Michael Tamblyn has been at Kobo since the very beginning and he has seen the rise of the e-book industry and has some ideas on what the future of reading might entail.
1. Easily. We want everything related to reading to be easy, frictionless, even relaxing. What you’re reading doesn’t have to be easy, but whether it’s escape or information, reading is an enjoyable act. Being in a bookstore is a soothing thing. Being in an online bookstore or an eReader should be too. It shouldn’t just be the reading of a book that makes you feel better. The buying of one should make you feel better even before you start reading. Everything that surrounds a book should be easy.
2. Shamelessly. We want to feel good about what we read. The great gift of digital reading is the liberation from people being able to judge your book by its cover, whether it is covered in rocket ships or exploding aircraft carriers or low-cut bodices or the applications of fractal math in financial calculations. We love what we love and that should be the end of it. And we want to feel good about what we don’t read. Or half read. Or read three chapters of and then abandon. We want to read shamelessly.
3. Freely. And I don’t mean that in terms of cost. We want time. Time to read. We watch our reading time contract when we’re busy with work and kids, suddenly expand on holiday, then shrink back into the slices and bits of time we struggle to find throughout the day. We want more time to read freely.
4. and 5. Publicly and privately. Sometimes we want to talk about what we read. Sometimes we really don’t. Think about Facebook – you might post the books that make you look like this intoxicating mix of smart and thoughtful. You don’t post your favourite secret trashy books that you read after a long day at work. We want our data to be used to help make reading suggestions better, but we don’t want it to feel creepy. We want to be helped but not intruded on. We want to be able to share and to hold back.
The mission I have given the Kobo team is “Any of our customers should remember the day they started using Kobo as the day their reading life started to get better.” That means finding better books, reading more conveniently, spending less money, reading more often. But it also means thinking about how readers want to read. If we answer all of those questions well, we earn the right to the reader’s attention. It lets us push aside all of the other media that is crowding in so that we get to keep doing what we love to do… and so do they.