Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Pirate Bay Links to Facebook

As the publishing world absorbs the reality of digital pirate copies of books on Scribd and revelations on eBay’s bargain offers the Pirate Bay has unveiled a feature that makes it easy for web users to post links to pirated material on their Facebook page.

Who is responsible for what is becoming murkier.

The Pirate Bay is one of the world's most prominent link-distributing sites and has just been subject to a high visibility trial in Sweden which will decide, whether the people behind it are guilty of copyright offences. Many of the links it hosts are used to download copyright-infringing music and movies.

Now they have introduced a link, 'Share on Facebook' that puts the link on the user's Facebook page which enables anyone with BitTorrent software to download the file from other computers.This could be used legitimately for artists to distribute music video files to fans by Facebook and clearly many Facebook users will think twice about posting public links to copyrighted content without permission on their profile pages

The question now is whether Facebook will err on caution and block all links posted via The Pirate Bay before publication.

Microsoft Encarta RIP

As a child we were haunted by those tomes Encyclopedia Britannica and the notion that a set of books would transforms any young student into a class topping genius. Also the books still linger on shelves in many family homes, or have long gone. Then in the 90s we had Microsoft Encarta. Who needed the tome when you could have it on a CD? Then came Wikipedia, who not only transformed access but more importantly democratised its development.

Microsoft has offered limited online selection for free and a much larger selection of 42,000 entries for a subscription, but are unable to compete with Wikipedia’s 2.7 million articles. It failed to grasp the concept of user generated content and editorial by democratisation.

Today, Ars Technica report that Microsoft’s Encarta, has come to the end of its life and will be no more. ‘On October 31, 2009, MSN Encarta Web sites worldwide will be discontinued, with the exception of Encarta Japan, which will be discontinued on December 31, 2009’. Microsoft says that the ‘category of traditional encyclopedias and reference material has changed…people today seek and consume information in considerably different ways.’

Wikipedia may have its faults but it is changing how we create, mediate, access, use and value the ultimate reference material. The question we now have to ask is what the next generation will be?

Spotify Add Downloads to Their Offer

On-demand European music streaming service Spotify continues to move forward and has added download purchasing to its growing proposition. Listeners can right-click track names and pick "Buy From 7Digital.com", letting them purchase files from the service. They also plan to enable users to be able to buy whole playlists that they have created on Spotify.

With Spotify gaining a loyal audience, the service adds that extra dimension. Some may ask why bother as you can listen for free but for those on the move who may not have connectivity or those who must have a library it closes that down. It also gives Spotify, an a la carte download model that could counter its reliance on its core ad-supported, per-per-day and monthly subscription models. Spotify want to allow users to listen and buy MP3s securely with one or two clicks

Monday, March 30, 2009

Disney Looks to Join Hulu

The La Times reports that Disney are looking to go in with their rivals Fox and NBC and take a stake in Hulu.com. According to ComScore Video Metrix, which tracks online traffic, Hulu is attracting a large audience with an increase 42% up in February to 34.7 million viewers. Although it’s still significantly lower than YouTube, it is growing.

Disney have recognized that they have ‘to go where the people are’ and that ABC.com just isn’t strong enough. So potentially, Disney, Fox and NBC could each end up with 30%, leaving Providence Equity Partners retaining the remaining 10%. It would also leave CBS, which owns TV.com, outside.

The Hulu model has still to make the money needed to fund the costs of producing shows and still threatens to erode the value of established broadcast and cable channels. However, Disney would bring Hulu their content such as "Grey's Anatomy" and "Desperate Housewives," which in turn should fuel the larger audiences and may well help it towards a tipping point.

Skype Broadens Its Reach


Skype has already established itself as the popular consumer VoIP service offering an Internet calling service that has more than 400 million users around the world. The service is now reportedly moving into both the corporate and mobile world and potentially covering all the bases.

Earlier this month they announced a beta version of its business-user-oriented Skype for SIP (session initiation protocol), which will run on an enterprise PBX (private branch exchange) systems. Imagine picking up the office phone and using Skype on your office system? It now potentially offers organizations new ways to use the VoIP service and manage calls.

The beta version of Skype for SIP will connect the company's Web site to the PBX system through a click-to-call feature and let users receive and manage inbound calls from Skype users worldwide on SIP-enabled PBX systems. Organisations will also be able to manage Skype calls using their existing hardware and system applications such as call routing, conferencing, phone menus and voice mail.

How Skype will compete against VoIP offerings from more traditional and experienced service providers is the question but lowered telephony costs could be a major incentive.

On the mobile front we were one of many in the UK who were drawn to service provider ‘3’ on the offer of free Skype service and for the last two years have enjoyed Skype on the move over our Nokia N95.

Earlier this year, Skype announced more versions of its software for more mobiles and mobile operating systems such as Android and Windows and today they have announce support from May for the iPhone, iTouch and a number of Blackberry phones. Apple will limit Skype’s use on the iPhone not allowing calls over the data networks of its carrier partners.

So we are starting to see a marriage of VoIP and mobile and Skype and the office PXB. It will now be interesting to watch the obvious take up and how the service will change how we all pay for services in the future.

More Digital Piracy

Last week we reported on the questionable ebooks for sale on eBay, now today the Times covers similar abuse on Scribd.com ‘Authors fight free books site Scribd for ‘pirating’ their work’ where the paper found copies of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and Ken Follett’s World without End among many bestselling titles available. The Californian Scribd website claims to be the most popular literary site in the world attracting some 55 million visitors a month.

Scribd operates a ‘notice and takedown system’ under the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which means that the site is not held liable for actions of its users of which it is not aware. However, are publisher now to employ watchers who sole job is to search and discover infringement and serve notices? Some would say that many already do and their associations are very active but surely the service providers must know that content is illegal or at best dubious. It doesn’t take a lot of intelligence to spot the questionable items on eBay so why are they allowed to place them?

Everyone’s worst nightmare is that books follow the same route as music and instead of being ripped off the books are merely scanned. Some would argue that by imposing strict DRM you invite the pirates in and others that without DRM you invite the pirates in. What is clear is that digital books are now visible and the cracks unfortunately are starting to appear. We can lock up the digital copy with DRM, embed digital watermarks but the physical copy can be still scanned by increasingly sophisticated scanners. Many of the books that are raising eyebrows are not available today digitally so it’s fair to assume the source is the physical book.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Google Ads and Mobile Apps News

Google is developing technology to connect its TV-ad brokering business to the video world and would allow advertisers to buy adverts across Google TV, which sells on-air commercials; YouTube; and video on other Web sites all through the same interface. Google TV Ads Online, is being tested with a small group of advertisers and is likely to be introduced in the coming months.

Google's vision is obviously aimed at tethering the various platforms to advertisers enabling them to manage and measure their spending across all media. Youtube is trying to increase revenues and their recent spat with the PRS in the UK demonstrates that they need to pay their way.

Some TV ads may not be suited to run before or alongside online video, but there are big strategic opportunities at stake as more consumers watch TV online. YouTube has been looking at making ads through Internet-content on television, such as Apple Inc.'s Apple TV. Traditional TV-ad sellers are now also looking at creating their own online services and ad-selling platforms that compete with YouTube and Google TV.
This week Google also released its Google Mobile Application on RIM's Blackberry smartphones and added voice control on all but the Storm model. Inclyded are al the usual suspects; Google Maps, Gmail, RSS reader etc and all should work on Blackberry's 40 million smartphones.

Google already has Google Mobile Apps for the iPhone, Symbian and for the Android Plaform.

Grimmelman Speaks Up On The Google Settlement

As the Google settlement draws ever closer everyone is increasingly being asked to stand up and be counted and some of the real position start to become clearer.

We would recommend James Grimmelman’s article ‘Speaking Up On Book Search’ Grimmlemann, the The New York Law School's Institute for Information Law and Policy and their lawyers Kornstein Veisz Wexler & Pollard, LLP have asked the court hearing the Google Book Search case to let them file a brief amicus curiae. Their brief will explain to the court why the case is all about the orphans.

The linked article also contains the letter of submission to the court.

There are those who want to change contracts and have ob reflection always done so. The want rights reversals to be anything of the past and to use POD and ebooks to effectively keep books in print. The only problem is that the original contract didn’t always know the future. Some want the change the revenue spilt and may belong interestingly to the previous group too.

