Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Death Of The Book Has Been Greatly Exaggerated

Maybe all the talk about books going the way of the CD (shrinking market) is premature. Here's an article, The Death Of The Book Has Been Greatly Exaggerated, from Technology Review. An excerpt:

Tech pundits recently moved up the date for the death of the book, to sometime around 2015, inspired largely by the rapid adoption of the iPad and the success of Amazon's Kindle e-reader. But in their rush to christen a new era of media consumption, have the pundits overreached?

I'm calling the peak of inflated expectations now. Get ready for the next phase of the hype cycle - the trough of disillusionment.

The signs of a hype bubble are all around us. Mostly in the form of irrational exuberance.

In Clearwater, Florida, the principle of the local high school recently replaced all his students' textbooks with latest-gen Kindles - without, apparently, any awareness that formal trials of the Kindle as a textbook replacement led universities like Princeton and Arizona State University to reject it as inadequate.

Then you have pundits like Nicholas Negroponte, founder of MIT's Media Lab, making statements to the effect that the physical book is dead in 5 years. This is the kind of statement that, to be fair, has either been taken out of context or is demonstrably untrue, in as much as any prediction can be proved false before the future arrives.

Here's the reality this kind of hype is up against: back of the envelope calculations suggest that ebooks are only six pecent of the total market for new books.

How can that be possible, when Amazon recently said that ebooks are outselling hard-cover books at Amazon.com? Easy: Amazon is only 19 percent of the total book market. Also, Amazon has something like 90 percent of the world's ebook market.

It's facts like these that led one blogger to ask whether or not Amazon is "lying" about eBooks outselling printed books. Amazon isn't lying, of course, but its announcement that ebooks are outselling hard cover tomes was just the flashpoint pundits needed to trot out their own bottled-up desires.

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