Why E-Reader Adoption Will Be Slower Than People Think

36 Comments

Jack McKeown co-founded and was CEO of Perseus Books Group. He is now director of business development for Verso Digital, a vertical ad network for book publishers, and president of Conemarra Partners, a media consultancy.

As the world

36 Comments

Marcelo Sigol

E-readers I’ve used since my first Palm III, now I have a powerful Wi-Fi Ipaq 2495 and I still have Ebooks on it, as well as feeds from the various media to which I subscribed. But from that time until now, there were always alternative ways of not paying books. and while there is such unlawful means to get free e-books, no one paid 200 USD for an e-reader and less $ 10 for each e-book. They agree to make a large electronic library where books can be hired, ie a trial period where if you do not read, can not read more after the end of the perioso. As might go out, $ 1, it seems much more healthy, and elegant than having to buy or get illicitly books at bargain prices., from Argentina, Marcelo

swhiser

Jack –

There is much to agree with in your visualization of the uncertainty of e-book & e-reader adoption. Your bases for comparison, however, are poorly chosen & even less well framed.

For one thing, you have a straw man: “First, do e-readers deliver greater value than paper books?”

Better value than paper books for whom? Publishers?

The question usefully phrased is, “What is the value of the e-reader, the e-book and the e-book experience? On what devices (assuredly, they are different in context for each)? How do they COMPLEMENT & SUPPLEMENT our experiences of paper books (which will not actually be disappearing, in case you were wondering.)”

You cite Amazon’s $9.99 e-Book price as below-cost. No question you are wrong about that. The marginal cost of an e-book is somewhere between zero and the cost of its bandwidth, which is for all practical purposes zero. The fixed cost of an e-book may be greater than $9.99-per-unit sold — much greater in fact — FOR BAD (or rather unpopular or poorly marketed) BOOKS. Accordingly, the e-book segment creates incentives for publishers to be excellent and to not be bad at their job.

Personally, as an early-adopter type, I shared your apparent disinterest in e-books until I downloaded Stanza and the New York Times Reader for my Mac desktop and iPhone. May I suggest that you try these devices and re-think your approach to the interesting set of problems confronting e-book & e-reader adoption. You may not need to revise your conclusions, but they would stand on firmer footing.

Andrew Durham

The author fails to differentiate between e-ink screens and regular monitors–tube, LCD, etc.

The whole point of e-ink is that, like paper and ink, it holds still. Everything else is secondary.

When we, the people who are buying e-ink devices, look at their screens, we know what we are seeing. That is why we are buying them and will continue to buy them. They are already superior to books in several ways and equal to them in the most important way.

dan e bloom

Richard Curtis, literary agent extraordinaire just wrote this:

Is That a Vook You're Screading or Are You Just Kindling?

http://www.ereads.com/2009/10/is-that-vook-youre-screading-or-are-you.html

While neuroscientists and child development specialists have been
delving into the psychology of reading e-books and vooks (see The
Medium Is The Screen, But The Message is Distraction), a blogger named
Danny Bloom has occupied himself with the nomenclature.

Plain old "reading" simply doesn't seem to cover the various acts
necessary to experience a multimedia vook that we have to click,
scroll, screen, watch, listen to, and – yes – read. So Bloom, who has
been aggregating on his blog a great deal of cogent information and
articles about e-books, has proposed the word "Screading", combining
screening and reading.

We buy it completely, and from now on, "Screading" it will be.

Bloom also brought to my attention that "Kindle" is now a verb. It may
be a while before "Nook" achieves verb status, however.

Bloom also brought to my attention that "Kindle" is now a verb [on UrbanDictionary.com and in many blogs written by Kindle users themselves]. It may be a while before "Nook" achieves verb status, however.

RC

KEY WORDS: E-books, Reading, Screading, Vooks, Motoko Rich, Ashlee Vance, John Markoff, Eric Taub, Bill Hill, Edward Tenner, Charles Bigelow, Paul Saffo, Kevin Kelly, Marvin Minsky, Anne Mangen, Mark Bauerlein, William Powers, Alex Beam, Maryanne Wolf, Gary Small, Christian Vandendorpe, David Abel, Neal Rubin, Celia Bertin, Danny Bloom, Vindu Goel, Gregory Cowles, Room for Debate, Alan Liu, David Gerlenter, Sandra Aamodt, Gloria Mark, Robert McCrum, Jack Schofield, Betsy Nolan, Marc Jaffe, Rudy Shur, Anthony Pomes, Robert Avrech, Pearl Saban, Hamish MacDonald, Bradley Winterton, Matthew Battles, Mark Kellner, Brier Dudley, Michael Kinsley, Frank Rich, Jonah Feuhner

dan e. bloom

RE the need to conduct some PHD-sponsored brain scan tests to study the differences between paper reading and screen reading, a friend in Boston tells me:

"I do agree that imaging offers a unique window on the uptake of new reading habits by the brain. But I think we miss an important part of the feedback/shock absorber of cultural and social change if we focus on the neurology alone. Imagine that MRI existed in the 14th and 15th centuries. Would Frederick III have been compelled to outlaw printing because scans showed that the brain handled it differently from manuscript text? I know that's a simplification of what you're exploring, though. I mean to say only this: brain changes seen now may not be the ones we see in the future—the brain may incorporate e-text differently in subsequent generations as "native" e-text readers mature. And even if the brain does change in significant ways, and those changes manifest themselves in subsequent generations, maybe it happens not because we've lost something, but because we've asked culture, society—even technology—to carry the load. It's happened again and again through the deep history of our species.

All of which is to be understood under the sign of general agreement with your call: let the scanning begin!"

danny bloom

A friend in the Netherlands tells me re this discussion:

"There is a point to be made about how some corporate moguls are trying to push their e-reader gadgets down our throats. And the reason is
simple: money. It is of course a publishers wet dream: no more book-design,
no more printing, no warehouses, no more troubled nights – am I going to
sell all this junk? Just myriads of half-edited digital books that still
cost the earth without the costs.
So it looks like ebooks are going to make it. And if I look at some of the
reactions of librarians, who are willing and able to destroy their holdings,
after digitizing the content in a half-baked way, one certainly starts to
think about some kind of problem.
Let me say this: the technology being what it is at the moment, I would not
put my money on the Kindle, the Sony, the Nook …. I will buy the device that Steve Jobs probably is looking at now: a nice
colour screen with Harry Potter and all the portraits of the wizards waving
at me just like the movie while I read. But no, even Apple will not be able
to create a device that will let me enjoy Proust. Bertelsman, Hachette and
the rest of the bunch will certainly try to brainwash us, but they will not
succeed. The reason is simple: the machines they offer are not good enough.

Now you never know what happens in the garage next door where some bright
Lex Luthor is doing his inventions, but e-ink … no. It does not work and
it will not work, no matter what Barnes and Noble pay their tame journalists
and bloggers to pretend the opposite and create a hype."

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