It’s no longer such a novel thing to read a book on a mobile phone, and on the iPad, it’s practically a requirement to download “The Elements” or open Winnie the Pooh” to give your friends a glimpse of the future of book reading.
The problem is not really the small things — the differences in how the
iBooks and Kindle apps, for example, turn a page, or
enlarge the fonts. The better apps are all pretty good in these respects
already, and they will all reach parity on such things quickly enough.
And they’re all free, so it costs nothing to switch.
Nonetheless, the iBooks iPad app offers a generally better reading
experience than its rivals, because of automatic brightness adjustments
and overall ease of use. But its store has fewer books than the Amazon
Kindle app or the Barnes & Noble eReader app.
Kindle and Barnes & Noble for the iPhone were good, although the
Kindle app lacks the ability to lend books to friends, as you can with
the Barnes & Noble app.
On a BlackBerry, Kobo was the most full featured, and on Android
phones, Aldiko was the best in a sparse field, although it is greatly
hampered, at least for now, by a lack of recent titles.
But since the reading experience on these apps is not significantly different, the hard choice comes down to differentiating how you select your books, and how you may one day like to use them — beyond reading on your Android, iPhone or BlackBerry.
In this respect, there are nuanced differences, but the upshot is this:
I’m starting my own digital library through the Kobo iPad app, and I
plan to hedge by not buying a lot of books in the near future. I will
also keep a close eye on Barnes & Noble’s capabilities when it
introduces its iPad app in the coming weeks.
Kobo is backed by Borders, among others. Kobo’s selection is not as
good as those on Amazon or Barnes & Noble, but you can potentially
do more with those books when you buy them through Kobo.
The books you buy from most of these apps are, for now, readable only within the company’s apps. It is as if you have to travel back to the bookstore every time you want to open the book. That is not a major headache, as long as the apps that support your e-books survive forever, with the support of the major hardware manufacturers.
But if Amazon folds its apps, or if you decide you want to read your
books on another e-reading app, the books will be far less useful.
Which brings us back to Kobo. The company’s chief executive, Michael
Serbinis, said that on the Kobo app, you could buy a book, keep it
forever and read it on any other device you choose, excluding Amazon’s.
(A Barnes & Noble executive vice president, Jamie Iannone, said its
books could be read on other apps too, like Kobo, as long as they used
similar technology, but it had not tested that.)
This does not mean Kobo is assured of long-term success, but it does mean the books you buy from this app may have a marginally higher chance of being useful to you years from now than books bought from a store with a proprietary format.
I bought books from both the Kobo and Barnes & Noble apps on my
iPhone and could not open them in other apps. So until booksellers make
it easier to do what I want with the books I buy, I’ll spend
Kobo is available for the iPhone, iPad and BlackBerry, and an Android version is in the works.
Barnes & Noble’s iPad app, like its other apps, will allow you to
share books you have bought from the company with anyone who has a
device using its software. (This includes all of its mobile apps.)
Sharing is limited to two weeks, and a title can be lent only once. But
that is a nifty trick that other apps cannot match.
If you happen to have an Android device, or are waiting for an excellent Android-based tablet to rival the iPad, the Aldiko reading app supports another e-book technology, called the Open Publication Distribution System.
That basically means you will, in the coming months, be able to buy books from a broad range of sellers, and, if those sellers use Adobe’s copyright protection software, you can transfer the books to other devices and apps that do the same. That will help address Aldiko’s major flaw at the moment — namely, a dearth of books you would want to buy.
If this sounds as though a lot of companies are suggesting you wait
just a little longer for the experience to improve, it is precisely
And if all these promises are too much to keep track of, then just enjoy the free books available in the public domain and allow a few months, or years, for booksellers to prove that they want to let you use what you buy as you see fit.
By BOB TEDESCHI
Published: May 12, 2010on the New York Times
“She talks about the smell of the paper and the feeling of holding it in your hands,” said Mr. de Halleux, 32, who says he thinks the substance is the same regardless of medium. He added, sounding mildly piqued, “She uses the word ‘real.’ ”
By the end of this year, 10.3 million people are expected to own e-readers in the United States, buying about 100 million e-books, the market research company Forrester predicts. This is up from 3.7 million e-readers and 30 million e-books sold last year.
The trend is wreaking havoc inside the publishing industry, but inside homes, the plot takes a personal twist as couples find themselves torn over the “right way” to read. At bedtime, a couple might sit side-by-side, one turning pages by lamplight and the other reading Caecilia font in E Ink on a Kindle or backlighted by the illuminated LCD screen of an iPad, each quietly judgmental.
