Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Pirate Bay Sold

Earlier this year the founders of The Pirate Bay were sentenced to one year in jail and a fine of $3.6 million for running the site. Now Swedish software firm Global Gaming Factory X has announced the acquisition of The Pirate Bay for 60 million Swedish crowns and also an agreement to acquire the shares in Peerialism , a software technology company that develops solutions for data distribution and distributed storage based on new p2p technology.

Global Gaming Factory X has stated that The Pirate Bay requires a new business model, which “satisfies the requirements and needs of all parties, content providers, broadband operators, end users, and the judiciary.” They intend to introduce models which entail that content providers and copyright owners get paid for content that is downloaded via the site.

The Pirate Bay has issued a statement claiming that it is being sold for less than its value but that the basis of the service will remain. It a bit like when Napster was bought out and the question now is whether The Pirate Bay will remain a force but under new rules or that like others before them the new rules dilute the service and turn off its followers.

Wattpad Goes Android

Love them or hate them the self publishing online services are here. Some may say that the likes of Scribd and Wattpad often hide behind their DMCA (digital Millennium Copyright Act)safe harbour sanctuaries and act irresponsibly towards vetting content, others that the service they offer is long overdue and its up to copyright owners to police infringement not the service provider. Its an argument that isn’t going away and is at the heart of much infringement debate – do take down notices work or are they trying to bolt the stable doors after the horse has bolted?

Today Wattpad announced the availability of its popular mobile application on Google’s Android Market. This will now comptiment its iphone and Blackberry and Nokia Ovi applications and means that they have the major mobile smartphones covered. Wattpad claim to generate more than 2.5M visits, 20M pageviews per month from its website and mobile site and over 3 million downloads.

Scribd and Wattpad could clearly be very positive forces into the future and offer both writers and publishers new opportunities. The question is whether the content can be controlled proactively and they can become a trusted player, or whether they stay on the fringe offering so much but never quite trusted by all.

Barnes & Noble Launch Iphone Bookstore

Barnes & Noble have announced the launch of its iPhone and iPod touch app. , promising users access to millions of titles. The Bookstore app enables users to access millions of titles, click on a jacket and within seconds they receive product details, editorial reviews, and customer ratings. Consumers may find and reserve a copy at the nearest B&N retail location, or make purchases via their BN.com account. The Bookstore also offers details on upcoming Barnes & Noble events, directions to their 777 bookstores in 50 states, bookseller recommendations, video clips and author interviews.

Earlier this year B&N acquired digital ebook retailer Fictionwise for $15.7 million and announced that they were is collaborating with Sprint and an unidentified manufacturer to develop an ebook device to rival Amazon.com's Kindle.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Carpe Diem

It’s the aspiration of the vast majority of the population to write a book. So has digitisation made it easier or even harder to get published today and what are the dependencies, relationships and rewards in this dynamically changing environment?

The publishing trade is shifting from one where publishers looked to cultivate long-term relationships with authors and develop their stable, to one where the greater emphasis is now to sell books. Some would suggest that it’s not a bad thing to focus on moving books rather than merely printing them. However, does that change the relationship and with it the contract between creator and producer?

Some see digitisation as just a change in output format whilst others recognise it challenges the traditional relationships. In a world where print on demand can effectively remove the term ‘out of print’ , we now have to understand rights reversals, term contracts, the line between promotional material and content itself and much more.

The changing marketplace is being driven by global economics, network connectivity and technology. Territorial boundaries that existed in the physical world are now questioned in the virtual world. Roles that controlled the physical world are being challenged by networks and what once was a unique, or highly skilled operation is becoming commodity available to all. Define an; agent, publisher, distributor, wholesaler, reseller, library and digital aggregator, then ask what the following are; Amazon, Google, Ingram, Barnes and Noble, Apple, Sony, FPD, Lulu, Scribd? Are we seeing the divergence of the market into more highly focused vertical segments or richer flatter horizontal ones? Which is better, volume through a supermarket, book club and internet sales or the traditional trade channel? Is publishing becoming more a ‘department store’, or niche and boutique? Are ‘special sales’ becoming a little less ‘special’ and what is the impact of all the above on the author?

So where does the aspiring author pitch their manuscript? Do they go the traditional route and hunt the agent? Do they put their manuscript up on the many social slush piles and hope to get spotted? Do they self publish and pay to achieve their ambitions? Digitisation certainly helps in both the availability of options and the lowering of the economics, but is it enough? The fact is that the number of titles ‘published’ by whatever means and in whatever format is going to continue to grow. The number of ‘best sellers’ are going to reduce and the traditional bookshelves will get smaller. The digital world enables consumers to be more discerning, eclectic and virtual and it also increases the potential for more consumers to read what they would never find today.

