This is the second of a three-part series of posts summarizing my Ignite presentation at the recent TOC Frankfurt event. Part one can be found here.
Content Mark-up & Sharing
The next item on my eContent wish list is the ability to mark up my content and share it with others. If you click on the slide to the left you'll see a mock-up I created of a page from a book in Amazon's Kindle reader app for the iPad. I've added a sticky note, a handwritten reminder as well yellow highlighting on a couple of lines. Today's e-reader apps (at least on the iPad) only let you do one of those three things; the sticky note and any sort of handwriting option simply don't exist. They're easy enough to add, but become even more powerful if they can be shared.
Why not add features to ebook reader apps that let me do all this and then package up an excerpt (with my notes) to send to a friend or post on my website? Rather than focusing on how to limit distribution of ebook content, publishers and resellers should instead work on ways to make the platform work for them. It's called "marketing" and it's time to support and encourage this sort of content sharing and reuse.
A Used eBook Ecosystem
With two kids in college I have plenty of first-hand experience paying for textbooks. Those insanely high prices you pay when buying the books suddenly become pennies on the dollar when selling them back as used books. What if we could turn this model upside down and enable students to resell their textbooks for more than what they paid? How? By including all their notes in them as e-textbooks. Are there any students the following semester who might pay a bit more for a set of well-organized notes for the class? You bet. Would this encourage students to skip class and just use the notes? Probably, but those kids will probably find a way to skip anyhow, so why should that factor in?
What I'm suggesting is a reseller model where the student can package all their notes together with their version of the ebook and sell it at whatever price they feel is appropriate. The key here is to include the publisher and author in the revenue stream; neither of them share in the proceeds of the used book market today but there's no reason they couldn't in the future.
A Book vs. A Network
Bob Pritchett, CEO of Logos, gave a terrific talk at our TOC conference in NY earlier this year. He noted how Logos focuses on "selling a network", not just selling an individual book. What he means is that as you buy more products from Logos you're building a library that's highly integrated from top to bottom. Every new product fits into and is fully accessible from within your existing library. Think of it like how one Lego brick is useful but the real power comes from combining it with hundreds of others. So if you publish both a how-to and a reference guide for a topic, how can they fit together and complement one another in their digital formats? Done properly, this creates a seemingly endless combination of cross-sell and up-sell opportunities.
Just Long Enough
Have you ever read a 300-page book only to find it contained about 15 pages of really great content? Why did the author/publisher puff it up to 300 pages? One reason has to do with creating a spine presence on the shelf. The work wouldn't really be a "book" if it was thinned down to 15 pages and it would definitely disappear on the shelf.
I'm so glad that spine width has no meaning in the ebook world. Maybe we can finally get away from inflating page count just to make sure the book looks and feels like all the other ones next to it on the shelf.
Here's a crazy idea: Feel free to charge the same price for the 15-page version as you do for the 300-page one. That's right, if you've got a way of communicating the same amount of information to me, but in a fraction of the time, I'll pay for that convenience. I'd actually buy and read more of these condensed editions than I what I consume today. And yes, I'm quite familiar with a couple of the more popular "book summary" programs. I found one of them to be awful and the other to be better but still far from perfect.
Publishers, why not consider having your authors write similar summaries and either sell them separately or include them with the longer book, all in e-format, of course? The authors know this material best and are therefore the perfect candidates to write the summaries. I also realize some books are lengthier because they offer more story-telling than others; that's why I'm suggesting you offer both formats (full and condensed).
Imagine a business book that's available for $25 in either full or condensed ebook format. Buy one or the other or get both for a bundle price of, say, $30. And if a customer buys one format but comes back later to buy the other, given them the bundle price and only charge them $5 more for the other piece.
P.S. -- Although poorly named, Amazon's new "Singles" program could be a great step in this direction. I particularly like the way they describe it as, "compelling ideas expressed at their natural length."