How should eBooks and eReaders evolve? Online tax, legal, and regulatory research services essentially were pioneered in the 1970′s. Print content lived alongside online research products. The focus was on migrating print products to online research services which today are expressed as Web-based products and, increasingly, tablet & smartphone apps.
What online research products offer
Online research products offer the potential of updating of content in near real-time, sophisticated linking to related documents and tools to print and email content. Increasingly the focus is on expressing content as a service and search as a service to make it possible to integrate research capabilities into software workflows. Software workflows in this context could refer to intelligent interactive document assembly engines, software for filling out government-required forms & filing them with the appropriate authorities, enterprise document management applications, and other specialized workflow software applications, such as practice & knowledge management software for law firms and accounting firms.
Should eBooks follow a similar path?
The answer depends on the evolving needs of professionals’ workflows. Here are some thoughts about possible future scenarios. Consider the fact that an eReader can be tied to hardware, such as the Kindle Fire, or relatively independent of specific hardware, such as Kindle for iPad, or apps created to work with a specific operating system across multiple devices, such as Kindle for Android. Now here are the questions:
- Should an eReader replicate all of the search functionality of traditional research products? On the one hand, lawyers and accountants might want to use an eReader to read a single title at a time but experience that title in a traditional online research product. On the other hand, there can be times when the professional wants to search through an individual title in an eReader. Should the search syntax be the same in the eReader and traditional research products?
- Should there be a single research folder shared across eReaders and professional research products? One could argue that research folders are associated with a research workflow and thus should be available only in traditional research products. A professional might also want to save some content in an eReader to a research folder.
- Should eReaders integrate with software applications? Many contemporary practice management applications do enable linking to research content. The practice management solution might be expressed as an iPad app. It could link to an eBook and/or a traditional research product. Some professional services firms pass on the costs of research, including a fee for the professional’s time spent researching. Should the monetization capability differ according to whether the content experience occurs in an eBook or a research product?
- Should user annotations, including notes and bookmarks for a title be synchronized across research products and eReaders?
Certainly other questions arise. Again, the needs of professional users’ workflows will make the determination. What are your thoughts about eReaders and eBooks in professionals’ workflows?