Biz Vision: Mobile Will Have Social 4D Awareness

Mobile Phones in Tokyo's Subways Raise your hand if you carry your mobile phone with you everywhere you go.

Wow, look at all those hands. Not a big surprise though. On a planet with 6.8B people, it is estimated that there will be 5B mobile phone subscriptions by the end of 2010. That’s more than 70% of the world’s population.

Most even carry their phones everywhere they go. It’s not just a virtual connection to friends & family, but an entertainment center and lifesaving device. I’ll bet most people even find it hard to imagine a time before mobile phones.

Essentially, mobile phones have become anytime, anywhere devices.

And not just a simple mobile phone. A smartphone. As computing power increases and technology costs decrease, smartphones will become commodities. Someday soon, everyone will have a one. That means everyone will be carrying a lot of computing power in their pockets.

Sure, there will be hardware advances such as finger recognition, improved resolutions, brain wave controls, etc. But the basic features of smartphones, the features that make a smartphone what it is today (mobile operating system, keyboard, ability to install third-party apps) will be commoditized and ubiquitous.

What will this mean? Lots of things, though there’s one I want to focus on today:

Social 4D Awareness

Mobile devices will offer a social 4D view of a person.

With a mobile device, we already know:

  • Where they are in 3D space (latitude, longitude, and altitude)
  • When they were there in time

With mobile software, we also know:

  • Who they communicate with in their social network
  • How they are connected to each person in their social network
  • How frequently they interact with each connection

Knowing a person’s latitude, longitude and altitude gives us a 3D view of their location. Adding time to this equation gives us a 4D view of their travels. We can tell where a person is and has been, much as Google Latitude’s Location History (GOOG) currently offers.

Every person has several stores of social graphs: their email’s address book, their mobile phone’s address book, their social networks, and their connections on other social media sites. The one device that could harness all of those stores is a mobile device, especially a smartphone that offers email and third-party app capabilities.

This has many applications:


If we watch a person’s location over time, we can determine that person’s velocity. Plot that movement against a street and public transit map and it will be possible to determine the mode of transportation, be it by walking, car, bus, train, or boat. It wouldn’t make sense to get a notification of a nearby sale if you’re on a train, right?


A history of visited locations can offer a detailed view of your preferences and behaviors. Also, how long you’ve been at someplace is just as, if not more important than where you’ve been. Will you be dining at your favorite restaurant? Or just picking up some take-out? Were you at an event (assuming we can get event data), or just using the bathroom at a convention center? An always-on location tracking service doesn’t have the benefit of a conscious check-in, so determining a location’s relevance may be a factor of time.

True Social Network

A utility that is aware of who you email, call, text, and interact with on various social media sites – and how often – would have a vary accurate model of your true social network. Couple that with who you interact with offline, judging by who is in your same location for some length of time, and the accuracy improves significantly.


There may be times when you want to run into friends and acquaintances, such as at a concert, during an industry conference, when you’re traveling, etc. A mobile device that is location-aware and socially-aware can offer this, as evident in the large number of services already doing this. The same could be done for a customer’s favorite locations or chains too, of course.


People are too complexed and nuanced for a one-size-fits-all model. Products that are customizable are generally preferred. However, not everyone will take the time or know how to customize a product. That’s where products with intelligent automatic personalization will win, provided they offer the ability to adjust, refine, and opt-out. Having a social 4D awareness of a person will equip a product with the intelligence for such features.


Having this depth of knowledge means preferences can be inferred. If you travel to a new city that has your favorite restaurant, we can suggest it to you. Or if friends with similar tastes have frequented a restaurant in that new city, we can suggest that too. Same goes for movies, hotels, products, etc. In addition to external suggestions, internal suggestions of features within a product or service can also be made.


This depth of knowledge doesn’t only offer preference inferences, but behavioral predictions as well. If you tend to attend sci-fi movie premieres, we can offer a range of related activities based on that predictive inference, such as upcoming sci-fi movies, nearby restaurants, nearby friends with similar interests, etc. Or a nearby landmark that was used in the movie, if you’ve visited landmark sights in the past.


