Thursday, April 30, 2009

eBook Reader Line Up

So as most ebook readers promise to get bigger the new BeBook e-book reader plans to get smaller. The new machine will be the same as before only it will now have a 5” display screen and be priced at $200 or less. The price will certainly be more attractive but by the screen size they automatically reduce the cost so its yet another eink reader albeit smaller.

As BeBook is manufactured by Chinese company Tianjin Jinke Electronics, who own the Hanlin ereader brand, the mini BeBook will also be available as the Hanlin v5 Reader.

So who are the eInk and ebook reading devices out there today?


Amazon has its Kindle 2 which is rumored to become larger later this year and maybe even make it past the Whispernet and into Europe. Amazon also have the iphone Kindle app and have just acquired Lexcycle’s Stanza application platform. They also own Mobibook.






Sony has the PRS505 and the PRS700 which could break free from the umbilical cord to Adobe’s Digital Editions and maybe even go wireless this year. Although it renders Adobe eBooks as well as epub and that old Sony format its current strength is its current exclusive tie to Adobe DRM through Adept and ACS4 and their current UK exclusive with Waterstones. Today it is still the epub reader with DRM.




iRex has the iLiad Book Edition with an 8.1” screen with built in Wi-Fi capability with an option for external ethernet networking, but is expensive and remains outside of the Adobe world today and is heavily reliant on Mobibook.




Samsung is to launch its touch-screen Papyrus. Samsung is expected to make Papyrus available in Korea this summer, with a later launch date in the US and UK.





Fuijisu have the FLEPia is the first e-book reader to support colour via a 8” display, comes with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi support and a touchscreen with a stylus. It is only available in Japan today, with plans to come to both the US and UK. The big issue is the price, a whopping $1,000.





Plastic logic. The reader is expected to measure 8.5 by 11 inches, be thinner than its competitors and today has a look that is fresh and could appeal. It will support Microsoft Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Adobe PDFs, newspapers, periodicals and books and a wireless capability. However, only an elephant has a longer gesticulation period!

If Apple were to launch their rumoured iTouch as a multi media netbook without a keypad then the PL tablet could die before it makes it onto the street. It could be a classic case of a premature launch.



Hanilin, Jinke, Bebook, Pixelar same box different badge and has been covered already.










Foxit eSlick Reader is a 6” display but is lighter both in its weight and its price than its competitors. However it has limited file support and a clumsy USB umbilical cord to the PC for downloading files. Some may say it’s a cheap man’s ereader.





Brother with its very expensive SV-100B document reader planned to launch in Japan this summer.







Onyx International, China has announced its Boox ereader is not available today but Onyx are looking for OEM customers for their touchscreen for their 6, 8 or 9.7 inch touch screen sizes. It claims to do everything but is still to seen.



This list is growing with many stalling or failing and rumours of a Barnes and Noble reader, a Murdoch Newscorp one, a Hearst one etc. This is without the iPhone and mobile apps, online readers and of course the ultimate reader - the book.

Real Time Digital Conferences

Today we received yet another email open call requesting conference papers to speak at a major conference this December. Ok 8 months isn’t far away and they have to organise marketing brochures and sell tickets and generally organise the show, but 8 months is a lifetime in the current climate. For example look back 8 months and look at some of the events that have happened in that period:

The Google Book Settlement was announced. It was a major bolt out of the blue and by the time this conference opens, we may know its fate. Some may say that the outcome is almost impossible to call today and whatever the outcome, it will impact digital publishing tomorrow.

iPhone applications have exploded to over 1 billion downloads. Who would have predicted a Kindle app or their purchase of Stanza, who were off many people’s radar 8 months ago? Who would have predicted that Barnes and Nobles would purchase Fictionwise? Mobile apps are not only new, but are reshaping how we consume information.

More digital ebook readers have surfaced along with Nintendo and of course the ubiquitous Smart-phones. However, when Apple announce their new wares in June, what will be the impact on netbooks, smartphones, apps and consumers?

Leading academic publishers such as Taylor and Francis have flipped from physical to digital marketing programmes with over 20,000 widgets and now have launched their digital inspection copy first programme. Marketing is changing with digital content now selling content.

Who would have predicted the demise of the newsprint and magazine empires? These sectors are grappling with changing business models driven by changing revenues and an unproven shift to online subscriptions all being further fuelled by the current economic climate.

The US digital impact on the UK and Europe grows. The imbalance of digitalisation programmes and a breakdown in territorial boundaries grow. The likes of Overdrive, with much US content, have now made significant inroads into UK trade and libraries.

Its only 9 months since Waterstones launched the Sony ebook reader in the UK and the country is still Kindle-less.

Finally, who would have predicted the economic climate change?

Asking potential speakers to submit presentations today, supported by 300-500 word outlines, conclusions and arguments, clear reference and supporting materials and three key learning points for delegates, sounds naïve. We believe it is important that paying conference delegates to such high profile events are given current, not old news.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

So You Think You Know All About Digital?

People often ask us how we know so much about digital devices, formats, DRM and what is happening in the digital space. The answer has to be that its our job and just like an engineer, technician, doctor, consultant, researcher or any skilled professional we need to keep abreast of changes, trends and potential opportunities.

However, understanding dynamic change is not easy and often we often find ourselves scratching our heads wondering if what we have found is, news or noise, relevant or a side show, important today , or one to watch for the future. Today someone pointed out a new iPhone ebook application, was it important or just nice to look at? How does it work and does it have limitations? The lists of sixth sense questions are many and not all obvious. Yesterday Amazon bought Lexcycle and there was much twittering and bloging and email dialogue , about the impact, potential scenarios and much more.

What these and many more events raise is the general level of myths and legends that surround our digital world. We have no point of reference, no dictionary of terms, no industry table of devices, formats, DRM, applications, features and point of democratised information.

We hope that we can stimulate a collaborative effort to create a publishing dictionary of reference and we are encouraged by response we have received to creating maybe a publishing digital wiki. We will keep you informed but if anyone agrees and can help raise your hands.

US Justice Department to review GBS

The NYT reports that the US Justice Department has begun an inquiry into the antitrust implications of Google’s’s Book Search settlement with authors and publishers. It is reported that Justice Department lawyers have notified Google, and representatives for the Association of American Publishers and the Authors Guild, that they are looking into various antitrust issues related to the far-reaching agreement.

This does not mean that the settlement will be opposed by the Justice Department, but that critics concerns over the ‘exclusive rights’ that would be granted to Google to millions of orphan works under the settlement, have forced this review.

As we reported yesterday, Judge Denny Chin of Federal District Court in New York, who is overseeing the settlement, postponed the deadline four months to enable authors to opt out of the settlement and for other parties to oppose it or file briefs.

Last year the Justice Department’s threat to block the proposed Google Yahoo advertising partnership forced it to be abandoned.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Breaking News: GBS delayed 4 months

The good news has broken that Judge Denny Chin has granted a 4 month not two month delay on the Google settlemet. Click to read the notice

Let's hope that people now start to discuss the issues and we get the right result for publishing, authors and consumers.

UK Booksellers association Stands Up Against the Google Book Settlement

The Bookseller has printed a letter from the BA chief executive Tim Godfray in which he has called for UK publishers to prevent Google from commercially exploiting their titles online and repeated its warning that the settlement between Google and the US Author's Guild and the Association of American Publishers results in Google being "handed a monopoly", with competitors "placed at a considerable disadvantage".

Godfray states the obvious in that the agreement ‘will affect almost all of us in the UK book trade.’

The letter comes at a time when 1,300 German authors stood up to be counted and when the US Author's Guild and the Association of American Publishers requested a two-month delay to the resolution of the Google Settlement to allow those affected "more time to consider [their] rights and options". It also comes on a day when some leading literary figures requested a four-month postponement.

We now have two months to get off the fence and debate the settlement, expose its weaknesses and decide what sort of book trade we require in the digital age and importantly how we treat, respect and manage orphan works. Some will argue vigorously for free access, some will stick to the monopoly offered Google, others may seek to amend the law for orphans.

We hope the playground politics now ends and the time is given for the small voices to be heard and proper dissemination of information and debate to happen.

The Great Book bank Robbery; The Heidelberg Appeal

So what do 1,300 German authors and politicians grasp so collectively about the Great Book Bank Robbery that others have so far failed to grasp so collectively?

