Doing More With eBooks

from the hey,-look-at-what-the-technology-allows dept

While I can understand some of the interest in ebooks, one of the things I haven't quite understood was the effort to focus on making ebooks more like regular books. In the history of "killer apps," the one thing that tends to stand out is that they show up when the new technology allows something new that couldn't be done before. Simply mimicking the old on a new platform isn't a recipe for widespread success. And, sure, ebooks can let you store a lot of books on a single device, or take notes, but they haven't really taken advantage of what the technology could enable.

David Thomson points us to an interesting ebook experiment involving singer and novelist Nick Cave, who has created an ebook for the iPhone, that involves a whole lot more. Beyond just the text, there are both the audio and video versions of Cave reading along -- and that includes some music that goes with the book as well. Plus, it includes a "news feed" though it's not clear what's in it. The pricing still seems a bit expensive ($25), but it's great to at least see some experimenting with what the technology should allow.

One other interesting tidbit: it wasn't Cave who came up with the idea, but his publisher who really pushed to make the ebook into something more, and roped Cave into agreeing to add the extra stuff. It's nice to see that at least some of the middlemen providers are looking to step up and take charge, rather than just leaving it all to the content creators.

Filed Under: ebooks, iphone, nick cave

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  1. identicon
    hegemon13, 10 Sep 2009 @ 12:57pm

    Problem-less solutions

    To me, ebooks have always seemed like a solution to a problem that did not exist. My hope is that devices like the Kindle will renew interest in reading by attracting non-readers or infrequent readers to the cool new gadget, which will in turn introduce them to a world of content.

    However, as technology goes, books are already perfectly suited to their task. Efforts like the ones in this article are cool, but it is not really an ebook. Rather, it is a bundle of media that includes an ebook. The product is different, but the ebook portion of it still needs to have the properties of a book: easy readability, ability to add notations, bookmarking, highlighting, etc. A few recent books have tried to add beyond-the-page content that the reader must seek out to complete the story. However, they have been poorly received as gimmicky and problematic. Such attempts usually take the reader out of a story rather than draw them in.

    The beauty of reading is that the imagination takes over. It is, in fact, all the reader has to see, hear, and comprehend the story. This is good because one's personal imagination tends to be far more powerful and effective than anything someone else can explicitly show you. That's why we almost always hear, "The book was better than the movie." The point of good writing is that you don't NEED all that extraneous media to tell the story. So, again, it is a case where the technology can often be more intrusive and problematic than anything.

    Why do ebooks try to be like books? Because unlike tapes, CDs, VHS, DVD, LPs, 8-tracks, etc, etc, the existing technology is better than the would-be replacement.

    The smart move to really crack the market would be for ebook reader manufacturers to focus on disposable media: magazines, newspapers, etc. And let subscription packages subsidize the purchase price. For time-limited printed goods, ebook readers are an ideal replacement. For books, which are usually kept and collected, there's not really a compelling reason to "upgrade."

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