Let's build an evil, super-closed eReader and store

All the recent protests about how ecosystems are closed and companies are ‘evil’ and Mike Arrington’s post on good and evil got me thinking and here’s something that would be a really fun thing to do –

  1. Create an eReader and an eBook store that are really, really closed and evil and break all the politically correct notions of openness and free and letting people walk away from the ecosystem. 
  2. Figure out a way to make them really, really excellent so users are ‘forced’ to use them.

It basically means the focus is on two sets of features – Features that make our ecosystem very compelling and features that lock users into our ecosystem.

Features that lock our users into our ecosystem

Here are the features we’ll put in to ensure users are locked in –

  1. Support for only one format. It’s our own format and it’s not licensable to any other device.
  2. You can’t take your books with you. Your library is locked to the device.
  3. There is special DRM – It not only ensures you can only read the book on your device it also checks with the mothership every time you read a book.
  4. Resale of the eReader is not allowed – You get a license to use it and that’s it.
  5. Users can read books on nothing other than our eReader. We have no apps for other platforms – iPhone, iPad, and Android are all discriminated against equally.  
  6. The OS for the eReader is custom-built by us and completely proprietary.
  7. The wireless connects to our store and to websites that we’ve approved i.e. Wikipedia, Craigslist, and so forth.
  8. You can only read books bought at our store.
  9. eBook conversions to our format are allowed only for migrating users.
  10. We don’t allow library books.
  11. We don’t allow personal documents – It’s an eReader and you’re supposed to read books on it.
  12. There is an App Store and it does not allow format converting apps or ebook apps or any apps that are ‘good’. If you write an app that plants a tree every time someone reads a book – it’s not welcome.

Features that make our ecosystem very compelling

Since our ecosystem is purely evil we need to add a lot of excellent features to help people get over their natural aversion to evil (unless it’s the fun sort of evil like Vegas and cupcakes).

For readers –  

  1. An exceptionally good reading software.  
  2. Two main modes – simple mode where everything just works and timewaster mode where you can change 50 different settings instead of reading.  
  3. Lots of value-add features – text to speech, built-in dictionary, web browsing.
  4. Ability to switch a page from html in the web browser to our reading format in reading mode.
  5. An excellent keyboard – slide out so eReader is still compact.
  6. Excellent touchscreen and very good handwriting recognition software. 
  7. 7.5″ to 8″ screen but 6″ screen eReader price. It’s still compact.
  8. Make it look really good and make it very light.
  9. Page turn buttons on both sides and intuitive placement of other buttons.  
  10. Memory card slot and replaceable battery and other things that allow extensibility and flexibility.
  11. A very good journal feature, a good painting application and a notepad application. 
  12. Free Weather and Stock Quotes App.
  13. No books over $10 allowed.
  14. Books with more than a certain amount of typographical errors are disallowed – Sales are suspended until errors are fixed. Users can report this.
  15. We allow free email services.
  16. We allow free eReader to eReader texting.
  17. There’s parental controls and child mode.
  18. There’s a privacy mode.
  19. If your eReader is lost we use GPS to find its location for you.
  20. There’s a Pretend Mode. You can create imaginary bookshelves if you want people to think you spend all your time studying for school or that you never read romance novels.
  21. There are built in IQ, creativity and vocabulary tests so you can see if/how your reading is impacting your abilities.

For Publishers and Authors –

  1. They’ll come if the readers are there so we focus mostly on users. We do add a few things for them.
  2. We give them 70% if they price below $10 and above $3. We don’t sell any books priced over $10. We give them 85% if they price books below $7 but above $5.
  3. We have an automatic converter that converts from Quark Files or PDF or ePub to our format.
  4. We set up Author groups so Publishers and Authors have a place to talk to readers.

For App makers –

  1. They’ll also come if readers are there.
  2. They get a 70% cut if their app is over $3. Else they get 50%. 
  3. They get to sell subscriptions to content.  
  4. There are no free apps – It’s not a charity. 

Do note that we make sure there are strict rules to ensure users’ experience isn’t polluted by developers (or publishers) –

  1. There’s a strict review process to let in books and apps.
  2. Any developer that complains about the review process or about any small detail like not allowing swimsuit pictures gets kicked out and permanently banned.  
  3. Any publisher that complains about not getting enough of a cut or pricing gets all their books removed for a week.
  4. No advertising is used.
  5. Any app developer wasting users’ time is kicked out. So no time-wasting apps and games.
  6. Any app developer exploiting users is kicked out.

Bonus features

Since we don’t want to be just a little bit evil (then how would we be different from all the ‘just a little bit good’ companies?) let’s go all out –

  1. We have the user sign an agreement when buying that acknowledges they are aware they are buying an ‘evil’ closed device that is not and never will be free or open. 
  2. We might even have a ‘You are now signing over your soul’ agreement – Users might think that it’s a joke.
  3. Our motto is – We do it for the money and for our customers’ wallets.
  4. Our logo is a little devil driving a stake through cupid’s heart.
  5. The eReader casing is glued to a special hardware disable switch. Anyone ripping apart the eReader has it disabled. If it weren’t for legal liability we’d put in a self-destruct code and blow up the eReader. 
  6. All rival ebook services and stores are blocked out and anyone trying repeatedly to access a rival ebook store has their Internet connection disabled.
  7. All free book sites are disabled. We don’t have any free books at all except for offers from authors.
  8. Free Bumper Stickers – Yes It’s Multi-Purpose – It also screens for Intelligence. Reading isn’t Cool – Unless you have Imagination. I’d rather be playing Farmville – Can’t believe you fell for that.
  9. It comes with a free chart showing how much oil and rare earth mineral was used to make the eReader and explaining that the electricity usage probably nullifies any good from saving trees (this is actually incorrect – However, who’s going to check).
  10. An intelligence meter warning you when you are reading books that might make you smarter. It comes with an in-built TV guide so you can quickly negate the IQ boost.

This is something that would be a lot of fun to do – To create a product that’s super good and then pretend it’s all evil and make sure it’s not open at all. It’s almost a challenge – How good of a product can you make? Is your product so good that it can take on the armies of good and political correctness?

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