eBooks, volume 2: What's the bridge document that would drive ebook reader adoption?

eBooks, volume 2: What's the bridge document that would drive ebook reader adoption?

Summary: Last week, I ran a poll about the number of ebooks people purchased each month. The results suggest that most people don't buy ebooks, but get them from various free sources, such as Project Gutenberg, Biblomania and O'Reilly Open Books.

TOPICS: Mobility, Hardware

Last week, I ran a poll about the number of ebooks people purchased each month. The results suggest that most people don't buy ebooks, but get them from various free sources, such as Project Gutenberg, Biblomania and O'Reilly Open Books. Fifty-nine percent of respondents said they bought no books during the month.

However, the buyers more than made up for the free reading public. If we take the middle point of each of the ranges of books purchased (e.g. 1.5 books per month for those who said they buy one to three books up to 11 books for those who answered "10+"), the average number of books purchased during a month for all 147 respondents is 1.45. This suggests that, just as "free" seeded the Web 15 years ago and throughout the Web 1.0 and 2.0 epochs, free ebooks are creating the basis of a profitable marketplace for authors and publishers who deliver new value to readers.

The next question to ask, though, is what you would like to read on an ebook reader or, for that matter, in a document on your computer that could integrate your notes and highlights from other forms of the same book. This would allow you to go back and forth between devices with the same book, which I believe is a critical feature for the success of digital documents, because we already do it with business docs, printed and digital books, but without any integration of these different engagements with the information we're consuming (to some degree, collaborative editing of a document proves this idea is valuable--but it is the collective use of the information that makes new value available to people).

So, here's poll #2 in this series: You should pick one kind of document that, if it would make you buy an ebook reader to use for both reading books and this kind of document, you'd become (or already became) a buyer.

[poll id=18]

Topics: Mobility, Hardware

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  • None of the above

    For crying out loud, the [b]last[/b] thing I need is [i]another[/i] piece of fragile, environmentally-sensitive, power-hungry, eye-straining, rapidly-obsolete, expensive gear to tote around.

    I already have a PDA and a phone (mainly because I can't find a phone with a decent user interface that works with a provider I can tolerate) and a notebook 'puter.

    I'm going to add something else? My pants don't have enough pockets.

    Thank you, but no way. I'll spend my e-book budget on things that I can read on my existing equipment.
    Yagotta B. Kidding
    • Then what about reading on the PDA?

      There's no limit on what you'd read on -- ebooks do run on
      your PDA and many phones. Are you reading ebooks on
      Mitch Ratcliffe
      • My suggestion...

        Put everything in ebook form and include it free for those who buy the printed media. That may get more of us to start using ebooks. At some point, it may even get some of us to switch completely.

        The primary reason I don't buy ebooks is because I like owning real books and I don't want to own two copies of the same thing. I know, it's not good for the environment to kill trees, etc., but I simply enjoy collecting and reading them multiple times. I usually buy hard covers of most books I own. If a free ebook version came with the hard copy version, that would be a big plus for choosing my book purchases and it would get me to start keeping a few on my iPhone for reading during down time.

        I also agree with the original reply that I will not carry a separate device for reading ebooks, ever. I carry one device most of the time: my iPhone. I carry a laptop or netbook when I travel. I am not ever going to add more to that load. Fortunately, the iPhone has a number of decent ebook readers now, so I'm covered.
      • You have GOT to be kidding!

        [i]There's no limit on what you'd read on -- ebooks do run on
        your PDA and many phones.[/i]

        DRM. Great stuff, designed precisely to prevent this. Now, as it happens my e-book collection is strictly limited to open formats so it's not a problem, but without DRM there really isn't any point in your first question (what would it take to make you buy an e-book reader?)

        [i]Are you reading ebooks on them? [/i]

        Yeah, that makes sense -- I'll just get myself some +3.25 diopter readers and scroll about three lines of blocky text at a time through [i]War and Peace[/i]. Not.

        When the portable visual interface produces something visually comparable to a paperback book at a comfortable reading distance (except, of course, smaller) then maybe we might have something. To me, that means VR eyeglasses with laser-to-retina reflective projection, and I don't expect that any time soon.
        Yagotta B. Kidding
        • OK -- so your answer is "no"

          I meant "there is no limit" in the question. And it is clear you
          don't want to read them on your PDA.

