E-Book Predictions

July 31, 2009 at 3:30 pm | Posted in Book Blather | 2 Comments

I wrote this six months ago and never posted it for some reason.  Let’s see if it still holds up.

I’ve been thinking about e-books.  I’ve been thinking about them because I’m going on vacation soon, and at 33 I know myself well enough by now to wish I had a Sony Reader, even if only for that week.  Last year I brought five books to Cancun, and they took up a good quarter of the space in my luggage, not to mention the weight.  I am simply not capable of traveling without “backup” books, much less any books at all, and the nightmare of being stranded in an airport with nothing to read – it’s not to be borne, that’s all.

Anyway.  I have some predictions about where e-books are heading, and I thought I’d share them.

  • Theme music.  Naturally if such a thing were to be developed, it would be possible to turn it on and off.  So far every other type of electronic multimedia has theme music, from web sites to video games, and many audio books have it too, in spots at least.  I imagine some people would pay an extra buck for the “soundtrack” version of very popular e-books, especially thrillers.
  • Tags.  By this I mean references.  Imagine being able to read a book, get stuck on a foreign phrase, touch it, and have the correct pronunciation pop up.  Imagine if an unfamiliar name came up, and you were able to touch it and go to an encyclopedia entry on the person.  With a photo!
  • Links.  For instance, a reference to a character or event in another book by the same author, or for that matter, a book by another author.  If I were a sly e-book marketer, I would even link to a purchase point for the referred book.
  • Bonus material.  We’re seeing this already with the PS editions from Harper Perennial.  In an electronic format, there’s room for more things of the variety of what we see on DVDs.
  • Children’s e-readers.  There’s probably already something like this out there, though I imagine it’s not as slick as the Sony Reader.  But so far everything else in the world comes in a Barbie version, so why not an e-reader?
  • Custom colors.  We got lollypop colored iMacs and rainbow iPods.  Give it ten years and you can have a hot pink Kindle too.  (Gee, man, I hope they’re working on a makeover for the Kindle already…)

These things probably sound distracting and obnoxious to those who do not like the concept of e-books.  Those who do, though, are already wired and are used to these sorts of features on their computer.  It’s a straightforward transition.

I remember working in tech support at the time that the Palm Pilot first came on the market.  You know, the first one.  They were amazing.  The Palm model I have now is light years beyond that model, and it came out a scant four years later.  Eight years after that, it’s such an antique that the guys at work tease me: “That’s not a PDA, that’s an abacus.”  The PDA itself is nearly obsolete due to smart phones.  I firmly believe that these e-readers are going to undergo a similar revolution.  They’re only waiting for a transition to a better form of marketing for e-books.  Just wait.  More people are going to start using them, and then it’ll be an upward spiral.


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  1. – Theme music I don’t think should be added to books. I feel like that’s something each person can choose for him/herself. I feel like as long as eReaders can also play mp3s or a few other music formats, it would be super convenient for a reader to pick a personalized soundtrack.

    – Tagging should definitely be including. And not only in the form of encyclopedias or dictionary definitions (though they should be automatically installed – just like there are encyclopedias on disc, it doesn’t necessarily have to be online and hooked up to wikipedia). Annotations can just be so helpful, why not make it slightly palm-pilot like and available for highlighting, underlining, and note-writing?

    – I feel like bonus material should probably be optional and online, rather than an automatic part of the book. But that’s my attitude towards print copies, I haven’t ever really thought about it.

    I ultimately agree that future eReaders will be completely unlike the ones coming out now. I hope they improve for the better and also hope they take into account what readers and consumers want, for instance cheaper eBooks, more annotation, less DRM… This is very interesting to see a few months later, but I suppose other than the color options for eReaders, nothing has really changed…

    • I’ve given it some thought since, and I actually think theme music would be disastrous for an e-book. There’s no way to do it to allow for reading at different paces, or going back and re-reading a sentence. The other problem is that the music would have to be in the ambient style currently in use in video games – and that I find impossible to stomach.

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