Saturday, August 07, 2010

Digital Book Prediction

“It’s happening. It not happening in 10 years. It’s happening in 5 years,”

Nicholas Negroponte 6th August 2010 Techonomy Conference, Lake Tahoe .

1 comment:

Mike Perry said...

No, I don't think so. Digital publishing is in roughly the same situation PCs were in the early 1980s. Each early PC was an island unto itself. Software had to be tailored for each manufacturer and floppy drives on one machine couldn't be read by another. The result was a mess and only the extreme usefulness of the early PCs created a market.

Matters would have stayed that way for more years than I care to imagine but for IBM. IBM created an easily copied hardware standard and Microsoft happily sold DOS to any and all.

Unfortunately, I see no technological midwife to serve the same role today. The largest, Amazon, clearly doesn't want to open up the market. It wants to dominate it via the Kindle. It's acting much like IBM did with mainframes in the 1970s.

And while Apple's iPad does let apps from other bookstores display books, include a Kindle app, the resulting Babel of applications isn't going to create a coherent market either. A good market will be one where virtually any printed book can be rendered into a digital equivalent and one where a digital book from any source can be read by virtually every reader app running on virtually every device.

In the short term, the five years or less that Negroponte is talking about, there's simply no one large enough and willing enough to give us the digital book equivalent of "IBM-compatible." What he's talking about will happen, but I fear it's going to be a long, messy and painful process.