Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Give A Hoot, Read A Book

The digital world is all about the gift economy these days. From Facebook gifts to donationware to Wii Virtual Console games to political contributions, you can give what you want to give online. I don't know exactly what kind of ethnographic conclusions you can draw from this development, but it's big business: Facebook gifts alone gross $15 million annually from the company, a dollar a time.

Wowio is looking to get in on the action by allowing you to give e-books just like you send greeting cards. I wonder, though; what if there were a free, Project Gutenbergesque alternative? After all, the symbolic value of the gift economy is what gives it its force, not the exchange value. As it is, though, it's not bad. And who wouldn't rather send someone a book than an icon, or a singing bear? Now we just need the Facebook widget.


Robin Sloan said...

Okay, so now I'm doing the thought experiment -- if I got an email (or a Facebook message) saying "Oh happy day! You got the gift of an e-book from So-and-So," would I be into it? I would definitely appreciate the sentiment, of course -- thus realizing the symbolic value, as you say. But right now one problem is that e-books, unlike real books, have no 'display value' -- only (ideally) 'consumption value.' So what we REALLY need is a public-facing FB 'e-book shelf' app that shows off all the wonderful e-tomes bequeathed upon you by all your smart e-friends :-)

Tim said...

They've already got "a virtual bookshelf" application on Facebook. Even better would be, "Browse your friends' books," where you could leaf through their collections

Actually, Amazon could totally do that. Set privacy settings like Flickr/Vimeo, so you chould choose which contacts see what books, then offer an extended electronic preview.

Man, we are full of great ideas.