Sunday, November 2, 2008

The page turns again

Back in the good old days, a publisher printed a book and that was that. Now we have a plethora of formats: ebooks (in several flavours), print-on-demand, downloadable audio etc etc ... and now 'turning page' editions.

'Turning page'? You might think that's what any printed book offers, but we're talking about something else entirely.

While in Frankfurt I received a pitch from a UK company called Escridoc, which was offering to create paperless digital 'turning page' editions of my books for free in return for my allowing them to be offered exclusively for sale on Escridoc's website.

'Turning page' technology is not new - there are dozens of variants, including those employed by trade magazines such as The Bookseller, Publishers Weekly and Bookseller+Publisher.

In essence, the technology digitally recreates as closely as possible the experience of reading a printed publication - even down to the sound of the page turning. Importantly, a level of security can be imposed on a 'turning page' edition, if required. Don't want someone to be able to print your 'turning page' book? Want to prevent anyone other than the purchaser from reading it? Escridoc says you can do both.

What makes Escridoc interesting is not that it can create 'turning page' editions of your books and magazines, but that it intends to sell them online to consumers. It's a bookseller, pioneering a whole new way of selling intellectual property online.

It remains to be seen just how many consumers will be happy to pay for and read a book solely in this format (which can be read currently only on a computer screen), and indeed how many publishers will license their copyrighted material to Escridoc for this purpose.

Escridoc also has to establish that they are a good bookseller, regardless of the technology. As Amazon has shown us, replicating the transaction that takes place in a bricks-and-mortar bookshop on a website requires a high level of complexity and sophistication in a website's architecture. Escridoc's website has only just been launched, so we must be charitable, but its first iteration is unlikely to have any existing online booksellers cowering in fear.

Still, it's early days, and the fact that so many readers are now being exposed to 'turning page' technology online may make them more willing to buy paperless editions such as those offered by Escridoc - providing the price is right.

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