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Something big is missing from Flipboard and iBookstore

Flipboard is a great discovery channel for books, but where are the samples?

Flipboard (which I adore) and Apple’s iBookstore (which I rarely think about) have teamed up. Sort of.

A new books section in Flipboard highlights titles from iBookstore. It’s a nice idea, but it doesn’t go far enough.

Instead of doing the obvious thing — publishing full samples — the Flipboard / iBookstore section only shows the book cover, author and publisher’s description. That’s like lining the shelves of a physical bookstore with book jackets, not the books themselves. Why would you do that?

Flipboard iBookstore screen

Flipboard’s elegant design makes it a rarity among apps — it’s useful as both a browsing platform and a reading platform. Yet, this iBookstore relationship only harnesses the browsing capability.

On top of that, readers have for years had the ability to dig into free book samples through Amazon and the like. That functionality is now a default, and you can’t launch a digital book catalog without it. Yet, that’s what we’re presented with in this case.

Technically, you can acquire a sample through the Flipboard/iBookstore combination. But look at all these steps:

  1. Go to the iBookstore section in Flipboard.
  2. Select a book.
  3. Press the “Download on the iBookstore” button.
  4. Run into a “Leave Flipboard?” warning. Click the “Open” button to proceed.
  5. Load the book title in iBooks (it does that automatically).
  6. Click the “Sample” button.

Here’s what’s going to happen: Flipboard users will hear about this iBookstore section, give it a quick look, then immediately forget about it. That’s a shame. If samples were included this could be a great tool — and a great model — for everyone involved.

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Comments: 2

  1. I couldn’t agree more. Flipboard is a daily stop for me and I see great potential for publishers. I too pose the question, why are STM and educational publishers resisting Flipboard? http://blog.reallysi.com/bid/89194/Are-STM-and-Educational-Publishers-Resisting-Flipboard

  2. Your comment is premised on the idea that interest in a book title is entirely a matter of immediate gratification. There is little data to support the notion that a downloaded sample leads to a sale, and recent analysis offered by device use data suggests that consumers are overloaded, overwhelmed, and ignoring a huge percentage of samples downloaded. I’m not sure duplicating services (presuming the sample is available elsewhere) is a solution to any problem. Persistent exposure to potential consumers is itself a valuable marketing tool, and if flipboard’s elegance and efficiency impacts a particular market segment, perhaps its enough just for an author and publisher’s aims to compound product awareness (as part of a multi-pronged campaign) to that segment rather than be a one-stop full service entity. Perhaps there is nothing lost by not having samples immediately available because there really isn’t very much gained by placating a desire for immediate gratification.

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