Resistance is futile: You WILL buy an e-reader

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Amazon’s got the Kindle, now in generation 2.5. Sony just announced that it’s reducing the price of its base-level e-reader to $199 — $100 less than the Kindle — though you can’t download books via wi-fi like you can with Amazon’s unit.

You can also buy e-readers from Panasonic and Samsung, with another coming soon from a startup called Plastic Logic. Microsoft had been rumored to be moving toward the e-reader market, and everyone seems to be waiting for what Apple might come up with.

The Kindle is built around a proprietary platform, as I assume Apple’s would be.

Early this year, Barnes & Noble bought Fictionwise — an e-book vendor — to compete directly with Amazon. (Here’s one article announcing the purchase.)

Do you get the sense that you’re going to be hearing a lot about e-books in the months and years ahead?

At various times, it was unimaginable that we’d all have our own computers and cell phones. So if you’re insisting right now that the book can’t be improved upon and there’s no reason for an e-book reader to enter your life, it’s just a matter of time before you change your mind.

The price will have to come down; a war will have to be fought and won over platforms and standards, and at some point, some respected company will have to take a leap and make its products available only in e-book format. None of this will take as long as it is for BlueRay to replace DVDs.

Nintendo actually put an e-reader on the market in 2004 — as did Sony and a few others. They flopped; perhaps because the technology wasn’t advanced enough yet, but more likely because the content providers didn’t have enough economic reason to support it. At the time, an e-reader was just another gadget.

That’s changed.

From magazine companies to newspapers to book publishers, nobody’s business model can continue to absorb the high cost of printing and distributing paper. So your resistance is futile; there is just too much corporate desire now to replace paper with something digital.

At some point, there will be a first New York Times bestseller that never actually came out in a printed edition. I’m putting my money on it happening by 2013.

According to the chart below from Forrester Research, more than 4 out of 5 people are familiar with the concept of an e-reader — compared to less than 2 out of 3 last year.  And while ownership of e-readers has more than doubled in the past year, market penetration is still less than 2 percent.

So do the math: Hardware providers are climbing over each other to break into this market; content providers are eager to support them; consumers have very quickly become aware and curious.

It sounds like an obvious post-recession boom to me.



About the Author:

Bob Rosenbaum is founder and principal of The MarketFarm, a content-oriented strategic communications firm.


  1. Newt Barrett  August 6, 2009

    Bob, I’m already on board. I have a Kindle and I use the Kindle app on my iPhone, too. With rare exceptions–remainder books at B&N or those unavailable on Kindle, for example–I don’t buy any real books anymore.

    Here are my questions on the research: how many participants have read a book in the past 12 month? How many have they read? Of regular book readers, what % own an ebook reader–and which one?


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