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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Swami Maria Strikes Again

Swami Maria has put on her swami hat once more so she can peer into the future.

Am I psychic?

[rolls eyes] Are you kidding?

My husband often swears (in colorful language no less) that I must be psychic. There's no other explanation for knowing such future events like market trends, fashion statements, and how I knew he went over budget on his latest toy.

Despite my cool swami hat, there's not a psychic bone in my body. That's right, folks. I'm a FAKE swami. (Please don't faint.)

My psychic powers are derived from something far less arcane (and sadly, kind of boring). My real gift is in observation. I am a profound student of human trending. I watch from the sidelines--sometimes for decades--and predict where the next step will take a particular trend.

This is why I'm so certain e-readers will take over. I would have one now if it weren't for the price.

But you're not reading this to find out something that everyone and his mother is parroting right now. You want to know what the next step will be and when.

So here are some predictions.

• Within three years, all college level students will be using e-textbooks. High schoolers will not be far behind.

When I was in high school, futurists predicted that our children would use handheld calculators. We laughed! At the time a calculator was the size of a hardback book and all it could do was simple math. It also cost more than $1000. (This was one thousand in 1970 dollars.)

Computers, barely out of the realm of science fiction at the time, took up entire floors of buildings, yet your average palm pilot today could out perform even the mightiest computer on the planet from 1971.

• Within two years, the dust will settle between a select handful of ebook readers. The big boys, such as Amazon and Sony will continue to duke it out. But the prize will go to the manufacturer that can create a non-proprietory format under $150.

How do I know? Think back to Sony's Betamax and JVC's VHS tape recorders. Betamax worked only on a proprietory format. JVC's machine was far more forgiving and willing to take on all makes of tapes. Sony, I suspect has learned its lesson. It will fight a hard battle not to make the same mistake twice. Still, greed is a big motivator and it's possible Sony has a CEO who did not look back before looking ahead.

It is highly likely the e-reader that will win the hearts and pocketbooks of the consumer will come from a small, maverick company. (Remember Apple? It came out of a garage and nearly disemboweled the competition. Had it been less expensive, it might have cornered the market entirely.)

Speaking of inexpensive products. A little company called Walmart has nearly commandeered entire markets using this principle alone. And they have a distribution system in place that is second to none.

• Advertising will be part and parcel of ebooks and eventually print books. Again, I'm making this prediction from history. Cable tv started out as a non-commercial format, yet today it is no different than regular programming. Advertising is the most practical form for subsidizing books. (I don't like it nor do I approve. I'm just telling you what has come before and what will come again.)

• Shorter novels will be more commonplace as the attention span and disposable time of the average reader diminishes.

• I also predict that serialized novels (and movies) will come back in vogue. Not only will splitting a novel up into smaller bite-sized segments be more profitable for the publisher, it will also be more convenient for the reader.

• And...and...

Oh, no! My crystal ball is growing dark again. But I'm sure you'll hear from Swami Maria again before too long.

Meanwhile, stay loose, be flexible, and look for opportunity everywhere.

Copyright © 2009 Maria Zannini --


Suzanne McLeod said...

I love your blog, Maria :-)He He I remember those calculators, and I still can't work out how to use one for more than simple maths LOL!

Maria Zannini said...

Thanks, Suzanne! :o)

I will admit this publicly now. For YEARS, I would add up the numbers on paper to make sure the calculator wasn't wrong. LOL! I just didn't trust those new fangled machines.

I'm such a troglodyte.

Marianne Arkins said...

I had a betamax... they really were better machines. Stupid, stupid Sony.

I will own an eReader by the end of the year. I'm ordering the three we're giving away for the LASR/WC anniversary next month and will get to see what I think of that particular brand. I refuse to buy a Kindle on GPs.

Maria Zannini said...

The only way I'd ever own a Kindle is if I found it on the side of the road. Amazon burned its bridges when it started all these shennanigans by deleting books from privately owned readers, demanding full proprietary rights and then refusing to load an ebook more than an alotted number of times. If I buy something, it's mine. I don't want anyone fiddling with my property--especially through the ether. If they can grab my books, what else can they take from me?

I like the Sony ereader, but I'm seriously thinking of doing my reading on an I-phone. I'm looking for a machine that can do more than one thing--and do it well.

PS Betamax was definitely the BETTER machine. Sony could have cornered the market if they hadn't been so shortsighted.

Sabrina said...

I recently went back to school and our textbooks are all e-textbooks. And I HATE it. They aren't compatible with any reader Sony's or Amazon's, not that I can afford either. AND you HAVE to buy the book from them. So they charge whatever they want. The book for the class I'm taking right now is $16.95 online, they charged me $80. For a book I can't even take with me. I have to sit at my computer to read it. Which means no reading during my lunch break of work (if I had a job to have a lunch break at) no taking it on vacation, nothing. If I could afford a laptop I could put it on that but now I have to spend a ton MORE money when this issue could be resolved and MUCH cheaper if I had a choice about the matter. In which case I would choose the $16.95 hardcover. I might be a tad bit upset still over this issue.

Maria Zannini said...

I don't blame you for being upset.

Unfortunately, that's part of the evolution. Our first VRC cost us over $1000. It's outrageous considering you can't even give them away anymore, but that's the price you pay for owning a product that isn't commonplace.

It will change, believe me. But you'll probably graduate before that happens.