Spiegel online cover the story that a significant group of authors who believe that Google is violating copyright laws have appealed collectively in the form of a letter, called the " Heidelberg Appeal", to German President Horst Köhler, Chancellor Angela Merkel and the heads of Germany's 16 federal states. The letter claims "intellectual property is being stolen from its producers to an unimagined degree and without criminalization through the illegal publication of works protected by German copyright law." They urge "a resolute defense, with all the means at their disposal" to protect intellectual property rights and the freedoms related to publishing. "If we loose it," the appeal ends, "we loose our future."

German Federal Commissioner for Culture Bernd Neumann told the daily tabloid Bild that he will fight to protect the authors' rights. "It is essential that we find some international agreements on this matter." Hans-Joachim Otto, who heads the German parliament's Committee on Cultural and Media Affairs, said "Intellectual property has to be just as protected as material property. All creativity will be destroyed if you have a mentality that everything should be free." German Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries urged German authors to "think hard about whether they want to participate in the settlement or not."

It clearly starts to show that we are dealing with a major issue and one that extends past US boundaries into Google’s Earth. With a two month delay we would hope that others now raise their voice and pull us back from the abyss and we don’t continue walk backwards into rewriting copyright laws on orphan works that were not even around to defend themselves or reward Google for taking them without permission.

Spotify Reach 1 Million UK Users

Spotify the free streamed music service we have enjoyed since its launch in the UK continues to grow unabated and now claims its 1 millionth UK User. How many of Spotify’s UK users are paying for the premium ad free service and how many, like us, are accepting the occasional ad is unknown but what is clear is its success in attracting users and potentially changing music habits as we knew them

Only yesterday we want to listen to a couple of albums; Neil Youngs’ ‘Prairie Wind’ and Bob Dylan’s latest ‘ Together Through Life’. Six months ago we would have bought the CD today we linked and listened knowing that it will still be their when we want to listen to them again and again and if I did want to own a track I can do in a click.

Well done Spotify!

Electrofluidic ePaper

We are all familiar with eInk technology that is used in the Kindle, Sony Reader, Iliad and many more devices. The technology has a number of limitations the most noticeable is colour followed by it slow refresh speed. eInk uses electrophoretic display to effectively arrange white and black titanium dioxide particles within the millions of capsules that comprise the e-reader's screen. The technology only reflects 40% ambient light and to add colour requires filters which will make it even dimmer.

Fujitsu FLEPia device can display 260,000 colours in high definition, but at a premium costs of $1,000 compared to the black-and-white readers that retail around $350.

Now a team of engineers at University of Cincinnati's Novel Devices Laboratory have developed a new prototype electronic paper that can rapidly reveal or hide enough pigments to form 1,000 different colours and published their findings in Nature Photonics.

The electrofluidic display (EFD) uses voltage to pull water-based spots of coloured ink and spread them over the pixels, which are coated with highly reflective aluminium. The research paper has been. The pixels also switch between black and white within one millisecond, making the technology suitable for video. When voltage is removed the ink returns to the reservoir in the centre of the pixel, and the screen goes blank. The pixels are as small as 100 micrometers wide, giving the display a resolution higher than many e-readers on the market.

Importantly. EFD offers the same E Ink's technology benefits in reflecting light instead of emitting it, making them easier to view in bright sunlight and more power efficient than LCDs. Today it can reflect about 55% of ambient light, but the goal is to create a screen that equals white paper in reflecting 85% of available light.

The researchers plan to develop products and commercialize the technology through Gamma Dynamics, Polymer Vision and Sun Chemical.

eMarketing Books

The world of digital marketing of books is currently a world of experimentation and lots of dots but not many joined up. We have seen; widgets in all shapes and sizes, colours; compendium web sites offering that extra content and context; the digital galley and review copy; digital inspection copies in education and academia; the digital catalogue and the emergence of the US BookDROP standards. The question is whether the dots are to be joined, or are merely scattered like corn in the wind?

Last week we read that the Bookseller has launched a new book video site, Bookbox. It is to provide a repository for publishers to present their author and book videos to a trade-wide audience and for the trade to pull these down for reuse. The business model isn’t clear but we would question why the Bookseller and why video? Why not VNU/Neilson and tied to the bibliographic and marketing feeds? In these days when the Bookseller’s content is getting somewhat lighter it is questionable whether spending on Bookbox is wise.com.

Yesterday the trade spent more marketing money promoting to the trade than it spent promoting to the reader. Full page spreads in the trade magazines may look nice, may have raised retail awareness but today that is changing and creating consumer demand is seen by some as more important that creating retail demand.

So we look towards those who have lead the bibliographic way – the wholesalers. Marketing materials are exploding but who gets it into the channel and to consumer and are the two requirements exclusive? Videos, widgets, podcasts, first chapters, web links are all now part of the extended marketing family but finding them, rendering them consistently and valuing their contribution appears a little challenge. Viral marketing is growing and becoming easier for all and it is different to direct marketing but is the technology to achieve both the same or different?

So the big questions are what is emarketing and how do we as an industry exploit the wealth of materials available in an audited and consistent manner to promote both digital and physical books. The one thing we are fairy confident about is that there isn’t a standard’s or solution silver bullet. Today and tomorrow we will have to deal with multiple format options, look and feel and navigation options. This may be acceptable at the basic level, but it will be a shame to loose the opportunity, where there is a real waste saving and also where process benefits clearly exist.

The Great Book Bank Robbery - Date to be Confirmed

Google Book Settlement is one week away from reaching first base and what looked an easy task appears to be getting harder to call.

The District Court has denied two requests to intervene in the case. The Internet Archive and Harvard’s Berkman Center had sought to make motions to the court but both were rejected. This leaves them free to file objections to the proposed settlement or amicus briefs.

A group of authors representing; John Steinbeck and Thomas Myles Steinbeck, Catherine Ryan Hyde, The Philip K. Dick Testamentary Trust, Arlo Guthrie, Michael W. Perry, Eugene Linden, and James Rasenberger has filed a motion requesting a four-month extension of the 5th May deadline. The attorney for the publishers’ sub-class, Michael Boni, has openly said the authors’ complaint was without merit and asked the court to reject it. However, Google have said they would be amenable to a 60-day extension. If the extension is granted the authors may support, opt out or start their own litigation of the settlement. The attorney acting for the authors claimed that the current notice was clearly defective, authors remain unaware of the settlement’s requirements and that even the U.S. Register of Copyrights Marybeth Peters is struggling to understand components of the settlement.

Google may finally be starting to fully understand the implications on orphans and the size of the prize they seek. Alexander Macgillivray, Google's associate general counsel, in a post 'Extending notice on the Google Book Settlement' said, "It's pretty easy for credit card companies to contact their cardholders - they send bills to them all the time. The world's authors, publishers and their heirs are much more difficult to find." The New York Times reports that the plaintiffs have hired notice campaign specialists Kinsella Media Group to tell authors and publishers about the settlement. However is this merely window dressing and going through the motions or are they serious about getting everyone engaged, debating and potentially objecting to the settlement?

We remain were we were in October last year totally opposed to rewarding theft with a land grab of orphans whose owners are unrepresented and it now seems hard to contact. Perhaps that is the whole point why they are currently protected by the law.

Amazon Swoop Strategically

A potentially very strategic acquisition was made yesterday by Amazon when they bought the e-reader application start-up Lexcycle. Lexcycle’s iPhone application Stanza is probably the most popular mobile ebook application platform and has been a huge success on the iPhone, claiming half a million hits in the first months after it app launch and 1.5 million users. Stanza is a ereader and book store application that is also available on Mac and PCs and was working closely with Adobe to make its ACS4 DRM service available to mobile platforms.

Repeating the message that B&N gave when it bought Fictionwise less than a month ago, it is reported that Lexcyxle will continue to operate at arms length from Amazon. Lexcycle’s company statement said, 'Customers will still be able to browse, buy, and read ebooks from our many content partners. We look forward to offering future products and services that we hope will resonate with our passionate readers.’

So on one hand Amazon is gathering up the digital options and placing them quietly in ‘fortress Amazon’; Booksurge (POD), Audible (audio), ABE (long tail and rare books), Mobi (DRM) and now Stanza (ebook platform). In all cases their moves have taken out either a rising star or narrowed the options within the market. They have built a very impressive family that covers all the bases between author/ publisher and readers. The acquisitions have not been expensive but are clearly strategic in their nature. Sometimes, like with Audible, they have been in conflict with Amazon’s position and this latest one certain could be seen at odds with their Kindle application.

Its also interesting that the dust has hardly settled on the Fictionwise acquisition by B&N that this move has been swiftly executed. It also comes as many waited for Adobe’s ACS4 DRM to be ported via Stanza to the iPhone effectively opening up secure epub and AeB formats to the mobile.

