image Check out Why e-books are getting hotter and hotter, a Huffington Post piece by Mark Coker, Smashwords publisher and TeleRead contributor.

I’d respectfully disagree with Mark on the issue of screen quality. It is better than before, but still isn’t as close to paper, in my opinion, as Mark apparently thinks—either E Ink or LCDs. Consider the E Ink contrast issue. Still, I believe Mark’s analysis as a whole is right on target. Useful ammo for e-book advocates!

Some of the other factors Mark mentions: “Proliferation of multiple-high-quality reading devices,” “Oprah Winfrey,” “Early adopters become new evangelists” and “Greater content selection.”

Your own thoughts on the “Why”?


  1. Why?
    Critical mass has brought about a metaphorical phase change.
    All successful technologies follow the same bell-shaped adoption curve and the same “s-shaped” diffusion curve (the old sigmoid) with its own defining parameters; slow adoption early, followed by a quick, almost vertical ramp-up once the technology starts to mature, followed by a long tail of incremental adoption laggards as the now-mainstream technology reaches its natural adoption limits.
    Ebooks are now *starting* to approach the vertical portion of the development/adoption curve because, like it or not, Amazon has proven there is a *business* in ebooks. There is money to be made and now evetybody wants in.
    The listed factors are all merely “how’s”, mechanisms for the advancing afoption of the technology, not “why’s”, the driving forces behind the adoption of the technology.
    I would suggest the true drivers are commercial gain on the hardware/services side (the gadget/software providers and retailers) and accessibility and user experience on the consumer side.
    This has happened before (calculators, PCs, cellphones, digital media players, etc) and it will happen again: The underlying principles and development phases are all well-known.
    We are entering the proliferation/evangelization phase, btw. This is where is starts to become clear just how *big* the natural market is for the technology. Lots of Darwinian innovation is headed our way as the technology looks to find its linuts and defining traits. The end result will likely bear little ressemblance to the early products, btw. Expect much confusion and lots of drama for the next year or three until the “shakedown and consolidation” phase kicks in.
    Standard fare for life in a technological civilization. Fun stuff, though.

    Anybody interested in the basic principles can get a start here:

  2. One thing I’ll point out is, in this particular case, how essentially meaningless the numbers are. That’s because no one has a way to track the independent market, which is a huge part of the e-book arena, and will probably remain so for a long time to come.

    Personally, I do agree with Mark that e-book visibility is comparable to paper, and in some cases outright better than paper… especially newsprint, but including many paperbacks I’ve seen which were atrociously printed and barely legible in places.

    As to the Whys, I think Mark and Felix have covered things fairly well, with one caveat: I think it’s too late to declare 2009 the year e-books went mainstream, as I wouldn’t really call them “there” yet; but certainly prominent on the radar now…

  3. ‘E-ink contrast issues’? Huh?

    Try this once. Open a page of an e-book on an e-ink device. Then randomly grab a handful of paperbacks off of your shelf. The used print copy of ‘Foundation’ that’s on my nightstand has *worse* contrast than my e-ink reader. And the contrast varies from book to book, as does font size. My husband had to quit reading ‘Cryptonomicon’, because the font was so tiny. So I bought a used copy of the hardcover edition online. The font is pretty much the same size as in the paperback, despite the larger format.

    And how often has contrast change *on the same book*, over time? Unless one has only books printed on alkaline paper, this will happen. I have books that I’ve purchased, but not gotten around to reading until after the pages had darkened considerably over time.

    I look forward to the day whey real typography becomes a part of e-book design; because the sameness of e-books’ appearance is somewhat unfortunate, despite its advantages. Still; for now I’m happy to leave the work of absorbing my interest to the writer. And when I’m old, I’ll be happy to be able to increase my font-size at will.

    (I agree with anyone who suggests that the coming-together of devices that are comfortable to hold and stare at for long periods of time, and increased availability of titles, are making the e-book market a viable reality.)

  4. And just to feed into the distraction of the contrast issue, it is really interesting to read reviews of the Sony PRS-600. The 600, as a result of the touch layer, has a slightly lower contrast than the 505/300. Surprisingly, a lot of people, espeically older people, prefer it that way! While it is harder to read in the dark, it is apparently much easier for some people to read in well-lit areas. *shrug*

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