Wednesday, May 04, 2011

"I lust my step-brother who is also a vampire, oh did I mention I'm a wolf?"

Heartfelt apologies for blatantly plagiarising my title from an insightful piece by an anonymous member of the Wattpad community.

Wattpad is an online community for authors and reader to share books.It is a kind of Youtube for books. If like me you just stumble across it on the internet while looking for some e-reading material you might be forgiven for assuming you have stumbled into the worlds largest selection of teen vampire novels. It seems that Wattpad has had some success among female readers of a particular age. Neverthless if you ignore the preponderance of werewolves and doomed romance and think about Wattpad for a minute, you have to admit it just might be the future of creative writing.

For some time now I have been wondering about the future of books and publishing. I am a relatively recent convert to electronic book reading but my brief foray into the world of e-books and e-books sellers has convinced me that none of the current models is sustainable in the long run. The ebook market is very fragmented at the moment with a confusing variety of formats and a lack of sensible pricing.

Some publishers and booksellers seem hesitant to even admit they are engaging in the e-book business. Case in point take Waterstones: They have a huge catalogue of ebooks available in epub format but their mobile bookstore app (the app that folks might run on the very devices they use to read ebooks) doesn't list any of them. Others are more enthusiastic. Barnes and Noble and Kobo are pushing ebooks very hard, Apple appears to be doing quite well with its Ibooks, and of course Amazon appears to have achieved amazing success with the Kindle. Nevertheless I am not convinced that any of these efforts are really all that significant in the long run. Locking customers into proprietary formats and expecting them to pay close to physical book prices for an ebook just doesn't make sense to me.

One thing I quickly realised about ebooks is that the story is more important than the device you read it upon. There is a minimum standard required for the experience to be acceptable but after that the reading device becomes irrelevant. Current day readers are just about reaching that standard but in the near future there will be a wide range of devices which are more than good enough. This choice of devices will leave readers free to choose for themselves and rob publishers and booksellers of the monopoly control over distribution of books they once enjoyed. Authors will still need ways to get their books to as wide an audience as possible. Readers will still need fast reliable means of selecting books that they enjoy reading. Services like Wattpad could be one answer to these needs.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yep, you've highlighted why Itunes even came into existence. Apple owes it's very existence to the Web and music sales. M$ would have easily squashed Apple long ago. It's mind-boggling how averse the music and movie industries are to what's happening all around them. How on earth did they miss out on something so obvious?

It's almost ideological in that they reject the notion of downloads simply because there is a chance of sharing without them knowing.

The music studios, unlike movie studios, is doing a great job of fast-tracking their own demise with the huge amounts of aggressive suing and blanket blaming pretty much every consumer of being a pirate.

I guess it's a bit like the music shops themselves - total and utter lack of coordination. There could have been a much better system of total cataloguing and distribution even before the Web.

The music industry has only itself to blame.

All credit to Apple for taking up the obvious.


Solbright

Anonymous said...

Not that I would ever use Itunes myself for the reasons you've already highlighted. But that's more to do with Apple getting access to studio catalogues me thinks.

Point is that even this crippled DRM method is better than what the industry itself ever produced. ie: A total void!


Solbright

Anonymous said...

Oops! Wrong thread. :(

Was meant to be in http://mindbendingpuzzles.blogspot.com/2011/05/i-want-to-watch-it-now.html

mbp said...

Hi Solbright I realise that these comments were meant for another thread but I think it is still relevant here because what happened to music and is happening to music is about to happen in a big way to books too (plus I don't know how to move comments!).

In fact I think the impact of the digital revolution will be even tougher for the incumbents of the book industry because books require no infrastructure at all. and therefore the traditional producers and distributors of books have no role at all in the new digital reality.

Anonymous said...

Dunno, just seems like ebooks in their current form are trying to fill a non-existent hole. And you already know what I think of the stability of purchased e-data.

I think I'll repost my earlier comments in the correct thread.


Solbright

mbp said...

Hi Solbright. You are correct that Ebooks don't solve any problem that exists in existing books. In many ways they are actually inferior (the data stability issue you allude to).

I still think they are going to wipe out paper books though for one simple reason: economics. The cost of producing and distributing ebooks is so much less than that of conventional books that once the technological reaches "acceptable" for most people I think the switch over will be quite rapid. Acceptable doesn't even have to be as good as paper - it just needs to be good enough.