Friday, November 28, 2008

Amazon to Sell Online Mobile Rentals??

Last week literary agent, broadcaster and industry insider Peter Cox questioned whether Google would introduce an ebook reader to further monopolize its new position at the center of the emerging digital book world. Our response was that they had this covered already in their Android and could easily make Google Book Search a standard Android feature.

So what of Amazon with its Kindle 2 sitting on the launch pad and expecting to fly in the New Year? Has the Kindle 2 release been delayed for commercial, technical or strategic reasons? Why would Amazon miss out on the Christmas season sales?

Perhaps the answer is down to a change in strategy. Perhaps the explosion of smartphone applications has fired a shot across their bow and woken them up to the fact that maybe; just maybe, the kindle isn’t and never will be sexy or cover all the bases. No matter how many Ophra endorsements are given it’s still a clunky device which will find it hard justify the consumer investment. Maybe Amazon has realized that if there is a significant mobile swing and the world goes online as opposed to offline they are in a better position than anybody to take that market, or at least go head to head with the potentially biggest ebook retailer – Google.

Let’s step back and look at potential Amazonian moves. These may be far from the reality of what happens but they could happen:

Amazon introduces a Kindle mobile application for the major mobile platforms.
Amazon promotes an online book service based on their mobi format.
Amazon smartens up the Kindle reader and make it interoperable with the online service.
Amazon offers online rentals for both kindle and mobiles.

Amazon has the largest digital content outside of Google which is in their mobi or derivative format and serviced direct to devices not through the mothership PC. They don’t have a DRM issue as they own the Kindle / mobi offline DRM and online can be secured a lot easier. They also have reflow with their format so moving onto a mobile platform is easy.

We know what we would do if we were Amazon!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Its All About Content and Rights

As we all ponder over how we reward the creators of content in this new digital era we must realize that the issue covers all media and content. It was interesting to read the BBC article this week on ‘Musicians urge copyright change’.

A video message featuring 29 musicians and on behalf of 38,000 UK’s musicians has been sent to Gordon Brown. The message asked him to extend their copyright protection in line with composers and authors who currently enjoy a further 20 years of protection. The European Copyright Term Directive is proposing to extend all protection in sound recordings a further 15 years to 95 years but this apparently is being not supported by the UK government who believe that the majority of the benefit will flow to the major labels.

The issue is about principle more than money with the vast majority of musicians earning less than £15,000 a year and the potential earnings from the extension being negligible for all but the major labels and a handful of very famous performers. In addition the EC has pointed out that new artists earnings will be diluted royalties from airplay will have to be shared with the estates of deceased performing artists.
So we have copyright at the heart of all media and the digital world now enables new opportunities and usage that was never previously envisaged. The preservation of the principles of copyright in all media are now more important and need full debate before change but they also need to be consistent across all participants.

The other area that now becomes important is that rights ownership is well documented, managed, and accessible that obviates the potential land grabs that threaten the book market today. It is amazing that any media industry that is about content and rights, does not have a centralized, independently managed and funded rights clearing center today.

The Mobile Noise Versus The Mobile News

The smartphone world has started to become the latest ‘in’ place and we are starting to see the explosion of mobile applications. We have long believed that this and the notebook/laptop platforms are the main technology platforms for the immediate future and that all other, unless they have a compelling case, all will migrate to these two platforms. Mobile offers much but also is very restricted today in the size of the display, application and files supported and the yet to be resolved, device/ carrier/ operating system wars.

Single application devices such as the ebook readers are going to have a hard fight to justify their existence against what appears to be an inevitable outcome. PDF requires reflowable text in order to work on mobiles and although this is possible it is crude today. However, epub offers full reflow and therefore the ability to render automatically onto mobiles. Some would argue that Adobe backed the epub ebook standard in an attempt to ‘own’ the mobile world through its ACS4 DRM service.
Some would also point out that Adobe is ‘spreading their bet’ by their push to get Flash onto the mobile platform. The issue here is size and the need to used Flash Lite or as we have reported move the flash application onto the chip and thereby maximize efficiency and also virtually guarantee flash on all devices – even the iPhone who currently are holding out against Flash.

Today there are many applications which will play files on mobiles. Some use proprietary formats and introduce further conversion or restrictions. Some come with no effective DRM and although fine for public domain titles are not suitable for front list. We then have widgets which have in the main have been Flash driven so need to be revisited to present the information in a digestible form. Finally we have the content itself and the question of what the consumer will want to read on a mobile device.

We will read much over the coming months on publishers, and mobiles and many claims much of which will be noise and positioning rhetoric. What is important is that we are able to identify the genuine news and progress from the PR spin and noise that currently engulfs this area.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Nokia Set To Go After Blackberry

From next month Nokia smartphones will be able to access IBM Lotus Notes corporate email.

Nokia, who dropped plans to develop their own eemail offer and adopt a collaborative approach, has now signed deals with both IBM and Microsoft and believe that they now have close to 90% potential penetration of the corporate email market.

This move will enable Nokia to take on Blackberry-maker RIM in its own back yard. According to Nokia in the third quarter they sold 1.1 million of its new sleek, full-keyboard E71 phones, outselling RIM's Blackberry Bold by five-to-one.

The Great Book Bank Robbery - Another Perspective?

Fred von Lohmann of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and specializes intellectual property and has worked, advised, spoken and written on a wide variety of copyright and trademark litigation.

He has posted and interesting article ‘Google is Done Paying Silicon Valley's Legal Bills’ which he wrote in the 14th November issue of The Reporter on Google’s settlement and possible copyright strategy. The article makes for interesting reading and is one you should read and consider.

