TED released a new TedBooks iOS app this week. The app is free, the books are $2.99 and are built on the Atavist platform. The text is accompanied by videos, images, links, and in some cases audio narration.
On his blog TEDChris: The untweetable - When 140 characters just aren't enough…, TED Curator Chris Anderson lists 9 reasons why he is excited about the TEDBooks app. His list includes: one irresistible package, free (the app), multimedia goodies, retention of a books linear narrative thread, ability to read in a single session, great authors, a publishing model that gives authors 50% of the proceeds, an extension of the TED brand, and finally the subscription model.
I downloaded Hybrid Reality: Thriving in the Emerging Human-Technology Civilization by Parag Khanna and Ayesha Khanna to test out the experience.
Cheer 1 - Great Content: TED books are so great because the writing is so wonderful. I found that the multimedia really did not add much to the narrative, at least on first read. I actually turned off the extras (all the images, videos, and links) while reading Hybrid Reality so I could focus on the writing. If an app with multimedia gets more people to read the books then that is wonderful. But the extra multimedia content is, I believe, not worth any extra dollars - and I hope that the inclusion of multimedia does not drive up the costs of the books.
Cheer 2 - Wonderfully Concise: A book that can be read in about an hour really hits the sweet spot in our time and attention starved lives. These TED books are long enough to provide opportunities for in-depth knowledge and reflection, but short enough that they can be read and discussed by many people in our networks. A book's value grows exponentially in relation to the number of people who read that book to which we are connected. I'm hoping that the concise nature of the TED books makes it easier for a recommendation to be turned into a purchase, and a purchase to be turned reading, and the reading to transition into discussion.
Cheer 3 - Experimenting with New Models: TED will be unveiling a new book every 2 weeks. This commitment from TED is incredibly exciting for nonfiction junkies and publishing industry groupies. We need more experimentation in the publishing world. The large publishers need to be pushed, and Amazon needs more competition.
Request - Audio Version for All Books: The material for the TedBooks app mentions an audio option for the books. I could not find the audiobook version in the book I downloaded, so I'm not sure this option is in all books. What I'd ask is that TED provide a downloadable mp3 with every purchase of a TED books through the TEDBooks app. TED should be in the lead of experimenting with delivering books in multiple formats on multiple devices. If an audiobook version was available for each TED book I'd buy every single one.
Critique - Subscription Model Too Expensive: The subscription is $14.99, which buys you access for 3 months or 6 books. If you subscribe now you can download all the books in the catalogue. I love the subscription model, but I think TED set the price too high. A $15 subscription is on $3 cheaper than buying the books individually. I love the TED books, but am not interested in every title. If TED is going to get my regular subscription money then they should be willing to make the subscription much more attractive.