Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Let the Force be With You

Del Ray have announced that book one of the Star Wars: Legacy of the Force series is going to be made digitally available to fans for free as a promotional offer. The offer be will like the earlier successful one we reported on by Oprah in her promotion of Suze Orman's 'Women and Money'. This will also be time limited, in this case to two weeks but will be able to be printed, shared and emailed.

Legacy of the Force follows on from Star Wars: Episode VI Return of the Jedi and book nine, which will be the final book in the series, Star Wars: Legacy of the Force: Invincible, will go on sale on May 13.

Interestingly Del Rey has partnered with a list of booksellers, including Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Borders, Powells to make the file available to their customers. Del Rey will be supporting the free download with a major online marketing campaign.

It sounds a must for all trekies and interesting model for others where the old title is effectively given away to promote the new one. It leans heavily of the experiments of the likes of Prince and Radiohead within the music industry and could be an interesting one to watch. We presume the rights given away are more than offset by the potential increase in revenues and royalties generated by the promotion.

Any Old Iron?

Away from the ‘me too’ raising of hands over digital formats, it was interesting to read an article in Reuters about technology recycling. Many of us automatically upgrade our mobiles on a annual basis, we either pass the old one down within the family, send it back in the bag provided, or put it with the others in the cupboard along with its charger and accessories.

Whwn we think about scrap we almost all automatically think of ‘Steptoe and Son’ and images of tinkers and rag and bone men. However, a good friend who know works for one of the largest firms in the metals recycling business market, recently explained to us the significant money that there was in scrap. He even pointed to one expanding leisure industry business that was built purely on the back of recycling old PCs.

Reuters in their article confirmed that "urban mining", scavenging through the scrap metal in old electronic products can yield iridium and gold. Precious metals are melted down and sold as ingots to jewellers and investors as well as back to manufacturers. According to the article a tonne of ore from a gold mine yields on average 5 grams (0.18 ounce) of gold, whereas a tonne of discarded mobile phones can yield 150 grams (5.3 ounce) and some 100 kg (220 lb) of copper and 3 kg (6.6 lb) of silver.

So collectively those transient ebook readers may be worth more than we believe both in terms of helping move the digital agenda forward and the metal they will yield when they meet the great scrapheap in the sky.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Do You Need to Own It?

Last Friday Microsoft Corp launched a new test program code-named "Albany" which is Office 2007 on subscription instead of their more traditional one-time license fee model. Consumers will get a bundle which also includes Windows Live OneCare, a Web-based security software, Windows Live Mail and Office Live Workspace. It is responding to stiff and growing competition from the likes of Google, which are offering office applications via a Web browser for free or a monthly subscription.

This shift of ‘out the box’ software from a one time licence to subscription model reflects a growing trend towards subscription. Will this prevail in the digital booktrade where you buy a subscription to a library of resource and use as you need it? We have already raised the question of libraries and also why consumers would want to ‘own’ digital files they probably will only use once when they can subscribe to a library and use as required. The alternative is BOD (Buy on Demand) were you pay for what you use when you use it and are permanently connected.

So if software is starting to move away from off outright purchase and music is already experimenting with what appears to be every model but outright purchase what of the ebook and digital content?

Author Solutions to BookSurge?

We recently wrote on Amazon’s acquisition of Audible,‘When faced with a Gorilla you have a limited number of choices. You can turnaround and walk away and pretend he wasn’t there. You can smile and concede the next move is his and that he now owns the garden. You can take him on ‘David and Goliath’ style. You can call your friends, at the local zoo and hope that they turn up in time.’

According to Publisher Weekly, Author Solutions, the owner of AuthorHouse and iUniverse, has ‘acceded to Amazon.com’s recent demand that publishers’s print-on-demand titles be printed by BookSurge, Amazon.com’s POD subsidiary’.

Obviously, in times such as these, the market is awash with rumors and the merest word is interpreted many ways, but if they have indeed decided that is where their best interests are, then it would be a safe bet that others will now follow.

Publishers short print runs on POD should continue but the true on demand business of self publishing will be squeezed hard and it’s a safe bet that it is going to BookSurge and Amazon.