As you can imagine, any device or business entity holding this much intimate data about a person raises serious privacy concerns. Can you trust that entity to treat this data with respect? Will they offer reliable ways to opt-out and erase this data if you so choose?

Although some companies have mismanaged their privacy controls, I believe there is tremendous value to be had with predictive features. This assumes we handle your data with respect, offer total transparency, maintain crystal-clear communications, provide opt-out and deletion controls, and follow the Bill of Privacy Rights for Social Network Users.

P.S. The scientific side of me knows the label 4D isn’t entirely accurate because time isn’t considered the 4th dimension anymore. The marketing side of me realizes that most people don’t know this and still consider the 4th dimension as time, however. So for ease of understanding, I opted for the older definition of 4D.

The Emotional Adoption Curve

You’ve heard of the Technology Adoption Curve, yea? In Marty Cagan’s book Inspired: How To Create Products Customers Love, he references an insightful talk he had with Jeff Bonforte, then a VP at Yahoo! and now the CEO of Xobni.

Bonforte has a slightly different view of Geoffrey Moore’s Technology Adoption Curve. Instead of looking at just the psychographics of each user group, he adds an additional layer: the driving emotions of each user group. Here is how Bonforte’s user groups map to Moore’s:

The Lovers = Innovators
They purchase something new because they believe it is cool and feel passionately about it. Determining product or service offerings on them can lead to misleading results because their motivations are very different from the other groups.
The Irrationals = Early Adopters
They purchase something new because they are very frustrated with a problem this product or service aims to solve. Their purchase decisions are driven by the same emotions as the majority, but with more intensity. This means their purchase decisions are not always economically rational.
The Efficients = Early Majority
They purchase something new because it solves their problems in a practical way for a reasonable cost. Essentially, they are driven by the same emotions as Irrationals, but with less intensity. Thus, their purchase decisions are more pragmatic.
The Laughers = Late Majority
They purchase something because it is proven, readily affordable, and easy to use. Like the Efficients, they are driven by the same emotions, but at a low, muted level.
The Comfortable = Laggers
They feel their current solutions are good enough and don’t see a good reason to purchase new solutions. While they may have the same problems as the others, they don’t mind.

New technologies tend to attract Lovers and Irrationals alike. However, for the longevity of your business, you should target Irrationals and not Lovers. If you don’t distinguish between the two, you might accidentally build features for Lovers, leaving Irrationals unserved and disappointed. Why is that bad? As Bonforte puts it:

Lovers are the worst possible people in the world from a product manager’s perspective. …they mislead you one hundred percent of the way. Lovers buy a Prius because they like the battery technology.

On the other hand, Irrationals buy a Prius because they love the environment so much they’ll spend $22,000 over the benefit of the environment. They could just buy carbon credits and carbon neutralizers themselves, or they could get a motorcycle, but they overspend on the solution because they’re passionate about the problem they’re trying to solve.

…You really need the Irrationals to slingshot your business into the Efficients and the Laughers. Without that emotion from those irrational people you don’t get the passion that carries the product over the chasm.

If you have a new product, does it target Lovers or Irrationals? How can you tap into customers who care so passionately about the problem you’re trying to solve that they’ll pay a premium for your offerings?

Technology, Mobile, Internet Business, Digital Design and Web 2.0 Conferences

Got the itch to travel? And the desire to meet colleagues from other states? And perhaps catch an interesting talk or two? How about an industry conference?

Within the world of web startups and internet businesses, there are a dizzying number of conferences. I’ve attempted to list all of the major ones here. Upcoming dates are included if they’ve been announced. Many of these conferences have already had their 2010 events, so perhaps I’ll have to create this list again early next year to catch the 2011 events before they happen. If I’ve missed anything, please let me know.

