One evening I’m reading a hard cover book. The next morning when I get in my car, I start playing the audio version through the car stereo at the point I left off. While waiting for a lunch appointment, I read a few more pages off my cell phone. Later on at gym, I listen to 15 minutes of the book on my iPod. The next morning, I finish off the book on my eBook reader while on a long train ride.
If you haven’t figured it out, the paragraph above is pure fiction. It represents the way I want to consume media. While all of this is technically possible, publishers’ view of how people will read books doesn’t allow for this type of usage in any cost effective manner. They will want to sell you one physical copy, one for your ebook reader, one audio copy, etc.
What is amazing is that even the places selling digital media don’t seem to get it right. I purchased an eBook from Sony’s store. Before I read it, they came out with an updated version. If I want to read that, I’ll need to purchase it again. With physical books, we expect that. After all, we are getting something physical and if we want another one, we’ll need to get something physical again. In the digital world, the cost of a new copy is practically zero. It would seem like a no-brainer to give people updated copies of books they have purchased if the cost is nil.
Sadly, after seeing the editing process at a major book publisher, I shouldn’t be surprised. I was working with a client who was publishing a book with Simon and Schuster. I was curious what type of process they would have for editing the book. Here is the process:
- Book is written and sent to publisher.
- Publisher prints it out and marks up some changes.
- Physical pages are sent to author.
- Author looks at markup and makes additional changes and suggestions.
- Writer has the foresight to copy the manuscript before sending it back.
- Manuscript gets lost.
- Writer sends photocopy.
- Editors take manuscript and randomly make some of the changes that were marked up.
- New copy of manuscript is sent back to author.
- Author goes back through remarking changes that were made to original manuscript.
- Author undoes changes that weren’t part of markup on original manuscript.
- Book sent back to editor.
- Repeat 8 through 12 a few more times.
I expected that, at the very least, they would be emailing Word documents back and forth with the “track changes” option enabled.
After I saw how things were working, it pretty much shattered my hopes of being able to buy a book that is portable across different types of devices as described above anytime within my lifetime.
So how would content be accessible in your perfect world?