5 Reasons You’ll Be Using an EReader in 2 Years

sony-reader-prs505-b

Sony Reader PRS-505

Do you look at ereaders and ebooks and wonder “what’s the big deal?” Then you’re probably like a lot of people who understand the technology, but figure that printed books, laptops, and iPhones are good enough.

Yeah, hate to break it to you, but in about two years, you’ll be using an ereader. It won’t look like today’s Kindle or Nook, but it won’t be that different either. Ereaders are an inevitable next-step technology.

The W+P=W Top 5 Reasons You Will Be Using an EReader in Two Years

1. Prices will drop.
Paying $200 for a device like a Sony eReader when you can read a book for free? Crazy, right? Well, not so fast. Is the book you’re reading actually free or did someone pay for it already? That’s right, someone paid for the media, even if it’s in a public library. As for the device, let’s not judge future prices by today’s prices. If that were the case, nobody could afford a plasma or LCD television in their home. Early home entertainment systems are always expensive, until manufacturers can figure out a way to drive down costs.

Today’s ereaders are relatively cheap for new technology. Expect cheaper prices, starting this year. In two years, they’ll be selling them at garage sales. Tech always starts high and comes down.

2. eBook exclusives.
Why read a digitial book when a perfectly good print version is there on the shelf? Well, just wait until the book you really, really want to read is only available in ebook format. Or the book that you have to read for work or school. Yeah, it’s going to happen, and sooner than you want it to. As you may know, I have published comics in the past. Nothing big, but I did enough to realize that more than 50% of my costs were going to printing and shipping. It’s the same for mainstream publishers as well.

Soon, publishers will release certain books only in digital formats. It’s probably going to start with textbooks, since there are 37 million kids in US schools alone. And they don’t get to choose what they read, right?

3. Free channels will fade.
When was the last time you went to a music store to buy new music? Yeah, same here. If you have an iPod, you’ve probably used Apple’s iTunes store. I love the Amazon store for new music. Every other strip mall in America used to have a record shop. Not anymore.

Now, with bookstores fading into the sunset, you’re going to be forced to do some shopping online. But print books, still need to be shipped. If you buy from Amazon, that price is fixed at $3.99 (before free shipping incentives). And the costs of shipping keep going up, up, up. One day, the cost of shipping a book will be prohibitively high. So high, that it will not make sense to buy a print book over the Net. Meanwhile, the delivery cost of an ebook will tend to remain fairly constant at $0.

Oh, and one more thing about “channels.” You know, when I was a young one, nobody could imagine paying for television. People scoffed at the idea of paying for cable TV, especially when you could just pull up the antenna and get reception. And yet, now paying for cable television is just another bill. In the future an ebook reader will be another device that you keep around the house for your basic reading needs.

4. Picture better pictures.
Right now, the graphics on Kindle are perfect for text. Pictures? Nah-so-good. The images are barely passable and sometimes downright unreadable. Lame.

In fact, the ebook reader of tomorrow probably looks a lot like your laptop of today. Except the ereader of the future will almost certainly have a touch display. Better pictures, movie watching, and web browsing will all eventually be included in high-end ereaders. Asus today announced the DR-570, a color ereader. Brilliant color pictures and 122 hours of battery life, at least that’s what they are claiming.

5. Content creators will want ereaders.
You may not pay for content, including pictures, words, and videos. Radio is free. Television is free (even though you pay for the wire into your house). But someone, somewhere is paying for it. Writers and editors and production people all need to get paid.

So the people who actually create content, like publishers, and the people who pay them (the advertisers) are already lining up behind new technology. Content creators will push hard for ereaders, especially since it will give them a new way to aggregate their content. Yes, piracy will run rampant, but enough people are willing to pay for good content that it will drive down the cost of the devices.

More importantly, content creators will gain access to incredibly detailed statistical reports. Old media is saddled with old-style reporting. New media advertisers want details about user behavior. eReaders will bridge that gap and make the medium instantly useful and credible in the eyes of advertisers. They will bring their dollars to this new medium, making it possible for content publishers to pay the people who create the content.

