Book Files

Great blog post from Peter Brantley on Publisher’s Weekly today. It’s called “Hey Dad, What’s a File?” Below is an excerpt:

As Siracusa notes in his 10.8 review, the combination of powerful desktop operating system services with the interface designs of portable devices makes traditional computers simpler to use, particularly if people are willing to live within the walled garden of a chosen vertically-integrated vendor, such as Apple, Google, or Microsoft. Amazon is trying hard, for now, to be a friend to all comers – placing Kindle and streaming apps on as many platforms as possible, although they are continually assessing potential markets for Kindle tablets and possibly phones. Increasing vendor control of computers means that Users can stop being their own librarian and archivist, and let their applications take care of file management. Apple’s App Store and iTunes will keep track of things – don’t worry.

But this has really huge ramifications for books, as well as movies and music. When we purchase books through Kindle, iBooks, or Google Play, we are acquiring a license to download and access a file – usually in an EPUB or Kindle format, but sometimes as a binary app. Yet we cede the management of those files to the vendor’s content management system. If you asked people to find the physical file of the movie “Farewell, My Queen”, or the book “Bring up the Bodies”, they wouldn’t know where to begin — and probably wouldn’t even know what you were talking about. People think of movies and books as icons they click on, not as files they can manage as the owners of computers and phones.


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