The case for Kobo
Still, two factors are worth keeping in mind:
1. At one point Microsoft seemed so invincible the U.S. government tried to stop it. (Turns out they just needed to get out of the way while Microsoft fumbled with its pants.) The same with IBM. AOL -- er, Aol. MySpace. Heck, AltaVista. The tech world is littered with the broken husks of market leaders that stumbled and were overtaken by upstarts; they either went belly up, pivoted to other markets, or are still struggling to regain their old dominance. I can't think of one that's managed it yet.
2. This is not about the U.S. market. I know, over here we tend to think the world ends at the Jersey shore or the Malibu coast. That's our myopia talking. But the United States isn't really the world's dominant consumer market anymore, or at least it soon won't be. The real action is in the BRIC countries: Brazil, Russia, India, China. They might have their own entrenched e-book incumbents -- I don't follow them closely enough to know. But I'm pretty sure Amazon isn't among them.
The e-book evolution
What I do think: e-books are here to stay. The economic advantages of publishing in pixels instead of on pulp are so obvious even I understand them. Granted, there will always be printed tomes, but they will gravitate toward the AnalogSnob TM market, along with actual newspapers, writing implements that use ink, and Andrew Lloyd Weber. In other words, only the elite will be able to afford them or to care.
But e-book readers? I'm not so sure about them. I mean, we'll have them, but they'll be software, not hardware, and they'll be in just about every dingus that has a screen. The inexorable forces of Moore's Law have already pushed dedicated e-book devices into the commodity space. Android tablets may be next.
Ultimately, it's the content that matters, not the delivery mechanism. In fact, at that dinner -- it may have been after the third or fourth glass, I lost count -- I made a grand prediction. The reason Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post, I opined, was to make it easier for him to create a truly digital newspaper, one that would be delivered on a supercheap paper-thin Kindle he'll give away free with every subscription.
You know that old Internet aphorism, "Information wants to be free"? In the future, information won't actually be free. But the devices it comes on might be.
Is there still a market for dedicated ebook readers? Post your own op-ed below or via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article, "No one said it would be easy to disrupt Amazon," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Field blog, follow Cringely on Twitter, and subscribe to Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter.