eBooks and Advertising

September 13, 2007

In the article Envisioning the Next Chapter for Electronic Books, Brad Stone remarks that ebooks have never caught on with the mainstream crowd. Why? Is it because ebooks have not “adequately duplicate[d] the book reading experience”, as Burt Helm once posited in the article Curling Up With a Good E-Book? Is it because electronic tablet-like gadgets go against nearly 1,800 years of reading bound books, and the human race needs more time to switch from such an ingrained practice? I don’t believe so.

Think about it this way: we are trying to bring reading into the future by having consumers switch from good-ol’ paperbacks to reading these books on ridiculously expensive gadgets: “You want me to buy a $500 dollar piece of technology, and then pay for the books to put on it?” That’s what I’m thinking. Personally, I’d much rather walk from my Flatiron-district office during lunch to The Strand on 12th & Broadway to buy Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being (which, at the time of writing was available in paperback for $10.46). Do you see what’s missing? The incentive. So here’s my proposition: if someone’s already willing to spend a few hundred dollars to bring their reading into the future, why not make the books more expensive as well!

You heard me.

Why make them more expensive? Because it would help alleviate the licensing nightmare my solution would create. For example, some of my required reading for work currently includes The High Rise Low Down, which is a tour of the history behind New York City’s most prestigious addresses. I’m not more than fifty pages in, but I already know this: when the authors are describing the view from the Time Warner Center, I want to see pictures. And I want to view see interviews with Yoko Ono about her time with John Lennon at their Central Park West estate (if such a thing exists). In other words, if we’re trying to bring reading into the future, then bring it into the future. Reading a fiction book where the narrator describes his love of the song ‘Maps’ by the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s? I want to listen to it. Or even watch the music video. Do you see what I’m getting at? If we’re going to do this, push reading to the next level and make it a new, rich and exciting experience.

And advertising. If Amazon’s new ebook has wireless capabilities, then expand that to include other options. Want to look at the brochure for xyz but don’t have the time to stop by the sales center and pick one up? Well, open your ebook tablet and download it. Reading Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being but want to read the Nietzsche book he mentions? Well, highlight the title or keywords and download it through Amazon in a few seamless steps.

You get the idea. There are so many untapped possibilities with the ebook, and yet we keep thinking: “Make the screen look more like real paper” (read the aforementioned NY Times article about that), or, “Just copy the text and paste it on a screen and people will read it.” No, they won’t. And most importantly, they haven’t, despite the numerous launches of ebook readers throughout the past. Isn’t the definition of insanity trying something repeatedly despite getting the same result? Now go to people!!!

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