All ebook readers must tear down this wall

All ebook readers must tear down this wall

Summary: At the end of the day I don't care whether my ebook reader uses a Kindle format, an iPhone format, or an open format. What I want, and what I want for my readers, is open access to the great online world beyond my book.


ZDNet's Jason Perlow today offers a great piece criticizing Amazon for playing proprietary games with its Kindle ebook reader.

But looking at Amazon's own Kindle site, it's clear there is a larger problem at work than whether Apple and Amazon devices are compatible.

That is whether any ebook reader will be compatible with the Internet.

I am currently working on the second edition of my book about Moore's Law. A lot has changed since I first wrote it in 2002.

What hasn't changed is I still can't really publish it in the way I want to publish it.

My research style when writing a book is much like the one I use with blog posts. I use the Internet and reference through links.

When I wrote the first edition of this book I had to turn everything into standard footnotes, and the links in those footnotes were essentially worthless.

They still are.

This is not a technology problem. It's a problem of corporate politics and business models.

Amazon's Kindle only links to the Internet when its business model permits it. That is, when they can charge you for the content you download. It's essentially a big-screen cellphone, operated on a cellular business model.

There are two reasons for this. The obvious one is that Google Books would kill Amazon in terms of free content, given an open Internet connection. The less-obvious one is that content providers won't buy one.

All the objections being lodged against Google Books, whether from authors and publishers on the one side or privacy advocates on the other, are essentially objections to the Internet itself, and the Internet business model.

Content owners still want every access to their content monetized with cash, not ads. Privacy advocates still fear the implications of a truly interconnected society.

At the end of the day I don't care whether my ebook reader uses a Kindle format, an iPhone format, or an open format. What I want, and what I want for my readers, is open access to the great online world beyond my book.

We're still not getting it and until we do ebook readers will not break through in the mass market. Nor should they.

Topics: Browser, Amazon, Hardware, Mobility

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  • Publishers don't get it

    Good post Dana.

    The publishing industry is having a hard time. they don't understand what direction to go in.

    But the more they tighten their grip, the more sand will run out between their fingers.

  • My preferred format?

    Paper. Hard or soft back and preferably
    on sale at the warehouse clearance prices.

    I can generally pick up a week's worth of
    reading at B&N on the cheap. Lets me
    add to the writers I like at an affordable
    rate and try out new writers (new for me)
    at a price that won't make me shudder.

    The even better part of the paper based
    books is that I can loan them to friends
    and keep them going for a long time.

    After that I can take them to the local VA
    Clinic. who will transport them to the
    area's VA Hospital. That way these books
    will continued to be shared until they fall

    In the situations above we're talking about
    fiction, not non-fiction, especially in fast
    developing technical areas.

    For these it might be interesting to see
    them in electronic form that is open to all
    platforms. This should also allow
    downloading all or part to a mobile
    device, like the smart phone.

    Electronic formats also allow for links to
    be included, which wold be very handy.
    Just as handy is the ability to download
    upgrades periodically, either by including
    it in the price or by establishing a
    subscription model.

    • If You Travel, Ken_Z, You'll Appreciate eBooks More

      Hauling 10 - 30 lbs. of paperbacks from one airport to the next can be daunting - and expensive. That's when an eBook really comes into its own....

      • RE: All ebook readers must tear down this wall

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  • RE: All ebook readers must tear down this wall

    There are some problems with electronic distribution.
    1. Most of the traditional money came from controlling the distribution. People paid for "books". They didn't look at ads to get books. They didn't donate what they thought a book was worth, they paid for the paper and the print. If my favorite book was interrupted at every cliff-hanger or plot reveal by a shampoo commercial I would quickly hoard as many hard cover books as I can to get through such a horrendous time.

    2. It is almost impossible to make money from media on the Internet. A few popular music groups have made some money but they have the advantage of giving live concerts to build a brand name for themselves. The Internet becomes an advertising tool for these bands. They also create tee-shirts and other hardware products that the Internet can serve as a store front for. Books don't have these advantages. Basically ever author on the planet would have to start building brand names and I think most of them would rather spend their time "writing". Live performances from authors would probably bust. Most of them don't film well and who really wants to go to a "reading". Basicaly authors would have to rely on "donation" schemes and advertising for other products to make a living. Some of the authors might be able to design tee-shirts and other "stuff" to buy through a sales portal but realistically this would be a lot of work that they should be devoting to things like "research" and "writing".

    3. All I need is the correct amount of lighting and I can access my media. I can access a printed book in the woods, on a picnic, in a moving car, on an air plane, etc. Most e-readers offer some amount of battery life but until they are solar powered from a 100 Watt light bulb and can store several days worth of charge, they can't really compete against a paper book.

    4. Hardcover books are persistent on a decade to decade basis. I have a stable of favorite authors and I read their novels and books multiple times over several decades. I browse through my personal collection, find an old favorite, and read it again.
    You can't do that with digital media. E-Readers have a shelf life of only a few years and digital formats can change with the wind. End users would have to spend a lot of time just managing their media and making sure all of the various file formats are up to date and still readable by some device. That is a lot of commitment for something that should be as simple as a personal book collection.

