I have an inkling…

In many recent presentations I have given on e-books I have said that the way publishers market their publications needs to change. Just “digitising” traditional books as e-books is not necessarily the way forward for e-books.

If we look at other traditional media and see how they have evolved in new digital forms it may give us an idea about the future of books.

Watching films use to mean going to the cinema, sitting down through adverts and trailer before the main presentation, oh and popcorn. Through television, VHS rental, purchasing video tapes, DVD, Blu-Ray and now iTunes downloads, the way in which we consume films has changed. In many ways television has changed even more fundamentally. Digital TV means for many, many more channels and choice. A lot of TV series are now viewed by DVD box set over watching it when originally broadcast. Services such as YouTube, iTunes and BBC iPlayer have allowed us very different ways in which to consume television. Even with iTunes it is now possible to buy an individual episode of a TV series.

When we first started watching postage stamped sized video on our Windows 95 PCs, I expect very few of us had any inkling about how we would be watching video via our computer fifteen years later. It was very easy to consume video through physical media such as DVD or Blu-Ray, but it is now even easier to consume video over the web, either through iTunes or services like BBC iPlayer.

We use to buy music either as albums or singles, now with the iTunes Store or Amazon we can buy individual tracks from albums.

I am sure similar changes will happen with books, with e-books just been the start of this process.

One thing I have said is that publishers need to move away from the traditional approach of selling the whole text book as an e-book and start thinking about selling individual chapters to users, in the same way that we can buy individual episodes of a TV series.

I have said we should move away from digitised versions of print books and take advanatage of the digital medium with interactive content and media.

So I was pleased to see that at least one publisher, Inkling, is going to go down this road. As Gigaom reports:

The company believes the iPad — for now, at least — is the future of the textbook. Inkling’s software turns textbooks into interactive content, with video, hyperlinks between text and images, notes that can be shared between students and teachers, and even 3-D molecules that can be viewed from any angle.

In addition you can buy individual chapters or the whole book.

The company’s interactive textbooks can be downloaded by the chapter for an introductory price of $2.99 each, or the entire book can be downloaded and installed at a price of $69.99

This is just the start for digital textbooks.

7 thoughts on “I have an inkling…”

  1. It’s an interesting idea to download the first chapter to read to decide whether to buy the book or not; it’s like the ‘Look Inside’ on Amazon.

    However I wonder if selling individual chapters might disadvantage the author trying to make a living from selling complete books. Will it bring the same problems as musicians have complained about with downloading music? Musicians have the advantage of doing live gigs to make money and selling fan merchandise to make their living, but that just wouldn’t happen for authors; their only hope is TV or film rights for fiction, how would non-fiction writers earn a living?

    Whilst I can see that interactivity is helpful, it would be a shame if digital books signified the end of printed books because the writer couldn’t make a living for his/her efforts.

    1. I think the biggest impact that digital books will have will be on traditional publishers rather than authors. Authors will be able to sell directly to readers.

      As with any move to digital there will be some pain, but there will also be new opportunities.


      1. I agree that is one way forward, but will the direct author-to-reader self-publishing approach, without the publishers involvment, mean that the quaility control is missed and the digital text are not as academically ‘sound’ as the publisher-controlled vesions?


        1. Removing the record company doesn’t mean musicians record without a producer.

          Likewise independent authors can still use editors and peer review for their publications, yes there is a cost in this, but this probably means there is still room for publishers for some authors.

      2. True but as David said might this reduce quality? You might be right – there is already POD publishing and self-publishing.

        Don’t get me wrong there are many times I would have welcomed a CD in the back of a traditional published book to use ‘find’ for example!

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