I used to lose myself in daydreams of tomorrowland's technology. Of ovens that would cook food in an instant, or computers small enough to fit in a house and talk to the occupant. Come to think of it, I still do.
Until I can have the same computer that powered Jean Luc Picard's voyage through space, I find what pleasure I can in all of the incremental steps that will take me to the time when I can simply say "Earl Grey, hot." And enjoy a cup of tea.
Which is a good thing, because if you are going to transition the business model to books, you don't want to start off having to mail a physical book back and forth to the customer.
Currently, the race to become the new Netflix for readers is between a start-up and an established internet company.
Oyster is the startup and hopes to be the eBook Netflix for your Apple mobile device, allowing you to read all of the books you want for $9.95 a month. As long as those books are among the 100,000 titles they offer. Being the aforementioned junkie, I asked for and received an invitation to download and begin using the app on my iPhone for $9.95 a month, just to see if I would like it. That was a month ago. Oyster has just released an iPad version which is better suited to my aging eyes.
It is attractive and intuitive. If the books that you would like to review are not listed in the categories on the home page, you can either search by keyword, author or title. Or, you can view additional genres.
Oyster also offers a social media connection that allows you to see what your friends are reading or show them your choices. Since no one that I know is using Oyster yet, that is one feature I have no use for, but can see how handy it would be for a book club to share such information.
Oyster claims a library of 100,000 books in addition to open source works. They have signed up "HarperCollins, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Workman and Rodale (to name a few) as well as indie book distributor Smashwords," according to an article in Wired. They claim that their library will continue to expand. Unfortunately, they only offer an app for Apple mobile devices. If you are an Android user, you are just out of luck.
The other competitor for the Netflix title is a bit older than Oyster, by about six years, and has an audience of 80 million visitors to its website every month. Scribd believes that this positions it well for an entry into the book subscription service market.
And after spending so much time criticizing the Big Five for their head-in-the-sand posture regarding the new reality that includes eBooks, it is nice to be able to praise one publisher that appears to be trying to find new ways to survive and perhaps prosper in that reality. Bravo to HarperCollins for being able to look beyond yesterday into tomorrow.
"I feel we are moving into new uncharted waters, but that's what innovating and reading is all about," HarperCollins CEO Brian Murray said in an interview. "I feel like this is the right deal with the right partner at the right time and we are going to learn."The Scribd application for the iPad is not terribly different from Oyster's, although the font selection is not as great. Also, I prefer the vertical pagination of Oyster, where you can scroll up or down between pages. Scribd also offers social media connections.
However, Scribd's price is a dollar less a month and it offers more titles from HarperCollins as well as that purchase option. More importantly, it provides apps for use on Android platforms (including Kindle Fire) as well as Apple mobile devices and all internet browsers.
During the month's free trial that both services are offering, I plan on switching back and forth to find which one offers the most books that I want to read. I will report back on what I find. But it isn't only about saving a dollar a month, or rather paying nine or ten dollars a month. Already I have found the services to be a good way to explore books that I might not have otherwise looked at. (I guess it helps if you read as much as I do and cringe whenever the Amazon bill shows up.)
Jeremy Greenfield of Digital Book World asked Trip Adler, the CEO of Scribd, about the pricing in a recent interview:
JG: Most readers in the U.S. probably don’t read enough to validate paying $8.99 a month for unlimited digital reading. Have you gotten blow-back on the price?He is right about that. I don't know how long the effect will last, but it is very like having a large library at your fingertips. I can read more than the first few chapters of a book before giving up on it. And I can take a look at books that are similar, or can provide background to whatever it is that I am reading about.
TA: The way I see it, we’re charging $8.99 per month for a new type of experience for books. It’s not just about getting more books for a lower price. It’s a new experience around discovering books, more flexibility to switch books, to browse books, to search for information within books. We’re charging for a new experience where people have access to a library. We’re seeing people browse books, read them in parallel — there are a lot of different kind of user behaviors happening.
However, it is when Trip Adler starts talking about the technological innovations of the future, that my heart starts pounding exactly the way it used to when I dreamt about tomorrowland:
"If we're going to build hardware, the thing we want to do is build reading goggles, so you can do hands-free reading," Adler says. "It's a little bit of a crazy idea, and I think it's a long way away for us, but there is already a number of e-readers out there, and I don't think people need yet another device.""Earl Grey, hot."
In Adler's view, the future of e-readers (eye-readers?) is in hands-free technology. Holding heavy books or tablets is cumbersome, Adler believes, describing the need for a more immersive experience than Google Glass. "Holding a book you're reading is kind of old school," he explains. "You should be able to just read on your back looking at the ceiling, with the reading experience probably projected in front of [your eyes]."
Adler stresses that Scribd is still "years away" from even considering producing such a product. It's moon-shot thinking. The details--how you would scroll, jump to different pages, and so forth--still need to be figured out.
Readers & Book Lovers Series Schedule:
|DAY||TIME (EST/EDT)||Series Name||Editor(s)|
|SUN||6:00 PM||Young Reader's Pavilion||The Book Bear|
|2:00 PM||What's on Your E-Reader?||Caedy|
|2:00 PM||Bibliophile's Wish List||Caedy|
|Sun||5:00 PM||Political Books||Susan from 29|
|Sun||9:30 PM||SciFi/Fantasy Book Club||quarkstomper|
|Bi-Monthly Sun||Midnight||Reading Ramblings||don mikulecky|
|MON||8:00 PM||Monday Murder Mystery||michelewln, Susan from 29|
|Mon||11:00 PM||My Favorite Books/Authors||edrie, MichiganChet|
|TUES||5:00 PM||Indigo Kalliope: Poems from the Left||bigjacbigjacbigjac|
|alternate Tuesdays||8:00 AM||LGBT Literature||Texdude50, Dave in Northridge|
|alternate Tuesdays||8:00 AM||All Things Bookstore||Dave in Northridge|
|Tue||8:00 PM||Contemporary Fiction Views||bookgirl|
|Wed||2:00 PM||e-books||Susan from 29|
|Wed||8:00 PM||Bookflurries Bookchat||cfk|
|THU||8:00 PM||Write On!||SensibleShoes|
|Thu (first each month)||11:00 AM||Monthly Bookpost||AdmiralNaismith|
|alternate Thursdays||11:00 PM||Audiobooks Club||SoCaliana|
|FRI||8:00 AM||Books That Changed My Life||Diana in NoVa|
|Fri||8:00 PM||Books Go Boom!||Brecht; first one each month by ArkDem14|
|Fri||10:00 PM||Slightly Foxed -- But Still Desirable||shortfinals|
|SAT (fourth each month)||11:00 AM||Windy City Bookworm||Chitown Kev|
|Sat||12:00 PM||You Can't Read That! Paul's Book Reviews||pwoodford|
|Sat||9:00 PM||Books So Bad They're Good||Ellid|