Although there are no statistics on how widespread the battles are, the publishing industry is paying close attention, trying to figure out how to market books to households that read in different ways.
A few publishers and bookstores are testing the bundling of print books with e-books at a discount. Barnes & Noble started offering bundles in June at about 50 stores and plans to expand the program in the fall, said Mary Ellen Keating, a Barnes & Noble spokeswoman.
Thomas Nelson, a publisher of religious books, offers free e-books with a print book for some titles. It is particularly good for readers who want to share books with family or friends who read in different formats, said Tod Shuttleworth, senior vice president and group publisher at Thomas Nelson. The bundles have sold well, and Thomas Nelson is considering adding more for the holiday shopping season.
Meanwhile, Amazon.com is doing its best to convince print lovers that “reading on Kindle is nothing like reading on a computer screen.” Its Web site promises a display on which “text ‘pops’ from the page, creating a reading experience most similar to reading on printed paper” because it produces neither glare in a well-lighted spot nor a glow in the dark.
Sony, which introduced a new line of e-readers Wednesday, said they were smaller and lighter than before, with clearer text and touch screens, all to make them feel more like printed books. “Consistently the No. 1 thing we heard was it needs to feel like a book, so you just forget that you have a device in your hand,” said Steve Haber, president of Sony’s digital reading division.
This straddle-the-line marketing underscores a deeper tension: the desire to keep the print business alive so as not to alienate a core market, while establishing a base for a future that publishers see as increasingly digital, said James L. McQuivey, an e-reader industry analyst with Forrester.
“There is much more emotional attachment to the paper book than there is to the CD or the DVD,” said Mike Shatzkin, founder and chief executive of the Idea Logical Company, which advises book publishers on digital change. “It is not logical — it’s visceral.”
A print book bundled with an e-book would have been useful for Liz Aybar, 35, and Betsy Conti, 31, a Denver couple who like reading together so much that when they read “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” in paperback, Ms. Conti ripped out sections of the book as she finished them so Ms. Aybar could read them.
But since Ms. Conti, a director of technology, bought an iPad, she has gone to the other side. They are both reading Ken Robinson’s “The Element,” but bought two separate copies — a print book for $15 and a $13 Kindle version for the iPad.
“I feel more connected to a book than I do through the iPad,” said Ms. Aybar, who works at an education nonprofit group.
Alexandra Ringe, an editor, and her husband, Jim Hanas, a fiction writer, both 41, fell in love over books, with one of their early dates at a used-book festival in Manhattan. They married in a SoHo bookstore and live in an apartment in the Park Slope neighborhood with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves.
She collects vintage yearbooks and self-help books. But he likes to read on his iPhone.
“For me, real reading is for e-books, and books have become this kind of collectors’ object,” said Mr. Hanas, who has published short stories in literary journals like McSweeney’s and is publishing his next book, “Why They Cried,” only in digital format. “It’s kind of amazing to see people still going through the stages of acceptance that books are going away, saying they like the way books feel and smell. I was there, but I’m past that now.”
For Erin and Daniel Muskat, a couple in Brooklyn, the ink-stained quarrel has disrupted the togetherness of their reading habits.
Ms. Muskat, 29, bought an iPad for her husband, 33, who works at his family’s shoe business, before their honeymoon in June, but quickly discovered that his electronic reading impinged on her old-fashioned reading.
“I brought a book with me and I barely read it,” said Ms. Muskat, a media consultant. “We used to go to the beach and we’d both take out books, but he had an iPad, and it was almost distracting because it didn’t feel like he was reading with me.”
For Mr. de Halleux, a video game executive, the battle over reading tastes has skipped to a new generation. He and his wife both read to their 3-year-old son, Tristan. He reads Winnie the Pooh to the child on a screen. She reads it in old-fashioned paperback form.
Mr. de Halleux said he was confident the boy would eventually favor the digitized version. “He really likes it because you can zoom in on things,” he said.
And he said the discussion in his household had brought in his parents, too. His own father favors paperbacks, arguing they can be more easily shared, while his mother goes for the e-reader, which she says is easier on faltering eyesight as people get older.
“The argument is more heated by the day,” Mr. de Halleux said. “It’s a topic of intense scrutiny at the moment.”