So, yeah, those are my Top 5 reasons why you’ll be reading from an ebook reader in under two years. There are probably more, but I’ve got a hot date with my Kindle and my favorite blogs. (Yes, I read blogs on my Kindle.)

Kindle Sells Big for Holidays

Kindle DXAmazon’s announcement that they sold a lot of Kindle 2 ereaders comes as no surprise. The big news was that, according to Amazon, the Kindle was the best selling item ever on Amazon.com.

Okay, that’s big news for several reasons. For starters, the obvious is that the reading public seems ready for another tech toy, even if it’s kind of expensive and primarily a single-use device. It’s also big news for Barnes & Nobles, which seems to have missed a big opportunity by not being ready with their Nook ereader for this holiday season.

I went to the B&N store near my house and checked out the Nook. It was, as I expected, just like the Kindle. I mean, other than the somewhat minor difference in navigation (that little color strip at the bottom), it looked and felt like my Kindle. Except…well, except I couldn’t buy one on impulse. Ironically, I did leave purchasing a Sudoku book as a Christmas gift. Print, for my analog father.

Borders recently announced that they’d be selling ebooks. It’s sort of sad, though, since the Borders near my house is now going out of business. I’d purchased a lot of books from that store over the years and I’m sad to see them go, but Borders is starting to look like a casualty of a much larger war being waged among bigger, better armed opponents.

And, addressing the 800 pound gorilla in the room, everyone is talking about the eagerly anticipated Apple tablet. The tech press thinks that it will be dubbed the iSlate or iTablet, since Apple seems to own the domain name iTablet.com.

Anyway, if Apple actually enters the tablet PC market — and offers ebook reading software — this could have a significant effect on how we read and consume books. And if you read comics, a color tablet will quickly change how you buy and collect comic books. The aspect ratio of a vertical tablet will complement how current comic books are formatted.

If the iTablet is like a giant iPod Touch or iPhone, as some experts predict, it will be an amazing, game-changing device.

Lots of excitement out there. Sad to see Borders go. Looking forward to the iTablet. Hope the Barnes & Nobles near my house stays in business.

Jackson Dies. Fans Flock to…MySpace?

In terms of media, Michael Jackson’s death revealed some interesting insights in social networks. No, it’s not that people on social networks — like Facebook, Twitter , digg, etc — broke the news to their friends. Instant sharing is at the core of social networking.

myspace_music_logo_1The big surprise? MySpace became a serious destination for fan outpouring. Yes, MySpace, the site that some industry experts have declared dead. Yes, MySpace, the social networking pioneer that just laid off 30% of their workforce.

The King of Pop died suddenly on June 25, setting off a firestorm of news and reaction. Post-event analysis reveals that sites like Twitter and Google were hobbled by the surge in traffic. Google thought the surge in traffic was an organized attack on their site.

SIDE QUESTIONS: If Michael Jackson’s sudden death had this effect on the Intertubes, isn’t it time for the government to review the Net’s infrastructure? What would happen in a larger global event? Could the Net handle it? And is it ironic that television (that “old media”) works just fine during major surges? Debate, discuss.

Back to MySpace
As news raged, something weird happened at MySpace. People started to “friend” Michael Jackson’s MySpace Page at an astonishing rate. MediaWeek reported that “the official Michael Jackson MySpace profile was adding 100 new friends per minute.” Um, wow!

As of this writing, Jackson’s MySpace page has 567 thousand friends. That’s a lot of friends for a “dead” network.

And while Facebook is the current kind of social networks, MySpace is still considered the social network place for discovering music. MediaWeek also reported that “MySpace Music was streaming an average of 100,000 songs every ten minutes in the hours after Jackson’s death.”

It’s frustrating thing that they don’t offer a comparison. That is, how many friends was Michael Jackson getting per day before his death? Don’t know. And how many songs were they streaming every ten minutes before his death? Again, don’t know, so it’s hard to give a good comparison.

