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Old 04-27-2007, 01:22 AM   #1
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E-books are "bound to fail"

According to an interesting article on ComputerWorld, e-books are apparently bound to fail. It's a thought-provoking article, that does bring up some interesting, but not terribly uncommon points. For example, a fair number of people do just like the feel of a paper book. To be honest, I'm one of them. But I disagree with them being headed towards mainstream failure...

While they may not be able to replace paper novels completely, they can almost certainly replace newspapers, many magazines, and even some internet use, once the hardware and software systems develop a little more. Instead of the paper delivered to your door, it's automatically sent to your e-book reader. Instead of your magazine getting half-shredded and read by the mail workers, it's sent directly to your (preferably colour, for a magazine) e-book reader. And of course there's also the obvious applications for reference libraries. You wouldn't want to curl up with a 10-pound medical reference text book anyway.

While no, an e-book reader may never be able to truly replace a paperback novel for many, it can almost certainly replace other sorts of less permanent documents, such as newspapers and magazines, and is absolutely perfect for replacing large reference volumes, making them easy to search without a 200-page index.

Perhaps 'e-book reader' is just too misleading a name, as these are at least as well suited - if not better - to non-book written material. I highly doubt the e-book reader will ever disappear, and I honestly believe these could replace everything I noted. References, like encyclopedias, probably in only 5-10 years, and completely replacing newspapers and magazines in, perhaps, 10-15 years.

Of course such predictions of time frames are wildly inaccurate. Don't yell at me if it happens next year, or fifty years from now.

(Edit: I just ran into this interesting thread, which definitely touches on how e-readers could replace the hard-copy newspaper and magazines.)
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Old 04-27-2007, 03:37 AM   #2
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ComputerWorld said: "In other words, e-books are not, and cannot be, superior to what they are designed to replace". So who claimed that e-books are going to replace p-books? If you start out with the wrong premise, you are bound to come to the wrong conclusion. Just another clueless editor who has nothing better to do than to proclaim the end of the world.
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Old 04-27-2007, 07:36 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Elgan
So many predictions about the future have failed because futurists tend to overemphasize the possible over the desirable. They give too much weight to technology and not enough to human nature.
Well said, Mike.

Other such predictions:
  1. The paperback book will never be good for anything but smut.
  2. MP3s won't catch on because of their inferior sound quality to CDs.
  3. CDs will never catch on because of their inferior sound quality to LPs.
  4. Man will never be able to type on anything smaller than a standard keyboard.
  5. Man will never be able to survive travelling at speeds in excess of 30mph.
  6. No colony will ever declare independence from its mother country.
  7. The automobile will never replace the horse and cart.
  8. Man will never fly.
  9. Man will never escape the Earth.
  10. Mankind will only ever need 3 computers.

Unfortunately, too many "futurists" tend to make absolute assumptions based on subjective data.

E-books have failed to "catch on" simply due to a lack of a compelling marketing program. They have a long way to go to improve, in battery life, display quality, price, and standardization... all of those things will be accomplished.

People will see the value of carrying their entire library of books, magazines, newspapers, comic books and graphic novels in their hand, absolutely anywhere they might go.

That's all, folks.

Last edited by Steven Lyle Jordan; 04-27-2007 at 09:46 AM.
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Old 04-27-2007, 09:17 AM   #4
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One thing I've learned over the years is that "There is no one perfect solution for anything" (You can quote me )
Most of the time, what works best is always a combination of moves, processes or devices. Going from a 'one solution' to a 'multiple solutions' is always seen as a trauma of some sorts. The human brain is better than that. If it is well prepared, it can handle anything. The expression 'Thinking out of the box' is the best example.

I love reading. When the computer came out it was a new way of doing it. When mobile devices promised the same thing, great! I'm in!
I can't wait for the next step! Three dimensional words standing in front of me as I move? A series of screens remotely controlled from a device attached to me as I move around?
"Whatever will multiply my capacity to enjoy reading is welcome". That is the motto of a true reader.

The ebook will never replace the paper book, it will always complement it. This is true of every artistic media also.
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Old 04-27-2007, 10:40 AM   #5
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One factor not often mentioned is plain old human stodginess. We tend to like what we are used to unless there is an overwhelming reason to change. With e books, for the most part, the reasons to change have not been overwhelming. Having said that, there are some areas, such as travel and heavy texts, where the reason to change can be overwhelming. Once a new generation becomes used to e books for those uses, the stodgy factor will diminish and e books will likely succeed. The bad news: this may take 20 years.
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Old 04-27-2007, 11:11 AM   #6
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Can anyone say "Who Moved My Cheese?"

