How Social Sharing, E-samples, And Mobile Can Revitalize Book Publishing
One company in particular has combined ebook samples and mobile purchasing in a compelling way -- but not to the delight of many publishers and authors. Amazon's dominance of the ebook sample model is well known, as is its canny combination of e-reading and frictionless ebook purchasing on most mobile devices. With its acquisition of Goodreads, Amazon has also recognized the value of social sharing as an adjunct to audience building and increased sales.
Of course, publishers and authors cannot ignore Amazon's powerful role, including their e-sample approach and the ease of purchasing it provides. However, most publishers would prefer a greater measure of autonomy. Ideally, that means a more open method of creating effective samples -- apart from the Amazon ecosystem -- but without losing the benefits of Amazon's powerful resale channel. Until recently, this has involved creating two or more EPUB versions of a book (the actual book plus promotional samples) plus the overhead of maintaining a separate social sharing and promotional infrastructure.
The Benefits of HTML & Books That Are Part of The Open Web
When smartphones and tablets became a mainstream phenomenon, the use of proprietary "apps" soared. Ebook reading (and purchasing) apps proliferated, reaching into the hundreds, but eventually settling down to those associated with resellers, led by Amazon but also including Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and others. Today, most downloadable EPUB samples are tied to their respective sales infrastructures, which give publishers less flexibility when it comes to adding a "buy now" link.
The EPUB format is based on HTML, but EPUB files are designed to be downloaded and then read locally. It is essentially a self-contained output format, albeit a more flexible one than PDF. If sample ebooks were available in HTML5, they could not be read without an Internet connection, but they would be readable on any size screen. More importantly, however, HTML5 ebook samples give the publisher far more control over social sharing, the inclusion of links to related information, and -- above all -- links to e-commerce sites.
John Parsons (firstname.lastname@example.org), former Editorial Director of The Seybold Report, is an independent writer, ghostwriter, and editor. He is the co-author of the interactive printed textbook, Introduction to Graphic Communication, on the art, science and business of print, which has been adopted by Ryerson, Arizona State, the University of Houston, and many other schools and vocational training centers. Custom editions of the book are under consideration by major printing companies and franchises for internal training purposes.