Tuesday, November 10, 2009


So it's 2014, and I'm in a reading mood.

I take out my ereader. At the push of a button, I bring up several different ebook stores, and begin to browse for something to read. Several stores are having sales. One of them gives all the books away for free--the only catch is each contains ads, much like a magazine.

I peruse the free site, download the latest thriller from my favorite author, and jump into the pool, floating on a raft while I read. There's no worry; the reader is waterproof.

There's construction going on in my neighborhood, so I put in my wireless ear buds and press the SFX button. As my eyes pass over the words, I'm treated to some background music, much like a movie soundtrack. There are also ambient sounds--crashing waves during a beach scene, crickets at night, the blowing wind when the main character goes to the desert for a showdown.

An ad comes up. It's a coupon for my local pizza joint. Pizza actually sounds pretty good. I touch the screen and order a pizza, using the coupon, paying for it immediately.

Then I hit the AUDIO button and close my eyes, letting the book read to me for a while as I float around. The narrator is good--using dialects and different voices for different characters. I pause the book, and access a search engine to see what other books he's narrated. I find two that sound interesting and download them on the spot.

I go back to the book, then get an announcement that my pizza has arrived. I climb out of the pool, thank the delivery guy (I already tipped him electronically) and then go into the family room with a slice.

I sync my ereader to my TV and adjust the words to scroll down the screen as I'm eating. During a particularly exciting helicopter chase, I see an author footnote. I click on it, and the author appears in a video clip, explaining the research he did for the scene, and showing the actual helicopter in flight. Normally I wait until after I finish the ebook before I delve into the extras like commentary, footnotes, vid clips, previous drafts, etc.

I get to another ad, which I skip, and then my wife comes home and says that her favorite author is appearing at a nearby bookstore. She grabs her ereader and we head out.

We get there early. The store contains over 300,000 paper books, but they're all shelf copies, not for sale. I hang out in the thriller section, and thumb through a few paper books. I find one I want, and scan the bar code on the back with my ereader, instantly buying it.

The author arrives. We sit and watch while he does a little talk. He has some printed books for sale, and if they run out, the bookstore says it will print more while we wait.

After the presentation, he signs some ereader covers. My wife has a clear plastic cover for her ereader, and the author has a cardboard covers he signs, which slips into the plastic.* Then he gives away some exclusive content to anyone who buys the book--a deleted chapter not available online. My wife buys an ebook. She promises to lend it to me when she's done, transferring it from her reader to mine--which is how e-lending at the library works.

On the way home, I sync my ereader to the car stereo, and let it read the next chapter. Another ad comes on, for a new book by this author. I bookmark the ad. I'll either buy the book, or download the ad version, later tonight.

I go back to the pool, alternating between reading and being read to. When the book is finished, I delve into the bonus features. The author included a tie-in short story, which I love. I contact the author's website and tell him so, then spend a few minutes posting my book review on his forum. This leads to me text chatting with another one of his fans, who suggests a new author I'd never heard of.

Two clicks later, I buy this new author's latest, for $1.99.

My wife asks if I want to watch a movie. I decline. I've got more than enough here to keep me entertained.

My ereader text box opens up. It's the author, thanking me for posting a kind review. He asks me if I'd like to be a beta reader for his new thriller, which won't be released for another two months.

Hell yeah, I do. He sends it to me instantly.

Boy, do I love this thing. It's easily the best $99 I've ever spent.

* The plastic slip cover is Boyd Morrison's idea, which is smarter than my original idea: publishers making ereader covers that look like book covers.


Unknown said...

Is it 2014 yet?

Levi Montgomery said...

I love everything about this vision, but unfortunately, I believe that in the eyes of the buying public, e-fiction is short for free-fiction, and they will simply refuse to pay for it. Bands and musicians can make up the loss by selling concert tickets and tee shirts to the new fans free music gains them, but who's going to pay to hear me read my fiction (especially given that my voice sounds like sliding granite)? I'm not going to have much time to devote to writing if I have to drive a taxi to keep a roof over my head.

Natalie Bowers said...

I can see this being exactly how things will be in 2014, but not for me! I've nothing against the idea of e-readers, but I prefer my books to tell me stories, not when I've an email to read or the pizza has arrived. *shudders*

Anonymous said...

Change the date to 2050 and you might have something here.

