The paper book kiosk vs the eBook virtual kiosk?

The New York Times has an article that I was reading today that states that the cheap paperback you used to be able to pickup from the drug store shelf or the airport kiosk is endangered and about to be extinct.

The article went on to say that readers are finding that eBooks cost much the same as a mass market paperback and is available the day the book itself launches… why then wait for the paperback when your Kindle (or Nook or whichever is your eReader of choice) can provide your reading pleasure immediately.

And that got me thinking… why not replace the physical kiosk with a virtual one?

A virtual eBook kiosk?

Imagine, for a minute, that the airport kiosk was able to secure a closed access server and WiFi network. They might be able to “lend” eBooks on either a network access basis or a per book basis. And possibly even offer an option to purchase the eBook if you wanted to take it with you on the plane or out the door.

When I travel, I always try and leave as much time in between flights so that I have more than enough time to make my connections. While that is not always in my power to do, when it is, I end up spending quite a bit of time in airport terminals reading to pass the time while I await the next leg of my journey.

That made me the perfect target audience for the airport paperback kiosk – and I did a large amount of browsing in those in those days. I have even been known to splurge and buy books at the-horrendously-higher-than-normal prices just because I see a book I like and want to read.

Having made the transition to a Kindle, that now makes the sort of person who would be willing and interested in browsing a virtual eBook kiosk while waiting for my next flight; theoretically.

A very “techie” solution, yes – but …

The “techie” in me can actually envision a setup that would cater to this kind of service. It seems fairly simple to me too. A machine, a WiFi hotspot, high security settings, and the software to manage the lending and the buying. Maybe even a way to update and/or upgrade a library over the web at the flick of a switch.

All that aside, and while paperbacks and their production may be in danger, the book kiosk that used to sell books is less in danger than it would seem. There are tons of opportunities with eBooks that there never was with physical books. The most obvious one is outdated novels don’t necessarily have to be removed from “shelves” to make room for the newest bestsellers.

Have any ideas you want to share?

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    We know the eBook is the future, but we haven’t seen anything, yet. Like our ancestors who spoke admiringly of the new “horseless carriages”, our vision is limited by our experience. But we do know this much, already– brick-and-mortar stores are on their way out of many markets. Everywhere, we see once powerful shopping centers in decline because, like movie theaters and even video rental outlets, people are moving en masse to something better.

    While some change is good in itself, other change brings amazing collateral benefits. Consider the freelance writer who lives from sale to sale, often in penury. Only a love of writing and passionate conviction keeps him or her going, while the typical publisher, cringing under rising fixed costs and a shrinking paper distribution market, can pick only a few high-return market winners, and quickly. So, now the awful question– how many truly great books and articles were never published because of such pressure? The loss is ours, one our society never will truly appreciate in its greater poverty.

    Good books generate ideas, and good ideas new books. To the future, eBooks are a likely guarantor of a revived American democracy and a completely reinvigorated public discourse. Reality TV and streaming entertainment to the contrary, most Americans are captivated by good ideas, well expressed– this was the belief of Jefferson and most others in the founding of this country. The more citizens discuss ideas, the more reform and social progress can occur, and the stronger our nation becomes.

    Today, sadly enough, many of our “Recession Generation” suffer limited horizons, and are ashamed they cannot realize even the dreams and ambitions of their own parents. Some are candidates for new careers, but others cling desperately to what is left of their own. Youth often see no future, at all. As part of a national recovery, there must first be a national renewal– a renewed push for public education for all ages. eBooks can help realize those dreams– a wealth of affordable, excellent information within reach of everybody.

  • W.H.Smith >> The e-Book Kiosk

    Bob Greene has hit all the nails on the head and reiterated my own thoughts on e-Books since I embraced the technology. As a boy I was an avid reader, two library books per weeks, which didn’t do me or my general education any harm. I lived through the ‘dawn’ of the £ 2s 6p ( £0.25p) Paperback and am proud to have seen it re-emerge as an e-book.

    My only concerns, not touched on by Bob are that the e-book as an electronic media, doesn’t follow the greed riddled path of our old friend ‘music’, when that meta morphed into the CD followed by movies (mentioned by Bob) switching to DVDs.

    Originally when I bought my paperback, I paid my fee and I could read it to myself, read it to my wife or my children and nobody whined on about copyright, or my ‘public performances’. Not the same if I bought a CD – I couldn’t copy it onto my PC AND my notebook (Copyright!!!).
    My coach operator couldn’t play his collection or even my own CD if I took it with me, again because of the performing rights legislation.

    What happened to the ‘fair deal’ between traders of long ago? When you bought it, you owned it and you did what the H… you wanted with it, more or less. It has never been so with music for some reason and yet the beauty of music played naturally by a musician is such a transitory thing, it sweetens the air, you hear it for that moment and then its gone. The music industry soured that taste as soon as they put it on electronic media and were terrified anyone would reproduce that sweet note without paying their ‘wack’ !!!

    Please oh please, don’t allow the e-Book to go down the same route! At the moment we have free e-books of out of copyright publications and why not, as Bob has said, ‘free’ or nominally charged books by up and coming authors looking for an audience.

    The e-Book system needs a new ‘publisher’ approach and not just be taken over by the large ‘paper publishers’ and used the old way to make new revenue. Lets have some ‘freedom of the press’ here also and still see minimally charged e-books from new writers. The authors themselves could provide the body of the work to an acceptable ‘machine code’ standard, it wouldn’t need the typesetting and formatting of its paper cousins. Just an e-Publisher, to add a cover and check formatting and provide the web-site outlet for retailing.

    A great opening for smaller e-Web Publishers, enterprising enough to pull together new authors, the new technology and a web site.

    There are plenty of people out there who fit the bill, judging from the blogs on sites and even ‘free help’ sites I’ve found run by very knowledgeable private individuals.

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