The Future of eBook Readers
The World Library Blog Newsletter
Volume 1, Number 26
Monday, Sept 5, 2011
by Michael S. Hart
Founder, Project Gutenberg,
Inventor of eBooks
The Future of eBook Readers
Now that eBooks and eBook readers are part of our civilization
it is time to think about what the second generation, or third
generation, will bring, or even to think even further.
As any good futurist knows, when a new technology arrives it's
taken up by any number of would be innovators in any number of
fashions, styles, appearances, techniques, approaches, etc.
The first wave grows and grows and grows, until it seems there
is no room for even one more to join the crowd. Even then one
or two other hardy souls will feel THEY have the perfect gizmo
that will out perform, or at least out sell, all the rest.
At some point, however, the total numbers of brands and models
available will peak, just as they did with telephones, bicycle
manufacturers [there were about 3,000 brands just in the U.S.,
at about the turn of the last century. Remember Wright Bros.?
They were bicycle makers, that's why the first airplane wheels
looked so much like bicycle wheels], cars, airplanes, etc.
Even computers had any number of brands right after the Apple,
and IBM, personal computers.
So, for the next couple years I predict there will be more and
more efforts to make ereaders, up to a certain point, and that
point will signal the first "shake out," when the Big Boys try
to eliminate their competition with better features, and lower
prices, both at the same time.
Of course, the race to really better features won't start from
scratch as much as it will start once the penetration level of
ereaders starts to stabilize, just as cellphone manufacturers,
designers, etc., always kept feature hidden until a cellphones
market had reached a 50% world saturation level.
Obviously, given the need for assistance in literacy there are
going to be different plusses and minuses for ereaders.
Some places will embrace them in their school systems just for
the purpose of elevating the general literacy levels, another,
totally different philosophy will be to use ereaders as a part
of a new home schooling movement.
Thus you might just see two different ereader movements in the
near future, one from the top down, the other from bottom up.
From The Top Down
Obviously the big bucks will be put into the expensive readers
at the top of the marketing pyramids.
For these my predictions literally know no bounds.
Color, sounds, even subsonic vibrations, eventually stereo, in
a more realistic manner than what is available today. Bose, a
pioneer in psychoacoustics, will likely once again pioneer new
ways to get surrounding sounding effects from speakers in some
very close proximity to each other. Of course, others will be
expected simply to use earphones to do the same thing, without
the added expense of either research or additional hardware.
Either way, however, I predict that sound will become more and
more a part of the ereader experience.
Even more, however, will be color. Yes, you haven't heard the
sales are terribly high for the few color ereaders out there--
but I know of at least one, and probably more, companies which
will do some really spectacular things with color, and then it
is on to sound, if they really see the future.
The people who are doing color the best, as should be expected
by most of us, are National Geographic. If you haven't seen a
color ereader with their work on it, then you probably haven't
seen the true potential of color ereaders. IT'S AMAZING!!!
Well worth a trip down to you local ereader store to see this!
I suggest you call first to make sure they do The Geographic.
If National Geographic isn't too conservative in the approach,
they should immediately see the potential for sound for lions,
tigers, birds, frogs, weather, and all the rest.
Of course, the next step for them should be moving pictures on
ereaders and/or computers, complete with stereo soundtracks in
multiple languages, etc., etc., etc.
However, I must admit that I'm never sure which directions The
National Geographic Society will go. . .sometimes they are big
time conservatives and sometimes they lead the pack.
If they are smart they will become THE product everyone should
expect to see in demonstrations of all new color ereaders.
If not, then expect some such as People, Us, and Entertainment
Weekly, Rolling Stone, or what have you to take up the mantle,
if it is discarded by National Geographic.