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The care and feeding of an ebook habit

A recent post on Gadget Lab talks about eReaders getting cheaper. I do think that lower cost will be an impetus for eReaders to go mainstream. But I think everyone who talks about hardware cost should take a step back and consider what made eReaders catch fire. It was this list:

• e-ink screen (highly readable, easy on the eyes; Sony had this piece before Kindle even hit the market)
• lots and lots of available ebooks (this requires a decent online bookstore, and Amazon had one)
• wireless delivery (Kindle had this first, and then the Kindle-for-iPhone came out and snagged a whole new group of mobile readers. Barnes & Noble was smart to realize they needed wireless to compete)

What all this adds up to is spur-of-the-moment convenience. You hear about a book, you look for it online, and it's available you buy it, all without getting up from your chair. A cheaper eReader will help snare those folks who would have bought Sony Readers if only they had been cheaper, but it won't lure away people who have tasted the heady nectar of near-instantaneous gratification-- the main reason I think the Kindle-for-iPhone app has been so popular, even without e-ink and a decent-sized screen. Stanza was popular before that app came out, and it did pretty well even without the Amazon store behind it (Amazon now owns Stanza).

So, the cheaper hardware cost will help, so long as it doesn't come at the price of lost convenience. The cost of ebooks matters more than the one-time cost of the eReader. That's where it really get interesting! The whole "what should the cost of ebooks be?" debate is still raging, even now that Amazon and Macmillan have buried the ebook price hatchet. Finding that sweet spot that maximizes revenue— bringing in the most money per book— will be tricky. Too expensive and ebookers won't buy, and too cheap and publishers could lose money. It should get better with time as publishers learn to estimate ebook sales and set prices accordingly.

I hope they work it all out because I want/need/require a steady stream of ebooks, but I'm sure glad it's not my job to figure this out.

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( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 2nd, 2010 09:50 am (UTC)
Too right! The convenience can lead to some dodgy buys. But I guess that's part of the fun too.
Mar. 2nd, 2010 12:54 pm (UTC)
Yeah, and the price, too. I'm quite sure a lot of those "best sellers" that are given away free in the Kindle store never get read.
Mar. 2nd, 2010 12:58 pm (UTC)
I think you're missing the biggest difference maker: scalable font sizes.

You can buy an eBook and adjust the font size based on what your eyes need, which means you don't have to go out and buy a separate large print book.

Instantaneous gratification is nice if you've got the money, but the killer app part is the scalable font size. That made an eReader a gadget that your grandparents could use.
Mar. 2nd, 2010 01:00 pm (UTC)
It's true! And the Kindle was similarly the first eReader that didn't require you to own a computer. I helped an 89-year-old non-computer-owning lady learn to use her new Kindle, and she was ecstatic about the large fonts. She hadn't been able to read regular size print books in years.
Mar. 2nd, 2010 01:10 pm (UTC)
Yes. When reports about eReaders started surfacing last summer and fall, the big surprising theme was that the oldest generations were the ones that were the largest purchasers of eReaders, and that they loved the scalable font.

I wouldn't be interested in an eReader myself, but I know of people who could use one for that reason alone.
Mar. 2nd, 2010 01:13 pm (UTC)
Give it a decade and you might change your mind. -)
Mar. 2nd, 2010 02:32 pm (UTC)
We're about the same age -or you're a bit younger, so I'm not there yet. ;-)
Mar. 2nd, 2010 02:35 pm (UTC)
I don't think so. what grade were you in when JFK was shot?
Mar. 2nd, 2010 02:52 pm (UTC)
Okay, I think you're a bit older than me, then. I was at least born when Apollo 11 touched down, however....
Mar. 2nd, 2010 02:57 pm (UTC)
More than a bit, then. There were a few states I could legally drink in when the eagle landed.
Mar. 2nd, 2010 03:10 pm (UTC)
Dang. I was sure you were about my age, or only a bit older or so. Maybe it's similar likes/dislikes, and that we're both in similar fields.

Well, that explains why your husband is into ham radio; there aren't that many people younger than me who are into it these days. (Probably means he's been to Dayton for the Hamvention, too.)
Mar. 2nd, 2010 05:19 pm (UTC)
Mu husband has never actually been to Dayton for that, but he has gone to plenty of local hamfests. He is proud of being a member of the original geek squad, and he's very sorry cell phones were invented because they meant our kids and I had no incentive to ever learn ham radio.
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )

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