General Conferences in the United States

South by Southwest Interactive

Next date: March 11-15, 2011 in Austin, TX

This event started as an Austin, Texas-based music festival in 1987 that added the film and interactive conferences in 1994, all of which have become some of the world’s largest industry events in their respective fields.

TechCrunch Disrupt

Next date: September 27-29, 2010 in San Francisco, CA

This was created in 2010 from the ashes of Michael Arrington and Jason Calacanis’ disbanded TechCrunch50 conference, to continue the vision of TC50 as a way to demo emerging Web 2.0 startups.

D: All Things Digital

Next date: Already past, no new dates announced yet

This was created by Walter Mossberg and Kara Swisher in 2003, and is held in Carlsbad, CA annually.


Next date: September 13-15, 2010 in Santa Clara, CA

Venture capitalist Stewart Alsop created this conference in 1991 as a launchpad for emerging technologies. It has since changed hands, from Chris Shipley to Matt Marshall.

Voices That Matter

Next date: June 28-29, 2010 in San Francisco, CA

Created by the educational publishing company Pearson Education in 2007, these events emphasize opportunities for learning and networking from industry leaders.


Next date: August 19-21, 2010 in Seattle, WA

This was created by former TechTV personality Chris Pirillo in 2001 as a single-track technology conference.


Next date: July 29-30, 2010 in Philadelphia, PA

Created by Wharton professor Kevin Werbach in 2002, this event explores the transformation of computing, communications, business, and society.

ReadWriteWeb Summits

Next date: Already past, no new dates announced yet

Created by the team at the ReadWriteWeb blog, these events cover a variety of topics, from the real-time web to mobile technologies.

Social Developer Summit

Next date: June 29, 2010 in San Francisco, CA

Started this year and All Facebook founder Nick O’Neill, this event aims to unite social app developers to discuss solutions and best practices for building applications in the rapidly expanding social web economy.

Inside Social Apps

Next date: Already past, no new dates announced yet

Created by the social media & gaming market research agency Inside Network, this event covers issues around the social app and gaming industry.

Virtual Goods Summit

Next date: October 12-13, 2010 in San Francisco, CA

Created by Charles Hudson of, this event focuses on the emerging market opportunity for virtual goods and economies.

Startup Lessons Learned

Next date: Already past, no new dates announced yet

This event is designed to unite those interested in what it takes to succeed in building a lean startup.


Next date: August 4-6, 2010 in Amelia Island, FL

This event is aimed at entrepreneurs, thought leaders, startup founders, and consultants.

The Founder Conference

Next date: August 17, 2010 in Mountain View, CA

This event was created to allow participants to network with other startup founders, find co-founders, improve their ideas and learn how to bootstrap.


Next date: Already past, no new dates announced yet

This event covers topics ranging from startups to design to marketing to business.

Big Omaha

Next date: Already past, no new dates announced yet

This event was created by Silicon Prairie News (SPN) in 2009 and is held in Omaha, NE for entrepreneurs, innovators and creatives.


Next date: October 25, 2010 in San Francisco, CA

This conference focuses on start-up failures and how to prepare & recover from them.


Next date: September 18, 2010 in Seattle, WA

Next date: September 24, 2010 in New York, NY

Next date: October 23, 2010 in San Francisco

This event was started in 2008 by Edith Yeung after a conversation she had with Gary Marshall from the Small Business Administration, and aims to be a conference that inspires entrepreneurs to create and grow their business with the help of technology.

SF New Tech

Next date: July 20, 2010 in San Francisco

These are a series of regular events for startup entrepreneurs, VCs, journalists, recruiters, and others in the industry.

Startup Weekend

Next date: June 25-27, 2010 in Chicago, IL

Next date: September 17-19, 2010 in Edmonton, Canada

Created by Andrew Hyde, this event became a non-profit when Marc Nager and Clint Nelsen took over all operations. Ticket prices are typically much lower than other conferences.

Startup School

Next date: Already past, no new dates announced yet

This was created by Paul Graham in 2004 for technical entrepreneurs to learn about building startups.