There are those who actually want to free the orphan works and have fought hard to push legislation through to achieve this end. These are not passed yet but are close. They genuinely want lost books to be available for all in a similar way that public domain works are today. The challenge as always is the lack of records and the further back towards 192X you go the murkier it becomes.

There are those who want to revisit copyright full stop and believe that extending copyright from 56 years to life plus 75 years was a mistake and is should come down as it doesn't serve the public.

Some will support Google’s current settlement as a means to an end and not perfect but better than today. These may also believe that anyone can opt out and if they don’t can collect retrospectively. They will accept the digital exclusive monopoly that will be created because they believe it to be in the public interest. Some may say that where the US goes others will follow and we all know Google emissaries are working hard to spread the word.

So, we face a moral question whether if is right to take and seek legal blessing to do so, works that the law doesn’t permit today. The agreement is about whether those not represented can be and whether the change should be universal to all or restricted to one company to commercially exploit to the legal exclusion of others?
As an industry everyone is negligent in not building a rights repository and clearing house but some would argue that to be bribed into having one is not necessarily justification for granting exclusive rights to works whose ownership today is unclear.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

UK iPhones Turned onto News and eMail

ComScore has found that 80 % of UK iPhone users get news and email via their mobile browser. The users accessing news is 48% which is more than double that of other smartphones users surveyed (20%). When it comes to email the figures are more impressive, with 75% retrieving email on their iPhone again more than double the 35 % of other smartphone users that do the same, and more than five times the 13 percent of all mobile users that pick up their email on the go.

With over 1 million UK units shipped the iPhone clearly has the lure to change user habits and interaction with a mobile. No wonder many believe that the device is the optimum ebook device on the move.

Hands up all those University students who don’t have a laptop or PC?



The answer will obviously different around the world but it appears that the US is fast becoming fully switched on. The University of Virginia have even come to the conclusion that the time has come to close their community computer labs and spend the money elsewhere. This shift is significant not just in terms of spending allocation but also learning and reference materials. If the students have their own laptop and the campus is wifi, then everyone is connected.

According to an article in Ars Technica the University of Virginia school's Information Technology & Communication department, 3,117 freshmen enrolled in 2007, and 3,113 of them had and owned their own equipment. Almost all were laptops, with 72 % running Windows and 26 % running Mac OS X and rest on Linux.

In the developing world there are still places where you have to have a pen to go to school it appears soon you may have to have a laptop to go to university in parts of the world.

The GBBR: The Book of Revelations

On Saturday The Wall Street Journal published and interesting article by Ms. Chu who is a principal at Writers Representatives LLC, ‘Google's Book Settlement Is a Ripoff for Authors ‘ We believe that the debate that is being swept under so many tables is finally coming out into the open albeit very close the 5th May deadline.

The article again raises many questions;

‘No one elected these "class representatives" to represent America's tens of thousands of authors and publishers to convey their digital rights to Google. Nor are the interests of this so-called class identical.’

‘Under the settlement, every rights-owner in America is supposed to hand over all their private contract data, on every edition of every work they ever wrote -- and every excerpt permission ever granted to others -- at the peril of losing the money Google will be making on their backs. This is a massive burden on everyone in the book industry, making us all, in effect, Google's data-entry slaves. Indeed, in most cases such information about every permission ever granted is unlocatable. It opens a Pandora's box of disputes and mistaken claims about who actually owns what.’

'The BRR is in fact merely Google's contract negotiation and claims department. As in Hollywood, the settlement deal turns book authors into fully subordinated, last-in-line net residuaries. This reverses the economics of books.'

'The U.S. Constitution grants authors small monopolies in their own copyrights. Author market power is talent-based and individual, not collective. This class action seeks to wipe all this out -- just for Google. But U.S. law does not grant any single publisher monopoly power to herd all of us into its list.'

'Disputes will be fixed in arbitration with no access to federal courts which have often shown mercy to authors. Arbitrators will be "you sign it you eat it" line-parsing bureaucrats.'

It time that we stop accepting it will happen and trying to work how to work within it and just say no before this bad settlement is pushed through.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Today's Best eBay eBook Buys!

Yesterday we discovered what everyone else probably was fully aware of that there are hundreds if no t thousands of ebooks available from ebay. Everyone we have see appears to be a PDF burnt onto a CDrom and the value statement is obviously buy the collection.

Some may be genuine but many look far from it and there is a clear repetition of offer which would indicate the issue is not small.

How can eBay sell dubious product and do they have any standards?
Today’s Best eBay eBook buys:

1. J.R.R Tolkien Collection Buy Now for £2
A JOURNEY THROUGH MIDDLE EARTH WITH TOLKIEN
Titles from Tolkeins amazing imaginative journey through Middle Earth and beyond are included within this collection. These iconic master-works have been magnificently illustrated throughout and include detailed sketch maps, genealogies, and pronunciation guides.

BOOKS INCLUDED ON THIS DISC:
The Hobbit
The Lord of the Rings
The Silmarilion
The Children of Hurin

2. COLLECTION OF 92 DEAN KOONTZ E-BOOKS. Buy Now £5.95

3. HUGE Collection of 45 James Patterson EBOOKS, which can be sent to you by CD (CD just £1.00 postage) Buy Now for £3.50

(!!!NOW INCLUDES CROSS COUNTRY!!! James Patterson's latest book!!!)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Korea Eyes up eBook Market

One day after announcing the Samsung Papyrus ebook reader we hear that other s are potentially waiting in the wings.

JoongAng Daily report that SK Telecom signed a memorandum of understanding with Neolux, a local e-book manufacturer in December. “Looking at Amazon and Google’s cases, e-books have potential to become a new digital convergence model for the mobile telecommunications industry,” said Kim Gwang-hi, head of the new business team at SKT. “We are in the process of seeking collaboration with other e-book companies as well and plan to launch a product this year.”

LG Telecom’s who are behind our favourite 3G Wrist Smartphone is reported to be also planning the join the leap to the e-book market.

The report also shows that we are not alone in getting books digitised and available to sell. Booktopia, Korea’s largest e-book database, has some 120,000 digital titles but only have half of them are available for sale. “In the past, authors and publishers didn’t consider electronic book copyrights when coming up with contracts,” said Choi Jong-su, vice president of Booktopia.

eBay Offers the Sale of the Century eBooks?

We came upon an ‘ebook’ offer that was so powerful and compelling it would be a no-brainer to many but was so unbelievable we drew back. To say it smelt funny was an understatement let’s look at the offers:

Stephen King Ebook Cd-Rom, Sony eReader 88 ebooks £6.99
John Grisham Ebook Cd-Rom, Sony eReader 18 ebooks. PDF. £11.99
Kathy Reichs Ebook Cd-Rom, Sony eReader 11 Ebooks. £4.29
Anne Rice Ebook Cd-Rom, Sony eReader 28 ebooks. £4.29
Charlaine Harris Ebook Cd-Rom, Sony eReader 34 ebooks £4.29
Michael Crichton Ebook Cd-Rom, Sony eReader 13 ebooks £4.29
Laurell K Hamilton Ebook Cd-Rom, Sony eReader 25 ebooks £4.29
Mary Balogh Ebook Cd-Rom, Sony eReader 53 ebooks £4-29
Clive barker Ebook Cd-Rom, Sony eReader 24 ebooks £4.29
Patricia Cornwell Ebook Cd-Rom, Sony eReader 18 ebooks £4.29
Bernard Cornwell Ebook Cd-Rom, Sony eReader 10 ebooks £4.29
Jeffery Deaver Ebook Cd-Rom, Sony eReader 26 ebooks £4.29
Robert Ludlam Ebook Cd-Rom, Sony eReader 25 ebooks £4.29

The description
for sale a Bernard Cornwell Ebook Cd-Rom.
The Ebooks are in PDF, Suitable for the Sony E-Reader and laptops, Pc's Etc,
Postage and packaging is free (well 0.01p!)
SPECIAL OFFER! Buy 2 collections get 1 free or buy 5 collections and get 3 free! let us know what free collections you want when you purchase.
The books included are as follows:-
Bernard Cornwell - Alfred the Great - Pale Horseman
Bernard Cornwell - Grail Quest 1 - Harlequin
Bernard Cornwell - Grail Quest 3 - Heretic
Bernard Cornwell - Saxon 01 - The Last Kingdom
Bernard Cornwell - Stonehenge
Bernard Cornwell - The Grail Quest - 2 - Vagabond
Bernard Cornwell - The Lords Of The North
Bernard Cornwell - Warlord 1 - Winter King
Bernard Cornwell - Warlord 2 - Enemy of God
Bernard Cornwell - Warlord 3 - Excalibur

Payment is with paypal only.

