5 Tipping Points for eReader Technology

I’m an early adopter. If you create a new website, I will visit it. Develop a new gadget, I will buy it. That’s what early adopters do. We go in early, check things out, invite you to join us, and then complain that it was better before you got here.

Anyway. I’ve been talking about ebook readers a lot recently, both here online and at work. People are really starting to get excited about ebook readers, especially around the holiday season.

Some people (including myself) are predicting that 2010 will be a big year for ereaders. It may not be the obvious tipping point where ereaders go mainstream, but the tipping will begin to, well, get tipsy.

Here’s what needs to happen before we see ebooks and ereaders become as mainstream as, say, iPods and TiVos. (That is, as mainstream as they will become relative to the people willing to voluntarily buy new and interesting technology.)

1. A profit model. Publishers are dipping their toes in the water, but it’s really hard for book publishers to rally behind a bestseller priced at $9.99 when they are used to selling them for $24.99. Sure, you can tell publishers that they are cutting out printing and distribution costs, but that’s a cost that they’ve already internalized as part of being in publishing. A real profit model will need to be fair not only to publishers and authors, but also to retailers. Right now the retailer (like Amazon) has inordinate power, but that will likely shift. Publishing is a business. Writing, for many authors, is a career. We need professionals to create consistently professional product. And for that, they need to make money. It’s great to buy books for $0.99, but it just doesn’t make economic sense to sell a book for that price. People have become accustomed to getting everything for free on the Internet, but books are going to have to find a way to be profitable in this “free world.”

2. Color screens. This, of all the complaints about ereader, is the one I hear the most. When people check out my Kindle, they are immediately impressed with the eInk technology. It’s a reflective medium, so it’s easier to read then people would expect. But they fall back on, “I’ll get one when they come out in color.” The reality is that people read in black and white, not color. But color capabilities will be a major tipping point for a lot of people. Even though they’ll actually be reading the actual words in black and white, people want color.

3. An Apple solution. Apple knows user experience. If they make something, we trust that even the first version will have a quality user experience. Many of us are willing to pay a premium for that. So the day that Steve Jobs tell us “one more thing” and presents an ereader solution, lots of people will rush out and buy one. Amazon has done such a great job with the Kindle that it actually looks like a product that Apple would create. That, no doubt, has been one of the reasons for the Kindle’s early success. So if and when Apple gets into this space, we’ll see more people take ereaders seriously as must-have devices.

4. Universal micropayments. Right now, payments are still being strangled by credit card fees. If you join PayPal, you get slightly lower fees, but it’s still a pretty expensive system. Closed ecosystems like Amazon and the iTunes store are enabling publishers and retailers to produce content and set very low point-of-purchase prices. But people want to compare prices and shop at their favorite stores. Universal micropayment solutions, like ewallets (remember those), will lower barriers to products that Amazon and iTunes can’t or won’t carry. This is an industry-wide challenge. But whoever solves it, will likely become very, very rich.

5. Brick and mortar retail. I like shopping online as much as the next guy. But not everyone wants to submit their credit cards over the tubes. Barnes & Nobles and Borders are already spinning plans to create physical transactions for virtual books. At Radio Shack, I saw them selling casual games on USB keys. That’s the kind of product someone wants to have in their hands, especially if they are buying a gift product. iTunes is nice for something that you buy and download yourself, but giving someone a gift in person is more satisfying if you can hand them something. The Barnes & Nobles near my house set up a beautiful kiosk to demonstrate the soon-to-be-available Nook. Since you can’t actually touch one until you buy it, the Kindle is a leap of faith, and so are the books that you put on it.

Are there other barriers to ebooks and ebook readers? Sure. Price, habit, and skepticism are among the top contenders. Heck, even having too many devices is an obvious barrier.

The move from printed books to electronic books is inevitable. It’s the tipping point that fascinates me.

USA Today – EBooks to Increase

usat_logo2Interesting article on eBooks and Amazon in USA Today.

Tension grows as publishers target Amazon Kindle pricing
http://www.usatoday.com/tech/products/2009-12-11-ebooks11_CV_N.htm

Forrester Research estimates that domestic consumers will buy 6 million e-readers in 2010, up from 3 million this year. “For the first time in history, consumers are realizing that reading books digitally can be a pleasurable experience,” Forrester analyst Sarah Rotman Epps says. And that means “the sky’s the limit” for sales of e-readers and e-books.

There are quite a few similarities between the Kindle and the iPod in terms of fixed pricing. Consumers love the low price of MP3s in Apple’s iTunes Store. So Amazon has been copying that by selling new bestsellers at around $9.99, while the print version is about $25. Publishers are unhappy about this for many reasons, but it’s a trend that’s going to be difficult to prevent.

The big rumors are that Apple will eventually release a tablet computer that may even rival the reading quality of these ebook readers. If that happens, there’s going to be a pricing war to sell the cheapest books, magazines, and other content for ereaders. After all, once someone commits to one of these online stores (like iTunes), it’s probably difficult to get them to leave.

