Stories of spreading ebooks

  1. A revolution in finding books you want to read!
  2. Easy recommendations turns ebooks into social objects

I started reading some ebooks in the 90s, but it was not until I bought my first iPad a year ago that I started buying ebooks instead of paper books whenever they are available.

I really enjoy the comfort of having my ebooks available and synchronized  for reading on my iPad, mobile and computer.

But I also discovered that I have started to buy many more ebooks now, and in new ways, as illustrated in this story:

Recently I took a trip to my vacation home in the Stockholm archipelago with this ferry:

During the 25 minute ferry ride I read some blogs on my iPad. My eye caught a story about a new ebook publisher called Atavist, publishing original non-fiction journalism laced with video, audio and layers of information.

That of course appealed to my multimedia production experience, so my finger touched the link to Atavist and this appeared in seconds on my iPad:

I played the video and immediately realized that this is my kind of ebooks; short, non-fiction journalism with multimedia features, love it!

Then I browsed the titles and found the story Lifted,  about the big helicopter robbery in Stockholm 2010, a drama familiar to all Swedes. Seconds later I had spent $2.99 buying it in the App Store.

A new faster way to discover and buy books!

So, most important, only minutes after first discovering Atavist in the blog post, I had bought and started reading the ebook Lifted, while still riding the ferry!

This is a fundamental change in how we discover and buy books. Before, when we read or heard about an interesting book, we hade to make a note of it and then either go buy it at the book store or order it online at Amazon etc. Now this threshold is lowered with two improtant factors, in this order:

  1. We can buy a recommended ebook in seconds and download it wirelessly by just tapping links on our e-readers like the iPad.
  2. It is very easy to pay for ebooks (mostly, at least with the Apple App Store and Kindle book store) and the prices are now often very affordable.

This changes our consumer behaviours, opening great possibilities for new publishers like Atavist.

Easy recommendations turns ebooks into social objects

A week later I am having lunch at our coworking office space The Hub. I tell a guy sitting next to me about Atavist and how I bought the ebook Lifted on the ferry. Turns out he also enjoys this kind of books, so he flips open his iPad and visits on his web browser.

Seconds later, he also has bought the Lifted ebook for $2.99, thanking me for the tip! All this while we are eating our pastas.

Ebooks are transforming both our reading and buying habits!

This is post #1 in my series on the ebook market and development.

Media industry disruption opens possibilities

I recently attended the seminar Internetdagarna here in Stockholm, a big event discussing trends in internet usage.

There were all the usual stats, like 85% of all Swedes having access to internet at home. 97% of the internet users have broadband and 81% of them use internet daily. Mobile internet is increasing rapidly.

The keynote speaker Jeff Cole from USC Annenberg School Center for the Digital Future talked about the ongoing disruption in the whole media industry sector.
Here is the video from his excellent speech: “Falling Apart or Coming Together: Media and Consumers in a Digital Era
Some tidbits:
“Now everything is falling apart.”
“Newspapers have 5 years left in the US, 8 in the UK.”
“People don’t live by schedules anymore. Schedules don’t work!”
“Consumers are beginning to abandon subscriptions to print media and have little interest in paying for digital content, at least for the next five years.”
“Advertising is still preferred method. People who opt out might have to start paying.”
“All media will survive, but most will be smaller players in the digital era.”

Many of the other sessions discussed the disruption in the media industry, everybody seemed to agree on:

  1. The digital transformation will continue, faster for some types of media and slower for some.
  2. Most print media business (especially newspaper and news magazines) will be badly hit by the digital transition.
  3. Media consumption is increasing due to ubiquitous internet access and all the new mobile devices.

Pontus Schultz, head of business development at Swedish publishing giant Bonnier’s R&D department outlined it wisely:
“Everything goes digital. Digital is free.”
“People want to pay, but so far we have packaged stuff that people don’t like paying for.”
“You don’t pay for news, you pay for identity and for being part of a community.”
“The challenge is to stop being a broadcaster and become a part of the conversation.”
“Reader interaction: don’t ask what they think, ask what they know.”
“Tablets like iPads is a chance for media to do it right this time.”
See his talk (in Swedish, starts at 18:20)

Strategies are necessary, but they are worthless without action!

