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OPLIN 4Cast #266: When is an ebook not a book?

Posted in 4cast

One of the nifty things about ebooks is their ability to transcend plain text. Illustrations and graphic design have always been recognized as an important component of print books, especially children’s books, but digital publishing opens up the possibility of doing much more with a book. “Enhanced” ebooks can manipulate and present content in ways and formats that are impossible in print books. At what point does the e“book” become something other than a book? And what will that mean for the ebook business?

  • Coliloquy launches interactive e-books that let readers choose the story (ReadWriteWeb/Jon Mitchell)  “Authors can adjust their future offerings based on what they learn about their audience from the choices they make. It’s in-story analytics. And the readers get the satisfaction of influencing the outcome not just of one story but of a whole series.”
  • NBC News is launching a Publishing arm to bring video into the e-book format (The Next Web/Anna Heim)  “Many e-books will be based on NBC News’ own material, including its coverage of current events and trends, but also biographies and documentaries. […] For NBC News, this represents an innovative way to monetize its content on e-readers.”
  • The e-reader, as we know it, is doomed (The Loop/Matt Alexander)  “They are cheap, lightweight, have long battery life, and operate well in direct sunlight, but they do little more than present traditional literature in an electronic package. And while that might be enough for some, it is clear that e-ink is progressing towards a colorful, responsive, video-capable future, and that is certainly not what constitutes an e-reading device. That is a tablet.”
  • How the long tail cripples bonus content/multimedia (paidContent/Seth Godin)  “Sure, there will be experiments at the cutting edge, but no, they’re not going to pay off regularly enough for it to become an industry. The quality is going to remain in the writing and in the bravery of ideas, not in teams of people making expensive digital books.”

Predictions fact:
Being the beginning of a new year, there is no shortage of predictions about ebooks in 2012. As for enhanced ebooks, pundits think they will either be “the next big thing” or won’t create enough profit to be viable.