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November 2010
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3 posts from December 2010

Underwhelmed by Google's eBookstore

GOOGLE For the past 18 months or so, like many of you, I've been anxiously awaiting Google's ebookstore launch.  Originally referred to as Google Editions, the service finally arrived this week with the name Google eBookstore.  Now that I've had some time to tour the store and download some sample content, I have one question: Why did it take this long to launch a service that offers nothing new?  Seriously, I was figuring there would be some groundbreaking functionality but this is basically the Kindle's bookstore with fewer bells and whistles.

Catalog pages are pretty much what you'd expect from Google: simple and clean.  But is that always a good thing?  Compare the Google and Amazon catalog pages for a book I plan to start reading soon, Unbroken, by Laura Hllenbrand.  The Amazon page has all the elements we've come to know and love over the years including a lengthy product description as well as customer reviews in two formats: most recent and most helpful.

The Google page has a barren look.  Drop that Google catalog page into Amazon's site and it would be considered either a dud or a mistake.  Amazon takes great care in determining catalog page elements and I'm convinced more content helps convert browsers into paying customers.  You'd think Google would realize that a sparsely populated catalog page probably isn't a good thing.  Maybe they don't appreciate the fact that buying a book generally requires a lot more thought and consideration than clicking on a search results link.

Google is really playing up their multi-platform support.  You can read your Google books on pretty much any tablet, smart phone or laptop.  That's a clear advantage over Apple's iBookstore but it's something Amazon has offered for quite awhile now.

Google's iPad reader app is nothing spectacular.  It offers the basic functionality but nothing revolutionary.  It does, however, have one pretty significant shortcoming compared to Amazon's app: there's an annoying "Loading..." message that frequently appears on screen when turning pages.  It reminds me of the page-turning delays I used to encounter on my first-gen Kindle.  Thankfully, I never see delays like that in the Kindle iPad app.  Google, you really need to fix this irritating feature.

I figured Google's service might give me a reason to ditch Amazon but I don't see a compelling reason to change.  Am I missing something?

They haven't done so yet, but maybe Google will wow me later with reader app features I can't get anywhere else.  Speaking of which, this Thursday, December 16th, I'll be presenting my "econtent wish list" in a free webcast.  If you're interested in joining me for the 1-hour session be sure to sign up here.

Scribd Stats: A Social Dashboard for Reading

Picture 9 I wanted to call attention to a recent announcement from Scribd that didn't get a lot of visibility.  The service, called Scribd Stats, provides authors/publishers with an assortment of information on who's reading their content, what pieces they're reading, etc.

You may have seen seen the Kindle's "Popular Highlights" feature but Scribd has taken Stats to the next level.  As a publisher I'd love to know all this information about our books, especially when we're working on revisions.  I figure it's only a matter of time before Amazon offers this usage data to publishers...for a fee.  In the mean time, it's great seeing Scribd take the lead with Stats.

Btw, Scribd Stats is the latest addition to my eContent Wish List.  This list started as an Ignite presentation at the recent TOC Frankfurt.  Because of Ignite's 5-minute framework I didn't get a chance to go into all the details that I'd like to.  If you missed TOC Frankfurt or would just like to hear more about the list, you'll have the opportunity at a TOC webcast on December 16th at 1:00PM ET.  Go here for more details or to sign up for this free webcast.

I Live in the Future & Here's How It Works, by Nick Bilton

I LIVE IN FUTURE Nick Bilton writes about technology for The New York Times.  I've been a big fan because every time I read one of his pieces I learn something new and valuable.  As a result, I was probably one of the first people to buy his ebook, I Live in the Future & Here's How It Works, the day it went on sale in the Kindle store.

Unlike a lot of forward-looking books, this one doesn't waste a bunch of time on dreamy predictions of the specifics (e.g., flying cars, time travel, etc).  Rather, Nick talks about trends he's seeing and research he's worked on or studied.  You, the reader, are then free to use that information to think about how all this information might affect your future and the future of your business.

I generally rate a book by how many excerpts I highlight while reading it.  Good ones typically have 10-15.  This one had dozens.

Nick is a terrific storyteller.  Btw, one of the points he makes about the future is that storytelling was, is, and will forever be important.  That's not limited to books or movies, of course.  Think of the best teachers you had in school, for example.  Mine were all excellent storytellers and that made learning significantly more fun and engaging.  It's good to know that certain skills never get old!

Here are a few of my favorite excerpts from this insightful book:

Online, the lines between television and newspapers have blurred -- and soon the same will be said about books, movies, TV shows, and more.  There is one more wrinkle: Amateur content and professional content are beginning to exist in unison, on the same devices with the same reach.

We're all constantly cutting up content, picking out the best pieces, and passing it along.

Throughout history we have tended to dramatize the death of one form of communication when another is being born.

There was a time in the 1920's when cultural critics feared Americans were losing their ability to swallow a long, thoughtful novel or even a detailed magazine piece.  The culprit: Reader's Digest.

In reality, we don't pay for the content; we pay for the experience.

People who make their living telling stories will feel more and more pressure to create experiences that offer multiple layers of content, additional social feedack from a community with shared interests, threaded topics and true interaction.  If they don't, they may capture only their audience's partial attention.

Imagine you're reading an article about a new food recipe on your computer at work.  When you get home from the office, your television should know that you've read the article and automatically show you video clips of the recipe on this new screen.  At the same time, as your phone is in the same room with you, with the flick of a button the television can send the recipe to your mobile phone so that you can pick up ingredients at the grocery store the next day.

He goes on to talk about how devices need to offer more interoperability, so devices know where you are, where you've been and how best to update you from one location to the next.  Very cool and not so far off given all the sensors in today's gadgets.

If you're looking for a great read on the future of content and storytelling you'll definitely want to check this one out.