Magazine article Information Today

The Still More Perfect Ebook

Magazine article Information Today

The Still More Perfect Ebook

Article excerpt

In my column last month, I stipulated that achieving perfection in producing ebooks that are capable of engineering a complete revolution from print to digital would first require full interoperability as well as both platform and seller independence. No "buy my box or else." No "buy my ebooks or else."

Well, the market must have been reading my column. (This was tricky, since my column wasn't published until the following changes took place. Maybe it's just that great minds think alike.) As far as those device purchases and those ebook readers with mandates already receding into the distance are concerned, I opened an email message last week from Amazon that offered me a free Kindle download for my PC and/or Mac. A buddy of mine already uses her free Kindle on her iPhone.

Opening the Kindle-proprietary ebooks to any device willing to carry them would seem a more efficient and sensible plan than the endless effort of "improving" the Kindle device until it can compete with every other computer device. Nevertheless, Amazon appears to be trying both strategies. If you own a Kindle, the instructions are given to you about how to handle non-Kindle files, such as text documents (.txt), unprotected Mobipocket (.mobi, .prc), Audible (.aa, .aax), and music (.mp3). You can also email approved file types to your Kindle's email address through Amazon's Whispernet service. Approved file types include Microsoft Word documents (.doc, .docx, and some other caveats), structured HTML (.html, .htm), RTF, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP, ZIP, and PDF (with some special accommodating software that also has some caveats). And then there are the newspapers, magazines, and blogs available through the Kindle Store.

The Edenic Ebook Experience

But let's get away from market strategies in the iPad world and get back to that edenic ebook experience. The first and probably most important thing to realize about ebooks is how often people would prefer a library to a book. Of course, people reading for entertainment, such as romances, science fiction, or mysteries (my favorite genre), will read an ebook much the same way as a print book--by starting at the beginning and going straight through to the end (except for those cheats who skip to the end to see whodunit). But people reading a book to help them perform a task of any sort often prefer to hop around. And the more places you can give them to hop, the better they like it. For example, I noticed that the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) added a new IEEE-Wiley eBooks collection to its IEEE Xplore Digital Library.

Subscribing customers can access online versions of more than 400 books including practical handbooks, introductory and advanced texts, reference works, and professional books. And in terms of access, you can hop from one chapter to another in any book in the collection.

Speaking of subscriptions, this is an interesting idea and something that could appeal to ebook readers. For example, the IEEE Xplore-Wiley eBooks collection offers two subscription plans: an annually renewed subscription and a purchase option with perpetual ownership. Both plans cover the current year's books as well as leased access to the backlist. Of course, librarians tend to like the latter.

'You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet'

It looks as though the IEEE Xplore-Wiley eBooks collection has recognized what all ebook sellers should. …

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