5 eBook Apps that Amazon and Apple Will Fear

How do you autograph an ebook?

by Daedalus Howell
Dec 29, 2011 – 03:40 PM
Daedalus Howell

Daedalus Howell

  Given Amazon?s pre-Christmas blitz and Apple?s prowess with any object they care to precede with a lowercase ?i,? there?s a significant chance that you?re either reading this on a Kindle or an iPad. Dozens of e-reading devices have proliferated in the market. Even brick-and-mortar stores like Barnes and Noble proffer a book device some marketing type convinced them to call a ?Nook,? which sounds more like a place one might have breakfast or a word you?d repeat three times to summon the ghost of Curly from the Three Stooges.

  If you?re presently swiping and hyping the written word on your shiny new e-reader, let me personally welcome you to the 21st century. You?re evolution from pulp to pixel is not only saving the backs of hacks but some trees as well. But don?t worry, your media diet won?t suffer for lack of roughage. There will be much to chew on, from breathless editorials eulogizing the passing of print to the inclusion of paperboys on the endangered species list.

  It?s notable that in 2011, Kindle ebook sales overtook those of traditional printed books at Amazon. In an unmarked grave somewhere in Mainz, Germany, a man named Gutenberg is beginning to turn. Though this might betoken a critical shift in how we read books, it also changes how we handle books ? or, for that matter, mishandle books ? now that they?ve gone from physical objects to merely data on an expensive device.

  For example, how do you burn an ebook without having to visit the Apple Store afterward to replace your beloved iPad? There should be an app for that. In fact, there are several apps waiting to be born into this brave new world of reading without paper (it?s when we start reading without words that we should worry).

  Here are my prospective ?5 eBook Apps that Amazon and Apple Fear:?

  1. As mentioned: The ebook-burning app. This app allows you (or the fascist regime you live under) to ?burn? your ebooks by erasing their data with virtual fire without harming your device. As the author of a forthcoming ebook, I invite my critics to purchase and ?burn? as many books as they wish. Seriously, go big ? then watch your money burn a hole in my pocket.

  2. An autograph app. There?s nothing sadder than watching a fanboy trying to wipe Neil Gaiman?s scrawl off an iPad 2. Yes, you can effectively tattoo your tablet with a Sharpie but it makes using it similar to wearing glasses that have been tagged with graffiti (attention, ?cool hunters,? this could be a hot trend for 2012).

  3. An overdue library book app. Many libraries now lend ebooks but unlike printed books they don?t need to be returned, the data just evaporates from your device ? as does the library?s revenue stream in overdue fees. Using geo-location to virtually hide your borrowed ebook somewhere in your house, office, car, etc., the library can charge your credit card until you find it. If you find it.

  4. Smarty Pants eBook Covers. Change lowbrow Stephen King into highbrow Albert Camus with a mere tap of this app, which will stock your virtual bookshelf with a pile of ?trophy? books that make you look smarter than you are. 

  5.  The Used College Textbook app. This app adds a yellow ?used? sticker to the cover of your selected ebook, covers its text with erroneous notes and charges your parents and extra $50 for the privilege.

? ? ?

  Daedalus Howell?s “I Heart Sonoma: How to Live & Drink in Wine Country” is coming to an ereader near you in January. Learn more at FMRL.com.

The Rise of the eBook

Sure, 2011 saw a congressman inadvertently tweet his boner to the masses, Steve Jobs’ permanent departure from Apple, and Amazon’s overheated foray into the tablet market. The media and tech news of 2011 that will likely have the most enduring effect on our culture, however, is the rise of the e-book.

The Association of American Publishers and the Book Industry Study Group released a report earlier this year that indicated e-book sales in 2010 were 114 million. When sales data for 2011 rolls in, I expect it to have doubled.

Thank the iPad and the Kindle. Though e-books existed in various form long before tablet devices, the sales for Apple’s iPad (about 25 million sold by June of 2011) and Amazon’s Kindle Fire (reportedly selling 1 million a week) suggest cultural ubiquity.

Moreover, these guys are ruthless. Amazon recently raised the ire of indie booksellers and their patrons with its price-check shopping app, which enables consumers to scan a barcode and compare the prices of goods at brick and mortar stores with Amazon’s prices. This in itself wasn’t necessarily offensive; it was the 5 percent discount offered by Amazon for choosing to purchase from the online juggernaut instead of Main Street.

Predictably, an “Occupy Amazon” movement ensued among booksellers, which might seem like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. E-books now account for about 20 percent of all book sales, which is remarkable when one considers that movable-type press was created 561 years ago and the iPad only two years ago. At that rate of disruption, e-books will entirely supplant printed books within the decade. Real life, of course, doesn’t work this way. But still, the numbers are staggering.

Consider this: in 2011, a mere four years after the introduction of its first Kindles, Amazon reported that e-book sales have surpassed those of printed books. Even sci-fi legend Ray Bradbury, who’s been publicly skeptical about digital media (e-books “smell like burned fuel,” he famously opined to the New York Times) has finally permitted Fahrenheit 451 to be released as an e-book.

Of course, the revolution has not been without its casualties—like, perhaps, fair trade. The European Commission recently opened formal antitrust proceedings to “investigate whether international publishers” including Harper Collins, Simon & Schuster and Penguin, have engaged in “anti-competitive practices affecting the sale of e-books in the European Economic Area, in breach of EU antitrust rules.” Moreover, they allege Apple may be helping them.

Be assured, the outcome of this investigation is coming soon to an e-book near you.