Text Patterns - by Alan Jacobs

Sunday, September 27, 2009

improving the e-book experience

Some good ideas from Mike Elgan, except for number 4 — I am so sick of “social” I could barf:

1. Bundled multimedia books. Work to make the default "version" of every book, the "everything version." For about $10 more than the hardcover price, we should get the hardcover, eBook and audio versions together.

2. eBooks that can be revised and corrected. Instead of the medieval practice of correcting and updating books with whole new editions, eBooks should be improved electronically, and on the fly. Of course, we need a notation system for telling readers what has changed, and the option to accept or decline the changes. But there's usually no reason for a new edition. Just upload the changes.

3. Audio books that can be borrowed electronically. Sony announced that it will get behind library loans for eBooks. Nice, but what we really need is to be able to borrow or rent audio books directly from our cell phones. Why is it that I can borrow an eBook from the library for free, delivered over the Internet, and can download and watch a $200-million blockbuster from Netflix for free. But if I want to listen to an audio book, I have for fork over more than $30 for the full book? What's so special about audio books?

4. Social books. Obviously people like to discuss books. Why not enable every book to come with its own social network, accessible directly from the electronic version of the book and on the Internet. Every major book should have its own social Web site, just like every movie does.

5. eBooks that are published ahead of the print edition. The electronic and even audio versions of books can be placed on the market long before the print version. The standard practice now is to withhold digital formats until the dead tree version has been on the market. This is a small act of violence against readers. It's bad enough that the editing and production process takes a year.

2 comments:

  • If you're sick of "social," then I dare you to read Tim O'Reilly's nauseating piece on Web Squared.

    http://www.web2summit.com/web2009/public/schedule/detail/10194

    The vision of the future sketched out there made me want to grab some volumes by the Desert Fathers and run for the hills.

  • per #3 -- plenty of public libraries offer audio books on the same basis as electronic books. My local public library will even check it out along with the ipod to hear it on. I agree about #4 -- enough with the social already! pretty soon random dumbos will be able to comment on real writers' web sites!

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