A lot of people with whom I regularly trade ideas are reading Walter Isaacson’s page-turning biography of Steve Jobs.
And so for the first time I find myself frustrated with all the limitations on sharing capabilities in e-Readers (I’m using the Kindle app on an iPad). I can’t even email text to someone with comments.
Functionality that would be great:
- Copy/paste functionality of any sort
- The ability to highlight a section of text and drop it straight into an email
- Knowing which of your friends (in your address book; Facebook friends; etc.) is reading the book and what page they’re on
- Highlighting and commenting on text that can be seen by your friends who are reading the same book (I’d want the comments to appear in the app, not to appear as a Facebook update)
- Export all of your highlights, as well as your comments, into a shareable file
- The ability to opt in/out of making your comments available to some sort of online discussion forum…
- ….and, similarly, to view comments from that forum while you read, if you want.
And some things I wouldn’t want:
- Lots of embedded video – I still want reading to be reading and not to involve any headphones
- Any instant messaging-type functionality within the app
- Anything with notifications that pop up without me asking for them
- Anything at all that makes turning off EVERYTHING (others’ comments, etc) in the least bit difficult
- Whatever else would turn my book-reading experience into something more akin to web browsing. I want (and we all need) the ability to give something sustained attention without distraction
Basically what I’d want is a one way door that I can fully control, that I can choose to open to go deeper into conversation with those with whom I’d like to converse about a book. I don’t want the book to be any less book-like, I want the option of creating a shared experience and peer dialogue by leveraging existing, simple functionality in a way that amplifies the experience without distracting.
I’m intrigued by the disconnect between the prestige and legitimacy afforded by being a “published author” and all the friction inherent in trying to spread your ideas by writing a book.
Think about the dropoff from:
The number of people who hear about a book → The number that buy the book → The number that read the book they’ve bought → The number that spread the word about that book
If you aren’t a known name or you don’t have an existing tribe whose permission you’ve earned (often over a number of years), simply getting the word out about your book is a herculean task. And so, most books sell only a few thousand copies.
Nevertheless, being a “published author” still carries a real caché. Especially if you write nonfiction, “published author” is a chalice of purported legitimacy and expertise (e.g. it’s a lot easier for a journalist or a TV producer to justify interviewing a published author). What that means in reality is that the book gives you permission to talk about the ideas in the book, not the other way around. It’s a pretty roundabout, lumpy way to spread an idea.
Which gets me thinking:
- 25 years from now, will the notion of being a “published author” be anachronistic, and, if that happens, what will replace it?
- Or, will the notion live on, because as a society we will always need a way to separate out “legitimate” idea merchants from the chaff.
If anything, it seems like we are going to see a proliferation of pathways to legitimacy, which gives people who want to spread ideas (but who don’t have access to the gatekeepers) more options. That seems like a good thing, as the volume of ideas that will spread will likely go up.
The open question is whether, overall, more of the best ideas will get out. My bet is: Yes.
What do you think?
In case you missed it, Vook has a new iPhone app that creates a fully immersed, multimedia experience for books. It’s really for the iPad but you can already start playing around and glimpse the future: text and audio and video all in one place. Books like Seth Godin’s Unleashing the Ideavirus, The Call of the Wild, Alice in Wonderland, and The Brother’s Grimm Fairy Tales, from 99 cents to $2.99.
This is what the future looks like – so you may as well be one of the first people to check it out, before the iPad starts shipping in on April 3rd
And if you don’t have an iPhone, you can impress your friends: “Hey Joe, curious what the future of publishing and magazines and newspapers looks like? Check out Vook.” (Won’t you look cool?).
This is already what newspapers are becoming, and magazines aren’t far behind.
And eventually things will look like this, and won’t that be cool: