The iPhone As An eBook Reader

The BookSquare blog reflects on the iPhone as an eBook reader:

“The iPhone also features a surprisingly large screen, and has the ability to automatically change the screen orientation when a user turns it sideways. At 3.5 inches it seems suspiciously perfect for reading….Setting aside the comfort issues, the iPhone could either kill the nascent e-reader business or take it to new levels. We’ve been saying just about forever that the problem with dedicated e-reader is the fact that the consumer isn’t seeking a device that does only one thing. With its “smart” orientation features, the iPhone could usher in the mass market e-book era.”

I agree. I’ve never been very interested in dedicated eBook devices. Among other things, they don’t have the back-end infrastructure for effective content distribution, because all of them are focused on publisher-only options. Because of their book search products, a lot of people are focused on Amazon and Google as the major players in the would-be electronic book distribution network, but it seems to me that Apple is quietly carving out a very strong position with iTunes. We’ve been actively using iTunes for digital distribution of tutorials from Make:, and have had substantial readership. (We send out a pdf with every weekend video project (readers get both the video and the pdf in iTunes), and we send out a weekly pdf on Craft: of sewing patterns, stencils and paper craft projects. Phil Torrone reports that we delivered 20,000+ PDFs in the month of December.)

What’s significant about iTunes and pdfs is that you’re talking about a general-purpose content distribution network with a device that gets its volume from markets like music, photos, and video, that are well ahead of books as first class digital objects. I just don’t see how any book-specific device has that much of a chance.