Steve Jobs and the Crusade to Redefine the Reader

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    Posted: 13 January 2010 07:23 AM

    After pondering Geoduck’s dream and my related comments (http://www.macobserver.com/tmo/forums/viewthread/77904/), a key question came to my mind: should the fabled iTablet come to reality, how would Apple bring a new reading experience to the world?

    When Steve Jobs mentioned that people don’t read anymore, he was right. Let’s see the quote from the NY Times again:

    ?It doesn?t matter how good or bad the product is, the fact is that people don?t read anymore. Forty percent of the people in the U.S. read one book or less last year. The whole conception is flawed at the top because people don?t read anymore.?

    If people don’t read anymore, what’s everyone turning to? Multimedia is the obvious answer, as evidenced by the many iPhone news apps, podcasts and news videos out there; people calmour to own a portable device that can they can quickly and comfortably use for satisfying the need to receive the multimedia. Unlike the books that sit on a shelf and become perishable like a lettuce at the grocery store, reading is no longer a static event. Books like the 2010 Guide to Wherever lose value the moment they hit the shelves, and lack the communal interaction of it’s readers.

    Reading now needs to be current and impact multiple senses. Ideas need to be fresh and refreshed at a moment’s notice. The written word must be presented at the near-instantaneous request of the reader. And reading needs to allow interaction between the writer and community. My thoughts almost sound contradictory to the word “reader”, with the exception of one possibility: Steve Jobs is redefining the word “reader”.

    How will the experience of reading be redefined? The revolution began long ago with podcasting, Youtube videos, cameras and bulletin boards. As I write this, I realize the impact of my words are stronger than any current magazine on the newsstand—the magazine’s famous line “By the time you read this” holds no relevance in the new information age.

    Look at the current eBooks out there: Nook, Kindle, Sony eReader, and so on. Do you see what they are missing? The written word is losing value and impact, and faces extinction unless the writer can offer new relevance in the digital information age.

    But one obstacle remains: we are creatures of habit, and since the days of the Holy Bible and the Sanskrit writings, people take value in holding the written word. Readers interpret the written word the moment they touch the paper, and can intuitively feel the subject matter by turning one, ten or one hundred pages at a time.

    While there are many interpretations out there as to what will come from Apple in the near future, my hopes lie in the possibility that the value of the written word be fused with the relevance of the digital information age. I see multitouch being used where I can flip one page at a time with one finger, ten pages at a time with two, and one hundred at a time with three. I see crisp graphics that will capture the senses, and video that augments the written word. I see an iLife suite that lets users build their own e-books for the iTablet, which can even include the ability for others to blog and comment on the stories. These eBooks can then be sold on iTunes, with royalties going direct to the writer, with no middleman publisher in the way.

    Are we simply ready for a new iTablet, or are we ready for a new definition of the reading concept? If you cared to read this topic, I think you know the answer.

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  • Posted: 13 January 2010 11:57 AM #1

    I guess I hope that Apple does redefine it. The eBook concept, in my opinion, is doomed to failure if the content must be funneled through some company’s exclusivity contracts and DRM to get to my eBook reader. Then you have the situation of needing a Kindle to read a Simon & Shuster book, another one to read a school textbook, and something else to read a document that you just made yourself. I’m not sure how they’ll do this, but without it being content or publisher agnostic it won’t work. Kinda like how an iPod works; you can put songs you ripped from CDs on it, songs you bought from iTunes on it, and a song that you recorded yourself singing on it with no problems.

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    Less is More (more or less).

         
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    Posted: 13 January 2010 12:11 PM #2

    I am not sure how many people, what percentage, don’t read physical books these days, but in my circle we have started picking it back up. We swap books with each other, or give recommendations. With ebooks could we swap book files, would there be an EULA that allows that? There would have to be some sort of anti-piracy system.

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    “Works of art, in my opinion, are the only objects in the material universe to possess internal order, and that is why, though I don’t believe that only art matters, I do believe in Art for Art’s sake.” E. M. Forster

         
  • Posted: 13 January 2010 12:22 PM #3

    Sir Harry made me think, how would you “lend” an eBook? Can you sell it when your’e done reading it? What happens when books are only eBooks; will people who cannot afford an eBook reader, but can read, be shut out of some information? Questions I’m wondering if Apple is trying to answer.

    As to the idea that people aren’t reading, perhaps it’s that because there is SO much to read, it’s hard to find the good stuff, and instead people get overwhelmed and go to the easy and quick fix of TV or soundbites.

    It is fun to think that we all feel like Apple can somehow tackle these big questions, or would even be willing to. What other company thinks big and long term like that these days?

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    Less is More (more or less).

         
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    Posted: 13 January 2010 12:42 PM #4

    What’s really messing in the Kindle and Nook are multifunction capability. Sure it’s great when you really want to sit down and power through a book on the beach. But otherwise it’s an incredibly unsexy device tied to a single vendor. You can’t watch movies on it, listen to music or surf the web. Well you sorta can but barely. Apple’s tablet will be everything the iPhone is (literally) in terms of usability but will add the ability to download books, magazines and newspapers. And you’ll get all of that through the familiar iTunes Store interface which is by far the most proven and user-friendly e-commerce solution I’ve ever seen.

         
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    Posted: 13 January 2010 12:51 PM #5

    FlipFriddle - 13 January 2010 04:22 PM

    What happens when books are only eBooks; will people who cannot afford an eBook reader, but can read, be shut out of some information? Questions I’m wondering if Apple is trying to answer.

