However it's the when that interests me more than anything, because I think that there will be a new age of literacy as a result. There will also be the potential for formal knowledge banks to be accessible to everyone. But guessing when the tipping point will be reached, that elusive mix of technological capability, public acceptance and affordability, is a tough one.
A study carried out in California recently - and we're talking about a particular corner of the State, the one where virtually everyones IQ is to the right of the bell curve, where the characters of the Big Bang Theory circulate. The study looked at bright, economically stable individuals who were also consumers of eBooks. I guess the study hoped to find out whether the tipping point had been reached for that particular group, perhaps with a view to extrapolate the findings to the rest of us intellectual mortals.
The study was able to conclude that eBook and eReader take-up was above average for this group, which is hardly surprising. What was surprising is that this group, on average, still read a lot of print books. In fact, currently two out of three books they read for pleasure are print books. So no tipping point here, yet.
So what we can conclude from this? Well, I guess one parameter that needs to be considered is that this is an economically secure group, with a reasonable disposable income. And I've harped on about the disproportionate cost of mainstream eBooks in the past; I feel that many eBooks don't adequately reflect the production costs not incurred by producing an electronic version. Perhaps for most of us, when the best-seller books can be bought for a significant premium against the printed version, perhaps we'll see that point tip.
The other barriers are also cost driven, in my opinion. eReaders, both the dedicated variety such as the Kindle and the multi-functional devices such as the iPad should come down in price. Sure, the basic eReaders from Amazon and Kobo are dropping in price but the Amazon Fire and Kobo Vox devices could become less expensive. The Apple products should come down in price, too, however it seems that they can sell as many of the devices as they can make at the price they are pitched at right now, so for them we need viable competition.
The final piece, though, is that we need to have a way of paying for the content we want to consume that is reasonably priced and flexible in the bargain. Something that lets the consumer download a newspaper or monthly magazine at will, that provides access to other media at a predictable cost on top of their eBook purchases has to be a way forward. Couple that with affordable eReaders that can be used for other media then we'll see that point tip. And when it tips, paper based products will slide off the scale so fast, we'll need to have fire extinguishers ready in case the friction burns start a fire.
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Digital Life Form is available on Amazon.com in paperback for $8 (or for £5 plus P&P in the UK for UK readers - contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org for details)
The Last Simple is available on Amazon.com in paperback for $6.
The Journeymen is available for $9
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