The booktrade is not just about front list and the major houses. It is about all sorts of books from rare, bargin, used, self publishing, backlist, etc to front list. When Amazon recognised this and stepped in the used marketplace there was a few noises but today they and the likes of ABE rule. When they bought audiobooks in the form of Audible, there were noises and it did stir some into the sensible DRM free route but today they own marketshare. They have now stepped into the self publishing and small press world of POD. Some would argue that they have seen how Ingram through LSI have developed their digital offer and its that that they are after and POD is just a bonus. What is clear is that they understand the pieces ofthe jigsaw and are putting them together one by one.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Darwin Online for All

The complete works of Charles Darwin, the man who in 1859, changed the course of science by writing the evolutionary, The Origin of Species, have been finally made available for anyone, anywhere to read. Cambridge University, where Darwin studied theology, was given the collection by the Darwin family and Pilgrim Trust after World War II. It was described in 1960 as a bundle of parcels each containing small packets of manuscripts wrapped in tissue paper.

Cambridge has digitized and published online for all for free its collection of some 30,000 items and 90,000 images, which until now, was only available only to scholars at the Cambridge University Library. The Darwin Online project began in 2002 and claims to be the largest Darwin bibliography and manuscript catalogue created. The collection also includes drafts of the scientist’s writings and a travel diary from his sea voyage on the Beagle, where he first his theories on evolution.

The collection may cause debate as it also touches on his religious views. A memo written by his wife, Emma, in 1839, expresses her concerns about Darwin's declining faith. "May not the habit in scientific pursuits of believing nothing till it is proved, influence your mind too much in other things which cannot be proved in the same way?"

The Potential Role of Libraries?

Barbara Fister writing in the Library Journal ‘What If You Ran Your Bookstore Like a Library?’ continues to raise the issues of libraries and bookstores in the new environment.

She points out that threat of the superstore of ten years ago has been responded to by the US libraries and they are now offering the same, if not much more. She cites that libraries also encompass a value previously derided and little understood – that sharing books is good. The word ‘sharing’, to many morphs into ‘file sharing and piracy’ with parallels being drawn with the music industries mess and their relentless quest to prosecute all before them in the name of moral right and the law. But Fister points out that sharing is not the problem but could be the solution.

‘The idea of self-immolating books is hard for a book lover to fathom, and avid readers are not likely to be persuaded that sharing books is morally wrong. What’s more, it’s not at all clear that preventing sharing would be good for business. Without the word-of-mouth publicity that comes largely through exuberant sharing, most author’s works would go unnoticed. In any case, sharing is a fact of networked life: used books begin to circulate as soon as new ones are published, through swap and sale sites. There’s no stopping it, short of mass book burnings or a revision of copyright law too horrible to contemplate.’

She believes that ‘rather than learn from the mistakes of the music business, publishers seem poised to repeat them—with restrictive digital rights management (DRM), a sluggish if not hostile response to digital media, and a tendency to ignore consumer preferences.’

Her solutions are to firstly propose a scheme where consumers are offered incentives to buy new books – buy one at full price and get the next one at discount, from anywhere, from any publisher. Her second one is to only rent ebooks on a subscription based model. She says the current situation is like Netflix saying, “Through our service, you can buy a DVD for only half the price of a movie ticket. What a deal! But you can’t sell it, you can’t share it, and you can only watch it on a DVD player that you buy from us for hundreds of dollars.” She suggests publishers could negotiate subscriptions of collections to libraries.
Her third thought is along the same lines that we have suggested before and turns the current POD (print on demand) model from one of print and distribute to distribute and print. She suggests that the community printer could be the library and that we move to a just in time as opposed to the current just in case short cycle model.

We would believe that her first suggestion would be difficult to administer in the current climate but could be offered on a localized or store basis. Her second suggestion is plausible and we believe on line and subscriptions/ rental will become increasingly important as outright purchases of downloads becomes less attractive. The POD community model makes sense with the question of who provides it an interesting one. It could be libraries, academic / campus store or third parties and you can safely bet Ingram are thinking about it whilst Amazon are still honing their delivery service. It makes sense for physical books to be drop shipped locally and electronic ones to be drop shipped remotely but the consumer and the transaction to remain local.

The question is whether the libraries have the vision and strategy to respond.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Digital Public Libraries for Free?