Google to Close Lively

It appears that not everything that Google does turns to gold and less than six months after its launch their answer to the virtual worlds of Second Life, Google's ‘Lively’ will close. This may be down to the slow down in the economy and resultant focusing on core activity and revenues.

Lively’ allowed anyone to set up virtual spaces, such as rooms, that could be embedded onto blogs or Facebook pages and was squarely aimed at Linden Lab’s Second Life but failed to take off.

Google say its on official blog "It has been a tough decision, but we want to ensure that we prioritize our resources and focus more on our core search, ads and apps business." Google is completely shutting down the service by the end of the year and is encouraging "all Lively users to capture your hard work by taking videos and screenshots of your rooms."

The speed at which these companies can change their direction and know when to cut and run is what makes them what they are. We have already seen how quickly Microsoft exited its Live Book Search program earlier this year. We have to recognize what drives one business is different to that which drives another or even a sector and when times get tough the tough literally get going.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Unplug That Charger Now!

We have all heard about how much climate damage Cows can do, or gas guzzling cars, or airplanes or even leaving office lights on all night but what about the humble mobile?

The world's top 5 mobile manufacturers have announced a common energy rating system for chargers. The new rating system is a response to criticism from environmentalists on what has become the world's top consumer electronics business by volume. Nokia say that over 60% of the electricity used by mobiles is wasted and is being burnt as the charger is plugged in whilst the phone is disconnected.

The new ratings system covers all chargers currently sold by Nokia, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, Motorola and LG. It ranges efficiency five stars for the most efficient chargers down to zero stars for the ones using the most energy.

The alarming statement comes from Nokia who claim, "If the more than three billion people owning mobile devices today switched to a four- or five-star charger, this could save the same amount of energy each year as produced by two medium sized power plants."

Google Gets Life Archive

Life magazine is making its huge library of photographs dating from the late 19th century to today available via Google. Life photographs often capture those seminal moments of history and are now online to the public online. About 97% of the pictures are widely reported as having never been seen before. Also available is work from other archives, such as collected by the former Time publisher, Henry Luce.

Only around 20% of the collection has gone live with the total library planned to be available in the first quarter of 2009.

Millions of images have been scanned and made available on Google Image Search who in their press statement, said: "The effort to bring offline images online was inspired by our mission to organize all the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful."

PCMag Stops Print to go Full Online

ZiffDavis the iconic technology and gaming media company announced yesterday that is to cease physical print production of PC Magazine and focus fully on growing its online network of related sites.

Their flagship magazine PCMagazine started in 1982 and has been one of the primary sources of information and comparative reviews on all technology such as laptops, desktops, smart phones, software, web services, HDTVs, printers, and much more over the years. Such was the demand for the information in its early years that it often printed huge 400 page editions that covered every conceivable angle and where a must buy for anyone about to buy a PC.

Ziff Davis Media chief executive Jason Young is widely reported saying that "Moving our flagship property to an all-digital format is the final step in an evolutionary process that has been playing out over the last seven years,". Its annual online audience and revenue over those last 7 years has seen growth of 33% and 42% respectively. Today, the PCMag Digital Network, has in excess of seven million unique monthly visitors and reaches in excess of 10 times the circulation over its sister print publication.

PCMag will become the lead site for a family including; ExtremeTech, Gearlog, Appscout, Smart Device Central, GoodCleanTech, DL.TV, Cranky Geeks, and PCMagCast and the last print last will be dated January 2009. A visit to the PCMag site shows the natural online fit of its material and the fact that it’s impossible to find a subscription reference to the printed copy. The trick will obviously be to maintain the traffic and advertising revenues in a world where they themselves are one click away from their competitors and access to all information is so easy.

The gaming group, which includes 1Up and EGM magazine, will remain as current.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

It Could Never Happen - Part 2 (EPIC 2015)

Another video not as professional as that we promoted earlier this week and although now a year old tracks the digital era and makes you think about the future and 2015!

Adobe: The Web in a Flash

Although the new smartphones have raised consumers' demand for Web browsing, game-playing and movie-watching, the web pages are often hard to access and experience on the mobile platform. Adobe has now announced that it is working to bring full-fledged Flash Player 10 to high-end smartphones. Flash technology is one major technical feature not currently supported on today’s smartphone and will go a long way to making the user web mobile experience consistent with the PC. It would enable Google’s hosted YouTube videos to be played on mobiles along with other Flash hosted application content.

Adobe have already demonstrated Flash Player 10 on devices running Nokia's Symbian operating system, Microsoft's Windows Mobile, and Google’s Android with the iPhone being the obvious missing player. Although it uses a downloadable Flash Lite application today, Adobe has also announced a collaboration with chip designer ARM Holdings, whose technology is used by most of the major mobile manufactures, including Nokia, Samsung, Apple and BlackBerry (RIM). On Monday the two companies said that a series of ARM-based processors for cellphones, set-top boxes and other devices adapted for Adobe's Flash 10 and AIR, a downloadable application that runs Flash applications outside the browser. The processors should be available in the second half of 2009.

The New York Times is reported in CNet as working on an Adobe AIR application that will let people read and interact with a newspaper within a physical format look and feel, checking and updating content every few minutes.

In addition to the smartphone activity, Adobe is also releasing a pre release version of its Flash Player 10 technology for 64-bit Linux users. Other Operating Systems will potentially get 64-bit support when they are able to support it and they are reported in as expecting to, ‘provide native support for 64-bit platforms in an upcoming major release of Flash Player. Windows, Macintosh and Linux players are expected to ship simultaneously moving forward.’, Major League Baseball's web service is one of the most successful subscription services, having 1.5 million subscribers and streaming more than 2,500 regular and postseason games annually. They have decided to leave Microsoft Silverlight and move to Adobe's Flash Platform to deliver all live and on-demand video starting next year. This gives Adobe one of the largest and most profitable video services and a technology leader and influencer.