We have to wait and see how Amazon move forward but what is certain by this acquisition is that the ebook agenda is clearly moving onto the mobile platform and maybe despite the sales of K1 and K2 Amazon has seen the competitive threat that Adobe/ Stanza / epub / AeB poses if left unchecked.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Barnes & Noble Throw Down the MP3 Gauntlet

Barnes & Noble has announced that www.bn.com has launched its Audiobook MP3 Store. It will provide audio-book downloads of over 10,000 titles to iPods, iPhones, MP3 players and other portable devices. The average price per download will range between $10 and $20, but to celebrate the launch they are offering for a limited period, 9 free downloads plus up to may 3rd May, 50% off any title in the Audiobook MP3 Store.

The service will be outsourced to Overdrive’s extensive audio platform and comes only weeks after B&N bought Fictionwise to provide an ebook offer to the market. The news that B&N has selected an MP3 format is no surprise as its the only real format alternative to Audible, who are a owned by ‘fortress Amazon’. What this move will clearly do is put real momentum behind the MP3 DRM free audio market and hopefully break the monopoly that was created not by consumer demand but an exclusive DRM and prohibitive book club model. The move should sway many to drop DRM from audiobooks and free their pricing from the restrictive and exclusive Audible Book Club Model.

Once the MP3 format gets established then the files should be more widely available and served up by many so also reducing the market’s reliance on Overdrive.

We have long argued that audio books are a natural easy digital win where all that changed was that the files were downloaded and not supplied on CD. The user listening experience remains the same. What is now required is authors, agents and publishers to step up to the opportunity and embrace MP3 and if they are apprehensive on DRM free then adopt digital watermarking.

It also looks like B&N are finally getting serious about digital.

The final question is whether Amazon will, as they have with music, see the light and fold in behind B&N and MP3 or remain stuck in Audible DRM treacle?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Lost Today But Found Tommorrow?

Last week The Bookseller reported that Bloomsbury were to launch a "lost classics" list and that Vintage are continuing to build their "classic crime" list. To some this fuels the realisation that there is a real potential of pickings to be made from ‘orphans’. We also have Faber and Faber and many others looking to adopt these lost souls and explore the treasure trove of out of print material. With a bit of due diligence and little cost, orphans can be grabbed and claimed back. After all, we could soon see Google’s scanning programme of orphans being both stepped up and given the US legal pardon.

The mining of this wealth of material is not new and many have made a healthy living in spotting the gems, doing due diligence on rights and packaging nostalgia. Add a 50’s looking jacket and a new typeface and you have a new book, a potential POD title and of course a cheap ebook, all for less than many new title advances, with little editorial effort, just a new ISBN and a refreshed copyright notice.

As publishers trawl the orphan pile they know one thing that they don’t with the slush pile – someone once backed it. Whether it is a winner is another challenge and knowing what was a good seller in its day is hard to establish. It isn’t down to reviews or Bookscan as they don’t exist. Even ABE and Alibris don’t really offer a real light on winners. Those individuals who have a great track record in this area are often independent or not around today.

So we believe we shall see more orphans brought back into print, some will be under the nostalgia label and some will merely slip in as new. Those who belief these titles have had their day are probably the same ones who thought their was little to be made out of public domain classics and that back list are not publishing, but the reality is that whatever happens in the Google settlement, many have woken up to the vast published and forgotten pile of books that are now coming to everyone’s attention.

We just hope that they aren't merely taken and that due dilegence is undertaken and royalties where due are paid.

Mobile UK News

From 1st May anyone with a Skype friendly handset on the 3 network can make as many Skype calls and speak as long as they want. We already have used the service for the last two years and talk every day to India, the US and Australia for free. 3’s attitude towards VOIP and Skype is a breath of fresh air and even if you aren’t a 3 customer you can buy a 3 sim card for a £1.99 for a compatible unlocked handset, download the Skype client and you are connect to everyone on Skype around the world!
These moves are important as they turn the VOIP pressure on others and act as clear differentiator to anyone who makes lots of international calls or whose friends use Skype.

Another UK operator, Orange, has unveiled the UK's cheapest touchscreen smartphone for unbelievable price tag. The Vegas is sold as a pay as you go handset and available either in black or in pink, is one of the lightest and smallest smartphones weighing only 84g and looks very, similar to the HTC Touch, which interestingly costs a lot more. It has a 2.4-inch touchscreen with a 1.3-megapixel camera, MP3, integrated FM radio, a built-in browser and compatibility with microSD cards up to 4GB to complement the 64MB onboard memory. Yes and all for £49!

The downside is that the Vegas doesn't support 3G but at £49 does that really matter?

After its big launch, MusicAlly claims that Nokia’s ‘Comes With Music’ has only attracted 23,000 subscribers for the free music download service. So what is the issue after all Nokia is the biggest mobile manufacturer, the music is free and all you need is a 5310 and N95 8GB handset. Nokia is having a hard time and maybe Comes With Music isn’t a the issue. Maybe its Nokia and the old units chosen to use the service. If they widen the units who can use the service it may pick up but it can hardly be breaking even on the money that Nokia thas to pay for the licences and to run the service.

The LG GD900 Crystal will be available from July. It has a new design - a see-through tempered glass keypad design with 'cool glow' and the keypad also transforms itself into a laptop style mouse pad that offers easy web browsing and navigation and tops this with a handwriting recognition feature! LG is also offering its 3D-style interface and is hoping it can create a new design buzz.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Bookabooka Finnish Book Pirate Bay?


Finnish Textbook Rent Service for students Bookabooka enables students to lend, rent, sell or donate books interactively. with other guys. Bookabooka helps you to find books and people online. The service has become successful among students who want to save their money. Bookabooka doesn't host any e-books on its site, but instead allows students to rent their textbooks to their peers. Renting is conducted via mail and it is mandatory that the textbooks are the originals. Bookabooka acts only as an intermediate, linking the students together and do not handle the shipping.

BookaBooka, has been sent a cease and desist letter (in Finnish only) by the Finnish copyright agencies claiming that the company is breaking the law. The service has quietly received a lot of attention among students as a place to put your books into use - rent them for a monthly fee.

Kopiosto (Finnish Copyright Society) and TTVK (Anti-Piracy Centre in Finland), have sent a cease and desist letter to the founders of the Bookabooka service claiming that they break several different points in the Finnish copyright law. The Finnish book publishers' association (Suomen Kustannusyhdistys) is convinced that Bookabooka is breaking the copyright legislation and threatening their business.Under Finnish copyright law it is perfectly legal for two individuals to practice this sort of activity among themselves and even do it for a fee. The copyright agencies claim that since the service is on the internet, it is targeted at the public and book-lending to a national level threatening the business of the publishers.

So we have one rule in the physical world and another for the digital world. What is the difference between what Bookabooka does and others on the internet.

TTVK demands that the service must be shut down or they'll sue the company.

Bookabooka's founders have already stated that they wont respond to the threats, but instead will keep the service running.

The Abdication Crisis: UK Publishing Meekly Follows US Digital Marketing

We attended the London Book Fair this week and hence the lack of articles. Was this due to a lack of real digital news or the fact that many in the UK digital world appear on hold awaiting the US to lead or to settle GBS (Google Book Settlement)decision?

Whilst we ponder the future, we ask ourselves a number of questions, some we can answer or are confident to predict, others where we are far from the answers. The one think that is certain, is that UK publishers large and small now are taking digital seriously and many are taking their first tentative steps forward.

Some thoughts on the digital UK landscape:

Will the retail model still hold water over the library model? Free rental access has appeal over pay. Who seriously wants to own an ebook for life? The existing library model needs to be revisited and the UK needs to be wary of US suppliers dumping their library repository content into the UK market. This is not happening tomorrow but today.

The thoughts of repositories brings us to observe the current ‘aggregator’ bragging model – ‘mine’s bigger than yours’. In the physical book world size mattered, but in the virtual digital world size often marginalises the offer. When it comes to changing suppliers in the future we have to assume, or hope, that the encrypted licences can still be validated, however we have already seen the problems of changing distributors.

The major digital repositories are US controlled and focused and we are all aware that territorial rights are a challenge. Despite UK publishers public statements, privately they many still compromised.

Will digital be ceded to Google , Amazon, Adobe, Sony, Apple. These are an interesting group of technology companies and with the exception of ‘fortress Amazon’ are all from outside publishing.

Will Amazon break free of their wireless constraints and make it to the UK, or leave the market to the likes of Sony? Where do publishers place their bets?

The problem with the UK is its love of exclusive deals. Digital deals such as Sony/ Adobe, Overdrive/ Waterstones and Blackwells / Espresso may move the agenda forward but can also marginalise the competitive position against the real competitors.

Will UK copyright and deals be controlled and determined in the UK and subject to UK law or be effectively usurped by the back door and rail-roaded by the US interests. The impact of change is not restricted to the finished book but goes rights across the life cycle from acquisition and rights contracts, to what was once death but is now GBS (Google Book Settlement). Will the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) approach be adopted by all and will take down notices, reactive contention and copyright disputes be the norm tomorrow?

The UK market appears to be placing a great deal of trust in the US to sort out the digital landscape and for the UK to merely follow. After all, the precedent was set not many years ago by Bush and Blair, but one would hope that we have learnt from that abdication of independent leadership.

GizModo Torture an eInk Screen

Fun with eInk taking the poor screen to the extreme limits.
Watch what an eInk screen can take

Blackwell's Espresso on Sky News

This is Sky News piece on the Blackwell POD Espresso Book Machine. Its a pity the book just drops (literally) out!

video

BBC News Coverage of Blackwell's Print On Demand

Monday, April 20, 2009

Healy to Head Google Settlement Book Registry

So what did we learn today at the London Book Fair?

First the news that appears to be circulating that our ex pat from the UK, Michael Healy of BISG, is to head up the Book Bank Registry. Sounds a good move for Michael, who certainly knows the issues and understands the challenges. We presume the job presume is dependant on a green light in June and wish him well.

Why would we do that if we oppose the settlement you ask?

Well, whether it happens or not we hope the BRR happens. The industry needs it and a rights business with no registry is questionable.

The other interesting insight is just how many people we speak to today are only partially aware of the settlement and its potential impact. They appear to be talking more about articles they have read in the broadsheets than coverage in the trade.
The debate is at last starting and we hope not too late.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Random House Group Explodes the Digital Spine



The Random House Group has launched its first list of ‘enhanced’ ebooks. ‘Book and Beyond’ is aimed at extending the content past the text that was in the print work and truly exploding the spine. Readers can now enjoy additional content such as videos, games, quizzes, photos, author interviews, interactive graphics and the option to listen to or read the text at the start of each chapter.

Ten ebooks are being used the create the experience and for once a publisher has taken the bold step of using popular authors such as James Patterson, Danny Wallace and Derren Brown. More enhanced ebooks are planned and include Katie Price and the word ‘enhanced’ must be the operative one here. Meanwhile fans of Jacqueline Wilson My Sister Jodie can play a ‘catch the ghosts’ game on her My Sister Jodie.

The ‘Book and Beyond’ list is available from Waterstones.com, WHSmith.co.uk, and rbooks.co.uk.

Everyone recognises that the one dimensional eink ebook readers can’t play the additional rich media content, but that it can be played on PCs, Macs, netbooks and laptops. If the features were to take off and be copied by others it would raises serious questions of the future of the ebook readers as we know them. We can envisage the extras being able to port to the mobile and would expect someone to create a special app to accommodate this.

Well done Random for breaking out of the straight-jacket and being brave enough to do it with popular authors.

The Brave New World Indie Conundrum

At first glance we read the article in PW ‘Indie Booksellers Debate the E-book Conundrum’ and had pangs of déjà vu. Had we not written about this very issue in the Brave New World report back in 2006?

The debate then was similar to the debate reported today by PW. The only difference is that retail in the last two years has not really responded to the digital opportunity. Far from grasping the channel, exploiting existing relationships and channels, many retailers have sat back and expected to be spoon-fed. This has given publishers the excuse to experiment with digital vertical branding and digital direct offers and of course has introduced the growth in the new digital aggregator / wholesaler.

No one has a god given right to exist in the value chain between the author and the reader, they have to add value and in the digital world. The retailers, have in the main, failed to do so.

Yes we have Waterstones, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Dymocks all ebook enabled, but also marginalised. Waterstones choose to go it alone and on an exclusive basis, they may have sold more ebooks on Christmas day than physical books, however in their competitive haste to be the ‘exclusive’ , some would say the have merely created their own world of 'one' and in turn marginalised themselves. B&N have chosen Fictionwise and it looks a good alliance, but are they trying to buy an exclusive solution when what is need is an industry that is open, competitive and has strength in numbers.

Remember the days when B&N, Bol.com and Waterstones were going to take on Amazon? They individually missed global branding and consumer awareness, still worked on yesterday’s economics of return and collectively ceded the ground. Some even gave Amazon their business before they woke up to start over again. When they returned they saw the competitor healthy, growing market share, in control and dictating terms. Will they ever catch Amazon - we believe it highly unlikely.

So what about the independent? The ABA's Booksense have failed to make it make true digital sense and it will probably drift into the arms of an aggregator and present a case of too many mouths all trying to feed at the same trough. Aggregators should not be judged on how many ebooks they have, but how they let everyone share and participate and grow the market for all.

Collaberation is still the challenge. Those who argue the independent is dead or can’t compete are wrong, but for this to be proven takes focused leadership and action from industry bodies.

Selling digital alongside physical makes sense. White label stores make sense. Retailers involvement in the internet and digital makes sense. However sitting back and expecting it to fall into the lap will not work.

Has the Brave New World report turned into an action plan or simply a good read?

Blackwell Steps Up To Local Print On Demand

We congratulate Blackwell for introducing the first Espresso print on demand machine on the UK High Street. It could start the logical shift we have long argued for, from print and distribute, to distribute and print. Overnight Blackwell’s Charing Cross store has gone from fixed inventory to a virtual inventory. No more special orders for titles available on demand, instead it’s just a short wait and it’s in the customer’s hand.

The pilot may not be as bullish as first announced, but if proven it could well be as widespread. The only downside is yet another ‘exclusive partnership’ between a retailer and technology supplier. However, it appears to be only an 18 months exclusive. The exclusive could be good for Blackwell, but we feel an open market could have raised greater awareness, driven down cost, encouraged different models and offers and moved the agenda forward quicker. On the other hand Blackwell’s may not have moved at all without the exclusive arrangements.

Out of the 400,000 books currently available on the Espresso, over a quarter of a million books were previously out of print and effectively not available from stores. By the end of April it is claimed that there will be in excess of a million titles.

So the big question now is how the public will react? Will they perceive any noticeable difference in quality? Will they mind the 5 minute wait? Can they be sold on the green credentials and virtual inventory? Will the footfall and demand in store be continual, or spiky and if the later, how long will a customer wait to be served? Will the machine be best hidden away, or in the shop window? How will customers know and be able to search the range of books available? The million titles be the right range?

We believe that the POD distributed model is an ideal vehicle to regenerate interest in back lists, provide public domain works and potentially service orphan works under licence, but once again it appears that the later may be restricted by another exclusive arrangement.

We hope the community POD machine works and that others are able, albeit after 18 months, to take advantage of the lessons that Blackwell will learn in the pilot.

Mobile World Just got a Lot Harder at the Top

Who would you blame for a 90% drop in profits? The world’s largest mobile manufacturer only made £108 million compared to £1.08billion for the same quarter last year. Nokia have already announced 1,700 job cuts but is it enough?

Some of it down to the economic climate and reluctance to change handsets but it still sold 93 million handsets compared to 115 million certainly not a 90% drop in units sold.

The problem is not the numbers of units sold but the mix of units sold. At the lower end they are losing out to cheaper phones which is not as profitable for Nokia. At the high end they have Apple, Samsung, RIM all eating from their table.

However Nokia aren’t the only big player feeling the cold. Sony Ericsson reported their third consecutive loss with a $387 loss in the 1st quarter of 2009 on falling sales and has also announced 2000 job cuts. They shipped 14.5 million units in the quarter down 35% year on year.

So both mobile giants are missing out on the low end and face increasing pressure at the high end. There has to be casualties in this crowded market and without continued profit the research may so down and dry up and that’s just as potentially dangerous as not keeping up with the Apple’s.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

GBS : Googolopoloy Rules?



Are we sleep walking into the abyss or will common sense prevail over greed and vested interests?

The Google settlement is one of the greatest challenges to publishing yet so many sit idly on the fence uncommitted. It’s understandable that some industry bodies have members who are for and against the settlement and probably many who don’t fully grasp it, or hope that others will sort it out for them. There is no wait and see. There is no fudge it and fix it later. There are no excuse to be undecided. It is coming to the judgement moment and The Google settlement is either acceptable or unacceptable. However, if there is any shadow of doubt, it is better to reject it now, than accept it worth a shrug of the shoulders and a dream of retirement and problems for others to sort out.

