To paraphrase the famous line from The Graduate, "I've got one word for you: Widgets!" If you need a nice reminder that widgets are the future, particularly in the world of content, read this article in this morning's USA Today.
Several book-oriented widgets currently exist but we're only scratching the surface of what can be done with this technology. I use LibraryThing's widget on my blog. If you hover your mouse over one of the covers in the left panel you'll find a link to that book on Amazon. That's nice, but how about adding content access? Wouldn't it be cool to add some functionality and have that same widget cycle through a few excerpts from the book? Just hover over it and a pop-up appears showing a few sentences. Want more? Click on a set of horizontal arrows that will take you through all the excerpts the publisher wants to make available.
That's still pretty rudimentary. How about making it more interactive and customizable? Let's say I'm reading one of those books on a Kindle. Shouldn't I be able to highlight a passage and have it added to the content I'm able to show via my widget? Yes, the publisher would probably want to cap the amount of content someone could use for customized excerpts...or would they?
Better yet, let's say I'm reading that same book on my Kindle and I come across a paragraph I want to send to a friend. With a few quick clicks I select the excerpt and send it off to them along with a note saying, "I immediately thought of you when I read this." The excerpt shows up in your friend's e-mail in-box along with a cover image and link to buy the book. Is there any better advertising than that?!
Take that last example a step further. Let's say both of you are using the iRead app on Facebook. One future option would be to enable your friends to post book excerpts and comments on Facebook. So in the previous example, there would be a box you could check to automatically have this book, the excerpt and your comment posted on their Facebook page.
As the USA Today article notes, "there's no limit to what widgets can do."