Next date: Already past, no new dates announced yet

Founded by Dave McClure & Dan Martell, this exclusive, invitation-only event is dedicated to educating and helping the next generation of internet startups around issues of fund raising, option pools, and term sheets.

Maker Faire

Next date: July 10, 2010 in Aspen, CO (mini event)

Next date: September 25-26, 2010 in New York, NY

This was created by Make Magazine to celebrate arts, crafts, engineering, science projects and the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) mindset.


Next date: June 15-17, 2010 in Los Angeles, CA

Created in 1995 by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) covers the video game industry.


Next date: July 30-August 1, 2010 in Las Vegas, NV

Created in 1993, this is one of the largest and oldest continuously-running conferences for the hacker community.

SF MusicTech Summit

Next date: December 6, 2010 in San Francisco

This event covers the music and technology space.

Hacks/Hackers Unite

Next date: Already past, no new dates announced yet

This was created by Rich Gordon, Burt Herman & Aron Pilhofer as a hands-on workshop to build storytelling applications on tablet devices. This past 2010 event was the first.

Lunch 2.0

Next date: Varies; there are lots of them

These events are informal gatherings organized by various companies who hold a short presentation, then break off for lunch and networking.

General Conferences in Europe


Next date: December 8-9, 201 in Paris, France

This was created by Loïc Le Meur in 2005 as a conference covering technology, the Internet, and entrepreneurism.

The Next Web

Next date: April 27-29, 2011 in Amsterdam, The Netherlands

This was created by Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten, Arjen Schat & Patrick de Laive as a means to bring the professional web industry together in Europe.

O’Reilly Conferences

Web 2.0 Summit

Next date: November 15-17, 2010 in San Francisco, CA

This is an invitation-only conference where Internet executives gather to debate and determine business strategy.

Web 2.0 Expo

Next date: September 27-30, 2010 in New York, NY

Next date: March 28-31, 2011 in San Francisco, CA

This is a spin-off of the Web 2.0 Summit and has open registration.


Next date: Already past, no new dates announced yet

This is run by local volunteers and gives presenters 5 minutes each to present their ideas to the audience.


Next date: Already past, no new dates announced yet

This covers web performance and operations.


Next date: July 19-23, 2010 in Portland, OR

This covers the vast open source industry.

Gov 2.0 Summit

Next date: September 7-8, 2010 in Washington, DC

This is an invitation-only conference that covers the intersection of web technologies and the US government.

Tools of Change for Publishing

Next date: February 14-16, 2011 in New York, NY

This covers technologies in the publishing space.


Next date: No new dates announced yet

This was originally created in 2004 as a joke by Tim O’Reilly and Sara Winge. More recently, topical Foo Camps have been held at various locations and by various organizers.


Next date: Varies; there are lots of them

This started in 2005 as a spin-off of Foo Camp and has evolved into a series of user-organized conferences and unconferences all around the world.

GigaOM Events


Next date: Already past, no new dates announced yet

This event covers green technologies and businesses.


Next date: Already past, no new dates announced yet

This event covers the cloud computing industry.


Next date: September 30, 2010 in San Francisco, CA

This event covers the mobile computing industry.

NewTeeVee Live

Next date: November 10, 2010 in San Francisco, CA

This event covers the online video industry.


Next date: December 9, 2010 in San Francisco, CA

This event covers the tools, technologies and practices shaping the future of work.

The Bunker Summit

Next date: No new dates announced yet

This is an invitation-only retreat for 150 selected executives to confer about creating new opportunities across industries.

Bunker Sessions

Next date: July 28, 2010 in San Francisco, CA (open source software in enterprise)

Next date: August 25, 2010 in San Francisco, CA (e-books and publishing)

Next date: September 29, 2010 in San Francisco, CA (mobile technologies in healthcare)

Next date: October 27, 2010 in San Francisco, CA (app marketplaces and TV)

These are a series of town hall meetings covering a wide variety of topics.

