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Lessons Learned from myebook and LinkedIn

Lightbulb 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?

Comments

Travis Alber

Great point - it's natural that digital books will evolve to reflect the way people communicate digitally. It's too bad the Kindle didn't opt for a more browser-centric reading experience. Most social networks exist on the web, and you need browser technology to tie into them.

The integration of social networking and reading has been a major goal of BookGlutton.com since the beginning. Although some users may want to turn the social networking features off, BookGlutton's ability to chat inside the chapter seems like a logical development in on-line reading. Moreover, shared annotations, where people can leave comments on a paragraph for other readers to find and respond to, is a core component in BG's Unbound Reader.

Travis Alber
Founder BookGlutton.com

Jeremy Whale

Your comments about myebook are pretty accurate. I agree it may be fancy to flip a page on screen, but that free piece of code to make that has been around for over 5 years now (that a bedroom programmer posted on flashkit.com) and there's no wonder why it's never caught on as a serious product. This copycat of so many other small scale sites is was already a dead duck before it was launched.

Notably, shortly after its Beta launch it was mentioned by noobs users of several newsgroups, only for the owner of myebook to pop up a day later to mention how good it is and thank them for talking about it.

Cynicism aside, the words used to promote myebook were along the lines of "Forget Web2.0, this is Web3.0" which sums it up completely for me-

The owner of the site knows nothing about the direction in which the web is going. To use Web2.0 as merely a buzz word, and even go so far as to call myebook Web3.0 when it is nothing but retrograde is beyond naiivity.

Mebook may have put a comments section on their books, but hold on - guestbooks have been around since nearly the beginning of the internet, allowing people to comment but on actual readable, clickable, searchable and useful content.

Ooh look it flips. That's fun for two minutes. Mebook takes away the entire functionality of having content on a website.

Serious web developers know better than this and look to the future. Myebook is backwards, and the person/people trying to achieve a groundswell by posting ridiculously promotional and innacurate responses about it on forums have shown they have absolute ignorance to the web of today and tomorrow.

Apart from that, its well coded and attractive.

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