Thursday, August 20, 2009

Simple eBooks are not the future of publishing

Most people are pretty sure that traditional print publishing will be overtaken by electronic publishing. Currently, electronic book sales are a small challenge to print book sales (1% and growing), but as more people become comfortable with reading books on an electronic handheld device, this will change. The convenience factor of having all of your books with you at all times, even if the actual storage is on the internet and you only have a window into them, will overwhelm the value of the printed page. Stuck at an airport? You're not stuck with paying airport prices for a limited selection of books. Buy from more online, and start reading within minutes.

But I think that the current eBooks are kind of funny. They remind me of so many technology transitions of the past.

When I was young, my family moved to the country where we could explore far and wide. For me, one of the most amazing things we found was in the old decrepit barn. Tucked away in the corner, and camouflaged by color and cobwebs, was a small electric lantern. Yes, electric lantern. You see, prior to electricity, folks used oil-filled lanterns with large globes and wire bails (hoops for carrying). So it appeared that when the manufacturer of this lantern decided on an electric wire and lightbulb, they packaged it into a form familiar and presumed convenient for the existing purchasers of lanterns. How quaint!

Likewise, most of us have seen the original automobiles that look like horseless carriages. These are evolutionary changes, and so it is with the majority of current eBooks. Most are just transcribed books from print.

What do I want from eBooks, then? I always want more value. The convenience of buying and receiving instantly is great. The convenience of having my reading with me whereever I am is luxurious. But I'm reading them on a handheld computer that has much more potential. Yes, I'm talking about multimedia in all its rich, interactive forms.

There are a few good examples out there. Take a look at "Buddy the Bus" for the iPhone. This app uses full color, can read to you, and offers five language choices for both the text and the audio. And if you consider the now aging Leap Frog book reader, where you can touch the props on the pages and have them yelp, you can imagine books that go far beyond our old printed pop-up books. It won't be just kids who will appreciate full animation. Can you visualize the advantages of a "How to fix" book with video clips?

Come on; use your imagination, and you can be a leader in this expanding world of publishing!

1 comment:

Steve Bezner said...

Interesting post. Do you think less people are reading traditional books today given the ubiquity of the internet and it's multi-media functionality?

To me (and very similar to your ideas) the new E-Book is a multi-media experience that evolves closer to a movie like affects that also allows for interactivity.

For example, I just read the book, Angel Experiment on my I-Phone. I would have love to see some special effects in my book to let me see the kids flying with their wings, or different voices of each of the kids to help me keep track of the characters. I disliked the ending and would have liked to have been able to choose from multiple endings. Or even go online and choose another ending authored from perhaps another reader. Or even submit my own.

It kinda reminds me of the pictures in Harry Potter that have animation.

Why hasn't this idea caught on?