BTW I love the list of things that weren't supposed to ever catch on. Nice!
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Old 04-27-2007, 04:34 PM   #7
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One thing ebooks will never do... wipe my b..t! Paper is so unpure!
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Old 04-27-2007, 09:18 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by yvanleterrible
One thing ebooks will never do... wipe my b..t! Paper is so unpure!
that's why we had sears' catalogs.

remember when nobody would ever want a computer in their homes?

ebooks are going to come even if most people don't want them. the cost of paper, ink and distribution will get too high. would you pay $35 for a pulp paperback?
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Old 04-27-2007, 09:35 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CCDMan
this may take 20 years.
Not necessarily. You might be thinking if it like our esteemed article author when he brought up the thought that people don't want to get their entertainment on screens. ("Curl up with a screen" I think. I would have to reread it.)

In this regard he is already wrong since the last few years has seen an immense surge of screens for all aspects of life. Even more true with those whippersnappers with their "PSDStindos" and "video-peapods".

It doesn't seem that the problem will be people don't want to read from a screen (assuming the screen is as clear as type) but that there is a generation coming up that, well, has very little REASON to read with their current lifestlyes and so most of the sales will continue to be based on an existing demographic.

For many of the younger people I know much of their lives are completely portable and if it doesn't lend itself to instantaneous use it gets regulated to "sometimes" and "occasional" status. They don't carry their CDs with them, they don't drag a corded phone around, many already have laptops with DVDs ripped in them, carry immediate gratification in the form of hand-held game consoles so WHY would they even look at carrying around books and magazines like we do? (pant, pant. Must remember to take breaths...)

I suppose what I mean is that the industry has a current demographic and will continue to serve that demographic to the best of its ability. Every other demographic will be, at best, ignored or, at worst, actively resisted. No matter how we would like it to be otherwise, at least some small part of the publishing industry has to look at ebooks as "ebooks" and not as just an inferior version of p-books before this format will grow.

One good thing is that the publishing people are hidebound, not stupid. If they find that their income is continuing to shrink as their reader bases, er, "permanently lose interest in reading" while certain other sectors are stable or even showing some growth (no matter how small), they WILL take a serious look at it. It may take a few times for them to see it correctly but they will see it. (Example: see music industry, subheadings "Digital music is just a fad" and "Why are our customers leaving?")

Another good thing is that (I hate to say it) we are greedy. (No, I will NOT quote that stupid movie.) This means that the first well designed reader that teams with a high content provider will very probably be considered the new electronic "gotta-have" as long as the price is not out of line for appliances in the same service line AND it delivers on its hype more than it stalls on its promise.

The Sony ereader is a great reader for books, long or short. It promised a good reading experience (which it delivered) and a wealth of new and exciting books through their Connect store (which....er, well, the eReader is still a really good reader). An example of a strong and stable product hindered by it's own partner.

The other big name (right now) is Iliad. With a larger screen and more features it can be viewed as a reader for people with more than just the need for a paperback fix. People can use it for magazines, textbooks, reference materials and business use. Searchable, writable, hackable (doorstopable), it does so much that Sonys doesn't! Why this device alone could open vistas of new and easily accessed content! The only problem is....sigh....content is still not there. Mobipocket will be a huge jump for it but it still is nothing that you can't get on your cell phone which means right now it's in the same boat as its little e-ink compadre.

What could open it up? For the smaller reader, just a solid source of easily acquired book material, current and long-tail, would put it in more homes and more hands and making it a staple for reading households like Tivos are now (different devices but really do the same thing: make media accessible on demand). For the larger, a good partnership with media that shows it in its best light (magazines, textbooks, newspapers)and in a large quantity (remember? greeeedddd. We like getting lots for little. Even if the clubkey was a bit expensive). Or a couple good deals with a widespread industry (education, manufacturing, medical, take your pick as long as they position themselves where they are seen as needed) could bring them into massive contact with the very people who would benefit the most and provide the biggest demand for new content from publishers.

I suppose what this long-winded tirade is really trying to say is that the article has it wrong. Cripes, most articles gleefully moaning about the "failure of ebooks" are wrong since they continually harp on the lacks and shortcomings of the various readers ("Oh sure, it was easy to read but it didn't keep my schedules) instead of the real reason. The real reason ebooks are failing? Simple. There aren't any ebooks (percentage wise). There are some electronic versions of paper books but not really any ebooks.

An ebook is not just a copy of a paper book. It's something else. For something like the Sony, it's a clean layout with good formatting, an almost complete catalog copy of what's existing in bookstores now and at least 2 format versions (for print size) and a price for content that lets you make those impulse buys (like you would any paperback) and come back for more. For something like the Iliad and its different user needs, a formatting altered and cleaned for prober display, a true table of contents (for both magazine-newspapers and texts-docs both), easily accessible AND updatable from a server (WHY don't you have a deal with Starbucks yet for wireless newspapers from around the world yet? WHY?) would be a must. (Something else needed by a device with the capacity of the Iliad would be an electronic home library for organizing all the information that gathers on and from a constant access to information. Well, if it existed to be accessed, that is. Whoops, there's that content problem again.)

