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Dear Jane: What’s Coming Next for eBooks?

This post is inspired by Mike Cane’s post about what we are waiting for in ebooks.

Blio

Blio:   Blio is the brain child of Ray Kurzweil and everyone was super excited about it when it was first announced.   I had my own ebook tingles which waned as the software platform became more nebulous and when I actually saw the demo of Blio.   Blio is probably going to be good for educational purposes and non fiction but honestly, it is only going to work for those books that are specially made for this platform.   In other words, readers of long narrative fiction won’t find Blio compelling enough to move to its new platform and new DRM scheme.   Blio is supposed to be released this Thursday, September 28.   No Mac release, however.

Copia:   Copia has a lot to offer readers such as an integrated social network and a new way of shopping but the benefits of Copia, that make it worthwhile to move to Copia, really depends on how many of your ebook reading friends are going to buy books from Copia.   I sat through an hour presentation on Copia and one of the neatest features was the ability to read a book and see your friends’ notes and comments.   I would love that, particularly for a book chat.   But Copia’s social network of books that allows you to see what your friends’ think, intertextually, about a book only exists if all of you and your friends buy your books through Copia’s store.   I love a lot of the features Copia is going to offer, such as customized bookshelves (kind of like more visually oriented lists that Amazon allows you to create) with multiple levels of privacy but as an existing Goodreads user, I can’t see myself moving over to the Copia platform unless a lot of my online reading friends are there.   Copia is currently in beta testing.   No word on the release date.

Google Editions:   I keep reading that Google Editions will be the savior of everyone.   That independent bookstores will be saved; that publishers will be thrilled; and that consumers will win.   I don’t really get how all these magical things will happen with Google Editions.   What we know about GE is that your content will exist in the cloud.

Google Editions will be able to function on any device with an Internet connection. Once a user purchases, it will be stored in their collection when users sign in to their Google account, a type of freedom that eludes both Amazon's Kindle and Apple's iPad.   (Jane’s note: GE will likely not work on the Kindle even though Kindle has a browser and an internet connection and truthfully, we don’t know whether GE will function on a connected nook or a connected Sony Reader).

and it will have Adobe DRM

Google will support Adobe ACS4 as its current provider of an industry-standard digital rights management (DRM) solution for downloaded files of Google Editions. Google will require users to link the Adobe DRM software in their Google Editions via a one-time authentication per reading system. These devices may then request ACS4 encrypted EPUB or PDF files via a Google-provided API.

Now, Adobe DRM is flash based as far as I know so in order to have downloaded, offline access for Google Edition books, you will need to be able to authenticate your reading system through Adobe.   This currently is not possible under Apple’s operating system, as far as I know. (Hence the need for reading apps from Google for the iThing).   How this system is different than say Kobo is beyond me.   Richard Curtis claims that GE will “unchain” books, but offline downloading happens one book at a time.   What happens when you are done reading that one book?   There are a lot of offline devices out there, not the least being the 45 million iTouches out there. Further, while publishers get to set prices, the GE FAQ says that pricing is ultimately determined by the retailer.   This was confirmed in an interview with Debbie Stier from HarperCollins.   Confused yet? Me too.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

11 Comments

  1. brooksse
    Sep 26, 2010 @ 06:43:39

    Further, while publishers get to set prices, the GE FAQ says that pricing is ultimately determined by the retailer.

    Scratching my head over this and wondering how it plays with the agency pricing model.

    I for one am not buying into Google Editions. What happens to your library if Google decides to pull the plug? At least with Amazon, B&N, Sony, etc., you have the option of backing up your library. And I sure don’t want my access to my library being dependent on having access to the internet or electricity. (Been there, done that courtesy of Hurricane Ike. Having very limited access to my ebooks for a week was what prompted me to buy a dedicated ereader.)

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    Sep 26, 2010 @ 07:33:50

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  3. Elaine
    Sep 26, 2010 @ 08:35:46

    I get so frustrated when I think about all the wonderful things that could happen if it weren’t for proprietary formats and DRM.

  4. hapax
    Sep 26, 2010 @ 10:37:05

    Am I the only one who is sick to death of every digital application being part of “an integrated social network”?

    I scrubbed Facebook off my computer when it insisted on tying in every other bloody social media. I don’t need or want to receive Flickr vacation photos when reading e-mail, nor receive tweets when I’m scanning the blogs for news and reviews, nor hear the opinions of my ten thousand “friends” when shopping for underwear on Google.

    And I sure as heck don’t want to be nattered at while immersed in a good book. I get that enough from my kids.

    I am reminded of the Asimov short story, “Dreaming Is A Private Thing.” I’m sure that somewhere, some enterprising entrepreneur is figuring out a way to hack my dreams into the social media as well — and, oh, incidentally sell me crap.

    /curmudgeon, curmudgeon, curmudgeon/

  5. Mike Cane
    Sep 26, 2010 @ 10:50:05

    Personally, I don’t understand sites like Goodreads. I have no desire to discuss a book with anyone else beyond whatever post I might do about it. It has the feel of comic fandom, where people would have ridiculous “discussions” over whether Superman or Spider-man would win a fight between them. I’ve gone to discussion boards at writer’s sites and have fled. They’re filled with knobs! Knobs and proto-stalkers. A site like Goodreads can boast it has X-million signed up, but how does that reflect the number of people who read and don’t want/need that site? Copia isn’t even on my radar.

  6. LVLMLeah
    Sep 26, 2010 @ 11:14:08

    What we know about GE is that your content will exist in the cloud.

    That right there is why I will never use it. I want my books on my computer, on my reader and to be private. In cloud, sure you can access your books anywhere all the time, but it’s out of your control ultimately.