Cory Doctrow in his blog today ‘Google Book Search settlement gives Google a virtual monopoly over literature’ makes his points clearly and concisely’ but do people read absorb debate or do they merely cover their eyes and ears and continue to shuffle forward.

Another article from Randy Picker at the Chicago Law School, 'The Google Book Search Settlement: A New Orphan-Works Monopoly?' asks many legal issues and also questions the antitrust question, ‘the level of direct coordination of prices is unlikely to mimic what would result in competition, I have real doubts about whether the consumer access pricing provision would survive a challenge under Section 1 of the Sherman Act.’

‘The opt out class action then is the vehicle for large-scale collective action by active rightsholders. Active rightsholders have little incentive to compete with themselves by granting multiple licenses of their works or of the orphan works.Plus under the terms of the settlement agreement, active rightsholders benefit directly from the revenues attributable to orphan works used in GBS.’


We would also recommend Pam Samuelson's PowerPoint as a summary of the legal issues in the Settlement. Question are raised as to whether scholarly works, which make up much of the corpus, are represented by the Guild and also whether this settlement is a privately negotiated compulsory license to orphan books and therefore a major restructuring of the future of the book industry by the back door.

The questions are now starting to be asked, but are people getting engaged, or are they too busy with today to worry, or even consider tomorrow. It’s taken a change of government in the US to finally wake up to the environment, what will it take for the publishing industry to wake up a smell the coffee?

Copyright Infringement Consistancy?

Peter Sunde, Frederik Neij, Gottfrid Svartholm Warg and Carl Lundstrom were collectively found guilty of promoting copyright infringement this week by a Swedish court. They were heavily fined and also each was sentenced to a year in prison. These were the men behind The Pirate Bay, the world's most high-profile file-sharing site.

This rare victory for the entertainment industry could have some double edge implications and now exposes the inconsistency of approach to piracy across borders and media sectors.

The Pirate Bay defendants claim that although shocked by the severity of the judgement they openly expected to loose. The fine of $4.5 million was a fraction of the $17.5 million sought and the ensuing appeal process is likely to be drawn out and long with The Pirate Bay now have nothing to loose and determined to fight on. Every piece of press creates further awareness of the dangers of piracy, the challenges of protecting copyright and also gives the pirates the publicity and market awareness they crave. Some say it also elevates them within an anti establishment sub culture.

Unlike Napster, Kazza and other from the past The Pirate Bay has been found guilty of not storing materials or distributing materials but in providing links to materials. Sunde claims that in doing this, they are not different how services such as Google and search engines work. An interesting perspective when we consider the basis of the Internet itself is based on links, indexes and search and discovery.

The book industry challenges to digital infringement have not followed the hard line of the music industry. There is the Scribd, Wattpad and eBay piracy files which are not links but hosted or sold product. Yet we see no court action, just a take down notices and slapped wrist behind closed doors. As we have said before we don’t say this is wrong but that we should have a public awareness of the files and offenders. Then there is the Great book Bank Robbery where the party challenged could be seen by many to being rewarded for their infringements. Also rewarded with something that any party involved owned and granted a monopoly of it to boot! This sends out what message?

Copyright will remain a digital battleground but consistency and education are important if the general public are to be brought onboard.

Gannett Deliver Bad News

The plight of newspaper revenues was brought home in the latest figures from Gannett.
Gannett’s stable includes USA Today and Newsquest who operate 300 newspaper titles in the UK. News quest ad revenues are down almost 40% in the first quarter 2009 with property ads down a massive 60%, recruitment 51.4% and motors 43.2% in motors. In the forth quarter 2008 Newsquest ad revenues fell by 29.3% year on year, with classifieds down 35.3%.

USA today posted a 26.9% year on year revenue drop with a corresponding 28.2% drop in ad revenues.

Shares have fallen 87% in Gannett over the last 12 months.

In the coming weeks, Media General, New York Times and McClatchy will report their results. But what is clear is the ad spend is no longer a given and although recovery will come in the future it is questionable where the ad spend will go. This leaves the newspapers having potentially change their business model in difficult times.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Its a Rights Business With No Rights Management

Yesterday our good friend Mike Shatzkin wrote and interesting and insightful blog on rights, ‘A serious issue for big publishers’. The debate stirred much discussion as Mike stated what we all know – that publishes , ‘are largely in the dark about what rights they own.’

In the old physical world this wasn’t a massive problem but in today’s digital one it is.

The Google Book Settlement, whether it gets approved or stuck out, has raised the issue not just of orphans and reverted rights, but also the thousands of books covered by legacy contracts. One leading publisher, Evan Schnittman commented that , ‘we must find a way to open up those creepy, spider-filled vaults, filing rooms, and warehouses and dig through each and every contract to determine if we have reverted the rights to any title listed in the Google Settlement.’

Then there is the wording in the contract and if it can be applied to a digital rendition. It’s also about the other rights associated with the work; illustrations, photos, graphics and paid for works such as translations and even permissions granted within the work. Irrespective of the main work itself, can these other rights automatically move into a digital rendition under existing contracts?

It is not difficult to envisage that some may assert their ownership of titles without the due diligence and the scrutiny needed. Unless someone objects, some may believe we could find cases of further land grabbing. Over the last 80 years, many lists and publishers have changed hands and its fair to assume that a small minority of contracts may no longer exist. The settlement, implicitly, asks the Registry to reasonably police against spurious claims. Obviously the settlement will generate a number of counter claims, disputes and the new proposed Book Rights Registry will now try to sort these disputes out. Some will say that some disputes will be almost impossible to resolve.

Today the Bookseller, in it coverage of the UK PA’s Google meetings, ‘ Press for Google compensation, says PA’, reported that , Jessica Kingsley, from Jessica Kingsley Publishers, questioned why publishers were being asked to pay for the Book Rights Registry to police only one other company Google.

As we have said before publishing is a rights business and if you accept that, then surely we must manage and control all the associated rights including legacy contracts. The Rights Registry is a good move, but we would suggest only if it is independent of the Google settlement. However without the Google money, who will pay for it, manage it and if the settlement doesn’t happen, how we can stop future land grabs?

We hope that the judge throws out the settlement and even if this means some hard decisions, other threats and it takes a number of years before we get a solution, it is better than starting with a bad settlement and wondering how we get out of it, or trying to amend and adapt it after the event and deal with an omnivore.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Kindle 2: Reading Just Got Harder

So the K2 is the same experience as the K1, or should that be a better experience. You would not expect it to be a worse experience would you? According to a stream of reports, some 500 posted on Amazon forums, there’s a problem with reading the text. Well books are in the main text, so what up with K2?

According to an article in Wired the problem is the new K2 font smoothing algorithms and increased levels of greyscale. Pictures look better but text as it gets smaller in size goes fuzzy. Some users have even downgraded and exchanged their K2 for the K1.

So why isn’t everyone complaining? Does it only affect a certain group? Did someone test it out on a range of different eyesight levels before it was realised?

The K2 offers a single thinner and lighter default typeface that users can’t change and the grey shades have been increased from 4 to 16 "for clear text and even crisper images." However K2 users who don't have 20/20 vision are finding the smallest three font sizes fuzzy. The font smoothing algorithms render the pixels along the edge of a letter in several shades of grey as opposed to the earlier version where they were black. Apparently this works on conventional backlight screens but not well on reflective ones such as the K2.

We wonder whether the answer is a K2 set of glasses in funky colours and designs. Imagine not only do you have to carry the slab around along with the mobile and laptop and accessories but you can now have a dedicated pair of specs just to read what you could read on paper without them.

Can’t wait for them to get to K9.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Dymocks Stall on Roll Out of Digital Kiosks

The Dominion Post reports that Australasian book chain, Dymocks has delayed its plans to introduce digital kiosks in every store in New Zealand, Australia and Hong Kong. The kiosks would enable consumers to download titles to USB sticks, DVDs, iPods and Dymocks' iLiad ebook reader. The delay is claimed to enable them to ensure everything works.

Dymocks moved digital last year ahead of many other chains around the world and although no sales figures are available, are still committed to the ebook route.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

French Reject Piracy Bill

French politicians have rejected piracy legislation which proposed that people caught downloading music illegally three times should be cut off from the internet. Even with the backing of President Nicolas Sarkozy the bill appears to have fallen at the final hurdle. The socialist parliamentarian Patrick Bloche is widely reported saying that the bill was "dangerous, useless, inefficient, and very risky for us citizens." The legislation earlier approved by the Senate, was unexpectedly defeated in a vote of the National Assembly.

