Monday, January 4, 2010

The Printed Book is Terminal…

How eBook Readers Will Change Everything.

There is a lot of buzz going on today about how many Kindles were sold this Christmas and how eBooks outsold paper books for one day at Amazon. This is not the story!

The printed book is terminal and its death is coming much faster than generally expected. It’s not just the death of the printed book that’s important. It’s the unexpected changes eReaders will bring to publishing in general and authors in particular.

Here’s the game changer: eBook readers will become virtually free. Like the box of film that became a free camera, eBook readers will come free with eBooks in the future. If you think this sounds implausible, think of the greeting card that plays a full song when you open it. Then think how this dedicated digital tape player, plus the greeting card itself, cost less than five dollars.

What happens when eBook readers are free?

Think about the highly political and highly ‘corrupted’ school textbook industry. What if, overnight, excellent quality textbooks became free? This would be a blessing to school districts and students alike. This will happen one day and I hope it will be one day soon.

Here’s what will happen. First, eBook readers become virtually free. Next, non-profit institutions commission textbooks to be written for a flat fee from noted authors. These books will be offered for free to any school system that wants them. Textbooks would be updated as often as needed and available for students to download at any time. Students would have only one book: an eBook reader. Gone are big book bags and backpacks. The readers will be so cheap that it will make no difference if they are lost, stolen, or damaged.

Young ‘Turk’ professors, from lesser known universities, will ban together and write a chapter each (or several chapters each) of a textbook for use by their students. They will offer this book free to all -- even other university students. This will help make their ‘reps’ and bring them much praise and perhaps a full professorship years earlier than is customary.

It has been said that the key to growth in the future is knowing how to give away a product for ‘free’ and still make money. The advent of virtually free eBook readers will open an entire industry to this money making high speed ‘freeway’.

Where Do Authors Fit In?

So where do authors fit in this brave new world of paperless books and competition from free books? First, they need to read the book “Free” by Chris Anderson (which was offered as a free download on Sony's eBook site) and be planning now on how they can profit by giving their work to the public or having it purchased for free delivery by an entity that can make money by doing so on there other products.

This will be the subject of a future post. I have to figure this out myself! I have a basic real estate textbook that I might update and give away for free – if I can figure this out. Stay tuned.


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