Why e-book readers really haven’t taken off

The first time I heard of Kindle was actually through my buddy. Truthfully, I don’t find it worth the $399 price tag. In fact, it really doesn’t strike me as anything that different from the other ebook readers out there except for the service. Sure it seems like it’s e-ink operated. Big deal.
Here’s why I don’t think it’ll work. Let’s take a look at why most digital formats haven’t taken off and people still rather read books or magazines.
It’s human conditioning.
That’s it. Still don’t get it? I’ll explain. It’s all in the form factor. Current readers make the assumption that human beings are willing to read pages of documents like an LCD screen or monitor. But how many book readers actually do that? Not many. And if you’ve ever tried to page through War and Peace in a PDF, it’s no fun.
So how do you make it a better design? I would probably propose using a book-like display. Think about it. If people are more interested in reading a “book” then the best replacement would start out as a pseudo-book. It’s the same as hybrid cars. The funky designs didn’t really take except for early adopters and as you move towards an actual mainstream automobile body in existence, the more general consumers are adopting the technology. Similarly, if you created a “book-like” design with two displays connected at a hinge, then if you tap the corners to turn the page or what not, you could actually virtually turn pages. That would make the entire e-book two displays thick, but way more usable.
Not that I’m an expert by any means in modern anthropology, but I can tell you that there is a reason why Apple’s industrial designers do a great job. And it isn’t by designing things by going from one thing to another in one huge jump. Just take a look at the generations of iPods to watch the progression of a mp3 player to a media player that plays music. It took five gens. And it wasn’t because the technology wasn’t there.
Similarly the e-book readers will eventually take off. But you have to create something that people will take to currently rather than jump forward and assume that since tablet PCs exist, that everyone will like the whole 1-page format.
Interesting isn’t it, how this one little thing could be the reason why e-books just haven’t had the adoption that it’s been seeking.

  • “So how do you make it a better design? I would probably propose using a book-like display.”
    I read that someone– Phillips, I think– is actually developing a product along those lines using their new paper thin monitor film.
    I’m hoping someone will as it will do for books what the Internet has done for music. Digital downloading will be the way to market most books provided someone builds the right product and makes it cross platform. The biggest fault I see in Kindle is that it ties users to Amazon. That said: there’s already a waiting list for Kindle so what do I know?

  • “So how do you make it a better design? I would probably propose using a book-like display.”
    I read that someone– Phillips, I think– is actually developing a product along those lines using their new paper thin monitor film.
    I’m hoping someone will as it will do for books what the Internet has done for music. Digital downloading will be the way to market most books provided someone builds the right product and makes it cross platform. The biggest fault I see in Kindle is that it ties users to Amazon. That said: there’s already a waiting list for Kindle so what do I know?

  • David Knauer

    Have you seen this:
    http://www.plasticlogic.com/
    Looks very close to what you are talking about.

  • David Knauer

    Have you seen this:
    http://www.plasticlogic.com/
    Looks very close to what you are talking about.