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The Flaw in McAfee's "Technology Flip Test"

Book flip Even though the piece was written well over a year ago, I keep seeing new references to Andrew McAfee's Technology Flip Test article.  The most recent appearance was on the O'Reilly TOC blog.  I felt compelled to add my two cents on TOC but I think there's such a big hole in McAfee's logic that I wanted to do a separate blog post about it on my own blog.

Here's the fundamental flaw: Print books have pretty much finished their evolution.  They are what they are.  They look very much like they did 100 or 200 years ago and they're not likely to change much in the next 100 years.  On the other hand, e-books are very much in their infancy and will change dramatically in the next 2, 5, 10 years and more.  Dramatically.  So I believe it's a silly test to compare the fully evolved print book to the rapidly evolving e-book.

As I mentioned in my TOC comment, there are already a number of things an e-book can do that a print book can't.  That list is going to grow every year.  Can we wait till the e-book has fully developed and has no further enhancements, just like the print book has today, before we start comparing the two?  Btw, as I also noted in that comment, even when this happens I believe the demand for print books will remain.  Print books are not going away, but can we please stop acting as if e-books have no (or a very limited) future?



"It's cheap, portable, lasts essentially forever, and requires no batteries. You can't write over it once it's been written on, but you buy more very cheaply. Wouldn't that technology come to dominate the market?"

Let's see: My Palm was cheap (less than the cost of five hardcovers); I've had it for close to two years and it's in great shape; I can plug it in pretty much anywhere- I could use a solar charger if I really wanted to. I love books and I assume I will always have and read them, but I don't buy the argument. I'm going on a trip today (hotel rooms); I'm taking about twenty (e)books with me, and I'll be able to read them in the bed in the dark without disturbing anybody. If I was limited to pbooks I'd have maybe one or two and I'd be reading them in the bathroom at night. I tend to look at my Palm and my Tivo in the same light; I can't really imagine going back to the way I read books and watched TV before.

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