Shortcovers, developer of the Iceberg e-book reader for iPhone, BlackBerry, Palm Pre and Android mobile phones, recently announced it will offer a new version of its reader application on the iPhone OS 3.0 this summer. Today, the company announced the hiring of Michael Tamblyn, former president and CEO of BookNet Canada, as Head of Content and Sales—that’s longhand for “publisher.”
Looking at the product news, which was the beginning of a direct attack on the iPhone reading market, currently dominated by Amazon through its Lexcycle acquisition and the increasing popularity of its Kindle for iPhone application, it did not strike me as remarkable. It’s pretty clear that a number of e-reader developers are working toward nothing other than acquisition by Amazon, Google or Someone Else. Without a serious business effort, though, the app could be very good and not go anywhere. Shortcovers needs more than the thousands of titles it currently offers, and those new mainstream titles need to lay the foundation for the company’s self-publishing initiative. Every Shortcovers reader can be a publisher, too.
The addition of Tamblyn, who founded Bookshelf.ca and, at BookNet Canada spent six years working to overhaul the book distribution networks of publishers, book distributors and booksellers in Canada. He tuned the supply chain and established industry-wide cataloging standards, something easier to do in Canada, because the government gets involved, than in the U.S.
In short, he’s been working the distribution problem and building relationships, especially with publishers who are seeking new channels for their products. This is a guy who can do deals, making the mystery of e-publishing transparent to paper publishers who just want to see another revenue stream kickstarted at the lowest possible cost, so they can focus on what many publishers believe their business to be: buying and exploiting rights.
Now, I think the Iceberg reader is very interesting and worth close attention.
Related note: Shortcovers offers some free books, one of which I downloaded yesterday, Serial, by Jack Kilborn (a pseudonym used by cop-novel author J.A. Konrath, see the novel Afraid) and Blake Crouch. It’s an awful short story aspiring to be Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” but imagine that both the killer in the back seat and the grouchy grandmother are serial killers. And that there is no story and no character development. The predictable story lingers over gore, finding titillating pleasure in murder victim’s suffering while turning the brief and predictable conflict between two serial killers who find themselves hunting prey in the same car into a kind of action-movie sequence that reveals nothing, nor changes anything about the characters. Except, they die. Crappy story, bad enough to make me dislike the application, because it showed no sense of what a good story might be.