So the thought occurred to me while I was writing on EnhancedBooks.com that the features it offers are really not all that revolutionary and don’t in anyway make the book you buy a new product. That is not to say that they are not excellent additions and add ons, just that the book itself remains static, they are still locked into the graveyard that Jeff Jarvis believes print to be (His article in the Guardian is possibly the best introduction to this if you haven’t read his thoughts before).
Justly then I think we might call these types of services Book 1.5 (if only because books 2.0 is taken, the product is more adding new features externally and leaving books as they are internally and because Book 1.5 sounds like the industry I know).
As a quick guide I decided to list the Book 1.5 services I know about. The list is short and does not include any of the many e-book sites as they offer merely an e-book of the original book not services like search, multi-media and annotation features. If there are queries please do get in touch.
The other services that offer Book 1.5 are so far as I know:
Google with their Google Book Search
Which allows certain previews depending on the copyright status of the book. Online access is due to be added in the near future. But it is simply a PDF version of the text. I don’t see this changing radically quickly, certainly not for old books. Perhaps new editions will offer changes and enhancement! Google does however offer the most radical search capacity and for that you have to be grateful. It is refreshing to be able to draw down samples of texts and to find books that really are relevant to your query. I recall the horrible hours in libraries spent compiling lists of books that by title seemed relevant. Now I think how much easier it must be for college students.*
Amazon with their Search Inside
The book and their new
Amazon Upgrade offerings are a step ahead of Google in presentation and slickness. Their readers look good and offer a better reading experience but and here is the key, the Upgrade is for use on book you purchase and Search Inside is for books you have already found. No Google may be getting in trouble with publishers for including books without permission but at least you can search a massive database and find any number of books.
If you search for “search inside davinci” you get this:
Which seems to be a lucky break as it does not always work!
Enhancedbooks.com offers readers the extras if they buy the book and the publishers get to decide what they offer, be it video, audio, extra text or whatever. They also offer a similar feature to Search Inside called freview
As I have said before I like there features. When you think that in many ways they are the true Book 1.5 company their lack of search is not such a key issue. Readers know that extra features are available simply by buying the book. At the same time why should I need to buy the book to get these features? Should I not just be able to buy the page by page online text? And If I like print it?
So there we are. Book 1.5 is a paltry and unhealthy thing. Aside from mountains of eBooks from the likes of fictionwise.com what does it actually consist of? An unfinished offering from Google which at least offers an incredible search function, a more rounded feature set from Amazon which offers slickness and the ability to upgrade your book but no search and the corporate friendly package of tools offered by Enhancedbooks.com which is eye pleasing but as unconnected to the web (except that it is hosted there) as the current Book 1.0. Overall despite its weaknesses in display and its unfinished nature the power of search wins me over to Google Book Search. When they do add the online access and purchasing I think this product will be streets ahead of the rivals.
Thinking long and hard on Book 1.5 has generated a great deal of thought on Book 2.0 or the death of the book in general. More soon…
* To be fair I never worked that hard. It was just annoying to get a book from the shelf, lug it to your desk only to discover the title was enormously misleading!