I recently read a quote from the writer Maurice Sendak, author of the children’s book “Where the Wild Things Are” that stated his views on e-books, “I hate them… There isn’t another kind of book! A book is a book is a book.” I understand some people’s affection for real books (or even newspapers or magazines). There are the aesthetics of a nice hardcover, or the feel of opening the newspaper with a coffee of cup on a quiet Sunday morning. Not to mention the reading experience that they can deliver, such as reading a good book next to a warm fire on a cold night or relaxing on the couch with a good magazine. But current technology has changed how we read and interact with publishers and advertisers. I recently noticed in USA Today that three of the top selling books are not even available in printed form and are self-published. The technology of e-books and e-readers did not exist until a few years ago. However, e-books now own 15% of the top 20 book listings. This got me thinking about the various traditional print delivery methods that we utilize today and how things are now published. Newspapers, books, and magazines were previously only available in printed form, but they are all usually available electronically now as well. So how are publishers and advertisers taking advantage of this new electronic medium to target, engage, and interact with their consumers?
I recently looked at some magazines and newsletters online and it appeared to me that publishers and advertisers have not yet taken full advantage of e-readers on tablets and smartphones. Unfortunately, it appears that most advertising was presented only in straight PDF format, or it was almost identical to the printed format. With the new electronic reading technology available on tablets and smartphones, why are advertisers not taking advantage, or even embracing the new technology, to include video, web links, and social media with their ads on this new medium? Publishers do not publish the same ad in newspapers as they do online. So why would they not tinker their ads for these new e-readers? Likewise, companies that send newsletters could customize their content to take advantage of the electronic reading technology that is currently available to them.
The electronic reading technology has already been embraced by Bradley University, which published its own custom campus tour guide electronically on the iPad. When prospective students at the university take tours of the campus, they are given an iPad to take on their tour. The iPad shows a campus map and is loaded with 10 videos that show the prospective students different views of the going-ons at Bradley. Campus officials felt the iPad made the tour more engaging to prospective students. To me that surely beats some booklet or campus map that they published and given to me as a handout, right?
In the end, I wanted to challenge Mr. Sendak on his views of reading electronically. Why couldn’t the experience of electronically reading a book (or magazine or newspaper) be expanded with technology for consumers? Why couldn’t the words and images come even more alive with tablets to enhance, rather than replace, the written form? For example, Bradley University incorporated the technology to make it more engaging to prospective students on their campus tour. Likewise, publishers can take advantage of the electronic technology to better interact with consumers through live links, video, and social media. Regardless, the technology now allows people to read more frequently and that is a positive thing for publishers, advertisers, and authors looking to connect more with their targeted audience. The reading world is changing and advertisers, as well as publishers, will need to adapt their previous content to this new technology. In the end, I am just happy that the technology is reducing the weight of books in my messenger bag!