Back in my college days, I worked with a fellow at an auto parts warehouse. He asked me “Man, how many books do you read in a year?” I gave a number in the dozens. That produced a scoff from my co-worker and the following comment “I haven’t read a book since I left high school!” He was, incidentally, a man in his 40’s and he was dead serious.
I kept thinking about that comment as I read my daily dose of fawning comments about the iPad. Everyone out there seems to unquestionably think this device is a great thing. If they have any criticism it’s usually the name of the product.
I think everyone’s giving Apple too much of a blanket attaboy on this. I may be wrong but I wish more people were looking at this device with a more dispassionate eye.
Let’s consider that:
1) There’s a finite market for tablet format e-book reading devices.
2) That market is smaller than the market for PCs, laptops, netbooks and PDAs. How do I know this? I see very young kids with cell phones. I see all kinds of families, children, etc. using home PCs and notebooks. I don’t ever think I’ll see casual readers plunk down big bucks for this device. Will trendy, early adopters get one? Sure! Will most folks? I don’t think so. If there are 300 million US citizens, how many will buy an iPad? Not that many I’m afraid.
3) There are already millions of Amazon Kindles already out there according to Jeff Bezos. How many people will abandon a Kindle to buy an iPad? Sure, some people will but the high switching cost will mean that Kindle switches may take years to materialize. And don’t forget the Sony Reader. By December of 2008, Sony reported they had sold 300,000 units of their device. That number has most certainly gone up since then. That prior install base of Sony and Amazon products may have already snagged a lot of the early adopter market. The real question is how many more buyers are left?
4) At $499, one could buy a lot of books. Seriously, how many people do you know that spend anywhere that much on books in a year? In two years? In five years? Ever? The fellow I used to work with wouldn’t spend that in a lifetime. I looked up the size of the book industry. The current market estimates fall between $26 -40 billion annually depending on whose stats you review. That works out to a maximum of $133/US citizen. I think the iPad would have to price out at something like $99 to get really competitive with books.
5) The iPad is a discretionary purchase. It is not a business requirement…
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