Amazon Clouds

As more and more applications are built on the Web, their availability and scalability become critical concerns. Amazon Web Services are now responding to offer a content delivery network (CDN) pay-as-you-go system for delivering content over the cloud. Amazon CloudFront will work alongside Amazon’s other services, such as Amazon S3 enabling users to store content on S3 and deliver it using CloudFront at an affordable rate. Amazon are obviously hoping that this move will build on the success of their Amazon's S3 and E2 online storage and cloud computing and position them to drive down prices.

Amazon users can save their content to S3 and then register them with CloudFront making them easily accessible via applications. Technology outsourcers Capgemini have already committed and have announced support of Microsoft Sharepoint, Oracle ERP and application development and testing using Amazon Web Services.

One Step Closer to a Full Pardon

Associated Press report that a Federal Judge, John Sprizzo in Manhattan has ‘tentatively approved’ the settlement of lawsuits between Google and book authors and publishers that may put millions of out-of-print texts online. We have raised many issues on this Great Book Bank Robbery but appear to be standing with only a few others in questioning it. Where is the debate on the biggest decision this industry has ever taken?

Perhaps it’s the deal that has seduced so many. A few pieces of silver may be important but not so much as appearing to have taken on the Mighty and won. But will the deal last the test of time? The industry has until potentially June next year to throw this out and renegotiate a equitable deal after then it will be too late.

Is it even practical or possible to build the Rights register? Who will specify it? How will conflict be resolved and by whom? Why is it opt out not opt in? Is the settlement dependant on the rights register or is it just about a settlement deal.

It is now time for each industry body to consult their membership, discuss the opportunities, issues and challenges and make their respective statements. How will they do it? It is now time that individual organisations and parties asked for the debate? It would be a shame if a decision so important to authors, publishers, booksellers and consumers was made in one country by a few.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Google Pub Quiz

Seemingly why is it that so few people concerned that Google has created one rule for themselves, whist everyone else still are governed by copyright laws?
Here are ten questions to ponder against Google’s new rights registry.

We would welcome the answers to these questions:

1. An author has some 300 works spanning a number of decades and published by different parties (we know one). These are all still in copyright, but out of print and all the rights have reverted. Google acquires the books and makes them all available. Do Google pay the royalty to; the original publisher, the publisher who may have bought part of the list, the author, the author’s estate, the bank?

2. How will any party know what is in Google’s rights register and what is not? Who will determine any claim or arbitrate? How are works published under licence recorded?

3. If an out of print title had a jacket price of $5 in 1960, what will be the digital and POD price today? Who determines the price of a Google adopted orphan?

4. If a copy is scanned in the US but the UK rights are owned by a different party, who determines who gets the money?

5. If a books illustrations or photographs were licenced only for that rendition or edition, or were acquired under specific licence, do these now become fair game?

6. Public Domain works are free and anybody can publish. So publisher A embellishes the work with student notes and extras. What is fair use and what is copyright and who will police or arbitrate?

7. A number of public domain publishers have already put their content into GBS. Is this now fair game and free or covered by typographic rights?

8. If a publisher made a digital land grab for out of print but in copyright material and put this into GBS as a new edition, who will determine copyright breach and who will arbitrate?

9. What stops a publisher grabbing UK orphans and registering them as new works in another Google geographic region?

10. Anyone who has struggled to reconcile the cost of Google Adwords against revenues will understand that reporting and open accounting is often down to trust. Who will audit the service?

If you don’t know the answers to all these questions ask your CEO, Rights Director, Digital Director and your local publishing association or industry body as they will obviously know the answers.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Friday, November 14, 2008

Fred Newman 1932 - 2008

Fred was one of the first to welcome me into the publishing world and had that journalist thirst to both understand the issues and the editorial skill to précis to the core. He understood the need for change and through his printed words in Publishing News, helped make it happen. The photo is from my wedding and even here, the journalist in him even spotted a funny story. The industry will miss his quiet influence and I his friendship.

Google's Digital Book Jigsaw

First we had Amazon’s Search Inside, then the explosion of widgets in every shape, colour and format. Now we have the mobile phone application. Being able to search discover and qualify, or ‘browse before you buy’ is clearly here. So where is it going and who are the potential winners and the also ran’s? As with any venture, who pays and what is the return on the investment? Finally, are we now seeing the blurring of digital content and digital context (the metadata that helps you qualify and value content)?

Google has announced an Android search tool called the Barcode Scanner that recognises through the phone’s camera a book's barcode. According to Jeff Breidenbach, Engineer, Google Book Search, "it will automatically zoom, focus and scan the ISBN - without you even needing to click the shutter...You'll then have the option to search the full text of the book on Google Book Search right away"

There are limitations on the bar codes being post the mid 90s and of course the books being in Google Book Search. But then what? Some would argue that you already have the book in your hand so why do you need Book Search? Others may point out that the next question is that of price and availability and although you may have it in your hand would you transfer the sale to someone else if it where cheaper and delivered to your home? Some say that it provides additional digital services to explore external links, reviews, and perform keyword searches.

The arguments are immaterial, what is important is that the technology to link a mobile camera application, a bar code and Google Book Search is now a given. Why Google developed it and what they intend to do with it is subjective, the fact is they have.

Will there now be an iPhone, Blackberry or Symbian follower and will they link to Google or some other repository? It’s almost certain. Is it an application for librarys, retailers or consumers, remains unclear. The questions to ask are what can be achieved through this mobile linkage, where is the value and its potential within the Google world.

