Saturday, July 29, 2006

1 Million Pages in your Pocket

What's Apple Doing With eBooks? - Cult of Mac weighs in on the rumours of proper eBook functionality for iPod:
That would be a radical move for the company, as no eBook has achieved the kind of breakaway success predicted for the devices during the overly optimistic early '90s. ... It's a great idea, and if libraries get on board with this, I might never read physical books on my commute again.
I'm definitely with you on this one Rui, but I don't think it's such a surprising move. Apple made the only (non-dedicated) handheld device I would ever have considered reading a whole book on way back in the 90's, and if they can beat the Newton's clarity of text and battery life then I'll be one happy commuter too. The other aspect of this that makes it a natural for Apple is precisely what Rui considers radical; the lack of success of others in putting the pieces together in an area with so much untapped potential. It's what Apple did with the mp3 player market, then with podcasting, and (Apple hopes) with short-form download videos too. With the right deals (please tell me O'Reilly are on board and, while we're dreaming, Dorling Kindersley too), the right device (a music player with expanded functionality, intuitive navigation, sharp on-screen text, and good-to-great battery life), and a smart technical implementation (a compact format with lots of sources of free content - something like pdf), the eBook revolution might take a giant step forward. The need for sources of 'free' content is key. Ripped CDs - and file-sharing - provided the kindling for the iPod, and we all have huge amounts of documents we could be persuaded to carry around on our iPods. Create a Gutenberg Project section in the iTMS. Let me autosync an iPod bookmark folder in Safari via iTunes just like I do with my photos and podcasts. Build hooks into Leopard to let other developers easily add this functionality (what wouldn't I give for Newsfire to go every morning?). Grab my unread mail as a continuous scrollable eBook and let my iPod read it to me, Nike + Apple style. None of this needs to add unnecessary complexity to the basic iPod functionality - it can all slot nicely into what's already there. What's more, this parlays well with Apple's education strategy for the iPod and iTMS, adding serious functionality for those Universities who've already built iTunes portals, and a major lure for others to jump on board. Many of the educators and edu administrators I work with would kill for a good cheap eBook reader, never mind one that students willingly purchase themselves. If Apple get this one right 2006 could turn out to be the year eBooks really start to happen, and while the other players are fussing over downloadable movie content the iPod could become even more entrenched in the mainstream through the humble medium of black on white type.

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