What will Tip the Scale for e-Books
I think it is official that we are e-Book aware now. It generally takes a story in a prominent mainline publication like the New York Times: “In a Digital Future, Textbooks Are History”, to capture our attention. The Educause CIO listserve was flooded with comments about this article.
The conversation has been beneficial for elevating the awareness, unfortunately personal opinions and knit picking does threaten to cloud the bigger issue. But some of the key points did focus around the cost and the feature set needed for an effective e-Book reader which right now is defined by the Kindle. Some good discussion about IT’s role in driving this change. IT is in the middle no matter what. Most talk though is about the device, who would use it, what must it do, etc. But I don’t think the transition to e-Books will be justified by the device.
I believe the transition will be driven by the business model. The news about Barnes & Noble consolidating with their college bookstore arm, VC investment in Academos and new grant money flowing into open textbook initiatives is probably a much greater sign that the book world is changing. Google is primed to partner with their vast digital library and publishers want to play. Apple may have the best distribution engine but competition is real with Sony and Amazon. And of course Higher Ed is finally ready to fix the broken textbook financial model. I think this is going to happen and happen quickly because the players know it is inevitable and they know that profit exists for those who move early.
There is agreement that we are possibly one device generation away from an acceptable e-Book Reader. I still don’t think we will settle for only an e-Book Reader. We will jump because of the the soon to be announced Internet enabled very portable touch tablet type computing devices that will also be excellent e-Book Readers. And my money is still on the MacTouch.