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Monday, October 18, 2010

eBook Technology

Disruptive technology is a technological innovation that disrupts status quo by either displacing existing technology or by introducing a new concept to society. For example, the automobile replaced horses and digital photo technology has forged ahead of film. (Sam Subramanian, "eBook Readers: Stock Investing Strategy to Profit from Disruptive Technology," AlphaProfit, March 9 2010)

Electronic book readers or eBook readers are, according to the electronics industry, the next stage in the evolution of reading.  They are are likely to become a disruptive technology that reshapes how information is distributed and consumed in the early 21st century. Now, leading firms are battling it out to become the manufacturer of choice for the world’s millions of avid readers.

An eBook reader is an electronic device that is designed primarily for the purpose of reading digital books and periodicals and uses e-ink technology to display content to readers. ...An eBook reader is, most simply put, any device which can be used to read eBooks --  as simple as the cellphone or PDA (palmtop computer) on which a Japanese subway rider reads the latest cell phone novel, or as advanced as the home computer on which an eBook reader can click his way through the pages of PDFs or works in other formats. (Dan Metcalf, "Don't Fear the Reader: The Future of eBook Readers," Consumer Electronics, June 18 2009)

eReaders are rapidly catching on. Research firm mediaIDEAS and Forrester Research estimate sales of eReaders worldwide and in the U. S. to reach 6 million units and 3 million units, respectively in 2010. That is up from worldwide sales of 1.1 million units in 2008. Looking to the longer-term, mediaIDEAS projects worldwide eReader sales to rapidly increase to 115 million units by 2013.and soar to 446 million units by 2020 as adoption becomes as ubiquitous as cell phones today. (Sam Subramanian, "eBook Readers: Stock Investing Strategy to Profit from Disruptive Technology," AlphaProfit, March 9 2010)

Also, academic publishers McGraw-Hill (MHP) and John Wiley (JW/A) have announced strategic alliances with enTourage Systems to deliver content to enTourage eDGe, a device that functions as a eBook reader and more. McGraw-Hill has also started a digital learning service Connect that bundles interactive learning tools with books.

Most of the top U. S. newspapers are now planning to offer daily editions on eReaders. The New York Times (NYT) already sells subscriptions for the Kindle, Nook, and Sony’s Reader devices.

Advantages of eBook

* Using a technology known as e-ink, new types of portable eBook readers attempt to provide readers with a reading experience as comfortable as reading a printed page, but with the convenience of Internet era bells and whistles like font-size adjustment, electronic bookmarks that never fall out, and instantaneous access to the world's largest libraries and bookstores online.

* eBooks are delivered almost instantaneously. People can purchase, download and start reading them within minutes, without leaving their chairs.

* Digitization of information allows readers to download books on the fly and makes everything variable. Users can change text size, annotate interesting parts, look up words and instantly share thoughts with friends.

* No trees are required to manufacture paper for the pages of eBooks.

* eReaders allow students to personalize educational content to best suit their needs. 

* eBooks require small space. This will eliminate the burden of lugging textbooks through campuses while reducing book costs.

* eBooks kill a major nuisance for publishers … used textbooks. They also reduce distribution and inventory costs.

* eBooks are searchable. You can easily search for any information in an eBook, instead of turning page after page. And, eBooks can be interactive and contain audio, video and animations, which can enhance the message that the author is trying to convey.

*eBooks are cheaper to produce. Thus, small presses can attempt to compete with media giants.

Are eBooks a Disruptive Technology? 

Will physical books disappear sooner than expected? One man thinks so. In an interview with CNN's Howard Kurtz on "Reliable Sources," author Nicholas Negroponte, founder of One Laptop per Child, said the physical book's days are numbered. When it comes to making e-Books standard, Negroponte thinks that developing countries may actually be faster to respond than developed countries. He claims this was true with the rapid spread of cell phones. "It will be in five years," said Negroponte. "The physical medium cannot be distributed to enough people. When you go to Africa, half a million people want books ... you can't send the physical thing." (Cody Combs, "Will Physical Books Be Gone in Five Years?" CNN, October 17 2010)

Negroponte emphasized the efficiency of being able to put hundreds of books on the laptops his organization sends to villages. "We put 100 books on a laptop, but we also send 100 laptops. That village now has 10,000 books," he said.

As the technology develops however, some doubt its relevance.  Apple CEO Steve Jobs has said: “It doesn’t matter how good or bad the [eBook reader] product is, the fact is that people don’t read anymore.  Forty percent of the people in the US read one book or less last year.” The NEA report "To Read Or Not To Read" seems to back this statement up; in one day, 15 to 24 year olds spend 7-10 minutes reading voluntarily and 2 to 2.5 hours watching television.

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