Buried within all Mike Shatzkin’s presentations there are always little gems that make you think. His presentation at the recent LBF ‘Crossing the New Frontier: America and the Digital Revolution’ seminar was no different. In it he raised the interesting question of why consumers would buy a digital download when they could rent it for free from their library.

This question is very interesting and raises many potential issues especially at atime when the industry is trying to engage with the libraries in many projects.
As we grapple with pricing and markets in the digital world. Some would argue the digital copy is already paid for and the reduction of inventory warrants higher royalties to authors. Others would argue that the cost reduction should be reflected in lower costs to the consumers. Some may argue that any cost savings are merely offset by the higher cost of digitisation. What is certain is that the consumer will view the digital product as cheaper or even free.

Libraries are unlikely to dramatically increase their book spending be it digital or physical and have to live within heavily controlled budgets where book spending competes with a range of other materials, equipment, staff and buildings. They will also want to offer books in all formats to the community.

So why would you buy an ebook and download it to whatever as opposed to loaning it from a library for free. Why would you pay to even rent it online for a time period when you will be able to rent it for the same period for free?

Public libraries may not pose this problem today but will do in the near future. So how will the industry respond? We don’t know the answers, nor can we offer the solution, but as the industry scrambles for sales and visibility, the issue will surface and we wonder what the response will be?

The Oganizational Impact of New Media II

The question of whether publishers should have digital divisions or be integrated was raised at the recent LBF ‘Crossing the New Frontier: America and the Digital Revolution’ seminar.

It is interesting to note that that the same question was raised over 13 years ago in the heady CD publishing days in the very first ‘Publishingin the 21st Century ‘. The research brought together Mark Bide and Mike Shatzkin and that illustrious team that I was pleased to help manage be part of. The paper was called ‘The Organisational Impact of New Media’

Alas today all I have is the Executive Summary but it is still highly relevant and much could have been written yesterday. It looked right across the organisation and publishing lifecycle and although much more multi media focused than today still offers much.

Its conclusion was read : ‘Long term forecasting is of limited value in an era of such rapid technological development. One thing is for sure: publishers are in the early stages of a period of considerable uncertainty and of accelerating change. The market will placeever greater demands on publishers, and the business will become very much more complex than it has been in the past. In organizing their businesses to face this challenge, publishers need to learn to manage the uncertainty so as to maximise the potential benefit while minimizing the risks.’

It clearly recognised the need to integrate digital divisions and skills within the total organisation and that digital publishing, was is as we keep saying, even then becoming publishing.

A Story that should be Heard

'In the world of the blind the one eyed monster is king'. The quote from H G Wells sums up what many believe about today’s digital arena. Understandably, there many confused and blinded by the ‘elights’ today. Every week some new experiment happens and in the confusion of deciphering what is news and what is noise is hard and many find themselves merely caught transfixed in the digital headlights. Some may also recognise the odd potential monster.

It is therefore refreshing to hear the digital experiences from someone who has real experience and results to tell the world of publishing and who importantly views the glass as half full.

At LBF on Wednesday afternoon Mark Majurey, Digital Development Director , Taylor and Francis Group delivered a presentation ‘From Books to Bytes’. Unfortunately the many who attended the morning session on the state of American digitisation will have missed this. It appears the press also missed it, but I urge you to read it. Yes I have a vested interest in that Value Chain works very closely with Taylor and Francis and supports much of their programme but this presentation provides real experience. When many talk about 1% of sales, Mark brings home the reality of their significant achievements which today is 10% of total global revenue.

Interestingly Mark widens the digital debate and talks about the work they are doing in Editorial, Marketing, Production, Distribution and Sales. How it has changed their processes and how they are now able to switch on not a few hundred or thousand widgets but close to twenty thousand. How they are starting take control of their digital assets and use drop ship models to distribute them. The impact in their editorial processes and that their digital programme is clearly from the author to the reader.

