We can all agree that when it comes to eBooks, we’re still at the very early stages of their existence. Like early video games or early films, we have yet to push the boundaries that will ultimately define the format.
In a piece for Gizmodo, businessman Kane Hsieh asks why we persist in creating eBooks that are still grounded on the model of a physical book. Like when television shows were simply filmed stage plays, he believes we’re at the beginning of a long period of innovation — if only we allow ourselves to get the technology and the business model right.
The problem with eBooks as they exist now is the lack of user experience innovation. Like the first television shows that only played grainy recordings of theater shows, the eBook is a new medium that has yet to see any true innovation, and resorts to imitating an old medium. This is obvious in skeuomorphic visual cues of eBook apps. Designers have tried incredibly hard to mimic the page-turns and sound effects of a real book, but these ersatz interactions satisfy a bibliophile as much as a picture of water satisfies a man in the desert.
Which is exactly why eBooks should keep changing. Only when authors conceive of eBooks as something different than a physical book (which, we’ve established, aren’t going anywhere), will eBooks really take off and come into their own. Something that Hsieh points out is the rise of serialized fiction — authors can now write books and release chapters as they go — imagine receiving input from your fan-base on what should happen next, or where you’ve gone wrong and possible corrections you can make.
Another great point he brings up is the idea of bundling print and digital books together. He describes how in other technology shifts, like the one from a CD to MP3 to putting them on the cloud, you only had to buy the song once. Yet with books and eBooks, you end up buying the book several times as you buy it physically, digitally, and then sometimes again for digital as readers shift. He makes the great point that the time is coming for a flat price for a book, both digital and physical, to be yours in perpetuity.
That brings him to his last point, which is the idea of a eBook subscription service, similar to the music-sharing site Spotify. Book subscriptions hearken back to the age of book-of-the-month clubs, when you would get a different book each month. Now, Hsieh, and a lot of businesses, are pushing for a subscription to all the eBooks you would want to read for a single monthly rate.
These are all interesting ideas, and definitely are exciting for fans of both reading and technology.
Do you think eBooks will continue to change? How so? And would you buy a subscription to all eBooks? Let us know!