Thoughts on Facebook and eBooks

This week, Facebook acquired the e-publishing startup company, Push Pop Press. We might remember Push Pop best for having produced one of the best-looking enhanced ebooks thus far, the enhanced iPad release of Al Gore’s Our Choice. So far, what the Facebook/Push Pop pairing ultimately will mean remains to be seen.

It doesn’t appear to mean that Facebook is suddenly interested in getting into the ebooks publishing business, which of course dashes any hopes of seeing any intriguing new enhanced ebook offerings from Push Pop. The official press release from Push Pop:

“Although Facebook isn’t planning to start publishing digital books, the ideas and technology behind Push Pop Press will be integrated with Facebook, giving people even richer ways to share their stories. With millions of people publishing to Facebook each day, we think it’s going to be a great home for Push Pop Press.”

The news is great for the guys at Push Pop, but a bit of a bummer for fans of cool ebooks. (Wired: “This Is Why We’ll Never Have Innovative E-Books”):

“We sorely need independent innovation in digital publishing. We need talented people who are willing to try things. Meanwhile, all of the money, attention and technological skill is marching in the opposite direction. Most big media companies with plenty of capital and deep technical talent see few if any reasons to innovate or invest in books.”

This isn’t untrue. But all hope isn’t lost. There are other ebook companies that are creatively working to redefine the ebook reading experience (some of which we took a look at here).

But perhaps that’s not where the real story is. Check out The Guardian (“Facebook acquires ebook design firm, but should publishers worry?”): “As they say in their farewell statement on the Push Pop Press site: “Now we’re taking our publishing technology and everything we’ve learned and are setting off to help design the world’s largest book, Facebook.” Now this is something to think about. Could this lead to a way of make Facebook more book-like? I like where The Guardian is going with this line of thinking — it’s interesting to speculate about the narrative and story-telling dimensions of what Facebook could be doing. There has been much ado about nothing involving how social media can ‘tell a story’ and other such jargon. Kinda, sorta, not really. But if Facebook is thinking about ways to make a more truly defined story-telling platform, that would actually be something to talk about.

Speculation has already begun about what Facebook might have in mind for down the road. Maybe something interesting. Maybe not. Perhaps the Facebook simply wants to add Push Pop’s designer touch for Facebook iPad improvements. Or, perhaps this is the start of a social networking publishing model or a digital bookstore (PCWorld: “Why Did Facebook Buy Push Pop Press?”). The New York Times also weighs in with a few thoughts; if not ebooks, perhaps this has more general implications for what Facebook might mean as an entertainment platform (New York Times: “Why Did Facebook Buy an E-Book Publisher?”). We’ll have to wait and see.


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I run the ThinkLab at the University of Cambridge, and research digital habits, productivity, and wellbeing.

tyler shores cambridge

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Supercommunicators by Charles Duhigg

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