Brad Wardell's views about technology, politics, religion, world affairs, and all sorts of politically incorrect topics.
The future of eBooks
Published on November 21, 2007 By Draginol In Books

I just got back from the future in my time machine. Lots of cool stuff and not so cool stuff too.

But one of the things that surprised me was how eBooks ended up succeeding in ways one didn't expect and failed utterly in the areas it was expected to do well in.

It all started with the Kindle.  The Kindle was the first mainstream (seriously mainstream) attempt to get eBooks going.  With Amazon getting behind it (just like the did the Segway incidentally) the Kindle became pretty successful in its time.  But in the end, it failed as a product once people concluded a few things about books:

  1. People like books (physically).
  2. The people who buy lots of books like to have them around.
  3. People like the share books.
  4. If you damage a book, you might be out a few bucks, damage Kindle and you're out $400.
  5. Books don't have idiotic DRM issues.
  6. Books are easy to hold and read (Kindle doesn't have enough text on screen).
  7. Books can be sized and have print designed for that book (Kindle is a one sized fits all solution).

I buy about 4 to 6 books per month. I spend a lot of time reading. I'm also a techie. I'm the ideal customer for the Kindle.  Besides the fact that the thing is ugly, overpriced, and can't even handle PDF's directly, it does have an important niche use: The ability to read many different things while traveling.

And ultimately, that's where eBooks will end up taking off.  In the future, people buy physical books still but they also get a license to the Kindle version (good for Kindle, its format becomes the standard -- Amazon gets rich off of licensing the format even as its device fails). 

So when you go on a trip, your iPhone G5 will have your Kindle books on it too that you can read while the physical book remains at home.  Which is nice since I don't have to drag with me 2 or 3 hard cover books (that's the problem with non-fiction books, they tend to be big hard covers).

But Kindle, as a device will fail. But once Amazon figures out how to sell Kindle content with the actual book for tiny extra fee, it will succeed as a format.

Comments (Page 2)
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on Jan 22, 2008
I held a Kindle in my hand a week or so ago. I've got a friend that buys pretty much every gadget there is to see for himself - he got one from the first run.

I fell in love with it (and ordered one) for the following reasons:

1. It's easier on the eyes, and the text clearer to look at (IMO) than a real book.
2. There is no scrolling regardless of font size you choose. Each page is a page.
3. I was invited to this friend's family account which is some Amazon thingybob by which all members of said account share the books they buy. So if I buy one, my whole "family" can download it.
4. My friend makes eBooks He literally photographs every page of a book, slurps it all up into PDF followed by OCR. I looked at examples of his work. Indistinguishable from "professional" jobs.
5. You can press one button with the cursor on any line of a book and it invokes a resident dictionary listing all the words in THAT line you might need a definition of. You can then choose the word you're wishing to define and see a detailed definition.
6. It has a highlighting function. All passages you choose to highlight are stored in a separate text file. Great for research/paper writing.
7. No backlight makes for long battery life and easy reading in the direct sunlight. If it's dark, your regular old booklight still clips on.

I'm sure in the future, something better will appear, but for now, I think I'll be satisfied.

As far as DRM, there's a huge number of classics I've always wanted to read that are public domain and available. Even if all I ever really get is all the classics for 400$, that's still way cheaper than if I'd bought them all.
on Mar 22, 2010

  I still think that reading text/graphic on pc is great.  I have always been bothered with the medium.  You buy music on 8-trac, cassette, cd, dvd, etc..Then you have to buy the next device..Why?  Same with books, games, etc.  Why should I have to buy the same Bram Stoker story over and over.  For this reason I like digital distribution.  Instead of having to rely on the latest version you should have access to your purchase forever.  Remember when albums got scratched and you would have to buy another. I don't want to have to buy the same books, games, music, movies, etc. over and over just to have the same product over time.  It also seems like we should be recycling our products instead of spamming them.  I thought digital medium would help reduce the waste and not increase it.  I also thought costs should drop significantly over time for any fiction or non-fiction.  This is not happening.

  I'm probably not seeing the forrest for the trees.

on Mar 22, 2010

Kindle did not fail. ^^^^^ The two year old bump kinda did though.Way to go Magicke.

on Mar 22, 2010
When the Kindle first came out the price was $400. It has since dropped to $259. When I travel I used to take as many as 10 books with me, now I can take as many as 1500 without taking up any room in my suitcase...PLUS I can adjust the size of the print so I can actually SEE what I'm reading. Plus I can get free samples of anything I'm remotely interested in AND get reviews online of anything I'm considering buying. Was it worth the price? DUH!
on Mar 22, 2010

The two year old bump kinda did though.Way to go Magicke



That said, I love -- and have loved -- e-books for years.  I started with an old hand-held PDA (not even a smartphone, just a Tungsten E2) and migrated to a Palm Treo.  I've been reading e-books for about 5 years now (I think), and almost exclusively e-books for 3.


