Over at Digital Book World, Peter Hudson, Shelfie’s co-founder and CEO, is profiled advocating format shifting for ebooks. Shelfie’s business model, remember, focuses on equipping readers with an ebook copy of physical books they own – even older backlist titles. So it’s not surprising that the company is looking to give its users as many ebook format options as possible.
“To me, content should be format-shiftable,” asserts Hudson. “It doesn’t matter if you bought a book 10 to 20 years ago. The future of content shouldn’t be tied to its embodiment.”
Significantly, though, Hudson and DBW don’t mention Amazon once. In a discussion all about ebooks and ebook format, that’s got to be the invisible elephant in the room. After all, part of Amazon’s sales pitch to publishers is its own format lock-in and all the associated DRM and tracking capabilities that supposedly keep ebook piracy under control.
Hudson does hint at Amazon-like capabilities in the Shelfie platform, with the article claiming that “offline data of people’s bookshelves is a great discoverability algorithm.” It certainly is. But then current data on people’s book purchases is an even better discoverability algorithm – only Amazon ain’t sharing. And Shelfie gives more and more of an impression of acting as a stalking-horse for Big Publishing as its sidesteps any opportunity to mention Big A by name.
“There are some conservative business models out there, but there are also some opportunities as well,” Hudson notes. Now, is he alluding to Amazon with that line? Or Big Publishing? And which of the above is the real obstacle to his format-shifting dream? Amazon, with its own formats and guidelines? Or the Big Publishers who refuse to issue DRM-free ebooks? Hudson ain’t telling. But I suspect that, if he is pointing the finger, it’s pointing in a different direction from the way it should go.