January 12, 2011

ebook–borrow and lend follow up

Cover of "Kindle Wireless Reading Device,...Cover via AmazonAs a follow on to ebook not one but two revolutions in the making I looked into the matter further. The great news is that lending is on its way, the bad news is that lending is on its way. Nook, Kindle, Sony, and even a kindle lending book club on facebook are all helping you toward the lending and borrowing. At the same time it’s very cumbersome and limiting the usage.
We are the dawn of the ebook revolution, it’s reminiscent of the beginnings of so many other new technologies. Look at the PC era, prior to IBM entering the game, none of them could work together, they were all their own silos. IBM then entered the game to build PC based more or less on standardized and readily available components, and yes one darn MSDOS, then you saw the whole industry ignite. People could actually copy files from one computer and use them on another, that fluidity led to so much more efficiency, productivity and more use cases than what was possible before.
The parallel with ebooks we’re at this point right now where the fluidity wants to make a big entrance, but the technology complexity and lack of attention to Design is slowing it down. 
Short comings are as follow:
  • Lending is for 14days only
  • on some you can only lend a book once
  • lending to compatible devices or reader
  • cumbersome lending process with complex user ids etc
Several things are at works here, the immaturity of the industry, and complexity
  • The 14days limit, or lending the book once, could be seen as an industry using technology to force people into buying.  Using technology against the users, since they can.
  • The lending compatibility between devices, is the players making sure their devices are out there, and getting the coveted #1 spot.
It’s also a UX Design problem or I should say lack of UX Design. The players have to start putting the user at the center of the process. The context of the borrow and lend use cases as well as the task itself requires design. Today we are in the early days and it’s the typical smart engineer thinking it should work this way, and it’s the way it is. The complexity of the technology and process  is clearly visible and imposed to the user. An iPhone is pretty complex piece of electronics with very complex technologies, with lots of moving parts too, and yet it’s still dead simple to use.
The lend/borrow solutions with ebooks readers today are after thoughts at best, they are accommodations, a check mark on a box to state they do it.
The end game to borrow and lend is in my previous post.  It requires collaboration of the industry players and clear intentional UX design. As a user we want to have the ability to lend and borrow an ebook as naturally or better than the real thing.


Gord said...

These artificial barriers put me off ebooks, but I think they have more to do with publishers than UX or engineering.

We're seeing the same game as digital music being played out all over again. It'll take a few years for publishers to realise that they can:
- Sell to thousands with DRM
- Sell to millions and TRUST THEIR CLIENTS

While we're waiting for them to wake up, they'll lose business to torrents and Creative Commons authors.

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