Saturday, December 11, 2010

Microsoft predictions for ebooks in 2010

In 2000 Microsoft put out a timeline predicting what would happen the next 20 years with ebooks.

The prediction for 2010 was: Popular eBook devices weigh eight ounces, run for more than 24 hours, offer beautiful non-backlit displays, are available in flexible/foldable form factors, and hold more books and magazines than most university libraries. They cost less than $100 and are often given away free with the purchase of several books or a magazine subscription.

The Kindle weighs 8.5 ounces and cost $139 for the cheapest model. Microsoft was in the ballpark of being correct.

Here is the full list of predictions:


2000- Microsoft's Reader software for PCs and laptops ships. Customers buy more than one million eBook titles the first year it is available. 

2002- PCs and eBook devices offer screens that are as sharp as paper, with 200 dpi physical resolution, and an effective resolution of about 500 dpi with ClearType. 

2003- eBook devices weigh less than a pound and run for eight hours on a charge. Costs run from $99 for a simple black and white device to about $899 for the most powerful, color magazine-sized machine. 

2004- The Tablet PC becomes a mainstream option for computing. It is a pad-sized device that supports writing as well as eBook reading, and runs powerful computer applications in a slate form factor. More than half of all eReading is done on PCs and laptops, but dedicated eBooks, handheld machines and now Tablets account for the other half. 

2005- eBook title and ePeriodical sales top $1 billion. Many serial publications are given away free with advertising support that now also totals more than $1 billion. An estimated 250 million people regularly read books and newspapers on their PCs, laptops, and palm machines. 

2006- eNewstands (kiosks) proliferate on street corners, airports, etc. As usual, airlines offer customers old magazines on the flight, but the magazines are now downloaded to eBook devices. 

2008- eBook titles begin to outsell conventional volumes in most countries. The price of a new bestseller title is about $8-$10, but unit sales are much larger than average paper sales for similar titles a decade ago. 

2009- Several top authors now publish directly to their audiences, many of whom subscribe to their favorite authors rather than buy book-by-book. Some authors join genre cooperatives, in which they hold an ownership stake, to cover the costs of marketing, handle group advertising sales and sell "ancillary" (that is, non-electronic) rights, including "paper rights." Major publishing houses survive and prosper by offering authors editing and marketing services, rather than arranging for book printing. Printing firms diversify into eBook preparation and converting old paper titles to electronic formats. 

2010- Popular eBook devices weigh eight ounces, run for more than 24 hours, offer beautiful non-backlit displays, are available in flexible/foldable form factors, and hold more books and magazines than most university libraries. They cost less than $100 and are often given away free with the purchase of several books or a magazine subscription. 

2011- Advances in non-volatile chip storage, including Hitachi's Single Electron terabit chip, allow eBooks to store 4 million books - more than many university libraries - or every newspaper ever printed in America. 

2012- The pulp industry mounts its pro-paper "Real Books" ad campaign, featuring a friendly logger who urges consumers to "Buy the real thing - real books printed on real paper." 

2018- In common parlance, eBook titles are simply called "books." The old kinds are increasingly called "paper books." 

2020- Ninety percent of all titles are now sold in electronic rather than paper form. Webster alters its First Definition of "book" to mean, "a substantial piece of writing commonly displayed on a computer or other personal viewing device.".


Blog post at

We keep asking Do Amazon Reviews Count? and the evidence is mounting that they not only count, but authors and publishers will resort to all kinds of subterfuges to win those quotable five-star reviews – or confer horrendous one-star ones on their competitors.

As to the latter… 

Public Libraries: Back to the Future

Blog post at Brave New World

So we return to today, where we see public spending being increasingly squeezed and public libraries often under funded and under resourced. They are clearly struggling to get to grips with the digital challenges they now face in their, infrastructure, content, lending model, community presence and funding. We may not approve of the Google scanning programme in its commercial objectives, but support it in its social ones. With the return of philanthropy and social conscience, perhaps we should rethink the role and funding of public libraries within a more open public / private mix. Why should we regard borrowing as free? We can all learn from history and although we all often only see but a fraction of the actual facts, there are clear opportunities offered which may help create new; reading rooms, book exchanges and virtual libraries, all free from the public purse, or which at least ease the current burden upon it.

