Who Said Books Had to be Written on Paper???

I must have drank some seriously potent iPhone Kool-aid while I was in San Fran for the Web 2.0 Summit. Ever since I have been back all I can even think, dream or talk about is the huge potential behind the iPhone. The problem is that some people, in some cases even Apple, do not seem to be fully appreciating the scope of what is possible here. 

The most recent example of a company failing to see the full potential behind this new platform is Penguin Publishing. I received an email from a colleague at the start of the week letting me know about a new application that Penguin released. It’s part of a broad sweeping initiative by the publisher to embrace the new social web, so kudos to them for finally jumping on the band wagon. However their iPhone application simply does the following, and I quote, “It makes the features of the Web site—the blog, book previews, podcasts, news and Penguin-specific book-finding tools—available on the iPhone.” Wow, awesome, but am I missing something here? What about the potential of literally selling people books to read on the iPhone through the application? They now have a direct channel to a medium that users can easily read their books on, why not skip over all the book re-sellers and simply sell the digital format of these books through their app? I dont get it! I am not saying that they should stop using book stores to sell their products, but the iPhone is a highly effective tool for reading books, why not go straight to the source? 

I recently downloaded Stanza (an e-book reader application for the iPhone) and blasted through Animal Farm in 3 days flat. The reading experience on the iPhone is an absolute pleasure. I actually enjoyed reading using my phone over and above reading a traditional paper back (I may just be a seriously early adopter though). The best part about it is that I never have to lug around another book with me. All I have to do is go to Stanza’s book store, download a new book and its with me everywhere I go. If the iPhone really is to become a new medium for content, why would Penguin develop an application that does not include an ebook reader so you can simply download their new releases and old classics directly into your phone while your on the go?

The other element of this whole debacle that eludes me is why Apple has not made an e-book reader part of their own native application bundle. They have an internet browser, a music and video player, a camera, but no book reader. If this is really going to become the new media device of the future, they certainly should include the most trusted form of content … text! And whats more is they have the perfect distribution channel to be selling e-books through; iTunes! They already sell audio books, why not sell ebooks also to be read directly through an application on their phone just like MP3’s. Hell they can even include DRM for all I care, to get the publishers on the board. 

There is a lot of potential here in the field of text based content on the iPhone that a lot of people seem to be looking over in favour of more flashy features. I love all the potential behind some of these new innovative features but In my opinion (please keep in mind the line I stated off with, that I definitely drank some potent iPhone kool-aid) the iPhone has the potential to destroy Amazon’s Kindle business and in turn the future of Amazon’s e-book sales. Who wants to lug around an extra device or another book when you already have everything you need in your pocket? Not me, thats for sure.

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3 Comments

Filed under digital publishing, mobile, technology

3 responses to “Who Said Books Had to be Written on Paper???

  1. Niko

    Ok, so here you go. The reason why Apple has not done many of the things you mention in your article is because they are planning to do them. My prediction is that by then end of January 2009 Apple will announce a brand new Device that will have many of the following features:
    -Ebook Reading Device – with E-Ink – (Definitely)
    -Screen Size – Larger than iPhone, smaller than MacBook Air (Definitely)
    -Wireless Connection via WiFi – (Definitely)
    -Wireless Connection via Cell Phone (like Kindle) (Most likely)
    -iTunes access to Book Sellers (Definitely)
    -Web Access (Definitely)
    -iPhone Screen Functionality with Gestures (Definitely)
    -iPod Functionality (most likely)
    -Color Screen (Highly Unlikely)
    -Battery Life (Days)
    -Expansion Capabilities for more books (Definitely)
    -It may even connect to an iPhone to get many of the features I mention here. But first it will be the best reading device on the market. The rest will be gravy.
    These are my thoughts. It will be the next great step forward for technology.
    Niko

  2. Woah, woah woah … “here I go” ???
    Here I go where? 😉
    What you have described to me does not truly sound appealing. Why would I want a larger phone thats only black and white when I have a smaller device that is colour, does everything and still lets me read books with no problem? Also I do not see why Apple would move themselves into yet another hardware war (by the sounds of it, the product you are describing would be a direct competitor to the Kindle). It just does not make sense for them to do this, especially in these economic times. But I am always interested in being proved wrong … post a link of the “Mac” rumour here.

  3. Mark

    Hey Dave, old post, I know, but thought I’d give you an update. You may not have known that for some time I’ve been very frustrated by attempts to get our ebooks onto the iPhone. Stanza is a no-go because it does not cater for DRM wrapping of any sort (weeelll, you know us publishers have to protect our ass(ets) right?;-)

    Anyway, the day will come, perhaps June this year, when Google start selling online subscription to Google Book Search titles. Suddenly you’ll have access to the biggest collection of books on the planet through your iPhone’s browser. No extra software or downloads needed (will Stanza become moribund?), no DRM required, access from any internet-connected machine possible.

    Kindle must be peeing their pants.

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