There is no doubt the momentum in the ebook market is building. After what seems like a slow build-up waiting for the right devices to hit our shores we now have the ability to service a growing ebook market.
In February 2010 The Australian Publishers Association presented The Digital Revolution: Publishing in the 21st Century. This was sold out in both Sydney and Melbourne and attacted a huge amount of publicity, both for the international keynote speakers and because ebooks were finally becoming more mainstream. And yes, I admit to some bias in mentioning it as I had the pleasure of facilitating!
The international and local launch of the iPad has increased visibility of ebooks, and some players like Kobo launching their affordable reader have opened up the market.
I was reading on the Ebookish blog about a problem with a Bill Bryson ebook and how the perception is that it’s a QA problem – that the ebook conversion hasn’t been checked properly as it retains references to the print edition. In fairness to the folks at Random House they say that their ebook is fine on most formats and this appears to be a problem with the Kobo iPhone edition as it doesn’t support footnotes.
I’ve also had a few problems with books I’ve downloaded from Kobo on the iPad. The friendly people at Kobo support describe them as ‘malformed ebooks’! One title I paid and downloaded for wouldn’t read on my iPad at all, and the other title only gave me every second chapter – a great way to speed read your way through a title!
The first problem was fixed by Kobo talking me through how to delete the title and reload. This was tedious, but gave me the content I’d paid for so I was happy. So far the other problem hasn’t been fixed. Both titles read fine on my laptop – but since that’s not how I read my ebooks I’m not prepared to accept that at all!
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of Kobo and they are my current favourite reading app on the iPhone and iPad. But it does make me wonder if the momentum has overtaken us and the market needs to slow down a bit and make sure what we’re launching works well for all the mediums we’re putting our books into.
I’ve been the other side of the desk and I understand the pressure of deadlines, of the market, of management and authors and agents. I understand that when you’re working with technology sometimes you need to work all the glitches out of your applications and this may only happen as you find them – in the Bill Bryson case it was footnote links. I’ll be sticking with Kobo as they work through these issues because new frontiers always have these challenges to content with.
But the concern is if this can happen with a high profile author and publisher – what hope for the small self-published authors that will be using this new technology?