Yesterday we brought you an old blog post about what plans the publishers might have considering all the changes taking place. We all know that the battle for eReader dominance is only just beginning. We also know that at any time a new battle for eBook standards might break out. One might say that we all agree that there are interesting times ahead. Today we bring another old piece we published in June of this year. With developments like Vook (vook.com), the future of the book will be far more interesting. Enjoy
Take a long hard look at a book, any book. Pull a favorite off a shelf, dust off the top--maybe it's the Bible, the Koran, a novel by Jane Austen or Leo Tolstoy. Perhaps you're more into Dan Brown or Jacqueline Winspear mysteries, Doris Kearns Goodwin biographies, or you've dog-eared page after page in Skinny Bitch. You may even gravitate toward business books like Viral Loop, my latest. Now say your goodbyes, because there will soon be a day that you may view such analog contrivances as museum pieces, bought and sold on eBay as collectibles, or tossed into landfills.
Coming soon ... It's the end of the book as we know it, and you'll be just fine. But it won't be replaced by the e-book, which is, at best, a stopgap measure. Sure, a bevy of companies are releasing e-book readers-there's Amazon's Kindle, Barnes & Noble's Nook, and a half dozen other chunks of not-ready-for-primetime hardware. But technology marches on through predictable patterns of development, with the initial form of a new technology mirroring what came before, until innovation and consumer demand drive it far beyond initial incremental improvements. We are on the verge of re-imagining the book and transforming it something far beyond mere words.
Take note: The first battlefield tanks looked like heavily armored tractors equipped with cannons; early automobiles were called "horseless carriages" for a reason; the first motorcycles were based on bicycles; the first satellite phones were as clunky as your household telephone. A decade ago, when newspapers began serving up stories over the Web, the content mirrored what was offered in the print edition. What the tank, car and newspaper have in common is they blossomed into something far beyond their initial prototypes. In the same way that an engineer wouldn't dream of starting with the raw materials for a carriage to design a rad new sports car today, newspapers won't use paper or ink anymore. Neither will books. But mere text on a screen, the stuff that e-books are made of, won't be enough.
The first movie cameras were used to film theater productions. It took early cinematic geniuses like Sergei Eisenstein, Fritz Lang, Charlie Chaplin and Abel Gance to untether the camera from what was and transform it into what it would become: a new art form. I believe that this dynamic will soon be replayed, except it will star the book in the role of the theater production, with authors acting more like directors and production companies than straight wordsmiths.
Like early filmmakers, some of us will seek new ways to express ourselves through multimedia. Instead of stagnant words on a page we will layer video throughout the text, add photos, hyperlink material, engage social networks of readers who will add their own videos, photos, and wikified information so that these multimedia books become living, breathing, works of art. They will exist on the Web and be ported over to any and all mobil devices that can handle multimedia, laptops, netbooks, and beyond. (Hey, Apple, are you listening?)
For the non-fiction author therein lie possibilities to create the proverbial last word on a subject, a one-stop shop for all the information surrounding a particular subject matter. Imagine a biography of Wiley Post, the one-eyed pilot from the 1930s who was the first to fly around the world. It would not only offer the entire text of a book but newsreel footage from his era, coverage of his most famous flights, radio interviews, schematics of his plane, interactive maps of his journeys, interviews with aviation historians and pilots of today, a virtual tour of his cockpit and description of every gauge and dial, short profiles of other flyers of his time, photos, hyperlinked endnotes and index, links to other resources on the subject.
Social media could be woven into the fabric of the experience--discussion threads and wikis where readers share information, photos, video, and add their own content to Post's story, which would tie them more closely to the book. There's also the potential for additional revenue streams: You could buy MP3s of popular songs from the 1930s, clothes that were the hot thing back then, model airplanes, other printed books, DVDs, journals, and memorabilia.