When The Search for WondLa, the start of a fantasy trilogy for kids starring a 12-year-old girl raised by a robot on an alien planet, is published today, it will include three symbols that link to digital maps of the girl's quest for other humans.
Readers with a webcam can see 3-D interactive maps of the girl's search. Readers without a webcam but access to the Internet can link to a regular map and a video.
WondLa (Simon & Schuster, $17.99) is one of the new "enhanced" hybrids in the divide between e-books (about 8% of the book market, but its fastest-growing segment) and books still made out of paper and ink.
Author/illustrator Tony DiTerlizzi initially balked when his publisher suggested that digital elements be added to WondLa, fearing it would be "gimmicky."
But DiTerlizzi, co-author of the popular Spiderwick Chronicles series that became a 2008 movie, says he changed his mind when he saw that digital "augmented reality" could "enhance the story and not take anything away."
His is far from the only print book employing digital tricks.
Jessica Watson's True Spirit: The True Story of a 16-Year-Old Australian Who Sailed Solo, Nonstop, and Unassisted Around the World (Atria, $16, paperback original) includes 18 tags or bar codes that let readers with smartphones watch parts of Watson's video diary of her voyage. (Readers without smartphones can find the videos on the Internet.)
"It's the perfect marriage of form and function," says publisher Judith Curr. "You read Jessica's description of what she was doing on a particular day in her journey, then watch her video from that day."
Watson's videos are already on YouTube, but Curr says the book's codes make them easier to find.
Atria plans to use the same technology in books by singing sensation Susan Boyle (The Woman I Was Born to Be, Oct. 12) and Olympic skater Apolo Ohno (Zero Regrets, Oct. 26).
Lisa Von Drasek, librarian at Bank Street College of Education School for Children in New York, says she likes enhanced books when "the enhanced part is just that, not an essential element to the reading experience."
She says her students were "mesmerized" when DiTerlizzi previewed his book and its digital maps last spring. But she worries about future technical support: "The book exists for years, but the online element disappears."
Michael Norris, a publishing analyst for Simba, a market research firm, applauds such experiments but adds, "The books still need to stand as strong, complete products without the add-ons, because the add-ons may not last forever."
Graham Cottew (right), reading a book on his i-pad, while his 19-year-old son Tim prefers a paper book. Photo: Ken Irwin
E-books are set to revolutionise the way we read. But plot twists may save paper books from going the way of the dinosaur.
FOR 15 years, pundits have declared the old-fashioned book to be as doomed as the orang-utan. Just as we will one day have to visit the last of that sad species in a zoo, the dog-eared paperback is destined for a similar freakshow status. Perhaps along the lines of collectable Wedgwood or silver spoons.
It isn't only the smug futurists who hold this view: some of Melbourne's most devoted bibliophiles told The Sunday Age the book is destined to be little more than an ornament as technology increasingly transports Charles Dickens and Dan Brown into the digital age.
If this is true, the local death throes of tree-sourced literature began in May, very quietly, when the Borders website posted the first e-book bestseller list for Australia. For the first couple of weeks, a No. 1 hit meant 20 copies sold. Four months later, Borders Australia and its sister company, Angus & Robertson, have sold more then 100,000 e-books and 20,000 Kobo e-readers, and seen 200,000 e-book applications downloaded free (for iPhone and desktop computer reading) from their websites.
While one rival bookseller queried the Kobo e-reader sales figures, REDgroup, the company that owns Borders and Angus & Robertson, thinks they could have sold more if more of them had been available.
''But for about six or seven weeks we couldn't get [enough] devices into our shops,'' REDgroup communications manager Malcolm Neil says.
''We were just getting orders and managing demand … a huge latent demand.''
Ask local publishers and booksellers what the sales mean for the future of reading and they'll say: ''We don't know yet.''
On one hand, the fact that the applications (web-based software) are available free on the Borders website is just one part of an aggressive strategy by REDgroup that, for the moment, is all but locking up the e-book market in Australia. On the other hand, the fact there have been twice as many e-reading applications downloaded as actual books sold by REDgroup suggests the revolution so far is a geek-led phenomenon. If there's a new gadget going, the tech-nerds will tend to snap it up.
Graham Cottew, a web designer who specialises in risk and compliance management for the finance industry, describes himself as ''an early adopter of technology'', yet he's only read one e-book so far, The Art of War, and on his iPad, not on a dedicated e-reader. He reckons he won't take to stand-alone e-readers ''because they're a one-trick pony. I would never pick a technology that did just one thing.''
