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The Web is the format, like it or not

The Web is the format, like it or not

Via: Teleread Blog

By Aaron S. Miller, CTO of BookGlutton, a Web-based community of readers

Between Google and Amazon, a lot of books are going on-line every day, and while these two are not the only companies doing it, they’re the biggest and the most aggressive.

While many smaller outfits expect people to download a book and read it on the platform of their choice, both Amazon and Google fully expect you to read the books from the Amazon.com or Google.com domains, preferably on their Web sites. Google Booksearch and Amazon Online Reader are both fully functional web-based reading systems which allow you to read paginated text, annotate, communicate with other readers, bookmark and share, all in a browser. And despite Amazon’s offering of the Kindle they are still a Web company, built on Web principles, and we can expect the Kindle won’t forsake their web properties. The Amazon Online Reader is a core product in three of Amazon’s other moneymakers: Amazon Advantage, Search Inside, and the Digital Text Platform, which is itself linked to the Kindle and uses the Online Reader as a preview device for Kindle uploads.

As for Google, well, there’s no doubt as to where Google stands on the Web as platform. They already have us reading PDFs in one of the ugliest interfaces book readers have ever known.

Dictating how books are read

The two big lessons here are:

1. Major players are dictating that books must be read on the Web, and
2. Major players are dictating the experience of reading books on the Web

These two things should worry everyone, because even though many people are disappointed and angry at Amazon’s approach to the market, and plenty are unhappy with Google’s quality control, it’s taken far too long for the rest of us to offer alternatives.

My own company has put out its best first effort: a paginated, networked way to read books called the Unbound Reader. Since we launched it sites like Manybooks, Goodreads and even Gutenberg have added features that allow a user to “page” through texts instead of scrolling them.

Unfortunately this is not on the agenda of the most vocal supporters of digital books. Among e-book lovers, there’s skepticism and even contempt for the idea of reading a book in a browser.

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