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My new job

Coming soon: A universal ereading app

Last May I decided to stop buying Kindle ebooks. I had already amassed a nice Kindle library but I felt it was time to move on, particularly since B&N was about to release the industry's first eInk device with built-in lighting. I bought their Nook with Glowlight on day one and proceeded to buy my ebooks from them. Over the past year I've occasionally bought ebooks from Google Play as well.

About six months ago I ditched that Nook eInk device and decided to do all my reading on my Nexus 7 tablet. I've been using the Nook app for Android since then and have grown increasingly frustrated with how long it takes to load longer books. Then I opened the latest version of the Kindle app on my Nexus and was blown away. It's so much nicer than the Nook app.

Since I'm no longer employed by a book publisher I also decided it's OK to start acting like all those other consumers who have flocked to Amazon for the best prices. I figure if most publishers aren't going to stand up and call a predator a predator, why should I? :-) The simple truth is the industry needs to change and that's exactly what's happening. The rate of change is just much faster (and painful for publishers) because Amazon is able to dictate so many of the new rules. As an outsider I'm starting to think maybe that won't be such a bad thing in the end. (Quite a change of opinion, don't you think?)

The result is I now have an ebook library that spans the platforms of Amazon, B&N and Google. I could use a tool like Calibre to break all the DRM and convert the files so they can be read on any platform. That's a hassle though. What I'd rather do is simply read any book in one reader app without breaking the law or going through a conversion process.

That concept might become more than a dream before too long. I'm told by ReDigi CEO John Ossenmacher that his team is working on a universal ereading app. You might have heard of ReDigi. It's the platform that lets you resell your digital music today and is planning to offer the same service for your ebooks tomorrow. John tells me that the ReDigi ereader app won't break any DRM and it will allow consumers to read all their ebooks from multiple retailers in one place. So no longer will you have to remember whether you bought that last ebook from Amazon or Google. You'll have your entire library in the ReDigi bookshelf and will be able to read them on a tablet without switching apps.

Sounds too good to be true, right? I would tend to agree, but John's team is pretty impressive and I wouldn't bet against them.

Let's assume for a moment that this universal ereading app is something consumers would opt into. You'd download it, tell it to scan your computer/tablet/phone/whatever and let it determine which of your ebooks were legitimately purchased from a major retailer or publisher. It would then move all those books into the ReDigi bookshelf where you could both read them and resell them. Kindle books would be on the same virtual shelf as Nook books, just like they should be.

Would consumers warm up to this platform? Would publishers? And is it possible that the downward pricing pressure would ease up a bit when consumers realize their ebooks will have finally have some resale value? 


Steve Weiss

Let's hope ReDigi can make their universal e-reader app a reality, Joe, and kudos to them for pursuing an open solution. We'd love to see our readers at ApressOpen be able to access titles from a single source, should they collect them from multiple sellers (even though they'll be made available for free).
Disclosure: Joe and I were colleagues at our last gig. Keep up the terrific community leadership, Joe!

Martyn Daniels

breath of fresh air and you have seen the other side.
Regidi has significant vision and although they are fighting hard they may end up like SpiralFrog as a prototype for another service as they did for Spotify.
being able to authenticate, store and securely delete are pivotal for digital resell and that would seem the logical conclusion from the universal vision of ReDigi describe

Barbara Miller

I like the idea of one device for books purchased from a variety of sources. Still not sure about used ebooks. We like to say we gave up the artifact of the pbook and I still think that holds true for the used market, though a limited or discounted single share may be in order with family and friends or to have on another of one's devices. Considering we can still borrow from libraries and ebooks generally cost less. Perhaps I will see it differently later on, but this is how I see it now.


Minor nitpick:
"You'd download it, tell it to scan your computer/tablet/phone/whatever and let it determine which of your ebooks were legitimately purchased from a major retailer or publisher. "

That is what got ReDigi in trouble in the lawsuit, so they changed things around. Their current model is that you install the app first and then buy music. I'd bet that when ReDigi starts handling ebooks they will use similar procedures.

I've been watching this for a while, actually:

And I think a lot of readers would go for it. Look at how popular Bookshout was when it launched. That service only let you import from the Kindle and Nook ebookstores, but it still generated a lot of buzz.


Another way of looking at this is that publishers have a choice: Drop DRM and leverage that as part of an exclusive value proposition for to drive direct to consumer sales OR they can wait for an universal e-reader app to dilute the value of that strategy.

Deborah Emin

This is a great idea. We sell all our e-books directly and exclusively from our website ( and have always called Amazon a predator, Joe, just so you know. What I wouldn't give to have an app that all our customers can use and that won't necessitate formating our e-books and then having to explain in a timely fashion to all the folks who have never downloaded an e-book before away from the native site that this is a very easy process.

Surprisingly, I am finding just how many people don't read digitally. It seems to be a larger segment of the population than I would have thought at this point. But many don't like it and won't be happy learning on their own how to download an e-book. It is a funny world we live in.

As to the pricing issue. If I didn't receive daily a different article telling me that e-book prices are rising, are falling, are going through the roof, I would say that there needs to be a way to tell customers what the real costs are of creating an e-book. And to inform them of the Economics 101 they never studied about why Amazon can do what it does and why a company of my size can't. Again, we live in a wonderfully changing world where there are too many choices without much reliable information as to how to intelligently make those choices.

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