One of my first posts on this blog was an assertion that e-books are about benefits not technology. Despite widespread Kindle adoration and mounting anticipation of the UK release of the Sony Reader, I still believe that ultimately consumers will not take up e-reader devices in game-changing numbers. Certainly, I don’t think device sales will be large enough to deliver an “iPod moment” to e-books. Why? Because e-readers offer limited benefits. Despite their many nifty features, they are ultimately only single function devices. They allow consumers to read books.
On the other hand, as of sometime in May this year, half the world’s population owns a mobile phone. The ongoing spread of 3G handsets and the versions that will come after them offer multi-function devices and hence multiple benefits.
The single versus multi-function debate has been discussed this week through coverage of Nancy Herther’s article in Searcher magazine, The Ebook Reader is Not the Future of Ebooks, at DearAuthor and Teleread among other places. From most reports, the Kindle is a joy to use but despite Amazon’s dominant online retail position I think it will struggle to lock in Kindle customers to Amazon content. And here in Australia I’m still unable to purchase one or buy Kindle books online and all the while the iPhone is increasing market penetration daily. I’m an ebook enthusiastand even I will need convincing that it’s worth my money (and the DRM headaches) to channel my book-buying budget into a Kindle instead of flexible apps and files I can use anywhere with a 3G phone.