Reader madness

A range of digital reading devices debuted (or hinted at debuting) at the Consumer Electronics Show last week, and the resulting hype convinced me that I should be the last person posting about them.

Then, a friend tweeted a link to a half-day e-reading conference (yes, another one). The folks behind this conference had crunched the numbers and decided that by 2020, annual demand for e-ink readers would total 446 million units – about $25 billion in sales. Not “total over ten years”, not “in use”: someone out there (with a straight face) wants me to spend $195 to entertain a claim that nearly half a billion e-readers will be sold in 2020.

No thanks.

There are lots of good things to say about current and possible e-reading solutions, to the extent that they are solutions and not just devices. To hear those things, we need to stop gasping every time something new and shiny (or black) comes our way.

Matthew Bernius (a graduate student at Cornell and co-director of the Open Publishing Lab at Rochester Institute of Technology) offers a level-headed view of where e-reading may be headed. With somewhat less analysis, Bonnier’s Sara Öhrvall offers her on-the-floor perspective, sparing us a breathless talk on the Coming Age of E-Books.

Similarly, Kirk Biglione offers a nuanced assessment of how the mythical Apple Tablet might well aid Amazon in the digital reading market. It’s not always apparent where we’ll end up, or when we’ll get there.

To be clear, I do believe digital content consumption will grow, and the relative share of print-based content provision will fall. I’m just not a fan of conclusions without data and predictions for the sake of having said it first. It was a bad week for both, I am afraid.

Brian O'Leary

About Brian O'Leary

Founder and principal of Magellan Media Consulting, Brian O’Leary helps enterprises with media and publishing components capitalize on the power of content. A veteran of more than 30 years in the publishing industry and a prolific content producer himself, Brian leverages the breadth and depth of his experience to deliver innovative content solutions.

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