How To Make eBooks Better According To Kevin Rose

Apple iPad ebook

Kevin Rose, founder of the social-bookmarking site Digg, posted a new entry on his website discussing his love of eBooks and some ideas he has to help take them to the next level.

The majority of the suggestions focus around the internet connectivity most eBook readers have nowadays and adding a social component that is currently lacking in the eBook market. Here are the main ideas listed in the video and some of my thoughts about each one:

Be able to pull up character information inside the eBook.
As you’re reading through a book, have you ever come upon a character and said “Wait, who is this?” Rose’s idea is to allow you to click the character’s name and pull up a bio that is up to date with the current point in the story line. Rose suggests adding a map showing the character’s location and look of the character that is updated throughout the storyline. I can see this being a great idea for those large epic type novels (like Anathem or Under the Dome) or even a series of books (for example the Percy Jackson books).

“Friend Annotations” or allowing other people in your social graph who own the same book to leave notes throughout the eBook.
This is an idea that I think will be very popular once the details of implementation are worked out. In the video, Rose shows an example where a friend leaves him an audio note about a specific chapter in a book, though I could see this working with text or video notes as well. I consider this the equivalent of writing in the margins of a book or highlighting a specific passage you want to share, but the great think about the “friend annotation” is that it can be shared across your social graph very easily. The best application I can see for this type of system though, would be in textbooks. Teachers could add notes to eBooks students have bought to tie in the text to class notes or to clear up an area of confusion. Vooks already do this to some extent, but the extra content is provided by the publishers, not by your friends.

Allow us to lend eBooks to our friends, like a real book.
This is probably the most brilliant of Rose’s ideas because it takes a concept that is very natural with real books (lending them to your friends and family) and shows how it can be easily translated to eBooks. I especially like the part about, just like with a real book, you wont be able to read the books you lend out to your friends until they return them or you get them back. Publishers may be a little hesitant to allow this functionality, but the DRM on the eBooks is protected if who can “own” the eBook is limited and it is something that occurs with physical books all the time.

Provide the reader some metrics about the book they are reading.
Rose suggests that eBook readers should be able to provide data to the reader, such as how long they have been reading the book or how many pages are left in the chapter or book. This is something a lot of eBook applications already provide, but I think Rose’s point is to centralize the information and format in such a way to make more sense to the reader. I would agree that this would be a good thing, but also throw out a little extra data like “you have read XXX,XXX words this year” or “you have read more this year than your friend Kristen”.

Be able to create a “Virtual Book Club” with your friends.
This is a concept that really leverages the possibilities of social networks and ebook readers, and could really take off as eBook readers become more common. You and your friends would be able to form a club focused on an eBook all the club members have purchased. As you read through the book, you can see on a screen how far the other members of the club have gotten. When the all the group members reach the end of chapter, they would get a text message or notice saying that they can now discuss the topics of the chapter. I could see this idea taking off in conjunction with some of Rose’s other ideas (especially the “friend annotations”).

I recommend viewing the entire video because Rose has added examples of each of these features and they are very good at displaying the concepts involved. Though some of the ideas Rose talks about are touched on by different eBook readers, the company that recognizes the huge potential of making eBooks more social could take a strong position in this fast growing area. Check out the video below:

What do you think about Rose’s ideas? Is there one in particular that really stands out to you?

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