The biggest challenge is not digitisation, but its impact. We may focus on the consumer, the latest devices, even the price of books, but unless we pay equal attention to the authors of yesterday, today and tomorrow, we may find as with other media sectors, it is they that hold the keys to many digital doors. What is the appropriate royalty expectation on digital sales? In a world where pricing is ill-defined, should royalties be based on list price or net sales? When digital removes ‘out of print’ should contracts be term based? Musicians, sportsmen, entertainers have all started to take control; is this now possible in the world of the book?

The one thing that is certain about tomorrow is that the aspiration to write will not go away and irrespective of how it is achieved, neither will the reward sought for doing it.

Universal Mobile Charger

Life could soon be easier for millions of mobile phone users across Europe.
Having left mobile chargers in hotel and meeting rooms the news that agreement has been finally agreed between the mobile industry and the European Commission to create a standard phone is welcome. Obviously they may not be effective until you have the handset to take it but once achieved the deal also offers 50% energy savings to the 400 million users across the EU.

The deal isn't legally binding and will use a micro-USB connection. Under it the companies, which represent 90% of the European mobile and include LG, Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Apple, Motorola, Research in Motion and Samsung, are committed to developing the charger next year.

EU Industry Commissioner Guenter Verheugen says he also wants to see the common charger expand in the years ahead to cover other phones, existing phones, cameras and laptops.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

It Would Be Funny If It Didn't Spend Public Funds

It appears the phrase ‘Double Dutch’ is back, as we read that Amsterdam is one of 20 cities participating in a pilot aimed at replacing all paper documents with electronic ones. Does this mean that they will be issued with netbooks, iPhones or laptop tablets? No, Binnenlands Bestuur reports, that council members are already being issued with an e-reader, and that after the 2010 election, all council members in the participating municipalities will get one.

We know the strong ties that Holland has to eInk, but at a reported cost of around 700 euro this hardly looks a smart move. The readers will obviously be grey, have no wifi and still need to be attached to a PC to move documents and have limited capability compared with a host of cheaper options. So we can safely say a complete waste of their taxpayers’ money and obviously driven by a misguided bureaucrat who didn’t realise the restrictions of these devices or doesn't understand the word hype.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Adult Only iPhone Apps

Apple previously rejected an iPhone app ‘the Kama Sutra’ and also has denied South Park and Nine Inch Nails apps for explicit language. Many questioned the logic, but its strict guidelines and approval process are generally accepted and admired. However, this may be changing now with the introduction of age-verification with their new 3.0 software. When a user attempts to download age restricted app, an alert pops up asking if the user is over 17 and parents now will also have the ability to limit what type of apps their children can download if they share an iTunes account. The age-verification process may now be shifting the responsibility to the end user and avoiding Apple having to determine what is objectionable content and also speed up the app approval process.

In what appears to be a shift from its previous guidelines, Apple has approved the first App Store program with nudity. ‘Hottest Girls’ and its sister app Sexybytes come under the genre ‘lifesytle’ and are available for £0.59.They appear to be rather tame compared to what is available at a click all over the Internet and show pictures of scantily clad women, with some of the models being topless. They demonstrate once more that the sex industry is always at the front and although tame in this case, are knocking at the door. They could also signal a new adult only app boom.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

AAP Musters Its Support


Dear Industry Colleague:

In the countdown to the October 7 court hearing on the Google Book Settlement we are encountering heated rhetoric from opponents, much of it hyperbolic and misleading. My job at AAP’s helm is not only to shepherd our membership through the coming months but to remind the industry at large that the Settlement offers enormous benefits and represents our best hope of remaining competitive and vibrant in the digital environment.

Millions of copyright-protected books are out of print and largely out of reach, available only through the largest research libraries in the country. The Google Book Settlement announced in October 2008 – the result of 30 months of negotiations between and among authors, publishers, university libraries and Google -- changes all that, working a revolution in the access to knowledge. If approved by the court, the settlement will:

• Provide readers and researchers with access to millions of out-of-print books, many of which are currently difficult or impossible for readers to obtain, in a searchable online database.

• Turn every public library building in the U.S. into a world-class research facility by providing free access to the online portal of out-of-print books.

• Permit any college or university in the U.S. to subscribe to the same rich database of out-of-print books.