Basically: Ebooks are only failing because there are no ebooks. The desire is here, the need is here and the technology is here. Only the ebooks themselves are missing.
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Old 04-28-2007, 08:50 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stxopher
Basically: Ebooks are only failing because there are no ebooks. The desire is here, the need is here and the technology is here. Only the ebooks themselves are missing.
Long way to go for such a basic conclusion, but essentially right. There MUST be more e-content, so people can see how e-books can give them what they want... whether it's novels, newspapers, textbooks, or comic books.

I still believe monthly magazines could play a huge part in this, especially the youth-oriented mags, but essentially any mags that its readers consider collectible for reference. And any reader that can save those periodicals, or at least select pieces of them, could become the customizable reference tool for everybody. (Right now, I'm picturing some kid buying an e-copy of Maxim, reading all the funny bits, and saving the girls' pictorials in a "babes" folder on his device. Tell me you can't sell that idea.) Same goes for newspapers, of course.

I believe we can even do this, today. What we need is the vision to marry the content, the reader, and the delivery system, something we have the capacity for right now, and actually INFORM THE PUBLIC that it's available. It'll happen.

BTW: The whole thing about "kids don't read"... don't you know how often that's come up in the past? Even if this generation lightens up on reading, the next one will come around. Don't worry about that... there will always be a need for books.

Last edited by Steven Lyle Jordan; 04-28-2007 at 08:57 AM.
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Old 04-28-2007, 08:52 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Azayzel
BTW I love the list of things that weren't supposed to ever catch on. Nice!
After I assembled it (and added to it in 2 edits), I realized that this could probably use its own thread to let everyone fill it up!
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Old 04-28-2007, 11:13 AM   #12
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Yea, some days my whole mind is nothing but long wind and disconnected nodes. At least I gave a warning at the top to skip it.

And as for "kids don't read", I know, I know. My point is not that they "don't" read but that any reading they do is more strongly affected by the other factors in their lifestyle. (From my balcony, kids<25.) A good chunk do like to read but are short on time, short on space, are on the move constantly. So much of their entertainment comes to them already in a format that fits their needs that written material seems (as one put it) "kinda clunky".

I do think that is important since thinking people do like to read, no matter what their age or lifestyle. The last couple weeks several of them have started borrowing my scanner so they can put their books into their laptops. This gives them what they want when they want it. (None of those particular kids have readers.) One is putting all her textbooks for this semester on her system so she can have access to it them at all times. Again, convenience and usability. Several of her classmates are making inquiries about her project with interest of getting theirs moved to digital also.

I think this is a good indicator that the desires of the gen coming up are changing from what has been the foundation of publishing for so many years. They still want the same content that the older gens do, they just want it in different format. Thankfully it's a lot easier for them to change it than it was for thier distant ancestors. (see "fossils over 25").

(Now, if we could only get someone to market a package combining a good duplex scanner, Abby OCR, that sweet, sweet Book Designer and an open source cataloging system we could officially start the next print revolution. Watching all that money slip from their hands as people digitized their own content would hopefully motivate change in the industry faster.)
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Old 04-28-2007, 11:14 AM   #13
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The fact that there are relatively so few ebooks saddens me to some extent. Any book that goes to publishing has to be in e-form for printing processes.
There obviously is negative behaviour from some responsible folks towards the ebook.
Are those people in charge of marketing, authors, owners of publishing houses? Or is everyone involved voluntarily blind ?

@Steve Jordan

That could be an excellent therapy for us!
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Old 04-28-2007, 02:34 PM   #14
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I expect the article is right that DEDICATED ebook reader devices are not going to succeed in the long run. I have little doubt that one day we will have low-priced fully-featured computers the size and weight of an ebook reader, with screens viewable in all kinds of light conditions. At that point, having a dedicated ebook reader would be pointless. (I am happy enough with my Palm TX right now that I don't see myself going for a dedicated ebook reader any time soon, unless there is one that has as good search facilities as Plucker.)

As for curling up, almost 90% of my fiction reading is electronic. It is easier to curl up with my Palm TX than with a paperback--the pages don't need to be forcefully kept open (less of an issue with a hardcover), I don't have to worry about finding a bookmark, I don't need any ambient light, it is lighter and easier to grip (especially with an egrips applique on the back), etc. I think I read a bit more slowly on a small screen, though.
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Old 04-28-2007, 04:36 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pruss
I expect the article is right that DEDICATED ebook reader devices are not going to succeed in the long run.
Could be. To be blunt, even Sony's reader shouldn't be considered a "dedicated" reader, as it also plays music. But I see no reason why a device that simply stores and reads e-texts can't succeed, just like dedicated music players and cellphones have succeeded.

And hearing about students scanning textbooks into their computers is just the kind of thing to get the publishers thinking. Ever heard the phrase, "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em"?

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