Under the legislation, users would receive e-mail warnings for their first two identified offenses, a certified letter for the next, and would have their Web connection cut for any subsequent illegal downloads.

Twitter Oldies

According to comScore the world of Twitter is exploding with just under 10 million is unique visitors in February.

The interesting piece however was not the growth but the demographic with 45 to 54 years being the largest user group.

Follow us on Twitter as we grapple with being snappie

Kindle 3 Versus One Billion iphone Apps

The Wall Street Journal reported that Amazon is developing Kindle 3 and this will be a larger screen version designed to be attractive and compete in the newspaper and magazine markets. The article speculates that the K3 could be out in time for the 2009 Christmas shopping season.

They are obviously aware that Plastic Logic is coming over the hill and both the Hearst and Murdoch empires are looking to do their own thing and also if Barnes and Noble make a move its likely to be around the same time.

The big question is will eink be the technology that prevails and despite the media attention given to these ebook readers today will they merely become the single dimensional dinosaurs of tomorrow? Larger screens add significant cost to the eink technology. Today and for the foreseeable future eink remains grayscale and may be ok for text but is seriously unsexy for graphics, illustrations, photos and can’t play video. No matter how big they make the screen we would rather use the smaller, compact and more portable iPhone or even iTouch.

So it was very interesting to see that Apple have started to countdown not to Christmas but to their one billionth app downloaded milestone on the App Store. iPhone sales hit 17 million last month and in less than a year of their launch the apps have proved a huge market success and huge competitive differentiator with all the competitors now scrambling to catch up.

As we write the counter is at 938,718,000 and counting very fast! Apple are giving away prizes for the lucky billion app person.

The top ten free book apps are:

Kindle for iPhone
Stanza
eReader
Wattpad
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Beamitdown software)
Shakespeare (Readdle Playshakespeare.com)
Love Poems (Beamitdown software)
Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen (Beamitdown software)
King James Bible Audio (iToursoftware.com)
Alice in Wonderland (Beamitdown software)

The top ten free book apps are:

Classics (the only one in either list to feature in the top ten of all application)
Star Trek Countdown 1 (iVerse Media)
Star Trek Countdown 4 (iVerse Media)
Star Trek Countdown 2 (iVerse Media)
Star Trek Countdown 3 (iVerse Media)
Star Trek Countdown 1 (iVerse Media)
King James Bible (DMBC)
Twilight by Stephanie Meyer (iceberg reader)
A Twilight Trivia (twilight Movie and Book)
New Moon: The Twilight Saga, Book 2 by Stephanie Meyer (iceberg reader)
Mohandas Gandhi Quotes (Brighthouse labs)

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Zennstrom and Friis to Buy Back Skype?

News is breaking that Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis, the founders of Skype, have made approaches to several private equity firms in order to make a bid to but it back from eBay. Skype was sold to eBay in for $2.6 billion in 2995 and the pair later received bonus payouts increasing the price to $3.1 billion. Skype now has over 405 million registered users and its 2008 4th quarter revenues were $145 million. It is estimated by Telegeography that the service n0w accounts for 8% of the world’s international calling minutes.

The NY Times reports that it is expected that eBay would sell Skype for a faction of what it paid amd that would be a significant coup for the founders. Some would say that the service is not performing as eBay envisaged and is not generating the paid for revenues thay expected but is being used as a free service. Obviously something that eBay are not familiar with exploiting. The service is poised to go even bigger and freer with iPhone and Blackberry traffic.

Another potential reason to sell is the intellectual property dispute between eBay and the Skype founders. Joltid, a company founded by Mr. Zennstrom and Mr. Friis, terminated eBay’s license to Joltid’s peer-to-peer technologies on April 1st. These services appear to be at the center of Skype’s service. The dispute is likely to dissuade any other suitors and although Google bid for the service in 2005 they now have Google Voice.

We have always admired Zennstrom and Friis form their Kazza days, through Skype and Joost they seem to have their finger on the pulse. We now wait to see how their buy back develops.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Dot2Dot

Book publishing can always learn from other media sectors. The environment may be different but the similarities are often stark and can’t be ignored. Many will try to argue that the differences are so huge that the comparison between media sectors is inappropriate, but the more we watch the media world unravel and morph from one model to another, we start to see the same or similar warning signs.

The old world created media conglomerates that controlled the channel, the creative process and focused on their market share. These grew swallowed each other up to the point where they could hardly grow any bigger. The result was that the corporate blue chip publisher ruled. This worked within the physical world where the controller of the supply chain reaped the economies of scale and the 80 / 20 economic model prevailed. However, the digital world effectively turned this upside down. As we have seen so many times, the Internet doesn’t respect corporate size and actual revenue, it respects eyeballs and potential revenue. We remember those, who ten years ago said Amazon would not survive, was over valued and the likes of Bertelsmann would crush them. The old world saw one Goose, the new world saw the Golden Egg.

Enter the omnivores who were not tied to any sector and were driven by moving technology, valued on the number of visitors and their potential pulling power, rewarded maybe by advertising. They often viewed content, on whatever format, as merely a means to an end. Also enter those from the technology sector who wanted their technology to dominate and were often focused on shifting tin or software, not content.

We now have upheaval in music, which has never recovered from Napster and continues to unravel. Newsprint and magazines could always rely on advertising. That was until the Internet stared to grab it before the newspapers could grapple with the digital shift. The film industry had a great release model that controlled what, where and when films could be seen. However, this only fuelled the pirates offer to beat both the release schedule and the price. This month gave us the ultimate piracy with the pirates even beating the release of “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” , not by a day, but a whole month!

We hear one name repeatedly – Google. Their quest to make YouTube deliver stronger revenues has created new battles with the music industry bodies, such as PRS and the artists themselves. Peter Waterman’s composition ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ experienced a phenomenal 154million YouTube downloads, yet he only received £11 royalty from Google. Google now want to create Vevo.com in collaboration with Universal. But who will win from the envisaged new revenues? When Bono first suggested the marriage, he must have envisaged the artist winning, but we reserve judgement.

Google News grapples with the newspaper world on whether their use of snippets is ‘fair use’ or infringement. Some would say that they have the newspapers over a barrel, others that its time the newspapers stood up.

Google Book Search and the land-grab settlement, has had not nearly enough written about it.

When will the media sectors join up the dots?

Thursday, April 09, 2009

We Have Our Say On 'Customer Recommends'

The news that Borders UK is offering customers 20% off their next purchase if they can recommend a book makes a lot of sense and is something many of us do today unrewarded. Word of mouth and sharing books we enjoy has always been what book reading is often about.

The news broken in the Bookseller today and refers to the campaign as “Have Your Say—customer recommends” and that it will start in stores on Saturday.

However we thought that there may be a small hole in the logic. The report claims ‘When a customer buys a book, they are given a belly band to write a short customer review of the title. Once it is handed back to the store, the customer gets 20% off their next purchase.’

So the customer hasn’t read the book only bought it, but is expected to make a recommendation based on what – the jacket, the blurb, the author the day of the week? We obviously may have got this wrong but surely they can’t recommend what they haven’t read?

Ok, they must be recommending another book and one perhaps Borders doesn’t stock. No, that can’t work either. Ok they bought it last week, have read it, want to go back to the shop and write a review and claim 20% of their next purchase. We hope they kept their receipts and did question whether they bought the book before or after the campaign started? Maybe all they are doing is saying ‘i've bought it’, in which case a simple sales chart would do the business. What happens if the recommendation is not altogether positive, can the still get their 20% off?

Perhaps we are missing the point and its just another way to discount books!

Finally, we do see the exercise as being a great way to gather lists and email addresses of book buyers and linking them to genre but if the process doesn't capture that information only the review which is just by ‘a reader’ this obvious benefit is also lost.

Anyway, the one good point is that as books need to be bought it unliokely that we shall see swathes of marketing department people filling in recommendations.

37 Countries Negotiating a Anti Piracy Trade Deal

Last week the French Assembly passed a law that forces ISPs to disconnect those suspected of illegally sharing copyright infringing material on the ‘three strikes and out’ policy.

OutLaw.com reported today 'US outlines secretive international piracy deal' on details of a process aimed at involving ISPs (internet service providers) in fighting copyright infringement and pirated material crossing borders, has been released by the US Government.