    The last point is actually for me the killing point for e-books. If I can't be guaranteed I can re-read my collection in 20 years, I am not interested in buying the book. I don't buy books now I don't intend to re-read. I read them from the library, if I like them enough to re-read them, I buy them.
    So persistent storage is my main concern.
    • Thanks for a great post

      It's not impossible to make money from existing
      media online. Last time I checked this medium
      was quite profitable.

      And I'm talking about allowing people to enter
      the Internet from the book, having an integrated
      • What about Pirates?

        Basically e-books face the same daunting task as the Music and Movie industries.
        For the Music Industry the production companies are probably going to either change their way of monetising music or disappear. My guess is you will see more music companies offering marketing support, technical help for setting up websites, and doing digital store fronts for related fan base products.

        Movie companies are in real trouble and I see a 50/50 chance that big Hollywood movies may someday be a legend of the past. Small Indie movies will use the internet as a store front for movie related merchandising and advertising.

        Authors and Publishers will need to look at this as well.

        Traditional media is not going to take down pirates and this changes the landscape of the market place. Instead of capitalizing the entire user market, you are going to get money from only a small percentage that will either donate or pay even if they could get it for free. As more and more people steal media including e-books, authors and possible publishers will need to go to a "donation" method or advertising model. Some authors make money from speaking engagements and I guess they could build brand names for themselves.
        Another idea would go back to illuminated books. If you like the e-book you might buy a special hard cover physical book that includes artwork or special fonts.

        Trying to lock access to a website is futile especially if your device supports USB and PDFs.
  • What is with thought process that all

    should work for free? Do you?

    [i]Content owners still want every access to their content monetized with cash, not ads[/i]

    What is wrong with that? The people creating the books wish to get paid, as no-one is giving them a free mortgage, or giving them free food for life (to my knowledge)

    [i]What I want, and what I want for my readers, is open access to the great online world beyond my book.[/i]

    Then create a website, and put it online for free. Better yet, hire someone to design an Application for the iphone, offer it for free, then the content for free.

    Or create your own Kindle like device.

    If Amazon spent all that money for creating the Kindle, then should they not be allowed to earn that back beyond the cost of the device?

    Or to earn back the money spent maintaing the mechanisms that supply the contont
    • How many people read a single book?

      If I buy a paper type book and like it I'll pass it on to family &
      friends. Eventually it goes to the local VA Clinic for passing
      around at the VA Hospital they are tied to.

      I pay once and then there are many that are exposed to the writer
      - some of whom will start collecting the writer's other books.

      Can't do that electronically. Pity.
    • GL, You Missed the Boat Here

      The point wasn't that nobody should have to pay money to buy books [b][i]ever[/b][/i] - the point was that putting up proprietary walls between an eBook reader and the world of content out there ultimately hurts all, including authors and publishers.

      While I'm not a huge fan of copy protection, I could live w/it if it wasn't locked to a single device or series of devices. Amazon is already starting to do this with their Kindle app for the iPhone, which they will hopefully expand to other platforms as well as open the Kindle up to all the other major eBook formats. That way, I can read my eBooks (whether copy-protected as Amazon does, or not as Baen eScriptions does) to my Netbook, my mobile phone, or any other device....
    • RE: All ebook readers must tear down this wall

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  • This is not exactly true

    Kindle 2 connects to the Internet and you can download free books via that connection
    • Exactly

      The Kindle has a browser which can access other websites than Amazon. You can download Project Gutenberg books for free, for example.
      • SOME Project Gutenberg Books

        And only if they're in Text format.

        I have a Kindle - I've tried.
  • RE: All ebook readers must tear down this wall

    Not my concern ... I'll never buy one.
    For a few bucks more or less I can lug around something that is a lot more versatile and will allow me to create as well as consume content.
  • Um-m, web links work in _my_ Kindle books . . .

    Perhaps I've misunderstood your point.

    But if you put a link to a web page in your book, then when a someone reads the book on a Kindle and clicks on the link, that webpage shows up on your Kindle screen the same as if "next page' had been pressed.

    It helps if the webpage has been designed to deal with the Kindle limitations, but you get what you'd expect.

    And clicking "back" returns you to the book page you were reading, same as if it were your browser and the book was just another webpage.

    I don't think Kindle is the only e-reader that does this either.

    And, as noted in earlier comments, the Kindle 2 includes no-fee 3G-data-network surfing. It's not optimal, no color or Flash or particular fidelity to the web-page appearance. But it's free, and you can access the web from anywhere you can make a phone call, without getting access from someone else's network or connecting via your own cellphone.

    How Amazon is making money at ebooks now while no one before ever did, and how it may be sidestepping some issues for pecuniary reasons, well, maybe those are connected. Amazon is probably just as rapacious as you make it out to be.

    But you can't prove it by saying the company is trying to wall off the internet when the Kindle gives you better access than any previous device, without charging you.

    Roger Sperberg
  • RE: All ebook readers must tear down this wall

    So far, though I've made several forays into ebooks, they just aren't serving me. If they don't serve me, they don't serve others either. Thus, there may be a more important shortcoming; a desire to even have them when the very same information is available at a gazillion other URLs on the 'net.
    When it makes it to the right point, you'll find GPL versions, etc., of book readers. It'll happen; but we need to make it happen sooner than later and at the same time need the kind of content people want. It's silly to expect people to pay to visit a link whose information is freely available elsewhere; that won't change anytime soon and hopefully never.
  • RE: All ebook readers must tear down this wall

    Great story! Great observations.