Where was this offer of the century - eBay

We then sent an email to the Publishers Association who say they are getting this stuff taken down regularly with eBay. So we went to eBay.co.uk and typed in ‘ebooks’ then select ‘fiction’ and found there were lots of the same stuff and much more from different vendors.

We had a look at eBay.com which was the same even some of the same offers and even some offered on download not CD!

If these are genuine then they are bargains if however they are not it would seriously question how they are created but more importantly how eBay can allow clearly questionable items to be sold. We saw eBay being found out the other week on BBC Watchdog for allowing illegal knives to be sold its time they were openly confronted over this stuff before it gets out of hand .

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Another Day and Now a Samsung eReader

Samsung will launch a touchscreen e-book reader called Papyrus in Korea in June and potentially later in the U.K. and U.S.

The A5-sized e-ink device (5.8 x 8.3 inches), has an aluminum stylus and is rumoured to have only 512MB of memory with no memory-card slot, no Wi-Fi and no cellular WAN access. So little room for the library of e-books, PDFs or documents, and MP3 files and more importantly these rumors either don’t stack up or we are looking at a lame duck .The other rumour is the price, at under $300 it can compete but without the features again its relatively useless tin.




It is being touted as not just to be an e-reader, but a “notetaker, world clock, diary, memo taker, calculator, and contacts” but alas the rumours say a lot less than more.




So the electronic companies from the Far East look to be wakening up and could drive down the price but its down to content and channels so it will be interesting to see who bits and what the final release looks like.

UK Primary Pupils to be Switched On?

They say that education should prepare you for the outside world and UK draft education curriculum plans drawn up by Sir Jim Rose, the former Ofsted chief, appointed to overhaul the primary school curriculum, certainly will shake the tree. The plans due to be published next month were leaked by the Guardian and include plans that require children to master Twitter and Wikipedia. They emphasise traditional learning such as phonics, the chronology of history and mental arithmetic, but now include modern media and web-based skills as well as a greater focus on environmental education.

The Guardian claim that the proposals would require, ‘Children to leave primary school familiar with blogging, podcasts, Wikipedia and Twitter as sources of information and forms of communication. They must gain "fluency" in handwriting and keyboard skills, and learn how to use a spellchecker alongside how to spell.’

Irrespective of what the final paper says and what gets implemented, there is a clear shift towards new media and communications skills and the obvious questions will be raised about basics and dumbing-down.

Its amazing that technologies that are under ten years old are accepted as basic building blocks for children who themselves may only be a little older than the tools they are grappling with and whose parents may not be conversant with.

The other certainty is that we will be educating a generation to express themselves creatively very differently from those before them. This is not just a shift in how people read and consume media but how they create and express themselves and this will certainly change what we know as content moving forward.

The Digital Only Monograph?

The University of Michigan Press has announced that it will shift its scholarly publishing from being primarily a traditional print operation to one that is primarily digital. They now plan to migrate some 90% of their monographs to digital only renditions over the next two years but enabling readers still to be able to get a physical copy by print on demand.

University presses are experiencing challenging times and are adapting and changing. In the US The University of Missouri Press and the State University of New York Press have announced layoffs and Utah State University Press is facing the removal of university support.

Michigan clearly see the glass half full and potential. The process is less expensive, faster and offers obvious savings in printing and distribution, but offers the opportunity to publish more works and distribute them electronically to a broader audience. Digital also offers the opportunity to market the content, create digital inspection copies and reviews and thereby reduce waste and cost. Books that may have been classed as economically marginal or deemed not worthy from a scholarly perspective can now be reconsidered.

Interestingly and refreshingly in today’s climate the shift is claimed not to be designed to save money, but to make better use of the money being spent on the press and no jobs will be eliminated.

In terms of pricing, Michigan plan to develop site licenses so that libraries can gain access to all of the press's books over the course of a year for a flat rate. This is a similar approach to that being explored by Duke University Press, whose e-Duke Books, provides digital access for a one-year period at a flat rate.

Dear Author

The news today from Richard Curtis’s eReads blog, ‘S&S Follows Random in Reduction of E-Book Royalties’, may have raised some eyebrows. We wondered how the news may be broken to agents and authors. The letter below is purely fictious and is not representative of any letter that may have, or may be sent.

Dear Author…

We are all excited about the potential opportunities that digitisation offers the book trade and although sales today are relatively small, we are convinced that through our astute business negotiation we are building digital business models and distribution channels, that will ensure that we get our due return on our huge investments.

As you know we are investing huge sums of money in our digital programs and when we finally get round to digitising the total publishing process this will make us more productive and lower our cost base. We will also be able to digitally promote your works so benefiting all.

We realise that you enjoy bookshop library visits and signings, so we are pleased that these will continue for the physical books. Obviously, many small independents will not be able to sell digital copies and ebooks can hardly be signed, so we are therefore focusing on all the big aggregators, Amazon and of course the new breed of booksellers, Google, Sony etc. These will obvious sell lots of stock, albeit at maximum discount.

You may be aware that some major publishers have just announced, (Simon & Schuster and Random House), that they are unilaterally switching to a 25% royalty on net receipts on digital and audio download sales. This obviously is a greater % for you and everyone benefits. Some would suggest, today's list price has to be inflated to accommodate the increase in discounts being demand by many resellers, but in our case it clearly is not so. We also believe that the digital recommended price should reflect the current edition. This would align the recommended price to that of the hardcover when that is out and the paperback when that comes out. We realise that the consumer may be a bit confused as to why the price of for the same title, in the same digital format, with the exactly the same content, is the same, but they will get to understand its down to marketing and selling it at premium and then discounting it later. We are convinced the big resellers will understand. You may wonder what happens in Europe with VAT and how the recently announced potential drop in tax due on digital copies will affect the price. Many of us today merely deduct the tax of the list and stand this, so any reduction will benefit both of us as we will keep the price the same.

We were sorry that we upset you when we tried to take away the right reversal clause in your contract, but we have help shape and support the historic Google settlement that among other things sorts the problem out and also mops up all those poor lost orphan works. We realise that you may be also wondering about the Google settlement and how it will effect you and why Google is paying a different rate on sales and how they derive the price of your old books that are no longer in print. Don’t worry we will as ever, support your best interests and reflect this in your royalty statement.

Yours…..

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

IPhone 'Stock Dumping' Fuels Runours

Play.com is selling unlocked iPhones in the UK. The unlocked device is sold SIM-free, enabling users to be able to run the handset on any mobile phone network of their choice. However the privilege comes at a price with the unlocked 8GB iPhone costing £549.99 and the 16GB £599.99 with stocks already sold ou of the 16GB.

Carphone Warehouse recently confirmed that it would start giving away the 16GB iPhone for free when customers sign up to a two-year O2 contract for £34.26 per month.It appears that old stock is certainly being cleared to make way for the model expected in June.

BoyGeniusReport claim that Apple is also set to a $99 3G Apple Netbook this summer. At this price Apple will have to make changes and it is rumoured that the Netbook will possibly ship with Apple's own iPhone OS 3.0. Apple may be going for a cut down Netbook that will not compete with its cheapest Macbook, at least not for now. Maybe a iPhone OS based netbook with a keyboard and that much rumoured 10.1-inch touchscreen giving us a large version of the iPod Touch and a compelling device that would live between the laptops and the mobiles and certainly a ebook competitor to rival any eink player with Apple apps to boot!

Flat World Knowledge Gets Investment

Last October we wrote a long article about Flat World Knowledge, ‘Flat Meets Round World Head On’ and the world of creative commons attribution licence (CCAL). Flat World Knowledge is a new venture foundered by two very reputable publishers Jeff Shelstad and Eric Frank.

http://www.flatworldknowledge.com

We were pleased to read that Greenhill SAVP announced it has invested in Flat World Knowledge ("Flat World"). Greenhill SAVP partnered with Valhalla Partners and High Peaks Venture Partners on an $8m Series A financing.

‘The $8 billion annual college textbook publishing market is poised to undergo a radical transformation in the coming years similar to what we've experienced in the music and newspaper industries," commented Brian Hirsch, Managing Director of Greenhill SAVP. "College students are digital natives and are demanding the ability to consume and interact collaboratively with educational content anywhere, anytime and anyway.’