Thirty-seven countries are negotiating a new worldwide trade deal which was originally initiated by the US and Japan in 2006 and now includes Australia, Canada, the European Commission and the EU's 27 member states, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, South Korea, Singapore and Switzerland. ACTA ( Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement) has been keep quiet until now but has been disclosed as part of Barack Obama's commitment to transparency in government.

The Treaty aims to harmonise what scale of activity needs to be reached before infringement becomes criminal, and what rights authorities will have to destroy material.

B&N ebook Noise?

Scott Moritz, writing in The Street.com has started a rumour that, dependant where you stand, may have legs. The rumour is that Barnes and Noble hot on the back of buying Fictionwise is now working on bringing their own Kindle type device to the market.

The article ‘Tech Rumor of the Day: Barnes & Noble’ goes on to list all the usual and obvious partner suspects on the wireless side and the revenue that Amazon is expected to turn over on the Kindle, but fails to deliver any real substance on what, when and how the rumour would turn to fact.

It does remind us that Barnes & Noble has been through the ebook tablet before in 2003. In fact there isn’t much that B&N hasn’t tried at one stage or another and they also are not just a bookseller but also a sizable publisher, packager and reprint business.

The big question is whether it is wiser to strike out by yourself and trade off the B&N brand, which only really has resonance in the North American market, or hook up with others that may offer a bigger pool, protection from risk and the ability to exploit its own assets. Waterstones achieved a UK exclusive with Sony and although that particular door may be shut in the US, it may not be shut on a wireless or new model. They also now have to build Fictionwise into the offer and importantly, does it make sense to pin too much on ebook only devices when the mobile is grabbing all the attention, the netbook is coming down fast and you have Fictionwise?

So it may be a choice between exclusivity, which may be offer short term benefit but long term exposure or collaboration and openness which certainly would get them attention to be seen by many as far more logical than the current ‘aggregator centric’ market model and give them the flexibility to move quickly with the flow in the future. Why invest in tin when there are some big outsiders hovering to move in and one eink device, netbook, mobile isn’t much different from another and consumer is fickle? Lining up with Newscorp or Hearst would make more sense.

The one thing that is certain is that any move really should be made in 2009 while the market is finding its feet.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Media Déjà Vu

Whether you believe that newsprint is solid and just going through difficult times, or it’s terminally ill, or just struggling to change its business model in a digital age, it offers a fascinating insight into a media sector from the outside. We often look at music and film as media sectors similar to books but in many ways newsprint and magazines offer as much if not more.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt spoke at the annual meeting of the US Newspaper Association of America and although he would like to focus on technology and the mobile challenges the debate on the use of news snippets on Google News is “fair use” under copyright law or an infringement. Google has long insisted that its use of snippets and headlines in Google News is legal. It also said Google News drove a huge amount of traffic to newspaper web sites, which the publishers can then monetize through their advertising. The argument sounds fairly familiar and we couldn’t help thinking we were suffering from déjà vu.

This week, The Associated Press said that it would work to require web sites to obtain permission and share revenue with them. Newspapers are in the often usual position of questioning whether they are consenting parties or want to stand up and face the potential economic position of being outside cutting off the traffic they get from Google’s search and news services and from other search engines and potentially find themselves alone in nowhere.

William Dean Singleton, chairman of The Associated Press and chief executive of the MediaNews Group, is reported saying “We don’t plan for anyone to use our content unless they pay for it. The licenses we do in the future will limit how and where our content is used.”

If we strip away the ecomomy, business models, the plight of editors and journalists and even digital change we appear to be left with something very familiar – the question of fair usage and infringement. The other familiar story is the incentive of money over rights. Interestingly we also see a few speaking for the majority but perhaps we are overly cynical.

Spotify Continues to Grow Announcing Libspotify

We have been strong supporters of Spotify, which lets us play music on-demand and share playlists for free if you don’t mind the 20 second advert every 30 minutes. It makes more sense to listen to what you want when you want where you want rather than buying loads of tracks most of which sit dormant on the drive like the CDs on a shelf. Its somewhat strange to be ahead of the curve in the UK and Europe but Spotify certainly is one step ahead of the game and clearly states where music is going. All four major labels and indie consortiums The Orchard, Merlin and CD Baby already allow Spotify to play their music in an increasing number of European countries.

We reported on the recent move to team up with 7Digital to offer purchasing of downloads.

However its getting a whole lot better with the news on the launch of libspotify which gives developers the ability to build services on its platform using an API and port Spotify to a variety of different devices . We could be talking Spotify on mobile phones, XBoxes, PlayStations, TVs, networked audio players and any other place developers want to put it.

Digital Music Just Got Cheaper and DRM Free

Often price wars are won by no one but the consumer. The producer is often out of the control loop and their RRP becomes meaningless, other than to act as a discount mark. The reseller may control the price and discount but its often down to the depth of their pockets, the nerves to fight it out and the margin hit they can stomach. Supermarkets can often cross subsidise pricing, but ‘one product offer’ stores such as music and books only often have the one product mix, one opportunity and when they make steep discount move these are made its often in hope that they can be retracted as quickly. No retailer wants a discount war unless they are in control and have the margin to play it.

Today we see price wars breaking out in the music download market. They are not driven by the producers, nor the artists but by two giants who want to destabilise the others offer and capture share.

Amazon has launched a new campaign reducing the price of 100 of its mp3 downloads to 29 pence. This is only a small number of its 5 million music downloads on offer but is focused at those that sell, current chart toppers and genre leaders.

The response from Apple was to introduce a new three-tier pricing system for downloading tracks from its 10 million track iTunes online store. Downloads now cost either 59p, 79p or 99p per track with the majority of songs priced at a price of 79p. Apple’s tracks will now be DRM (Digital Rights Management)free and able to be played on any player not just Apple's iPod.New releases will now often be priced 99p.

Major labels said the price of a song should reflect how much buyers were willing to pay for it. That is wise of them and obvious to everyone else! By removing DRM protection from the downloads we see the death of the highly unpopular DRM-limited music.

The music legal download business is now moving into uncharted waters with the big two potentially squaring up on the only thing they can – pricing and the rest now wondering how the battle will unfold. What is certain is this is the beginning not the end of this price war and their biggest competitors don’t charge but operate different business models.

We often watch other media markets to learn lessons and with the debate still ongoing on ebook pricing,DRM being the normal ebook practice, the current High Street madness on book discounting, then perhaps music is worth watching today.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Wattpad Pulled From Blackberry App Store

How are sites such as Wattpad and Scribd to be controlled? Today they continue to work within DMCA and some would say hide behind the act. Anybody can literally upload anything and only when an objection from the copyright owner is received does it get taken down. By then its been read several hundred times and copied by many. Tomorrow it turns up under another name and the process starts all over again.

Today we hear from several sources that the Wattpad application has been withdrawn from the RIM service. According to Wireless and Mobile news, ‘the app was pulled by RIM while they are investigating the usage of the app. We are working with the App World team and hope to restore availability soon.’

Whatever the reasoning behind the decision we believe that Apple, RIM and others should look at the document and book sharing apps they are approving and could demand procative action. Publishers should remove all support for sites such as Scribd and Wattpad. That would be a start and would certainly wake the owners of the services up. Afterall they would want to loose those potential marketplaces.

If we cast our memory back to Napster and Kazza there was a recognition it was infringing copyrighted music but it was hard to control and even the introduction of legal downloads didn’t really work. Do we want books to go the same route? Unlike musicians authors can’t go back to merchandising and live performancesdeter. The time to act is now, not tomorrow or maybe wait in hope for legislation.

We respect that there are many legitimate uses of these sites and new writers may wish to promote or give away their content in hope of being seen or read but if we can find files in a matter of a few clicks what is the extent of the problem and what chance has anyone of policing it?

Monday, April 06, 2009

BBC take one step back and Two Forward

BBC has announced plans to simulcast on handsets at the same time as they are broadcast on traditional television. Live TV is under beta testing enables all handsets with a WiFi connection to view BBC channels which have been optimised to play on small screens and hear radio broadcasts but their owners will need to hols a full colour TV licence.

Some programmes with licence restriction will be unavailable but the service is planned to grow enabling it to be enjoyed not just on the Nokia N series and TMobile G1 but on an expanding number of handsets. The BBC already enables some mobile phone users to access its catch-up television service, BBC iPlayer, through their handsets, but this will be the first time it has streamed live broadcasts to phones at the same time as they are being shown on television.

Also the joint broadcasting TV venture between the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 that was hypocritically squashed by the competition regulator may be rescued by network operator Orange.