Post Mortem Suprises
Michael Jackson’s surprise death revealed a lot about the way people use the web and social networks. Based on the follow-up coverage, it’s clear that this Internet-thingy still holds a few surprises for us.

Yes, Facebook continues to be THE social networking juggernaut. But we knew that already.

The biggest surprise for many of the “experts” out there? MySpace isn’t dead.

Book Expo 2009 – A quick recap

Book Expo 2009Last weekend I went to the Book Expo of America 2009 in New York City. It’s a show that comes around every three years, so it’s not one that I want to miss. As the author of several books (and hopefully more in the future!), I attend the shows to network and connect with publishers.

Since last show, however, we’ve seen the launch of ebook readers, including the Sony Reader and the Amazon Kindle. Many publishers offered ebook versions of new releases, which seemed to draw little attention from media reporting on the event. And yet, neither Sony nor Amazon nor Google (which is now selling ebooks!) had any significant presence at the Expo, which is more or less a professional trade show.

As an author, I would have liked to have seen at least Sony and Amazon at the convention with big informational booths. Y’know, preaching the digital gospel and stuff. I even brought my Kindle with me, just in case Amazon was giving away free sample books or whatever. Sadly, there was nothing there but a little standing kiosk. Nothin’ fun for us early adopters.

Side note: One of the convention organizers said that the word “BEA” was one of the most Twittered words in the country that weekend. That’s kind of cool. And there were several digital-focused panels, including a couple on blogging and Twittering, which was interesting to see.

Despite the ups and downs of the recession, the show still seemed vibrant and alive. It felt a little less crowded than in previous years, but there were still a lot of publishers and interesting exhibitors. It’s a brightly lit Candyland of fun for people who love books. You can’t actually buy anything at Book Expo, but you can certainly plan some of things you’d like to see under the Christmas tree this year.

And, yes, a little reassurance that (despite the digital revolution) there are still people out there who plan to buy books. At least for a little while.

LINKS – NOT NECESSARILY ENDORSEMENTS

BEA Attendance Update…..

Thank God It’s Thursday: Book Expo ’09

Book Expo America 2009 – A Summary

Kindles + Kids = 37 Billion Reasons

When I talk to friends and co-workers about the Kindle 2, they are amazed at the ebook technology, but doubtful that they’ll be using one anytime soon. At a price of $359 (and during a recession), they’re right. They probably will NOT be using an ebook this year. Or next.

But you know who will? Their kids.

According the the US Department of Education, there were approximately 34.9 million children in grades K-8 in public schools in 2008. By 2014, they estimate that number to increase to 37.2 million.

That’s a lot of students. That’s a LOT of textbooks.

According to some Internet sources, it can cost anywhere from $800-$1,000 to give textbooks to students every year. Some sources say an average textbook is about $52. (It’s hard to offer a good credible source. If you have one that supports or disputes this claim, please offer some links.)

So simple math here based on 2014 enrollment estimates:$1,000 times 37 million is $37 billion.

Anyway, kids. Yeah. Expensive, aren’t they?

Kids don’t need paper to get the benefit of the education that’s been written. They need information to get smart. We can give them Internet access, but that’s just one resource.

My Kindle ($359) weighs 10 oz. My laptop ($1,200) is about 5 lbs. That may not be much for me, but it is for a 10-year-old.

In a few years, it’s likely that we’ll see government-issued ebook readers replacing overstuffed backpacks. It may be the Kindle or the Sony e-Reader, but it will probably be some new manufacturer that has big government contracts.

Something more durable and utilitarian. Something that’s less hackable and more controllable than the average PC.

Teachers will assign chapters and reading over the school’s wireless network. Schools will only pay for the chapters they assign. New editions of textbooks will be downloaded directly from the publisher’s website via secure FTP.

Less paper. Less storage space. Less money spent on giving textbooks to 37 million students per year.

Say what you will about public schools, but most people in the US attend these schools. Our country generates a lot of smart people because there are a lot of smart people running and teaching in these schools.

A back of the napkin calculation shows that we may be looking at $37 billion in textbooks in 2014.