Publishers Weekly report that Borders has also stepped into the Google contexural world and have enabled Google Preview on their site. Borders joins Books-A-Million and the Blackwell Bookshop in using the service. The enhanced version of the Preview software enables the retailer to offer Google Preview to books they stock and that are within Google whilst effectively locking them into the retailer’s site. The interesting aside is that the majority of retailers promote non stocked inventory, so this feature could potentially obviate the publisher’s own widgets and also those supplied by others such as wholesalers.

If we step back and look at the various pieces of the Google Book World jigsaw we see many that could easy fit together and offer not just a solution that covers digital content but digital context and digital rights. Interesting times!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Great Book Bank Robbery - the Debate Starts

At last someone is starting to stand up to Google and not be seduced by a few pieces of silver. The UK Bookseller Association has fired an appropriate and well aimed shot across the bows of the giant over its recent US ‘Deal of the Century’.
When Google first started its hovering up of books, the programme was reported as helping capture and preserve information and works. Some openly questioned whether this would lead to them becoming a retailer and whether the scanned works would be shared or remain with Google. Some would suggest that Google appear never to have answered the retail question. Some would say that they have never answered it in public. As a result they have marched onward with relatively little opposition and entered by the back door. When Microsoft walked away from its Live Search programme then Google got a clear run. The problem with Live Search was that unlike Google, it didn’t know what it wanted to be when it grew up.

We have constituently argued that the settlement is bad for authors, publishers, booksellers and libraries and only seems to benefit consumers and of course Google. We have highlighted some of the many rights issues and most importantly the land grab of ‘in copyright but out of print’ works.

Google argue that they will not create a monopoly. So who else will have the search and discovery capability across this range of titles and the ability to reprint and sell all of them to both consumers and on subscriptions to libraries? We should not also forget Google’s Android and the extra dimension that this gives them to standardise the new features within it. Some would argue that the response of Google in the Bookseller clearly demonstrates either their arrogance or their naivety and that they have never been accused of the later.

The rights registry is badly needed, but surely not on an ‘opt out’ basis. Google must have thought they had scored the winning goal when they secured this aspect of the solution. They imply, that by being ‘non for profit’, it is for the benefit of all. Some would say that it doesn’t need to be for profit as they will make 37% elsewhere. How orphan monies will be retained and appropriately distributed?

It is unclear what the subscription rates will be to libraries and also the price to consumers for anything other than the free public domain. Given that the overriding premise is ‘opt out’ not ‘opt in’, one wonders how and even if Google will negotiate terms or state them.

The most amazing thing about this debacle is how little consultation appears to have taken place on such an important issue and how once ratified a US deal doesn’t become a global one. Where do the ABA, the libraries and copyright agencies UK PA, IFBA stand on the issue? We hope other industry bodies such as the BA will evaluate the potential impact and join the debate.

The industry shouldn’t merely roll over and in a few years time, wake up and ask how it was ever allowed to happen and Google got away with it?

Harnessing the Publishing Network

The new market challenge is not traffic but turning networks and their traffic into money. Anyone can dream up a new service, or feature, but making it pay its way can often be hard. People often think that business models will remain the same or similar and those sales will grow expediently to accommodate all. The reality is that change brings new challenges that often confront the existing models.

What was the result on the music sector from the changes that the many P2P players such as Napster and Kazaa brought? Not only did their change the format, delivery, the breadth and range of tunes available and price perception, but ask where all the High Street music stores are today? When iTunes entered they found a way to channel sales and collect money. iTunes succeeded not because of the iPod but because Apple understood how to make money out of the latent demand for tracks. It joined the dots between consumer demand, an aggregated online repository and download service and an iconic device – simple but the best are always that!

When we look at newsprint we see new entrants in the form of the Internet news alerts, news aggregated services such as Google , the emergence of advertising options such as Craigslist and the new reporter - the blogger. Some newspapers will stand on the shore line watch the incoming tide and close their eyes. They can’t envisage the world without the authoritative watchdog journalist, printed copy and the profits they previously enjoyed. But the Internet doesn’t respect tradition it can democratise news and enable it to be not one way but a two way experience.

People now demand ‘my news’ tailored to meet their needs and tastes and they can do it in a heartbeat. Although the online subscriptions lights continue to flicker it’s only for a few who can command a price, for what is in the main, public domain news. The trick newspapers failed to do was to offer a customised service across newspapers and newspaper empires, but if network collaboration wasn’t in their dictionary it was in Google’s and Craigslist’s.

The Internet is about money and finding ways to make money from it is the game. Google was not the first search engine nor necessarily the best at the start, but what it understood was networks and how advertising revenues could be driven from people’s searching habits. It helps consumers find stuff on the web they could never find on their own and advertisers buy traffic. Simple, yet so difficult.

We now have to ask ourselves how we prepare for change, who will be the potential winners and who will be the potential losers. It’s not good enough to sit on the fence and watch, you have to participate. The hardest challenge is to get competing forces to recognise what they compete on and to start to collaborate on the rest in order to make a new offer that is different because of the collaboration. One of the best examples in publishing was the Crossref initiative and organisation one of the worst examples is the rights registry giveaway to Google. Collaboration is very difficult for most organisations, with every employee seeming to have ‘we know best’ running through their genes. Harnessing the huge publishing network offers the biggest opportunity, operating individually offers the same opportunity to others.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Try Out Technology in a Hotel Near You

Hotels are so different; it’s what makes stopping in them such an adventure. Having spent so much time travelling both for pleasure and on business, it’s interesting to reflect on what we expect today; wireless, cable TV as well as room service. Hotels from the largest, swankiest to the boutique are such fun today and could become the test ground for so much design and technology.

