The Kindle has been in the market for around 3 years and 3 months. It was in development for around 3 to 4 years before that.
Sony Reader has been in the market for nearly 4 years. Perhaps there was 2 years of development before that.
Nook has been in the market for 1 year and 3 months. It was in development for around a year before that.
We’ve seen eReaders evolve and improve over that time period. However, you have to wonder how close we are to a truly glorious eReader. An eReader that is timeless.
Let’s consider two questions that might help us figure out how long we have to wait before the superstar eReaders arrive –
- Does the 10,000 hour rule apply to products people make (in that same way that it, perhaps, applies to skills people learn)?
- When would eReaders hit the 10 years/10,000 hours mark?
And after that we’ll wonder –
- What happens when eReaders hit the 10,000 hour rule?
Let’s start by jumping into the 10,000 hours rule and our assumption that such a thing as the 10,000 hour rule exists.
10 Years/10,000 Hours = Mastery
A concept brought up in numerous books like Talent is Overrated and Outliers is that it takes a certain amount of ‘deliberate practice’ to attain mastery in a skill.
These books talk about the process of mastering a skill as something very distinct from randomly doing something for fun.
- They claim Mastery requires deliberate practice. Deliberate Practice is a special type of practice that involves a very conscious, almost painful, focus on improving/learning.
- They also claim it usually takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to master a skill. For some areas it takes 20,000 or more hours.
- Additionally, they claim that this 10,000 hours of deliberate practice is usually spread out over a period of 10 years.
If we make a giant assumption that such a 10,000 hours rule exists, we have to ask ourselves what happens when a person has attained mastery. One possible answer is that the person starts working on her/his masterpieces.
How long does it take an ‘expert’ to make a masterpiece?
We have an expert. She has spent 10,000 hours over a period of 8 to 10 years and attained mastery in her craft. Now she sets off to create her masterpiece.
How long would it take her?
That’s a good question, and one assumption we could make, one that seems awfully convenient, is that it would take her another 10,000 hours of ‘deliberate application’ of her skills to create her masterpiece.
Let’s run with the assumption because, well, it is rather convenient. Plus it’s better to overshoot the figure than undershoot it.
It’s better to assume a 10 year period than a 2 year period
Let’s take eReaders. If we say that truly skilled people can create a masterpiece in just 2 years we would have the Nook 1, the Sony Reader, and the Kindle all labeled masterpieces. While they’re all good, it’s doubtful that any of them represent an eReader masterpiece.
If, on the other hand, we assume a 10 year period, we can hope that in around 2013 the best Kindle ever made will arrive. That in 2013 Sony too will exceed itself. That the best Nook ever will arrive in 2015.
What happens then?
What happens when eReaders get 10,000 hours of deliberate application?
We haven’t really gotten close to where we could be with eReaders.
Kindle – 6 to 7 years. Sony Reader – 6 years. Nook – 2 years.
Yet, already, we have around 10 million eReaders sold. We have eBooks at 10% or so of the US Book Market. We have the beginning of the democratization of Publishing and the rise of indie authors. We have a fall in book prices.
What happens when eReaders get their full 10 years and become true masterpieces?
Everything accelerates – the quality of eReaders, the adoption of eReaders, the spread of eBooks, everything.
Perhaps these are the main improvements we’ll see by 2013/2014 (when at least Kindle and Sony Reader have hit their 10 years) –
- Prices around $50.
- Color support.
- eReaders you can also use as eWriters.
- Unbreakable eReaders.
- Flexible eReaders.
- Availability of 90% of books that are published.
- eReaders that can be folded out into screen sizes that are larger than their carrying sizes.
It’s hard to say what features we’ll see over the next 3 to 4 years. Text to Speech wasn’t really a feature many people anticipated. Neither was the free-hand drawing that Sony Reader added in its second generation eReaders. Hopefully, there will be lots of good surprises.
We are still in the beginning stages
Perhaps the biggest takeaway from this ‘eReaders still have to hit 10,000 hours’ post is that we’re still only 50% or 60% into making good eReaders. By 2013/2014 we’ll get our first superstar eReaders. The real masterpieces.
By then lots of other things will have improved too – resources for authors, publishing, platforms, services, software.
It’s going to be a very different world and it’ll be interesting to see how the people who are predicting 25% market share for ebooks by 2015 handle the new reality.