Or at least the fiction market. Here are some things to consider:
1 ) The majority of people who read a lot of fiction love books, the physical thing. Period. They are unlikely to stop buying books because of this physical love. They like them on their shelves. They like walking up to them. Perhaps lending them to a friend.
2 ) People who don’t buy many books, but still read say a few a year, will not see any logic in purchasing an expensive device for such limited use.
3 ) You can’t see what someone’s reading—unfortunately a significant driver in fiction sales. (Those seeking to wear books as a statement of intellect, fashion etc)
4 ) Would you want to read an expensive device in the bath? Books are quite easily replaceable. And they dry out, too.
5 ) Books are pretty cheap, easy to transport, and durable as it is. You can annotate them properly, and underline stuff etc. Nothing needs improving (which may well be a factor of it’s own).
6 ) The major book buying market exists for more older individuals; perhaps they are not technologically savvy as those who drove the mp3 market.
7 ) Stop comparing things to the iPod! Music has always been played on a device—from early days etc to now. It’s just finding the perfect device. Well, books work as they are. They have never been ‘on something else’ apart from audio books, which play some role in the industry, but they’re for people on the go. Oh, and when Steve Jobs at Apple says there’s no point in an e-book device for his company, listen to him.
8 ) Individual mp3s were driving many of the sales behind iPods. The fact that you could hold a thousand tunes on one device was a wow factor. That’s not the same for books. People don’t read random chapters from many books. They read one book at a time.
9 ) Worth saying that this might work for some textbooks perhaps in schools or universities, where it becomes nothing more than a network search of specific subjects—a limited Internet.
10 ) Many book purchases are made on cover design. You have no cover for these things that people can browse over.
11 ) The Kindle is being sold as something to consumers in a too-persuasive way. When you saw what the iPod was, you just wanted to own one. You thought, that’s what I’m missing. I have to have it. The key to such a culture-changing product is that it sells itself.
12 ) Amazon were spinning the hell out of this: ’sold out after a few hours’ – note that they’re also not listing this in the electronics store, but the ‘kindle store’, so it can’t be compared to other devices in sales rankings. I suspect if we look past the hype, which is painfully obvious here, things aren’t so good.
13 ) The digital rights on this device sucks. No one wants their book usage dictated to by a table full of lawyers.
14 ) The gift value of books—you only have to look at the fact that the majority of book sales are in the Xmas period. Unwrapping an ebook, not so nice or practical.
15 ) The Kindle looks as though it was designed circa 1983.
These are more points for debate, really. Take a look at many of the articles on e-books taking over the world: those who are praising the revolution are often those who think they can sell their own e-book based product.
Don’t forget about the psychology of readers…
I have nothing to add except… my thoughts exactly!
The Bookseller has recently run both “is the e-book dead?” and “will the e-book kill off bookshops?” stories recently. Perhaps they need to tone down the sensationalism for a bit and accept the fact that books have existed as they are for so long is because they are good at what they do. This is one wheel that doesn’t need re-inventing – though having searchable indexes available online as an added purchase bonus is something I’d like to see.
There’s also that chunk of time on the plane when one is asked to turn off all electronic devices. Takeoff and landing is where I need to be distracted the most…