Ebook counterpoint

I hadn’t previously encountered the writings of Vin Crosbie until today. I ran across this link to him parodying Chris Pirillo of Lockergnome and his belief that RSS will replace email for newsletter type publishing. I can kind of see Crosbie’s point and think his comments on Pirillo’s style are valid – I was at one point aggregating Lockergnome and then dropped it because it was annoying to read.

All that aside, whilst looking at the Crosbie’s main blog, I saw this article about Barnes and Noble leaving the ebook business. Unlike every other thing I’ve seen on this subject (other than my own post), he points out that the “failure of their ebook business” was actually a function of their freakishly inflated expectatation. They pulled the plug for failing to reach their 1999 irrational exuberance goals, not because the business wasn’t growing. The industry is growing 30 to 40% every year (I believe Fictionwise states that they are doing closer to 100% a year) and in any sober analysis, things are well.

And to tie the two paragraphs together, I see a lot in common with Chris Pirillo’s “RSS will kill email” evangelism as I do with the “ebooks will kill paper” rhetoric of certains parties circa 1998-1999 in the ebook industry. I believe that “X will kill Y” type evangelism is only ever harmful to X. It’s usually bullshit, and always bullshit on the timescales being discussed. Even if there is some truth to it, all Y has to do is wait it out. “Hmmm, you said X would kill me and it didn’t. Guess that was all wrong!” While I’d never argue that people shouldn’t be enthusiastic evangelists of the things important to them, be sensible with your rhetoric, lest you become what I call a “devangelist” – someone so annoying and obviously wrong that people will take the other opinion just to get away from you. This kind of talk only creates expectations that the things you evangelize can’t meet, guaranteeing disappointment down the line.

One Reply to “Ebook counterpoint”

  1. Thanks for the kind words. RSS is an excellent tool for many applications, but it won’t kill e-mail, the Web, ftp, gopher, or carpet lice. What’s important is, as you discerned, that we realistically and soberly examine our facts and our plans for New Media. — Vin

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