An interesting development that started before the crunch but will no doubt be accelerated by it is the shift towards mixed condo and hotel developments. From Trump Towers to new builds, mixed developments appear to offer the best of both worlds; first class accommodation and first class apartment life. It’s not for all but neither is apartment life.

It was therefore interesting to read a report on hotel technology in the New York Times on how they are working with technology companies to regain their edge.
Sheraton has teamed with Microsoft to create its new Link@Sheraton lounges. Westin teamed with Nintendo to outfit some of its fitness centers with Wii consoles and games like Wii Fit. The Gansevoort Hotel Group teamed with Sony to develop a new lobby business center with Sony computers and PlayStation 3 game consoles as well as digital book readers and cameras.

Technology companies, in turn, have a chance to show off their devices and services to a desirable demographic. They can make them aware of new features, devices and start to encourage people to try something new.

Control4, known for its home automation systems has teamed up with The James hotel in Chicago. Currently under trial the system will allow guests to operate the lights, the blinds, the thermostat and the television using one remote. Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, plans to use the same system to create a welcome experience at its Las Vegas property, scheduled to open in late 2009. Guests arriving in their room will be greeted by the drapes opening, the lights automatically turning on and the television displaying a customized message with the guest’s name. The hotel will offer 400 megabytes of bandwidth when it opens.

So next year the BEA conference will be in New York. We will book into a recommended hotel in Manhattan and forget the fluffy robes we want a Kindle or a Sony in the room!

International iPlayer

Having just got back from Canada my first television moment was to browse BBC’s iPlayer and make a note of those programmes I would have like to have seen will I was away. Therefore it was ironic to read that the BBC Digital Chief Eric Huggers is reported in advanced among other things as now supporting the opening up of the corporation’s highly successful iPlayer to international markets. Means I may be able to watch them whilst I am away which will be a welcome break from that terrible rolling BBC News and CNN News.

"The Internet is, by definition, a global medium, yet today we are artificially blocking international access to the iPlayer. That's a problem, in my mind, and a big challenge for the industry," Huggers said. "I know that is the third biggest web property in the country, yet every time I go there I feel completely alone. Instinctively, I know there are other people on the site so the idea is connecting audiences with programming and with each other, embracing that big theme of social media."

The iPlayer service has been a huge success and has served up close to 50 million videos since June on the Virgin Media cable service. Opening it up to the international market will start to change TV worldwide and further project the BBC’s content and value potentially creating cult status on certain programmes and increase BBC Worldwide’s ability to sell more content.

Music Just Got 'Sticky'

The digital music revolution is now entering its next phase. The first phase merely dumped the music onto your player, the content was the same, played the same but lacked that something that vinyl and CDs had – extra fun. Downloads didn’t have liner notes, photos, lyrics and all those extras that made the physical renditions more tactile, they were just digital content.

Now the mobile application boom has generated a potential answer – the total music experience. Before the December 16 release of Fall Out Boy's "Folie a Deux," the band will release an iPhone application. This is notthe first nor will it be the last and follows the lead taken by the likes of Pink, Snow Patrol and David Cook.

The iPhone application is basically an interactive website, accessing track listings, photos and lyrics from the band's entire discography as well as links to buy its songs from iTunes. As a mobile application it doesn’t need to be static and can be updated with more information and functionality and could include a mobile social network integrated with the community on, Twitter tools, photo uploading and even the ability to find other nearby users with the iPhone's GPS location technology. The application can also contain games and streamed videos. The applications are only restricted by imagination, ability and effort.

By separating the music from the application they have avoided making the download complex, raising its price and best of all retained control. Importantly the applications could generate a new ‘must have’ around the iPhone and in order to compete the other mobile players would have to reproduce the application on their platform. However by tying the application to the device they have joined that current disconnect that occurs between the artist’s web site and the music whilst potentially replicating the web site content and experience on the iPhone. A very clever move and one that increases the overall marketing ‘stickyness’. Not an easy task as it evolves in many directions. Also with each band in effect creating their own application this makes the service even richer and compelling and also again harder to replicate.

Will the music labels follow and try to wrestle control? Some would say that this is inevitable, but again they have sat on their hands and the artists have taken the initiative and many will want to retain that element of brand and social group control. The music labels will also want it to be on every mobile device not just the iPhone. Can you imagine the likes of Sony rolling over and handing it to Apple? The other problem the labels have is that they are music producers and marketers and do not inherently have the skill base or set.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Another ebook reader

Coming across another ebook reader should stimulate us to look hard at it and listen to the market’s reaction to it and ponder whether it will make the difference. There is many ereaders littering the market and all claiming to be different and the ‘must buy’ to the new ebook market. So coming across yet another eink model makes us wonder how they think they are different.

Do any have the iconic design of an Apple? Do any offer the technology at a price that is truly a no brainer? Do any offer access content that is different from the others? Do any of them have that marketing position or relationship that makes it a category killer?