As for the electronic reading experience, he says: ''At the time, I really enjoyed it. The simulation of turning pages is great, the clarity of text is fine and I didn't get any eye strain. And the one thing I haven't seen mentioned: my wife and I often fight about turning the lights out when I want to read one more chapter. Because the iPad is back-lit, she could have the lights out and I could keep reading.''
Cottew sees e-books as having two advantages over paper books: portability and cost. ''If you are a geek, you always have your iPad with you, which means you always have your library with you. That you're virtually taking along kilograms of paper with no extra weight is a fantastic advantage.
''The other thing: I've just been given the Millennium trilogy (the Stieg Larsson juggernaut) as paper books … but I was going to buy them as e-books because the e-book version was $US9 [$A9.40 per volume] while the Albert Park bookshop sells them for $27 each. It might be over the top to say this spells the death knell for traditional books, but it's bound to take a big share of the market.''
Cottew admits an emotional attachment to his favourite paper books, including a number of ''beaten-up paperbacks''.
''They mean something to me sitting on the shelf. Sometimes books mean more to you than just the words written in them. They might have been part of your life or inspiration.''
BUT does this old-school sentimentality wash with a younger generation suckled on digital technology? Cottew's son, Tim, 19, is also a geek. To wit, a science and engineering student at Monash University. He has read a couple of science fiction e-books on his computer but isn't a fan, largely because he already spends too much of his time looking at a screen.
''I prefer reading to be a different experience. I love a paper book. I love [that] they all have different covers, where I think e-books would tend to all look the same. So you don't get the same attachment. With a paper book, it's more intimate.''
Of course, the death of intimacy tends to occur in stages, and catches its victims by surprise.
For the moment, e-book sales make up less than 1 per cent of total book sales in Australia. However, Australia is two to three years behind the US, where e-books accounted for 8.5 per cent of all book sales as of May, compared with 2.9 per cent in the same period last year, according to the Association of American Publishers.
By the end of the year, e-books are expected to account for 10 per cent of the US market, and by the end of 2011 may reach upwards of 15 per cent. In July, Amazon announced that Stieg Larsson was the first author to have sold a million copies via its exclusive Kindle e-reader. In the same week, Amazon said it was selling more e-books than hardcover books.
The growth in the Australian market will be on an equally exponential curve, says REDgroup's Malcolm Neil. ''Every new device and application adds to the size of the market,'' he says.
Two weeks ago, REDgroup signed a deal to market the Sony e-reader. Myer has also signed on, but other booksellers are locked out.
While REDgroup has trumpeted its dominance of the market, Neil doesn't believe his company has taken it hostage. ''This is the new world,'' he says. ''Everyone is staking out their claims. But it costs money to do this, big investment. We can do it because we're partners with other markets around the world, which means we're sharing costs.
''I wouldn't say we're trying to tie up the market; we're trying to obtain as much content as possible. Content is king. If you don't have content, you can't have a share of the market.''
Which is precisely what has happened so far with the independent book shops - they have no easy access to e-titles. From a consumer's point of view, you cannot go to an independent bookshop's website and buy an e-book, because they don't have them in stock - regardless of how tooled up you might be with the latest e-readers or applications.
Surely it's a simple matter of the stores buying the files direct from the publishers?
Well, no. It's a delicate and complicated issue that, as The Sunday Age discovered, many people in the Australian publishing world find difficult to understand, let alone explain. Here is the short version, as related by Stephen May, president of the Australian Publishers Association:
■ The e-book trade is complex because of technical and legal issues related to file integrity and copyright protection - and the way a couple of big companies have exploited these complexities to corner the market.
■ For the past three years, some publishers and bookstores, such as Dymocks, have been selling e-books on their websites but in formats such as PDF that don't deliver the true e-book page-turning experience. The true experience is delivered via an e-reader (such as the Kindle or Kobo) or e-reading application (as on iPad).
■ When Amazon launched its e-titles in 2007, it invested a huge amount of money in being able to digitally ''talk'' to all the publishers and gain access to the titles. It was then able to virtually monopolise the market because people could only buy and read the books through Amazon's Kindle e-reader. The company has since dominated the market via aggressive pricing and convenience.
■ Borders internationally has likewise invested in being able to talk to all publishers - and Borders Australia has benefited from this. It then did a deal with the Canadian company that produces the Kobo reader, in effect copying the Amazon model by initially adopting limited access via one type of e-reader. However, Borders has now begun selling the Sony e-reader.