Carsonfied Events

Future of Web Apps Conference

Next date: October 4-6, 2010 in London, United Kingdom

This is a conference on the web development industry.

Future of Web Design Conference

Next date: Already past, no new dates announced yet

This is a conference on the web design industry.

ThinkVitamin Online Conferences

Next date: Already past, no new dates announced yet

These are a series of online video tutorials covering a variety of topics.

UBM TechWeb Events


Next date: September 28-30, 2010 in Mumbai, India

Next date: October 18-22, 2010 in New York, NY

Next date: May 8-12, 2011 in Las Vegas, NV

This series of events covers a spectrum of IT and mobile technologies.

Enterprise 2.0

Next date: November 8-11, 2010 in Santa Clara, CA

This event covers technology and software in the enterprise space.

Cloud Connect Conference

Next date: Already past, no new dates announced yet

This event focuses on cloud computing and the cloud eco-system.

Environments for Humans Events

In Control Web Design Workshop Conference

Next date: Already past, no new dates announced yet

This event covers web design practices, trends and technologies.

CSS Summit

Next date: July 28, 2010 online

This virtual event consists of a series of videos covering CSS development techniques.

Web Optimization Summit

Next date: Already past, no new dates announced yet

This event covers web performance optimization techniques.

Mobile Technology Conferences

Mobile World Congress

Next date: November 17-18, 2010 in Hong Kong, China

Next date: February 14-17, 2011 in Barcelona, Spain

This event covers the mobile industry with an international audience.

Mobile 2.0 Conference

Next date: September 20-21, 2010 in Mountain View, CA & San Francisco, CA

Created by five entrepreneurs in the mobile space, this event covers on mobile applications, services, ecosystems, and disruptive innovations.

MobiSys Conference

Next date: June 15-18, 2010 in San Francisco, CA

This event is held by the ACM Special Interest Group on mobile technologies (SIGMOBILE).


Next date: August 24-26, 2010 in Las Vegas, NV

This event focuses specifically on mobile applications.

Web Design Conferences

An Event Apart

Next date: September 16-18, 2010 in Washington, DC

Next date: November 1-2, 2010 in San Diego, CA

This was created by Eric Meyer and Jeffrey Zeldman in 2005 for passionate practitioners of standards-based web design.


Next date: Already past, no new dates announced yet

This was created by Brad Smith as an event to explore the future of web design, content creation, user experience and business strategy.


Next date: June 22, 2010 in Santa Clara, CA (eye tracking)

Next date: July 13, 2010 in Palo Alto, CA

These events are held by the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of the ACM Special Interest Group on Computer-Human Interaction (SIGCHI).

AIGA Design Conference

Next date: October 13-16, 2011 in Phoenix, AZ

These events are held by AIGA, a professional association for the design industry.

Computer Hardware Conferences


Next date: November 16-17, 2010 online

This long-running computer expo has been in operation since 1979. It is now operated by UBM TechWeb. The next event will be entirely online.


Next date: March 1-5, 2011 in Hanover, Germany

This is the world’s largest computer expo. It was created as a spin-off of the Hanover Fair in 1986.

Computex Taipei

Next date: Already past, no new dates announced yet

This is the world’s second-largest computer expo. It was created by the Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA) and the Taipei Computer Association (TCA) in 1981.

Company-specific Conferences

Google I/O Conference

Next date: Already past, no new dates announced yet

Google hosts this conference as a platform to present their latest products and technologies.

Facebook f8 conference

Next date: Already past, no new dates announced yet

Facebook hosts this conference as a platform to present their latest features and technologies.

Apple Worldwide Developers Conference

Next date: Already past, no new dates announced yet

Apple hosts this conference as a platform to present their latest products and technologies.

Microsoft MIX Conference

Next date: Already past, no new dates announced yet

Microsoft hosts this conference as a platform to present their latest products and technologies.

Twitter Chirp Conference

Next date: Already past, no new dates announced yet

Twitter hosts this conference as a platform to present their latest features and technologies.

