Posts tagged technology
I’ve been an Amazon Prime subscriber for a couple of years now. It’s been a huge money saver for the family. Free two day shipping on books and many other items is an absolute life-saver sometimes. It also means I don’t have to fret – or wait long! – on a print book I want. Love it. Two days isn’t the two minutes it takes to grab an ebook, but it’s pretty good. And some books, you just want the print version, you know?
Amazon’s been stepping up Prime benefits, though. They recently started adding free video to the membership. Lots of TV series, buckets of films. My wife tore through a couple of seasons of Torchwood using Amazon video – free. She’s watching Dr. Who right now. Stargate SG-1 is up for free as well.
And they’ve just added Star Trek. Not some of them, but every live actor televised episode of every series. The original is there, Next Gen is there, DS9 is there, Voyager is there, Enterprise is there… Wow.
I’m sure this is all part of the prep for the release of Amazon’s Android Tablet later this year. The idea is simple: tablets are not computers. Tablets are media consumption devices. Tablets are for listening to music, watching video, surfing the internet, reading books, etc. Amazon already dominates the ebook market. They have a Cloud Music player with free storage, and often cheaper prices than iTunes on the same tracks. They have an Android App store which is easier to navigate than the Apple one, and head and shoulders above the Google one. And now they have a video arsenal which seems to rival Netflicks. In short, Amazon is building the infrastructure they need to go toe to toe with the iPad.
But there’s a critical difference. Apple built the infrastructure for media consumption, but their focus is still on sales of the device, which costs $500-800. Amazon is building an equivalent media consumption system, but seems intent on making that their money-maker – with a device cost predicted to be $249 that includes free Prime membership (a $79 value), so the tablet effectively costs only $170. That’s remarkable for a color tablet. The low price coupled with the strong set of offerings makes Amazon’s entry into the tablet market a potent one.
And it’s good for the rest of us, too. Even if you’re not planning to buy their tablet, having access to thousands of hours of popular TV shows and films is pretty amazing!
Hey, how often do you get two big space anniversaries in the same day? Today we’ve got two: fiftieth anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s historic ride into space, and the 30th anniversary of the first shuttle launch.
Both of these are landmark events. Before Gagarin, some theorized that humans could not survive in space. There were all sorts of concerns; it was a new frontier we didn’t really understand very well. His test proved once and for all that we could go there – and that opened the doors for “could” to become “should”.
The shuttle program, for all its flaws, has had thirty years of forward progress for humankind in space. I think we all could wish more had been accomplished over those thirty years. But I think it would be wrong not to look back and smile at what has been accomplished.
All the same, I wonder what new things we’ll have to celebrate in the future? What new landmark dates in space exploration will we create for our children and grandchildren to celebrate?
Where do we go from here?
I’m not an astronaut. Probably never will be (although if someone offers me a ticket, better believe I’ll be taking the trip!). I’m not a professional physicist, although that was my original major in college. So what can I do – you do – we all do to encourage our future in space? What can we do to make this a priority for our nation and the world as we step forward into the future?
The obvious answer is to get a little political. We all know that the government responds to voter desires, if slowly. If space exploration – manned space exploration – becomes a priority issue for voters, politicians will make it a priority in the budget. And it’s probably not going to happen in any serious way until we see that.
Some folks will ask how we can prioritize that with so many problems on Earth. Pollution, job losses, government at war with itself, media revolutions, fighting revolutions, higher taxes, gas closing on $4 a gallon again, greenhouse gases, oil spills, earthquakes, nuclear plant problems, wars, people starving, healthcare problems, and the list goes on…and on…and on.
The thing is, it always has. It always will. A thousand years ago, the people living felt like their issues were just as insurmountable, every bit as critical. More to the point, fifty years ago the USSR and USA both felt like the issues their nations faced were just as Earth-shaking as we think ours are today. But they managed to get men into space – then to the moon.
These problems we are facing have always been there, in one shape or another. And they always will be. Every new generation has its own set of crisis moments, a never-ending stream of them. But by and large, it is not the crisis that history remembers: it is those people who managed to step beyond day to day crisis management and do something greater that we recall and reflect upon.
I’m a writer. I enjoy writing science fiction, but not of the far-future variety. What I prefer to write about is the time just ahead of us now. The future in space which we can have, not a hundred years from now but ten or twenty years from now, IF we reach out to grab it. I want to write not about the someday possible, but the tomorrow possible. Partly because that interests me. And partly, I guess, because I hope to in some small way help inspire a few more minds to wish it could be so, and maybe a few of those to try to step forward and help make it so. Science fiction is a realm of the imagination, one of the most powerful tools of the human mind. If we can envision something, we can reach for it and, in time, achieve it.
So if there’s a theme to my upcoming science fiction episodes, it’s that people belong in space, should be there. That exploration and curiosity are so fundamental to our nature that turning aside from this challenge is a denial of who and what we are as a species. And that at our core, we know as a species that we cannot deny the siren call of the great adventure waiting just beyond our atmosphere. There is risk, yes; danger, yes; and there will be losses, yes. But we owe it to ourselves, our predecessors, and our descendants to reach for the possible.
Space is within our reach. We just need to stretch a little.
Late last year, I predicted we would absolutely see ebook sales hit 25% of the book market in 2011, and possibly even break the 50% barrier this year as well, but absolutely do it in 2012 at the latest. That was a bit ahead of a lot of industry analysts, at the time.
But those predictions are looking pretty on target right now.
Last week, Fortune magazine ran an article talking to a Barnes & Nobles exec, who said that in the next twenty four months is when the industry will shift – meaning more than half of all book sales would be digital. That’s a big deal, because B&N has a lot invested in the print industry, so it’s advantageous to them to make conservative estimates.
Today, Nathan Bransford (agent, writer, and well known blogger) estimated that ebooks already represent about 20-30% of the market. Bob Mayer is predicting 50%+ ebook market share by the end of this year. Dominique Raccah said last month that she expects ebooks to reach or approach the 50% mark this year for “certain types of books”. We’ve also seem publishers announcing as much as 25% of their sales in certain areas have been ebooks in January and February.
Right now? I think we’re on line to see fiction ebooks break the 50% mark this year. I see non-fiction still lagging behind, and I think that will take longer to catch up. People still like having paper for their reference material, and not all non-fiction books work well on 7″ eInk readers. But we’ll continue to see growth there, as well.
I think the question is really not will fiction hit 50% this year – but what happens next? What happens when indies can hit the majority of their market with the click of a few buttons? What happens when bookstores cease to be the primary place people buy books?
That future is almost here.