eReader Frenzy Continues

Last week, Publishing Perspectives’ editor Edward Nawotka stirred up some controversy with his opinion that the current breed of eReaders were good enough, noting, “My septuagenarian mother is delighted with her first-generation Kindle.”

Yesterday, Brian O’Leary, Founder and Principal of Magellan Media, offered his own take on the frenzied buzz coming out of CES in a post, “Reader madness“, that he’s allowed us to repost here in its entirety:

A range of digital reading devices debuted (or hinted at debuting) at the Consumer Electronics Show last week, and the resulting hype convinced me that I should be the last person posting about them.

Then, a friend tweeted a link to a half-day e-reading conference (yes, another one).  The folks behind this conference had crunched the numbers and decided that by 2020, annual demand for e-ink readers would total 446 million units – about $25 billion in sales.  Not “total over ten years”, not “in use”: someone out there (with a straight face) wants me to spend $195 to entertain a claim that nearly half a billion e-readers will be sold in 2020.

No thanks.

There are lots of good things to say about current and possible e-reading solutions, to the extent that they are solutions and not just devices.  To hear those things, we need to stop gasping every time something new and shiny (or black) comes our way.

Matthew Bernius (a graduate student at Rochester Institute of Technology and co-director of the school’s Open Publishing Lab) offers a level-headed view of where e-reading may be headed.  With somewhat less analysis, Bonnier’s Sara Öhrvall offers her on-the-floor perspective, sparing us a breathless talk on the Coming Age of E-Books.

Similarly, Kirk Biglione offers a nuanced assessment of how the mythical Apple Tablet might well aid Amazon in the digital reading market.  It’s not always apparent where we’ll end up, or when we’ll get there.

To be clear, I do believe digital content consumption will grow, and the relative share of print-based content provision will fall.  I’m just not a fan of conclusions without data and predictions for the sake of having said it first.  It was a bad week for both, I am afraid.

Two weeks from now at Digital Book World, the Book Industry Study Group will offer the first look at data from their ongoing research project, “Consumer Attitudes toward eBook Reading”. The study is evaluating readers’ actual interest in and preferences for digital content, and the factors that influence their reading habits and purchasing decisions, and they will be presenting a selection of actionable data points from this pioneering research.

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