Sometimes you encounter an idea that seems so obvious it’s amazing that nobody has thought of it before. That’s how Yoav Lorch feels about Total Boox, his intriguing new reading platform that is about to be unveiled this March. The idea is simple: instead of paying up front for a book you may never even look at, you download it for free and then only pay according to how much of the book you read.
This sort of system would certainly make me more likely to abandon a book if I don’t like it!
But it seems like a potential hassle administratively—I mean, just how will that work technologically? How often does the device report back to the company (i.e. is it possible to finish a book and then delete the file before it registers that the entire book was read)? What if the price goes up while you’re reading something?
And the fact that, in theory, they’ll know exactly what you’re reading and when creeps me out a bit.
In this excellent article Peter Meyers Rethinks how to pick ebook enhancements and breaks it down to five areas of opportunity: Comprehension, Memory, Interpretation, Relevance, and Extraction & Action. ~ eP
Most ebook experiments do a better job of showing off our devices rather than solving specific reader problems. We get video extras, web links, piped in Twitter feeds. Problem is, these “enhancements” often answer the wrong question: what can we add? In an age of Information Overload, readers don’t need more; they need help. A video of battle footage may be fun to watch, and a simple way to add what’s not possible in print. But what students of World War Two often struggle with is much more mundane: remembering key events for that upcoming test or prepping for an essay they’re writing.
Rather than starting from what the iPad or EPUB 3 makes possible, we should instead think about where print fails to solve readers’ needs…
Makes sense right? They know that libraries have eBooks. If he buys an eReader he should be able to check them out. See that? That there – SHOULD be able to check them out. He SHOULD. With just an eReader without a computer he SHOULD be able to get eBooks from the library. The technology is there, the Kindle/OverDrive option proves that it can work without a computer. But it doesn’t. It doesn’t because publishers don’t want it to. Whether it is because of fear or greed or any other reason, technology fails to reach the maximum of its potential because publishers are holding it back. They are denying service to this man, to this portion of the population. It would be one thing if it just wasn’t possible but it IS possible. It SHOULD work. There is no good reason it does not work.
William Lynch, chief executive of [Barnes & Noble], told Fortune magazine Tuesday that he planned to have near-field communication installed in Nook e-readers as early as this year. The technology would make it possible for browsers to touch books in the store with Nooks to get more information, such as reviews, and then purchase titles in whatever format they want.
This will be worth watching, and may even provide some ideas for libraries in terms of providing information about electronically available content to the people browsing the shelves. (Though, as I understand it, some libraries are already pointing to their e-content through things like QR codes and shelf signs.)
Let’s recap. Customers today are expected to buy into a format that locks down their content into a silo, limits their purchasing choices based on where their credit card happens to have been registered, is designed to work best on devices that are rapidly becoming obsolete, and support only a tiny subset of the functionality available on any modern website. Nonetheless, publishers are seeing their e-book sales skyrocket and congratulate themselves on a job well done. How come?
Amazon is well on its way towards dominating the ebook market, but its platform has several weaknesses that not only threaten Amazon but also threaten the ebook industry should Amazon dominate.
The line of argument is as follows:
- Amazon’s Kindle platform has inherent flaws that lead to serious imbalances.
- Those imbalances threaten Amazon first and foremost and grow with the platform.
- If Amazon grows to dominate a mature ebook market, those imbalances will be big enough to both damage Amazon and threaten the ebook market.
- Amazon could end up dominating an ebook market that more resembles the modern day comic book direct market than a mass medium: a shrinking niche industry that caters to a limited number of expert readers.
Those who have taken the plunge into reading e-books stand out in almost every way from other kinds of readers. Foremost, they are relatively avid readers of books in all formats: 88% of those who read e-books in the past 12 months also read printed books.2 Compared with other book readers, they read more books. They read more frequently for a host of reasons: for pleasure, for research, for current events, and for work or school. They are also more likely than others to have bought their most recent book, rather than borrowed it, and they are more likely than others to say they prefer to purchase books in general, often starting their search online.
Most people who can afford ereaders can afford to buy books for them. Libraries are, in effect, providing those readers with a luxury, at least at the present moment. The whole ebook world is still evolving–we don’t know just where it will end. Maybe what we should be focusing on instead–right now–is providing the devices with content instead of the content alone.
However, libraries are ultimately about providing access. And the world is changing, rapidly. Instead of spending our ebook budget money on vendor subscriptions to “buy” disproportionately priced ebooks that we never own, maybe we should be spending more money on the devices. I know many libraries already do this, but maybe the focus should shift and more weight should be placed on the hardware–the means of delivery. Our customers may want to borrow ebooks for free, but if they can afford ereaders chances are they can afford to get the books they want. It is the group of people who can’t or don’t want to spend money on the devices that need our help, perhaps. As always, I am never sure of the answer. I simply like to point out alternatives.
In 2011, Macmillan made headlines during its tense standoff with Amazon over e-book pricing, but the publisher was able to sway Amazon because it could make a credible threat that it might get up from the negotiating table and take all its books, too—and others might follow. But Macmillan’s edge—its scale—is also its undoing. Every day, Macmillan sells more e-books that have been locked into Amazon’s format. The millions of dollars that Amazon customers spend on Macmillan’s DRM-locked e-books represent millions of dollars of e-books Macmillan customers lose if they wanted to follow Macmillan away from Amazon. Publishers believe DRM protects their books. But DRM has created a world where publishers who walk away from negotiations with a DRM vendor like Amazon leave their customers behind.
I don’t know if this will be of use anyone but me, but I was trying to go over the Computers in Libraries sessions (both those I attended and those I didn’t) to find what I could of the presentation slides/handouts/blog posts and I was getting bogged down in links and files, so I made these lists of links. If anyone knows of stuff that could be on here that I missed, do let me know (use the ‘ask me anything’ link).
I mean… I’ve got the books at home. Proper books. I don’t like reading them on a screen. The magic of Harry Potter is better experienced as you’re holding the book in your hands, with the touch, the smell and everything…
But well… Whatever…
The magic behind the Harry Potter stories comes from the incredible world that J.K Rowling spent countless hours writing, refining, and perfecting.
The reason why millions of children fell in love with her work - and why countless future generations will continue to do so - is because of the time, effort, energy, and sheer genius she put into it.
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This is a great commentary on the physicality arguments in favor of books, summed up basically as: what you found enthralling in the story has nothing to do with the paper it’s printed on and everything to do with the creativity of the author who wrote it.
There are perfectly valid reasons to prefer books to ebooks (I will point out that I still do not own an ereader), but the smell of the physical book has nothing to do with the “magic of Harry Potter”.