So I woke up Friday morning eager to begin the fun task of researching ebooks for the iPhone. I was thwarted early on thanks to the multitudes who chose to update their software at the exact same time I did. Couldn’t they wait until I was finished?
Yeah, went through Friday without a cell phone. Felt oddly freeing. Woke Saturday even more determined. Successfully updated my iPhone. Found and downloaded the Fictionwise ereader app. See my post at Booksquare for the sordid details. Actually, I skipped one detail. I abandoned the Fictionwise experiment when it became apparent that the site didn’t have a lick of information about how to gets books to my phone. By the time I got back on track, there was shopping to do, places to see. Later, I thought.
So later comes and I had an action plan (thanks to more dedicated souls who found the correct information at Fictionwise’s sister site, eReader), but the unexpected happens: the Kindle fairy lands in Pasadena. I am now the proud owner of a new Kindle. Yes!
In less time than it takes to down a glass of champagne, I have a free trial subscription to the Los Angeles Times and downloaded some books (Jill, you lucky girl, part of the first group!). Life is good but I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed about all this ebook technology falling into my lap. Famine, feast, new challenges.
Reading books on both devices is easy. Sure, the Kindle is better suited to the task, but the iPhone does the job well. Both are portable and lightweight. Oh, and Kindle does make it too easy to get books (iPhone, not so much, and that’s going to be the next challenge facing the publishing industry: realizing that the iTunes store is a legitimate retail outlet that requires care and attention). Easy purchasing will be a problem for an impulse shopper like me. A lovely problem. I’ll suffer through.
So that’s the good. Here’s the bad. Books I buy for the Kindle don’t work on the iPhone and vice versa. So if I read chapter one on the Kindle, but am on the go and want to read on my iPhone, I either have to purchase a second copy or skip the pleasure. Mostly I’m going to skip the pleasure because I’m one of those people who can read multiple books simultaneously.
It’s a serious point, making the same content portable from device to device. It’s not really about picking a chapter mid-read, it’s about letting me get to the content I’ve bought with the device at hand. It looks like the Kindle is going to fit nicely in my purse, but I carry large purses. It won’t fit in Roxanne’s bag, but she has an iPhone, so it’s okay. Sometimes I’m just shoving my phone in my pocket because I don’t want to carry the extra weight. Doesn’t mean I don’t want to read, just means I have different needs at different times.
Because there’s nothing like overstating the obvious, I’ll state for the record that the future of ebooks is very much tied to inter-device operability. Not only should publishers make the use of a single standard a requirement, but they should demand that legitimately purchased content be shareable between a customer’s reading devices. Without unduly burdening the customer.
Yes, you read that right. Publishers, in the interest of saving their business, must take the lead and insist that customer service trumps all other concerns. Making it easy for customers to buy and read should be the number one concern of the publishing industry. You cannot simultaneously protect and kill a business model.
I am loving that I’m suffering through this dilemma — I mean, who wouldn’t be thrilled to face an overabundance of reading choices and opportunities — but I am reminded that the future is no longer a distant abstract, something to worry about in the, well, future. Customers are making the transition with or without you. Publishers, particularly, need to continue experimenting like their lives depend upon it, but it’s also time to start coalescing around standards and customer-centric business practices.
Think of as applying the best of the old school — you gotta admit that paper is as standardized as it gets and paper books are inherently portable — to the new school.