Adobe MAX

Next date: October 23-27, 2010 in Los Angeles, CA

Adobe hosts this conference as a platform to present their latest features and technologies.

Props to: Casey Allen

The Fourth Wave

When venture capitalist John Doerr has a theory, people sit up and listen. Over at the TechCrunch Disrupt 2010 conference (happening today), he’s presenting what he calls the Third Wave. As reported by TechCrunch yesterday:

The First Wave was personal computers and the wave of disruption that caused. The second wave was the Internet, ditto. We are now, says Doerr, in the Third Wave.

What exactly is the Third Wave? It’s the tectonic shifts we’re seeing in mobile platforms (read his post here about the iPad), the social graph (particularly Facebook), and online commerce. All of these things are related and being accelerated by each other (Facebook is the largest mobile application, Zynga leverages Facebook and also stokes Facebook growth, Groupon is social/flash commerce, etc.).

John Doerr’s Waves of Disruptive Technologies

To summarize, it sounds to me like Doerr is saying:

  1. The First Wave is personal computing
  2. The Second Wave is the internet
  3. The Third Wave is social media & mobile devices

Common Traits of Disruptive Technologies

When I look at these waves, I see several common traits. Each subsequent wave builds upon one another. Also, each wave:

  • Increases the level of communication the previous technology affords. These advances, to some extent, mirror real-world interactivity, and extend beyond it. For instance, real-world interactivity only happens at a specific time, a specific location, and by the specific people who are present. Online interactivity can do this, and be at any time, at any place, and by multiple people in real-time or delayed-time. Additional information about the other person can also be shared, such as location, work history, and favorite restaurants, providing a context that real-world interactivity may not.

  • Decreases the distance & friction between two or more parties, consumer-to-consumer, business-to-consumer, consumer-to-business, and business-to-business. Each of those entities can be plural as well. This means the velocity of communication has gone from weeks to minutes to immediate. This also means traditional layers of hierarchy have broken down. A grade school student can contact a CEO or the President of the United States, for example. Or a fast food franchise can send a coupon to your phone if you walk by one of their restaurants.

  • Increases the utility of the previous technology for the user. The personal computer allows a person to write reports, spreadsheets, and presentations. The internet allows a person to conduct research on any topic in the world. Social media allows a person to communicate with friends, family, customers, and more. Mobile devices allow a person to conduct any of these operations wherever that person is located. It is becoming easier, faster, and in some ways, more effective & efficient, to accomplish all the tasks you need to accomplish.

  • Increases the level of intimacy of the technology, while conversely decreasing the level of privacy. A personal computer enables a person to publish print newsletters and reach a limited, yet known audience. The internet enables a person to publish websites and reach a vast, yet unknown audience. Social media enables people to publish thoughts, opinions, and self-expressions, and reach a vast, yet selective audience. Mobile devices enable people to publish anywhere, not just at their laptops, but on a train, plane, or even the toilet. The Third Wave allows you to share your intimate thoughts during potentially intimate moments, though the services are still struggling with the appropriate levels of privacy.

  • Increases the relevancy & clarity of the message. As the intimacy level increases with each wave, the sender is able to know more and more about the receiver. This enables the sender to customize and personalize each message, making it more relevant and useful to the receiver. A skilled sender will also know how to use the latest technologies to send a clear message that can prompt action and be measurable. There is still value to broadcasting a common message to the masses, though sending customized messages to targeted individuals will yield a higher conversion rate & return on investment.

Predicting the Fourth Wave

When placed in this light, I think it’s possible to draw tentative conclusions on what the Fourth Wave may look like. Some trends that I foresee are:

  • Predictive computing. Communications have sped up to real-time now. How much faster can you get than that? How about happening before it even happens? There are indications that predictive computing may already be here, so perhaps this will be just another trait of the Third Wave. Facebook already has a data science team that may know who you may hook up with. Ferreals.

