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We Should Open an eBookstore

Reading Reinvented

CitiaI realize that's a pretty bold headline. How many times has someone proclaimed that reading has been reinvented by product X or platform Y? Too many to count, I'm sure.

So what makes things different this time? That's up to you to decide, of course, but I believe the approach Semi-Linear is taking with their Citia iPad app is game-changing.

In the past I've tried to articulate a vision for what I called "layered content" (see here and here, for example). An important attribute of layered content is that the reader can quickly dip in and out of it, only drilling down as deep as they want. Even though they'd both be utilizing the same content base, two different people with two different needs could easily accomplish their reading objectives by only accessing the depths they prefer. Speed is another critical aspect of layered content. If the material is properly structured it should enable a reader to consume it much faster than they could consume a traditional book's content.

I believe Citia is delivering on this vision...and then some.

Their first product is a reconstitution of Kevin Kelly's What Technology Wants. It's initially available only as an iOS app but my fingers are crossed the Semi-Linear team will quickly get this on the Android platform. I'll warn you that the initial release has been a bit buggy for me. I suspect a quick point release is in the works though and I'd like to think it will address the issues I've run into. If you'd prefer to wait on that, let me mention a few quotes from the product as well as Semi-Linear CEO Linda Holliday that capture the essence of the problems Citia is aiming to solve:

"...we have dozens, maybe hundreds of books waiting to be read." -- Yes! Not only do I have way too many ebooks queued up, waiting for me to get to, I've got five times as many samples of ebooks I've downloaded and would like to read.

"...we believe some of the world’s best ideas are overlooked because we’re too busy to find them." -- Ah, the discoverability problem. It's only going to get worse, folks. Citia has a terrific sharing feature that's unlike anything you've seen before. You can quickly and easily share the most granular piece of a product via email, Twitter or Facebook. 

"...ebooks are like putting radio on television." -- This is similar to what I've been saying about how the current state of ebooks is like early TV, where most shows were nothing more than radio programs in front of a camera. The point is that 99.99% of ebooks today are nothing more than quick-and-dirty ports of print to ebook. We've got to go digital-first in our product development if we're going to break free of the shackles of print.

"...ebooks should be able to adjust for prior knowledge." -- I love this point. IOW, as I read, my reading app learns to customize my future reading experience. Don't force me to read the same thing over and over if I've already consumed it. This will be an important feature of dynamic ebooks in the future.

"I have new media habits but old media tastes." -- This was a great quote by Linda in the AllThingsD video embedded below. I'm in the same boat. I've bought into the gadgets and platforms of today but I still like reading longer-form content from yesterday. Citia lets you bring these two worlds together.

If a picture is worth a thousand words a video must be worth a million. Rather than me trying to describe what Citia is and what it can do, I encourage you to watch the video below where Linda demonstrates it for the AllThingsD team.



Thanks for the great summary, Joe.

Citia is what I personally have been waiting for: an easy way to read "conceptually" instead of "horizontally." I only hope that a LOT more books will become available this way to help non-fiction readers get acquainted to classic books that have timeless value. Here's my wish list: Crossing the Chasm, Innovator's Dilemma, You are Not a Gadget, The Shallows, Bit Literacy, The Master Switch, The Power of Habit . . . and then, do some classic biographies too . . .

If you read or write non-fiction, you will want to see this app - and agree we need an Android version asap.

Dylan Wrenn

I love this platform. Really excited to see what the future has in store for the distribution of content. Another really exciting opportunity is this platform I found called Yekra. The service socially distributes content across social media platforms. If you guys are interested in giving it a look it's really worth your while.

Mohan Arun

I just wanted to mention that, there is an existing service called in which you can order any book and they condense it into a set of key readable points for you to read and a video too.

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