myebook and LinkedIn... What could these two operations have in common? Actually, although you're probably already familiar with LinkedIn, you ought to pay a quick visit to myebook. It's a service I recently discovered and it's currently in a beta stage.
Recent announcements by both companies got me thinking more about implications for the book publishing world. Both of them have to do with applying new social networking tricks to old businesses like content. First up, LinkedIn...
LinkedIn recently announced an intriguing partnership with The New York Times. If you're like me you use a networking service like LinkedIn from time to time but don't find it to be all that sticky of a site. I'm either accepting a contact link-up request or I'm searching for someone in my existing contacts list. Either way, I'm in and out in a matter of seconds. The New York Times deal is interesting because it should help improve LinkedIn's stickiness factor. I'm more likely to stay on their site if I'm reading and exchanging relevant headlines with colleagues and friends. Newspapers are fighting for their very existence these days, so it makes sense for the Times to test this model. If it's a valid experiment for a newspaper, why not a magazine, or...books? Hold that thought.
Let's shift gears to myebook for a moment. Their service is pretty cut and dry. Anyone can create their own e-book for others to read. The reader interface is both amusing and annoying; yes, it's fun to replicate the page-flipping experience on-screen but is that really such a critical component of the print book that we should feel compelled to preserve in the e-book experience? myebook offers many of the same features you'll find with a few other e-book platforms but, just like with the LinkedIn example earlier, it's the social networking feature set that captures my attention. Two of the buttons at the bottom of the myebook interface are "view comments" and "send to a friend".
Where are the "view comments" and "send to a friend" buttons on my Kindle? They don't exist, at least not with Kindle 1.0. But why shouldn't I be able to take pieces of the book I'm reading and send them along to my friends with Kindles for their review? And all those notes and comments I've already embedded in some of my Kindle books/newspapers/magazines...why can't I share those with my Kindle friends as well?
Think of the new monetization models and reading models that could come from this. What if you could gain access to a well-known person's thoughts when reading a book they already read? For example, I love listening to Jim Rome do his spiel about the sporting scene. I'll bet he reads a lot of sports-releated articles and books throughout the year. Would I pay a bit more to have access to the comments he had about those same articles/books as I'm reading them? Yes. It would be an extension of his show and brand and plenty of fans would pay for access. That's just one example though. You could come up with countless ones in the world of sports, movie/TV stars, politicians and other celebrities. Mark Cuban is another great example. I don't always agree with him but the guy is brilliant. I'd love to get into his head and hear what he says about some of the things we've both read.
I'm using the Kindle as the device example but this applies to any sort of e-book model. Layered content will be part of the evolution from print to better e-content, but social networking functionality will be equally important. Without taking these sorts of giant leaps forward isn't an e-book nothing more than a print book without the dead tree?