    What happens when they suddenly open up all your information to everyone without letting you know that all your contacts can see everything you do on Google like they did in the past.

    And it’s still going to use Adobe DRM. Wow, there’s a huge breakthrough in reading rights. /sarcasm. Another reason NOT to use it.

    About Copia…I’m with Hapax… I don’t need yet one more social networking site to connect to all my other social networking sites to let the world know everything I’m thinking, reading or doing. In fact, like Hapax, I’m starting to resent all this stuff. I don’t need 10,000 platforms to connect with friends who are all the same on each network already.

    Personally, I don't understand sites like Goodreads

    Mike, some of us, in fact many of us, are using Goodreads as a personal librarian to keep track of what books we’ve read or have to read. I download 10 books at once and quite often just forget what I have since they are in different formats and on different devices. I like Goodreads as a way to keep track.

    It also has the added benefit of being able to see what friends are reading and what they are saying about books.

  7. Ridley
    Sep 26, 2010 @ 12:19:25

    Goodreads plays a major role in my reading. It’s not all that fandom-like, and as a WoW player I am well acquainted with heated debates over minutiae. Generally we talk about books we’ve read in terms of how well the books are written, how well they conform to genre expectations and who might enjoy the books. Since romance readers are prolific readers – most of my GR friends read 4+ books a week – there’s not a lot of getting absorbed into a book’s world, identifying with the characters and then having arguments about them. You see it a bit with Gabaldon’s Outlander series and J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood, but that’s about it.

    GR also works as a library organizer. As I said, at 4+ a week, romance readers go through a lot of books. If I don’t have an organized list, I can’t possibly remember what I own, what I plan to buy and what I’ve already read. I have four separate shelves of books to buy – agency 5, non-agency, harlequins and OOP/no ebook available. I also separate my read books by star rating and sub-genre. With a click or two I can look at specific shelves to make giving recommendations easier.

    Goodreads is a wonderful tool and social network for me. Copia sounds wonderful on paper, since it’s basically an ereader with Goodreads included, but, like Jane said, who’s going to leave an already thriving community to try to get a new one going? Had they come out with this two years ago, when GR was a baby, or a reader that let you sync with the social network or your choice, that would’ve been pure win. As it is, though, it’s too little, too late.

  8. Author On Vacation
    Sep 26, 2010 @ 12:58:22

    @brooksse:

    I sure don't want my access to my library being dependent on having access to the internet or electricity. (Been there, done that courtesy of Hurricane Ike. Having very limited access to my ebooks for a week was what prompted me to buy a dedicated ereader.)

    I completely empathize. I became pretty obsessed with portable technology after Hurricane Katrina/Rita.

  9. lilitu93
    Sep 26, 2010 @ 13:59:32

    I really don’t want all my books stored in the cloud, except for as backup. I like that all my books are on my device (currently an iPhone). That means I have all my books even when I’m in situations where I’m not connected (traveling on the Tube), connection is bad (some big buildings and remote areas – even in London, you can’t always get 3G) or connection is ridiculously expensive, so I’m keeping it to a minimum (outside the UK).

    Also, no UK mobile phone company has unlimited data anymore, and even though books don’t use that much data, I’d prefer not to waste it on something like books that I could download at home on wi fi.

    Seriously, what we need now isn’t more formats or more DRM but a consolidation of formats and interoperability. Ditching DRM will help that, though I think book publishers will have to mess things up a bit more before they realise what record companies realised a few years back – if you’ve actually still got a paying audience, don’t alienate them and make it easy and affordable.

  10. Author On Vacation
    Sep 26, 2010 @ 14:23:25

    Jane, this is off-topic, but would you consider commenting upon Banned Books Week sometime this week?

    The American Library Association observes the final week in September as a time to draw awareness to literature banned, restricted, or challenged in U.S. courts.

    It may surprise some U.S. citizens that their intellectual freedom is under attack by various individuals and groups determined to limit or to restrict availability of books in U.S. libraries and in U.S. schools. This intervention occurs all the way to university levels.

    What books are being challenged and sometimes successfully banned? Here’s a few:

    Aesop’s Fables

    Grimm’s Fairy Tales

    Hans Christian Anderson’s Collected Fairy Tales

    “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain

    “The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger

    “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald

    “Gone With the Wind” by Margaret Mitchell

    “The Lord of the Rings” by J.R.R. Tolkien

    “Summer of My German Soldier” by Bette Greene

    “The Call of the Wild” by Jack London

    “The Age of Innocence” by Edith Wharton

    “Kim” by Rudyard Kipling

    “Charlotte’s Web” by E.B White

    “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” by Frank L. Baum

    “Winnie-the-Pooh” by A. A. Milne

    “Rebecca” by Daphne du Maurier

    “Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry” by Mildred D. Taylor

    I want to stress that I support the citizen’s individual right to make informed decisions on what s/he wants to read and what s/he considers appropriate reading material for children. No one should read books they don’t want to read, whatever the reason.

    However, I object to any attempt to restrict MY freedom to investigate literature and assign my own intellectual value to it.

    Please visit the American Library Association at http://www.ala.org/ala/issuesadvocacy/banned/bannedbooksweek/index.cfm and take a moment this week to consider the consequences attached to people you don’t know dictating your reading choices.

    Thanks for reading.

  11. Motivation Monday | Solelyfictional
    Sep 27, 2010 @ 13:28:21

    [...] Publishing: The BookSeller claims that eBooks sales are actually beginning to cannibalise print sales, and it’s no real surprise to note that Romance is one of the genres it cites as an example. Jane at Dear Author discusses what she thinks is coming next for ebooks. [...]

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