Last week the New York Times had a long article on Amazon and Google. Seems both companies have a big interest in digital reading. Their approach to digital reading has nothing in common, except that, neither one expects to create a significant revenue stream from it in the short run. Their approaches are an interesting window into today’s world of electronic reading.
Amazon is reportedly taking a gamble on a new e-reading device, the Kindle, complete with wireless connection, keyboard and e-Ink screen. Google, on the other hand, is eschewing the reader and focusing on content.
Amazon’s “revolutionary” feature is the ability to download directly from the Web (no intermediate computer needed). I am still shaking my head in disbelief! After all, any smart phone has been able to do this for years. And when you think it can’t get weirder, you find out that this "revolutionary" web-connected device is unable to produce color or handle animated images.
Google continues to focus on aggregating content. Now, however, they want to start charging you for it. Soon Google Book Searcher users will be able to open a book and read a segment of it for a small fee. The owner of the content will receive some type of revenue sharing. In other words every time someone uses a device (computer, smart phone, eReader or PDA) to open a book and read even 1 page, the owner receives a little dough. Since Google reaches about 25% of all internet users in any given day this could add up to a lot of cash for publishers and authors.
Amazon will present their titles in Mobipocket format, while Google offers most of the Book Search titles in Adobe PDF (digital editions) format.
Amazon has been building a device while Google has been busy digitizing books that can be read on just about any device.
The two approaches really do highlight everything that is wrong with commercial digital content and the eBook market. Here are two giant companies with different approaches to digital reading and neither one of them will make a dent in the real problem.
They don’t get it! The consumer (you and I) is drowning in a flood of words and information: email, newspapers, newsletters, RSS feeds, magazines and books are coming out our ears. We don’t need or want every book every book ever written in digital form. A lot of them weren’t any good on paper in the first place!
We want and need a common sense way to access, utilize and organize the information we have!
Ultimately, the winners in the digital reading derby will not be the maker of a device or the aggregator of content. They will be the companies that focus on what the consumer needs – making the right content visible, accessible and usable.