A visionary author could push the boundaries and re-imagine these books in wholly new ways. A novelist could create whole new realities, a pastiche of video and audio and words and images that could rain down on the user, offering metaphors for artistic expressions. Or they could warp into videogame-like worlds where readers become characters and through the expression of their own free will alter the story to fit. They could come with music soundtracks or be directed or produced by renowned documentarians. They could be collaborations or one-woman projects.
Before you add your comment to the comment thread at the end of this column, or hustle off an email to me to vehemently disagree with my vision, I want to emphasize I'm not predicting the end of immersive reading. I see a future in which immersive reading coexists with other literary, visual and auditory modes of expression. You get the full book--all the words on the page or screen--but you also get so much more. And ask yourself: Which would you rather have, the hardcover book of today or this rich, multimedia treatment of the same title? Suddenly mere words on a page may feel a bit lifeless. And remember that today's youth are tomorrow's book buyers, and they have been brought up on a steady diet of entertainment on demand, with text, photos, and video all available at the click of a mouse. I'm skeptical that simple text will cut it for them.
Now, I realize that many can't imagine life without a good book to curl up with, but these may be the same people who might have thought they'd never forgo the pop and hiss of vinyl records, jettison the typewriter for a laptop, spring for high speed Internet access, or buy a BlackBerry or iPhone. In an earlier age they might have even resisted adopting the Qwerty keyboard (what's wrong with ink and feathered quill anyway?) And sure, there will be some books around. After all, even today there exist vinyl records--just not a lot of them.
As the author of three books, I'm excited by the possibilities. Despite all the doom and gloom surrounding newspapers, magazines, and books, I think all writers should be optimistic. Because where there's chaos, there's opportunity.
Adam L. Penenberg is author of Viral Loop: From Facebook to Twitter, How Today's Smartest Businesses Grow Themselves. A journalism professor at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at New York University, Penenberg is a contributing writer to Fast Company
And besides, it's inevitable.
Amazon's plan to succeed in the digital books game is becoming clearer and clearer--it will maximize its income by pushing Kindle content onto every possible platform. Now its new Web portal means you can even read 'em on your TV.
Moments after the BlackBerry PlayBook was revealed, Amazon announced it was going to launch a Kindle app for the new RIM product. It wasn't unusual for Amazon to take this step, given that the BlackBerry is such a prominent device and the PlayBook may see some of its own success, but the speed of the announcement was surprising.
Now it seems Amazon was clearing the decks for its announcement today: A Web portal for Kindle content. It's far more than a Web adaption of the existing Mac and PC apps. You can preview books more easily, then buy them from the same interface--and even embed clips from texts into your website (which lets you earn referral payments if your site's visitors then buy the text). There's one drawback of the Beta version: You can't read whole texts here yet. You have to use a full Kindle app on an e-reader, smartphone, Mac, or PC.
Nevertheless, Kindle for the Web may be the most potent tweak to the Amazon ecosystem yet. In one swoop, it brings e-book reading (backed by Amazon's own archive of texts) to any pretty much every screen that sports Web access. That means set-top boxes, games consoles, and every other device that connects to the Web using a browser. Amazon intends to get on your TV--and whatever device you use as your main screen in the future, Kindle has you covered.
You can find Kindle for Web here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html/?docId=1000579091
To keep up with this news, follow me, Kit Eaton, on Twitter.
Amazon's obviously proud of its Kindle e-reader, but this morning its execs may have something to worry about: Barnes & Noble may be about to stamp on the Kindle's future hopes... with a slick color e-reader from Plastic Logic.
Yes, the phrase "Kindle killer" is a bit clichéd, and it's been applied several times to different devices--we used it in July to reference Plastic Logic's hotly-tipped grayscale e-reader device, after PL brokered a deal with AT&T to use the network in the U.S. and partnered with Barnes & Noble for content. This set up the device to be a real competitor to Amazon's Kindle. It has the right technology, and its design outclasses the rather '90s feel of the Kindles. But this morning Barnes & Noble has revealed that there's actually a color version of the device on the way... and that would outclass Amazon's offering in a single stroke.
