Why eBooks are complimentary, not revolutionary

Michael Hyatt, in a recent post predicted the death of traditional book publishing… someday. Deep Keel disagrees.

Although I’m usually all for technology revolutionizing existing industries, here I’m not so sure it’s going to happen the way Mr. Hyatt thinks.

For one, I dislike his iPod analogy for several reasons:

1. Listening to music on an iPod is vastly superior in all ways to listening to it on a CD. Yes there’s a ‘quality’ hit, but honestly… who cares? The core, the guts of the song are there, and that’s what counts. I can listen to my iPod or a CD – I have a choice.
— E-Ink has many advantages and disadvantages in it’s current state.

2. When I bought my iPod I could put all the music I already owned on it. It made my existing (large) investment more useful and portable.
— Currently only new books available on eBook form could be put on an e-reader. No-one is unveiling a program to let you download books you already own and I doubt anyone will (Amazon might let you do it for a small charge?).

3. Just as Sony is being raked over the coals (and taken to court) for going too far in trying to protect its content, publishers will go too far and make their books less useful in trying to protect them from average citizens. Although the iPod supports DRM (iTunes store) it’s normally used to play non DRM content. DRMed content (iTunes) is also available in non DRMed forms (CDs).
— Treating your customers like criminals is a bad business strategy. I can lend a book to a friend, how do I lend an e-book? How do I check out an eBook from the library? How do I buy an eBook as a gift? These are some of the key features of a BOOK- ease of lending, libraries and gift buying are all reasons books are bought today- and big reasons in many cases.

4. iPods are a fashion/social statement.
— An eBook reader as a fashion statement? Maybe — but it’ll have to be really cool. The Creative Zen has more features than an iPod… and one tenth the market share.

Will eBooks be big? Sure. Will we see a plethora of eBook readers in the next few years? Sure. Will the traditional publishing system collapse. Hardly. It will have to adapt, but not nearly as much as the music and movie industries will. They are all content, but they are valued and consumed in completely different ways.

Could I be wrong? Sure. But so could Mr. Hyatt 😉

4 Responses to “Why eBooks are complimentary, not revolutionary”

  • John DePree Says:

    My quick list of eBook “must haves”

    – I can highlight with my finger, not a device or interface or even a pen — This one-ups the paper book.
    – I can record voice or write in the margins
    – I can throw it (literally) in the back window of my car in Texas in July without worry
    -I don’t have to worry about theft because it isn’t worth stealing
    -I don’t have to ever recharge it as it functions off ambient light
    -I don’t want my reading interrupted by IM or email.
    -I can drive my car over one and it still functions
    And as for the flexibility thing, why? if it flexes, it can be folded or scissored into pieces by my four year old.

  • Deep Keel Says:

    I think DRM is the key block longterm to shifting away from paper. In time technology in one form or another will find ways of addressing the various usability issues for the reader. If the publishing industry could get together with some of the technology companies to form a standards group that would develope the specifications for a technology that satisfied both publisher’s concerns with piracy while allowing e-publishing to offer enhanced features to readers then this might get somewhere.

    I think there are potential benefits to all by going paperless, but as always the devil is in the details. The current generation of e-book readers just doesn’t cut it.

  • Patsy Says:

    As long as there are bathrooms, there will always be paper books.

Leave a Reply