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Thursday, 19 February 2009

3 shortcomings of current mobile ebook applications

I have been helping a team of young and talented developers build their business plan for an open source mobile ebook reader application. As we were researching and discussing about the current state of these applications, we noticed three shortcomings that startups can create better services around.

Sharing is not enabled: We like sharing. We like to share things that are interesting and useful with our friends. Sharing enables context to be built. As Clay Shirky puts it: We like it(sharing) so much, in fact, that we are willing to reward amateur outlets that enable it at the expense of professional ones that forbid it.
Current ebook applications don't facilitate sharing. I can't highlight certain paragraphs and share it on my blog or send it to a friend. Imagine what can happen if we start sharing the favourite parts of what we read. We can have a Digg for voting the best paragraphs. We can use the highlighted portion to help us filter what ebooks to read. We can all become super distributors, helping to spread our favourite ebooks to our friends.

Connections are not enabled: The web is about making connections. I connect to my friends through Facebook. Fans connect to their bands on MySpace. Dog lovers connect with each other on Dogster.

However, the current ebook applications don't allow me to connect to anything. I can't connect to my favorite author. I can't connect to people who loved the same book as me. I can't connect to authors whom my favorite author likes.

Being able to connect can unlock tremendous value. It is a powerful way for authors to have real conversations with their fans and to build real relationships. It will enable fans to self organise into groups that in turn, unlock other values ie fan clubs, fan friction etc.

Openness is not enabled: The current mobile ereaders are like walled gardens. I can't more my ebook from one reader to another. It is akin having a different browser to view different pages. This can't be sustained. Once there is a ereader that is open, these closed wall gardens will collapse.

The best opportunity for a open mobile ereader might be the mobile browser itself. I wouldn't be surprise if somebody builds a service that uses the browser as the reader or renders the ebook that would fit a browser.

These are the current main shortcomings I see in mobile ebook readers. What is your opinion of them? Do you find them useful or troublesome? How can you better them?