function as good ebook readers -- bibliophiles who love reading enough to buy a device especially for the purpose just aren't common enough to support a whole industry. But the day will come.

I remember fondly my first C64. Life as a computer geek is different now than it was then, but still fun.
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Old 09-10-2007, 02:29 PM   #4
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I hope you don't mind, kilohertz53, but I thought this one deserved Front Page exposure.
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Old 09-10-2007, 04:50 PM   #5
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Well, if nothing else, in the future we could always sit around and talk about the "good ole days" when it was actual work to get a decent ebook/ebook reader rather than everything being so easy. Not quite cutting-down-a-tree sorta work, but I've spent a fair amount of time having to learn the conversion stuff, testing, loading, reloading, etc.

Of course I am kidding, because I look forward to when everything will be easy. I do think we have a little while before that happens. But it will happen. I hope.
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Old 09-10-2007, 04:59 PM   #6
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As with many things, there can be fun in uniqueness... I think a lot of e-book users feel that way now, and it's a lot like the way you feel when you get the hot new cellphone, for example. But eventually, that RAZR becomes just "your phone," and uniqueness is replaced by utility... now it's fun because it works so well for you.

E-books are like that: At some point, they will cease to be "unique." But if they work well thanks to standardization, a wide range of reading choices, and the many advantages of digital data, they will still be fun.
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Old 09-10-2007, 05:09 PM   #7
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aww shucks you mean I have to go back to actually reading the darn things again!
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Old 09-10-2007, 05:48 PM   #8
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The initial post in this thread made me chuckle. I well remember those early days of computing. My first encounter with a computer was in 1977 and t was the size of the average office photocopier. We flew a rocket to the moon (and crashed it) all in text and thought it was sensational. Then in 1986 we bought an Amstrad, very few commercial games available, but lots of magazines with code which needed to be manually typed in and then debugged. Yet we had great fun with it and yes, we then joined an Amstrad users group which has now evolved and still runs as a computer users group. And the debates then about which system was best were just as heated as the current debates about which reader system is best. NOW, well my computer is merely a tool that I use to stay in touch with the world and to edit and display my photographs.

As for my reader, well I am older now and really, I just want to be able to download books and read, so I will be very pleased when the technology makes it possible for me to download any book that I might want.

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Old 09-10-2007, 06:17 PM   #9
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i am amazed at how many people buy dedicated ebook reading devices. for me, that is just not "efficient" enough, i want it all in my pants
phone, organizer, reader etc.

anyhow, what i wanted to mention was that a while back, i was doing some research for my girlfriend (now wife) in the ebook sector. i've been reading a bit with mobipocket on my symbian device, and discovered the IRC channel #ebooks. it was the day the 5th harry potter book was released, and i was documenting the "dark side" of the internet and basically could see the progress of a russian group of scanners and proofers converting the real harry potter book to ebook format (took them about 6 hours to scan+proof+deliver)

the IRC is basically a chat network, but people have programmed "robots" to pretend to be chat partners, but you can control them with commands and get them to send you stuff.
now in this #ebooks channel, you obviously got ebooks, mostly in TXT, RTF and LIT format.

the interesting thing was, that there were about 2 requests per second (!!), each request resulting in one of those "robots" to send the requested ebook to the requesting chat person.

i believe there are more than this one #ebook channel around, but after i witnessed this i am convinved that ebooks are the future. there are so many books , and slowly but surely people are starting to see the advantage of not using paper.
sure, there are the die-hard "i must feel the texture of a book" and "the smells are part of the reading experience" nut out there, but mostly people just cannot grasp the concept of reading ebooks. they think it's cuddling with a laptop and a pdf document.
show them a smartphone, a palm, a pocketpc, and they realize, it actually IS legible. so i believe the "underground" IRC scene shows that people want digital books, and it won't be long until the ebook is as much a factor in the book world as mp3 is in the music business.

hmmm, i also think this is my first post here. so "hi" to y'all as well
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Old 09-10-2007, 06:25 PM   #10
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Welcome, mores! Always nice to hear from a familiar voice! (Gotta get back to my Flash editing... )
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Old 09-10-2007, 06:48 PM   #11
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Welcome to MobileRead, mores!

And thanks for that very interesting insight on the e-book scene. I hadn't encountered the robo-chat distribution method before, intriguing idea.
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Old 09-10-2007, 08:16 PM   #12
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My Favorite T-Shirt Says, "Geeks Are Hot."

I loved the first thread too - my first Commodore 64 was delivered in a bright shinny box when I was eight years old. I remember trying to wrestle my brother for a turn at the keyboard. It was our only real fight as kids - and it was about technology.

I will still fight for my toys. My myriad of eBook readers are MINE. I don't share , even now. I too feel like I sort of belong to a special club because I know something that most people don't know. But, while I won't share my devices... I love to share my enthusiasm.

It makes me gleeful when I convert an Ink on Dead Trees reader... and not only if they shop at my eBookstore. I'll be happy to see the eBook industry go mass market... and not only if they shop at my eBookstore. It'll just be cool to say, "I helped start something. I cut myself on the bleeding edge of technology and it was for a worthy cause."

I'm just glad that I wasn't a die-hard geek in the days of the whole BETA-VHS controversy... I would've been so depressed.
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Old 09-10-2007, 08:19 PM   #13
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Yep, that's the darknet. We don't talk about it much here, but there are a lot of ebooks flying around out there. I don't know what people are reading them on-- that would make an interesting study, if you could get people to participate. Probably mostly PDA type devices. They are often pretty badly formatted, with lots of typos from OCR, but still, they are intelligible.
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Old 09-11-2007, 03:58 AM   #14
HarryT
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mores View Post
i am amazed at how many people buy dedicated ebook reading devices. for me, that is just not "efficient" enough, i want it all in my pants
phone, organizer, reader etc.
Trouble is, though, that the requirements of different devices are contradictory. Most people want a small phone, but a large-screen book reader. It's not a case of "one size fits all". I read for many years on a PDA, but now I have an iLiad with an 8" eInk screen, I'd never go back to reading on a PDA except for the most occasional use.

Perhaps device "convergence" may become practical when we can carry around a small device which has a large screen which "unrolls" from it, but we're still a couple of years away from that.
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Old 09-11-2007, 05:39 AM   #15
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Is age profile another factor in the slooow rise of the ebook reader? The MP3 players are targeted at a youth market. Music is cool in a way books aren't. Judging by the reminiscences above we are mostly an over thirties, over forties crowd. That might have some influence on the investment companies are prepared to make at this stage.
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