Assuming we all live past 2012, of course.

Julia said...

No thanks. I like books. Ask me again next year when the new version of ereaders are out, and maybe I'll change my mind.

I'm not a luddite. I work in the technology field. I just don't see the advantage.

Scott Marlowe said...

Sounds idyllic. I'm all for it. But 2014? According to futurists many technologies that should have been mainstream by now are not.

But I like your way of thinking. No doubt in my mind that the book as we know it will not be the same in the future, electronic world.

Russell T. said...

When I sit down with a good book, I don't feel the need to be doing thirty other things. What an ugly scenario. It's not really about reading and absorbing a good story, is it? It's all about technology and marketing the "possibilities". Yawn. Whatever. Once authors stop writing, I'll still have a wealth of stories to fall back on.

Russell T. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jamie D. said...

Love it! And I like the fact that print books are still available, just as "print on demand". Just like network TV (I don't pay for cable), I'd be perfectly happy with free books in exchange for some ads.

One can only hope this will eventually happen...

JA Konrath said...

I believe that in the eyes of the buying public, e-fiction is short for free-fiction, and they will simply refuse to pay for it.

If it is funded by ads, the author still gets paid.

but I prefer my books to tell me stories, not when I've an email to read or the pizza has arrived. *shudders*

That was to show what the device can do. You could also curl up on a couch and read for eight hours without interruption.

But that begs the question: How often do we get to read an entire book uninterrupted? Food, life, and many things often come into play. It can take a few weeks to finish a book.

I think it would be nice to have an ereader that made those interruptions seamless as possible.

It's not really about reading and absorbing a good story, is it?

Sure it is. It's all about the story. But it would be a pretty boring blog entry if the main character sat and read and did nothing else.

I'm not a luddite. I work in the technology field. I just don't see the advantage.

Really? No advantage?

Waterproof. Scratchproof. Adjustable font. Carrying 1500 books at once. Instantly purchase books with the press of a button. Directly interacting with the author and her fans. Extra content like early drafts and deleted chapters.

How is this no advantage over print, which kills 40 million trees a year, and costs way too much?

Dave Zeltserman said...

Nice fantasy. More likely you (and virtually all other readers) will be downloading your books free from either illegal download sites or from desperate authors who are giving their books away free as they stubbornly hold onto the delusion that it's possible to make a living writing books if they can just get enough eyeballs looking at their stuff. About the bookstore that you'll drive to--nope, that's now a nail salon. And about seeing that writer you used to like, well, if he's still working as a writer he's in Hollywood, no longer writing books, at least not for a living. But maybe you'll pass one of your favorite writers on the street, but that's only because he couldn't get a job writing for TV or films (there's only going to be so many, and the guy's past 40, so forget it) and he's now cleaning the floors of that nail salon.

But you do paint a pleasant fantasy.

Nikki's Wild said...

I love my ereader. I wish it could do all those things. As much as I love books, I'm equally drawn to my ereader.

Mike Cane said...

Did you never see?
English-Subtitled Editis Smart Digital Book Video

Book covers?
eBook Signings: The Postcard Solution?

wolfshades said...

I can see myself in this picture quite clearly - which you can read to mean "it works".

Two things though: 1) Don't want to wait till 2014 and doubt we will; 2) there's an evolution coming that is even more far out than what's presented here, involving e-books that double as multi-media full colour magazines and newspapers as well. Multi-media being the key word. And it's not that far off either.

Great blog!

Gail Dayton said...

All I could think was "Pool. Sunburn." But maybe you don't burn that fast...

I love my e-reader. It's not Internet connected, and I like it that way, as a feeble technique to control my book buying addiction. However, I can see the advantages of this vision. Don't the iPhones do a lot of this?

I do worry about authors getting paid (obviously), but well--I love my reader.

Tami said...

I especially like the evolution of the eReader from being just a "machine that reads books" to more of an all-purpose device.

I think the popularity of the iPhone is the public's way of saying they're tired of having eleven "computers" to do all their stuff.

I was able to test drive an eReader (the sony 700, with the touch screen) this year and I opted not to purchase it at the end of the time period, primarily because of cost vs features.

Even so, I VERY much enjoyed my stint with the eReader. The convenience and power of that little machine was surprisingly tempting. I used to be in the "Paper Books For Life!" camp, but now I've had a sneak peak at the future, and I like what I see. =]

Imp said...