Webscription is my favorite; Mobipocket is a great backup.  Unfortunately, thanks to Amazon's acquisition of Mobi I'm in a very nasty spot.  Mobipocket is being deliberatly run into the ground to make room for the Kindle, so eventually it (and all the books I buy with it) are going away.  I need to break the DRM (which may or may not be legal) simply to migrate to a new device.  Which device I'm going to go with is up in the air, I haven't decided.  I'd consider the iPhone, but the monthly price is actually higher than my current Spring contract with inferior service (no insurance plan to protect against damage).


Overall, I am unimpressed by my options.  iPhone is only available via AT&T at a higher rate, with inferior service, and none of the other options have e-book programs I am familiar with that look like good long term prospects (i. e. NOT Mobi).  That said, Amazon has recently started a "Kindle for mac" promotion, which drew my attention to kindle books for non-kindle platforms (tablets, PCs, iPhone, macs, blackberry), so I may need to look at that.  The ironic thing is that the iPhone has a program that will handle decrypting the Mobipocket DRM for me, so it's probably my best bet (especially sicne I have access to an iPod touch through work that I'll be using to debug the software we're working on).

on Mar 22, 2010

I am a huge reader, and have been most of my life, ( i was the kid that actually read the Grapes of Wrath in high school) and the Kindle has been for me, the best thing since sliced bread, but thats me, and i swear by it, i can buy and read approximately 2.5 books for the price of 1, witht he rate i buy books, i am saving myself a bunch and reading more for less, plus the best feature of all I never lose my place, plus i can read it on my laptop if need be

on Mar 23, 2010

  Thanks PJ an Ron.  Slightly red in face, heeh.  Also ty for the breakdown tigerlady, Ron Lugge and jpmurph1. 

on Mar 23, 2010

May I suggest that Audiobooks have a much brighter future than kindle?

on Apr 21, 2010

Can I download kindle on my commodore 64? People have been bugging me to put my book on kindle, I don't see it as a winner for me. Am I wrong??

on Apr 22, 2010

Can I download kindle on my commodore 64?

Yes, if you have one of the new Windows 7 Commodore boxen:


People have been bugging me to put my book on kindle, I don't see it as a winner for me. Am I wrong??

You might be.

While I wouldn't really want the Kindle itself, I am dreaming of an Android-based Google tablet that runs the Kindle software. And then I'd buy lots of e-books.

See, I don't like the iPad as I find the mobile phone attitude towards applications too restructive (I want to run whatever software I want) and Apple's licensing too dangerous (I want to write .NET apps for my tablet).


on Apr 22, 2010

Well, since this old thread has been resurrected, I've examined the Kindle and the Sony Reader. I bought the Sony. I use it daily as both an ebook reader and a notepad (the Touch edition allows one to write or type notes on the screen).

I have no interest in the iPad at all. I am looking forward to the release of the HP Slate later this year.

on Apr 22, 2010

You might be.

While I wouldn't really want the Kindle itself

That is my feeling as well. Why put something on a device that is not all that great

on Apr 22, 2010

That is my feeling as well. Why put something on a device that is not all that great

My point is that Draginol will ultimately be right. The Kindle format will succeed but the device won't.

The iPad has proven that people want a multi-purpose tablet device. An eBook reader is not a device, it's an application for a multi-purpose device.


on Nov 23, 2012

As for me I read on my IPAD using the kindle APP and I LOVE it, and will never go back to purchasing a physical copy ever again.

The main reason that I prefer Ebooks over a physical copy, is that I can download a copy of the book I purchased to multiple devices and at any time.

Meaning I can have a copy of a book on my IPAD, on my phone, and I can even read it from any computer with an internet connection. Now unfortunately what I cant do is loan the book to a friend, but what do I care I have lost too many books by loaning them to friends, which were never returned.

on Nov 23, 2012

Thanks for the necro, interesting thread to go back and read.

I myself ended up going down both paths. Tablet (so far only iPad2) and eReader (upgraded this twice so far kindle2-->kindle touch3G-->kindle paperwhite3g) have both had their ups and downs, but to own one certainly is not prohibitive in this day and age where both are so readily available so relatively cheap.


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