So we’ve heard it all. The good, bad about electronic books and why it is fad, why it is game-changing, why it is only for the geeks etc…There are people waiting to buy the next big thing, there are others who just won’t shake (the people who need to smell the paper, need a weapon for the cockroaches etc..)
I think the transformation-in-progress is much larger than most people care to fathom. Here’s why and how:
There are clearly 2 different tracks in my view and people often — very often — confuse both.
One is the face-off between the companies — Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple, Sony, HP, Dell (and the lesser known) This is a war that will continue in the long term, force the respective people to innovate, bring more (per dollar) to the consumer, evolve standards and take the game to the next level. After all, these people have much to gain from consumers who buy the toys.
Another is the evolution of the publishing industry. I think this is a larger paradigm and we have more questions than answers in this space. Again there are 2 aspects to this.
One is concerning the publishers and gadget companies. Questions such as (a) can one publisher partner with multiple toy companies? (b) if so, can the publisher sell the same title at different prices to those companies? (c) principles of revenue-sharing and profit-sharing (d) pricing models (Amazon’s $9.99 model is surely catchy, but shoddy).
Second aspect concerns the publishers and the authors. I do not have enough insight into how authors get compensated in a traditional-print scenario, but questions like how authors get paid, how they will be affected by the partnerships publishers have with toy-makers are all unanswered.
One last dimension — some things are inevitable. When companies started adopting offshoring, domestic unemployment became a challenge. When digital cameras were invented, film roll manufacturers went out of business. Now digital camera manufacturers are going out of business, with the advent of cell phone cameras. Snail mail is near extinct (except where legally required) and fax machines will soon be extinct. Why am I explaining all this? When e-publishing becomes mainstream, there are several hundreds of thousands — if not millions — of people in printing industry, publishing industry, retail industry that has to start from scratch.
You may say we’re a long time from this happening, but its happening. Faster than you think.