I do a lot of shopping on Amazon. It’s unlikely that I’d leave the Amazon experience to shop in the Sony store. If I had a Nook, I’d shop the BN.com online store, since it has a really terrific selection of books. And I’d definitely shop on iTunes, since I already buy most of my music there.

Some Links:

Follow Me on Your Kindle

Love Words + Pictures = Web, but don’t want to sit in front of your computer monitor anymore? Well, now you can get your W+P=W beamed magically to your Kindle!

Yes, that’s right ebook fans. You can now carry me in your backpack, your purse or even curl up with me in bed. Read about ereading on your favorite ereader!

But that’s not all, you’ll get geeky blog posts about emarketing, interactive content, and maybe even comic books. So what are you waiting for?

Go check out the Words+Pictures=Web Marketing Tech Kindle Edition and impress your friends with your high tech brainy marketing knowledge.

My Blog on Kindle

Forrester: eReaders to Take Off in 2010

eReaders to reach 10 MillionForrester Research just released a report that suggests eReaders — like the Kindle, Sony eReader, and the Nook — will take off in 2010.

According to Forrester, “we expect sales in 2010 to double, bringing cumulative sales of eReaders to 10 million by year-end 2010.” Wow, that’s a lot of eReaders, many of which will undoubtedly be sold in this coming holiday cycle. (“Merry Christmas, grandma, here’s 1,500 books. Don’t forget to charge the battery.”)

Most people have a hard time imagining the potential of an eReader. That is, until they hold one in their hands or take a long flight. My guess is that these first eReaders, including my space-age Kindle 2, will seem rather quaint in a few years.

Right now, the eReader is just another single-use device. But pretty soon, we’ll see them double as digital planners, video players, and web devices. With more eReaders, there will be more reading options.

Yup, this is the start of something great.

Flexible Future – Readius eReader

Readius-hand-smRight now, we’re in the early stages of ebook technology. The playing field is rather flat, as consumers haven’t truly made a decision about who will be the leader in the field. Mainly because the grass in the field still hasn’t matured enough for a real game.

A new ereader by Readius shows a lot of promise because — get this — it rolls up. Yeah, like a little newspaper. How cool is that?

Okay, in concept, it’s really cool. In practice, the first Readius is chunky and uninspiring. It’s sort of like early “portable” computers that weighed 20+ pounds. My first portable was like lugging around a cinder block

But this is new technology. And if you’re willing to squint a little and tilt your head to the side, the darn thing looks a little like the future of ereading. Because after all, isn’t an ebook supposed to be about breaking out of rigid standards and into a more flexible future?

Nook Brings B&N’s Might to eBook Fight

BNs NookAmazon is having a great year. Huge earnings. Lots of buzz around the Kindle. Maybe too much buzz.

Well, it looks like the sleeping-giant of book retailing has awoken. Barnes & Nobles, which forever changed the landscape of book stores is jumping into the burgeoning ebook marketplace. The recently announced “Nook” is looking pretty good from the initial press releases and announcements. Nice size. Great screen. Neat extras.

As a Kindle user, I am excited about more players in the marketplace. More devices means more options. If the industry can settle on a digital format, it’ll all come down to hardware.

Even though Amazon has a huge presence in the online retail world, they don’t have the physical storefronts that Barnes & Nobles enjoys. This could be a big deciding factor for most people, since buying a Kindle is a leap of faith. If you can walk into the local Barnes & Nobles and handle one of these, it could lead to a purchase of a Nook.

Let the ebook-reader wars begin. (Oh, and let’s all skip the “nookie” jokes, okay?)

Other Kindle Posts:

Tumor on Kindle – Comics as eBooks

tumorcover1As ebooks grow in popularity, we’re starting to see more ebook exclusive releases. What’s impressive is the recent announcement by Amazon and Archaia, a comic book publisher based here in New Jersey, (disclosure: I know the people at Archaia personally) to release a comic book on the Kindle before the print release.

The Kindle 2 handles images pretty well, but it’s still black and white and, well, pretty small. So most people who create comic books (including me) are trying to understand how to best format their existing comics for ebook readers.

What makes the Archaia deal so interesting is that their comic book will be formatted specifically for the Kindle a full six months before it is released in print. That gives the publisher plenty of time to decide how to package the print edition.

According to Publisher’s Weekly, the first issue of the comic book “Tumor” will be free and then the next seven issues will be 99 cents, bringing the total to $7.92 for the whole series. The print edition will sell for $14.95.

When you consider that many new comic books retail each week for $3.99, you have to wonder what’s going to happen to that core business. And when high-quality color ebook devices become available, will many people still be willing to pay $3.99 for a print comic when a 99 cent version is available?

Now that comics are going to the Kindle, get ready for even more interesting changes in the comic book publishing industry.

My Dear John to Kindle 2

Dear Kindle 2,

Hey, baby, I love you, you know that right? So as I write this, please know that my love for you is undying. You were my first eBook reader, and everyone remembers their “first.”

