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  • Where can the caged eBook sing?

    I used to say I thought Amazon saw Kindle more as a brand than a device—reading that now, I don’t know what I meant. Of course Kindle’s a brand. In plain talk, I should have said, “Kindle’s a device, but it’s more accurately an eReader service that’s impressive for its cross-platform versatility and accessibility.”

    (Then I sound like an Amazon marketing rep but at least I make sense.)

    The Kindle reading service is available on Android, on BlackBerry, on Windows Phone 7, on Mac and PC desktops and for iOS. Kobo and BN also offer excellent cross platform apps — but the robustness of Amazon’s reach underscores something crucial about digital publishing: Creating a book, distributing a book, purchasing and reading a book are almost inextricably welded together in digital publishing.

    Amazon needs to have extensive platform coverage to reach its customers. But content creators need that service just as much. Today, creating a digital book doesn’t mean you’ve created a file anyone can read instantly — or even easily — on any device.

    Many people outside of publishing don’t seem to be aware that no one-size fits all eBook solution exists. eBooks can be difficult to make, difficult to distribute and, yes, difficult for the reader to experience if they’re not purchased from a major distributor and read on a compatible device.

    ePublishing is not like video production—where you can create a video and host it on your site and put it on a DVD and distribute it a variety of Internet channels. eBooks require creation technology, distribution technology and reader technology. Basically, it can be a byzantine process to get a digital book to a reader.

    For eBook creators who want to deliver eBooks independently of the major retailers or through their own website as well as through retailers, serious challenges arise. What seems like it should be a simple process isn’t.

    What’s the point? In the short term, content holders who want to create digital books must develop strong relationships with distributors. These markets fundamentally offer the best way to reach an audience and the best consumer experience solution for readers. But in the longer term, content holders need to look to the mobile Web.

    As e-book expert-about-town Pablo Definidni said to me last night, “The future of eBooks is the Web.” It’s a much smarter statement then “Amazon thinks Kindle is a brand blah blah blah”.  An ePub file is essentially a Website wrapped up as a book. As technology evolves, ways will emerge to read easily, independently of storefronts and other controls—just as you can now watch video (caveat Flash) fairly ubiquitously.

    Amazon’s already there, of course. Which is why next time I’ll talk about Kindle’s cloud based reader and their new iPad optimized storefront. But for now, focus one eye on the markets that offer eBooks and the other on the larger Web that houses them. Those two functions will grow ever closer together in the coming months.

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    5. iPhone 3.0 changes up the eBook game

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