2009 was an amazing year for e-books! The changes were astounding…I addressed those in this earlier post.
While there was huge progress made, I think that 2010 is going to be a truly crucial year as well. This coming year, consumers will have largely accepted the idea of e-books, and loyalties will be re-aligned as they face the reality of them.
I’m going to make a few guesses here, but I should be clear…my track record is imperfect in this area. ;) I though publishers would welcome free text-to-speech for their books (more access=bigger markets), but they didn’t all do that. So, don’t bet the house on what I say here, but it’s fun to take a shot at it.
Oh, and some of these may happen before 2010…I just didn’t want to wait until New Year’s Eve to put this post out there.
More platforms for Kindle books
This is clearly going to happen. There are already pages at Amazon for a Kindle app for Macs and one for Blackberrys. I think this will continue…is there a Droid in your future? Mobile PC? It appears that Amazon is comfortable that selling e-books on other devices doesn’t diminish Kindle sales. In fact, I would guess it may increase them. You might be comfortable reading on an iPhone (especially if you are younger…young eyes seem to be more able to tolerate backlighting), so you buy a bunch of books. Later on, someone else in your family wants an EBR (E-Book Reader), or you find you want a more comfortable reading experience. You already have a bunch of books you bought for the iPhone: that’s a very strong argument for a Kindle (since you’ll be able to read them there with no additional cost).
The nook will get a major software update
There will be many happy nook users this year, with the device just the way it is. However, some reviews have been savage. The niftiest interface thing about the nook is the little color touchscreen. However, since it is tied to the E Ink screen, it is much slower than if it was by itself. I’d suggest they divorce the two for many operations, so you can have the speedy touchscreen to pick a book, for example, without it needing to reflect on the E Ink until you make a decision.
Kindle DX international will be released
This is a slam dunk…it’s already been announced by Drew Herdener, Amazon’s Director of Communications. I think this will be very early in the year…after holiday sales for the current DX are over. That may be pretty much now: there’s a delay on shipping the DXs. I think we may even see the Kindle DX international announced in the first month, and people who were waiting for the old DX will get the option of the new one. Amazon will also lower the price for the old DX at that point.
No new six inch model for the Kindle
I’m iffy on this, but I think Amazon will continue to enhance the current Kindle 2 through software, rather than do a major hardware redesign this year. It looks good, it works well, generally. I think we’ll get several software updates, including the accessibility update we’ve heard about (which will include audible menus and a larger text size). I think the next truly new Kindle we see will be radically different: maybe a color screen, larger or smaller size, or be flexible or the like. I could be really wrong on this, though.
Color E Ink
I do think somebody will have a commercially marketed color E Ink screen out there in 2010. I’m guessing it will be expensive and the colors will be dull. I don’t know that it will be a Kindle, though. My guess is that a color E Ink screen that is good enough to be a Kindle is 2-3 years away.
The nook gets web-browsing
This may come about through the legal actions of Spring Design. The nook’s little 3-inch screen could already surf the web, if they authorized that. That was the plan for Spring Design, as I understand it…video and web access on the little screen. Spring Design may have a reasonable argument, and Barnes and Noble and Spring Design are likely to settle. I think that may work out with Spring Design not releasing independently and B&N either paying them a licensing fee or putting the “Alex” in their stores (even if its rebranded as a nook). Either way, I’m guessing that B&N starts using that little touchscreen for video and web-browsing.
Dualume/dual screen devices
One way or another, I think we will get devices that can be either backlit or not backlit. It could be devices with two screens, one of each, or screens that can switch back and forth (which I call “Dualume” screens, for dual illumination). They may be more expensive, but there are certainly people who are going to want the comfortable/cool/cutting edge experience of a non-backlit screen and the convenience (for dark reading) and flexibility of an LCD screen. I think the first one s will be expensive.
Market share shift in publishers
Publishers that make e-book readers happy are going to see a move towards them. That means Random House, for example, may see a slip. Successful companies aren’t stupid, though. They’ll figure it out…adapt or die. They may be trying to make the market conform to what they want to do (the old ways that they know well), but quicker, nimbler companies will pick up some share.
Independent publishing will rise
This will continue to expand, and will be helped when brand name authors start going the direct route. That doesn’t mean I think that Anne Rice or Stephen King will put all of their books out as e-books only…but I do think they may put out smaller projects that way, and/or publish in both formats simultaneously. I think we’ll start to find new authors that come from independent e-publishing breaking through in the media. Their books may be bought up by tradpubs (traditional publishers), they may appear on talk shows, they may have movie rights purchased (that’s happened once already, reportedly, to my knowledge) and so on. It will be a bit like bloggers appearing on the newschannels now.
The e-book market will continue to show explosive growth. Amazon will announce that more than fifty percent of books that have both a Kindle and paper editon have been sold in Kindle. E-books will grow to at least ten percent of the American publishing market. That doesn’t mean that p-books (paperbooks) necessarily fall off rapidly. They can benefit from increased reading habits. However, we will start to see more and more books be available (new) only in e-book. That may include some backlist titles…maybe books that are well-remembered but have been out of print for awhile. Here’s an easy one for Scholastic: the Animorphs series. Huge hit, work well on the Kindle. E-books will be reviewed in the major outlets. More countries will come onboard, and the availability for books in some other countries will double (and then some, perhaps). The Kindle store titles will break 500,000 at least.
Enhancing the Kindle
I think we’ll get some significant enhancements, in addition to the accessibility and organization updates already announced. By the way, I think that organization will be a form of tagging, rather than a drag and drop folder system. That will allow a change in sorting, maybe have some sort of tagging that comes with the books. I think we’ll get the ability to gift Kindle books…soon. That may happen before 2010, but soon, I would guess. I think we’ll get the ability to password the device and to have parental controls (both implemented through the Manage Your Kindle page). I think we’ll get customizable sleep mode pictures and the ability to install the character sets we want (although we may need to pay for both of those). I think we’ll get more voice options, for different languages. We’ll get searching and annotating on the Kindle for PC as well.
Access to more books for the Kindle
Amazon could enable EPUB access and library lending pretty easily, I think. I don’t think those are as great as a lot of people think they are, but people do want them. I think that just as Amazon is selling books on more platforms, they’ll let you borrow books from the library (under the same limited conditions you can do it with a Sony) and, if you want, read EPUB without conversion.
Despite a somewhat slow start, I think e-books will continue to increase their textbook share. I think that the MLA will give guidelines for citing e-books (just at the APA has). I think professors will begin accepting e-book citations. I think more states will follow California’s lead in mandating e-book availability for some classes. It won’t all happen in 2010, but the e-textbook direction seems clear.
I predict there will be things I haven’t predicted
Amazon has some very innovative thinkers. For example, I’m not predicting we’ll get built-in translation or an external keyboard this year, but we could. We could get a roll-up Kindle, or one that projects, but I’m not predicting that this year.
Whatever happens, it will be a wild ride and I’m looking forward to it!
Have predictions of your own? Feel free to let me know!
This post by Bufo Calvin first appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.