amnesiack: (geek pride)
[personal profile] amnesiack
I recently linked to Charlie Stross's cool blog entry about Apple and the future of the computer industry. He's got another really great one up now about the eBook market that's also worth reading if you have any interest in the medium:

CMAP #9: Ebooks

At the beginning, he links to a couple of his past entries that contain pertinent material. Both are interesting, but I think you can get away with just reading Why The Commercial Ebook Market Is Broken (keeping in mind that it was writting in 2007, so some things have changed since it was written).

The part of that entry that particularly jumped out to me was this bit about the wait for dirt-cheap ebook readers:

First of all, if overlooks the point that publishers don't manufacture ebook readers; the consumer electronics industry does. And the consumer electronics industry will not cut off its own nose to spite its face by producing an ebook reader for $20, if it can produce one with extra bells and whistles that sells for $350. We've had the tech for a $20 (or $50, anyway) ebook reader for a decade; it would resemble a grey-scale palm pilot, albeit without even the PDA functionality.
I realize this should have been really obvious to me, but until he pointed it out, I just hadn't really thought about it. Publishers would embrace ebooks more if the platform was cheap enough to make easy market penetration. They would love that. But they're not the ones making and selling the devices. The people making and selling the devices aren't the people making profits from the ebooks, so in order to make it worth their while, they have to make the readers more expensive.

The exceptions to this are, of course, Amazon and Apple, who control both their own devices and their ebook distribution channels. I have a feeling that this will strongly play into these two companies heavily dominating the ebook reader market in the future, because they're currently the only ones who stand to benefit by making their devices cheaper. Which, of course, then ties right back into Charlie's previous article about the future of the computer industry.

Date: 2010-05-10 10:21 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I don't know, look at netbooks. A company in Taiwan decided to produce a laptop that had only basic functionality and sell it for about $300, and now most laptpo makers have an equivalent machine. Before they did that, the only tiny laptop available was Sony's $2000 mini-Vaio. I'm already seeing knock-off e-readers in China, so I wouldn't be surprised if a Chinese, Taiwanese, or Korean company decides to produce a cheap and small e-reader. And once one company does, if it takes off, the other companies will offer one too. Or they won't, and they'll lose all those sales.

Date: 2010-05-14 12:58 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
The Kindle costs are virtually all marketing, not the hardware. You can find lots of inexpensive eBook readers for less, but I think it's all a red herring - the "gateway" for most people will be their cell phone.

Either way, nice to see the format getting sorted out (e.g. mobi or epub). After that, it's all off to the races for distribution.

As a side note, it's been really, really interesting to watch this massive collapse in the price / value of intellectual property. In a world where all digital information is free (or damn near) and where the price of all physical goods drops to nothing... what, exactly is the economy?

Or is there something else? What does a post-scarcity model look like?

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