Netly: The Third Screen

Archive for the ‘e-books’ Category

A new report by Flurry out today says that Apple’s iPhone is quickly becoming the ebook reader of choice for many, and could steal market share from Amazon’s Kindle.  Flurry claims that in October, one out of every five new apps that launched on the iPhone was a book.

But while Flurry’s chart (above) measures the number of new eBook apps there are, it doesn’t tell you if anyone’s actually reading them.  It’s a little like the “Russian bride 4u” emails – they somehow make it to your in-box, but who opens these?

Another point made by John Herrman at Gizmodo – he searched the app store for the book Treasure Island – turns out it’s available for purchase as a standalone app from over a dozen different developers.  Because it’s a free, public domain book, it’s a cinch for developers to drop the text in an app.  Does the fact that creating an eBook app is a relatively simple process have anything to do with the hostile takeover?

If anyone reading this blog (or any other blog) is devouring Treasure Island on their iPhone, I think I would like to know.

Barnes & Noble’s new Nook eReader will come with LendMe technology, which will allow you to lend your e-books to friends and family.   A big win for consumers.   The blogosphere is completely in love with LendMe, identifying this as the Nook’s #1 advantage over the Kindle.

But according to Publishers Lunch, execs at most of the biggest trade houses have not yet agreed to participate in LendMe.  They’re thinking how do we do this without killing revenues and ourselves? One Nook reviewer outlines a few different lending scenarios book publishers might consider.   Everyone’s favorite Nook talking point isn’t set in stone.

The most underreported advantage of the Nook over the Kindle: The 40,000 B&N booksellers who will serve as in-store cheerleaders and educators for the device.  (a poor man’s Apple Genius if you will).  Customers will be able to take the Nook for a test drive at B&Ns around the country.

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imagesI was flying to New York yesterday reading my Kindle and, and, as is almost always the case these days, the guy next to me asked, “What do you think of that thing?”

People are super curious about Kindles, and the gamut of e-readers. If Forrester Research’s recent estimates are true, 3 million E-Ink-based devices will be sold over the holidays. I actually think this is a bad thing: many of these buyers will be unhappy.

Which is, sort of, what I told my seat mate. I love my Kindle, as far as it goes. It’s a fine way to read books. But that’s all it is: An e-book reader. If you go out and spend $300 on any E-Ink device this year, be prepared to be enormously disappointed within six months, when all the new color-screen devices come out.

Yes, consumer technology changes fast. But the pace of change on third-screen devices is breakneck, unlike anything we’ve ever experienced. So much cool stuff is in the pipeline that only the folks who love being early adopters will have the stamina to keep up with it all.

This is a new trend. In the olden days, when you bought a desktop or even a laptop, you could get 3-4 years out of the thing without feeling that you were stuck with an antique. Not so with e-readers. In fact, as Brian Lam pointed out yesterday in a Gizmodo rant, they’re already obsolete.

The only good thing you can say about e-readers is, at least you will always be able to read your library of e-books on them.

My former colleague Erick Schonfeld tweeted that question the other day.

I replied, “Links are for browsing the Web, not for lean-back reading experiences like books and mags.” Actually, I tweeted back something with more typos than that, but whatever, Erick replied:

“Right, I got that. So you would strip out all links from digital magazines, even if they are being read on a Web tablet?”

As usual, Erick got right to the heart of the problem, namely: How closed off from the Web will digital magazines on tablets be? This is a huge question because if the answer is, e-mags won’t be cut off from the Web at all, it leaves the barn door open, doesn’t it? Because if e-mags on tablets are just like Web sites, and there are links pointing you away from the product, we’re right back to the wide-open Web again. And we know that people don’t expect to pay for stuff on the Web.

But if you cut off the digital magazine from the Web, isn’t that a bit, well, Draconian? Don’t readers expect to be able to, at the very least, augment their understanding by using Wikipedia or (fill in your favorite reference site here)? And likewise, shouldn’t a digital magazine have a variety of Web services built in—news feeds from the mag’s website, say, or Twitter feeds?

There are no good answers to these questions yet, in part because there are no good examples yet of either digital magazines, or the tablets that will support them. I think many approaches will be tried once the good devices start to arrive.

I suspect though that the first digital magazines will use a less-is-more approach. This works for e-books, which don’t have links in the text, of course. Similarly, magazines are meant to be read—or at least “paged” through—cover to cover. Why would we put links or other devices that would pull the reader away from the product? I think the first-gen e-mags will assume that readers are subscribing so that they can immerse themselves in the magazine itself. The experience is similar to how many apps on the iPhone work—if you want to look something up on Wikipedia, you must leave the app. Yes, there are some apps that allow a kind of in-app browsing, but that tends to be a fairly gnarly experience and generally serves to keep users within the app.

So in summary: Magazines don’t need links. They should be like wonderful applications, surprising and delightful and fluid to use. If you want to browse the Web, close the app.

I assume Erick is interested in this because TechCrunch is working on its own tablet, which is really just a net-tablet. Not that there’s anything wrong with that and in the end, he/TechCrunch might be right—i.e. “It’s the Web, stupid.” But I hope not.

imagesApple’s rumored tablet has become all things to all people. I mean, honestly, what can’t this marvelous, as-yet unseen and unannounced device do?

Depending on who’s speculating, it will save the music business, fix the newspaper business, and, in today’s imaging of Cupertino’s tabula rasa, at O’Reilly Radar, reboot the book business.

It’s a fascinating time in the history of media. The situation has become so desperate that virtually every media company is looking to Steve Jobs to leads it to the promised land. No matter how great this mythic device is, it’s bound to be a let down. That said, I think it will totally bail out the magazine business.



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