Finally, many predict the future but fail to deal with today but when Taylor and Francis talk about the futures and their thinking they are doing so from a position of experience and knowledge that is worth listening too.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

21st Century Strand

We all have our favourite bookstores and bookmen and I am fortunate to not only love The Strand bookstore in Manhattan but have Fred Bass its owner as a family friend. Over the few years I have known Fred, he has given me great insight into the trade, retail and books. He has not only taken his father’s legacy and turned it into a New York institution but now is handing it onto the next generation. So at 80, is Fred off playing tennis, golf and retiring and leaving the business to his 200 staff? No, he is still working on the shop floor - five days a week. He is still buying books, travelling the world to fairs and still as keen as ever to bag his bargains before others.

Although Fred has always shown a keen interest in what I did and to understand technology and digitisation his one love was and remains the book. This week he was across at LBF buying for his cavernous store and we discussed much over a quiet dinner. But this time was different; he wanted to know about digital issues and clearly was a fan of the Kindle.

Fred may joke about retiring - he never will. He may joke about digital issues, but he wants to understand and master them. I found our conversation uplifting because despite his age he not only wants to understand but engage with digital publishing. We both agreed that digital content will not replace books but will have a significant impact on publishing.

New Shoots of a Digital Spring

The London Book Fair as expected raised the digital bar with a string of announcements which indicate that there is no digital hiding place and action has at last started in the UK trade. Random declared widget races formally open with 500 runners today and 5000 by the end of the year. It was interesting to see their UK widget and it raises the question if the US will adopt it or whether digital federalism will prevail. Penguin and Macmillan declared digital frontlist release programmes, Faber announced their digital plans and Bertrams their vault. Academic publishers continued to move forward at pace, Ingram and Gardners showed their grasp of the issues, market and the benefits of the foundations they have already have lain.

Francis Bennett organised a series of seminars culminating in the lively and engaging Crossing the New Frontier: America and the Digital Revolution. Which showed us that although the US was indeed moving forward on many fronts, it was in reality, only a little further along the road than the UK. A number of questions were raised which merit debate and we will write separately on these over the next few days:

• The Organisational Impact of Digitisation
• Retail versus Library
• Widgets and marketing
• The Gorilla in the back yard
• Experiments
• Formats
• Double Your Money
• Is the world Publisher Centric?

Does one swallow make summer? Obviously not, but the mood of optimism show that Digital Publishing, is indeed becoming Publishing.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Internet Selling Relies on Post

All Internet and mail order businesses are very dependant on effective postal and shipping services. If a physical catalogue has to be posted, it costs. The shipped order may appear free to the consumer but is not free to the seller. If the goods are bulky they can often be carried by private companies but if they are small, say a single book, or are to places such as the highlands and islands, they invariably are handled by the likes of the Post Office.

Often postal charges and rules are complex and can be based on size and weight. Importantly they are non negotiable. They can be passed directly on to the consumer or subsidised or merely included in the price of the goods. As we all try to reach new consumers, new markets and do more business over the Internet they are a cost that is not going away.

So it’s interesting to see that we not only have the carriers now pushing up their prices both in the UK and US but that this is also being done by other effected parties.

Can you remember when Abebooks last wrenched up their commission there was much noise about them exploiting their market position. Last week they did it again and this time it simply flew past most observers unnoticed. They cite the currency exchange rate at dramatically impacting their buying power by 30% over the last 5 years. As a result from the end of the month they will raise subscription rates for sellers listing over 50,000 titles on the service. Yes we said 50,000 and they have a rate card for those with over 500,000 listings!
However, far more relevant is the news that Abe now are including shipping and any extra charges into their 8% commission charge. They cite ‘our customer feedback indicates buyers are unhappy with unusually high shipping costs. We want to avoid the negative buyer experience created by very low book prices that are subsidised by higher shipping charges.’

Abe is clearly a global trading operation and facilitates the selling and buying of many rare and hard to find books and often you can find a wide range of prices, locations and shipping costs available. What Abe has done has effectively not only made the vast range of titles available but in doing so has introduced more competitive pricing which in turn has lowered their own commission. If the unit price drops then the commission payable costs – that is until you start to include the one often fixed cost that is hard to effect – shipping. Abe’s business is about lots of single shipment orders so shipment is usually against a single book. The impact is that many will have to increase the cost of the books to offset the shipping cost being included. Where the cost of the book is high the shipping charges may have relative little impact.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Steering away from the Rocks

Today the Guardian report on ‘Home copying - burnt into teenage psyche’ and the reality that file copying is bigger than file sharing and together they are redefining the music business. Ironically last week’s Litopia podcast raised the word ‘piracy’ and whether the book industry faced the same problem. We visualize the wreckers who used to steer ships onto the Cornish rocks.