Jeff Shelstad, co-founder and chief executive officer of Flat World Knowledge said ,. ‘ With this further investment, we can continue to scale our sales and marketing activities, staff up our acquisition talent to attract more talented authors to Flat World Knowledge, and improve the overall experience for our customers.’

Welcome to a Flat World.

eBooks Aren't Binary

Sometimes we prescribe before we understand the diagnosis and then we are surprised when the reaction is not what we expected. As a consultant you often merely move on, as a business you count the cost and put it down to experience. We are all guilty.

The offline channels have been buzzing with new business model talk, how publishing should reposition itself and what digital pricing could look like. Its great fun to participate and great to hear others viewpoints but it’s always dangerous to take yourself too seriously and believe that you have invented the silver bullet.

Mike Shatzkin has tried to distil his thoughts and produced a excellent and recommended read,'This eBook thing is just going to get more complicated'. We may not agree with everything that Mike says but there is a lot of insightful thoughts on the market especially on the current omnivore positioning and potential wars between Apple, Google and Amazon.

The one area that struck us and has nibbling away in our conscious, is that of digital content distribution versus ownership. The players we talk most about today; Google, Amazon, Apple, Fictionwise, Stanza, Adobe, Overdrive, Netlibrary, Questia, Ingram etc. do not create content they merely distribute, sell and licence it. Apart from the potential land grab of US orphan by Google, they don’t have exclusivity on the content yet. This itself posses many questions on just how many digital distributors are needed to change a light bulb and whether the proliferation of digital files and different technologies is wise?

We recently wrote our thoughts on the digital supply chain and have also written about the challenges that can exist when a reseller changes digital supplier or a distributor ceases having encrypted DRM licences. In a digital world there would appear little sense in building monolithic repositories to duplicate content. There again, there are no silver bullets.

Ingram Tightens its Belt

We have read recently about pay freezes, pay reductions and job losses in publishers and retailers and last week the Gannett Tennessee, La Vergne reported that as a result of fewer orders from booksellers, Ingram Book Co. has cut 64 jobs, including 34 from its headquarters warehouse in La Vergne and 30 in Roseburg, Oregon. some 500 people remain employed at the La Vergne warehouse, and 170 remain in Oregon. Although it is relatively easier to lay off and recruit warehouse resource to fit demand the move shows that demand has dropped across the supply chain which in turn indicates that more stock is standing still which in itself adds cost to all across the chain.

Monday, March 23, 2009

iPhone App eBook Readers

o the new world is about who has the smartest mobile application. It may appear that these have been around for ever but the reality is they haven’t. We have yet to really see the RIM, Android, Palm, Symbian applications and what once was the territory of Microsoft is now clearly owned by Apple and its ‘I’ family. Its interesting to note that some apps are free whilst others charge a nominal fee. Perhaps with such a low entry point the consumer will download the lot and then choose which they like today and user churn will happen around upgrades. So where is the glue that will retain user loyalty or is it just open season for all?

Nintendo is even reported to be eyeing up the iPhone and success of the Apple Apps Store and looking to compete using its stable of game developers. Nintendo already has its DS Shop and DSi Ware services, to accompany DSi when it launches next month in the US. However is it now seeking non-gaming applications for the DSi to complete head to head with Apple? Alternatively are they now also aiming to try and head off the likes of Apple and Android off from their games market?

So who are the ebook mobile application players today?

The free Stanza reader from Lexcycle is the reader of choice of many and now is fully integrated with Adobe’s ACS4 so offering DRM protected Adobe eBooks and epub files. It has a very customisable user interface especially with the type font and a landscape library view. The app also sorts books by title, author, subject and your latest reads. Stanza enables you to download books from many different sources including Fictionwise and also import your own library using their desktop application and interfaces with Digital Editions.

The Kindle app is part of Fortress Amazon and can only read books from Amazon’s 250,000 titles but offers the best price value and widest range of titles. If current content is what you are after then the Kindle is probably the answer today. However, it offers minimal type customisation other than sizing and its files can’t be transferred anywhere other than to a Kindle.

The free eReader from Fictionwise, or should that now read Barnes and Noble, clearly has the right name and has been around longer than many. It supports many file types, including its own and with it new eager parents, is certainly going to be around for the long haul. It is not clear how the exclusive deal with Ingram now pans out, but like their recent tiff with Overdrive, it will probably get sorted in the background. The eReader application wins many over with its navigation, highlighting, annotations and search. Some would argue that it doesn’t offer the same level of font customisation as others but it still remains very user friendly. The only negative appears to be on performance especially when an ebook is downloaded from another source and read on eReader. This may be seen by some as a feature, not really recognised by others and a pain and frustration to many who have seen comparable readers.

As we have seen through their emailing programme, it often pays to wait until the weekend, or for a discount offer, when buying from Fictionwise as they seem to have one every few days to celebrate nothing except a discount offer.

Bookshelf is not a free app and is from Zachary Bedall. It uses Apple’s networking to let readers set up and manage their own “shelf servers” and supports a wide range of e-book formats. Although it does offer more than 20 scalable typefaces, a range of background colours and its scroll feature works well the application isn’t that consumer friendly in its appearance and feel.

The iFlow reader is a reader in a book as opposed to a book you apply a reader to. They offer tens of different book collections. So you buy multi-volume sets of books with a reader, priced anywhere from free to $10. The text scrolls like a teleprompter that you control by tilting the screen. You cannot import your own books and there isn’t a single instance of the application.

The Classics reader launches a bookcase, you simply tap a jacket and the book opens, tap a page and the page turns. Today there are only a few titles but you can arrange the shelves to your taste. On finishing, a crimson bookmark slides down the left side of the page and the book closes. Fun but limited.


So what will determine the winners from the losers and can a free reader that is not tethered to content make it. Alternately why pay a few dollars for a reader when another is free? Apart from Fictionwise, today there still appears to be many features missing such as annotations, highlighting and personalisation. The mobile platform offers so much and if the larger iTouch becomes a reality these readers will certainly be the ones to watch.

DVD on Demand



The FT reports on the launch of Warner Brothers Archive service that will make potentially thousands of out-of-circulation classic movies and television shows available for download and on DVDs. The service will bring back stars such as Clark Gable, Joan Crawford, Cary Grant and Ginger Rogers and many bclassic films from yesterday.
The service is based on “manufacturing on demand”, is designed for smaller publishing runs and involves using a lower-cost printing process for DVD covers and thereby avoids minimum production runs of 15,000 to 20,000 copies. The move comes as DVD sales in the US dropped 15% in the fourth quarter of last year and Blu-ray has still to take off.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Microsoft Deliver the Surface for the Home?


Forget about machines getting ever smaller and more portable, Microsoft have reinvented the computer as a piece of furniture. No its not a desktop but a coffee table! No keyboard or mouse, the table uses a 30in touch-sensitive screen. The table can sense objects placed on top of it if a digital camera is placed on it, photos would automatically appear on the screen and users could sort them as though they were physical prints. If a mobile phone is then placed on the screen, copies of the photos would automatically appear on the mobile as well. ’Surface’ is also a multi user system enabling different people to use it at the same time.

At this week’s UK launch, major companies such as Tesco and Carphone Warehouse demonstrated how it would be used as an information kiosk in store. Hotels in the US have already used the device as a concierge service, recommending shops, restaurants and local sights, and then with a flick of the finger providing detailed maps on how to get to those places.

This is part of Microsoft’s vision of a digital home where other furniture and household fittings can also respond to a person’s voice or touch. However, do we even envisage even businesses wanting to pay £8,500 in today’s climate? Microsoft see the technology as the future of the home but a table is not easy to take to bed, take outside or move around.

Will they be restricted to use in communal areas such as shops, hotels and pubs or just become an expensive toy that no one really wants, uses or understands?

Cisco Acquire The Flip

As consumers create their own content and feed, blogs, social sites, video sites etc they need simple products and tools and hence devices such as Flip that let them dump their informaation onto YouTube, Facebook, My Space and wherever. What once required detailed technical knowledge and sophisticated tools now can be performed by keeping it simple.

Cisco who have wanted to get a foothold in the consumer market has recognised a winner and bought Pure Digital Technologies, the maker of the Flip tiny video camera, designed for the YouTube crowd. Pur Digital may only have 100 employees but in its Flip they certainly have the right product, in the right place ant the right time and now reap the reward in being bought for $590 million in stock.

