Monday, August 29, 2011

Driving eBook Innovation

Guest Post By Emily Hill

At the time the automobile was invented there were alternative modes of traveling long distance: horse, carriage, and bicycle to name a few. But, the automobile took the cake! Yes, it was expensive, but it found its place among wealthier consumers. And, it was cumbersome with that crank to start up the motor. And a bit fashion-edgy with those goggles one had to wear while driving early models that didn’t have windshields. But nothing beat the excitement, the novelty, of trying out the automobile.
Then, the automobile got sexy – and as time went by – even sexier. One could travel faster, farther. Windshield wipers, enclosed cabins, radios, and heaters were added. Ultimately automobile innovation included leather interior, movie screens for children, GPS systems for errant wanderers, and parking sensors! All of these innovations were meant to heighten the enjoyment of the driver and their passengers; make them happier to be using automobile travel over any of the alternatives. In futuristic terms Oliver Wyman’s ‘Car Innovation 2015’ study the slogan is ‘stagnation means regression’.
This seems to be the slogan most appropriate for advancements in eReader technology as well. Those who follow the publishing industry live in interesting times. And by interesting times I don’t mean how the politics of exclusivity and nepotism has cut the nose off the publishing industry – I’m focusing for the moment on how innovations in one of the most basic pastimes in history – reading – is being revolutionized.
If Charleton Heston was correct, and I presume he was, man originally read on clay tablets that had been carved with the messages of The Greats. Innovation jumped forward and papyrus was inked by scribes and read by kings and popes. Time moved forward and wax tablets became the vogue, followed by inking to parchment. Commerce entered the picture and we were off and running – or off and reading! We’ve come a long way, baby, since 1440 when printing presses were clunking and clanking along in Europe.
The concept of ‘stagnation means regression’ is moving along at a much faster clip in publishing as we proceed into the Twenty-First century. Why, just look at eReaders! The Dynabook-concept, which made its debut in the late 1960’s, lumbered along for a number of years. Its prototypes failed to make much of a dent in disseminating electronically-available words widely. That is, until the late 1990’s when libraries in the U.S. began making eBooks available to the public. I’ve said it loud, and I’ve said it often, Hug A Librarian! Bless them…from protecting Michael Moore’s interests to sliding eBook technology across the check-out counter, they have had our best interests at heart when it comes to access. And Amazon and Sony made eBook reading a breeze.
Fast-forward fifteen years and we are all reading eBooks – from our eReaders or our desktop computers. We’ve seen the availability of eBooks advance from eReaders, to iPads. And, innovations for bringing electronic books to consumers will continue to dazzle us. But what about reading, and the reading experience? With humans’ Twenty-First century capacity to multi-task, engage all senses at once, and move at a ever faster pace, ‘stagnation means regression’. The eBook must do something more than just provide us with a variation of the printed page. And, now it does!
“Want an eReader that is more than an eReader?” There’s Pandigital Havnon, Samsung, Sony, Archos, and of course, Kindle. eReader innovators brought us color, and now authors publish and make available color travelogues, maps, and even cookbooks that spill color into our kitchens. eReaders manage apps, and androids. eReaders now even talk to us, so we have Nook Book for Kids, Amazon Kindle 3, and the Binatone Read-to-me by Argos. So, we’re reading, reading on electronic books, reading in color, and our kids are being read to.
But, let’s have more! Bring it on! We didn’t want only visual stimulation, we wanted both sight and sound! Sound….of…music! Let’s have music! Some time ago James Patterson began distributing CDs to play while his books are being read, oh so cumbersome – though innovative! But the industry strives to do better, innovation being the pass code. And so it is. Music has come to eBooks and the eReading experience. Thanks to Booktracks.
Innovators Mark and Paul Cameron paired with Brooke Geahan, forming Booktrack which now brings readers up to nine hours of musical score which plays at the same pace as the reader is taking in the storyline. Visit for details. Book tracks describes their capability in a recent news release “matching synchronized music, sound effects and ambient sound to the text of your favorite ebooks”. Peter Thiel, of PayPal/Facebook, joined the Booktrack team, ensuring their success. But, I expect technology innovators, and reader demand will drive large and small publishers even farther forward.
Many smaller innovations are being tried with eReader and eBook to enhance the reading experience of consumers. eBook publishers, like A.V. Harrison Publishing, are now embedding YouTube action videos into their eBooks for readers who want to take a break - not from the action – but to the action. Smart authors are including interview podcasts in their eBooks – and why not? Isn’t engaging the reader the point? After all, ‘stagnation means regression’ and everything I see on the publishing front is moving ahead.

Emily Hill is owner of A.V. Harrison Publishing, and works as a self-publishing workshop facilitator and Self-Pub Coach in the Pacific Northwest. Ms. Hill teaches from her how-to guide series, ‘All Smart Cookies Can Self-Publish’ which is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. A writer, Ms. Hill has published a number of titles, including her feature novel, Jenkins: Confederate Blockade Runner, available to libraries through Ingram Book Distributors, as well as and at all Barnes & Noble retailers. Her website is located at

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