Bad Guesses

Usually the best way to guess which technology product will be successful is to bet against the one I like. Betamax, Apple, Linux, Picasa.

So it surprises me Barnes & Noble are giving up on the Nook since I went Kindle. I’m not usually in this position.

Then again, I was on the brink of going webOS but went Android. Maybe though iOS will win out over Android and keep me on track.

Of course, this is post is confirmation bias. I’m sure if I really thought about it, then I could come up with lots of technology I like that predominate their markets over rivals.

How to Fit Reading Into Your Schedule

My reading list Some people identify me as a reader. Fifty books a year sounds way beyond them. Even ten books a year can seem unattainable.

Lifehacker’s How to Fit Reading Into Your Schedule and Actually Finish the Books You Want to Read is an okay start. Its suggestions:

    1. Schedule a Daily Reading Time
    2. Organize or Join a Book Club with Deadline
    3. Set Up a Special Reading Area with No Distractions
    4. Know When to GIve Up On Books You Hate and Find Books You Love

My daily reading times are at meals and before going to bed. A friend organized a monthly book club. My home is my castle. I have a post, Cull and Surrender, on giving up on bad books.

My additional suggestions:

    1. Always have a book. I have a book everywhere I am likely to have free time such as on my bed, in my living room, and in my car. Probably most helpful is having the Kindle app on my phone. My phone is a device I am likely to have everywhere I go, so I no longer have an excuse about not having a book with me.
    2. Find your space. I can read easier in a moderately busy restaurant or with the TV in the background than I can in a totally quiet room. Identify whatever the environment that works for you and find ways to spend time there.
    3. Set specific goals. More is pretty nebulous and not inspiring. One book this month is specific, in a short time period, and probably doable.
    4. Small chunks are better than a whole book in a sitting. People who study reading retention say smaller sessions work better than sitting through a long session. Best practices for teaching is to break lessons up into small chunks. I usually set an expectation for myself in any particular setting for how much I want to accomplish. So, if I am eating lunch alone, then I will take a book and decide I want to finish 20 pages in that half hour. I might decide I want to stay for an hour and finish a chapter or two.
    5. Make reading a priority. Athletes, musicians, and any expert gets good by spending thousands of hours training. Even when they have small amounts of time, they use it doing something to progress. Reading more works the same way. Any free time, even a few minutes, can help make progress.
    6. Track goals. Knowing that I am behind in fulfilling a goal helps me find more time anywhere I can. For a yearly goal, I check my progress quarterly. Because I start the blog post about it a month ahead, I see how far behind I am and double the amount I read to get ahead. I use Goodreads for tracking, but I also post to this site under Reading.
    7. Talk about the books. Books are a valuable ice breaker. As people associated me with reading lots of books, they develop expectations that I finish them about once a week. I have found myself devoting a few extra hours to finish a book just so I can have a new one started before I see them.
    8. The habit is what is important. Every kind of book has benefits. Fiction improves empathy. Non-fiction improves understanding of the world.
    9. Leverage curated lists to reduce decision fatigue. My best lead on books is seeing a friend rate it highly on Goodreads. I also find them through crowdsourced best lists or various web sites who recommend them. Goodreads has a list tool where users vote on books.

Library Netflix Model

I tend to buy books. As Heather pointed out on Flickr, I could save lots of money by checking books out from the library. I don’t for one big reason. I am lazy. Most of my purchases fall within a sweet spot of wanting to read more about something because I heard about it on the radio, saw a television episode on a topic, read something in another book, or talked to someone about it. My memory is poor so I only buy a book if I happen to hit the bookstore prior to forgetting. For most of these that means Amazon. To get a book from a library would be mean remembering to go there AND the book I wanted which is unlikely.

However, books sit on my shelf for sometimes years before I get around to reading them. I also tend to read several at a time which slows my pace on any particular book to about 250 pages a month unless I devote more time to it.

Netflix works similarly for me. I add things to the queue and maybe eventually get around to getting the disk. I’ll watch a disk a week maybe. Netflix’s Watch Instantly is much better for me as I can pick whatever I want off the list and see it then. Even then I might watch half and watch the rest later. I’m watching 3x more with the Watch Instantly model than I did off the DVD model.

While I would like an eBook Reader, I don’t find the purchase model compelling.  Take the Netflix concepts of:

  • A watch instantly queue (more a list of everything I am interested in watching)
  • When I am ready to read it downloads to my device.
  • When I am finished, I no longer have access.
  • Do not limit me to one out at a time.
  • A monthly charge for the privilege of all of the above.

With that kind of model, I would be willing to buy a Kindle, Nook, Kobo, or whatever for anytime access to an enormous library of books. They could even charge me $10-15 depending on how many I can have out a time.

The Digital Switch

The Long Tail claims consumers, given more options, will reflect their widely varied interests. Physical stores cannot fill all of the demand, so bytes stored on disk are the fastest, cheapest method for getting stuff to consumers. We see a mostly example of this shift in the shift to digital music.

Vinyl records were the first physical music media form I used. Later, cassette tapes (1980s) and compact disc (1990s) achieved dominance. In 2001, I started the transition to digital music. There were some stumbles along the way because of technology changes and trusting vendors saying Digital Rights Management is good for consumers. At present, I only listen to digital music when using my own collection.

Digital video seems more complicated. Web sites streaming and on-demand television have the potential to fit the Long Tail model where consumers have access to insanely varied content when they want it. DVRs neither fix the when (just shift the airing to another time) or the insanely varied content. Movie rental distributors like Blockbuster and Netflix are moving toward distributing digital movies and TV shows in setups similar to on-demand. Nothing has even come close to winning.

Digital books may yet get some traction. Computers screens cause eye strain. Laptops don’t feel like a book. PDAs, Blackberrys, and other handhelds with small screens require a ton of scrolling. A recent solution to this is “epaper” which doesn’t constantly refresh. The Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, and Sony Reader are the biggest players. (The Long Tail is not available for the Kindle but is for the Reader. WTH?)

Remaining issues for me:

  1. Ownership is dying.
    • I really like the idea of playing music on my iPod or from CDs. I play DVDs on my computer because I can’t play my DVR stuff in a hotel. So streaming and on-demand only solutions bother me as long-term solutions. If it is easy for distributors to store it because it is just bytes, then it is easy for me to do so as well.
    • I have books from 20 years ago I can still read. Technology changes too much to depend on something I buy today working tomorrow. So maybe “renting” is a way better approach for digital media?
  2. The black markets for music and movies prove consumers want everything any time. Companies must embrace consumer demand and make it easier for consumers or suffer. I think companies changing to accommodate consumer demand is the only reason the music companies have survived. Litigation cannot solve it.
  3. Hardware investment gets expensive every few years.

My solution? Wait and see.