A great big YAY! (Incidentally, the whole ad-driven thing was the subject of a very interesting presentation by Steven R. Boyett at the La Jolla Writers Conference last weekend. It's coming, he says.)

Maria said...

Hopefully there will be an option to pay for a book without the ads. I've nothing against multiple models, but I still like choices. I watch a couple of news features on CNBC world--and I tell you what they have some of the WORST commercials in the world. Sure I could tape it and watch it later, but it is trading news that comes out as it happens. Taping it would sort of miss the point.

But to not have to watch a clogged drain, a miracle hair remover, and pedicures from hell...boy that would be nice. And not only am I PAYING to see this (direct tv) I have to put up with the ads.

So the more selling models the better.

Tim Black said...

I love it! Where do I get one? ;)

Natalie Bowers said...

That was to show what the device can do. You could also curl up on a couch and read for eight hours without interruption.

But that begs the question: How often do we get to read an entire book uninterrupted? Food, life, and many things often come into play. It can take a few weeks to finish a book.

I think it would be nice to have an ereader that made those interruptions seamless as possible.

I bought a Sony Reader when they were first released. I quite liked it, but it just didn't feel like a book. It felt cold and clinical. I think the the biggest hurdle for me will be giving up paper for plastic. I'm going to be one of those people queuing up for the print-on-demand copies of books.

As to uninterrupted reading: I only read novels when I know I have at least an hour of uninterrupted time. So far in 2009, I have read 61 books. When I know I've only got a few minutes, I read short stories or magazine articles.

When I'm watching a TV programme, I hate it when those little messages pop up informing me of what's going to be on next. There's no quicker way to ruin the atmosphere.

Just as I turn my mobile phone off in the cinema, I switch off as many distractions as I can when I read books. I like to immerse myself in the lives and worlds that I read about. 'You have messages!' would destroy that for me.

JA Konrath said...

And about seeing that writer you used to like, well, if he's still working as a writer he's in Hollywood, no longer writing books, at least not for a living.

Cynical, but not without its points.

But I do think fiction writers will be able to make a living in an ebook future. Both the cheap ebook model and the ad-driven free ebook model will crowd out piracy, and I think I've made a pretty good case for making a living at it with my experiments.

Of course, getting really rich would probably require Hollywood.

JA Konrath said...

I switch off as many distractions as I can when I read books.

I do too. But I also have an iPhone, where listening to music gets interrupted by phone calls.

In real life, listening to music also gets interrupted by phone calls, but the iPhone allows me to deal with both on one device.

Many times I've stopped reading a book to deal with dinner, or hop on the Internet to research the writer. It would be nice to have a device where the interruptions we less intrusive.

ShellyBlake said...

I like the idea. With a business to run and two kids (& a husband) to raise, I don't have time to just sit & read anymore. I do read in between distractions. A few pages over breakfast and lunch...maybe a chapter or two before bed. I have yet to try out any electronic readers...and I'm more of a library or used book store reader so I'm not sure how it will all work out for my budget. But anything that keeps people reading is a plus in my opinion! My son has FINALLY just discovered reading for enjoyment and I'm relieved...I was starting to worry that kids today wouldn't slow down to read (too many movies, tv & Internet stuff to watch) so anything that can hook more people into reading, I'm for it!

Alexandra said...

Dang! If this system were available now, I'd be more than happy to be another convert. Sign me on and send me my card and flag...btw, this could all arrive with Apple's 'Tablet' next year! *wink*

Natalie Bowers said...

It would be nice to have a device where the interruptions we less intrusive.

I can certainly see the advantages that some would find with such a device. My sister would, for one, would love it! Her Blackberry is permanently grafted on to her hand. I'm afraid I am one of those annoying people, though, who doesn't always carry their mobile and who doesn't always answer their land-line just because it rings. I've even been known to ignore the door bell because I've been to engrossed in what I'm doing to answer it. Although, I've never knowingly ignored the pizza delivery person. . .

Jim said...

Joe, I think your vision is dead-on, as is the timeline. The way you wove it into a story is very cool.

JA Konrath said...

Although, I've never knowingly ignored the pizza delivery person. . .

I sure wish I could ignore the pizza delivery person. :P

Natalie Bowers said...

I sure wish I could ignore the pizza delivery person. :P

Me too!