Speaking at CTIA a B&N spokesman, Daniel Joresson, spilled the beans--a color Plastic Logic device is due in Spring 2010. It's possibly going to follow a grayscale version of the device, which is strongly rumored to arrive before the end of the year, and it tallies with text on Plastic Logic's own Web site which notes a paperback-sized color display is "around the corner." Check out the video of the news from blogger JBruin:
Spring next year is an astonishingly soon date, and its particularly aggressive given that Amazon's own Jeff Bezos has noted a color version of the Kindle is "multiple years" in the future because Amazon thinks that existing color technology on offer from its screen supplier E-Ink isn't up to quality. The other thing to note is Joresson's mention of the "Barnes & Noble e-reader application." That tallies with all sorts of other rumors online today that the e-reader will be running Android, and the e-reader app will be available on other platforms like the iPhone.
In its simplest terms, Barnes & Noble and Plastic Logic are very much taking the fight to Amazon... and with concerns that Amazon's fluffed the international launch of the Kindle, it looks like the newcomers really might have a chance.
Original blog post from Kit Eaton and can be found here: http://bit.ly/1sz6Ps
More proof, if you needed it, that e-Readers are a busted flush.
Borders has slashed the prices of E-Readers Kobo and Aluratek by $20, illustrating just how meh they've become in the tech world. The price drop is nothing new--both the Kindle and Nook, Amazon and Barnes & Noble's market leaders, have seen their prices slashed recently, and they're thought to be the most exciting brands in the sector. Nevertheless, whom does the news bode worst?
Well, on one front, it shows that Borders is in a bit of trouble (not unlike its main competitor, which is closing stores). It's throwing everything it's got at the e-Reader market--with iPhone, iPad, Android and BlackBerry apps for the Kobo, as well as a bunch of freebies for consumers willing to back the Borders e-burro. And it's not just up against B&N and Amazon, which has now partnered with Staples to begin selling the Kindle in stores this fall. Both Apple and Google are also ramping up their assault on the printed word, with Apple's iBook store already on the market, and Google Editions on its way.
But most of all, this news proves that, as my colleague Kit Eaton pointed out a few months back, this is about as good as it gets for the e-Reader. It is not quite dead, but it's looking a bit peaky, like. The reason is, of course, the tablet. We all know about the iPad and at last, some competitors seem to be showing their faces. Moreover, this, of course, renders the e-Reader if not quite chocolate teapot territory, then one of those crappy ones made out of metal that burn your fingers when you pick it up by the handle.
This post was by Addy Dugdale of FastCompany and can be found here: http://is.gd/fOeiX
New York Times best-seller Seth Godin has had it with traditional publishing, and from now on, his works will arrive digitally. More and more evidence backs up his decision: E-publishing is the future.
In a recent interview, Godin made no bones over his decision--"12 for 12 and I'm done." Godin's main gripe is that nowadays it takes a disproportionately huge effort to publish a book in the "traditional" hardback-to-paperback manner.
He likes the people, but "can’t abide" the time it takes to get the whole process to work: "The big push at launch, the nudging to get people to go to a store they don't usually visit to buy something they don't usually buy" and so on. He is also frustrated by the very medium of dead-tree publishing itself, since when consumers buy a book they are really paying for the author's ideas, a book is “a form that’s hard to spread”, and electronically he can reach "10 to 50 times as many people."
Godin's not completely convinced about how he's going to proceed with his publishing plans, but that's okay by him. We can speculate that he is going to pursue an e-publishing route, through one or several of the new systems that are available. This is perhaps now the easiest and most accessible way to get a publication in front of the public's eyeballs (particularly if you have as big a name as he does, which is effectively its own PR engine).
He could also use his reputation to push sales via a self-publishing route, also using e-reader ecosystems like Amazon's. On the other hand, he could use a more innovative, social-media-esque angle like the one that Neal Stephenson and colleagues are using for the upcoming Mongoliad electronic "book." Given that he is also credited as a "marketing expert" as well as an author, it is certainly the sort of novel enterprise that he could make work.