  • Life action streams. Foursquare allows you to publish where you are when you are there, though it’s just a single message and not an exact note of when you arrive and when you leave. Miso allows you to publish what you are watching when you watch it, though it doesn’t let anyone know if you are tuning into the commercials or channel-surfing. The Fourth Wave may offer a continuous stream of all your actions. It’s a bit scary, but I could see its usefulness in ethnographic studies, television ratings, and perhaps tracking your children when they are at Disneyland with you, in case they get lost (mobile phones with GPS can already do this though).

  • Bio-sharing. Devices could be implanted into us to provide someone with immediate information about our bodies. To some extent, this is already being being done in the medical community, like the pacemakers that transmit a heart’s condition in real-time. But how about a device that monitors how well the body is holding up to chemotherapy? Or how happy or angry you are at a game? Could be a good predictor of riots. I suppose some enterprising individual could foresee social media uses too, like sharing when you’re hungry and when you’re sleeping.

What do you think may be in the Fourth Wave?

Photo via: cliff1066™

The Growing Ebook Market

If there was ever a doubt that ebooks would be the wave of the future, now’s the time to cast it away.

When I first heard about the Amazon (AMZN) Kindle, I had high hopes. I saw the coupling of the Amazon marketplace & the Kindle akin to Apple’s (AAPL) iTunes Store & the iPod, and hoped a similar success could follow.

I even put my money where my mouth is and purchased some AMZN stock, which I’m happy to say is up over 50% right now. Hells yea!

I still have high hopes, though the competition has certainly stiffened. And that’s a good thing. Competition makes products better. It also validates a market. With all of this competition, there’s no doubt in my mind that there’s a market for ebooks now. A report by Global Industry Analysts even puts the ebook market at $9.5 billion:

Driven by growing popularity of online shopping, lure of discounts offered by retailers, faster delivery, free shipments, and the convenience offered by home shopping, the market for online books is projected to reach US$9.5 billion by 2010.

United States is the largest market for online books worldwide. The market is estimated at US$4.8 billion in 2007 as stated by Global Industry Analysts, Inc. Europe is the second largest regional market with a projected value of US$2.76 billion in 2009. The US and Europe together account for close to 95% of the global online books market.

Imagine how much larger this market will grow once non-English ebooks are released & made available. Big international growth opportunity here.

There have been other small indications of market growth domestically too, such as:

  • The iBooks app on the Apple iPad. Some people love this app and it’s been getting a lot of buzz lately. Whether or not you believe the iPad will break into the mass market, the iBooks app is still a significant milestone in the ebook timeline.
  • The upcoming launch of Google’s (GOOG) ebook store, Google Editions. With their scale & resources, this is bound to make some kind of an impact, though lots of questions still remain: Will they support the ePub format? Will their ebooks be downloadable to ebook readers? How many ebooks will they have? Etc.
  • Stanford University’s preparation of a “bookless” library for cost reasons. I have a feeling other universities are watching closely; if Stanford pulls this off successfully, others will surely follow. If college students across the country become comfortable with ebooks, they are surely to become ebook consumers once they graduate.
  • O’Reilly’s Ebook Deal of the Day (just for today), where every ebook is on sale for $9.99. O’Reilly has been a strong supporter of ebooks, and for good reason: their customers want ebooks. Perhaps other publishers will follow suit someday.

Goodbye doubt, hello ebook market!

Map of Technology Competitors

Know what is totally awesome? The game Civilization IV.

There’s this feature in Civ4, called the Foreign Advisor, that displays a map of all the known civilizations. Between each civilization is a color-coded line to show the relationship between each civilization. White means they’re neutral, red means they’re at war, etc.

Looking at that screen, I thought it would be interesting to map out how some of the more prominent technology companies would compare. Here is what I came up with:

Color key:

  • Red – In direct & aggressive competition
  • Green – In some form of alliance
  • Gray – Neutral with each other

It’s interesting to see how many red lines come out of Google (GOOG). Looks like they’ve put themselves against just about everyone. The only one they don’t seem to be overtly competing against, and may be collaborating with, is Twitter.

