Dear Mr. Jobs:
Congratulations on your recent launch of the new iPad device! I know that many pundits were more whelmed than overwhelmed (having fallen for the hype they themselves created; I recall no hyperbole out of Cupertino), but I think it is important to point out the acidic combination of bad memory and lack of foresight that allows such mavens to be hypercritical without applying the company’s past accomplishments to the likely developmental future of your wonderfully promising device. The potential is all there.
But my main point in writing you this open letter, Mr. Jobs, is to urge you to allow the e-book portal on the laudable iBooks section of the iPad to have a section devoted to free e-books, with content provided by users who format their own works using the easily available ePub platform iBooks already utilizes.
I strongly believe this would do for digital books and magazines what podcasting did for digital audio: bring millions of eyes to the device, allow niche publications that otherwise would be unaffordable in the traditional bound-print model, democratize the end-user experience regarding popularity of such works, and give yet another voice to creative people previously unable to garner what has long been considered the imprimatur of traditional publication.
As someone who created one of the world’s most popular music podcasts, Podrunner, I can attest firsthand to the power of such access, and to the broadening, enriching, and enlightening experience of finding and directly interacting with a hitherto unidentified, and indeed unavailable audience. It is empowering at all points of the transaction, from creator to consumer. For what is the purpose of such technology but access?
I believe such a free e-book portal — call it bookcasting — would not harm the present book industry one whit. It would instead provide an outlet and a potential audience for writers denied such by the expense and often the subjective whim of commercial publishing. The need to turn a profit would not be part of the bookcasting equation. It would allow writers the opportunity to supplant or even derive the totality of their income from reader donations.
Bookcasting would provide readers with access to perfectly fine authors denied publication because, while they may be talented artists, they are not necessarily commercial ones, and publishing them is not justified under the current and much more expensive publishing model. Readers would also have access to authors for whom there has simply not been room in a crowded marketplace with limited shelf space.
Bookcasting would even allow established traditional-publishing authors to have a venue for works outside the purview of their genre, books long out of print, or books considered too obscure or experimental for mainstream publication. It would also give traditional publishers an adjunct to offer works, interviews, and other material as a gateway to their commercial publications.
I believe that bookcasting would also usher in a renaissance of literary periodicals. Many prestigious bedroom periodicals of high repute that have been uable to remain viable due to production and distribution costs would suddenly be able to thrive, with overhead drastically reduced if not altogether eliminated.
I will be one of your first bookcast providers and one of your first bookcast readers. And I think there are millions of us out there.
Thank you for your attention, and I wish you the best of luck in all your future endeavors.
Steven R. Boyett