          Why would a reader need to be smaller than a book? What
          you really seem to be asking for is a pair of glasses that sees
          books some of the time (because I presume you wouldn't
          want single-use VR eyeglasses, yes?). That's a reader, too,
          albeit one that is a ways off.
          Mitch Ratcliffe
  • How about none of those?

    The selection is not wide enough. I don't want anything but books on my eboook reader, assuming there's one good enough to buy (which there isn't).
    • Missing:

      What about Novels or Technical Reference books?
  • Ebooks should rely on ads plus services

    I expressed similar views [url=http://tinyurl.com/5efdov]here[/url]. I believe ebooks for the most part should be ad supported at the base level, and rely heavily on supporting services to drive up earnings for authors. People should be able to do advanced things like Bob calling up Mike over a Scientific American article accessible via their ebooks; the two of them collaborating over the article; the both of them marking up their work with pen, voice, IM, and regular text inputs, etc. They should then be able to publish their work to the web, and invite their friends to review it. Ebooks therefore should provide way more opportunities to make money by publishers, and the technology should be quickly embraced, not shied away from.
    P. Douglas
  • Biggest problem is not document type, it is book selection

    For all those other things, we have the internet ready devices from PCs/Laptops to phones (I love the HTC Touch for most of that).

    I want an ebook reader for reading books. The problem is so many books I want are not offered. Just try getting the Master and Commander series.... something so popular they made a movie out of it, there are 20+ volumes so squishing them into my ebook would be great, and bingo, I can't get it. There are a ton of examples like that.
  • My contention is:

    When I want to <I>read a book</I> I want to keep that book in my own library, to read again sometime in the future. How do you do that if it's a mass of 1s, and 0s? Now for disposable media (magazines, newspapers, (or even text books that I don't need to keep) then a book reader is a great idea.

    BUT here's the problem. They're asking us to buy a $400 computer, that does one thing. If you drop it, or the batteries wear out, then you have to buy another $400 unit.

    Also can you read it in bright sunlight? Is the batteries replaceable? Can it display any type of document (like a regular computer), Can you download files from the web? Is it full color? DRM? Is it affordable? $400 isn't affordable to everyone.

    No, neither one of the current book readers solves all those problems. If they stop worrying about DRM, and instead find ways to bring the price down to around $100, get over the idea of hard-wired batteries (which is why I don't buy PDAs, Ipods, Airs, or other devices), stop using proprietary file formats, then they may take off. Think of this; MS/Intel computers are open architecture. ANYONE can do anything they want. Apple is closed. MS/Intel has around 95% market share, Apple 6%. Do the math.

    - Kc
    • As the owner of 4,000+ books....

      I agree that I want to keep the books I've read. However,
      whatever the form factor of the device or format of the
      digital document, I would like to be able to have an
      electronic copy, as well. And I'd like to be able to have the
      notes I make and highlights in that electronic copy for use as
      a reference later. I'd also like to be able to search my library,
      whether the book is paper or digital, and, at least, be able to
      find my way back to something I recall from earlier reading.
      Mitch Ratcliffe
  • ebook reader adoption won't come from a bridge document...

    You won't get widespread ebook adoption until:

    1. As others have mentioned, book selection. You need to be able to get just about ANY book on your reader.

    2. Features. Everyone has a pet feature they like. But some are mentioned frequently. Color would make subscription type reading materials attractive but the technologies that do color well, don't do crisp clear, flexible font, readable in low light, b&w text well.

    3. Cost. Not just of the device. But if you had s few different models, more expensive ones haing more features, the device cost would be more in line with what people might be willing to pay. But it's also the cost of the books. For some the ebook form is as much or even more than hardcopy. How will that ever encourage adoption?

    With all the disadvantages of the ebook (you can't sell your ebook to someone else when you are done with it, loan it out, get it autographed by the author, and it costs an awful lot if your dog chews up your reader instead of one book!) it really needs some serious work on the advantage side...
    • Agree!

      Very well put! Cost and selection are paramount!

      The people who would use an ebook are also the people who understand that ebooks cost FAR LESS to duplicate and distribute than a real book. We refuse to pay the same price or more for an ebook versus the hard copy. We all look at the current pricing on ebooks and the "huge rip off" alarm bells start ringing in our minds.

