Looks like it’s that time again. Amazon’s just gotten another patent. Wired describes it as covering “’DVD extras’ for e-books,” though it seems a little more focused than that. Nate Hoffelder points out that Amazon has actually implemented some parts of it already.
The patent covers customizing e-books with “supplemental content items” either provided with the book or generated through social interaction with users. Those highlighted passages you see in Kindle books from time to time with a note on how many users highlighted them are an example of this type of added content, and so is “X-Ray”.
But the patent also offers a number of other, more sophisticated possibilities. Choosing content based on whether it was created by someone in the same social network as the reader, or based on reputation scores, and so on.
I don’t know. A lot of this seems like the sort of thing social networks already do, with “but in an e-book” tacked onto the end. I suppose if Amazon didn’t patent it, someone else would. And at least it means Amazon is trying new things with e-books rather than just having them sit there all skeuomorphically on the screen. You can complain about the company’s patents and business practices, but at least it isn’t resting on its laurels. Though if the patent holds, it will make it harder for competitors to follow suit.