Rx for the iPhone book app limit: Fold ePub-based apps into Stanza-style libraries when users are ready?
February 13, 2009 | 6:38 am
The debate rages on. Pro-app folks love the idea of e-book novices just clicking on an icon and enjoying instant gratification when books pops up on their screens. No need to install reading software! It’s built in.
But grumps like me worry about clutter from the app approach. Remember, the iPhone and iPod Touch won’t let you load up your device with more than 148 apps, book related or not; and do we really want to restrict the number of books people can buy for the gizmo?
Some e-book-lovers own libraries of hundreds of commercial e-books—maybe even more. Beyond that, there’s the pesky issue of associating a book with a particular marchine or piece of software. Shouldn’t the elimination of this be one of the goals of the people behind the ePub standard?
The solution: Fold ePub file into library of Stanza-style program?
Well, here’s a possible solution. Suppose novices could download a book containing a built-in reader, then enjoy the novel, whatever, without any need to install a reading program immediately. Then, later, once they were sold on e-books, the newbies could install a Stanza-type program and fold the app’s ePub file into the program’s book library—and in the process zap the originally purchased app.
I kicked around this idea at Tools of Change while lunching with chief developer Marc Prud’hommeaux (right photo) and chief operating officer Neelan Choksi of Lexycle, the company behind Stanza (screen shot), the leading iPhone e-reader. And the word is that this approach would probably be possible.
Of course I’m seeing this in industry terms rather than in a Stanaza-specific way. The right standards could help make ePub extractions possible for other e-reading software. Maybe even including programs used by other devices? Let’s decouple the preservation of books as much as possible from reliance on specific companies. Nothing against people turning a buck. But e-books ought to be as long-lasting as the paper variety. Marc, too, loves the idea of standards—not just for the above, but also for synching books among a variety of devices, so you can start a book on Gizmo A and continue reading on Gizmo B without losing your place. As long as Amazon wants such a capability for Kindle owners, why shouldn’t the industry as a whole have a real standard? Who knows? Maybe Amazon itself could participate in its creation and perhaps go from there to adopt ePub. We can dream, can’t we? With or without Amazon, however, the IPDF and others ought to look ahead to this issue.
And speaking of Tools of Change: O’Reilly Media, the conference’s sponsor, which has more resources than does Lexycle, would do well to work with Marc on the ePub extraction issue. O’Reilly is both a standards advocate and the publisher of some well-received app books.