Over the holidays, I ended up reading an awful lot using my iPhone/iPod touch. I started with The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, just to determine whether or not I wanted to cough up ten bucks to go see the Brad Pitt movie, and then, since I enjoyed it, I downloaded and read a number of other F. Scott Fitzgerald short stories. To do so, I used Stanza, because it’s a great app, well designed and well maintained, and because the books are free under the Life +50 license. Which is not to say I won’t ever purchase an ebook through Stanza, just that I haven’t yet had cause to.
What I don’t think I will ever do, though, is buy an individual book application. To me, that would be like buying individual albums as independent applications instead of through iTunes. Why would I opt to have a thousand different icons on my desktop, one for each album, when it would be far easier, more organized, and more sensible to keep them all in one place, i.e., my iTunes library. The same applies for electronic books. How is it beneficial, to anyone besides publishers and developers, to have discrete applications for individual books?
The problem is that it does represent a significant benefit for those parties. iPhone users vary greatly in terms of their knowledge level and expertise. I still know someone who is, as of yet, not really sure how you get apps on to the device, and he owns one. Obviously, he’s an extreme case, but the point is that there’s still a large segment of the market that might not even be aware apps like Stanza even exist. Hence the need for books-as-apps, like the recently released ScrollMotion Iceberg Reader titles like Stephenie Meyer’s crazily successful Twilight.
Even beyond being impractical, books-as-apps prove annoying to end-users like myself who browse the app store regularly, and have to sift through a great many of them some days to find quality new releases. Might there be a way to satisfy both commercial interests and the interests of the consumer, without clogging up the app store and home screens with hundreds of unnecessary apps?
The answer is the iTunes store. Whether as a model for successful, centralized distribution, as with Stanza, or quite literally, meaning that they begin selling books through the iTunes store itself (not audio books, those don’t count). And yes, Stanza does already do this, but it needs the backing and promotional power of the iTunes store in order to convince publishers to use it instead of creating individual books-as-apps. Now if we could just get comics from major publishers distributed in a similar manner, the world would be a perfect place.