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My 2016 ebook marketplace hopes and wishes

Sylvester-1097596_1920Rather than speculate on what might happen in the ebook sector this year I thought it would be wiser to simply list the developments I’d like to see. So although some, and perhaps all, of these are a long shot, here’s my short list of hopes and wishes for the ebook market in the New Year:

Less DRM – Publishers continue to be their own worst enemy with digital rights management. It’s part of what makes it so hard for publishers to create an effective direct channel and it provides nothing more than a false sense of security. As I’ve said before, if a reader really wants to unlock and share an ebook there are a number of freely available DRM-removal utilities that are just a few clicks away. Plus, most readers have no idea where their mobi and EPUB files are stored on their devices; those who do know the location probably already have a DRM-removal tool on their computer.

Better direct-to-consumer options – Once a publisher abandons DRM it suddenly gets much easier to create a frictionless direct-to-consumer (D2C) solution. And of course I’m not suggesting publishers should abandon retailers. But it’s time for publishers to diversify their channel strategy and focus more on the one channel they have 100% control over: their D2C channel. As I’ve said before, don’t assume “if you build it, they will come.” You need compelling reasons for consumers to buy direct (see here, here and here, for example).

New, sustainable unlimited ebook subscriptions – My Oyster subscription expired a few days ago, consistent with the sunset plans Oyster announced a few months ago. Oyster itself is about to expire soon, the victim of an unsustainable business model. The all-you-can-read subscription model is not dead though. I’m convinced the way forward is with topic verticals such as sports, religion, cooking, etc. They need to offer more than long-form book content and they need to focus on building community. Think “membership” and the old AMEX line, “membership has its privileges.”

Better notes and annotations, outside the book – I’ve read quite a few ebooks over the years and I’ve highlighted a lot of passages. I’ve also added notes to several, but not as many as I should have. The reason I haven’t annotated more is because I know those notes are stuck inside the book. I want a quick and easy way to export my highlights and annotations, collate them into other documents and make them fully searchable. For example, I’d love to see ebook applications embrace Evernote functionality, making it super easy to sync all my highlights and annotations to an Evernote folder.

I hope we see progress on all of these fronts in 2016 and I hope that the New Year is a wonderful one for you, your family and your organization.

Comments

Laurie

One of the biggies I'd like to see in the world of ebooks is better organization tools for ebooks. The lack of ability to organize the books I already have in some meaningful way is one of the principle reasons that I am buying fewer Kindle books than I used to buy.

I used to be an impulse buyer of books. When I saw a book that looked interesting...if it was only a few dollars...I'd purchase it because I wanted it...didn't want to forget about it and miss it. However, time has passed. I now have thousands of Kindle books (those I purchased, those I've read, those that were free, those I've not read, those I will never read). These books are in dozens of categories and there isn't a good, easy, way of organizing ALL of them either on my device or in my Kindle Cloud.

I'd love to see the ability to shelve books I've read so that I don't have to paw through them when I'm looking for something new to read. I'd like to be able to categorize books by their topic.

Without organization my Kindle is like a black hole...no better or worse than trying to find a title at Amazon...so why should I buy it now when I can as easily wait and search for it on Amazon when I'm actually ready to read it?

The biggest change I'd like to see is better organization for Kindle titles on my device and in my cloud...so that it ports back and forth between the two...so things can be toggled...much as it is at Goodreads...but so that I don't have to do the same work in multiple places.

Doug Lessing

Joe,

Thanks for the article. Great way to start off 2016. At Firebrand we agree about the need for publishers to rethink DRM and have recently added a Social DRM option to our Direct2Reader ebook delivery platform. Publishers now have the option of Adobe DRM, Social DRM and no DRM at all. We have had some publishers who have opted for no DRM for some time and have been successfully build a direct ebook channel. Other publishers, however, are beginning to show interest in a Social DRM as an alternative to Adobe which allows portability of the content and ease of reading, with the added benefit of visible and invisible markings. An additional benefit includes the ability to to embed a customized message to the reader which can include an explanation of how they can and can't use that content or even further branding or advertising. We see a groundswell of adoption of alternative DRM in other countries - Germany for example - and are hopeful that US publishers will follow to enhance their direct to reader channel. I believe we will see publishers experiment with specific genre's or imprints before widespread adoption of Social DRM for their complete list. Thanks again for the article.

Susan Ruszala

I'll echo what Doug says above and add that the Social DRM option he outlines is also available on NetGalley (via Firebrand's Cloud Services platform). So far we've seen genuine interest in a Social DRM/watermarking feature but slow adoption. Our goal has always been to balance the content owner's rights and responsibilities with the ease of access for readers, using the best available tools.

Adrianne

"Without organization my Kindle is like a black hole..."

When I was shopping for ereaders, I noticed that Kindle didn't allow me to add a memory card, meaning that I would be limited to the built-in memory. I opted for a device where I could add a memory card, all of my books live on that. This does mean that I'm converting/uploading books from my desktop to reader, but the plus is that I can organize them however I wish. Right now, I've got approximately six main folders, with umpteen sub-folders which I arrange (& rearrange) as the mood strikes me.

Jorrit Linnert

My wish for 2016 is that publishers of ePubs which have integrated scripts will be required to alter their filename extension of said books, say for instance epubx.
This way readers can avoid epubs with embedded scripts because they don't want their ePub reader to become a cesspool of virii and bugs that phone home whenever they have the opportunity to do so. I was astonished to see that the ePub platform did not learn the lessons taught by PDF and other volatile document formats that contain scripts.

Glenn McCreedy

In light of Google's "acqhire" of key Google staffers, it's possible that Oyster could see new life in offering books in topic verticals. I think they would have to meld with the Google search engine to make that viable somehow. Perhaps some targeted service that would push content to subscribers. Still, a tough row to hoe with all the competition, including tons of free content available.

Your other point about building community may be more in the direction of a potential renaissance for Oyster. Membership is about value delivered, otherwise why bother? It's got to be more than "all you can eat."

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