Pure Digital started selling the Flip in 2007 and has now shipped more than 2 million units, which cost $150 to $230, depending on the model. The Flip recorders have just a few buttons, weigh a few ounces, have 1.5-inch screens, are supplied without cables but have a built-in connector that plugs into a computer’s U.S.B. port for both recharging and transferring video files. The simple software, design and low cost offered video to the masses.

Cisco’s backing could now enable the Flip penetrate other markets outside of the United States and Britain. Interestingly, Cisco’s CEO family apparently owns 8 of the Flips and Cisco executives often post their own videos to an internal version of YouTube.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Digital Playboy Archive For Free








If there is males who have never seen the Playboy magazine nows your chance and its free!

Microsoft, Bondi digital Publishing and Playboy Enterprises bring you 53 classic issues of Playboy all viewable through Microsoft’s Silverlight viewer.

The issues at playboy Archive.com and go back to the 1950s, 60s, 70s and right up to 2007. When the archive first loads, an array of Playboy covers can be viewed and clicked upon and after that, several pages from the inside of the magazine appear. A table of contents is also available, and the archive is searchable. What is amazing is to see how the magazine and styles have changed over the last 50 years. It is easy to understand its appeal as it clearly offered more than the female form and this is clear as you view the pages and articles.

Bondi Digital Publishing who had previously developed the platform for The Complete New Yorker and had to scan and re-type each issue of Playboy. Some boys get all the good jobs!Go on be a devil and take a peek its well worth a visit.

The Digital Content Divide

So where is all the digital content? We have heard pleas from the UK resellers for more content and the promises of things coming from the UK publishers. So what are the issues and why have so many been so slow to embrace digital?

‘There isn’t enough resellers to justify the effort?’ Well Waterstones have been up and running 6 months and want more. Gardners are now about to launch having got the critical mass of content and offer all resellers the opportunity to play. Amazon may not have the UK Kindle, but do have the iPhone option, Stanza is on the iPhone, Overdrive is making a big play for the UK libraries, the academic publisher of the year, Taylor and Francis are one of the leading digital players and now reaping the financial rewards. There are a myriad of ebook stores available today so does the channel argument hold water? Many would say not.

‘There isn’t the consumer demand?’ Well hello, when did you last open up a newspaper or watch the news and not hear something most weeks about ebooks, digitization or the changes in publishing? People are even buying limited devices such as the current ebook readers. The media is providing the feeding frenzy, but the content is clearly lacking.

‘It costs too much to convert?’ Well in some cases it can cost a fair amount, but a lot of that is down to the analogue manner in which books are developed today for a physical world and then converted into digital often as an afterthought. However, anyone can take the typesetters PDF and convert it to an Adobe eBook for little cost. It costs more to satisfy all the other formats, but to just get started isn’t expensive.

The latest one we heard was that ‘all the conversion houses are working flat out at full stretch and there isn’t the capacity for more’. We can only say from a position of knowledge that this is pure rubbish. Some may be busy, but walk around LBF in a month’s time and discover for yourself if this is myth or reality.

The excuses can continue, there many more. The reality is that there is a logjam on one side of the Atlantic and a concerted push on the other. Does it matter? In the days of physical only and strong territorial rights it was not an issue. However, today this imbalance is a serious threat to the market. In recent weeks Hachette has already had to fire a shot across the bows of some US aggregators for territorial infringement or lack of territorial control. We regularly use US and other services that are not available in the UK and a US content domination goes with strong US centric channels and aggregation. Apart from Gardners name one serious UK content aggregator, many of those resellers out there today are using are merely fronting US services and content. Before we can buy British content we have to produce it.

Spiral Frog RIP

The world of music start ups is often fraught with litigation and shifting sands. Today Spotify continues to attract significant attention in the UK but even they have had their challenges.

Sadly one of the start-ups that offered so much, what seems so long ago when we were writing our Brave New World report appears to have died. Spiral Frog appeared to have lined up all the ducks; a heavyweight board, contracts with all the major labels, a compelling consumer model based on ad free music and the only negative was the time they took to get going. In August 2006 they had Universal Music, EMI and a launch but still took their time. However, although it continued and beat off many similar start-ups it wasn’t getting the consumer attention needed to satisfy and drive ads and fund their debt.

It appears that all the funding efforts to keep the company afloat have failed, causing another ad-supported free music download service to cease operations. If ad sponsored model fail to attract users and advertisers and music sales continue to slide it posses the interesting question of whether there is viable alternative to ‘free’.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Are Google Establishing Their Sales Channels?

So to claim for the crown of the biggest digital library, Sony has now struck a deal with Google, the result being is a half million copyright-free books available on its Reader device.

The New York Times article certainly was an interesting one, not because of what it reported, but because of what it didn’t report.

So we have 500,000 out of copyright titles published pre 1923. True there are many classics in there and many hidden gems but there is also lots of other titles which just make up the numbers and it would appear at first glance, that is what Sony are after – numbers. They now can claim more than Amazon, but does it matter? They may have merely made the haystack bigger and presented their reader with lots of cheap or free reads.

So are they to sell these ‘free’ books and at what price? Will half a million cheap reads devalue the far fewer current reads or make their value greater? Will Google now do deals with all the other look-alikes, so effectively selling the material which Google aim to give away free under Google Book Search? Will Amazon now do a deal with Google which would make as much sense as Sony? Is the deal exclusive or the first of many licensing deals? Will these be DRM free?

The big question is what will happen when Google gets its way over the settlement and hovers up all the orphans? Is this the real prize? Is establishing a sales channel or channels the real objective of the liaison?

Its interesting to sit back and realise that the players who are helping shape the industry are not indigenous to it, have no real credentials or history within it, some may say are fickle and apt to follow the route taken by Live Book Search and yet are introducing change at a rate often faster than the industry can ingest.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Which Phone Would You back to Win?

So you have a choice of smartphone, which do you choose and why?

The Palm Pre has raised many eybrows, but do you get seduced into the potential of a Pre that still has to deliver momentum to join the race? RIM continues to click away in business world with their multiple device offers and clear catch up strategy?
Do you go with the biggest and buy Nokia, who have just announced a road map for their Symbian operating system that calls for five versions to be in production at the same time and a weird naming convention that reminds us of the period when Prince was just a sign. The aggressive release plans might enable Symbian to catch up and even innovate but it is a risky strategy by anybody’s standards, releasing a new version of the operating system every six months, with the first expected to appear in phones at the end of this year.

Then there is the Android family and relatives?

However, the key may not be down to the operating system and design, but the choice between a phone with few exciting third party applications and one with over 25,000 apps and games and who have already clocked up 800 million downloads in less than a year from start up. 30m iPhone and touch units had been sold by the end of 2008 and Gartner recently put Apple's share of the worldwide market at 10.7%, compared to Nokia at over 40% and Research in Motion, which makes the Blackberry, at under 20%.

Apple have now announced its 3.o operating system. Is it aimed at consumers –no – its aimed squarely at the developers and exciting them to build more and better applications. We remember the mid range computer battles of what seems a lifetime ago. Who were the winners – IBM AS400, HP 3000 and why applications and these were followed by DEC VAC again on the applications. People and businesses don’t buy tin they buy usability and today there is only one player in town Apple.

We predicted some of the new 100 features 3.0 offers, but developers are being empowered with access to 1,000 application programming interfaces (APIs) to build new or improve on their applications. The new software also allows developers to sell subscription-based software products. This may be paying for different levels of games, buying additional content or virtual stuff. It is unclear how this will work with ebooks where two players are currently competing for this traffic; Amazon and Stanza, or with newsprint where the publishers need to monetise their content.

Finally we now await the new iPhone.

Irish ISPs Say No To Three Strikes

The Irish internet service providers (ISPs) are reported by outlaw.com as having rejected claims that they are responsible for users' copyright infringement. The ISP Association of Ireland claim that there is no legal basis for the music industry's demands, fronted by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industries (IFPI) that they disconnect copyright-infringing internet users.

The IFPI had pursued Ireland's biggest ISP, Eircom, through the courts in relation to users' alleged copyright infringement. Some days into the court case Eircom agreed to the three strikes deal. Then Ireland's IFPI-affiliated music industry lobby group, the Irish Recorded Music Association (IRMA), wrote to other ISPs demanding that they block a list of websites it believes facilitate piracy.