■ There are 2000 Australian booksellers. Very few of them could afford to develop their own e-readers, and they'd never make their money back. Meanwhile, there is no point in a publisher simply emailing book files to bookshops that don't have the technical support for their consumers to access their books in the format they choose.
■ However, there are new e-readers coming on to the market and the number of devices is expected to grow radically - and, increasingly, they will be open systems that can talk to files sold from any outlet.
■ What's missing is a new kind of integrated distribution system - akin to the old-fashioned warehouse, but in digital form - that will serve as a protected link between publishers and bookstores, and will digitally talk to any device the consumer chooses to use. These warehouses are already being established in the US and Britain.
Says Stephen May: ''The only way to get a file into an e-reader has been through a bookstore. So far, that's meant either Amazon or REDgroup. They have the march on it. But every week there will be a new e-reader out, and that's what we're all dealing with at this point.''
As one industry insider explains: the independents expected the publishers to broker individual deals with retailers, while the publishers hoped the retailers might amalgamate into a big enough group to fund a warehouse.
Victoria Nash, digital strategy manager for Pan Macmillan, says there is talk of ''an industry-based solution'' but it will take time.
The most immediate solution (or, at least, the big white hope for the independent bookstores) rests with the Google Editions library getting online and serving as a wholesaler. Google Editions, which has scanned 21 million titles from major libraries around the world, could essentially serve as the missing wholesaler link.
Although in recent years Google has provided access to many free books that are out of copyright, Google Editions, which has been negotiating with publishers around the world, including Australia, will essentially be another online bookseller - similar to Amazon but willing to open up the market by allowing users to access books from a broad range of websites using an array of devices.
Mark Tanner, Google Editions' man in Australia, says the company is planning to sell direct to consumers, ''but we're willing to work with retailers, including the independents''. It was widely reported that Google Editions would be ready for business in July. Two months later, Tanner says the company is keeping its launch date under its hat.
Mark Rubbo, managing director of Readings, believes Google Editions ''will be the game-changer'' - and for him, the game can't change soon enough.
''My life and my business is all about selling physical books, but the e-book could take enough business that … the bookshop may not be viable on its own,'' he says.
''I guess that's why we're keen to participate in the e-book thing. And, you know, I'm sort of excited by the challenge.''
Indeed, he has already started sleeping with the enemy. ''I bought a Sony reader and a Kindle,'' he says. ''I wanted to see what it was like. On the Kindle, I have bought 10 books and read only one, a literary thriller. You didn't have to think about it, and I read it in a night … But I didn't like the way the book looked. It's very one-dimensional. Flat and bland on the page.
''I really like to flick back and forth through pages, but this was unpleasant and hard to do on the Kindle. So I think at the moment the technology is pretty basic and not very good.
''The technology will get better … but for me, the physicality of the [paper] book is always going to be more enjoyable.''
Will the paper book last? ''I think so, but nobody really knows what's going to happen. We won't have any real idea for another two or three years. And most of the predictions I've ever made about the industry have been wrong. Ten years ago, I predicted that Amazon wouldn't last.''
The big question is whether e-books will cannibalise the existing book market, or if it will lead to new growth. Says Victoria Nash of Pan Macmillan, one of Australia's top three publishers: ''Whatever happens, there is going to be a seismic shift in how the business works. I would suggest the digital generation wouldn't go into a bookstore … but because you are in their [digital] space, then, yes, the potential is there to show the market will expand rather than eat itself.''
She also points to the fact that digital technology opens up opportunities to people who have restricted access to traditional books. ''The ability to change the size of fonts has improved reading ability for the visually impaired … so they have more choices.''
Is Nash an e-book fan? ''I read them, but not as much at home. After work, the last thing I want to do is look at a screen, so paper is my preference. But … when I went travelling I had a guide book and a couple of fiction books on my iPad, so I could still access emails as well. Half the people reading e-books use a laptop instead of an e-reader.''
Does she believe the paper book is doomed to novelty status? ''I think what will happen to books is similar to what's happened to the cinema. You go to the cinema for an experience. Books on paper are a different experience. TV didn't kill off radio.''
Joel Becker, CEO of the Australian Booksellers Association, is optimistic that the e-book will eventually complement rather than replace the traditional book.
