The good, the bad and the Guggenheim

by Matthew Cavnar on

The Guggenheim’s usually ahead of the curve (probably inspired by their geometry),  so it’s no surprise to see them move into eBooks. They’ve recently launched Guggenheim.org/publications, which offers a “newly digitized selection of essays and historical material dating to the 1937 founding.”

The offer fits our vision of the future, where non-traditional publishers quickly become publishers.The museum has an audience and a content back-catalog, and most of that content is ideal for eBooks.

I went and tried out the service and had a few thoughts.

First, the Guggenheim doesn’t seem to be selling its titles through any major digital book markets—ie, Amazon, BN, iBooks. Selling the books/essays solely off their site allows them to keep all the revenue,  but it also results in a cumbersome purchase process, where I have to fill out a variety of order fields and CC information to get my file.

But the real rigamarole comes post purchase — when I have to find a way to read the file.

The Guggenheim lets me download my ePub as soon as I buy it—but if I was a general consumer, I’d probably be at a loss. What do I do with this thing now? How do I get it onto my iPad? There’s no instructions, no way to easily figure it out.

Buying from an eBook merchant means that eBook is sent directly to your device. Without this feature, you can have some confused consumers.

It all brings up a larger issue—ePub is a leading file format and one recognized by most devices. But since most device manufacturers also provide eBook storefronts, how does one seamlessly get eBooks onto a mobile without selling through device supported stores?

At some point, there will be more options for reading and distributing eBooks, but right now, the very question of eBook formats and file types is inextricably linked to the distributors and their storefronts.

It’s an interesting conundrum for content holders.

At Vook, we let you email a link that readers can immediately click in a device's email program to open the book inside that device’s native reader—it’s the first step towards a more elegant solution.

Until then, it makes the most sense for non-traditional publishers to develop some distribution relationship, either with an aggregator, or with a storefront directly.

It's a positive sign for the future though. I jumped through hoops to read my Guggenheim eBook. If the file was delivered more directly, I'm sure I'd have purchased additional titles.

EDIT: I'm seeing reports that the Guggenheim will sell through Amazon, BN, and iBooks -- but the files don't seem to be available yet.

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