Where is the popular media headed in the years ahead? I briefly discussed this earlier this week after the Sony company announced a partnership with search giant Google to distribute public domain books for its “Reader” device. This one agreement effectively gave Sony the edge in available content for ereaders as it’s competitor, the Amazon Kindle II, has just under a quarter-million books available for it’s device while the Sony Reader can now boast of having over 600,000 titles available.
With newspapers shutting down and radio and television stations cutting staff, the emedia market will dramatically change the landscape in information distribution in the years ahead. Already, we are seeing the beginnings of this. Independent TV stations now partner for newscasts at various times of the day, radio stations are consolidating and satellite delivery of shows is now commonplace, especially on the AM band. HD radio will provide some options but “on demand” service will rule the day in the coming years and smaller stations will either shut down or simply mirror programming from larger stations that own them.
Christian ministries are changing their delivery systems also. John Piper was one of the first last year to drop his radio show and offer his ministry program exclusively on the internet. The convienence of downloading the shows, synching them to my MP3 player, and then listening to them on my schedule makes more sense than trying to check schedules from local stations to find it. It’s also cost effective too compared to what stations charge for 15-30 minute shows. Internet distribution offers higher quality audio as well.
It makes sense that text content will follow suit. As the portable reader devices become more mainstream, it will be vital for publishers to settle on an open format and make their product available for electronic consumption. Soon, the daily task of gathering the morning paper will end as the content is available daily online. The process will save trees, cut down on waste, and make storage much easier. The need for recycling will be reduced as well as newsprint use is reduced dramatically.
Magazine publishers will benefit too with electronic distribution of their products. Postage costs will be eliminated and interactive magazines will be a much more attractive product. Music could be included with the product that can play on cue from the players to add another dimension to it’s presentation.
In the future, school textbooks can be made available on readers. College costs should drop as textbook prices should be reduced with an electronic product that will be easy to buy and distribute. Right now, the college text market is a racket with exorbitant prices being paid for books that easily could be made open source and available for much, much less.
On the Christian front, I would think that publishers would soon make a electronic edition of their wares available as a purchase product. A church could buy a license for a product and it could be made available freely to all members of the congregation. Profits would rise as costs to publish, package, and ship the products go down.
Companies who currently sell any of these products would be wise to begin to integrate purchases of their emedia counterparts starting today. Already, Zondervan has done this by offering cards that can be purchased for a download through Christian dealers like “Family Christian” bookstores. A kiosk is available in the center of the store with cards that you can buy that give you a code to enter to download the book you purchased. The Borders chain is already in partnership with Sony as they offer readers, covers, chargers, and book cards for downloads.
Like it or not, change is coming. The ereaders will get better and better in the years ahead. While I love my Sony Reader, I’m still pulling for Amazon as well since competition will speed innovation and create lower prices for better products.
As a kid, I used to laugh when I watched the “Jetsons” television show and see George Jetson sit in an easy chair and read the paper from a drop down screen. We’re there now folks! It will only get better.