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The Future of Books


Hands on Nokia N96

There is something really interesting happening in the publishing world. There appears to be a groundswell of interest and action in bringing ‘digital’ to books.

Most of the talk is about getting books onto mobile devices as e-books and there are more companies setting up to resell e-books through the mobile web.

Take ‘GoSpoken‘, for instance. I downloaded a free title from the site to try. It’s pretty easy. I downloaded it onto my Nokia N96, which has the BBC iPlayer and can use either my wireless broadband or my 3G connection. The e-book is quite easy to read and I will probably read it all the way through at some stage. But it’s still just a book on a phone. A bit dull, really.

I believe that the rush to get books onto mobile devices is a step too soon right now. The number of adults who have accessed the web from their mobile phone or PDA now in the UK is small.

According to ’emarketer.com’ only 8% have accessed the web using a 3G mobile or PDA. It may sound a lot, but how many have downloaded an e-book and read it on their phone? Not many, I suspect.

I believe there is a stage to go through first before we see widespread use of mobile devices for reading books. Here’s why.

I read military history books a lot. I like the books for many reasons so I won’t wax lyrical about the smell and the feel of them. It’s more to do with the fact that I want more details. I want to see a Google Map, for instance, showing phases of a battle and locators showing where individuals took buildings with their bare hands and a bayonet. I want to read more about the people in the books and what happened to them afterwards.

So, give me a web site to visit or a desktop application to download more details. While I’m there I am quite happy for the publisher to make some recommendations of other things I might like to read. Give me a coupon to redeem in a shop or online, if you like.

For children’s books, I think the Harry Potter films had it about right. They had books which came alive with moving images embedded in the pages. That was a great idea.

Publisher have got to make e-books interesting. Not just available. Start by making printed books more detailed and compelling before rushing in to making them available just making an electronic version. Use your customers imaginations and ask them what they want. Provide them with the richness available through the Internet.

And make e-books a better experience by getting your customers used to reading them by taking them through an evolutionary experience rather than getting rushed into hyped-up mobile frenzy.


Categories: business
  1. 06/03/2009 at 10:46 am

    I was lucky enough to be given a beautiful Sony ebook for Chirstmas. I absolutely love it to bits. It feels like a book, but is slimmer and easier to carry. I have both classics and business books on it, so wherever I am I have something interesting to read. I just wish there were more titles for it.

    • arryawke
      06/03/2009 at 11:04 am

      Hi Caroline,

      It’s good to hear your enthusiasm for the Sony ebook reader. I am keen on them, particularly for newspaper subscriptions. New titles will come soon, I’m certain. And the tools themselves will become increasingly sophisticated and capable.

      The mobile phone companies and publishers are working on making the platform for content more widely available. This will be an interesting development to watch: http://www.openscreenproject.org

  1. 05/03/2009 at 6:27 pm
  2. 27/03/2014 at 11:55 pm

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