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The e-book revolution is ending, but the transition isn’t over

April 15, 2013

My new toy

By the time you read this, I will have in my fat little hands a brand new Apple iPad Mini. It’s the wifi edition, which means I can’t use it to check Facebook while I’m screaming down I-75 at the legal speed limit (cough) and that’s probably a good thing.

It also means I get to experience Apple’s version of Microsoft Office and see how well it works with Office itself–and report back to you on that at the Conference in October.

Finally, it means that my wife, who didn’t see justification in spending money on an e-reader, will now get the e-reader experience for free. She can’t be the first one.

According to Moore’s law, technology doubles every two years. Gordon Moore was talking about transistors on an integrated circuit, but application of his law has been stretched to include everything in technology. So when personal computers came out, people bought them. Then, as technology advanced, the people who bought the dual-floppy computers bought computers with hard drives–and they did something with the dual-floppy computers. A while after people started buying laptops, they got newer, better laptops and gave or sold their old laptops to someone else.

And now it’s happening with e-readers.

Allow me to make some guesses about what this means:

  • Second-generation e-reader users didn’t buy the e-readers because they either enjoyed the paper experience or didn’t want to spend the money. For my wife, it was the latter. Most of her books come from the library. There’s no gain to spending money on an e-reader when it won’t save you money on the books you’re buying. But if you can pick one up for free, why not?
  • Most second-generation e-reader users won’t buy a lot of e-books. My wife will buy them occasionally, but she’ll be more likely to get e-books from the library. She may or may not like the experience of reading on line. If she doesn’t eventually, the Nook with gather dust and wind up in a drawer someplace. If she likes it, it’ll get some use.
  • Some second-generation users will get hooked and go nuts on e-books. But these will be the minority.
  • Many second-generation users will inherit mini-tablets and spend their time playing Angry Birds and posting on Facebook and the impact to writers and book sales will be nil from them.

Overall, this passing down of e-readers isn’t very sexy, but it’s a further step in the assimilation of our society into the electronic era. New technology often starts as a deluge–like a Florida thunderstorm in the summer. You can’t step outside without getting soaked. But a lot of it runs off–segments of society that aren’t near the surface of the technology wonks don’t get wet. But unlike that thunderstorm, the rain keeps coming and eventually seeps through society, until almost everyone has a phone, car, radio, television, computer, and eventually something they can read electronic books on.

The first phase of the e-book revolution is ending. Adoption rates are slowing. The big bang is over. But the transition is ongoing, underground almost. The percentage of e-book users will still grow, just not as fast as before. But the end result will still be the same. E-books will eventually rule.

  1. April 17, 2013 12:41 pm

    I like the way you write, Chris. Reading as many of your posts as I can and thought it was time I said something. I have been so burned out with writing and other work for 7 days a week for two years, that I haven’t posted in about six weeks. Needed a rest. The computer in my head has all but crashed.

  2. Chris Hamilton permalink
    April 17, 2013 5:18 pm


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