Digital Reading: The Book in the Cloud

Anne KostickBy Anne Kostick, Partner at Foxpath IND | @bklynanne

Amazon’s Kindle Cloud Reader has been publicly available for about one month, a month that included the traditional vacation period, with more-beach-less-business days, plus or minus a few weather events. So it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that most people in the publishing business as well as most e-book readers spent more quality time with their dedicated e-reading devices and far less time with their laptops and desktops.

Most online reviews of the Cloud Reader analyzed Amazon’s business intentions in releasing an app that might hold limited appeal for many of its customers: it runs only on Safari, Chrome, and iPad, so far; social features such as annotating are read-only; not everything is available to be read on the Cloud Reader that you could read on the Kindle app (sample chapters, for one).  It’s clear that the Cloud Reader is an end-run around Apple’s enforced restriction of e-book purchases to the Apple Store, and no doubt it is an early version of what will be a better app down the road.

Some readers did remark on the experience of reading in the Cloud.  In fact, it’s great, if you’re on the team that cheers for immersive reading and likes a backlit screen. But if you agree with some reviewers that the only sensible business target for e-publishing is the reader who appears more dedicated to buying than to reading, it’s missed opportunity; even though you can browse and buy books through the Web, any time social and shopping elements are removed from an app, it becomes a dead-end street.

This week I’m working in the reading room of Boston’s astonishing 19th-century McKim, Meade & White Algonquin Club, quietly keyboarding away with four or five devices plugged in.  The reading room contains 23 leather armchairs, adequate wi-fi and a few electrical outlets, but not one book.

But the Cloud Reader experience isn’t a dead end at all. It frees you from needing your dedicated e-reader or a constant connection to the Internet; by removing certain interactive options (like annotations or shopping) it allows you to connect directly with the text, giving you some of the best effects of Readibility and Instapaper for reading online. Best of all, it takes another step toward delivering to readers that “buy once, read anywhere” ability they’ve lost in the transition to digital books. (I still need an answer to the question of where the book is and, if I have the Kindle app as well as the Cloud Reader on my laptop do I have two copies of Henry James’s The Ambassadors on my hard drive? I can’t locate either one.)

Anne Kostick is a partner in Foxpath IND, a digital-print-web consulting and services company specializing in the transition to and from traditional content development, management and publishing. She is also the current president of Women’s Media Group.

Anne is also a member of the advisory board for the Publishing Innovation Awards, which celebrate the best in ebooks, enhanced ebooks, and book apps. New to the Awards this year is the QED Seal, which highlights usability in ebooks along a thorough 13-point ebook inspection in multiple formats and platforms.

One thought on “Digital Reading: The Book in the Cloud

  1. Nicole B

    My guess is the current Cloud Reader is a sort of beta version of what will arrive on Amazon’s Kindle Tablet come November.



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