Certainly the folks behind Amazon’s Kindle, Sony’s eBook Reader and other devices are trying valiantly to reach some sort of threshold or tipping point whereby their device will become as ubiquitous as Apple’s iPod is for listening to music. I have no doubt we will get to that point someday — and sales of printed books, newspapers and magazines will plummet just as have the sales of music CDs.
If you want another parallel, think about how video stores will be closing as we all take up downloading movies instead of going to your local Blockbuster or Pic-a-Flic store.
Back to eBook devices… my point is that Amazon, Sony, iRex et al are missing the boat. The device that will change book publishing will not be primarily a book reader — instead it will be a general purpose device: cell phone, music player, PDA, camera, recorder, projector, gaming device, TV, web browser, emailer, etc., etc. Given that concept, the device has to be portable (i.e. small) yet have a big enough display.
How do you get both small and big? By having a flexible display that rolls or folds up. Seems that a company called Bridgestone [yes, the tire company] has a working prototype of a thin, light, flexible, colour (!) display that uses e-Ink technology, so the power usage is very low and there is no need for a backlight on the screen. Check it out at this link:
Now imagine a cel phone that is tube-shaped, and has a rolled-up, pull-out screen. Seems we are getting closer to the breakthrough device rather quickly.
For more commentary on the future of newspapers, anticipating these digital reading devices, check out a New York Times story:
A small-but-large, flexible reader due to be unveiled this month is from Plastic Logic of Cambridge, UK. Go to www.plasticlogic.com. They’ve got $200M US in venture funding, an indication that big money is chasing ‘small’ change.