Are we not surprised to hear that research carried out by the University of Hertfordshire, suggests that, home copying remains more popular than file sharing for 18-24-year-olds and that two-thirds of people it surveyed copy five CDs a month from friends. Overall, 95% of the 1,158 people surveyed had engaged in some form of copying. It’s nothing new it’s just easier today. We fondly remember taping radio shows and albums or lending copies to friends. Music like any media is about relating, connecting and sharing. We all read in solitude but we all give or lend our friends books to read. Imagine being branded as a pirate and thief for lending someone a book?

So the question is do we once more attempt to batten down the hatches and drive more copying, open the free floodgates and is there an acceptable middle ground?
Today we live in a material world and our media and our collections reflect ourselves. We all build libraries of stuff that rarely gets aired, let alone taken down off the shelf. But must we own it and it must belong to us. Is this about ownership, unfettered access or rights? What would be the reaction if a track were only to be available online. It could be made available to play at any time on any machine and even from a number of providers but the music will remain online and never downloaded? Will this happen, can it happen, can it be broken? It doesn’t automatically presume that it’s paid for by a direct subscription model, or that it is exclusive to one service. The answer is not the issue, its whether we accept the premise of ‘ as much as we want at any time online’, or we remain wedded to having to own it in order to appreciate it?

We can’t say whether online is the answer but with emerging technologies such as the grid and connectivity anywhere and at anytime, maybe it makes sense. After all, what on earth do you want 200 books on a Kindle for? To us this is like dragging around a cart load of all our physical books just because we own them and can do it. What is the point of an iPod with thousands of tunes if we listen to the same ones? We have a cupboard with hundreds of vinyl albums and can’t remember when we last played one.
Technology always has to work within the social framework and it is impossible to find a solution to one without accepting the other.

Litopia - A New Voice in Publishing

Its weird listening to one’s own voice and what you say and how you talk. Last Friday I was invited to participate in a live podcast by Litopia which goes out every Friday night at 8 pm GMT. You approach it as if you were on a stage on a panel, answering questions and giving thoughts straight from the hip, but its different as you can't see the audience nor your felow panelists. It is also on record and everyword is captured and available, to what is becoming a growing audience of people who play the download after the event.

Litopia is run by Peter Cox a literary agent with a big difference and one who is certainly pushing the boundaries and asking the questions right across the industry. This week it main subject was ‘The Money Issue - How will Authors Survive in the Digital Future?’ and the panel was authors, Brian Clegg, Dave Bartram and myself.

I will not attempt to cover the vast ground we discussed from Amazon print on demand, HarperCollins new author venture, the recent press coverage on author earnings and much much more. Sixty plus minutes of lively and searching debate, over a Skype conference is not new, but this was certainly a new experience.

Please visit Litopia listen to the podcast and hopefully enjoy some of the debate.

Peter has Kate Pullinger taking part on 9th May and having interviewed and written a blog on her, she certainly is someone we recommend you listen to.

Digital Decision Time?

It was interesting to read in today’s New York Times their article ‘Amazon Accelerates Its Move to Digital’. It comments on Amazon’s digital push into music, TV, DVD, audio and of course books and reports on their early progress.

The most telling statement was right at the end and was that it took Amazon five to seven years to build its business to maturity and that they expect that digital will be similar. This focused approach should be an alarm bell to all those who are sitting on their hands saying that digital books will not happen or that the investment is too high to justify today. These same statements were rife in the mid to late 90’s when many said Amazon was not a sustainable business, would go bust and that there was little return just high cost on the Internet.

Although there are always exceptions, market domination and channel power rarely happens overnight or by accident. Entering a race late may save some cost but also often looses revenues and market share. Perhaps its time for those who are waiting or making noise and little investment to realise that its decision time.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Free to Talk Talk

The Financial section of the Guardian today reported on the latest twist in the battle of responsibility of piracy between the Internet Service Providers and the music and film industry.

