ENTRIES TAGGED "ereaders"

Digital publishing and the loss of intimacy

The cognitive overhead involved in reading a book has increased tremendously

Reading used to be an intimate experience. Even Amazon, the pioneer in digital publishing, branded its Kindle with a child reading alone under a tree. Books were specially designed to disappear into the background as much as possible, helped by a laundry list of conventions as to language, punctuation, format, and structure, thus allowing readers to direct all their attention and cognitive powers to the text at hand.

The first digital platforms made a decent job of emulating the traditional experience. Certainly, the overhead of managing an Amazon account is something readers could do without, but allowances had to be made. Black text on a white screen was still the reference, and great pains were taken to ease users into this new experience: options were few, and the physicality of the book was heavily reflected in the shape and size of the device.

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How can we redefine the book?

Where does the "book" stop and the "application" begin?

A book may no longer be a physical object, but its ordinary definition remains straightforward as a “written composition that is intended for publication”. Traditional or digital, we feel confident in our ability to recognise a book.

We barely remember today that early electronic platforms offered fewer visual options than the printed page, and encouraged the release of text-only editions from which even the original covers had been removed. Four short years after the launch of the original Kindle, LCD screens were becoming quite popular in mainstream readers. Today, they are almost everywhere, some of them brighter and sharper than their desktop counterparts.

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Losing the book as a symbol

Publishing needs to build new symbols for the digital age

Transitioning the publishing industry to digital technologies involves lifting the words out of printed pages, and pouring them into the amorphous containers we call ebooks. Books are no longer the tangible, brick-shaped presence they were: they must, instead, be stretched and poured into and onto any device fit for reading, from the laptop to the Kindle to the phone.

In fact, “the book” no longer designates the physical expression of the text, but the text itself, a self-contained bundle of information, whose structure and boundaries have been jointly defined by the author and the publisher. Picking up a book where you left it no longer involves picking up the same object, but rather the same text on whatever device happens to be at hand.

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Publishing News: Dusting off an old idea for the new digital age

Kindle Serials and data analytics, new Kindle lineup with forced advertisements, and a look at complementary digital publishing.

Here are a few stories from the publishing space that caught my attention this week.

Charles Dickens was on to something

In addition to showcasing the new Kindle lineup (see below), Jeff Bezos introduced Kindle Serials, a new subscription program for serialized books, at the Amazon event this week. Readers will be able to subscribe to books that will be released in “episodes,” with automatic content updates — think Charles Dickens in the age of the Internet. Sarah Kessler at Fast Company took a look at the program and argued that this format could have a profound effect on the way books are written in the digital era.

Kessler reports that each book will have its own discussion board, and “[u]nlike most book discussion boards, [reader discussions] may influence the outcome of the books.” (A recent study project by Latitude showed this to be one of the main demands from consumers in regard to how they want to experience storytelling in the digital age.) Writers, Kessler argues, will be able to put the serialized format to good use, as it will provide them with more data than they’ve ever had before:

“Publishing one segment at a time will enable authors, like app developers, to make decisions based on user activity. Data analytics will push that ability to another level. Do readers have high drop-off rates when a certain character appears? Maybe he should appear less in the next episode. Do they share a certain idea with their social networks? Maybe that idea comes up again.”

Kessler says the rise in book data analytics interest (noting companies like Hiptype) will undoubtedly affect the future of reading and writing experiences, “[b]ut what will change the books themselves are authors. And Amazon’s new serial format, combined with the rise of data analytics for everything, has potential to change their methods.”

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Where are the apps for ereaders?

Developers and ereader vendors are missing an app opportunity

I read on my GlowLight NOOK much more frequently than I read on my Asus Transformer tablet. I’d say there’s at least a 10:1 differential, so for every hour I read on my tablet I read at least 10 hours on my Glowlight Nook. I’ll bet I’m not alone and people who own both an E Ink device and a tablet probably do much more reading on the former. So why is the apps ecosystem limited to tablets? Why are there no add-on apps for E Ink devices in general?

In a recent TOC newsletter we asked readers “What do you wish your ereader could do?” We received quite a few replies, but one of the more interesting ones came from a person who said they’d like to have apps like Flipboard, Zite and Pulse on their E Ink device. I found that interesting because those are the apps (along with News360) I use almost every day on my tablet. If there were Nook E Ink versions, that 10:1 ratio noted earlier would probably become 50:1 as there would be less reason for me to switch to my tablet for reading.

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Publishing News: Consequences and questions from the Twitter kerfuffle

Twitter suspends an account, Time Inc.'s new chief has a consumer plan, and ereader technology needs a "kick in the pants"

Here are a few stories that caught my attention in the publishing space this week.

20-20 hindsight

On Sunday, Twitter suspended British journalist Guy Adams’ account after he tweeted NBC executive Gary Zenkel’s email address. Much kerfuffle ensued, Adams wrote a letter to Twitter, Twitter’s general counsel Alex MacGillivray apologized for the way the situation was handled, and Adams’ account was reinstated.

Reviews in the aftermath were interesting. The account suspension ultimately had the opposite of the intended effect, pointing a spotlight at Adams’ tweet and garnering it far more attention than it likely would have had otherwise. Meghan Garber at The Atlantic put together a Topsy chart of the response to Adams’ tweet, which showed the response began as pretty much nothing and then exploded upon his account suspension.

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New life for used ebooks

Old ebooks and clever thinking can create new opportunities for publishers.

I’ve got quite a few ebooks in two different accounts that I’ve read and will never read again. I’ll bet you do, too. In the print world, we’d pass those along to friends, resell them or donate them to the local library. Good luck doing any of those things with an ebook.

Once you buy an ebook, you’re pretty much stuck with it. That’s yet another reason why consumers want low ebook prices. Ebooks are lacking some of the basic features of a print book, so of course they should be lower-priced. I realize that’s not the only reason consumers want low ebook prices, but it’s definitely a contributing factor. I’d be willing to pay more for an ebook if I knew I could pass it along to someone else when I’m finished with it.

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Amazon as friend and foe

Amazon as friend and foe

Clint Greenleaf on the challenges of working with and competing against Amazon.

In this TOC podcast, Greenleaf Book Group founder and CEO Clint Greenleaf shares a unique perspective on working with and competing against Amazon. He also addresses the DOJ lawsuit and offers thoughts on the future of ereaders.

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Why I haven't caught ereader fever

Why I haven't caught ereader fever

Platform lock-in and questionable longevity make the iPad a better investment than an ereader.

Ereaders may have their place now, but shifts toward the web and HTML5 make the iPad a wiser and more enduring choice for digital reading.

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Publishing News: Nook gets Microsoft, and soon NFC

Publishing News: Nook gets Microsoft, and soon NFC

Microsoft invests in B&N, Target evicts Amazon, and ebooks teeter on the brink of extinction (perhaps).

B&N’s Nook gets Microsoft’s bankroll and will soon incorporate NFC, Amazon loses its shelf space at Target, and a publishing platform architect makes a strong argument for the end of ebooks.

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