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eBook readers want portability

March 24, 2010

Dear Author Reader Survey results I posted earlier indicates ebook readers want ebooks and devices characteristics that allow them to read conveniently on more than one device.  Many solutions provide this functionality with some limits  (both Barnes and Noble and Amazon offer dedicated devices [nook and Kindle], desk top applications and iPhone eReader options; Amazon uses proprietary book and DRM formats).  And readers are using them.

Over half of the responses of those indicating they read ebooks indicate ebooks are read on more than one device.

The top multi-device combinations for 2 and 3 devices are shown below.  Desktop plus iPhone is an important combination for publishers, ebook sellers and device makers to consider in their product plans.

Top device combinations

Top three device combinations for users of 2 and 3 devices.

When readers expressed their preferences for using multiple devices and keeping them in sync, they responded consistently with the results above.

Users value multi device support

Readers value multi-device support.

Readers value sychronization between their devices

Readers value synchronization between their devices.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 14, 2010 8:13 am

    I know I’m a little behind you here, but the ebook issue is beginning to heat up in textbooks and the possibilities for saving students money, for giving instructors more flexibility about class materials, and for providing the latest pedagogical tools. Unfortunately, it’s not a simple issue. Who gets the money and how are among the most difficult of the problems (as you would expect). Obviously, publishing is changing and, for the most part, I think that is good. But like most change, we’ll loose some things we like at the same time that we gain some things we don’t.

    Check out one example of what I’m talking about at “Taming the Textbook Market” (by Steve J. Bell) from Insider Higher Ed mag: http://www.insidehighered.com/views/2010/06/11/bell

  2. June 14, 2010 9:37 am

    This survey data is a little old in terms of ebook survey years…some recent surveys show increases in the multiple device use and sync’ing, growing resentment and savvy re DRM and portability to other/future devices. More recent surveys also seem to show that ebooks are taking off–maybe faster than most publishers expected.

    In terms of quality–production, editorial, content vetting, etc–the ebook industry is chaotic. It isn’t clear how to align incentives for the current agents in the production and supply chain for books with the economic and consumer expectations for ebooks. Old school publishers will tend to misdirect and misinform in order to preserve the status quo (see newspaper, television, movie and music industries for recent examples of various agents working to preserve their place in the production and supply chain).

    Control and quality depend to a large degree on devices and formats. The ebook industry is at the very beginning on both accounts. The large publishers haven’t taken the lead they should have in formats and DRM issues. Device manufactures and booksellers have stepped into fill the gaps and displaces some of the control that publishers traditionally held. It looks to an outsider that many publishers thought that if they dragged their feet on the topic of ebooks, they could actually delay or kill ebooks. Now they have no options but to content with “outside” players and are scrambling to get technical expertise around the new issues.

    I think the textbook market has some special features that make it interesting beyond all of the issues outlined above: textbook sales are big money makers for publishers, students are likely more willing to break DRM and share books because they have less money, book buying is dictated by the school schedule, students can deal with technology very effectively, text books are very expensive, regular content updates are often attractive or essential while at the same time new editions seem to be designed to screw students when it comes to resale.

    It is difficult to get clear data on the economics of publishing. The numbers aren’t typically openly disclosed with minimal spin (see Amazon Kindle sales numbers, ebook sales to iPad owners, much of the information presented in the recent agency-model dust-up and the nearly useless data on ebook piracy).

    The difficulty of getting good data makes sorting out a new system that much slower and more difficult. I think this will take a few years and there will be some clumsy fits and starts in the interim.

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