Mark Bertils 2009 in Review: Ebooks—20 Years To Become an Overnight Success

The following post is written by our guest blogger, Mark Bertils, who, when he’s not leaping over buildings in a single bound, blogs over at

Paul Saffo, the head of Engineering at Stanford, did a great video in 2007 where he explained how common it is in media forecasting to mistake a clear view for a short distance, but when somethingsomething like ebookshas been failing for twenty years “your entrepreneurial radar should pop up.” Technology, Saffo reminds us, often takes that long to become an overnight success.

Hello 2009. Hello opportunity.

Yes, the ebook was taken seriously by one and all this year. Or maybe that was last year? Yes, the year started off under a grim cloud from 2008’s Black Wednesday and yes, gallons of ink has been spilled on what has gone wrong and what to do about it. But what was really exciting about 2009 was that it set the stage for a watershed 2010.

2010 is going to be a massive year for digital publishing. There is enough players with enough smarts with enough on the line, all racing towards critical mass, for digital publishing’s Manhattan Project not to achieve fusion next year. The little guys like ECW and Dundurn have been shooting the lights out with their digital activities. The big guys are working through the Kubler-Ross model but they get it now it is life or death. The technology companies are jockeying for opportunities. The start-ups are hungry to get traction.

Crash-Boom-Pow! What’s it going to be?

Remember Youtube before Google? Remember Flickr and Delicious before Yahoo? Probably not, unless you got the press release. The fact you can’t even remember life before Twitter just speaks to how fluid change is; how it sneaks up on you. So I am not going to make any brash predictions but look for a fundamental shift in consumer behavior next year that will both disrupt and enrich. It will likely be driven by mobile computing and may involve a universal payment system. Someone will go looking for the digital book market and someone might just find it.

So hello opportunity. Hello 2010.

Throw around hyperbole? Confuse a clear view for a short distance? Who me? This year was great, but the ground is going to move under our feet next year. Hopefully we will find ourselves in a better place. Fingers crossed.