It's time to place a moratorium on negativity and start working toward book publishing's bright future.
Editor’s note: this piece originally appeared on Medium; it is cross-posted here with permission. The writer is an O’Reilly employee, but he is expressing his personal views. We love his optimism about the future and wanted to share it with the Radar audience.
“THAT COMPANY is destroying my P&L, the entire book industry, and the fabric of civilized society.”
“I really like their free, two-day shipping, though.”
There’s a lot of tsoris in the publishing community right now over ebooks. Much of it has something to do with THAT COMPANY WITH THE WEBSITE THAT SELLS ALL THE THINGS, how THAT COMPANY has a stranglehold on the book market, how it’s devaluing our literary canon, how it has publishers right where it wants them.
But we’re not just cranky about THAT COMPANY. Other jeremiads include — but are not limited to — the painfully slow adoption curve of EPUB 3, the demise of beloved sites like Readmill, the failure of “enhanced” ebooks to gain traction, sundry ereader feculence, stagnating ebook sales, and sideloading.
I’m a cynic by nature, and count wallowing among my favorite hobbies, but after half a decade as a software engineer in the digital publishing space, even I’ve had enough and am issuing a moratorium on the negativity! Instead, I want to talk about some of the promising trends I’ve seen develop over the past year that foretell a bright future for the digital book. Forthwith: Five reasons for optimism about the future of ebooks.
The key advantages of the HTML5 platform for authors and publishers
In the past six years, the rise of the ebook has ushered in three successive revolutions that have roiled and reshaped the traditional publishing industry.
Revolution #1 began in November in 2007, when Amazon released its first-generation eInk Kindle. As the first ereader to achieve broad adoption by consumers, the Kindle fundamentally changed our answer to the question, “How do you read a book?” On paper? Sure. But also maybe on a handheld screen!
Revolution #2 began in January of 2010, when Apple released its first-generation iPad. As the first tablet computer to achieve a critical mass of popularity, the iPad fundamentally changed our conceptions about what those handheld ereader screens could and should do, and as a result, it raised a deeper metaphysical question: “What is a book?” An immutable stream of text and pictures? Sure. But also maybe audio, video, and elements like 3-D models, games, and quizzes that respond and adapt to human interaction!
Don Linn on the DOJ's lawsuit and the shifting ebook landscape.
Don Linn, president at Firebrand Associates, shares insights into the DOJ lawsuit and offers his take on what lies ahead for publishers and readers.
Gurvinder Batra on KiwiTech's publishing-specific approach.
In this TOC Podcast, KiwiTech founder and CTO Gurvinder Batra talks about how his company masters the challenges of developing apps for the publishing industry. He also says native apps are a better option than EPUB.
EPUB3 could yield enhanced ebooks that finally work on multiple platforms.
New features in EPUB3 are expanding the horizons of ebook enhancement. In this interview, Julien Simon and Jérémie Gisserot of Walrus Books discuss the advantages of EPUB3 and what they’d like to see developers do next.
Joshua Tallent says it's time for ebook design to get the same attention as print design.
Joshua Tallent, owner of eBook Architects and a speaker at TOC 2011, discusses the nuts and bolts of digital production.
Bob Kasher on EPUB3's key areas: multimedia, language support, and accessibility.
Bob Kasher, business development manager for integrated solutions at Book Masters and a speaker at TOC 2011, dishes on EPUB3 and what publishers, developers, and consumers can expect from the new release.
Dave Gunn on how ebook tech helps readers with disabilities and opens a new publishing market.
Dave Gunn, technical manager at the Royal National Institute of Blind People and a speaker at TOC 2011, discusses the bright future of accessible publishing and how it offers moral and financial benefits.
PDF has competition from EPUB.
We track the ebook formats customers actually download, and from the start PDF has been the dominant choice. But as this post's associated chart shows, there's been a steady shift toward other formats.
The inevitability of truly connected books and why publishers need APIs.
The timeline and output may be unknown, but the distinction between the Internet and books is arbitrary, and it is destined to disappear. Hugh McGuire examines the transition and takes a few guesses as to what lies ahead.