However the ISP Association of Ireland (ISPAI) has said that its members will not submit to IRMA's demands and that its activities are protected by law.Although, Eircom is a member of the ISPAI, it will comply with IRMA's demands.
So as usual it’s as clear as mud!

Scribd: Noise or News?


The announcement that a group of major trade publishers were embracing Scribd as a means of promoting and distributing books was interesting. The players include Random House and Simon and Schuster and therefore carry weight. The Scribd service has collected much in its short time and could be described by some as a virtual filing cabinet of stuff ranging from powerpoint presentation, school reports, essays, memos etc.

It has ebooks which can be best described as somewhat long tail and which often expose limited views of stuff you would frankly aviod if you weren’t desperate to pass time.

So we have a repository that can be filled with widgets and ebooks and other book stuff but will that lead to sales and traction or is it merely scattering seeds and hoping for some to take?

Scribd does present a good opportunity to increase viral marketing into social networks and create recommendations but does it pass the ‘so what’ test? Today Scribd remains unprofitable and is still supported by its $14million initial Venture capital

Big Blue to Buy Sun?

Not many ears ago the news that IBM was reported in have an interest in buying Sun Microsystems would have been mind-blowing and as strategically equivalent today of Facebook , Google and Microsoft coming together as one, but although still significant it’s a sign of the times that this news is just view as another corporate merger.

According to a Wall Street Journal report Big Blue (IBM) is willing to pay at least US$6.5 billion for Sun.

But some view this not as two giants of yesterday coming to a late marriage but rather as a threat to Java World. Obviously there is significant overlay and duplication of offer which could result in big cuts in tools and software. Choose between Eclipse or Netbeans and GlassFish or WebShere and MySQL or DB/2.

The interesting difference between the two companies in their sales approach shows that that are probably poles apart in many strategic ways even though their products may offer the same result. Big Blue has always sold to the executive not the developers and Sun to the developers not the executive.

The potential marriage will certainly not be the wedding of the year it would have once been.

UK PA to Hold Google Seminar

Straight off Book Brunch Today...

Great news the debate has started in the UK. We don't know the format, speakers etc but at least the debate and enlightenment has started!

The Publishers Association is to hold a seminar outlining the terms of the deal struck between Google, the Association of American Publishers and the US Authors Guild. The seminar will explain the fundamentals of the deal, and will be an opportunity for UK publishers and rights holders to explore options for next-step decisions in time to meet the 5 May deadline. All industry stakeholders are welcome. The seminar will be held in repeating sessions throughout 14 April at the Victory Services Club, London. PA member publishers are entitled to two free places, all other attendees will be charged £100 +VAT. For more information, contact Claire Anker at "CAnker at publishers dot org dot uk".

Patent Moves

The European Commission has reiterated its demand for the creation of a single European patent stating that the absence of such a protection is hindering the growth of technology companies in the European Union. The Commission state that though, they have announced increased funding for technology research this was only part of the its plan to create more economic value from EU research.

Patents operated by the European Patent Office (EPO), can cover most of Europe but the office is not part of EU government. EPO can approval patent applications but these are granted only in the countries specified and not automatically in all the countries signed up to its governing principles, the European Patent Convention.
The Commission has recommended to the Parliament and Council that a single EU patent would help to create more economic value from research.

As if on cue, Discovery, known for the Discovery Channel, TLC, Animal Planet, filed suit today against Amazon in the US District Court for the District of Delaware, alleging infringement of a patent filed by the company in September of 1999. Describing an "Electronic Book Security and Copyright Protection System," the patent was awarded in 2007.

The suit claims, "Amazon's infringing activities...include the operation of the Amazon.com website and the provision of services related to the Kindle and Kindle 2 through and by the website, including but not limited to the sale of electronic books."

The patent describes a system that "provides for secure distribution of electronic text and graphics to subscribers and secure storage." This covers distribution to bookstores, public libraries, and schools as well as consumers equipped with a "home subsystem." "The home subsystem connects to a secure video distribution system or variety of alternative secure distribution systems, generates menus and stores text, and transacts through communicating mechanisms," The patent continues, "A portable book-shaped viewer is used for secure viewing of the text. A billing system performs the transaction, management, authorization, collection and payments utilizing the telephone system or a variety of alternative communication systems using secure techniques."

On a different note we also read about Andrew Harsley, who appeared on the popular UK TV program ‘Dragons Den’ and not only caught the attention of millions of television viewers, but also secured an investment of £150K for the Rapstrap plastic cable tie on the show. Harsley has since won a £35 million contract for up to a billion units of his cable ties and secured patents in Mexico and China.

Patents are clearly big business and infringement can be even bigger years later.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Dell Adamo Arrives Light and in Love

On January 6th we raised awareness to the Dell Adamo and that the speculation was that it was ultraportable laptop squarely aimed at the Apple Macbook Air. Today they launched it in 24 countries!

Adamo, which stands for falling in love, is 16.4mm thick and even thinner than the Macbook Air but is slightly heavier and bigger.

The first Adamo laptop comes in Onyx and Pearl colours and is made in a single block of aluminium. The base unit comes with an Intel Core 2 Duo U9300 UItra low voltage processor running at 1.2.GHz, 2GB memory, a 128GB solid state drive and a 13.4-inch 16:9 edge-to-edge glass screen capable of displaying 1366x768 pixels.Battery life is expected to reach 5 hours and the laptop will come with the 64-bit version of Windows Vista Home Premium.

Here's a good video of it from Laptops magazine when it first appeared earlier this year but you can also visit,



www.adambydel.co.uk


Dell has already started taking pre-orders for the laptop and prospective buyers should receive it by Saturday. However what isn’t small is the price which is $1,999 in its cheaper version $2,699 expensive and powerful version

The Digital Rep 10 Years On

We read with great interest of the presentation by Jesse Kroger, from Boekhandels Group in the Netherlands, at the 31st APSBG (Academic and Specialist Booksellers Group) and that it had raised some controversy with his contention that the trade in the 21st Century required an e-rep rather than a real rep.

Boekhandels' plan ‘an-up-to-date customised database from publisher supplied information’ which would lead to better informed buying less retail distraction and what could be viewed as a digital rep.

Some ten years ago, April 1999 we wrote an article for the trade journal Publishing News entitled, ‘Tea and Biscuits and a cosy chat’. Times have changed significantly in the last ten years and it was written with a trade perspective, but it was interesting to revisit it.

An extract from the article:

The information doesn't change, just the perspective. In order to satisfy the representatives' and booksellers' needs, additional new information and functions will be required. But it's not rocket science!

Some bookshops could get an electronic, 'my representative" service. The stores would even profile themselves and ensure that they can be proactively made aware of any relevant new information. Today a number of publishers regularly fax stores with what some would regard junk mail. Surely, it would be more productive to target those booksellers that want information with the information they want, when they want it and in a standard format that can be easily reviewed and acted upon.

Publishers must recognise that a good representative is a good representative. All the systems and information available can't replace their enthusiasm and transform a bad representative. Information that is targeted and delivered proactively can make a difference, but information that is sprayed across the market may be ineffective and uneconomic.

And don't forget, all representatives, telesales and customer service staff go home at five. On the Internet, the publisher's information and service stays out all night and can be accessed at any time from anywhere. Tea and biscuits no longer required!


It is interesting that some ten years later the logic is the same and the resistance is still there albeit waning.

News Change Continues

The newspaper industry, America’s source for news and opinion for so long, is clearly struggling to change in these difficult times where ad revenues are tightening and moving online, news is being made available free over the Internet and what and how we read is changing.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer will produce its last printed edition on today and become an Internet-only news source, leaving the city with only one mainstream daily, the Seattle Times. This in turn will put additional pressure on the money losing Times, as the two papers had a joint operating agreement, where The Times handled all non-newsroom operations for both, like printing, delivery, advertising and marketing.
The agreement is now effectively dissolved and leaves the Times in the same situation that The Denver Post found itself in after its rival, The Rocky Mountain News, folded late last month when its owner, E.W. Scripps Co., couldn’t find a buyer. In Arizona, Gannett Co.’s Tucson Citizen is set to close Saturday, leaving one newspaper in that city. Hearst has also said that it would close or sell the San Francisco Chronicle if the newspaper couldn’t slash expenses in coming weeks.

Media companies continue to fall at an alarming pace, with four newspaper companies, including the owners of the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and The Philadelphia Inquirer, seeking Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in recent months.