I am in love with another. And like a bad romance novel…I love your sister, Kindle DX.

Now, before you freak out and delete all my eBooks, I want you to remember that I DO love you. (And, quite frankly, I paid for those books and I am planning to transfer them to DX as soon as she’s available this summer.)

Kindle DXYour sister Kindle DX…where do I start? I fell in love the first time her picture was leaked on CNet.

She’s thin and white, just like you. I can see the family resemblance. But she’s tall and really easy on the eyes, if you know what I mean.

And compared to your perfectly acceptable QWERTY keyboard, her ergonomically cute button keyboard seems so…I don’t know…futuristically relevant? Is futuristically even a word? I will have to check my Kindlictionary. Yes, good. Words matter.

Anyway, DX does things for me that you just refuse to do. And I have needs.

For example, DX supports PDF right out of the box. You may not think it’s a big deal to convert to PDF, but…she just knows how to do it automatically. I don’t even have to ask.

Speaking of needs, she can rotate my images just like my Apple iTouch. And while you hold an impressive 1,500 books…she’s deep enough to accommodate 3,500 books. I don’t know why that matters…since I don’t even have that many books…but I guess I am just impressed by girth.

Well, that’s it. Please don’t hate me. I do not hate you. I just found someone I like better. Don’t dwell on the fact that she’s younger than you.

There are so many things I will cherish about our relationship. And until DX comes out, I’d like us to remain “friends with benefits” okay?

Fondly forever,

Buddy Scalera
http://www.buddyscalera.com

More Kindle blogging by me:

LINKS, NOT NECESSARILY ENDORSEMENTS

Kindles + Kids = 37 Billion Reasons

When I talk to friends and co-workers about the Kindle 2, they are amazed at the ebook technology, but doubtful that they’ll be using one anytime soon. At a price of $359 (and during a recession), they’re right. They probably will NOT be using an ebook this year. Or next.

But you know who will? Their kids.

According the the US Department of Education, there were approximately 34.9 million children in grades K-8 in public schools in 2008. By 2014, they estimate that number to increase to 37.2 million.

That’s a lot of students. That’s a LOT of textbooks.

According to some Internet sources, it can cost anywhere from $800-$1,000 to give textbooks to students every year. Some sources say an average textbook is about $52. (It’s hard to offer a good credible source. If you have one that supports or disputes this claim, please offer some links.)

So simple math here based on 2014 enrollment estimates:$1,000 times 37 million is $37 billion.

Anyway, kids. Yeah. Expensive, aren’t they?

Kids don’t need paper to get the benefit of the education that’s been written. They need information to get smart. We can give them Internet access, but that’s just one resource.

My Kindle ($359) weighs 10 oz. My laptop ($1,200) is about 5 lbs. That may not be much for me, but it is for a 10-year-old.

In a few years, it’s likely that we’ll see government-issued ebook readers replacing overstuffed backpacks. It may be the Kindle or the Sony e-Reader, but it will probably be some new manufacturer that has big government contracts.

Something more durable and utilitarian. Something that’s less hackable and more controllable than the average PC.

Teachers will assign chapters and reading over the school’s wireless network. Schools will only pay for the chapters they assign. New editions of textbooks will be downloaded directly from the publisher’s website via secure FTP.

Less paper. Less storage space. Less money spent on giving textbooks to 37 million students per year.

Say what you will about public schools, but most people in the US attend these schools. Our country generates a lot of smart people because there are a lot of smart people running and teaching in these schools.

A back of the napkin calculation shows that we may be looking at $37 billion in textbooks in 2014.

You can bet there are school administrators crunching numbers too. And while the economics of first generation ebook readers don’t make sense now, that will soon change. Prices will drop, technology will improve, and the economics will become compellingly obvious.

You may never read books using an ebook reader. But your kids in grammar school? They will.

Links….Not Necessarily Endorsements:

My First Self-Published eBook for Kindle

I’ve officially entered the eBook age. As an author, I have published my first eBook for the Kindle. Gimme a big “whoo hoo!”

To explore the technology, I wanted to get something up there on the Kindle store. So I took the complete scripts for my comic book series “7 Days to Fame,” reformatted it, created a Kindle account, and published it on Amazon.com.

7 Days to Fame eBook cover

7 Days to Fame eBook cover

Check out my 7 Days to Fame – The Complete Scripts eBook for the Kindle. It sells for a whopping 99 cents.

To be honest, it wasn’t very hard to reformat for the Kindle. Mostly it just came down to reformatting for the smaller screen and checking for bad line breaks and hiccups in the code. Just a few hours of work and now it’s done.

This isn’t the first time I was part of an eBook. There’s a transcript of a podcast interview that I did a few years ago with Paula Berinstein called Writing Comic Books: A Writing Show Interview and I was a technical consultant on the photo book Artist’s Digital Photo Reference – Landscapes.

But for me, this is much more fun, since I actually did the reformatting myself and published it. It’s…addictive.