The Attack of the Killer eBooks

iBook on the Apple iPad.

The Kindle came and I did nothing. It was not something that impacted me. It seemed cool, but unlikely to cause any need for alarm. Although, there was a deep seated sense of concern somewhere back in my subconscious.

Then came the Kindle 2 and I did nothing. Yet I could not help the feeling that this thing was not going away and it would really impact the book printing industry. But still, it was not quite right and lacked very important elements that would stop it from being a serious killer app.

Next to arrive where the Sony e-reader and the Nook and I began to see a confusing landscape where no one held the standard and like Beta tapes vs. VHS this was going to be a messy battle. Who would win? Which platform would be the leader and become the standard?

Through all of these product introductions the stage was being set for what was to be Apple’s big chance. As it has shown with iTunes, Apple can create a winning solution to sell content on the Internet. Something that defies the sites that scoff at IP (intellectual property) rights. iTunes gives voice to those of us that want to enjoy content that credits the creators, but at a reasonable price.

The iPad—and, more to the point, the iBookstore—takes a solid and trustworthy step forward in solving the issues of IP rights, such as the recent Dan Brown release where 100s of thousands of copies of the book were illegally downloaded within 24 hours of its release (

Other benefits of the Kindle and other iPad predecessors is that people buy more content when using these devices. It is arguable: Are the people purchasing the content on eBooks a new breed of users? And will those who purchased books in the past now change their behaviors?

An area I am still unclear on, and certainly have my preference, comes in the form of ease of use. No, I am not talking how easy it is to turn these eBook readers on and download content, I am talking about curling up to and enjoying it as I bend and shape it to what ever form I need as I sit back and enjoy it. However, it is clear that this will soon be addressed as products like The Skiff Reader gain traction (

The big question still remains, “Will this hurt or help Print Media?” There is a lot of speculation, but it seems clear that with the iPad and Apple’s new iBookstore we will see an explosion of book content shared via the Internet and not print. Print Media itself is thinking this could be a great boon (, but that leads me to the question, will print media be called print media in the future?

On a positive note, there is a tremendous value to detach oneself from the computer screen and disconnect. Grabbing a book and hitting the beach is still better done with a paperback book.

I would be interested in seeing a study on the effectiveness of content read on a screen vs. paper. It certainly would be interesting to see if content from paper was retained more. Certainly, being connected to the Internet while reading digital content leads one to stray… In fact, maybe we, the print industry should conduct this research. I suspect print will score higher on the retained learnings chart.

Brian Regan, President of Semper International, was born with ink in his veins, running everything in his family’s small printing company from prepress to finishing. Brian helped finance his degree from the Musicians Institute in Los Angeles and his struggling music career by running a printing press, ultimately becoming a pressroom supervisor.  In 1996, he joined PressTemps (Then PrintStaff now Semper International, the leading placement firm for temporary, temp-to-hire and direct hire help in the graphic arts and printing industry), overseeing West Coast operations. Brian moved to Boston as Chief Operating Officer managing the recruitment process, overseeing hiring and training, skills testing, and conducting statistical analyses to measure success. He also helps manage the company’s sister company,, the industry’s leading job board. Brian has been a speaker and contributor on the subject of staffing challenges facing the graphic arts industry. Parlaying his interest and intuitive learning skills developed from video games, he is also a member of the Video Game Association, actively consulting firms in the business merits of using the Virtual Worlds for business and training as well as other Social Media tools such as Twitter and FaceBook.
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  • http://KatherineGekker Katherine Gekker

    Brian, an excellent analysis. Here’s one more from yesterday’s Washington Post:

  • http://BrianRegan Brian Regan

    Thanks for sharing that article Katherine. The iPad is the real game changer I believe. The Kindle and others set the stage, but the iPad and more importantly, the iBookstore is the going to cause a significant shift from print to digital. I hate typing what I just typed, but I dont yet see print’s upside in this.

  • http://BenHarper Ben Harper

    Of course this will change the way books are delivered to the marketplace. But will printed books go the way of the dinosaur, not a chance. The fact is is that printed books are much more user friendly and cheaper to use. The pass around rate is evidence enough for printed books. We saw this with newsletters. Marketing “pros” and bean counters initially saw what they thought was a quick way to eliminate “printing costs” from their budgets and did away with printed newsletters, sending them only via e-mail. Now most everyone is realizing what a huge mistake that was. Readership is down (55% of all e-mails get deleted without being read) and therefore so is attendance at events and other revenue driving vehicles advertised in their newsletters. The correct decision was to use both channels to maximize exposure. So yes of course there is a market for the Kindle but don’t bet on the end of printed books. (If you need further evidence just look at the major resurgence of vinyl records)

  • http://JoeFanelli Joe Fanelli

    Well written cogent commentary that raises questions on this nascent format for the printed word.

    Could this do for print what the platesetter did to film? Is it just a transition of technology? (The medium is the message.) How much will the cost of this technology impact the rise of the media format? Will my iPad pay itself back over the cost of buying 10, 20, 50 books?

    The gen-i kids will determine that. How soon before colleges publish their textbooks and curriculum on these devices.

    PBS series Digital_Nation and the studies at Stanford and MIT on the reality of versus the perceived ability of the digital generation to multi-task will effectively bear on the retention studies you request. They do not multi-task or retain well at all.

    The boomer generation is a visual generation. We get our visuals from real things…. gen-i and even gen-y are virtually visual so retention levels may need a bell curve style redefinition…

    I am not prepared to abandon all hope while entering the digital world; a term in itself that may be redefined.

  • http://BrianRegan Brian Regan


    I do not think printed books will go away entirely. Not in my life time anyway. I do think that print volume will be negatively impacted and that’s of great concern.

    My guess is that there will be a surge of activity as people want to try out the new fad and then some will stay with the new style and others will migrate back to the printed book.

    The surge will hurt book printers for the short term. They will cut costs, down size etc.

    Then as they see where things end up, make the needed business decisions on how to handle the volume that has now become more clear and steady.

  • http://MikeJungkurth Mike Jungkurth

    Sorry, but the Sony eReader was out a year before the Kindle.

    After all, accuracy is king in our industry, is it not?

  • http://RichardSohanchyk Richard Sohanchyk

    School textbooks are well on the way to obsolescence. My son gets his homework assignments online and delivers his work online. Having two sets of books – one for school and one for home – is extremely inefficient and expensive. With taxes going through the roof and services being cut, I say good riddance. I’m a heavy reader. I hit the library 1-2 times a week to see what’s available. Still read newspapers though they are going away and soon. I recently downloaded Sherlock Holmes to my iPhone. Way too small for reading anything of length. The iPad may be the tipping point. We’ll know in a year.

  • http://DonReddick Don Reddick

    I work in the print industry, so I have a dog in the fight. But I bought a Kindle, and was constantly (complaining?) saying to my wife, “What’s wrong with this? It is a godsend to lawyers, students, anyone who requires mass amounts of info, instantly. Downloading in 60 seconds from the beach – instant gratification – as well as the number of books it can hold, all were positive. What is wrong with this new thing? It’s perfect – until you drop it. Ours broke…the industry needs a bit more work, but when it occurs, print will be vastly affected.

  • http://appleipad apple ipad

    Yeah Brian, great work. I must say that iPad really worth purchasing. I was wondering about all the iPad accessories Apple developed to support it, do they really worth buying too? My friend uses an external keyboard and a camera connector with his iPad and he was referring me to get it all soon. Should i? Here is the link that he send me for all ipad accessories by apple ( )