Imagine buying a book from the book store and only being allowed to use a yellow highlighter to highlight that book and not being able to add any notes as you read it. Seems pretty ridiculous, doesn’t it? Yet we’re forced into that with today’s default readers on devices such as the iPhone and iPad, or even Amazon’s Kindle or many readers on Android devices. Right now when you read books, you’re forced into the experience the manufacturer of the device you’re reading on has decided they want you to experience.
On the iPhone and iPad, we’re provided with iBooks, a beautiful reading experience and great store to go with it that will even let you import PDFs and ePub-formatted books and documents. However, for the static content we read on these devices, we’re stuck with only the ability to highlight in the colors they give us, copy, select, and a limited set of features to extend that reading experience. What if I want to draw a picture on the book? What if I want to add a text note? What if I want to share the text I just highlighted to Facebook? The same goes for other devices like the Kindle, and even Android, and I bet the same for upcoming Windows smart phones. It has been this way on PDA Readers since Palm and Handspring even. The reading experience on these readers of static, published content simply isn’t extendible, and it hasn’t evolved much in ages.
We need a Reader that has an API attached to it. The API should tie into the highlighting, the selecting, the turning of the pages, the rendering of the content, the bookmarking, and more, so app developers can alter the reading experience beyond what comes with the device. I’m talking about a plugin-type architecture for Reader apps that render static content.
Currently just about all modern web browsers support plugins. If I want to render a website in a slightly different manner than what the website owner intended for my personal uses, I can do so, and it sticks to my browser and my browsing experience. Currently, in Gmail I use Rapportive to provide more information about the people who are e-mailing me. It uses a simple browser plugin that reads, identifies, and alters the content of Gmail in a manner that is relevant to me, in a manner that the makers of Gmail probably never considered (nor did the makers of my browser).
Imagine as you’re reading a book, being able to pull in the relevant Tweets of other people reading that book at the same time. Imagine being able to share bits about what you’re reading with your Twitter and Facebook friends. Imagine reading a book, and having it automatically notice your Facebook account, it reads information about you from that Facebook account, and it alters the content of the book based on who you are, perhaps even bringing you into the experience. Imagine the ramifications of this for Text Books that can learn about you as they present information you can learn from.
Currently we’re reinventing the wheel over and over again as developers create new mobile apps that recreate the reader experience in various ways. My publisher, O’Reilly, for instance, is creating individual applications in the app store just so they can have more control over the publishing experience for their books (at least I’m guessing that’s why they do it), and their readers get the experience they want to provide. (search for “FBML Essentials” in the app store to find my book) What would happen if Apple instead provided the basic reader, and O’Reilly could then provide just the extension necessary for that basic reader to customize the experience for their readers.
By extending the basic book reader on mobile and tablet devices, I think we’ll see a new revolution in the way books are published that print books simply cannot provide. It’s time we break out of the static book reading experience and provide an open, extendible experience that any developer can use to alter the way your books are presented to you, and at the same time you, the reader get to choose the best way you want to read that book. This is the future. This is the future with no log in button I talked about earlier. It’s the Building Block Web, applied to books.
I wonder if Kynetx could power such an experience.