    A large number of classic literature that is in the public domain is available online for free from websites such as Project Gutenberg, http://www.gutenberg.org, and I have quite a few of them. However, many if not most of the books we have been reading lately are new works and as such are still protected. If Apple has a deal going with publishers and authors where the ebooks would be inexpensive enough so that it wouldn’t be worth the bother to pirate it then the problem is solved.

    I see another great use for an ereader than literature, and coffee table books, and that is for text books. My wife is back in college and complains about schlepping heavy text books around. About half of her classes are online, but she still may have to buy a text book.

    I read most of the current event news online, but I still like holding a book for so called recreational reading.

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    “Works of art, in my opinion, are the only objects in the material universe to possess internal order, and that is why, though I don’t believe that only art matters, I do believe in Art for Art’s sake.” E. M. Forster

         
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    Posted: 13 January 2010 01:02 PM #6

    Stan Winstone - 13 January 2010 04:42 PM

    What’s really messing in the Kindle and Nook are multifunction capability. Sure it’s great when you really want to sit down and power through a book on the beach. But otherwise it’s an incredibly unsexy device tied to a single vendor. You can’t watch movies on it, listen to music or surf the web. Well you sorta can but barely. Apple’s tablet will be everything the iPhone is (literally) in terms of usability but will add the ability to download books, magazines and newspapers. And you’ll get all of that through the familiar iTunes Store interface which is by far the most proven and user-friendly e-commerce solution I’ve ever seen.

    An Apple tablet/ebook reader could also be an iPhone. Use a speaker phone, bluetooth or wired headsets instead of holding it up to your ear. I am already using my iPhone to read ebooks.

    Gotta run, “The clock upbraids with the waste of time.” smile

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    “Works of art, in my opinion, are the only objects in the material universe to possess internal order, and that is why, though I don’t believe that only art matters, I do believe in Art for Art’s sake.” E. M. Forster

         
  • Posted: 17 January 2010 03:39 PM #7

    As SJ puts it, education is in Apple’s DNA. Think for a moment of the way a tablet device might change the textbook market. Not only would it virtually eliminate the high costs of printing, binding, transporting and inventory risks, it would allow for rich multimedia content as well.

    I don’t read books but I consume volumes of other written content such as magazines and periodicals, not to mention news content.

    I want this device and I want it now.

    With the education market and magazine market as a springboard and foundation, this product may revolutionize the manner in which we purchase and consume most written content.

    Members of my household are avid book readers. We’re running out of room to store the books and there’s little to no readily available market for resale or even donations. Libraries are necessarily picky about what books they will accept.

    A tablet devices cures a number of ills and leads to a virtually limitless market for the distribution and consumption of written content.

    The eBook market might be a lucrative market. But the success of the tablet device will not be dependent on the consumer eBook market at the outset. That’s a market that will provide a hefty revenue stream over time.

         
  • Posted: 17 January 2010 03:49 PM #8

    Imagine for a moment a world in which books are no longer “purchased” but rented or leased. For textbooks a student could “subscribe” for the period of a course and access the content online. Publishers could update the content constantly so the student always has access to the latest edition during the lease period.

    Imagine a magazine “subscription” that would allow the reader access to all past issues of the publication while a subscription is active or current.

    All parties benefit through a reduction of costs, the elimination of printing, transporting and storage issues.

    Under this scenario Apple becomes a huge distributor for publishers, creating an attractive revenue stream for itself and the publishers with a lock-in of owners who use Apple hardware devices.

         
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    Posted: 17 January 2010 04:23 PM #9

    DawnTreader - 17 January 2010 07:49 PM

    Imagine a magazine “subscription” that would allow the reader access to all past issues of the publication while a subscription is active or current.

    All parties benefit through a reduction of costs, the elimination of printing, transporting and storage issues.

    You know who’ll have to make the biggest adjustment, right? The big name publishers! If they are indeed working with Apple behind closed doors to create iTab-compatible eBooks, they’d better review their history books and remember what happened to the music industry.

    If they want to play with Apple, they’d better know what their leverages are.

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  • Posted: 17 January 2010 05:52 PM #10

    Alan A. - 17 January 2010 08:23 PM
    DawnTreader - 17 January 2010 07:49 PM

    Imagine a magazine “subscription” that would allow the reader access to all past issues of the publication while a subscription is active or current.

    All parties benefit through a reduction of costs, the elimination of printing, transporting and storage issues.

    You know who’ll have to make the biggest adjustment, right? The big name publishers! If they are indeed working with Apple behind closed doors to create iTab-compatible eBooks, they’d better review their history books and remember what happened to the music industry.

    If they want to play with Apple, they’d better know what their leverages are.

    Look at it this way: Let’s say a particular textbook usually costs $100. Sold for use on a tablet (no printed edition required) it sells for $50 for a one-year subscription. The publisher saves the costs of print and and binding costs as well as any inventory risk. The student saves on the costs of the textbook. The publisher suffers no resale risk since the used book market has been eliminated. It increases annual sales since the subscription expires after the one-year term.

    Students also benefit from the lack of a need to store and carry books. All they need for all of their textbook materials is a tablet and a constant wireless connection. College bookstores save on staff and inventory risks as well.

    Materials can be constantly updated and multi-media resources can be added at anytime. It’s a win for all involved.

    The costs of the tablet will be recouped within two years through the savings on textbooks alone.

         
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    Posted: 17 January 2010 06:22 PM #11

    Well said DawnTreader; I’m sold! It’s gonna be a great time to be a student with a light backpack.

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    I’m not Capt. Walker. I’m the guy who keeps Mr. Dead in his pocket.
    - Mad Max