While it’s a rare Monday when #PorterMeets an interviewee who can tweet as fast as I can, it’s even less common to welcome an interlocutor who announces the impending session so colourfully:
No doubt, the Salinger specialist and documentary film producer Chris Kubica was simply disoriented by his impending travel from North Carolina to New York:
We’re assured he was wearing trousers as he boarded the flight after tweeting up a blue streak with us about the two-day “perfect e-bookstore” project he spearheaded this week in Manhattan:
And as he discussed his proposed programme of facilitated brainstorming for about 20 associates, he formulated the rationale for the effort this way:
Why: Because Amazon et al need competition and authors, publishers and readers could benefit from an ecosystem that meets EVERYone's needs simultaneously. Because wouldn't it be great if the shopping and reading experience was open and we shared data happily among all parties to the reading experience? Because it seems impossible that one could succeed at such a thing given the existing players/market shares. Because we're crazy ones, misfits, rebels and troublemakers.
As Quixotic as it may seem to want to try some innovative thinking in the ebook retail space, Kubica was ready, himself, to list the hurdles before I did it for him:
— Chris Kubica (@ChrisKubica) July 28, 2014
And if they built it, would the readers come? That was my most annoying question of the day, I’m afraid.
I pointed out to Kubica that as pressing as he and his associates might see the need for DRM-free, format/device/publisher-agnostic ebook files and shared data in what he envisions, he says, as a non-profit retail operation, do readers, themselves, perceive the need for these things? Aren’t Kindle Store shoppers, for example, perfectly happy in the Amazonian walled garden, packed as it is with millions more books than they’ll ever have time to read, seamlessly bought, Whispersync-ed to their Kindle e-readers and tablets and apps with frictionless one-click ease?
To his credit, Kubica doesn’t dodge these irritating points:
An alternative offering, Kubica said, “would have to be excellent in all ways and have all the books. No small task. It would need to be uber-easy to switch” from another e-tailer to this hypothetical model, which would have to “be cheap…run on anything (device-wise)…and in addition to that, have some awesome, compelling features not found anywhere else.”
Our colleague Matthew Diener jumped in to suggest that pure portability could lure patrons:
The ability to take eBooks anywhere, read on any app could be enough to consider switching from AMZN Kindle ecosystem. #PorterMeets— Matthew Diener (@MatthewDiener) July 28, 2014
But, of course, we don’t know this unless it can be tested. We’re talking about the widest reading public – not those of us working in and around the industry, but the rank-and-file readership. How much are they chaffing against the limitations of Amazon’s .mobi files? Author-activist Hugh Howey dropped in to note:
And book reviewer and #FridayReads creator Bethanne Patrick joined us briefly – headed, herself, to Kubica’s sessions in New York – to thank him for arranging the brainstorming event and to remind us that the important point was having a dedicated group of people:
And she’s right, of course. As The Bookseller’s Philip Jones wrote last week, “It does not seem to me to be the moment not to try things out.”
And so we left Kubica as he was setting up a webcam to provide a live stream from Tuesday and Wednesday’s discussions (hashtagged #altbookstore) -- “because you want to watch 12 hours of people talking about e-bookstores and eating lunch.” However big the challenge, you can’t fault the guy’s upbeat attitude: