Microeconomics sounded so boring when I was in college. What I didn't realize is that it gave someone the opportunity to study a small snippet of the economy that they found interesting. One that is interesting to me is the development of E-Readers. Everyone probably knows someone by now that owns one. Nook and Kindle seem to be the most popular but Sony has one and people can still download PDFs on their computer or smart phone. Like the new Ozzy Ozborne commericial, I've let technology pass me by.
I'm embarassed to say that I didn't give it much thought until I bought my wife one (Nook) for her birthday. Then, a friend sent me a Tweet asking me when my book would be available on Kindle. I called my publisher and they were dumbfounded. They said my contract included e-books except that didn't include Sony readers, Nooks, or Kindles. That would be like ordering a McDonald's value meal without the burger, fries, or drink. However, I could deal with them directly.
This weekend I had a book signing at Brazos Bookstore. I got to meet Neil Aquino (AKA Texas Liberal) there and I got to meet the other authors sharing the same day. The five books I sold can't compare to the value of the information I got. Downloading a book for e-readers is relatively easy. My current book (Hall of Fame Index) will not go on Kindle or Nook but on other e-readers. My last book (Combating Ignorance) should hopefully be up and running by the end of the week.
This is where the economic fun begins. Combating Ignorance will retail for 4.99. The Hall of Fame Index will go for 9.99. Sure, how the hell am I going to make money off of that? Funny you should ask. I get about two thirds of the sale proceeds and chip in exactly zero, zip, nada. It's all electronic and so the cost to the seller is microscopic. Yet, this is just the outer layer of the onion. We have to go through numerous layers.
Uploading this was so simple that any idiot can do it. Sure, they would have to get an ISBN number, but that can be done for a minimal cost. Moreover, what happens to the traditional publishing industry? Remember when there was Hollywood Video, Blockbuster, and all of the other video stores. Blockbuster is barely in business now. Red Box and Netflix have taken over. Can Simon and Schuster be far behind?
On the other hand, is this a technology that will catch on permeanently or will it go the way of beta and laser disc? Will people read more with an e-reader than they did with traditional books? That is hard to say. I heard a statistic once that said that only four percent of the American population buys books. Is that because they don't like to read or is it because books are a luxury expense many can't afford? This is the ultimate question as we move into the 2010s.
Moreover, the bigger question is whether this technology will allow more people to read. I have no doubt that those that read regularly and are fairly technologically savvy will read more. The bigger question comes down to why people don't read. Is it the cost? Is it the time? Is it the inclination? So, the economic questions take a backseat to the social ones. Does technology like this inadvertently increase the gap between the knows and the don't knows? Then, what effect will that have on society, politics, education, and other points of interest? See how one simple tool can spark a revolution?