You can bet there are school administrators crunching numbers too. And while the economics of first generation ebook readers don’t make sense now, that will soon change. Prices will drop, technology will improve, and the economics will become compellingly obvious.

You may never read books using an ebook reader. But your kids in grammar school? They will.

Links….Not Necessarily Endorsements:

Newspapers: Throw a Lifeline to Your Newsroom

It’s not just the Internet that is killing newspapers. Newspapers are killing themselves. As the newspaper dies, it struggles to remain profitable…causing an inevitable death spiral.

Right now, newspapers could hold on longer if they could throw a lifeline to their local news reporters. Instead, to save money, newspapers are buying content from news wires. Unfortunately most people can get the same articles for free online. Making me pay for something that I can get for free isn’t really a sustainable business model.

Let me give you an example with my own daily newspaper The Record. The Record has always been part of my life, and I do not want to see it go out of business.

But here’s how the content from today’s (March 23. 2009) newspaper breaks down. I counted each homegrown article and each wire story article on every page. The newspaper was very thin today (46 pages), so it was pretty easy.

My apologies for the lame graphic. I input all the data into a Zoho.com spreadsheet. It may give advanced chart design features, but I just couldn’t figure it out. I felt it was more important to share the data, which is embedded in this graph. Feel free to utilize the info in the Zoho chart or spreadsheet.

Newspapers Homegrown Articles vs Wire Stories - http://sheet.zoho.com

This is a visual representation of how much homegrown content (56 articles) versus news-wire content (57 articles) is featured in today’s paper. That’s a 50-50 split of original content versus syndicated content.

It’s pretty obvious from the graph that the A section is mostly pulled from sources that I can get for free…and in real time. That’s just not a good way to keep readers. The A section is all available instantly on Google News.

Moving to the B section, things start to change. In the Local section, MOST of the news is relevant to me, based on region. The paper uses some syndicated sources to enhance the local news.

Over in section C, we see more wire content popping up. This is the Entertainment section, so we have a mix of regional stories and  bunch of syndicated stuff that I can get just about anywhere.

Finally over in section D, we’re in Sports and Classifieds. All of the Classifieds are local, but none of it requires a reporter.

This isn’t exclusive to my local newspaper. As you read your daily newspaper, take notice of who is writing it. If it says “staff writer” it’s written in house. But if it says “Associated Press” then you can get that article (or one just like it) from Internet news sources.

Ironically, I was planning to write this post, and in today’s Record they printed a letter from a reader who wants more local news reporting.

Saving newspapers will require more than recycling wire stories. It’s about covering local events that matter to readers. And that means throwing a lifeline to the newsroom and paying reporters to create a product that people want to buy.


Digg!

My First Self-Published eBook for Kindle

I’ve officially entered the eBook age. As an author, I have published my first eBook for the Kindle. Gimme a big “whoo hoo!”

To explore the technology, I wanted to get something up there on the Kindle store. So I took the complete scripts for my comic book series “7 Days to Fame,” reformatted it, created a Kindle account, and published it on Amazon.com.

7 Days to Fame eBook cover

7 Days to Fame eBook cover

Check out my 7 Days to Fame – The Complete Scripts eBook for the Kindle. It sells for a whopping 99 cents.

To be honest, it wasn’t very hard to reformat for the Kindle. Mostly it just came down to reformatting for the smaller screen and checking for bad line breaks and hiccups in the code. Just a few hours of work and now it’s done.

This isn’t the first time I was part of an eBook. There’s a transcript of a podcast interview that I did a few years ago with Paula Berinstein called Writing Comic Books: A Writing Show Interview and I was a technical consultant on the photo book Artist’s Digital Photo Reference – Landscapes.

But for me, this is much more fun, since I actually did the reformatting myself and published it. It’s…addictive.

Kindle 2 Day 1 – Newspaper Renewal

Today was my first full day with the Amazon Kindle 2.  It came yesterday when I was at work.

By cosmic coincidence, so did the renewal reminder for our daily newspaper subscription. I wonder if the gods of media were trying to tell me something.

