Friday, August 27, 2010

Notes toward a Market Requirements Doc for a true mass-market ereader


I know we're going to get there eventually, but I'd rather not wait.

No, I'm not going to pony up $150-$200 for a Kindle, Nook, Sony eReader or Kobo. Ain't gonna happen.

Right now, I buy most of my dead-tree books used for $5 or less, shipping included. No way am I going to spend the price of 30-40 books (assuming I read one book per week, that's the better part of a year's reading!) on a device to read books with.

The max price point needs to be no more than $50, preferably less. $50 is my line of separation between "purchase requiring household discussion and perhaps earmarked savings" and "something I'll either jump on immediately or talk myself into by the time I've walked past the end cap display at Micro Center a couple of times."

For that price, some hardware concessions are obviously in order.

It doesn't have to sport color graphics (good contrast control and a backlight are enough).

It doesn't have to be able to store a bazillion books. It needs to be able to store several, but not a bazillion, as long as I can change them out and store what I'm not reading on my computer's hard drive or a thumb drive or something.

The battery life doesn't have to be stellar. For that matter it doesn't have to have a built-in rechargeable battery. I'll pop for the AAs or AAAs.

It doesn't have to offer Wi-Fi or 3G/4G connectivity (I'm willing to download the books to my computer and port them via USB).

It doesn't have to support multiple file standards. The ePub format strikes me as the likeliest candidate, PDF a distant second.

It doesn't have to support Digital Rights Management. As a matter of fact I'd rather it didn't.

On the other hand, there's one inducement which might lead me to tolerate DRM or some other scheme for keeping me tied to your store for my e-book needs: Cheap book prices.

If you'll sell me a cheap device and make reasonably new titles available for $3-5, and price current bestsellers at no more than $7-$10, I'll probably accept DRM.

Hell, I'll even willingly pony up a buck apiece for all those old public domain titles (Ivanhoe, Les Miserables, GK Chesterton's stuff, etc.) that I read for free on Stanza or Bookworm now, if I can read them in bed on an inexpensive, back-lit, hand-held device.

The company that brings a device to market meeting the above specs (plus one more spec -- it can't fall apart after a month) can count on selling me the device, and on a perpetual revenue stream from my wallet somewhere in the low double digits per month.

Update, 08/31: I follow up here.

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