The game is to guess which one this is:
Supports ebook formats from pdf, mobi, lit, epub, doc, html, txt, prc, fb2, jpg files to over 300.000 of *free* rss newsfeeds.
• Fully PC and MAC compatible
• Unique paperlike display, read even in bright sunlight based on eink
• Longlife battery, one charge will last 7.000 pageturns
• Accomodates your entire bookcase up to a 1,000 books
• Use it anywhere: at home, vacation, study, work, travel
• Use it to read: books, studybooks, papers, news, catalogs, workdocuments, reference guides/book, ebooks, training papers, any document
• Plays MP3 files and audiobooks
• It features a 6-inch reflective screen, a SD card slot, 512MB of internal storage and a USB connector. The BEBOOK's dimensions are 184mm (length) x 120mm (width) x 10mm (height) and it weighs just 220 gr including the battery.
• £229 with free leather case

The truth is its just another eink reader with more or less the same features as the rest but has a different badge. The one thing we noticed was that it listed around 22,000 titles in its catalogue. Mostly the usual publics domain suspects plus some interesting other language titles: ‘Afrikaans (3) Breton (1) Bulgarian (6) Catalan (20) Cebuano (1) Chinese (293) Czech (2) Danish (19) Dutch (344) English (21020) Esperanto (44) Finnish (432) French (1195) Frisian (1) Friulano (4) Galician (1) Gascon (1) German (511) Greek (6) Hebrew (3) Hungarian (7) Icelandic (6) Iloko (2) Interlingua (1) Irish (4) Italian (144) Japanese (2) Latin (37) Middle English (3) Nahuatl (1) Napoletano-Calabrese (1) Norwegian (10) Polish (3) Portuguese (234) Romanian (1) Russian (3) Serbian (4) Spanish (159) Swedish (39) Tagalog (51) Welsh (10)’

The answer is another Dutch product called BEBOOK.

What links the Kindle, Sony, Iliad, Plastic Logic, Fujitsu, and Bebook is eink and also the concept of a portable storage and reading device. Is eink the key to the Holy Grail or is it a technology looking for a home? There are new screen technologies being developed and adopted by other converging media and communications sectors that aim to compete, so will it succeed?

The online world will challenge the current download logic and in doing so also negate the often messy and cumbersome DRM handshakes. The rent to read and cloud computing model will question the need to build local storage devices for books that are often only read one at a time and once. The mobile convergence and netbook developments will question the one dimensional device and just as Blackberry had to these devices will have to widen their functionality. The world is no longer greyscale and is animated. Finally, ask any person on the street what gadget or electronic device they would spend £229 on and the odds would be slim on an ebook reader. The price point is way out.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

The Network Helps Dicate the Shape of the Future

Digital downloads are today what CDRoms were in the early days of the Internet – the best digital platform - but are digital downloads the future? It seems to us that it is inevitable as the migration from CDRom to the Internet. Last week Reuters reported that Kevin Martin, the US Federal Communications Commission and a Larry Page Google co-founder said that a decision by the U.S. agency to open unused ‘white space’ TV spectrum will improve Internet access in urban and rural areas. At the heart of this is the use of radio which is undergoing significant development. Page said, ‘new radio technology will soon have more reach than current WiFi, which cannot go through more than two walls.’

"White space" will be capable to detecting local television channels and automatically switching to frequencies not in use, limiting power to avoid interference, send packets of data, and then switch again. Page predicts that prototypes of radio microchips may be available in as little as 18 months.

Before we have the alternative network technologies a report published by UK analysts Point Topic states that worldwide broadband is already getting cheaper and faster. Prices have already fallen by 20% percent in 2008. DSL prices have dropped from $25 per megabit to $18 per megabit, whilst cable prices haven't fallen and are now at $6-7 per megabit and fibre remains the best value at $1 -2 per megabit.

Smaller European operators are now offering both lower prices and faster speeds, whilst in the US, the report notes that "speeds have gone up but the price hasn't changed." There continues to be huge variation between regions with high speed Internet access becoming essential to many Americans, whilst home access remains prohibitively expensive in many parts of the world.

Major provider AT&T has been boosting its network to deliver speeds of 18Mbps in the US. AT&T are now investing $275 million to purchase WiFi hotspot operator Wayport. Wayport who started in ’97 with wired connections in hotel rooms went on to create the world's largest hotspot network, installing WiFi in airports, hotels, coffeeshops, and restaurants including 10,000 McDonalds. AT&T now increases its US footprint to 20,000 locations for its basic free service to millions of its subscribers and is adding the 3,000 hotel, healthcare, and other locations in Wayport's network.

AT&T now becomes the largest hotspot operator in the world. Its main competitor being the Fon network who with 300,000 active hotspots and over 1 million registered users makes it the world’s largest network.

So devices are getting smarter and converging, networks getting more pervasive, cheaper and faster and we are becoming a permanently connected. Some would say that this shows that today’s ereaders are clearly transient in their current form.


We have previously questioned the role of public libraries in the age of the digital download. Our question is not so much on their validity or funding, but more on their role and market competitive position with respect to digital product, its retail and consumer. In this digital age when anyone is merely a click away from anything, from anywhere, where people go to get it? In this new world are the winners and losers determined not by the content but the cost and ease of access?

If a library lends out digital books for free, or even at a subsidised level, why would the consumer want to buy it? ‘Rent to read’ is probably the most logically digital book model and as broadband and devices become more permanently connected then so does the switch from download to online. The Internet has exploded the ability for anyone to sell or distribute anything to anyone without having the inventory or the pick and pack operation. So if everyone has access to anything at anytime, the choice is down to where you go to get it.

So do libraries just become museums where people go to see vast shelves of paper books, old tomes that would never be found on the high street, or do they engage more with digital content and become community centres of learning, information and culture? Should their be a UK, European or global digital library consortia, or is it now called Google?

What do they charge and how are they funded? If they are already funded by the public, why would the public want to pay again? If the material is free why would anyone want to go anywhere else? A library service such as the Danish eBog service are showing how digital books can be integrated in the public library system, but is this vision shared by others or merely local.

Last week ‘Publishers Lunch’ reported on the ‘Big Library Cuts in Philadelphia.’

‘As municipalities across the country face large gaps in their budget, Philadelphia is taking "drastic new steps" to face the "economic storm" that include closing 11 of the 54 branch libraries that comprise the Free Library of Philadelphia. Three other branches will have Sunday hours eliminated. Mayor Michael Nutter said the branches were chosen "after careful review of building conditions, utilization and distance to other libraries in the Free Library system." Cutting 220 jobs throughout the city government, approximately one third of those layoffs will come from the library staff.’