Detroit Media Partnership (DMP) has announced that it will launch a trial with 100 Plastic Logic e-readers to gauge reader reaction to electronic editions of The Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press. DMP has been cutting down its print distribution costs and a cut in home delivery of its papers to Thursday, Friday and Sunday. However the Plastic Logic large screen reader will not be fully released until 2010 which may be too late for some and makes 2009 a difficult year for all.

The demand for news I not in question but its creation, editing, collation and distribution is certainly under increasing pressure. However it is not alone and like most media sectors change is clearly gathering pace. The only thing that is certain is that tomorrow will be different.

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Great Book Bank Robbery, Part 18 - Google World

There were three interesting issues raised in the article in Publishers Weekly ‘Drummond Talks Google Settlement at AAP Meeting’. David Drummond is senior v-p for corporate development & chief legal officer at was invited to talk about the settlement between the parties at last week’s AAP annual meeting.

1. He is reported as saying that Google resisted the idea of “pushing a legal point to a conclusion,” and rather than see fair use vindicated in court, decided it was more important to take advantage of the opportunity to find an agreement that could benefit the world.

Some may question whether they consciously set out to ensure the point on ‘fair use’ was never clarified as this would have left them either out in the cold if they had lost, or in a competitive position if they won. Now the benefit is not Google Earth, but Google World?

2. Google has generally been reluctant to sell content, it realized that at some point it would have to and the sale of digitized books is an example of that. He said Google fully intends to actively sell and promote whatever products are created following the judge’s approval of the agreement.

At what point did they decide to sell content and become a bookseller at the start of the program, during the litigation process or when negotiating the settlement?

3. The settlement covers U.S. publishers only, but Drummond said Google is eager to reach deals with publishers worldwide.

This clearly declares the intent to globalize the deal and raises the question of recognition and conformity with territorial rights especially where the rights are with different publishers. It also says that others need to be fully engaged now and ensure that they are not simply knocked over like dominos.

The Great Book Bank Robbery, Part 17: The US Debate

The US Debate has started over the Google Book Search settlement with two big debates taking place at Georgetown and Columbia. Some interesting blogs have started to appear from leading publishing players. Importantly the clock keeps ticking ever closer to 5th May.

Some perspectives worth considering:

Congressional Research Service
The Google Library Project: Is Digitization for Purposes on Online Indexing Fair Use Under Copyright Law? by Kate M Manuel, Legislative Attorney

This charts the proceedings and outlines the settlement with respect to US law and draws no conclusions but asks many questions.

Google and the Zombie Army of Orphans by James Grimmelmann, Associate Professor at New York Law School, where he is affiliated with the Institute for Information Law and Policy. James spoke at both the Georgetown and Columbia debates. Below is a short extract on his thinking.

Instead, this is a structural settlement; it reshapes the entire book industry by giving Google and Google alone access to this comprehensive out-of-print backlist. To make that happen, the settlement takes away the rights of people who aren’t before the court. Indeed, knowing what we do about the orphan works problem in copyright law, we know that these absent class members are highly unlikely to be able to do anything about this massive giveaway to Google taking place supposedly in their name.

It’s a version of Russell’s paradox, applied to class action litigation. There’s a class here that consists of all people who don’t realize they’re part of it. Under the guise of this class action, the named plaintiffs have been able to use the huge collection of orphan works copyrights as a bargaining chip. The named plaintiffs negotiated away everyone else’s rights, lining up all those millions of books for Google’s benefit. The orphans have become zombies, raised from the dead by the dark magic of a class action, turned into a shambling army under Google’s sole control.


The Library law blog:
Google Books Settlement at Columbia: Part 1
Google Books Settlement at Columbia: Part 2

Mary Bet Peters, the Register of Copyrights, suggests that huge public policy issues raised by the settlement may be better addressed through legislation and noted that not one member of Congress has asked the Copyright Office to comment on the settlement!

Randal C. Picker from the University of Chicago Law School is ‘troubled’ by the consumer purchase model found in the settlement saying the pricing algorithm is aimed maximizing revenue from sales, which sounds a lot like antitrust to him. Also that the settlement allows Google and the Registry to turn orphan works into a private public domain.

It was interesting that all speakers said that they found the settlement difficult to read and understand and these were copyright and legal experts!

We did a search on ‘Great Book Bank Robbery’ on this blog and discovered that this is the 17th article we have written on the subject. We see the US is now starting to debate the issues but ask where the UK and European debate is and is there going to be an open debate at LBF and the BA conference similar to that now taking place in the US?.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

EU votes for e-books VAT cut

The fact that VAT is payable on digital books and audiobooks but not raised on physical ones has always been one of those seemingly silly taxation rules. Same content and it terms of ebooks the experience is exactly the same but in this case the device and the content are taxed. It often also made more difficult when physical and digital content is bundled and even if the digital rendition is ‘free’ VAT is due albeit at a reduced rate.

The Bookseller brought us some great news last week regarding the potential reduction of VAT on audio books and e-books. European Union ministers voted to allow all member states to charge the low rate VAT on books that have a "physical means of support" and now the UK Publishers Association has picked up the challenge to make it happen.
VAT rates fluctuate across the EU states with the UK making physical books zero rated but ebooks full rate at 15% whereas other countries such as Holland charge a low rate for physical books and a whooping great 19% on ebooks. Under the directive UK rates could be reduced to 5%.

A reduction in VAT rates is not an obligation; merely an option and it will be interesting to see governmental reaction across Europe.

We would like to see VAT taken off books full stop but that is highly unlikely.

Berners-Lee Raises the Issue of Privacy

Sir Tim Berners-Lee speaking at the celebrations marking the 20th anniversary of his proposal to create the web World Wide Web at Cern, gave two interesting insights. Firstly, the recognition of the importance of the mobile phone as part of the web's future, ‘In developing countries it's going to be exciting because that is the only way that a lot of people will actually get to see the internet at all.’

However, he also sounded a warning about the emergence of systems that can automatically track a web user's habits and create a detailed profile of the person, ‘That sort of snooping is really important to avoid.’

It's ironic that the same week Berners-Lee was raising warnings Google made further moves to catalog all.

Google Voice lets users hook up all phones, office, home, mobile to just one number. It also can translate spoken messages into text. Google Voice, if successful, could threaten revenues of companies big and small, like eBay, which owns Skype, telephone companies and others. Google Voice is an expanded version of a service previously known as GrandCentral.

Vincent Paquet, a co-founder of GrandCentral and now a senior product manager at Google, said that fees from Internet calls would probably play an important role in subsidizing the free service, which for now will not carry advertisements. Google, which makes software for cellphones, is already at odds with several telecommunications companies over policy issues and over who will control the quickly growing revenue generated, which are dependant on targeting users.

However Google Voice may raise with privacy advocates, regulators, and the likes of Berners-Lee as the service would allow Google, which already collects vast amounts of data about the behavior of Internet users, could now gather information on their calling habits.

Google has also come up with another way for marketers to deliver their messages to people with expandable ads. You search and a small ad will appears alongside your results. You click on the ad and it will expand to a larger, flashier format and with another click you go to the advertiser's landing page for yet more information. You have to click to activate them but remember every click is an information click.

Google are not alone in pushing the boundaries of advertising and other internet service providers such as, BT, Virgin Media and TalkTalk, considering extending a behaviour-targeted advertising system created by a company called Phorm. Phorm software, called Webwise, delivers targeted adverts to consumers based on their web searches and the sort of sites they visit. They also conducted trails last year without permissions. Google has unveiled a similar behavioural targeting system. The "interest-based" ads, as Google calls them, will initially appear on YouTube and other Google partner sites Google views this as an user-oriented improvement bringing ‘more interesting’ and ‘useful’ content, Berners-Lee had a different viewpoint saying it was 'akin to opening our private mail or putting cameras in our living rooms'.

The Network Advertising Initiative's Opt-Out site lets you see ad networks that may be pulling your information. The page shows you which companies have cookies set on your computer, then offers you an option to turn them off. You can switch off Google's ad system, Yahoo's targeting program,• Microsoft's personalized ads and many others. This is done by setting a cookie in your browser so you have to repeat it if you clear your cookies and and also do it for each browser.

In twenty years we have come a significant distance from Berners-Lee’s concept but we also need to heed his words over the monster we could be potentially feeding.