Read full blog post

Local Bookstores, Social Hubs, and Mutualization

Blog post by Clay Shirky

Last month, the American Booksellers Association published an open letter to the Justice Department, asking Justice to investigate Wal-Mart, Target, and Amazon after they lowered prices of best-selling books to under $10. The threat, the ABA says, is dire: “If left unchecked, these predatory pricing policies will devastate not only the book industry, but our collective ability to maintain a society where the widest range of ideas are always made available to the public, and will allow the few remaining mega booksellers to raise prices to consumers unchecked.”

Got that? Lower prices will lead to higher prices, and cheap books threaten to reduce the range of ideas in circulation. And don’t just take the ABA’s word for it. They also quote John Grisham’s agent and the owner of a book store, who both agree that cheap books are a horrible no-good very bad thing. So bad, in fact, that the Department of Justice must get involved, to shield the public from the scourge of affordable reading. (Just for the record, the ABA is also foursquare against ebooks being sold more cheaply than paper books, and thinks maybe Justice should look into that too.)

There may have been some Golden Age of Lobbying, where this kind of hysteria would have had led to public alarm. By now, though, the form is so debauched there’s probably a Word macro for describing competition as a Looming Threat To The Republic. (or The Children, or Civilization Itself. Depends on your audience.)

It’s not surprising that the ABA would write stuff like this — it’s their job to make self-interested claims. What is surprising is that there are members of the urban cognoscenti who still believe these arguments, arguments that made some sense twenty years ago, but have long since stopped doing so.

Full blog post

Friday, December 10, 2010

‘The Master Switch’

Tim Wu’s ambitious history of modern communications posits that information technologies move through a cycle from open to closed systems.

Article in NYT about book

Book: The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires (Borzoi Books)

City Frowns Upon Use of 'Library' in Chocolate Library Name

Topping the list of surreal news this week, the Times reports that the owner of the newly opened The Chocolate Library—a chocolate store in the East Village—can no longer keel the word "Library" in its name, because the City deems it "misleading."

Full article

Amazon Movers and Shakers

The big mover and shaker for today is: Wordcatcher: An Odyssey into the World of Weird and Wonderful Words

The book was featured in a story on NPR: Indie Booksellers Pick 2010 Favorites
Sales rank up: 9,186%
Sales rank yesterday was 24,000 and today it was 267.

Google Ebookstore Offers Librarians Limited Use

With this week's launch of Google's online bookstore, school and public libraries now have another way patrons can view children's ebooks—but it's not without some serious limitations.

While the software offers an online catalog that lets users read across multiple devices such as an iPad, Nook, or any computer with Internet connection, it's really geared toward individuals.

Full article at School Library Journal

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Questioning Longitude

Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Timeis a book that was first published in the mid-90's.

I read the book and really enjoyed it. Recently I was reading the current reviews for the book on Amazon and there was a review that was very critical of the book. In the critical review there was a cite to an article in the Journal of Navigation (The Royal Institute of Navigation) that questioned the Sobel book. The article is titled: The Age of Sail: A Time when the Fortunes of Nations and Lives of Seamen Literally Turned with the Winds Their Ships Encountered at Sea. You can read the full text of the article here.

Here is the abstract for the article: This paper examines the evidence to support the view that the inability of seamen to determine accurate longitude at sea in sailing ships was a major factor in the loss of ships and crews that was effectively solved by the introduction of the marine chronometer. It concludes that this was not the case and that a more compelling factor for the safety of ships was the introduction of mechanical propulsion systems.

The keywords attached to the record of the article at the Cambridge Journals website are Longitude; Dava Sobel; John Harrison; Sailing Ships. These keywords indicate that the article is specifically questioning the Sobel book. From a library standpoint this got me to thinking about how libraries can best make readers aware of books and articles that question other books and articles. Should this be built into the catalog or is this best left to another tool or system? There are systems to do citation analysis but many of these are coming from the angle of quantifying faculty work for tenure and promotion. See: How Best to Judge Impact in the Digital Age – A View from the Cited Reference Trenches

One problem in this particular case is that this particular article came out almost 15 years after the book was published so even if libraries were making connections between these type of articles and books they could not have connected this article to the book until 2010.