AOL (AOL) also has quite a few red lines, though I doubt anyone considers them much of a competitive threat anymore. With their rumored Bebo sale, the lines between them and Facebook & MySpace (NWS) will probably turn gray.

Twitter, as far as I can tell, only seems to have one competitor in this diagram: Facebook. Both Google and bing (MSFT) / Yahoo! (YHOO) are indexing tweets in their search engines, so I assume their relationships are friendly. I wasn’t sure how competitive their relationship with MySpace is, so I assumed it was just neutral.

What do you think of this diagram? How would you color these lines & relationships?

Print Books vs Ebooks

Amazon Kindle 2 There’s a fight afoot. Paper-based print books vs digital ebooks. Tradition vs innovation. Aw damn.

I’ll be the first to admit that I love books. I’m a total book geek. This year, I was going to try to complete a book a week, though sadly, that goal was too ambitious for my schedule. (I’m still going for it though!)

However, I love the ebook concept. It’s one I wholly support as a reader and a customer. I’m not sure how authors feel about them though. There’s at least one I know doesn’t seem to be a fan. As a hopeful author myself, I don’t really mind. I dig the environmental impact (assuming building the ebook readers doesn’t hurt worse than cutting down trees for books) and relatively low production & distribution costs.

In Argument of Print Books

There’s something cozy about a print book. The tactical feeling of the pages between your fingers. The musky smell of old ink and paper. The plump sound of the book when you “plop” it on the table.

In between readings, you can slide out your bookmark and scan the page until you find the last paragraph you read. If you want to reference something pages earlier, simply flip backwards in time. When you finish an especially good book, you can close it, sit back, feel the heft in your hands, and become awash with satisfaction. And then there’s the cover art and author’s bio on the book jacket. Delightful extras.

So with all that, how can a print book compete with an ebook?

In Argument of Ebooks

  • Portability – You can potentially carry your entire library around with you in one ebook reader. With hundreds of books in my library, that would be cool. And yes, I do enjoy re-reading or referencing old books on occasion.
  • Cost – One year, I spent nearly a grand on books. At that scale, I think I would be saving money with ebooks. Students could potentially save a lot on textbooks as well. This assumes the cost of the ebook reader itself can be made up from the cost savings of purchasing ebooks, of course. If you don’t purchase a lot of books, this may not be a true benefit.
  • Internet Access – This is more of a benefit of ebook readers than ebooks themselves. Most readers have Internet access and can offer enhanced features, such as integration with online dictionaries and encyclopedias. They can also supply readers with subscriptions to magazines and blogs, making them a one-stop shop for reading bliss.
  • Search – Even the best book indexes can’t match the utility of a well-made search. Exact text matches are good enough, but imagine a time the searches can also match synonyms & related phrases. That would be truly useful.
  • Notes – If you like to jot notes in the columns of your books, ebooks give you that ability as well. Couple that with the ability to search through your notes too and you’ve got a great research tool.
  • Interactivity – I like how Penguin is experimenting with interactive books on the Apple iPad (AAPL). That is a wonderful idea, especially for children. This could be an exciting new direction for ebooks and education.
  • Permanence – Conceivably, an ebook could last forever while a print book could decay over time. However, this argument depends on the permanence of an ebook reader and the company creating those readers.
  • Distribution – Another idealistic possibility is the ability to distribute ebooks to locations that might logistically prohibit large numbers of print books. Imagine a One Laptop Per Child program with ebook readers instead. Now imagine those children being able to access countless free ebooks. There are other logistics to worry about (power, Internet access, etc), but some third-world countries are already trying to solve that.

The Next Generation

The strongest argument for either format will be the preferences of the next generation, our children. Already, our children are growing up in an age of instant messenging, social media, and MP3s. Some even see emails as antiquated.

If they take to ebooks and ebook readers, then I suspect print books will go the way of newspapers, radio, and records. They will still exist because there will always be a benefit they provide that ebooks can’t, but the industry will shrink.