Are e-books good enough?
I found this a very interesting
In referencing a piece by Jason Illian of Bookshout! about the lack of technical innovation in e-books, Meadows says:
“There’s no consumer demand for better e-books.”
That’s an intriguing postulate, and I wanted to discuss it with you.
I love innovation: I think a lot of people do. My favorite thing in reading a book or watching a TV show or a movie is to be surprised…I like that with my tech, too.
Show me something I’ve never seen before, and I’ll smile.
Most people don’t want change in something which is already working and on which they depend.
I can relate to this with my work.
I’m a trainer (I train technology to medical people…I train other things to them, too, but that’s my main job). I also do “performance improvement”…workflow analysis and optimization, that sort of thing.
People present these formulae for how to improve performance, and I’m amused by one thing which I see taught as a standard technique.
They want you to observe the top performers; see what they are doing which is efficient. Then, you get the moderate and lower performing users to do things that way.
The theory, I assume, is that the top performers have found the best way to do it.
There usually is no best way for everybody.
Since people are different and have different approaches, there are different “best ways”. I’m not a visual person: make me make choices based on icons, and I’ll be slower than making choices based on words. There are other people (probably more people) who will do better with the icons.
The other thing is that top performers with tech are top performers in part because they like change.
If you observe them again three months later, they’ll be doing it a different way. Do you go back and retrain everybody else to do it the new way?
A top performer with tech says, “What does that button do? What if I do this instead of that?”
The average doctor, nurse, medical assistant, and so on, doesn’t want to intellectually engage with the tech while providing patient care. They want to concentrate on the patient, and have the tech just support them unobtrusively. That includes when they are “charting” (documenting what happened).
Top performers (with tech) tend to have a multi-tasking temperament. They can effectively do one thing while effectively thinking about something else.
You can’t transfer that to someone else.
Many of us feel like we “depend” on books. If we want to read a book and can’t do it, it upsets us. That is, by the way, how I, as a layperson, conceptualize addiction. It’s an addiction if it feels bad if you don’t do it. 🙂
E-books, right now, work. I can pick up my device, start reading, and I’m good to go.
After all, that’s how print books worked for centuries. You picked them up and read them and the tech worked.
Now, that doesn’t mean that I don’t really appreciate the innovations that e-books give me over p-books. Being able to carry a bunch of books in my pocket, having the book know where I finished my last reading session, and especially the increasable text size are all great.
If text sizes had been static, though, that wouldn’t have stopped me from reading e-books. I would have had to wear reading glasses, just as I would have with print books, or bought ones with larger text.
It’s true that I don’t buy books where the publisher has blocked text-to-speech access, but that’s an ethical stand, not a personal use one.
There are things that irritate people (the way that some models justify ((align the edges)) of the text, for example), but I doubt that most people feel like the e-books are below a standard acceptable level.
The question is this: why should Amazon (or other retailers, or the publishers) innovate on e-books?
Innovation costs money. It’s not just in the development; it’s in the customer service, which can be quite expensive. You risk people not liking it (ask Microsoft about Clippy the paper clip assistant for Microsoft Office)…if you even just change where a choice is in a menu, you get pushback.
There are strong reasons not to innovate.
Why, then, have we ever gotten innovation?
That’s not the only reason…companies also innovate because it is fun, because it supports departments (the engineers you need to deal with changing conditions, say, a new internet standard, also need something to do when those don’t occur…it’s good for their morale, too), and because it gets media attention.
The biggest reason, I believe, is competition. For Amazon, that included competition with Barnes & Noble, Sony, and Kobo. We’ve seen that with the Kindle and the NOOK…for example, Barnes & Noble had a frontlit device before Amazon had the Paperwhite. It also, significantly, included competition with p-books…e-books have tried to match p-books competitive advantages, by adding lending, for example (we still don’t have a “used” e-book market, though).
Does any competitor with Amazon on e-books have current features which are so much better that Amazon as to worry about people switching? The only one that comes to my mind is a water resistant EBR (E-Book Reader)…but I don’t think someone with a significant Kindle library would drop it for, say, a Kobo Aura H20. They might have both…
Given the costs associated with e-book format innovation, the question is this: should Amazon devote resources to it?
I thought I’d ask you:
If you have additional comments, feel free to leave them on this post.
Special note: I’d said yesterday I wanted to get another post out last night, but I’d had dental work done yesterday, and it affected me more than I expected. 🙂 It’s not bad, but I think it’s still affecting me this morning. My Significant Other is back from helping our now adult kid move, though, so that’s good. 🙂
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* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. Shop ’til you help! By the way, it’s been interesting lately to see Amazon remind me to “start at AmazonSmile” if I check a link on the original Amazon site. I do buy from AmazonSmile, but I have a lot of stored links I use to check for things.
This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.