Re-imagining Books: The Prologue

This article captures the essence of what this entire series is about. Why do we need to re-imagine digital books and what are the areas that provide scope for this?

Re-imagining Books

What are eBooks? The question sounds absurd when tablets, phones and e-readers reign as the popular reading methods and people are switching to digital reading en-masse. But, at times, apparently simple questions warrant deep, profound answers.

One of the things that I realize now is that publishers, technologists and, of late, readers have settled to the concept of eBooks as an extension of the print version – albeit on the digital platforms. In my opinion, it cripples what an eBook can be.

Imagine this: you are on the road, you run out of reading materials, you stop at a book store, you are confused about what to buy from thousands of books on shelves, you buy one, carry it with you, highlight things you like, store it in your bag, get to a hotel, keep the reading light on, dog ear the last page you read, finish the book, love what you have just read and can’t wait to get back home to talk to family and friends about what you found in the highway book store the address of which you don’t remember.

I don’t have to give you the digital equivalent of all these actions, you know it very well. But the book itself has not changed much when everything around the reading experience has undergone remarkable advancements. How can the book change intrinsically to ride on top of these digital opportunities?

One of the famous analogies used for the eBook technology/industry/market is the music industry. “eBooks should go the iTunes way”, say most. Apple tried doing exactly that but without much success.

The fundamental difference between digital music and digital books is in the experience of the listener/reader. Digital music does not change the way you experience music – you use the same headsets, speakers home theater systems; it changes the way you acquire, store and curate it.

Digital books on the other hand require you to change the way you experience it, from paper books that actually impose weight on your hands based on their size to an often light-weight digital reader, be it a phone, tablet or an eBook reader – forcing you to adapt your experience every time you read.

While many have failed to recognize and acknowledge this crucial difference, even more have failed to take advantage of the opportunities that is brought about by the reader’s willingness to adapt and change. Behavioral change on the user’s part is the hardest to achieve of any technology implementation and this was achieved to a large extent and in a fairly quick manner in digital reading. Opportunities are abound with some creative thinking.

So what exactly do these opportunities mean to readers, writers, and publishers? In this blog series “Reimagining Books”, I’m going to put forth thoughts on what I see as necessary for books take advantage of the digital opportunities and open them up for discussions with anyone who loves books – as a reader, writer or publisher.

The opportunities for creativity range from concepts, writing, production, sales, business models, analytics and more. I have hand first-hand experience in all these areas and have pioneered a few of these concepts with relation to eBooks.

As a disclaimer, I now have no affiliations in the book publishing industry except as a reader and my thoughts in this series are unbiased to the best of my knowledge.

Follow me on Twitter (@kaushiksampath) to get updates on when each of the articles become available in this blog.

Join me in Re-imagining Books and have fun changing the way the industry looks at publishing books!