Project Kangaroo, the video-on-demand joint venture is being eyed up by Orange who see it as complimentary to their television over the internet serviceIn November, Orange, which runs a television over the internet service in France, said it was considering different options for a launch in Britain.

Shoolbags Still on Track to Get Lighter

We wrote earlier this year about the deployment of laptops into state schools in Kuala Terengganu, Malaysia. Some would think that is the end of the story and we never know whether they get deployed or not. This is the first programme of it kind in Malaysia.

We learnt today that year 5 pupils will have to wait until the end of next month but it is going ahead there are now just waiting for the delivery of the laptops from Shanghai. This is now scheduled for mid May. Under the programme, aimed exposing students to information and communications technology, 25,000 ebooks would be given to Year 5 pupils in the first stage will have lighter schoolbags.

Sky News on Book Piracy

Sky News coverage of Scribd piracy debate

http://tinyurl.com/dxktro

Sunday, April 05, 2009

One Vook Doesn't Make a Digital Library

The New York Times today asks, ‘Is this the future of the Digital Book.’ An interesting read, which talked about multi media content being the future of the digital book, digital experiments, new ventures, but unfortunately left us asking, ‘So what?’ The article mainly covered Bradley Inman’s Vook, or should that be Vook.tv. Before it even can digitally walk, Vook is proposed as the potential future for the beleaguered book industry. Vook consists today of Inman’s own thriller ‘The Right Way to Do Wrong’, packaged into a book with two dozen extra short video story extensions. Inman claims that the ebook threatens to strip traditional books of much of their ‘transportive appeal,’ but we found ourselves again asking, ‘So what?’

We have previously reported on creative writing experiments by leading multi media writers such as Kate Pullinger, but we all recognise that we are a long way from there being a ‘one size fits all’ new digital form. We know that the digital medium offers much more than the printed page, but those of us with memories, remember the CD Rom experiments of the nineties and the disasters that ensued as some ‘experimented’ with no market and lots of money. Today the digital book market shows clear shoots of growth, but they are mere shoots. There is still a long way to go before we let ourselves get seduced into believing we must redefine the content and future of the digital book.

We agree with the article when it comes to linking authors with their readers, that digital self publishing has much to offer, digital peer review and a viral slush pile are all going to make change and offer much scope for experimentation. The key is to engage on a meaningful and rewarding level that adds value to both parties. The content may change in the digital world but there is much more to do before we are hooked on Vook.tv.

eBook Pricing

A number of Amazon customers have started an informal boycott of digital books priced more than $9.99. It was Amazon who created the $9.99 price point that made sense to many, but not all Amazon ebook prices have stuck to the $9.99 point. Customers have now started a tag group, who are tagging all books on Amazon that are over the price point and looking for these to be boycotted.

It’s unclear if the informal movement is about ebook prices or Amazon’s price point breach and why they have picked on a retailer who is clearly trying to make a compelling offer and break the mould is even more puzzling.

Pricing of ebooks is at best questionable and is a complex issue and one the industry has to leave to individuals and market forces. Pricing the ebook on parity to the physical book may be logical to some but not always to consumers. It makes sense to authors who don’t want their royalties diluted. It makes sense to publishers who face uncertain digital revenue futures. However consumers see the same content in a different wrapper that doesn’t have the same level of user rights and have to buy the reading device. Some may argue therefore ebooks don’t have the same value.

As we reported last month, some publishers have adopted the policy of aligning the price to the current print copy. These may have a logical point with respect to a release strategy, but are potentially inviting a consumer backlash by changing the price overnight when the paperback is published. After all it will be the same content, the same format and even the same usage rights but the price will be less because it will now be competing with the paperback. Some argue the cost is currently high to fund the huge digital investments being made by publishers – an argument that in many markets doesn’t endear customer loyalty.

It’s disappointing that a time that the digital market appears to be gaining consumer, press and general market attention we have still to sort out the fundamental pricing strategy let alone create the volume of digital content itself. Some would suggest that the boycott should not be aimed at the resellers, who are not in full control of the price only their margin, but at the publishers who set the prices and terms.

The Great Book Bank Robbery - The Final Month

Back in October, when we first wrote about what we called the Great Book Bank Robbery, we clearly saw Orphan Works as a major issue in the Google Book Settlement. It appeared to be a overly complex and ill conceived give away of copyright by bodies who did even represent the majority of the titles in question. We have long defended out of print but copyright material – 'orphans'. We aim to continue to do so even in the face of those bigger than us who just want what they see as ‘free and available’ or others see as public. The monopoly position granted Google by the back door may still happen, but now one month from objection closure, some are starting to stand up against it.

This weekend the New York Times published an article on the Google Book Settlement, 'Google’s Plan for Out-of-Print Books Is Challenges’. The article covers all sides, but now recognises a, ‘growing chorus is complaining that a far-reaching settlement of a suit brought against Google by publishers and authors is about to grant the company too much power over orphan works.’

Some may say that the scanning programme undertaken by Google was illegal and they are now potentially being rewarded, others that they are too big to fight, others such as their lawyer Alexander Macgillivray, that the agreement, ‘expands access to many of these hard-to-find books in a way that is great for Google, great for authors, great for publishers and great for readers.” He admitted it was the ‘great for Google’ but we all know that already.

In the words of Richard Sarnoff, former chairman of the Association of American Publishers and co-chairman of the American unit of Bertelsmann, the parent company of Random House, “What we were establishing was a renewed access to a huge corpus of material that was essentially lost in the bowels of a few great libraries.” The fact that it didn’t belong to him or his friends, appears immaterial. The fact that they could not be represented in this give away, obviously was immaterial. The fact that none of those effectively changing the law through the back door, were elected, was immaterial. The fact that neither the authors nor the publishers, represented the great libraries, was immaterial.

The Google Book Settlement remains a bad deal. Some say it was born out of the need to settle a case action suit that was only making lawyers rich, others that they picked on the one piece of common ground neither party owned and built a whole settlement around it. We hope the settlement gets stopped, that the industry draws breath and takes one step back and that it doesn't rush forward in response trying to fix a settlement with other half shot solutions.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Scribd Trips Out of Litopia

Litopia After Dark started as usual last night and had a special guest – Trip Adler, CEO of Scribd. Having identified and highlighted the issue of copyright infringement in the UK media, Peter Cox had invited Adler to come on the show and discuss the issue of digital piracy on his site. Adler who had agreed, didn’t show and his direct line went straight to his answering machine and record.

Did he get the time wrong? Was he called to an urgent meeting? Did he feel that there was little to answer and little point to the exercise? We will not know what his motives were only the sound of his answering machine.

Whether we like it or not, we all have to face our critics, but more importantly some would say that we must face them when we are found to be in a questionable position. Whatever the rights or wrongs, Scribd had been found displaying copyrighted materials, which could be copied and further infringed. Scribd had an opportunity to support and been seen to support copyright protection.

Book publishing is at a digital turning point where the door of opportunity is opening, but it is also opening the door of infringement. We have seen the damage done by the pirates to other media sectors and should be taking steps to minimise the risk to book publishing. Is the threat new – no. Can we stop books being scanned – no. Can we stop infringement – no, but we can make it difficult.

So we need to ensure digital copies of books are not pirated. We will never stop the hardened copier be they malicious or professional and stopping ordinary consumers has posed a challenge to other media sectors. In these days when it costs relatively small amounts to scan and digitise books its not the digital renditions that are the threat but the physical ones. Watermarking physical copies may help but we would suggest it is inappropriate and ineffective – if they want to scan it they will.

Some would suggest that publishers such as Random House and Simon and Schuster should reconsider their new arrangements with Scribd and others until such time that they have taken proactive actions to clean up their site?

Today we operate a take down notice approach covered by laws such as the DMCA. Yes it works and often the offending material is taken down promptly, but it may be only one manifestation or instance and more importantly, its reactive not proactive. Once the cat is out the bag for a minute its likely to have many digital kittens.

We believe that unlike physical copies of books it is impossible under copyright to resell a digital rendition or make a copy of it to share with others. Obviously public domain works have different issues. So if that is correct, or we would suggest half correct, why not establish a seller licence or approved seller policy. Scribd, eBay, Wattpad whoever can block all digital renditions of books being sold, posted, linked, uploaded unless from an authorised licensed body. In a digital world this is not difficult to achieve if the will is there. Ok there will be ways around it and it may cost money, but its better than expecting thousands of copyright owners to check thousands of sites everyday and issue potentially hundreds or thousands of take down notices after the cat is out of the bag.