''There's talk about packaging purchases so you buy both the hard copy and the e-book as well. My hope is there will be a broadening access to reading and it helps in terms of literacy … There are potential tools at the educational literacy level where someone who is reading with literacy difficulties can push a button and the book sounds out the word for them.''
Brett Osmond, head of digital publishing for Random House, says the one thing he's sure about is ''people have been making predictions every day, and I don't want to be one of them. It's too early to make firm predictions, but I don't think anything's dying.''
He remembers watching Oprah Winfrey 18 months ago introduce the Kindle on her show. She ''stood up with her Kindle and said, 'This is amazing.' She gave one to everyone in her audience.'' Osmond thought initially it was just a knee-jerk response by Oprah and her followers to the latest fad, but the fact is e-readers aren't just being bought only by those aged 18 to 25.
''We don't have a lot of information yet, but it looks like older readers are buying them. The revolution is in play … but predictions of the traditional book being dead are premature.
''They will continue to have a viable place in the market … because it's human nature to be attracted to objects and to have momentoes of the things that we love.''
Osmond is also optimistic about the future of bookshops. ''One thing you get from a little bookstore, where the people working there have read a good number of books, is a curating service. They are able to give the sort of informed advice to customers that isn't available in the digital world.''
As for his own reading habits, Osmond spends most of his working days reading manuscripts in PDF format. Last week, he jetted off to Britain for a six-month stint at Random House's London office.
He was taking Moby Dick along to read on the plane. The old-fashioned paper version: big enough to smash a computer with.
Source: The Age
Many children want to read books on digital devices and would read for
fun more frequently if they could obtain e-books. But even if they had
that access, two-thirds of them would not want to give up their
traditional print books.
These are a few of the findings in a study being released on Wednesday by Scholastic, the American publisher of the Harry Potter books and the “Hunger Games” trilogy.
The report set out to explore the attitudes and behaviors of parents and
children toward reading books for fun in a digital age. Scholastic
surveyed more than 2,000 children ages 6 to 17, and their parents, in
Parents and educators have long worried that digital diversions like
video games and cellphones cut into time that children spend reading.
However, they see the potential for using technology to their advantage,
introducing books to digitally savvy children through e-readers,
computers and mobile devices.
About 25 percent of the children surveyed said they had already read a
book on a digital device, including computers and e-readers. Fifty-seven
percent between ages 9 and 17 said they were interested in doing so.
Only 6 percent of parents surveyed owned an e-reader, but 16 percent
said they planned to buy one in the next year. Eighty-three percent of
those parents said they would allow or encourage their children to use
Francie Alexander, the chief academic officer at Scholastic, called the report “a call to action.”
“I didn’t realize how quickly kids had embraced this technology,” Ms.
Alexander said, referring to computers and e-readers or other portable
devices that can download books. “Clearly they see them as tools for
reading — not just gaming, not just texting. They see them as an
opportunity to read.”
Milton Chen, a senior fellow at the George Lucas Educational Foundation,
said the report made the case that children want to read on new digital
“The very same device that is used for socializing and texting and
staying in touch with their friends can also be turned for another
purpose,” Mr. Chen said. “That’s the hope.”
But many parents surveyed also expressed deep concerns about the distractions of video games, cellphones and television in their children’s lives. They also wondered if the modern multi-tasking adolescent had the patience to become engrossed in a long novel.
“My daughter can’t stop texting long enough to concentrate on a book,”
said one parent surveyed, the mother of a 15-year-old in Texas.
Another survey participant, the mother of a 7-year-old Michigan boy,
said, “I am afraid my son’s attention span will only include fast-moving
ideas, and book reading will become boring to him.”
More than half the parents surveyed said they were concerned that as
their children spent more time using digital devices, they would be less
interested in recreational reading. The study did not try to measure
whether the digital devices actually did detract from time spent
The study also examined the effect of parents and teachers on children’s
reading habits. Children ages 9 to 11 are more likely to be frequent
readers if their parents provide interesting books to read at home and
set limits on time spent using technology like video games, the report
The report also suggested that many children displayed an alarmingly
high level of trust in information available on the Internet: 39 percent
of children ages 9 to 17 said the information they found online was
It is a sunny afternoon, and Pradeep Palazhi, COO of Bangalore-based EC Media International P Ltd (http://bit.ly/F4TPradeepEC), is cheerful. Understandably so, because only a day ago his company's Wink, the desi eReader, was out in New Delhi with a price tag of less than Rs 12,000.
