Last month, I attended the London Book Fair and came home with new thoughts on the future of e-books. In particular, an in-booth presentation by DNL eBooks’ Peter Kent—author of many books including “SEO for Dummies” and “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Internet”—combined interesting statistics and Kent’s opinion on e-books’ future. Of course, Kent’s affiliation with DNL eBooks should be kept in mind, as the vendor provides a 3-D e-book technology (that incorporates Adobe Flash) through a software download for personal computers. (The technology was used in the Avon [a HarperCollins imprint] e-book release of “Lady Amelia’s Secret Lover,” which featured embedded video of the book’s author, Victoria Alexander.) Still, his presentation, “Digital Books: The Road Ahead,” was compelling.
First, Kent noted that a revolution is occurring:
• Today, more people are reading on screen than on paper (not just books, but all types of reading);
• 10 years ago, $0 was spent on MP3s;
• 2007 e-book sales were greater than 2004 MP3 sales.
Kent noted, “I don’t think things will move as fast in digital books … but we’re really only three years behind in retail [sales].”
He suggested that e-readers such as the iLiad, Sony Reader and Amazon Kindle “will disappear” in a few years because of “the ‘one-device’ problem. They have limited features (no color, animation, sound or interaction).” With laptops dropping in price, the value of single-function devices, with price tags close to multifunction computer devices, also drops. Plus, he said, “Many e-books cannot work on [dedicated] readers. … I believe that more than 99 percent of all e-books are being read on PCs.” He noted as additional competition the ultra-mobile PCs, which he says are retailing for around $400 in Asia. (Most prices I have seen in the United States are upwards of $700-$900.) Not to mention the iPhone and other mobile devices. Even the iPod, which initially only played music, has evolved into an audio-video entertainment device.