We have previously reported on the skipping and burning of unwanted books by UK libraries. A situation that can only increase as their physical space and funding diminishes.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Obama Drives Newpaper Demand

Reuters report that the November 5th newspaper editions on Obama's victory flew off the newsstands and some major newspapers struggled to keep up with the demand for copies. In response to demand, The New York Times and The Washington Post put out special commemorative editions. Newspapers in San Francisco, Denver and Chicago reported selling out and also printed special editions. Thousands of extra copies were printed in Baltimore, Hartford, Connecticut, and Orlando, Florida.

By the end of that day 800 sellers offered various copies for sale on eBay with a New York Times edition commanding bids up to $400.

Souvenirs are keepsakes and are often handed down. It is very interesting that in this digital age that people still valued and grabbed their memory of that historic day in the form that would remain with them forever – physical newsprint.

So Who Would You Place Your Money On?

So how many Kindles, Iliads, Sony and ereader devices have been sold?

Today we read in that Canalys has released market share figures on smartphones that state that 39.9 million were shipped in the third quarter of this year. It certainly put the ereader shipments into perspective and coupled with the earlier statistics on games and gaming devices shows that the ereaders not only have a long way to go but that they may well have nowhere to go in their current form.

Regarding the smartphones the battle has clearly started and although Nokia still lead the race with 38.9 % market share this has fallen 12.5 %, compared to last year. The winners are surprise Apple who are now second with 6.9 million shipments (17.3%). But RIM with its new Blackberry Storm and Lewis Hamilton promotion, plus their new Pearl clamshell, look to make it a tight forth quarter. It truly is becoming as interesting a race as the Brazilian Grand Prix.

On the operating system front Sumbian remains in front, but again Apple and RIM are the second with Microsoft also increasing the number of Windows Mobile handsets shipped by 42%. Then we have the dark horse that is Google and its Android yet to make its mark.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Another Day at the Races

Microsoft and LG have signed a strategic collaboration agreement in R&D, marketing, applications, and services in mobile devices. Samsung Electronics announced on the same day the launch of the domestic version of the Omnia touch screen handset model. This is also based on Microsoft's Windows Mobile 6.1 operating system and will be available under an exclusive deal later this year.

Both these moves are clearly focused on helping Microsoft’s Windows Mobile operating system defend itself against Nokia’s Symbian a platform and which is used in two-thirds of smartphones. As we have already reported the remaining contenders are RIM’s Blackberry, Apple's iPhone and Google's Android.

In the same way that DOS versus Windows defined and help shape the PC era and Explora versus Netscape the Web browser initial battles the this ongoing smartphone battle will shape the smartphone market and have a significant impact on digital content and presentation in the digital content era. What will be the key is hard to say but Google certainly has been given a significant boost by its recent settlement.

Aligning digital search and discovery, content delivery and synergy with PCs in an online offer that is unique by its nature is something others will struggle to match. It’s a pity the price was so cheap.

Games are not just for Christmas

What would be your reaction be if your agent says that they have an offer to turn your book into a game? Would you hesitate or jump at it?

Verdict Research report a huge shift in consumer attitudes has turned video games into the UK's most popular form of entertainment and that sales will outstrip music and video for the first time in 2008. They predict games spending will rise by 42% to £4.64bn in 2008, with sales on music and video combined at £4.46bn.

We have all seen the massive impact that major new titles such as Grand Theft Auto IV and FIFA 08 have had on the games market. In addition the Nintendo Wii continuing has continued to broaden the appeal of games. Entertainment Retailers Association (ERA), most recent figures for 2007 show sales of actual games software at £1.7bn, compared to £1.4bn in music sales and £2.2bn for video revenues.

The question is what comes first; the story or the game?

Content For Rent?

When we lease a commercial property we enter into and contract. The contract recognises more than anything else, that life changes over time. So we have a lease terms and we have rent review clauses and importantly, we can also have break clauses. This form of review ensures that both parties remain focused and removes much of the risk that could be experienced by both parties as markets and businesses change.

Today, the majority of publishing contracts are one offs that in principle are appended to, but are negotiated once and thereafter remain 'as is' for life.

Today we are now one short step from books never being 'out of print' and the erosion of the rights reversal opportunity that has underpinned many rights contracts. Some publishers have long wanted this perpetual tethering of the work, others have respected the contracts and the spirit into which they were entered. Irrespective, some would say that Google has, with some help, now effectively ‘driven its juggernaut’ through rights reversals, adopted orphan works and even managed to redefine ‘fair use’, if only for themselves.

It is interesting to gauge the reaction of various parties in the post Google settlement, but it is clear that we could be in a ‘sanctioned first and maybe questioned later’ mode.

So what of authors’ rights contracts moving forward? Will they, or can they, be now term based? Will, or can, a work be subject to rights reversal, or is it a case of ‘one shot only’. Is there any sense now to territorial rights and how will the likes of Google ever enforce these? If a book is published by one publisher in the US and another in the UK, who do Google respect and pay?

Next we have the great urban myth: That the electronic formats are not as inexpensive to produce and publish as many believe.

Hello! The real reason behind this is that publishers are still, in the main, running their editorial and production processes in analogue. If they were digital their ability to produce digital, physical, or whatever, would be a lot cheaper. Many are still digitising physical product, or at best ‘finished typeset product’. Publishing isn’t digital, it merely distributing and selling digital product.

So should authors’ sign up to deals based on an inefficient and transient process and will poor royalty rates be revisited once the publishing process becomes efficient?

So Where Do NetBooks Fit In?