Contrary to how it may seem, I really enjoyed your post, and I should have said so before. Ironically, I'm a big fan of this kind of near-future fiction.

Sorry for being a grumpy old curmudgeon. I should probably have 'Do Not Disturb' tattooed on my forehead. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Great post, as usual. I saw my first Kindle "in the wild" yesterday. I took my son to a local park and there was a man with his boy. The todler was playing in the sandbox and he was reading his Kindle.

I asked him; "Is that a Kindle?"

"Yeah! They're great!" He replied.

I stared at it for a minute, then I wenrt back to my iPhone, where I was reading the e-newspaper.

I can't remember the last time a carried a book with me to the park. It's already here, man. It's already here.

Dana vdB said...

I loved this post! Just the possibility of these features is exciting. I especially like the idea of having page-specific soundtracks. As for the pizza coupons and interruptions, I'm sure many people would be willing to put up with them for free e-books.

@Levi, I believe the public will come around. I was a die-hard fan of collecting tangible paper books, but it was liberating to leave that behind and commit to e-books. Less paper, less pollution, less clutter. And Konrath must be doing something right with regard to his internet marketing. I made my way through everything free he had to offer and then started paying for Sony e-books. It's worth it!

Anonymous said...

Good post. I like it.

But these commenters get me.

"I like to hold a book in my hands." No, you like to hold your cock in your hands. Who cares if you like holding a book? Go hold one. We're all supposed to stay in the 20th century because of your idiosyncrasies?

People will "simply refuse to pay" for e-fiction. Last time I checked, people have been making up stories for all recorded history, whether or not they get paid. It was really only in 20th century America that we got this idea that writing your novel should be like winning the lottery. That's an idiotic notion, peddled to you by the vampires in the publishing industry who will take 95 cents of every dollar your book makes. Chill the hell out. Write your story and pass it along. If it's all about bling, then chances are good you're not much of a writer.

Anonymous said...

Interesting concept, but shoot me, Dangumit!, I love books. I guess I belong to that deplorable 80’s generation who loves to see, feel and have things. My towering library, kids and, to a lesser degree, diplomas are my most prized accomplishments (I haven’t faired as well with wives) and are all tangible. I love gazing at them, holding them, to reminisce on their impact in my life. They’re real to me. A few years ago I purchased the Tiger Woods Xbox golf tour but found when I played the video game I longed to be out there on the fairways and greens, actually engaged in the real game. I’ve tried an e-reader as well and have that same desire for a heavy, burdensome and real printed book.

n s

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

When my mom started asking me about e-readers - love her muchly, but she's not an early adopter - I knew this crazy e-book thing was here to stay.

2014 may be closer than we think.

Maria said...

Kindle for the PC is available now. You can download it to your PC and all those functions are available. Except possibly, the pizza coupon...

Kelly said...

I think this is great, and I don't think we'll have to wait till 2050. Even if it's only individual authors like you creating iPhone apps, I think we'll have something similar in the next 6 years.

While I'm commenting, I'd like to say that I love reading your blog posts - your perspective on the future of books is so refreshing, and you seem to really understand my generation. Thanks!

Conda Douglas said...

Sounds like heaven to me.

Joan said...

And I already have my Kindle cover with 64 author signatures on it while at Bouchercon! I can't wait for those extras!

Susie McCray said...

I was on my way to class this morning reading this post on my phone. Five years ago, I would have never thought of such a thing, but I'm loving it now. I really hope your prediction comes true by 2014. Although, I'm still waiting for all the stuff they showed us on the Jetsons to come through.

Blue Tyson said...

Did you forget the switch to TTS function while you are walking the dog? :)

Eric J. Krause said...

Wow, this sounds like Nirvana! I hope, nay--pray, this comes true.

Adrian said...

That was the utopia version.

The distopia version (which is what the tech and publishing industries will be pushing for instead) is here: http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/right-to-read.html

Amber Scott said...

I love this! And I'm going to start designing my author t-shirts right away. Even a free book is a read book and once you earn a fan, they'll pay because they like you. I test drive authors at my library then buy my favorites for life. Free away, I say.
Thanks for another great post!!!

Aim said...

I like the idea of the sounds to go with the story but I don't really want to know about the backstory/research stuff. I also like my hard copy. Not sure I'm ready to give that up. Interesting ideas though. And, hey, if you ever need beta readers...I'm there for you!