“I foresee eReaders accelerating a larger trend towards electronic/digital publishing,” he begins, without batting an eyelid, during our interaction for eWorld. “Digital media in publishing is not going to replace printed media. However, it is going to be growing in size and share of the publishing market. More and more content will be published in electronic and printed formats to start off and the balance will tilt towards electronic formats in the future.”
Another interesting aspect, in Pradeep's view, is the way the whole eBook phenomenon is going to affect the traditional libraries. The jury is still out, but early trends indicate that the library model will have to undergo a significant makeover in the process, he avers.
A thought that Pradeep offers to the traditional bookshops is that they will have to come up with innovative models to adapt to the eBook revolution. “While eBooks are not going to replace printed books, they will definitely reduce their share of the market. Digital publishing or eBook publishing will result in increase of self-publishing market. It will be easier and cost-effective for authors to publish their titles which may not be accepted by a traditional publisher. This market will see a huge growth over the next few years.”
If the whole eBook and eReader revolution improves the reading habit then we will all be better off, and there are indications in that direction, observes Pradeep. Our conversation continues over email.
Excerpts from the interview.
What have been the significant milestones in the evolution of eReaders till now?
The significant milestones in the evolution of eReaders are noted below:
1) Launch of Project Gutenberg was probably the first digital reading/ digital content initiative.
2) First eBook reader (Rocket Reader) launched in 1998.
3) Sony's first portable eReader launched in the US in 2006.
4) Launch of Amazon's Kindle in November 2007 was really the start of the current eReader revolution.
5) Kindle became the bestselling gift item in Amazon in 2009.
6) Years 2009 and 2010 saw the availability of a number of good eReaders in the market
7) Sales of eBooks overtook hardcover sales on Amazon.com in 2010.
8) World eBook reader demand for 2010 is projected to be about 6 million units, roughly double the 2009 numbers.
Let us remember that eReaders started off as just another device. Makers of early eReaders like Sony focused on putting out another device in the market. The market didn't start to pick up and mature until more and more content became available for the eReaders and the overall user experience of getting content for the eReaders started to improve.
Year 2009 was the big turning point in the history of eReaders. Later part of 2010 and early part of 2001 will be crucial; we will witness how eReaders shape up in the market as they compete for space and attention against multi-functional devices such as the iPad.
Can you list some of the top challenges that eReader designers grapple with?
There have been many design challenges in the past. Such as, how to maximise battery life, how to offer the best navigational capabilities, etc. Another design consideration has been to determine the optimal screen size in order to provide a good reading experience while not reducing the ease of handling and not increasing the weight of the devices.
The current challenges include how to provide touch-screens without reducing the reading clarity and to bring colour to the eReaders in a cost-efficient manner.
Current and future challenges revolve around how to match some of the attractiveness of the user interfaces of tablet devices without compromising on the basics of an eReader and to provide dynamic display capabilities (e.g. support for video). One of the main design challenges will be to provide the additional functionality that consumers may desire without compromising on the core eReader functionalities.
There are already some promising models out in the market with touch-screen capabilities; and colour models will hit the market during the early part of 2011.
Yet another design and manufacturing challenge has been in bringing down the cost of eReaders. This has been primarily prevented by the monopoly of one manufacturer who controls pretty much the whole display side of the eReaders. This situation is likely to change in 2011 with more reliable choice of displays hitting the market.
Your take on the alternative revenue models that will sustain eReaders, in mature economies, and the developing countries.
Content is the king. Any revenue model which focuses on the eReader device won't be sustainable. Revenue models that focus on content revenues, CLV (customer lifetime value), communities, and value addition will thrive.
Content models that increase the CLV will thrive. Examples are newspapers, pushed news snippets, and serialised fiction. With some additional capabilities the eReader can function as a very good educational aid. Ability to better handle quizzes, tests etc, will take it a long way in to the educational space.
A growth area will be the rent-and-expire model. This is likely to become popular in 2011. Legal sharing of content also will thrive in countries such as India. B2B applications will grow significantly over the next few years. This will include corporate document management, database-based application and educational applications.
Would you like to speak about market research insights on consumer preferences in eReaders — such as what they look for the most?
It will be a mistake to focus on eReader features. The eReader features will be a hygiene factor that people will expect from all the eReader devices and will soon be a commodity.
Consumers want a holistic user experience from eReaders. That means availability of good content at reasonable prices and ease of buying, maintaining and accessing them from multiple devices.
Source: The Hindu