First, this post is not about the digital textbook initiative. It’s about what it will take for me, personally, to begin reading books, magazines, etc. on an e-reader. Let’s compare my hopeful model to Apple’s successful model for digital music.
Apple didn’t invent digital music, music players, or the digital library. What they did do, though, is to connect all the dots for us and once they removed Digital Rights Management (DRM) from their songs, their player, the iPod, became more open than ever. The connecting piece is iTunes, the free, cross-platform software that serves as library, store, file converter, and guardian of the content we sync to our iPods. I need the equivalent if I’m going to go digital with all my reading.
Let’s start with the iReader software, which someone, let’s say Amazon, creates to serve as our library for all our e-book purchases. I’ll use iReader to purchase and download books, magazines, and newspapers from Amazon’s store and then sync them to my Kindle 3, which will be larger, cheaper, and in color as compared with the Kindle 2. Similar to iTunes capability to accept mp3 files and hence download music from other sources, my iReader/Kindle 3 will also accept a common e-text format. This allows my iReader software to link to my Time and Newsweek subscriptions which automatically download each week, like my podcast subscriptions, and for me to download open-source books from Project Gutenberg or Librivox. It would also have an RSS aggregator which would pull down blogs I read and sync them to my reader. Separate online book stores, like Borders, will also sell many of the same books in this common format which will automatically download to my iReader software, just as my Amazon music purchases do with iTunes. This will breed competition and innovation. By the way, my Kindle 3 would sync via USB or wireless. The Kindle 4 would have 3G or 4G access, allowing users to update and purchase anywhere via a small monthly fee.
That’s all I ask. A cheaper reader with open standards and software that serves as my library, store front, and control pad for syncing. Make it so and I’ll be there.