TalkTalk, the internet service-provider owned by Carphone Warehouse, has openly rejected demands that it should "police" the internet and cut off some broadband customers who file share. The record industry, in the form of the British Phonographic Industry (BPI), has requested that the service providers should warn persistent illegal file-sharers and then be cut off under a "three strikes and you're out" rule. The government has through lobbying been also drawn into the debate and has said that it would look to introduce legislation next year if service providers could not agree a voluntary framework to combat piracy.

Carphone Warehouse's chief executive, Charles Dunstone is reported as saying, ‘the music industry has consistently failed to adapt to changes in technology and now seeks to foist their problems on someone else. Rather than threatening us, the BPI's time would be better spent facing up to the reality of our times and adapting its business model accordingly.’

Whether we accept file sharing or not it is a fact of life that has always gone on but is now easier through technology. Spying on what is sent and how individuals use the Internet is as damaging and as morally questionable if not more than breaking copyright. It is ludicrous that what we do over our Internet services should be monitored and that one industry can expect to set a precedent that becomes difficult to stop once started. What next? We could be faced with every email attachment, every Skype call, every file transfer all being looked at in case it was believed to be illegal. We don’t condone piracy, but we also agree that adjusting business models to suit consumer trends makes far more sense than sticking your head in the sand and asking others police your mess.

Thank you Mr Dunstone.

Worth a Visit

The New York Times today covered the Las Vegas CTIA Wireless 2008 show and showed us some of the latest phones on offer.

We would not wish to say more than recommend the article http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/04/technology/04phone.html?th&emc=th where you can also link to see video of three of the latest phones at the show.

Anyone who still believes that there will be dedicated reading devices take note. The technology world is shrinking and converging fast.

Death of CDs, or DRM, or Both?

So I go into a shop, pick up an ‘empty‘ box and buy a book token, which I take home and it enables me to download an MP3 file of a audio book? Sounds reasonable and will enable traditional outlets who don't wantto go down the download in the store approach the ability to sell the tiles.

This as we understand from today’s Bookseller article,'language MP3 from OUP' is the process that Oxford University Press (OUP) is planning to deploy to launch their repackaging of their Take Off In’ language series aimed at travellers. The previous CD/book boxsets have been shrunk to a more "travel-friendly and robust"size, with cardboard packaging redesigned to ‘minimise environmental impact’. The courses priced between £22.99 and £ 26.99 will be in : Italian, French, Spanish, Latin American Spanish, Japanese, Greek, Russian, German and Portuguese.

The consumer will buy an access card/token that they then use over the Internet to download MP3 files from a dedicated website (www.ask oxford.com/languages/takeoffin).

We welcome yet another MP3 convert as this is yet another nail in the old DRM model. The question of what devices can activate the token is not clear, but we presume it will be downloadable to any device. We also presume that consumers will be able to buy direct from the site. The interesting point is that anyone can buy the CD today rip it and get the same result - an MP3 file that they can transfer between devices. If therefore the digital file exists, the CD exists the MP3 file exists is the news one that OUP is stopping producing CDs and that this is how they intend to promote audio titles into the retail channel? We await the launch to test the service.

Where have the Sony Readers Gone?

So we now know were many of the Sony readers have gone – not to consumers, but to large publishers to give to their own staff.

Well practicing what you preach is always to be applauded and in many ways the more familiar those producing content are with the digital opportunities, then the more they will develop with them in mind. This exercise in digital adoption is a great step forward.

The question one must ask however is why the Sony reader? Its proprietary format is a questionable lame duck, PDF is PDF and although ePub is supported we doubt that the majority of manuscripts are in this format. Perhaps it’s the best of the bunch today and therefore why not and we suspect a handsome deal was struck.

The editorial and production process demands transforming from the old analogue one to a digital one but this will take time and if this is the first step on that journey then it must be welcome. However, we do not believe that the Sony alone is the answer in this area and changing the analogue process is both the big opportunity and challenge.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Used Book Royalities

News today via Asahi Shimbun reported that Bookoff Corp. (ブックオフコーポレーション Bukku Ofu Kōporēshon), Japan’s largest chain of second-hand bookshops with some 890 stores throughout Japan and ton overseas, has offered to pay the Japan Writer's Association, the Copyright Network for Comic Authors in the 21st Century and other groups 100 million yen.