Pontus ended by saying that media is usually quite good at creating new strategies, but lousy at implementing them. This is a key insight for me!

All this means that today’s media conglomerates are like ocean-going super tankers. When they see icebergs they have big difficulties changing course due to their massive inertia based on their 100+ years of traditions. Some of them have smart crew members like Pontus and will be able to change course a little quicker and perhaps launch some smaller experimental vessels that will take off. Other will hit icebergs or continue slowly into oblivion.

The time is now!

So there are now unique conditions for small speedboats to run around the tankers and cruise on top of the waves, adapting to the ever-changing conditions in the digital ocean and building new types of media content and services. These speedboats can of course be launched from existing media companies (and some already are) but I think the biggest part of the expanded digital media business many will be built by a new breed of media companies.

They need to be small, creative and agile, populated with a multi-cultural mix of  techies and communicators combined with experienced, open-minded media savvies and some hybrid thinkers like me.

These new speedboats can now be built by small groups of open-minded people anywhere in the world. The tools needed to build a new media service are now far less expensive, faster and easier to use. Sweden is an ideal location for this due to our crop of talented developers and internet-savvy early adopters.

This tickles my mind, what about yours?

eBooks vs eMagazines

I have enjoyed various forms of eBooks since the early 90s (when they were sold on floppies…). But it is not until April this year I have started to really see eBooks and eMagazines replacing some of my boos and magazines in my ever growing piles of things to read.

The reason for this is of course my iPad. It is a delight to use, not only because of its wonderful screen, but because of two features that are not so often mentioned:
1. It start up in half a second. This is changing my behavior a a lot.
2. The form of the iPad makes it usefull in all sorts of “laidback” reading positions, in the arm chair, in the TV sofa, in the bed etc.

Since I have worked since the 80s producing interactive “multimedia” I really like the rapid development of eMagazines and eBooks now. For example embedded videos, animations and various forms of user interactivity.

I have bought and read a number of eMagazines and eBooks and to my surprise I now begin to feel that I enjoy the eBooks more than the eMagazines. I have read both crime novels and business eBooks bought from Amazon’s Kindle app and from Apple’s iBook store.

I find eBook reading on the iPad to be a better experience than reading most physical text books:

  1. It is much faster and easier to buy an eBook.
  2. I can read my eBooks on my computer, my iPad and my iPhone, and the reader software always directs me to the place in the book where I was the last time, independent of which device I used.
  3. I can highlight text, make bookmarks and write notes etc, just like in a physical book, something I always do for my learning.

eMagazines are now appearing in many flavors and I really like this development. But it feels like we are bnow seeing just the frist wave and that there will be a lot of further development needed befor eMags will seriously compete with paper mags.

I wrote about my first impressions of eMagazines in my post “iPad Media apps; CD-ROM revisited, where I complained about the lack of social functions like being able to share articles, make notes, interact with the ads etc.

Now I have spent many hours reading dozens of eMagazine titles, and I still miss all those functions. But also, I still don’t feel as comfortable reading eMags as I do reading eBooks.

I feel that  my vision of the beautiful magazine layout is hindered by looking at it on the iPad screen. The image is sharp and bright, but I have to scroll a lot and I don’t have the overall view that I have with a paper magazine. It is not just that a paper magazine is usually bigger in size than my iPad screen. It is about rapidly turning the paper pages, reading them in any order and get a feeling of how long an article is before reading it.

Am I alone in feeling this? Will I get over it? What do you think?

So I think that we need much more research in user interface design and layout for devices like the iPad before the eMagazine market will really take off. I am convinced that all magazine publishers are now working to address those issues and I really look forward to reading the second generation eMagazines.

Hopefully they will look more like Bonnier’s promising Skiing Interactive concept, which is much more active, lean forward type, scheduled for launch in October 2010. It will be for laptops, hopefully an iPad version will follow.

Enjoy their sneak peak video:

Skiing Interactive Demo Video from Skiing Interactive on Vimeo.