Saturday, August 28, 2004

iPod Model for e-Books Not Happening

The launch of Apple iPod from HP was front page of the business section in my Saturday morning paper, the San Jose Mercury News. I follow this with interest since both companies are located in my local community of Cupertino, California, and they've had their share of ups and downs, with copious local and national press. Essentially, this is a marketing alliance--the HP version is a different color, an additional logo, and a free "tattoo" to personalize the device. Of course, HP will sell additional entertainer "tattoos", plus a package of 14 printable "tattoos", to be printed on a HP photo printer, of course!

Earlier, this week, I had been interviewed by CNET for an article entitled "Have e-books turned a page?" and asked whether a device was on the horizon for e-books that would transform the publishing industry in the same way that iPod has transformed the music industry. My answer was no--and the biggest issue is the number of titles available in a standard electronic format. The iTunes Music Store has 700,000 available tunes, and the iPod can store up to 5,000 individual tunes. By contrast, there are no more than about 50,000 total e-book titles available in an industry that lists 5 million titles in the venerable Books in Print database, and over 60,000 new titles printed each year. So even if a breakthrough reader hardware were created today, the critical mass of available titles for commercial success is still under development. Perhaps iPod will lead the way for audio books!
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