Good writing relevant to a broad topic is often buried in a discussion of a more narrow topic — By its title, Zoe Rose’s recent article is about the Monocle eReader, which works in the Safari browser. But in fact much of the article is a good narrative about why networked eBooks are better than downloaded, device-tethered eBooks.
Rose’s article caught my attention for several reasons — It resonates with Hugh McGuire’s recent article about the future of connected books on the Internet and my commentary suggesting that Google Books gives a hint of this. As with McGuire, Rose’s writing on Internet-connected eBooks suggests what I’ve written before about Google Books as the new eBooks. Also, recent discussions of the Safari browser on the iPad outshining Apps for reading are much in tune with Rose’s emphasis on the appeal of browser-based eBooks. Here are her words:
Monocle is a new development in eBookery. It could be revolutionary, for one reason: it works in browsers. Which is to say, you access your eBook content through the Internet.
Fundamentally, there are two ways to access content using machines:
1. Content lives on the user’s own device. This is a download-based model. Example: iTunes.
2. Content lives on external servers which are accessed by the user’s device. This is a web-based model. Example: Spotfiy.
There’s a user-facing difference between the two, and I think the no-download model will eventually have the upper hand. For content users, the download model is the more annoying option, because it’s tethered to a device. To use my husband as an example: At work and at home, he uses different machines. They’re powerful desktops, so physically lugging them about is not a good option. Because of this, a device-tethered eBook is no use to him. But he always has an Internet connection. He can always log on to a website.
There’s a developing trend of people using multiple machines to access their content, instead of the trusty old family PC. My household isn’t unusual – it has two people, a desktop, two laptops, an ipad, and an iphone. Matching that trend on the other side, we can also see Internet access growing exponentially – it’s quite likely (if not inevitable) that ubiquity is just around the corner.
Which is more likely? A future where people use the same device all the time, or a future where people have Internet access all the time? In choosing between browser-based and download-based content models, these trends point to an access-it-through-the-Internet model as being where the smart money is.
Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey