Friday, July 18, 2008

SeptemberFest - The ebook Races

It appears that size, contrary to everything people say, does matter, or so Amazon believe. As a result, it is reported in Wired that a new Kindle will soon be with us measuring 8 1/2 by 11 inches, like a sheet of letter-sized paper.

What would be obviously more appealing than the extra inches would be colour, a fully functional web browser, but then we would have a laptop! Why increase the size of the screen to compete with devices that we all have, use and that cost only a little more than this one dimensional tablet?

Is the ebook reader we know today doomed? Today they don’t add that something, so special, they are a must have one. Neither do that present a cool style icon, that makes them a ‘must to be seen with’. Lets be honest the Kindle took three years to develop and the design says it all. The Sony forgot the interaction, gave us a screen, a carrying case and an umbilical cord back to the PC and the iLiad tried but got the economics, the look and marketing all wrong.

We have seen the buzz about the iPhone and the copycat races between all the mobile devices all trying to catch up or surpass it in looks and functionality. It is clear that applications and functionality is going mobile. It is clear that in the world of labels, design matters. It is clear that Apple got it right.

We now brace ourselves for the ‘ebook event’ of the year – the worst kept secret ‘Septemberfest’. What do we expect? There is bound to be plenty of press coverage - after all Amazon and Sony can deliver that. There is bound to be many who want the latest gizmo – after all someone had to buy the Sinclair C5. There is bound to be those who want to stand out at the airport or think that they look cool with it in public – after all Michael Douglas ran up a beach on film carrying a brick (early mobile phone). There are bound to be smart statements claiming phenomenal sales, but if like last time, probably lacking real numbers.

The issues that will determine success are availability of the right content, ease of use, functionality, interoperability, price and the feeling that it’s got some life expectancy. We haven’t found one today that we would want to spend more than $50 to $100 on and treat as a gimmick, or as a potential throw away. Also we would want to know that what content we buy also has some future and isn’t tethered to a short life product and can be transferred to whatever as many times as needed into the future.

We are not negative towards digital content or ebooks and are fully behind them we are just very cautious about placing a bet on a horse that is obviously lame before the race has started.

1 comment:

Mark Thwaite said...

Spot-on as ever Martyn.

The Kindle, surely, is a cul-de-sac technology: if it does anything right (e.g. improves e-ink technology or causes more publishers to create more digital content) those improvements will just be rolled out onto (better) other (mobile) technology.

An improved "iPhone" + decent e-reader apps are the way forward.