Friday, December 10, 2010

Let's Talk About eBooks Part 1

Haven't done much writing as of late so I'll keep this short and sweet (and will probably be breaking it up into smaller chunks).

Three Presumptions

In any discussion about eBooks, those engaged in the conversation usually have one of these three suppositions:

  1. That the person they're talking to is based in the U.S. (and to a lesser extent, certain parts of Europe). It's actually an entirely different conversation if the person you're talking to resides in, say, the Philippines, Australia, or Singapore. For example, a few months ago, I gave a talk during the second day of the Future of the Book 2010 Conference. One of the questions I asked was how many people in the room owned Kindles--and mind you, this is a room full of readers and those curious about eBooks. The answer? One. Or another valid question is how diverse are the selections at the Australian iBookstore? Or what's the eBook reading market like in Malaysia? Whenever there's a discussion about eBooks, I find their paradigm to be very Anglo-centric.
  2. That we're talking only about one kind of book (or genre). Look, there are several kinds of "books" out there. Fiction books. Text books. Graphic novels. Each one has a different take when you talk about their eBook counterparts. For example, in the tabletop gaming industry, what consumers really need are portable PDF readers because most of their documents include charts, tables, and illustrations that aren't suitable for the EPUB format. If we're talking about genre, I hear that the romance eBook industry is booming. I need to know the context when we're talking about your eBook, as the solution/challenges of one field might not be identical to another.
  3. That there is such a thing as a universal eBook format. Related to my previous point, there is no "standard" eBook format. RTF can be an eBook format. HTML can be an eBook format. Each format has its own advantages and disadvantages, not to mention different support depending on your reading device. Your novel won't look good in TXT format. It might be easier to read in EPUB. It's atrocious in PDF. Again, I need context.

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