      I would also add the inconvenience of no standard file format and DRM to the list of disadvantages you came up with.
  • No vote. How could you miss BOOKS?!?

    Novels would have been nice to have on the list, Mitch. I've got wall-to-wall bookshelves here (literally), and not nearly enough room for all of my books. Many are packed in plastic Sterilite tubs in my basement. I'd like to be able to search all of my books digitally. Sometimes I think of a character or situation or a quote I'd like to use without having to dig through all the text to find it. Also, some of my books are a bit fragile (such as the first edition Tarzan books). Having them in eBook format means I can re-read them casually without risking damage to the physical medium.

    Also missing from the list is religious material, such as the Bible or the Koran. This is one area where portability and searchability are extremely important to users.

    What I DON'T care about at all is magazines. Simply browsing the web is better in every way. The Web [b]is[/b] a huge magazine... most publishers just haven't figured that out yet.
    • I agree . . .

      I am an avid reader (btw, you should be able to get a LOT of Burroughs' stuff over at Gutenberg.org) and use an e-book creator program to put them in .prc format to put on my pda. I also read a lot of amateur fiction, which is free as well (Fanfiction.net and fictionpress.com - sister sites that have a lot of stories on them).

      I also use my PDA a lot to study my bible on, and this is very important to me.

      It's nice to have everything in one place, so I don't have to lug around a lot of stuff with me when I'm out and about . . .
    • Actually, I purposefully omitted books

      Reader usage -- whatever the device -- is already
      associated with books. But we read other forms of
      published content and, if the reader is going to perform
      the traditional role of a computer, doing more than one
      thing, it does make some sense to look beyond the ebook
      when talking about the ebook reader.

      I agree the Web is like a big magazine, but we are used to
      subscribing to a perspective/voice in magazines and
      newspapers, so at some point the packaging does start to
      matter. I can't stand all the paper I waste reading
      magazines that I already can read online, but have to take
      in paper to receive Web access. Stupid.

      We haven't even gotten to device price, yet....
      Mitch Ratcliffe
  • RE: eBooks, volume 2: What's the bridge document that would drive ebook reader adoption?

    You left Nothing... I won't read e-books... off your poll.
    • Actually, that's how I tried to address your view

      The question is for people who would consider ebooks, and
      what other kinds of documents they want to read. I'll be
      happy to do a binary "I will/never will read ebooks" poll, too,
      but that wasn't the question this time around.
      Mitch Ratcliffe
      • I think . . .

        that's the whole point. You're not going to get wholesale adoption of E-books/Readers without the breadth of titles close to/the same as what you can get in a bookstore, or it becomes easy to translate the titles you do have to an electronic format (whether that will happen is questionable at best . . . ;) ).

        That didn't happen with digital music until the advent of affordable players (note I didn't say cheap or inexpensive players). When the iPod caught on, it spelled the eventual end of physical media except as a storage media (how many people do you see with a CD player today versus an iPod or similar device?).

        Until you get an affordable reader (and those $400+ readers ain't it), or Smart phones like the tilt get to the point where anyone can buy them without taking out a loan, This change over won't happen.

        That means low cost devices (say the $150 break point of the iPod nano) that fit in your pocket, and low cost wireless internet access for those phones.

        As for the form factor, the device NEEDS to be smaller than the media it replaces, otherwise why would you need it at all? After all, you can't get more portable than a paperback book, or a magazine, and they don't use any power, either. AND they're easy to read in bright sunlight, too :) .

        I have several dozen ebooks on my Asus A626, along with a LOT of Amateur fiction and historical papers such as the federalist papers on it, along with a GOOD bible program, several games, and even a few movies and TV shows that I've put on the thing. But it cost me almost $300 for the device. Most people simply aren't going to pay that much.
  • I've been reading eBooks on my PDA

    ever since I got my first Palm IIIe (which still does better in sunlight than just about anything else I've tried). For mobile use, I read on my Palm T|X. However, several months ago I bought a great eBook reader: a used Fujitsu LT C500 tablet. It's a handy size - between a paperback and a hardback. It's a little heavier than a hardback book at 2.5 pounds but it's readable in sunlight as well as darkness.

    I'm not interested in reading newspapers, magazines or anything else on your list except on my main computer or on paper.
    Beat a Dead Horse