Platform For Success
While a readable display technology is certainly important for a portable device, the platform for downloading and reading ebooks is a vital technology. Adobe had developed its Adobe Digital Editions, which runs on both PCs and Macs (though not the Kindle reader), and will soon be installed as the platform for the Sony Reader.
Ebooks Corp., based in Perth, Western Australia, developed the eb20 platform for its ebooks. “Even though it looks and acts like a downloaded and installed software program,” says managing director Stephen Cole, “what you’re using is a 100% web-based application. That is to say, it’s just a web page.” In other words, with advancing technology, electronic reading has become as simple as, well, opening up a book.
Right now, ebooks sales are increasing at a steady clip. Book lovers are definitely interested in the possibility, especially if sales of the Kindle reading device are any indication (at the time of this writing, the $399 reader was out of stock and faced heavy customer demand). After attending the Online Information conference in London, Cole says, “the air is crackling with talk and action about ebooks.”
That’s because electronic books are offered in more ways than ever. Cole’s company, for example, has three core services: retail, library, and technical. “Our retail business offers a vast range of books across every possible discipline and interest. The library service serves the needs of research institutions. And our technical services [are] focused on helping publishers and retailers distribute ebooks securely to end users.”
Cole adds, “People adopt ebooks for a variety of reasons, but mostly it is about convenience.” Ebooks, he continues, allow for the following:
• Portability. “You can carry thousands of books on your laptop, or hundreds in your pocket.”
• Instant Access. “If you’re in Djibouti, it’s not so easy to find a wide range of English language books, but you can always find them online.”
• Search. “When you’re accustomed to reading ebooks, you have no idea how frustrating it is that you can’t keyword search a printed book.”
• Ubiquity. “Your entire collection is right there on your digital bookshelf. Easy to access anywhere, anywhere. Your ebooks are no longer even tethered to your own PC.”
Like most ebook companies, Ebooks Corp. is international in scope. Cole, however, has foreseen the growth of ebooks for a long time. His company has been producing and distributing ebooks since 1997 and has partnered with more than 400 publishers. “My wife and I were booksellers in our home town,” he says. “After selling our bookshop, we decided that the future of book distribution had to be—somehow, to some degree—digital. At that point, there was very little activity in the area of digitizing books.”
In Favor of Ebooks
These days, an increasing number of booksellers and publishers are seeing the potential of electronic books and are considering it the future of reading. But will it change the way we think of print books?
In terms of storage, the answer is a definite yes. Ebooks only take up space digitally. Amazon.com backs up every ebook purchase so readers can free up space on the Kindle reading device but not lose access or ownership of the book. Ebooks may also be viewed as a more environmentally friendly way to purchase books, eliminating the need to cut down trees for paper and use fuel to produce the books and to transport them. In addition, ebooks satisfy our growing desire for instant gratification. A book is on your reading platform within moments of ordering it. The Kindle also lets readers make annotations within the document and has a built-in dictionary, as do some other web-based ebook platforms.
Electronic books also allow the writing to be less static. Authors can more easily update their work. A nonfiction book can add new research without having to reprint an entirely new version (and it eliminates obsolete versions). Fiction writers can even rewrite scenes or change endings.