Bookoff resells second-hand books in like-new condition, manga, CDs, DVDs and video games. Wikipedia cites as one of its success innovations is its practice of ‘shaving the edges off the pages of books using a special machine in order to make them appear newer’. This has enabled it to offer a wide range of books that appear new but at aggressive prices. This competes well with japanese conventional bookstore chains, who are regulated against selling new books at a discount.

The offered payment is in response to authors who have complained the sales cut into their new book sales and undercut their royalty income. Japan copyright follows that adopted by many where the copyright fee only applies to first sales.

Text Amazon

Publishers Weekly in their article ‘Amazon Lets Readers Shop via Text Message’ alert us to the latest way Amazon want to capture sales, their new TextBuyIt service. The service does what it says on the can and lets customers find and buy all items from Amazon via cellphones. A customer must have already set up an Amazon account to use this new Amazon.com service but once achieved can buy books, electrical goods and any stocked product.

In effect it now enables customers to use any mobile device to shop and buy from Amazon.com, at anytime, anywhere via a select number of major US mobile service providers.

We applaud the way Amazon have laid out the instructions and FAQs on the service and simplified it such that the consumer knows exactly what to do. See for yourselves at TextBuyIt.

The questions are whether people want to buy this way and what they will buy off the service? The text users may well see it as a natural extension of their thumbs and welcome the opportunity to buy this way. We would suggest that this works best where the consumer knows exactly what they want and either trust Amazon pricing or knows the price point to buy at. It may not so be so efficient where the consumer wants to compare or is unsure about the price points. Therefore if you know the book you want and the price you want to pay and you are a text convert and have an Amazon account it may appeal. However with the speed at which broadband mobile services are rolling out, then it makes sense to search, select and compare using mobile web services either via a cell or laptop.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Nokia's Artist Advisory Council

Dave Stewart is a musician/producer best known as one half of the Eurythmics and who in February was named as the founding member of Nokia's new Artist Advisory Council. The AAC is an initiative created by Nokia to foster an artist-friendly environment within the company.

Nokia has 40% share of the global mobile phone market and wants to now reposition itself as a Web services company. In a Reuters/Billboard interview Dave Stewart and Tero Ojanpera, the executive VP of entertainment and communities for Nokia, gave some fascinating insights to their views of and artist-friendly approach.

Below are some of those insights but read the whole article Reuters/Billboard interview:

Tero Ojanpera:

If you think about the artist's point of view, it's not about selling one track or selling a ringtone or wallpaper. It's about how you create a discovery mechanism (that) represents the artist in a way that gives justice to their work…

At this point it's about understanding the artist and understanding the consumer and making that connection. The rest will sort itself out…

The fact that content is coming to mobile will enable us to continue to innovate for the industry. We have the strength to invest in this space, and that's valuable to the content industry. This is not about who has more power or less power -- this is about, Can we attract the consumer to really use these services?

Dave Stewart:

Nobody ever talked to artists about what they wanted to do. Steve Jobs didn't talk to me about selling music online -- it just went straight to the music labels…

There's ways and means through technology and through common sense to create a way in which the consumer gets a fair deal and the creator gets a fair deal and business is good…

In the new world, it's not about making an album or a film that has to fit the exact demographic and exact length. It's going to be a completely different world. I can send you clips of what I'm working on and you can pre-order it. There's a dialogue going on so you actually know who your fans are and where they are.

The Times they are a Changin

The media and technology industries are all currently struggling through accelerating and constant change. Those who once controlled the respective channel may no longer be guaranteed the same position of status in the new world. This is most relevant in the middle of the chain where today power is often centred.
Everywhere the middle man has to find new ways to innovate, add and deliver value.
Creative power is no stronger than in the music world where artists want more control of how their music is heard, distributed and how they interact with their fans and we have witnessed the recent Hollywood writers strike and the major contract revolts from musicians.

‘Will authors be driven to stop writing?’ was the headline the Times asked this week on the changing fortunes of authors and whether there were new payment models to secure their author earnings. Are authors different to other creative artists? Are they an endangered species? Do they need special funding and government support?
Creativity will always be there and money, or the lack of it, will never stop it. The people may change, the rewards may change but the creative juices will still flow. So the change we are debating is not authoring but the change of the model that currently supports it.

