The Blind Men and the Elephant
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When publishers distribute ebooks as files, they do so with an implied request to the retailer: “please transform this into a reading experience.” For largely commercial reasons, and despite the best efforts of the IDPF and W3C, a reader’s experience of an ebook depends on where they purchased it. What if, instead of files, publishers delivered ebooks as fully formed reading experiences via self-contained web services? By taking back responsibility for the whole book — which in the print world always included the reading system — could publishers deliver a more compelling experience, more faithfully and efficiently, across different channels? Would we see publishers developing better ways of reading special types of content, such as cookbooks, textbooks and travel guides? Would this narrow the gap we see between the type of innovation we see on the open web, and the type of innovation we see in ebooks? How would such a scheme work for distributors and retail channels? Would it reduce barriers to market entry and consumer switching costs, thus increasing competition? What other roles might emerge in the value chain? What new opportunities and challenges might emerge for our standards bodies? Is this a good idea, and could it actually work?
Talk can be seen here starting at 18:20
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