Marginalia, Ownership, and Access
Monday, October 24th, 2011
Recently, Jen Webb of the the O’Reilly Radar asked me the following intriguing question:
What are the issues with ownership versus access that need to be overcome on the consumer s
ide, and how can publishers and browser developers best address these issues?
I’m reposting my response (as edited by the Radar) here:
Ownership is very important for experiences or content consumption on platforms that can be personalized and customized. This is especially true if the customization gets baked into the content.
For example, music access versus ownership is very compelling. I could see a possible near future in which “accessible music” (streaming unlimited cloud access) trumps “owned music” (purchased CDs or downloads). In this scenario, customization — creating customized playlists — is external to the media; customization is handled by the conduit, not the content.
This is also true of many types of reading; it certainly is when it comes to news. I am very curious to see how the new Kindle/OverDrive plan to allow library lending via the Kindle and Kindle app plays out. In many reading use cases, free two-week access to ebooks seems quite compelling. This is especially true for existing ebook converts already untethered from the symbolic “social display” function of a book collection.
There is a reading behavior for which ownership is important: annotation. The personalized customization of a text with marginalia requires, ideally, some level of ownership in both paper and electronic contexts. Annotating a borrowed
paper text is anathema and moot; annotating a borrowed ebook will probably be impossible and moot.
I suppose there could be some scenario in which one borrows and annotates an etext and somehow keeps the annotations, which will realign with the etext when it is accessed again. Perhaps this is a use case that ereading designers and publishers can work on. Business models will dictate the provider-side benefits of ownership versus access. With the help of user experience experts, providers can help preserve essential reading behaviors as they experiment with content delivery models.