The Netbook is becoming the portable device for many. It is ultraportable, an inexpensive laptop designed for Web browsing and light tasks. Now Hewlett Packard (HP) has unveiled its new mini notebook in its move to cash in on this fastest growing PC category.

HP's sleek new Mini 1000, costs around $400, uses Intel Corp's Atom processor, and signals a potential price war in the netbook market. Netbooks are still only a fraction of the 300 million PC market but their growing popularity could lead to further market changes with smaller players such as Acer gaining ground on HP and Dell. Analysts predict that 10.8 million netbooks will ship in 2008, and jump to 20.8 million in 2009.

The target market for the netbook is still undefined with education being one of the obvious areas but with the consumer market being less certain. Will users use the notebook for travel and a larger laptop or desktop for heavier usage? What is certain is that the laptop is shrinking and the potential of the notebook is growing. It would be logical for the notebook to merge with the current ereaders and offer a portable device between the mobile and the laptop.

What is clear is that single dimensional devices such as the current ereaders have another competitor in the market and one that will have more appeal to a wider audience. Interestingly the notebook looks certain to compete head to head with the ereader in the educational space.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Enter the Dragon

We read a review today on Dragon NaturallySpeaking 10. For those who have never heard this software, it is one of the leading voice recognition and translation applications. We have long wished that we could just speak to our laptops and be able to instantly capture our thoughts. Alas it takes time to train the application and the task of turning talk into text is often slow and not error free.

My blind mother in law has used the Dragon software with ease having written around half of her 30 plus novels using its earlier versions. When you witness an expert using it one can easy see the benefits it offers. She also uses the voice recognition on her mobile and never needs to touch the keyboard. It is interesting that every mobile has this feature but few take the time to use it.

Text to voice is the reverse process and also has been around for a number of years. Today’s applications in this area are very sophisticated and are built around huge voice databases and the ability to style-sheet voice to text. A couple of years ago we looked at this software with a view to being able to produce audio books from digital text. The template building was somewhat of an art form and involved specifying the pitch, time delays etc when certain punctuation or narrative was detected. Once style-sheeted the text was processed against a voice engine and a file created. This file could then be refined by a sound engineer and the total process completed in a fraction of the time and cost of traditional production. The results were not ‘robotic’, but clean and crisp. They often dealt with complex scientific terms with ease, but often ran out of puff on the long or badly punctuated sentence.

We didn’t take it further at that stage but constantly monitor the progress of the leaders such as Loquendo in this area. We suggest you go to their site and try it out for yourselves.

The Great Book Bank Robbery – More questions?

Is it Part 2

TMCnet editor Michael Dinan, in his article ‘Competitive Internet Advocate: Google's $125 Million Book Deal Is Sneaky, Dangerous’ refers to Scott Cleland, chairman of, who cites the agreement as being tantamount to ‘a small fine and a doorway to total power over all digital publishing’. According to Cleland, “Crime does indeed pay – if you have Google’s willingness to break the law and their market power to profit off of their law-breaking.’

Carolyn Kellogg writing in the Los Angles Times, 'The Google-publishers-authors settlement: What will it mean?' says that, ‘No author is going to survive off one $60 per-book payment -- even the mega-prolific Joyce Carol Oates, if she owns all her rights, would walk away with a little less than $7,000. That's nice, but it's not a living.’

She goes on to question the business model of the rights registry and whether the initial payment by Google and ongoing support by subscriptions and usage fees will be adequate and what publishers and authors can expect going forward. Obviously the unanswerable questions are on the revenues that advertising and subscriptions could generate. Finally she questions what the impact of full-access terminals at public libraries for free will be and how the existing ebooks will compete?

We think that the recurring theme being raised by many in the aftermath of the announcement should generate a healthy debate and exploration of the potential impact this will have on all across the publishing life cycle. Once the dust has settled and we fully understand what has been given away we hope that the decision will be revisited and not just blindly rubber stamped.

The Great Book Bank Robbery - Is it

Part 1

At last some are now questioning the logic of the great giveaway and whether it is a wise move to reward what some believe is the thief with a snippet of a fine and the industry on a platter. Google has already scanned more than 7 million books, and plans to scan millions more. Where else would someone in the dock be given everything they wished for and asked to continue to do it with the blessing of all?

Fair Use. Google has been given a ‘licence to scan’ and ‘opt out’ not an ‘opt in’ approach to restricting access. But what does this mean to others who may wish to scan? Some interesting thoughts from UCLA Law's Professor, Neil Netanel

Big Brother. Once you are using the system then Google will know what you read, when you read it, what you didn’t read and even how long it took you to read it. If coupled with the obvious shift onto Anriod applications it will even know that too. Now what’s that worth to the advertising world? These points and much more are made in Fred von Lohmann’s legal analysis

Rights and the Registry. We have long argued against the Orphan Act which we saw as a precursor to this very move by Google and others. Many publishers are so front list focused that the long forgotten are just that. However just because a work is out of print and its ownership unclear, does not entitle it to be stolen. The question of who gets the money under this new arrangement is questioned in the University of Maryland College blog. Why does Google get to keep the orphan cash?

The question of orphan works and fair use is further explored in this blog by Jef Pearlman

The representatives and industry sanction. We are not in a position to say whether those who negotiated the deal were the right or wrong people to do so but would refer you to an interesting blog Scrivener's Error. The only question we would raise is why a company that openly wants to abolish author’s reversals is sitting on the panel?

Harvard University library, director Robert C. Darnton is reported in Information Week “the agreement had no assurances that prices charged for accessing electronic copies of books would be reasonable, particularly since there would be no real competition.” The ramifications of the settlement are said to be too unclear for Harvard to commit to participating in the Google project.