Reader and the Ipod/Itunes sales model
I'm interested in what others are thinking regarding Sony's approach to content. I've posted some of these thoughts to the wiki, but I want get a dialogue going.
It seems to me that Sony's initial sales model for the Librie was the Ipod/Itunes closed system. They've also attempted this with their Connect/Mp3 players (although they grudgingly added mp3 support). It seems to me that by opening the Reader to text and RTF compatibility, Sony has more content options than just books and some of these are monetizable.
Ebook readers do not have the same needs as MP3 listeners. The Library for an Ebook reader does not have to be scrupulously synced with the reader. Some text that the reader is perfect for reading - saved web pages, computer manuals, saved blogs or newspaper stories, are not necessarily going to be kept after they are consumed by the user. Quick in, quick out. The delete option which many forum users have requested and posted in the wishlist wiki makes perfect sense in this regard.
Sony's initial lackluster book selection on Connect will probably improve but a myopic focus on book content is underutilizing the potential of the Reader. Although poorly implemented, the RSS feed option in the Connect software has great potential. Unfortunately, its slow as molasses and does not strip out redundant html navigation text. The selection of RSS feeds is pathetic.
Why would Sony want to help users get non-proprietary content onto their Reader? I think the model could be more like Google rather than Itunes. Google derives its ad revenue by making access to content easier, not by creating content or directly selling the content. Some ideas:
* Make magazine and newspaper subscriptions available. Either Sony can take a direct commission by making their own subscription service available or perhaps make a deal with Zinio. Magazine content needs to be converted to a Sony compatible format however that makes text scalable and advertising into greyscale images.
* Opt-in advertising. Sony can generate ad revenues. Allow users to opt-in to receive those weekly multipage ads based on our interests (Such as Best Buy, etc.) As long as it's a voluntary subscription, this can be a convenience to a targeted market. Cha-ching!
* Turn the Connect software into an ebook uber-mill. Drag a url or an e-mail or any type of content and have the connect software do a smart conversion. True there's no input or search capabilities on the Reader, but there is real utility in being able to take long content such as business reports, tech manuals, etc., for reading in a tiny electronic package.
Free e-mail sites such as Hotmail, G-mail and yahoo mail enclose ads beside their user's content and most users accept the ads in exchange for the convenience of a free service that works. Like these services, people who do not like advertising could purchase a higher level of no-ad service or they could use external apps to convert their content- which is what we're doing now.
* Develop a revenue sharing model for websites that allow direct conversion through the Connect software. Perhaps Sony could embed their own ads, but share this with the content creators in exchange for the convenience of allowing readers timely updates of their favorite webpages. I'd like to read those 20 page digitial camera reviews offline. A shared revenue model would give Sony an incentive and funnel more money to the content creators and help them make a living. The RSS feeder should do this as well. Shared revenue is the future. It is how content aggregators should work with content creators.
Reviewers have knocked the reader because a traditional book is cheaper and more convenient. But if Sony makes a case for the bigger picture - that this an all purpose reading device, then the advantages of the Reader become apparent. Its not just about DRM'd books. The Reader = Convenient access to information without carrying separate magazines, newspapers, web browsers, etc. That makes for a much lighter brief case. Even if one has a laptop, the Reader has an infinitely better battery life and is a more comfortable (for me at least) way to read than opening up an entire laptop to read a document.
The Achilles heel of the Reader is obviously its software. Nearly every non-Playstation product from Sony has been criticized for unusable software for years now. Sony has tended to ignore user complaints in favor of releasing new hardware products with the SAME software flaws.
Get the software in shape and I would market the reader with an ad that showed on one side: a stack of books, newspapers, business reports, a laptop with a website on it; and on the other side: the sexy, slim, portable Sony reader. Tagline: There a lot of great things to read, which would you rather carry?
I realize many people are against advertising and feel that there is too much of it already, etc. I personally don't mind ads if its something I'm interested in and if I have a choice to opt-in. I'm primarily hopeful that if Sony sees an opportunity to generate further revenues from the Reader, specifically by improving the user's software experience, Sony might have the incentive to prioritize software development for once. Proprietary content and non-proprietary content are not mutually exclusive. For Sony, they represent two separate perpetual revenue streams which the Reader makes available.
Non-proprietary content is from my perspective the real "killer app" of the Reader because it opens up a seemingly infinite content source for the device. For non-proprietary content to become a revenue stream for Sony, however, the software must provide intuitive controls, drag-and-drop convenience, and be stable. Devices that succeed in reaching the mass market must have software that "just works." At that level of functionality, a lot of users will use Sony's software and tolerate ads in exchange for ease-of-use and breadth of content.