different forms and business models for e-books

Inventive Labs’ web guru Joseph Pearson has thought deeply about e-books.  He argues convincingly that e-books should be paginated. Shrewdly recognizing the comparative advantage of traditional book publishers, he argues that the e-book format EPUB should not attempt to be a highly flexible web application platform:

For [book publishers] that are not software houses in chrysalis, it’s absurd to compete by trying to become their competitors. … The only sensible thing for these publishers to do is to carry the strength of their convictions and acknowledge the weight of their expertise: which is in the field of picking, refining and publishing books.
These publishers need a specification that makes the reading of ebooks — things for which their very best form is a book — as pleasurable as it can be.

The form of a book here seems to mean a bound order of book pages.

The Monocle web-browser-based e-book reader and the Booki.sh e-book platform implement this idea of a book. Barriers between books and the web disappear, not because books dissolve as a distinctive form, but because anyone with a web-browser can read a book, and anyone who wants to publish a book can do so with the open-source Monocle software.  The book business, of course, is more complicated than being able to read and write.  Booki.sh adds web-based e-book access control and personal e-book library maintenance, along with e-book software expertise.  With Booki.sh, a book publisher can focus on selecting, editing, and laying out books for a well-specified, universally accessible e-book form.

Push Pop Press exemplifies a much different direction of development in electronic publishing.  A Push Pop Press book is a standalone app developed, at least initially, specifically for the iPad and the iPhone. This app offers for a book a “new physics-based multi-touch user interface” that “feels like an exquisitely crafted game.” As apps, such books fit into a well-structured commercial market.  On the other hand, such book are neither universally accessible works nor works that traditional publishers are likely to have much expertise in creating.

Books as sets of a bound order of pages and books as game-like apps could both develop into sizable electronic publishing industries.  But they would be very different businesses.

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