Online e-books

Today at work I attended a webinar hosted by iPublishCentral, a company that is offering a deal to university presses to host and sell their ebooks. It is a very slick presentation and I found myself sucked in to all the features. Really cool widgets, a sales page that you can customize, and all kinds of analytics.

But then I started thinking like a customer and waited for the part where he talked about the formats you could download. Instead he pointed out all the reasons why reading on the desktop was so great. When he referenced the off-line function, I thought, a-ha, but, no. The off-line reader is also owned by the company and syncs with the online. All search terms in both are logged for the publisher to access, which would certainly be helpful in terms of determining keywords for ads and customer interest generally.

So there’s no mobile access. I mean, sure, I guess you could access the web page with your iPhone, but how well would that work? Not. As a consumer, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t want to pay out good money for something I only had access to. I want to own it, share it, and transfer it to the device of my choice. If, like the recently departed FreshNotes, the company goes out of business, just what have you purchased? Recent adventures with the Kindle have brought up the same issues.

I do think that the idea of a low price for a few days access might somehow be useful, but guess what. They have that for free elsewhere. It’s called a library.

All in all, I can’t see investing in something that feels like a stepping stone to the inevitable no-DRM formats that the consumer wants. Thoughts?

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One response to “Online e-books

  1. Clare Hitchens

    I actually just thought of an exception. I subscribe to the Chicago Manual of Style yearly. It is updated regularly and I like the search function. But I still bought the hardcover.

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