“Lovers of print are simply confusing the plate for the food.”
― Douglas Adams
I previously posted about how the way digital books are being experienced is changing them from artifacts to something more ubiquitous. The container, the package, the physical thing is disappearing distilled for the consumer down to just the content itself. This is new and exciting but still however we try and force ebooks back into a familiar shape.
A fixed-layout epub forces the digital content into the shape of the print book contain much like an ice cube retains the shape of what it was frozen in. But the content delivered to digital devices is fluid like water. It wants to take the shape of its container. User-centered fluid design is not a skill set most traditional book publishers are deep in. The years of experience that upper management has relied on suddenly doesn’t apply as clearly. Selling to a bookseller and wholesaler is not the same as selling to a consumer. Right now we are trying desperately to keep digital books frozen like an ice cube in the form of a print book. We zip web-pages into single units so that we can place them on digital bookshelves and sell them in web based replicas of bookstores. We desperately try to avoid selling to models Overdrive and the Kindle Lending Library that don’t mimic what we are used to with print. But like ice digital content wants to be fluid and like ice its will slowly melt to fit the container.
I have been working a lot from home lately and I like to listen to music while I work. I listen to the steaming music channels on my cable TV, my favorite radio station from when I lived in Seattle streaming from my desktop. My mp3 player and CDs are used less and less since they are not directly connected to my house. The act of plugging in an mp3 player to a usb port or placing a disc in the disc drive is embarrassingly now too much effort. My TV and computers are all part of the utilities I pay my cable company for monthly. As I think of it now I don’t think I have purchased an individual song or album in over a year. I have a screen in almost every room of my house that wirelessly fills my home with all the music I need.
The containers are changing shape. The separation of TV, radio and the internet is disappearing. With things like SmartGlass I will soon be able to sit down with my coffee, turn on Good Morning America to watch the news, if there is a story I want to know more about with an Xbox Kinect on my TV I can swipe my hand from the sofa and call up a newspaper article from today’s paper. While there check the latest Doonesbury. I move to my desk and check my email, opening Good Morning America in a window in the corner. They interview and author I like and I add his new book to my reading list by clicking a link on the bottom of the GMA window. I Skype the office for a meeting then make a sandwich, take my tablet out back, turn on some jazz over the outdoor speakers and read the book I saw the interview about that morning. All this brought to my be my broadband provider.
In the last year as publishers we spent a lot of time worrying about the influence of Amazon and Apple on our business. Before that we worried about Google scanning books. As our digital worlds converge it turns out the biggest influencer on the future of books and how they are delivered and consumed may be China Telecom. They are the world’s largest broadband service provider by a significant margin. http://bit.ly/NmJFAH