I am writing on LinkedIn, Medium, Reddit, and my company blog. Nowhere am I inclined to write an epub or pdf. Why? Simply because people won’t read on those formats. No one wants to download an app (Readium or whatever e-reader), download the book, open the book, and then finally look to see if they even like whatever it is I am writing.

Of course you may say that I’m not writing a book book. I’m writing a post. It’s different. It’s too short. It’s not for sale. The list can go on. However, why should publishing a post be any different from publishing a novel or textbook? There is already a large shift in the way we view content and we need to adapt to the changes in our readership.

Accessibility should be as frictionless as possible

We are in a digital age where every second counts to retain our readership. Already in 2008, Amazon found that every 100ms of latency cost them 1% in sales. It’s not only sales sites that are affected though. Experiments done by the Financial Times show that speed of a site negatively impacts the number of pages read no matter how small the delay. Furthermore with engagement correlated to the number of subscriptions, if engagement drops, then so do subscriptions.

Now while I know we are not in the website optimization business, we need to prioritize the user experience of the entire process and understand what else can become a barrier between the reader and the content.

Case Study: Boundless Textbooks

Boundless is already textbook innovation: openly licensed, curated books for a fraction of the price. The idea is simple, read the textbook online. No need for signups or installations and it works across all devices and browsers. Of course, you have the extra features for sign-ins such as progress tracking and other assessment analytics.

Now say I want to assign a biology book to read. The number of clicks to get the exact chapter would be one (the link I send). In comparison an eTextbook on Amazon, assuming you are signed in already, would include a minimum of 5 (the link to amazon, the buy with one click, opening it with kindle, selecting the book, and finally selecting the chapter to read). No one wants to extra clicks and extra steps. We already see the shift from creating an account with your username and password to the one-click sign on with your social account. Amazon has "buy now with one click" that delivers to your Kindle automatically.

Boundless is just one of the many providing online textbooks. As MOOCS (massive open online courses) are taking off, so have digital textbooks (many which are available for free otherwise the enrollment will drop). More and more, we are seeing the shift towards open. YoubTube for videos, Soundcloud for music, MOOCs for education, github for developers. We are no longer as willing to download anything, to have a checkout cart, or wait.

Bridging the gap between reader and content

With mobile overtaking web traffic, it is safe to say that mobile and tablet are now the default means to the internet, reading, leisure, and almost any entertainment really. Therefore, it is paramount that content be responsive to mobile layouts, to look good, and be optimized to load even on a 3G connection. Furthermore according to Statistica, the active social network penetration as of Jan 2017 is 66% in the US and even more so in Asian countries like South Korea (83%), Singapore, Hong Kong, and Malaysia.

So what can we do to connect readers and content even closer? With a printed book, you would first learn about it, then try to find it at your local bookstore/library, buy the book, and then you can go home to read it. Already e-books make it so you can find and buy your book without leaving the comfort of you couch. However, what if we could cut down even more of the steps. What if we could go from learning about the book to directly reading it.

Imagine, you are on browsing your feed on Facebook and you see a post to read a book. What if you can begin reading the book directly in your news feed, similar to how you would watch a video? This removes the middle steps completely, increasing the amount of impressions on the book and your audience's engagement.

With mobile overtaking web traffic, it is safe to say that mobile and tablet are now the default means to the internet, reading, leisure, and almost any entertainment really. Therefore, it is paramount that content be responsive to mobile layouts, for content to look good, and be optimized to load even on a 3G connection. This may mean an even greater shift to appifying everything or it may mean finding ways to integrate with existing social mediums.

Facebook Canvas: Reading content directly in your social feed

Facebook has already invested in the technology HTML5 Canvas with its new Canvas ads targeting marketers and designed mobile first. However even before this, Facebook has already supported canvas on its feeds. Since 2015, Sketchfab, a 3D content publishing platform, has embeds that are already supported on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and a whole range of forums, website builders, etc. You can see the whole list here. These aren’t rotating videos but allow you to interact, zoom, and change the perspective of the model.

Yet should Canvas be only limited to showing off your portfolio or advertising? Of course not. Why is video now considered to be the most engaging type of content? Because we don’t need to exit our social feeds to just spend a few seconds checking it out. They auto-play and catch our attention while we scroll down the endless updates.

So why should we care? Now with Canvas, we have the possibility to create new engaging stories for our readers, directly within their social feeds! That’s directly connecting with your audience, increasing their impressions and engagement. People can browse the story first before clicking to learn more. Furthermore, your audience can directly comment, share, and like it from their feed before continuing on. There’s no need to leave the native app and interrupting the user’s experience.

Let me know what you think in the comments or contact me :)

And here's a 3D bird animation.