I’m fascinated with the details about the upcoming Nook Color just announced by Barnes & Noble. It will be a couple of weeks before we actually see one, but if it lives up to its description, it will be an awesome reader at a very reasonable price ($250). The color touch screen and Android operating system give this device the ability to support e-books as well as “enhanced” e-books with beautifully colored illustrations, audio and animations in their new children’s books series. Color makes offering magazine subscriptions a viable option now too. And, by including email and web access capabilities via wi-fi, they can add social functionality to all of it. Not only is that fun for the readers, it’s give B&N some pretty significant free marketing as people talk about what they’re reading.
Will I be trading in my iPad for a Nook? Not likely. My iPad has replaced my desktop for all but the most demanding writing, research and photo/video management operations. I love that I can keep up with mail/web/social updates from the couch or kitchen rather than hidden in the den. My genealogy database, research notes and most-used reference books are with me at all times (well, almost). Thanks to small things like adjusting font size, these old eyes enjoy reading a whole lot more.
All of these amazing devices are showing us the future, but the publishing world is responding slowly. Publishers are trying to force us to pay hard-cover prices for e-books that cost pennies to produce. I’m still waiting for some enterprising soul to start collecting rights to publish out-of-print books as e-books. I’m dying to re-read the Advise and Consent series, Dinner at Antoine’s and so many other great books I enjoyed years ago. And, while companies like OverDrive provide e-book lending services to public libraries, digital rights management (DRM) restricts us from sharing our own books with others. I’m sure these things will happen at some point. First the publishers (and I include music and video along with print) have to realize that DRM costs them more in loss of legitimate sales than piracy.
Fortunately, there’s plenty of good reading to keep me occupied while I wait for all this to happen. I am finding some very exciting innovations in the news and magazine arena, but mostly from the tech side. For years, I’ve looked at my news reader as an efficient way to process large amounts of information. In addition to keeping up with blogs, I’ve used it to track items for sale at eBay, new content added to archives and announcements from all kinds of sources. Since I got my iPad, and thanks to some of the most amazing apps designed for it, I’m looking at news feeds to build a customized newspaper that brings back the joy of a lazy Sunday morning with all those fascinating sections of the Sunday paper. A delightful app called The Early Edition from Glasshouse Apps presents my subscribed feeds as newspaper pages and includes the ability to define my own sections. I’ve winnowed my feed subscriptions down to just the really enjoyable reads and gone looking for some new ones to fill out topics I want to include – like book reviews [a difficult choice because there are so many good ones]. Now I can start my day with a cup of coffee and a newspaper that covers all my favorite topics.
Another app – Flipboard – turns my iPad and selected Twitter lists into a gorgeous magazine. [Twitter! Who knew?] This app follows the links to articles and photos referenced in tweets and arranges them into pages beautifully displayed on the iPad’s screen. Even the most gorgeous magazine, once digitized into a PDF version of it’s print counterpart, can’t compare to the joy of exploring the latest items showing up in Flipboard.
While publishers like Wired Magazine have created fancy iPad apps to include video and animations with the content, it’s still basically a print format. One delightful exception is the iPad version of Gourmet – GourmetLive. You don’t have to be a food lover to find this app mesmerizing. You open an article that looks interesting and, once you’ve finished reading it, a popup box suggests you might enjoy this related section. For example, an article profiling a New Orleans chef might lead you to a section of creole recipes. You can save recipes to your own library – and with an appropriate stand the iPad serves nicely as a cookbook. Even the advertising is interesting. I hope to see more social features like the ability to email a recipe and look forward to watching it evolve.
Barnes & Noble spoke about a Nook app store in last week’s announcement. Hopefully apps similar to these will become a staple on other e-readers. With these reading options – and the thousands of public domain e-books already available – I have little incentive to purchase over-priced books.
Publishers beware! Twitter and blogs may soon make you obsolete.