Steve Jobs, The Economist and I All Agree!

September 21st, 2009

I’ve been preaching ad nauseum that a dedicated eBook reader just doesn’t add up. In Thad’s The Laws of the Future of Publishing I’ve often quoted law #19: “There is a limit to the number of separate digital devices people want to carry. That limit is one.” People often say, “But what about the cellphone…won’t that remain separate.” I reply: Look at the iPhone and at Nokia’s new N97mini, and then decide.

Today I discovered a David Pogue blog entry from September 9th, where he managed to get a few minutes with Steve Jobs after the Apple iPod event. Pogue wrote:

A couple of years ago, pre-Kindle, Mr. Jobs expressed his doubts that e-readers were ready for prime time. So today, I asked if his opinions have changed.

“I’m sure there will always be dedicated devices, and they may have a few advantages in doing just one thing,” he said. “But I think the general-purpose devices will win the day. Because I think people just probably aren’t willing to pay for a dedicated device.”

He said that Apple doesn’t see e-books as a big market at this point, and pointed out that, for example, doesn’t ever say how many Kindles it sells. “Usually, if they sell a lot of something, you want to tell everybody.”

Meanwhile, in an August 27, 2009 article in The Economist headlined: “Screen Test: Electronic-Book Readers Multiply,” the article concludes:

Yet there are already signs that consumers may prefer to read e-books on devices that do other things as well. According to some estimates, more people use Apple’s iPhone to read digital texts than use the Kindle. And Apple is hard at work developing a multimedia “tablet” that will probably act as an e-book reader too. Gizmos such as these are the likeliest heroes of the next chapter of electronic bookselling.

I just can’t see dedicated eBook readers, “crossing the chasm.”


December 1, 2010: I’ve been wrong more than once, but rarely as wrong as on this assessment. Dedicated eBooks Readers may not have truly moved into the mainstream of all consumer purchasing, but they’ve certainly taken dedicated book purchasers and the book reading public by storm. The transformation has been illuminating.

Steve Jobs’ assessment: “I think the general-purpose devices will win the day” certainly proved accurate with the success of the iPad.