Gordon Jerome said...

I think ads will only harm the emerging e-book industry. It will throw people back to books were there are no ads. 7.99 is a great price for a famous author. 3.99 is a great price for an unknown if the sample is good, and that system is working now without advertisements on my Kindle.

You must understand, I hate advertisements. I hate the way everything is for sale. When I read I want to get taken away from the world I'm in to the world the author has built. It really is the difference between a magazine and a novel.

Now, more aps would be great. A color screen, waterproof, internet availability, and some of the video footnotes by the author are quite cool as concepts. But advertisement as a way of payment stinks. I just don't want advertisements everywhere, even in my private moments when I'm trying to read a book.

Frankly, I'm not even sure how that would work. How would the latest mop manufacturer know to advertise in a book--unless the author was already famous with a famous track record.

I mean think about human behavior and not just what seems like it could work. We don't have ads in novels for a reason, we don't have ads in the middle of movies for a reason, we have cable movie channels that we pay for that show movies without ads for a reason. Currently e-book readers are selling and e-books are selling without ads for a reason.

People want less ads in their life, not more. We want the ads where we expect to find them, TV, magazines, newspapers, billboards, radio, etc. But we have places where we don't want to see them, like in our books.

If I had a choice between 9.99 for Kings new book on Kindle without ads and a choice to get it for free with ads, I'm going to pay the 9.99, and feel even better about paying for it knowing I'm kicking ads in the ass at the same time.

Anonymous said...

"People want less ads in their life, not more."

I agree. It's the reason we pay for TIVO (and skip through the ads) and watch movies on demand. Leisure time is short in our lives. When I sit down to watch a movie or read a book I don't want interruptions.

When I'm in the emotional throes of reading a great thriller or romance, the last think I want is a pizza ad popping up . . . it ruins the whole experience.

I'll happily pay for my books without the embedded ads.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

I linked my blog Ink Spells
to your 2014 E-Volution post, with my own speculations about e-readers for the children's market.

AM said...

Wow, this posting certainly demonstrates your writing skills.

I enjoyed the trip into future - thanks for the ride.

I whole-heartedly agree about saving the trees, and I believe that you have accurately foreseen the future, but I think it is more likely 2025 than 2014.

I look forward to living it, though I hope I like the readers better then.

Karen McQuestion said...

Joe, I like the way you think! I just hope my books are out there when it all happens.

Rusty James said...

Right on Joe!

The only way the 'business' of writing is gonna change for the betterment of the Writer is if we help decide how the market views/experiences/consumes our work.

If left up to the sellers (Publishers, book stores) nothing will change... only how little the writer actually gets paid.

Great service you're providing here. Like the James Cameron of (e)print publishing.

Best success.

suzanneelizabeths.com said...

Great post. Last month I wrote a mildly scathing anti-ebook rant on my blog, about how they could never match the pleasure of 'real' books. Since then I've nearly reconsidered as I've started packing house for a cross country move. I love all my books and am glad to be taking them with me, however, when I crawl into bed at night I think how nice it would be to have an e-reader rather than a stack of library books on my nightstand.

I'm waiting to see what Steve Jobs and Apple come out with...that could be my tipping point. If their e-reader can be as innovative and 'can't live without' addictive as my iphone, look out.

Leigh Hunziker said...

hhmm...maybe one day, but don't think the world's ready just yet.

Kadi Easley said...

I'm late to this party, but I want to live in this world. Can I get this ereader in time for Christmas?

That's Me said...

I like it. This day can't come soon enough for me. Great post.

jen lemen said...

$1.99? who's subsidizing the content? or is it a streamlined system where all the profits go to the author himself?

if what we're doing is creating one more system where writers don't get paid for their work, i'll be bummed out.

mikeFOOK said...

I enjoyed the scenario - you thought about that a lot.

Is there anywhere I can find the first chapter of "Afraid" online? I read a few pages on Amazon and enjoyed it.


Alicia Kat Vancil said...

Wow, that sounds like a great future sign me up for that =^.^=

Priscilla King said...

Well written fantasy, but I'm not about to give up the freedom to read a calm, stable book, anywhere there's light, free from electricity, advertising, Internet connections, static, demands for payments, or built-in obsolescence. Buy it once, read it anywhere at all! Real books rule!