The polarization of talent is likely to increase, with top earners demanding and getting rewards and then a huge gulf to those who do not have the same financial clout. In music many now have to make their monies through performing, merchandising and where the music may have to be subsidized by other means. What we are seeing is a huge battleground in the mid and backlist areas in all media sectors. Will the rewards remain the same – highly unlikely? Will some be driven back to a dependence on other income – highly probable? Is this a good or bad thing – its change?

The important thing to remember is that it’s not just the creators that face these issues and we would be far more concerned if we were publishers, agents, retailers or intermediaries between the author and the reader. The days of publishers putting any price on the jacket, as long as it covered costs and maintained margin, are coming to an end and digitization is likely to bring in sharper price points just as it did in other media. We have all witnessed new marketing and channel innovation and the need to create and grow sales.

Will consumers demand more for free and greater options to see what they are buying before they purchase – almost certainly? Will best sellers be born out of marketing budgets and ‘X Factor’ awards – yes?

Another change that is happening is the blurring and also the divergence of markets. Consumers demand choice, new, old, used and bargain, but the digital environment removes the barriers that have long separated these false divisions. Again music has broken free of its fixation on the top ten to recognise hundreds of top tens. The download chart no longer respects release dates. What this could mean is that there will be less new titles and greater access and consumption of older ones.

Some believe that the threat of more for free is a bad thing. That the music industry was undermined by illegal downloads and the same could happen to authors. We would argue that the music industry got in a mess as it didn’t understand the changes and tried to fight them by suppressing them and remaining in their old world. Illegal downloads were merely a battleground in what was a far larger war. The lesson we should all learn is how to adopt and adapt to change and that the author and reader are the two constants throughout all this change.

MIDs ( Mobile Internet Devices) to Rule OK?

Just when we thought that there were two clear platforms; the laptop and the mobile, the chip giant Intel starts to redefine the world. We read an article in the New York Times that they are hoping to build on the success of the iPhone and other smartphones with new computers they are calling Mobile Internet Devices, or MIDs.

The previous PDA (personal digital assistant) market of Palms has nose dived with the introduction of smartphones and continual shrinking of the laptop. However it is claimed that new MIDs are scheduled to begin showing up in consumer electronics outlets in June driven by an offer to provide low cost, highly portable laptop.
Intel believes that their MID chips will be fully compatible with the laptop and desktop processors and its data, making them compatible with the vast majority of today’s Web software. What we can envisage as a result is a revolutionary step change to new devices such as ultra compact laptops and tablet-size web browsing and social networking devices.

The question is which technology will be the driver voice or web / data? Voice remains dominant today but will that continue or is its strength today merely down to its mobility and size and therefore under threat as others achieve the same breakthrough?

The key in this interesting battle is over the ultra low energy chip market and whether the winner will come from the smartphone market and players such as ARM, who have sold over 10 billion ARM chips through more than 200 licensees and who claim that more than eight million chips a day are being used in cellphones, smartphones and hand-held devices, or from Intel. Intel is currently working on consolidation of this under a new generation processor, code-named Moorestown.

We can also see the death of the ebook reader as we know them today. Although storage prices are dropping who wants to carry around 200 books when you are always connected through a single device?

What is clear is what we have all known for some time – convergence, convergence, convergence.

Photoshop Free

At a time when everyone has a digital camera or a phone with a camera everyone becomes a photo enthusiast and therefore having a leading and respected free photo editing application available online seems like a dream come true.

The long-awaited, Web-based and free version of Adobe’s Photoshop is now available.
Photoshop Express allows users to store up to 2 gigabytes of images, make edits to their photos, albums and share them, all online with friends and social sites such as Facebook.

Our experience in using the service was good and Adobe have obviously put a lot of effort in ensuring its ease-of-use. Users will be able to make edits, such as removing blemishes and red-eye, converting to black and white, cropping and resizing. Importantly users will also be able to integrate with social sites like Facebook.

All Photoshop Express requires is an Internet connection and Flash Player 9 to work.
Although, Photoshop Express is only available in U.S. today we had no problems using the service. Having launched last year Premiere Express, an online video editing through partner sites such as MTV and Photobucket, this new offer extends Adobe’s online offers.