By Darren E Laws
The publicity the Kindle DX has achieved this week with its launch must have pleased Amazon and while one may argue about the benefits of the machine against the Kindle 2 the good news for publishers, authors and of course readers is the seeming acceptance of the eBook as a method of delivery. This acceptance is quite a leap for the media who have until now been cynical in its approach to digitally delivered content. Now maybe this is because in America where the Kindle is currently available the current economic climate has left many news and publishing houses teetering on the brink of financial collapse and I am not talking about small local companies here. Established and highly influential companies have felt the blunt and brute force of the recession and the impact this has had on sales and more importantly profits has led to a radical rethink about revenue streams. The same problem is confronting a lot of media providers in the UK, many of whom are now ready to look at new delivery platforms for their content.
The excitement of the Kindle DX in the States is mainly driven by the machine's ability to work with PDF as well as Amazon's own bespoke format. Many people argue that until there is a single format for eBooks that its progress will be hampered. I don't believe this to be the case where eBooks are concerned and I'll tell you why I think this to be so. We are now dealing with a far more sophisticated generation of digital users and I am not relating this to age but to education and choice. There are a number of different formats available for eBooks, some of these such as ePub for instance will dominate but newer kids on the block such as DNAML offer publishers, authors and readers a different experience with a more seamless blend of multi-media content, colour and audio as well as a choice of digital rights management (DRM). DRM is often seen as the scourge of the music industry and one of the reasons that piracy was so rife. The truth actually falls between (music) publishers setting unrealistic charges to deliver MP3 (or other format) content and a generation of Internet users who felt that file sharing was perfectly legal without thinking about the long term implications of mass piracy. There are still a significant proportion of people who want something for nothing and there always will be but the introduction of machines such as the Kindle will begin a process of education that introduces paying for content on a legitimate platform.
The challenge for publishers is to set the price for delivering that digital content at a level which is realistic enough to generate return on a business model that makes the process worthwhile but is viewed by readers as exceptional value for money. Once the general buying public recognise and see no difference between online digital book stores and their brick and mortar equivalent then the rise of the eBook will be an unstoppable force within the industry. People are already prepared to purchase every conceivable type of product from the Internet and many are already subscribing to receive the delivery of digital content in one form or another, be that music downloads or movies. The next logical step is books and news content and while it may be argued that this has been happening for years we are on the verge of something truly exciting with digital content being delivered to mobile phones, dedicated eBook readers and direct to computers. Does it matter which machine or which format this is happening in? I really don't think it does. We are now in a new era where choice can sit comfortably with content and how people wish to read that content. Publishers looking for a simple answer that will dominate the market do not understand how this new market is developing. There actually is room for this level of choice and different platforms. This is not a simple battle between Betamax and VHS or DVD and BlueRay or even BlueRay and HD DVD and the reason why this is the case is that the development of all of these platforms, formats and machine's has been independent of publishers and thankfully the small group of large publishers which dominate the high street bookstores. This in itself explains their reluctance to embrace the many different options available on the market today. They don't like the democratization of publishing one bit. The stuffy, inbred world of publishing is coming to its knees with a look of confusion etched on its face. Some are finally waking up to this new world of publishing, others will fall and die.
The future of publishing is exciting and we are entering a world where users will still want paper books and newspapers, how and where they actually get their content though is going to change radically. Bookstores are going to become digital repositories hosting titles from publishers all over the world, they will be able to send those digital titles to machines such as the Espresso Book Machine (EBM) to be printed in-store or direct to mobile phones and eBook readers through Bluetooth technology. Readers will purchase directly through websites downloaded to the reading machine of their choice and DRM will be sophisticated enough to allow content to be freely transferred between the different machines within a household or user. Is this future far away? I have already seen all of this technology working and as a publisher see nothing but benefit. For me it means our titles can fight for a place alongside that of much larger publishers. This just would not have happened even one year ago.
So bring on the Kindle DX and all of its successors. The machine itself may have faults but the one thing you cannot fault is that it is offering the market access to books and news content in a new and exciting form even if at the minute Amazon is only offering the product to America.