What Will It Mean When the eBook Comes First?

Doc has been a big fan of eBooks since they first started hitting the scene back in 1998 with the Rocket Ebook (which I still have in my "closet of failed technology"). The impact of eBooks will go well beyond their current use as a vehicle for Amazon and Borders to deliver best sellers and could have a big impact on the corporate market. Imagine a time when product catalogs, dealer support materials, repair manuals, and other frequently changed field publications can go out electronically and bypass the printing process entirely.

Doc has been a big fan of eBooks since they first started hitting the scene back in 1998 with the Rocket Ebook (which I still have in my "closet of failed technology"). The impact of eBooks will go well beyond their current use as a vehicle for Amazon and Borders to deliver best sellers and could have a big impact on the corporate market. Imagine a time when product catalogs, dealer support materials, repair manuals, and other frequently changed field publications can go out electronically and bypass the printing process entirely.

So, I particularly enjoyed this recent blog posting on idealog by Mike Shatzkin, who wonders what it will mean to the publishing industry when the eBook comes first, before (or instead of) a print version. Mike raises some interesting questions, and he makes the case that our definition of what makes a "book" will certainly change:

"As I mentioned briefly in my last post, I have lately been turning my thinking to a huge shift I think might just be around the corner: That editors and authors will have to start thinking 'ebook first.' When we get to that point, it will cause huge upheaval. And personnel changes.

"This will require some radical changes in thinking:

  1. "Space" will no longer be scarce. That means that nothing of value should be discarded; the question becomes how to best employ any thoughts, writing, or images, not whether to include them. (Warning of a likely unintended consequence: putting mediocre material in the finished product can become a temptation, and that does not achieve desired effects.)
  2. Background material of any kind will become useful. For fiction, that might mean more in-depth character descriptions or biographies. For nonfiction, that might mean source material.
  3. Multiple media are desirable. Anything that is relevant to the book in video or audio form or art of any kind should be included. If rights and permissions are a problem, then linking out to the material wherever it is on the Web becomes an option.
  4. Linking is essential. The author should be recording deep-link information for every useful resource tapped during the book's creation."

There is a lot more from Mike, and even for in-house corporate publishers, the article presents some interesting concepts.

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