11. Built-in wireless communications
This is one area in which the Amazon Kindle got it right: you turn it on, select books and they show up without you doing anything else. That's the way future eBook readers will work. Plus, they'll allow more content to arrive faster, much of it being delivered during the night when most wireless networks are unused.
Eventually, the future eBook reader will have multiple wireless technologies such as Wi-Fi and cellular, wireless wide area networking (that is, 3G and WiMax). This should be hidden so that users simply turn it on, order books and they show up in the device.
12. Acceptable business models
We have to get away from pricing books like their paper-bound relatives. The incremental cost to publish an eBook is zero. Authors need to get paid with perhaps some form of supply-and-demand adjustment to the monthly "all-you-can-eat" model.
You could, for example, give users a certain number of credits each month for their fee and let them choose how to spend them. The author and publisher of a popular book may adjust the credits required to buy their book (based on demand). And, a book may naturally decline in credits over time as its popularity wanes.
13. Broader distribution
Unlike the cell phone networks today, eBook reader networks should work on all networks--just like the Internet, so that subscribers can go into any distributor to get the book of their choice. The distributors need to have roaming-like credit transfers between distributors, just like how using a cell phone works today on any (GSM) network.
14. Integrated animation and video
This is where the future eBook reader achieves a dramatic advancement over current ones. Today, photos are expensive to reproduce on paper, but shouldn't be expensive to include in eBooks. Thus, future authors can include their favorite photos or videos inside an eBook and have these become part of the book-reading experience, rather than separated in some special photo section that's only in the center of the book. Sure, the Web can do this today, but it isn't portable and isn't designed to communicate a story in book form.
15. Acceptable digital rights management (DRM) and intellectual property protection
I fully understand and recognize that there's a lot of digital content piracy, especially in music. But it seems to me that if we provide an open standard for eBook publishing that is cross-device, cross-publisher and includes DRM--all at reasonable prices--then people will gladly pay for the privilege of enjoying reading that really good story. The rights of authors and publishers will be protected and the entire ecosystem will be stable.
Thus, I feel that the future eBook reader is a distinct physical form factor that's bigger than an iPhone, but smaller than a small laptop portable. While those who created Amazon Kindle and the Sony Reader should be commended for pushing the envelope on technology, we still have a way to go before the criteria above will be all achieved at the same time.
However, once it does happen, the market will explode--similar to how it occurred with the adoption of the TV and cell phone. We'll see 75 percent worldwide adoption in less than 10 years from when the right set of technologies shows up in an eBook reader.
Predicting the future of reading
My prediction again: someday--let's say, hopefully by 2025 but certainly by 2050--technology and business models will have matured so that eBook readers will be used by more than 50 percent of the population. At that time, reading an eBook will become a far better experience than reading a paper-bound book is today. And we'll honestly look back and wonder how we possibly managed to kill all those trees and print millions of books on paper, when it's such a better experience reading them on an eBook reader.
Since joining Frost & Sullivan in 2006, Dr. Purdy has been specializing in mobile and wireless devices, wireless data communications and connection to the infrastructure that powers the data in the wireless handheld. He is author of Inside Mobile & Wireless, which provides industry insights and reaches over 100,000 readers per month.
For more than 16 years, Dr. Purdy has been consulting, speaking, researching, networking, writing and developing state-of-the-art concepts that challenge people's mind-sets, and developing new ways of thinking and forecasting in the mobile computing and wireless data arenas. Often quoted, his ideas and opinions are followed closely by thought leaders in the mobile & wireless industry. He has a Ph.D. in Computer Science from Stanford University. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.