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ebooks – the future
Two contrasting views of the future of ebooks caught my attention this week. Some of the news was positive such as the news that Microsoft is investing $300m in an ebook service with Barnes and Noble (reported by the BBC and the Telegraph), and then in news that 3M are launching a Cloud Library aimed at allowing library customers to borrow ebooks via kiosks.
The Microsoft news seems to be largely being reported as being Microsoft looking at getting a stake in the ebook and digital content world. It looks like it potentially links the Nook ebook content into the microsoft operating system world and puts Microsoft in the same space as Apple and Amazon. There’s an interesting quote on the BBC website “Our complementary assets will accelerate e-reading innovation across a broad range of Windows devices, enabling people to not just read stories, but to be part of them,” said Andy Lees, president at Microsoft. And that seems to me to be envisaging an e-content experience that is far beyond current ebook look and feel.
The 3M solution is a very different type of product, aimed at a particular market (i.e. libraries) and including a pretty much total solution from the content through the applications to kiosks (a 3M speciality) and to their own ereader devices that are designed to be lent by libraries to people who don’t have their own devices. It looks to owe a lot to 3M’s long experience of self-service in libraries and looks like a well-thought through solution. Adoption will no doubt depend on price models and the content that is available. It’s interesting to see 3M getting into the content reseller market and all that is implied there. It will be interesting to see if this appears in other markets such as the UK.
or maybe not?
With a different perspective on the future of ebooks I was fascinated to read Jani Patokallio’s blog post yesterday Why e-books will soon be obsolete (and no it’s not just because of DRM). It’s particularly interesting to hear the views of someone from within the publishing industry on e-books and their future. His view is very much that the problems of long-term sustainability are partly around territorial rights for publications which is essentially the publishing industry’s attempt to take the print model and impose it on the digital world. And unsurprisingly that model doesn’t work very well when set against the culture of the web of worldwide access. He also picks up on the limitations of the ebook format(s) in comparison with what can be done on the web. It’s a really interesting read.
It seems to me that the ebook publishing world is a very immature market that has grown massively in the last few years. Seeing that growth in the market I can see why technology companies such as Microsoft would want to have a stake in that type of content. It seems to me (and perhaps it is rather obvious) that once you have a reasonably competent piece of technology, it is the content that you can access on it that sells the technology product when you are talking about ebook readers. For libraries I can see why an off-the-shelf solution for lending ebooks is attractive.