eBooks Will Rise Again

from the yes,-but... dept

A Newsweek article looks at what happened in the world of eBooks and seems to have learned nothing from the past. If this is an article by Newsweek’s “resident futurist” then, it’s time for them to look elsewhere. The guy basically talks about the ridiculous economics of the current book publishing system, mentions the fact that eBooks have failed miserably in the past, and then says “but, they’ll come back because they have to”. His main premise is that no one wants to buy eBook readers, but as we all suddenly rush out to buy tablet computers, they’ll become the eBook readers we all use without us realizing it. There are a few problems with this article. First, he gives no reason why we’re all going to rush out and buy tablet computers. Companies have been pushing them for years with little to no success. Second, he completely ignores the cultural issues of book reading and book buying. People don’t buy eBooks because they don’t have an eBook reader – but because they like to read books as they are. Paper books still remain the best way to read a book for most people – and suddenly having a tablet computer isn’t going to change that.

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Comments on “eBooks Will Rise Again”

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Joe Schmoe says:

No Subject Given

The tablet PC, undoubtetly, will have an impact as you can comfortably sit and read it in a chair and such. But I don’t see it as being a large impact as the battery life and size will not allow it to be as portable as regular book.

Something that all of these pundits fail to realize (or maybe just mention) is that you do not need a dedicated ebook reader/device. They are nice to look at and appear to be non-threatening at first for the computer illiterate folk, but they are a limited function device the same as the failed batch of non-PC web terminals. Sadly, the publishing industry would favor them because of the percieved ability to create a device with inherent copy protection…

The best suited devices are already out there – PDA’s. There are small (size of a paperback or smaller), have great battery lifes, and are now established meme. They’re great, I have mine with me all the time anyway. Whenever I’m stuck with time on my hands I can dive into a chapter or two. I’ll just end with a link, Fictionwise – a great site…

Ed says:

Re: Paper

If somebody today invented a new display medium that was much higher resolution that current computer displays, could be read in any lighting conditions from normal indoor to bright sunlight, was rugged, didn’t require electrical power, and was cheap to boot, it’d be hailed as the greatest thing since sliced bread. Well, paper satisfies all of the above.

Until ‘electronic paper’ becomes a reality intead of a research project, eBooks are never going to be able to compare with a normal paper book. The only niche they might succeed in is for texts where having searching features outweighs the eBook’s inherent drawbacks: tech manuals.

Dale Gardner says:

eBooks Not Ready For Prime Time

Some of the technology is not that bad – I’ve looked at a few devices that didn’t suck…it’s been a bit, I think it was the Rocket device? I’ve tried using Adobe’s software on the Mac – it seems quite sensitive and I end up having to call support to respond to some goofy security challenge when the operating system gets upgraded.

But for all of that, this is not a ‘technology problem.’ Technology will continue to improve, although I think it will favor dedicated devices – a different rant, for another day. The real problem is the licensing. The terms under which some of these things come out are ridiculous – I can’t print, copy, loan it to somebody, and so on. And that’s not the technology – at least wrt the Adobe product, all those capabilities are provided – but the publisher turns them off.

An aside, Fictionwise is quite cool, but I’m getting too old to read books off my Visor.

Lee says:

They have their uses

For me little can change the feel of a book in my hands, the joy in taking it out to the woods or desert and reading poetry or something. A lot of that has to do with my history. I learned to read when there were maybe 10 or 12 computers in the whole world. Future generations may grow up on ebook readers, lap tops or other electronic devices, for them printed books may be something that quaint old geek down the street uses.

Technical subjects may better be served as ebooks, it is easier to update them when things change and they change rapidly. But for classic subjects either book or ebook will serve.

sb says:

Re: ok, last time,,,this is your brain...

Im gonna make things real f*cking simple for everybody.

The innovation phase is OVER.
This is now a recession.
Whatever made it to “mass consumption” will stay.
The rest will have to wait for the next innovation phase boom, which wont happen for another 10-20 years. Any innovation in the next 1-5 years will NOT be part of the new innovation phase everyone will clamor for, but the last gasps of this one. The stock market fueled this innovation phase, and stocks are not going to get stupid wack silly until all people who got burned are dead. Patterns repeats every 70 years. Like Halley’s comet.,

I hope I am clear. So you can end all your speculating and move on with your lives. If tablets didnt make it this time around, then you will need to wait for mass adoption. only the diehards will adopt for now.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: ok, last time,,,this is your brain...

Innovation doesn’t come in phases, and definitely not in bubbles. That wasn’t innovation, that was people wasting a lot of money quickly and the media writing breathlessly about it.

Now the media has declared that innovation is over. Don’t get suckered again. The media are technically-illiterate slackers. Innovation is slow, and less driven by VC money than one might think. If anything, it’s more likely to happen now than when a lot of tourist MBAs are holding their hats out in the valley trying to catch some of the dough. Only the hardcore engineers and true believers are left now.

Joe Schmoe says:

No Subject Given

“…The innovation phase is OVER.
This is now a recession…”

I don’t wanna, but I can easily side with you on this.

“Technical subjects may better be served as ebooks…”

I’m just the opposite here. I don’t mind not having a “paper” book when reading a regular story (it’s a linear progression), but I definately prefer one when looking for technical info – it allows me to keep fingers in different sections of the book as I go back and forth to the index, and info, and back and forth. Also, I don’t want to have to mentally “deal with” one technology whilest I am trying to figure out another…

Oliver Wendell Jones (profile) says:

eBooks Cost Too Much!

That, is the number one reason that eBooks haven’t taken off.

There is no reason why I should have to pay 75% or more of the cover price of a book for a downloadable-only electronic version!

If publishers would get a clue and realize that once the book is in digital format it costs virtually nothing to distribute, and lower their prices, their sales quantities will go up!

I read tons of electronic books, mostly ones that I get from websites like MemoWare or that I download from the pirate newsgroups (shame on me!), but I refuse to pay more than the cost of a used paperback for an electronic version of almost any book.

Le Blue Dude says:


Ultimately all innovation is driven by mathematics. the most recent ‘bubble’ is driven by computer related mathmatics… that innovation was, in turn, driven by quantum mathamatics.

Until the mathematician get their act together and start writing math for biology (Quite possible, and will CERTAINLY have a good effect, in the long run, about as much as Issac Newton did with some of the first advanced physics based math: calculus), or they find a new loop hole in the models for physics, or they come up with a better description of how physics work, we’re out of sudden jumps.

Slow innovation shall continue.

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