See You Monday, Bob
Bob Sacks continues to publish great commentary on his Web site and e-newsletter, the BoSacks Reporter. Bob’s a jovial guy who is engaging, smart and somewhat brazen, so when introduced to him for the first time a couple of years ago, we got along just fine.
For years now, Bob has talked about the future of “e-paper,” consistently providing some solid research to help support his thoughts on the merits of how we’ll all read magazines and books someday using “transparent plastic that contains millions of small microcapsules randomly dispersed” (huh?). With the emergence of the Amazon Kindle, you would think that Bob is getting closer to his dream.
I’ll see Bob next week during our annual Publishing Business Conference, so he’ll have plenty of time to convince me that in my or my children’s lifetimes, this e-paper thing is going to happen. My two biggest objections, however, continue to be price and access.
Last summer, the Pew Internet & American Life Project reported that 47 percent of Americans had broadband Internet access with only one-third of those folks residing in rural areas. While 76 percent of broadband users living in high-income homes is a good sign that they may be able to afford access to high-speed networks, making bandwidth and the devices more affordable would be a huge step in expanding the market.
Pew also reported last December that 31 percent of Americans have logged on to the Internet using a wireless network, although when you factor in cell phones and PDAs, the number is much higher. Regardless, as Publishing 2.0’s Scott Karp argues, wireless access remains slow, erratic, scarce and expensive.
I will never understand people who look at the Internet like they are looking out their office or living room windows. A little over 10 years ago, I sat down for an interview with Jason Olim, one of the co-founders of CDNow (hey Bob, remember CDs?), and asked him about the company’s plans to offer music released in other countries. They had no such plans and the business crashed and burned.
I’m looking forward to seeing eMarketer’s update from last year’s report that global Internet penetration in 2006 was 17 percent. With lower prices and easier access, Bob’s e-paper dream may actually become a reality.