When will open ebooks cross the chasm?

Over the weekend, Cory Doctorow wrote and then updated a blog post referring to new and simpler ways of removing DRM from Kindle ebooks.

Cory Doctorow’s BoingBoing readers are no strangers to digital rights. In the comments section, many readers explained why they were thankful for the new tools. They want to be able to read ebooks they buy on any device that they own. They want to be able to protect their investment in case they want to buy a different ereader in the future. They understand that the policies of publishers and device makers are hostile to customers, trying to lock customers into a single device platform, and force customers to buy new media when they switch devices.

Doctorow’s readers also are more tech-savvy than the average ereader user. They are able to use command-line scripts and geeky tools, and follow detailed-instructions for multi-step processes. BoingBoing readers are technology early adopters. They understand the limitations of ereaders, and are willing to go through substantial hassle in order turning ebook files into assets they can use in the future.

Twenty years ago, Geoffrey Moore wrote “Crossing the Chasm” the technology marketing classic which described gulf between technology early adopters and mainstream buyers. It can take a long time to bridge that gap. Most buyers of e-readers probably don’t yet know that if they want to buy a different brand, their investment in the ebooks they purchased will be worthless.

It took seven years between Apple’s launch of iTunes and iPod, the first massively popular tools for digital music, and Amazon’s sale of un-encumbered digital music. Only one year later, Apple started offering DRM-free music as a standard offer. In the ebook market, Amazon and Apple are the market leaders, and they have mutually incompatible DRM’s book formats.

How long will it take for the knowledge about the limitations of ereader technology reach the majority of buyers of ebooks? What story will finally break into mainstream media and result in mass awareness that ereader lock-in is bad for buyers? What surge in customer demand, and what competitive trend will cause ebook providers to finally stop inconveniencing customers in the vain hope of longterm lockin?

One thought on “When will open ebooks cross the chasm?”

  1. demographics will tell when th line is crossed, not drm. kids & textbooks, ..& possibly ereaders/tablet

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