"Gutenberg 2.0" That's what this Boston.com article calls the future vision from BEA. It's worth reading but I feel compelled to add my two cents on a few points:
I think they're suggesting the music industry could have averted disaster by just selling singles CDs in brick-and-mortar stores. I have a hard time believing that. The music business wasn't affected so much by the need for the granularity of content as it was by the immediate gratification of e-distribution. IOW, a bunch of singles on CDs in your local music store wouldn't have stopped the Napster tsunami.
The article goes on to say that sales of individual chapters will help the book publishing industry avoid the same fate. Although I think there's an opportunity for e-chapter sales I'm starting to believe that opportunity has plenty of limits. Certain genres simply don't lend themselves to it but others certainly do. The more important point is that quick print to e- conversions aren't likely to move the needle much, and simply selling print chapters in e-format falls into that category.
...(Symtio is) an alternative to Amazon, which with its Kindle reader represents a "closed marketplace." Users can buy its e-books only at the website.
The Kindle is viewed as a closed marketplace but that's starting to change, no thanks to Amazon! At O'Reilly we sell e-book bundles of our titles which include Kindle editions in .mobi format with no DRM. So in this case, the publisher has established its own e-storefront. Kindle owners don't have to go to amazon.com to buy Kindle content. Other (smart) publishers are likely to follow suit. I also expect to see other non-publisher e-storefronts pop up to serve Kindle owners with paid content (think Feedbooks, but for paid content).
One galley that seemed to exemplify several trends was for "Level 26," the first "digi-novel" from Anthony E. Zuiker. Every 15 to 20 pages, Zuiker tells the reader to log into level26press.com to access a "cyberbridge" video that builds off the printed product.
That's asking a lot of the reader. I also worry about the mixed media solution. Someone reading a print book probably doesn't want to go back and forth between the book and a computer screen. The better approach is to turn this into a 100% e-product, not one that straddles the fence between print and e-. It sounds like a product that's tailor made for Vook.tv, btw.
I'm with you, Joe. Books and how they are used (read) are a very different medium than music.
As for Zucker's book, I blogged about it last September when Variety ran a story about. Zucker commented by, for some reason, accusing me of hating his idea.
Posted by: Walt Shiel | June 08, 2009 at 11:44 AM
Ultimately, at some point, when Kindle and/or whatever e-book delivery system(s) is(are) king, why will anyone remember, much less continue to buy, printed books?
Posted by: Stephen Tiano | June 08, 2009 at 11:51 AM
The recording industry did do itself a great diservice during the entirity of the CD era. The full length album had never really been a mainstay before. The 45, used for both singles and EPs, dominated sales and helped to launch the careers of many pop music acts. They were also inexpensive, which benefited customers. The compact disc didn't have an 77/45 split, and the major labels started pushing bands to produce full albums to largely support two or three singles. Basically, the labels watered down their own product. Releasing singles on compact disc might have prevented this, but not likely. The late 80s through 2004 were particularly dark periods for business acumen in the music industry.
I don't think that people could honestly get into buying a book chapter-by-chapter. However, I do think that authors could (and likely will) start writing shorter works. The advantage, as I see it, is two fold - one it's a faster turn around for the author, which means they can write more and cast a wider net for payment. The second advantage is that in an electronic format, the author doesn't have to worry about the physical constraints of a book.
And great job on treating all formats equally, and giving the reader the ability to choose which format works best for them.
Posted by: Bradley Robb | June 08, 2009 at 12:13 PM
You wrote: Ultimately, at some point, when Kindle and/or whatever e-book delivery system(s) is(are) king, why will anyone remember, much less continue to buy, printed books?
Because there is not enough money in a Kindle/e-book for the publisher and the author to survive. In order to produce a book for Kindle (et. al.), it still has to be found, nurtured, paid for, edited, formatted, illustrated (in many cases), and so forth. I believe that Kindle may well produce a long-term surge for print books. Time will tell.
Posted by: Theodore P. Savas | June 09, 2009 at 10:02 AM
I think this is a bad idea. The only reason I might want to read the first few chapters of a book is to see if I want to read the whole thing or purchase the book. If I go into a bookstore, I usually have enough time to read the opening chapter of a book before deciding to buy a book. On many websites, like Amazon, I can get a sample of the text for free or even several free sample chapters like at Baen science fiction. The only reason I might want to read a chapter at a time is to see if I was going to buy the whole book.
Posted by: Book Calendar | June 09, 2009 at 01:02 PM
I disagree with the comment that 'tps' made about the financial viability of ebooks.
The problem isn't the format. Ebooks can easily provide the same ROI as print books (possibly better ROI) if publishers do what O'Reilly is doing. That is, publishers get smart and follow Joe's advice - set up your own e-storefront. It's the internet for god's sake, there is no location dominance. It's content dominance, O'Reilly is proof.
Joe, I'm with you on the growth of non-publisher e-storefronts popping up. There is a huge gap in the market (one that I would love to fill myself) if done right. I'm sure you know how this could work, Joe ... bye-bye distribution cut, bye-bye retailer dominance. We're talking Co-op ... but not. You don't have to go to Amazon to buy a Kindle edition ebook. For a publisher that should be a focus of their ebook strategy ... after all, it is Amazon's Achilles' heel.
Posted by: Chris Bates | June 09, 2009 at 08:08 PM
The whole music revolution happened when music files became separable from their containers. The eBook device model (e.g. Kindle) is based on a failed and outdated model of content-control where the book is tied to whatever device can display its format. People want data that is independent from its display medium. Remember when the music industry hated cassette tapes? Sony got sued for inventing the betaMax. Now Amazon is the single source for the player and the data files. Do you really want to throw a Kindle in the landfill every two years just so you can ride the hardware upgrade escalator forever?
And frankly, I don't think people will want to lug around a laptop, a phone AND an eReader. It's simply not necessary.
Also, eBooks deliver the type without the typesetting. The design of a book is an integral part of the overall reading experience, and we do judge books by their covers. Remember when going to a record store was like a visit to an art gallery? The little JPEG that comes with your music download pales in comparison to a 12" album cover. Bigger IS better - and book covers are no different.
Check out novelist and songwriter Richard Geller's site at http://www.aSiteAboutSomething.com Discover his books in a 3D world based on the novels, sample a whole book online and 100 pages of each of the other two. Download his desktop eBook readers developed in Adobe AIR that exactly duplicate the look and feel of the printed version. (The first book is a freebie).
The whole industry is jabbering about this format and that hardware. The problem isn't that difficult unless you view it as another format battle between less-than-visionary big industry players. It's time that writers - not booksellers - started getting smart and defining what Gutenberg 2.0 really is.
Posted by: Dave Bricker | June 10, 2009 at 09:03 AM
I'm all for covers, Chris--for books and albums. Looking at an illo on a screen is just not the same as holding the encased product in your hand. Unfortunately they're fading, with no perceived reason to go to the expense.
Posted by: Mike Banks | July 01, 2009 at 08:33 PM