Monday 30 September 2013

Physical Books are the best technology for reading, and bookstores should 'give' an eBook with every physical book published

I just bought 5 books at a really nice book store in central London and it is amazing how:
  1. these bookstores are still afraid of the digital world 
  2. don't have the confidence to say: 
      "... If you buy a physical copy, we will give you (or sell for 10%) the eBook version. 

       ... the reason we 'give' you the eBook, is because the 'real' book is much better, but there are places were you might want to use the eBook.."
This is something that I already talked about it in my Why doesn't Waterstones (UK BookStore) also upsell kindle books? post (which has more ideas on what bookstores should do to provide a better service to readers).

Having used kindle for a while, what I realised is that 'Physical Books are the best technology for reading books'

The 'Physical book' (vs the eBook) has a number of properties that makes it a better medium to do what it is supposed to be doing (letting the reader abort its story, idea or knowledge):
  • it is a Simple solution for reading (as in there is no further complexity)
  • there are no other distractions
  • it is not online
  • there is a physical connection with the reader
  • our brain is much better at consuming data from a book than from a screen
  • our brain is able to store the physical location of content in a page (note how when you go back to a page in a book to find something, your eyes are already going (without you noticing) to a particular section of a page)
  • the book has better 'resolution' than an eBook (I'm sure I've seen this stat somewhere)
  • the book works in real-time (vs the milliseconds or even seconds that take kindles or eReaders to display the content)
  • ... and more...
Of course that there there are a number of practical limitations of books, where they take longer to buy, and can weigh quite a bit:

But the key problem is that the book industry is 'buying the argument' that eBooks are better than physical books (i.e. 'real books);

The reality is that real books 'are better', and if the book industry really cared about their readers (vs their own profits) it would realise that it is better to give (or sell for a bit more) the eBooks to them.

What is interesting is that by doing this, the 'physical book industry' would actually be 'devaluing' the eBooks (i.e. saying that the eBooks are not 'worth that much', so 'here you go mr. reader, have them').

More importantly, by removing the eBooks threat from their agenda/radar, they would be able to focus on what really matters which is: 'How can we get better books published' and 'How can we make the book experience even better'.

Here are some ideas on where they could start:
  • Colour printing for technical books (for example: making source code samples easier to read)
  • Print on demand on local shops
  • Creating variations of books:
    • 'Diff' versions of books (for the ones that buy an 'updated version of a book')
    • Custom 'printed' books based on the reader experience/knowledge
    • Providing the text of books in Markdown (so that they could be easily further consumed and remixed)
    • simple versions of complex books (for new readers of that genre, or readers that don't have much time to read a 600 page book)
  • Learn from and follow its lead in allowing buyers to set the price of the books their are buying
  • Better communities between the author, reader and bookstore:
  • Adding smell and tactile to books (for 'premium versions')
  • Finding the best way for getting new generation of kids into reading (very relevant to me since I have one daughter that reads 5 books a week and one daughter that reads 20m a day (measured by a stopwatch) because she 'has to') 
    • creating 'reading' events
    • sponsoring cultural items that relate to the target audience
  • Buy the 'fight to save Libraries' and help to make Libraries the centre of local culture (that they once were)
  • Create a sense of urgency by setting the 'Save the Real Book' agenda (vs letting the 'eBook is the future' being the only rational argument out there)
What we need is for books companies to be lead by people who love books, and are willing to experiment and use the best of both worlds (printed and digital technology). Their focus should be on the readers/users and not on profits (i.e. learn from Apple)

In a word, what we really need, is for the book publishers and distributors to:

        INNOVATE (or face a long slow death patched by blips of recovery)

Again Amazon is leading the way with its Kindle matchbook which is a great idea that is receiving positive feedback (see comments at the end of Amazon’s Kindle MatchBook will let you buy cheap digital editions of print books you already own).

Just like Robert X. Cringely describes in isn’t killing Best Buy: blame Best Buy IT and Best Buy is Doomed , what is killing the bookstores are the bookstores and book publishers, not Amazon