Godin's decision is also backed up by sales successes like Amazon's Kindle e-reader, Apple's iPad, and even reports like this one that suggest the e-book revolution is redefining the nature of reading itself, and reading e-books means readers are less isolated than if they were reading a physical book. If some other anecdotal data is anything to go by, e-books published via the Kindle ecosystem are selling like hotcakes. However, Apple's e-book efforts have not quite achieved the same success yet, for a number of reasons (including an incomplete international rollout of the iPad and the iBookstore). The fact that the iPad is selling by the millions and transforming the tablet PC market can only be a good thing for authors like Godin, keen to adopt a wholly new style of publishing.
Original post by Kit Eaton of FastCompany and can be found here: http://is.gd/fOiWD
E-publishing pretender to Amazon's crown Barnes and Noble has just launched the "PubIt!" self-publishing platform, designed to bring digital publishing within the reach of more authors. It also promises "no hidden fees."
B&N's press release notes PubIt! is an "easy-to-use platform that offers independent publishers and authors a lucrative way to digitally distribute their works through BN.com and the Barnes and Noble eBookstore." The product is trying to differentiate itself from market-leader Amazon's own efforts in this direction by making things extremely simple.
The words "clear and competitive terms" and "no hidden fees" will be appealing to may self-publishers who are looking for a novel way to access the nascent e-book market. B&N even helpfully notes it's a nice way to get your works in front of "millions of new readers" (while carefully neglecting to mention that you actually have to promote your works, and get them popular in order to actually sell them--just as you would for a paper copy.)
All accepted titles are wrapped into B&N's electronic bookstore ("one of the world's largest digital content catalogues") speedily, within 24 to 72 hours after upload. That is faster than Apple's record of accomplishment of accepting apps into its app store, and will be of great interest to authors who write time-sensitive publications or serialized e-books. You will be able to price your work between $0.99 and $199.99, and receive "a competitive royalty" based on the price, given that B&N has to make a profit itself and will have to cover the costs of hosting and distributing your texts.
Therefore, for books between $2.99 and $9.99, publishers get 65% of the list price, and for cheaper books or those over $10 publishers will get 40%. This isn't as lucrative a deal as Apple or Amazon's 70/30 split, and is definitely intended to shape the price distribution of the expected wave of self-published books to a sub-$10 bracket (with a $3 cut-off so that the majority of books have some price-related notion of "quality"). For their pains, B&N notes "publishers can be confident they will be compensated from the list price they set with no additional charges, regardless of file size."
This last point is interesting, since it is a tacit hint that many self-published texts may be image-heavy, which instantly makes you think of university-level (or even school-level) textbooks. Self-publishing for these sorts of books will make a lot of sense for many lecturers who are keen to turn a small profit on textbooks for their lecture courses, without any of the hassle of finding and persuading a publisher of the benefits of their work.
Then our minds instantly turn to the current problem dogging e-books with textbook publications in particular: The lack of colour displays on the leading e-readers. In B&N's case, this is the Nook--which does sport a colour display, but only for the purposes of browsing titles and controlling the device. Though B&N does have e-reader apps (just like Amazon does) for other platforms like the iPad and Android smartphones, all of which can definitely cope with colour images, the Nook's e-paper unit can only manage grey scale. I believe it is about time B&N one-upped Amazon's Kindle with a Nook that has a full-colour unit? It would be a decisive move right now in a highly competitive market.
However, we understand why it's not quite happening right now: the dedicated e-reader market is all but certain to be squashed by the incoming wave of tablet PCs (led by the iPad) and colour e-paper displays aren't mainstream yet--though Pixel Qi's system is nearing this sort of readiness.
Blog piece by Kit Eaton and can be found here: http://bit.ly/cHctDd
NosaDigital is an online store that provides electronic and audio books. NosaDigital sells fiction and non-fiction for both book formats. NosaDigital also deals in eBook readers as well as MP3 players, and iPods.
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