BusinessWeek has a two-page article talking with Mark Coker from Smashwords, about how e-books may be migrating to “the cloud”—that is, to be hosted on remote servers and accessed at need rather than stored on your computer. (Speak of the devil.)

The article touches on some of the stories covered by TeleRead in the past—publishers delaying e-books, the multitude of new reading devices. But there are some other very interesting things here, too.

Already, many readers are using public libraries as a kind of e-book "cloud." The library e-book distributor OverDrive predicts downloads of e-books and other library content will hit 19 million in 2009 — roughly the volume for the years 2003-08 combined.

"We’ve really hit a tipping point," Coker says. "Once people try an e-book, it’s a ‘wow’ experience."

Tim Westergren, founder of Pandora, is doubtful that music will be moving to the cloud, however—even though Apple recently purchased, a streaming-music site. People listen to the same song far more often than they reread the same book.

Coker also mentions the DRM e-babel issue surrounding books on different devices such as the Kindle, and points out that Smashwords does not use DRM.

This is a great look at the current state of the e-book industry. Interesting reading.


  1. They may migrate to ‘the cloud’ for some people, but they never will for me. The internet is still fallible and can not work sometimes. If I had three days with no internet (as I did when I moved this past summer) and that meant three days without all my books either, that would not be acceptable for me. There is also no internet on the subway…

    Perhaps books in ‘the cloud’ could be cheaper and there could be a higher-priced option for books you own outright and hence can download at will. But I don’t see this ever migrating ONLY to the cloud, wit that being the only option for everybody.

  2. Agreed: The “cloud” doesn’t reach everywhere, nor does everyone have unlimited access to it. When universal 24-7-365 web access happens, everything can be put into an online cloud-library for universal access (and, I’m sure, some universal access fee). But until then, people will want their own access to the things they’ve directly paid for.

  3. @ficbot & Steve. “In the cloud” doesn’t mean that there won’t be a local cache. In the quote highlighted by Chris (use by public libraries from Overdrive), the model is strictly reading from a local copy (at least with the Adobe DRM).
    Another example of a good cloud implementation would be Baen’s Webscription. You can read all of the books you have purchased online, and you can download local copies as you see fit. If you lose your local copies you can always go redownload them.

  4. That’s nothing new. Since you can already read from your own cache or re-download from vendors like Baen, Mobipocket, Fictionwise, etc… what’s the significance of the whole “cloud” thing? The problem with it is, like others who have offered the same service in the past, it is at risk of being lost if the company goes under, which is why people want to keep copies of their own books to avoid losing them if the cloud “evaporates.”

  5. Steve said “That’s nothing new.” This was precisely my point. The new thing is that people are finally beginning to notice because someone attached a hot marketing buzzword (“The Cloud”, oh and “Google”) to something which if you look at what the author is describing, is the same thing that the better eBook vendors have been doing all along.

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