A Different Marketing Appeal

We thought we had heard nearly every marketing angle, but obviously we were wrong. The following promotion was put out by Fictionwise last week.

LAST CHANCE TO HELP US IMPRESS OUR NEW BOSSES SALE!

As you may have heard, Barnes & Noble acquired Fictionwise last week. Thank you all for your support over the years and for all of the "congratulations" emails and posts we've been receiving. It is very appreciated! And now it is time for our first special promotion since the acquisition. We're calling it: "Help us Impress Our New Bosses" Sale! Use the coupon below for a 10% discount on every title in our store! But hurry, the coupon is only valid through Sunday, March 15th. Thank you! Coupon Code: BN2009


Perhaps we should have a competition for the worst marketing angles; ' Help Us Impress Our Bank Manager'. 'Help Us Increase our Profit', 'Quick Grab a Bargain before We Go Bust', or perhaps we leave bad marketing to experts such as Gerald Ratner.

Mobile iNews

The mobile operator O2 appears to be in the thick of a lot of interesting news and speculation.

A representative from Telefonica, O2’s parent company, is reported in the Spanish newspaper ‘Expansion’, that O2 had been given exclusive rights to the Palm Pre in the UK, Spain and Latin America. The device is being widely viewed as a rival to Apple’s iPhone. If O2 did win the exclusive right to launch the Palm Pre in the UK it would have both the exclusive rights to the iPhone and the Palm Pre in the UK. This may be a view by some as not in the consumer’s best interests restricting both devices to a single network and effectively minimising their market by pitching the two to the same set of customers.

Apple is widely expected to launch a third-generation version of its iPhone this summer. The next generation device is scheduled to be announced next Tuesday in Cupertino. Rumours speculate as to the expected features with SMS forwarding and the provision of cut and paste facilities being top of most guess lists along with the ability to ‘tether’ and act as a wireless internet connection for a computer and the ability to run multiple applications and have background applications. Chinese companies also claim to have accessories for a small-size ‘Nano’ iPhone.

O2 recently announced the sale of the one-millionth iPhone in the UK. ‘Mobile Today’ report that O2 wants to reduce its inventory before new iPhones arrive and will introduce new pricing in May reducing existing 16GB version from being free on a £75 per month contract and the 8GB version free on £75 and £45 per-month plans to being free on £35 and £45 per-month plans.

This like a its going to be a good year for O2 and May a good month to pick up a cheap iPhone in the UK.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Distribute the Files and Print the Book Locally at Last

The Bookseller reveal that the UK Academic bookseller Blackwell has reaffirmed its commitment to launch the instore Espresso Book Machine on 17th April.

The first machine will be installed as a pilot in its flagship Charing Cross branch on a pilot basis, producing books on demand for customers while they browse the shelves or enjoy a coffee. Blackwell had announced the move last year and many feared that the organisation departures and current climate would have impacted the decision but it clearly hasn’t and it will certainly by one to watch.

The placement within store and the promotion around its launch will be interesting to watch. We would have it in the shop window and in the face of the public but again we probably wouldn’t have chosen Charing Cross as the first store and probably picked Oxford.

The important things are that it is the first real move to a distribute and print model as opposed to print and distribute one and the other is to see the reaction of the public to POD books on the point of access and quality. Some would say that it’s a return to the days when a bookstore always had a press in the back!.

Fortress Amazon Breached?

DRM (Digital Rights Management) is both loved and hated but is clearly focused at protecting copyright abuse and infringement. Often it can be transparent and the majority accept it as a necessary precaution. There will always be those that set out to break it in a mission to ‘free content’ or because they can and the more restrictive the restrictions the stronger the will to break it. It doesn’t apply to just content but also to locking devices to networks on an exclusive basis and a classic case of this is the iPhone.

The one thing that is certain in life is that it will be broken, the music, video and games sectors can vouch for that. If you buy an iPhone but don’t wish to use their exclusive network deals then there are a significant number of people queuing up to break it so it can be used elsewhere.

We new read about a breach of Fortress Amazon, which has effectively locked the content to their site, to the network and to their device – the kindle. In other words its exclusive, exclusive, exclusive and exclusive. Mobileread have been served with a DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) takedown notice which despite contesting they complied with.

Amazon asked an online forum to remove links to software that lets people load ebooks on their Kindles that they have bought from sources other than Amazon. The kindlepid.py script enables users to discover their device's personal ID (PID). Armed with their PID, a user can buy an ebook on a site other than Amazon or download one from a public libraray and the book will display on their Kindle.

Alexander Turcic, on MobileRead says, "Although we never hosted this tool (contrary to their claim), nor believe that this tool is used to remove technological measures (contrary to their claim), we decided, due to the vagueness of the DMCA law and our intention to remain in good relation with Amazon, to voluntarily follow their request and remove links and detailed instructions related to it." MobileRead has removed the pages.

Whichever side you take over DRM the exclusive restrictions applied by Amazon are crying out to be broken. Amazon makes money if people buy say a Mobibook elsewhere and download it as they own Mobibook. Enabling other resellers to sell ebooks for the Kindle would open up the device and make it more acceptable to many. It is claimed that the program can also enable users can to buy ebooks from Amazon for their iPhones and then transfer them onto readers other than the Kindle. iPhone application users are only allowed to transfer books to Kindles.

Some would suggest that ‘Fortress Amazon’ be it, Booksurge only POD, the the Audible stranglehold on audio market, or the ‘Kindle Only’ digital world is at best na├»ve and at worst could seriously backfire and damage Amazon’s consumer friendly image that they have built their empire on.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Oh Brother! Yet Another eBook Reader



Read an eBook week seems to have caught on in the east with yet another pretender new ebook readers

First we have Brother, the company famous for sewing machines and printers have announced a “document reader”, the SV-100B, intended for displaying ebooks and technical documentation. The Brother SV-100B, has however broken out of the eink camp and has an LCD display, measuring 9.7-inches and running at 1,200 x 825 150dpi resolution. It still claims 83 hours of battery life and although there is no internal storage by use of its 2 GB micro SD card you can store10,000 A4 pages. The file transfer appears cumbersome despite using its own SV-Manager software and the position on DRM is unclear. It is planned to land in Japan in the summer.

However the bucket of ice may come in the form of its $1,450price ticket.

Does Apple Share Our Dream?

Reuters deliver an interesting report that claims that Apple will take third-quarter delivery from Taiwan touchscreen specialist Wintek of a newly developed 10-inch touchscreen. Wintek already supplies small screens for Apple iPhones, and Reuters now report from a confidential source that Wintek now has received orders for the larger ones. However although Wintek have officially confirmed Apple is a major client they declined to comment on any new product development.

Taiwan media is rife with speculation claiming that Apple is currently developing a touchscreen PC and there are also claims that Taiwan's Quanta Computer, the world's top contract laptop PC maker, would manufacture the actual devices for Apple.
So as everyone speculates those potentially in the know remain tight lipped which obviously adds fuel to the fire. We have already speculated about a larger iTouch which with a 10” screen could certainly start to redefine the market bringing the weight of the Appps Store and its 250k applications, the power of Apples PC platform, iTunes, video and of course books all together under what would be a very compelling offer and in full colour for Christmas.

Such a move would seriously dent the eink looky-likies create a natural home for a media and start to separate the PC and the phone strengthening as opposed to weakening their offers. Alas it may be a dream – but it’s a good one!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Welcome to the Screen Racers

HP has just set up a company, in collaboration with 3M spin-off, called Phicot to make plastic eink screens which if successful could cost a tenth of the cost of today’s glass displays. The plastic sheet is just 40 microns thick, cheaper than glass and uses less space. In comparison the glass for an LCD is 0.7mm. thick , heavier and requires complex clean room manufacturing.

There's a long way to go before Phicot can create big screens with every pixel perfect; cracks, pinholes, bubbles and particles can all cause defects that reduce the yield. Today the displays use grayscale E-Ink with the promise colour screens ever coming.

So will large OLED beat the with cost effect panels? Again the answer is maybe and in the future but the difference is more down to a slowdown in the global economy than technology.

As we have written before OLED offers much; flexible displays, transparent displays that allow a window by day to function as a light by night, and plastic OLED lights that can be cut and molded into interesting shapes. However OLED is coming with Samsung planning a 14.1" OLED laptop and TV this year and costly manufacturing conversion is an issue.

So plasma and greayscale eink look to be the screen technologies for the time being at least.