The cost of subscribing to my daily newspaper The Record is a mere $2.25 per week. That comes to only $117 per year. That’s pretty low.

Unfortunately, my newspaper is not available on the Kindle (yet), so I opted for a test subscription to The New York Times. Ironically, the cost of the times is actually $167.88, even though it is delivered wireless to the Kindle.

Although, I have to admit, getting the New York Times on the Kindle was actually rather cool. The images were sharp, the text could be increased, and it was a pretty good feeling to know that I didn’t waste any paper…y’know, reading the paper.

It was also nice to read a few of my favorite blogs, including Read-Write-Web on the Kindle.  It was a gorgeous day outside and I just sat in the park and read. The display was perfect.

So…Day 1 with the Kindle 2…pretty impressive all around. And the newspaper gets another renewal. At least for now.

Why Newspapers Are Doomed

Newspapers aren’t dead yet. Despite the steady declines in circulation and ad sales, many newspapers continue to hang on.  And yet, they are inevitably doomed.

Here’s a few reasons why:

1. Local reporting. Many news websites focus on national stories. Big stuff. But the local newspaper give us useful reporting on local issue. Small stuff, like flooding, taxes, and school events.

CNN doesn’t cover your neighborhood unless it’s a major news event, like a catastrophe or a tragedy. Either way, you don’t want to be in the news at that time.

2. Pictures. If you compared today’s paper with one from 10 years ago, you’d notice something important. That is, there are a lot of news wire photos. Lots of celebrities. Lots of people you dont actually know.

Wanna know why? Photographers cost money.

As newspapers rely more on news wire photos — stuff you can see anywhere — they lose a connection with the local community.

3. In Depth Reporting. Like Local Reporting, in depth reporting was the cornerstone of newspaper journalism. TV gave you the headlines, but newspapers gave you the full story. A good newspaper might offer sidebars, editorials, and illustrations.

My local newspaper has won many prestigious awards for investigative journalism. Big exposes about local corruption and news events. Information on a local level. You cant get that from a journalist-blogger conducting an interviews over email.

And yet, local newspapers cede control to online journalists and bloggers every time they run a canned story from the news wire.

About the News Wire. Take a look at your local newspaper again. Check to see who wrote that story. If it says Associated Press or another service, it means your newspaper bought that story (probably through a subscription).

Newswire stories are a cheap way to fill space. But they also cheapen the true value of the newspaper.

A canned story satisfies a short-term goal of making a profit, since it’s cheaper to buy a story than to create one in house. But these are temporary solutions further weaken newspapers.

If newspapers continue along this path, they are surely doomed.

Here’s a Related Story: Why Comic Book Publishing is Doomed

Why Comic Book Publishing is Doomed

Here’s why comic book publishing is doomed…

Stopped at the local library today and thought it would be fun to see what comics and graphic novels they had on the shelves. And for some reason, I made the mistake of asking the aging librarians where to find…well, let me just tell you how it went.

ME: Hi, I’m looking for comics and graphic novels.

LIBRARIAN: What?

ME: Comic books, graphic novels. Do you have a section for them?

LIBRARIAN: (loudly to other librarian) He wants to know if we have “comic books”?

And in that moment, I regretted even asking. I could feel their harsh literary judgment scalding me, and I  wished that I’d asked if they had a porn section.

LIBRARIAN #2: Graphic novels? YA.

ME: Thanks. I see it…

LIBRARIAN: Go over to that section marked “YA.” That’s for “Young Adults and Teens.” That’s where we keep graphic novels.

ME: Thanks.

LIBRARIAN: Teen section.

ME: Thanks.

Okay. Back to the “doomed” part.

Comic book publishing is doomed if the industry continues to market comics and graphic novels to kids. Kids don’t buy comics like they used to. By and large, adults are buying comics. Don’t believe me? Go to the comic store and observe who is going up to the register to buy comics.

And let’s face it, what adult wants to be shopping or even browsing in the “teen” section of a bookstore or library.

Stop marketing comics as teen literature and make it easier for adults to shop for comics.