There’s no doubt in my mind that eBooks etc are the way forward and that eReaders will be the preferred reading devices, but it comes back to what you’re reading. Mobiles & devices like the iPhone are great for snippets of news or for catching up on something while you’re hanging around in a departure lounge, but for extended periods or for reading literature, while usable, they’re pretty poor, plus the batteries don’t last long enough. eReaders on the other hand are much better at this, but you wouldn’t want to rely on them for picking up your emails, plus they don’t exactly fit in your back pocket!? Also a major problem with eReaders, is that they’re too small… yes you did read that correctly.
You see, all but one of the eReader manufacturers are aiming at one specific market, they’re all trying to capture the paperback & published books market, but that’s not where the real uptake will be, I’ll explain later, but first let me ask you, would you take an expensive eReader instead of a paperback with you when you decide to chill out on the beach, (think of all that sand getting in your new shiny Kindle!) let alone leave it unattended tucked under your towel when you take a dip? no you wouldn’t. So that’s going to be a hard market to crack, not impossible, but more needs to be done, plus the average cost savings of buying an eBook compared to a paper book is marginal, so the benefits of an eReader aren’t worthwhile for most people. As to costs, publishers argue that the cost of an eBook is almost the same as a printed book, due to copyright & royalties etc, while the printing & distribution costs are minimal!?!? Personally I don’t believe this, nor do the majority of purchasers (although I’d happily post any data substantiating the publishers claims here, if they come forward with them). The record industry said the same for years about CD’s, but we all knew it was a crock (look how little they cost now!). Music sales had been declining for years before the CD came about, but they were a stroke of genius that kept the music industry going for years, a new crystal clear format that everyone bought into replacing the vinyl they’d already purchased! But the genie was out of the bottle, once they released a digital version it didn’t take long for wise consumers to realiee they could replicate the files themselves.
Publishing houses need to embrace the sea change, the potential eBook market is enormous, plus they should stop trying to make an outdated, centuries old business model work in a modern environment that is quickly leaving them behind, they should be jumping all over this opportunity not running from it!
So getting back to my other point, a much larger market is unpublished documents, white papers etc. The average business person reads 10 times as much unpublished material as they do published material, plus, of the published material they read, 75% is business related. So using those statistics, fiction or non-business related paperbacks read for enjoyment account for 2.5% of what the average business person reads! The majority of publishers and eBook manufacturers are all ignoring 97.5% of the market!! and I’m not even including news & newspapers, which is a major selling point of the Kindle. But the newspaper industry is another story which I won’t rant about here, you can read my thoughts on that here & here if you’re interested
Plastic Logic understands about this bigger market, which is why they’ve developed an eReader that is twice the size of most eReaders, as thin as the new Kindle 2 and is aimed squarely at the business & academic users, with an open file structure allowing the user to copy their own files so they can view powerpoint, word, excel, blogs, newsfeeds, lecture notes / slides, basic email etc unfortunately it won’t be launched until 2010. This is when the eBook & eReader market will become interesting, when business users, remote technicians & students can access all their documentation whenever & wherever they want.
eBooks won’t put publishers out of business, plus it won’t kill off authors revenues either. Some complain that it will be harder to get new authors published, but again the opposite is likely to be true, in the future “anyone can become and author” why would you need a traditional publishing house if you’re only going to distribute an eBook. Note I say traditional publishing house, there will undoubtedly be new types of publishing houses coming to the forefront, experts in adapting to the changes in new media & social networks and leveraging these platforms to promote new authors. We plan to build a platform ourselves as part of our nopaper group of companies & allow anyone to promote themselves or the authors they represent freely across our networks.
Plus there’s an entire untapped updates & addendum market out there, who hasn’t got an outdated lonely planet guidebook collecting dust on their shelves? next time you’re off, will you buy the whole book again, probably not, you’ll get by with the old book and more than likely buy a competitors as it has different info, but what if you could pay $1 for the complete updated version, who wouldn’t! or if you don’t want to pay for a whole guide book, you could just pay for the chapters that you want, ala iTunes and single tracks vs the entire album!
So I don’t see Amazon or eBooks killing publishing (Amazon needs publishers, without them they have nothing to sell), although I certainly see it killing off the way it does business now, but that’s great news for us all & especially aspiring authors, the opportunities, potential markets & revenues are enormous, anyone thinking of jumping ship away from publishing is mad, or blind to the opportunities, as those currently entering the market, will happily take their place & show them what they missed out on!