• Give new commercial life to millions of books, while protecting the economic rights of authors and publishers.

If not approved by the court, the litigation between AAP, the Authors Guild and Google may continue for years, and with a great risk that authors and publishers will have no effective means to stop the widespread use of copyrighted material that is likely to follow.

In recent days some strong arguments in favor of the Settlement have appeared in print. They are all the more impressive because they come not from AAP, Google, or the Authors Guild, but from individuals who are not party to the Settlement.

One is a letter to the Financial Times from David Balto a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress and former Policy Director of the Federal Trade Commission. It can be found at:

Booklovers should cheer Google’s plan

The second is a remarkably lucid piece by financial columnist (The Big Money) Mark Gimein. It can be found at:

In Defense of Google Books

The last is a statement by Paul N. Courant, Dean of Libraries at the University of Michigan. It can be found at:

Google Agreement will extend U-M libraries’ accessibility

For a better understanding of what’s at stake, I urge you to read these.

With best regards,

Tom Allen

Digitisation Is All About The Money

Some 10 years ago an 18-year-old Shawn Fanning released his Napster file-sharing program on the internet and started to destabilise the business models that had supported media over the best part of the last century - a digital revolution that continues today. Fanning turned the computer into a media and entertainment player and created ‘free’. At its peak in February 2001, more than 60 million people worldwide used Napster and in that month downloaded 2.79 billion songs.Putting the cat back in the bag was going to be hard.

Speaking at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival, Steve Ballmer, CEO Microsoft, warned that all media companies should not plan for revenues to bounce back to pre-recession levels, that traditional media business would continue to see their share of the advertising revenue move to digital. He stated that newspaper publishers have failed to generate new revenues from the digital opportunity and predicted that within 10 years all traditional content will be digital and online. He claimed that the old approach of simply trying to replicate a print newspaper online is doomed to fail. He failed to say where the money was.

Earlier this year, US Congress made permanent a requirement that all research funded by the National Institutes of Health be openly accessible, and others are following. Academic and scientific publishing is being challenged by online, free and searchable open access. Newspapers face meltdown as they attempt a digital transition and find that their ad revenues have left the room without them. Music is moving from the album and track to live and the musicians are taking back control. Music prices are in ‘free’ fall.

The challenge we face is not digitisation, but the business model or models to support digital media, be it books, films, music, TV, games, podcasts, whatever. We now have to also ask whether we are focusing on the right part of the value chain, or merely trying to prop up the traditional one? Yesterday, all creators, artists, authors were ‘lost’ and needed a publisher or intermediary to shape them and present them to the channel. Publishers understood the packaging and production of the media and also had the relationships to maximise its exposure to the market and its distribution through trusted channels. The consumer, creator and the reseller, all required the intermediary. However , does that translate to the digital world? Will all today’s players make it to the Brave New World, or just as with previous major changes,will some become victims of the change in business models and value?

Who do you think has a place in the future; the author, the agent, the publisher, the wholesaler/distributor, the reseller, the library, or a different player? More importantly, where’s the money and who gets it?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Twitter Sees Stella Growth

Twitter has gone from the 969th most visited UK website to the 38th, the 5th most-visited social network and Traffic to the site grew by more than 2200% from May 2008 to May 2009, according to web analysts at Hitwise. The stats even exclude people accessing their Twitter accounts via mobile phones and third party applications such as Twitterific, Twitterfeed and Tweetdeck.

Twitter has been the fastest growing major website in the UK over the last 12 months and given its high public profile certainly is one of the most talked about today.

Interestingly it is failing to drive sales and against Google’s 30% and Facebooks 15%, Twitter only gets 9.5% of its traffic clicking through to transactional websites. However, Dell, claims to have generated $3m in sales via Twitter, but appears to be the exception rather than the rule today.

Like others before them they now have to find the money and hold onto the eyeballs but they have already provided that YouTube news moment in getting news out of Iran and disciplining all to those all to few characters.

Intel, Nokia and Flash10

When it comes to partnerships we see two or more players getting together that can change the market or at least make it sit up and take notice.

We have the world's largest chip maker Intel teaming up with the world's largest mobile phone maker Nokia. This "technology collaboration" could deliver mobile computing products even beyond the existing smartphones, netbooks and notebooks. However, all they are saying today is collaboration.

But both companies added it was still too early to talk about product plans.
The deal gives Intel its first real breakthrough in the multi-billion dollar mobile-phone market.
The partnership will centre around several open-source mobile Linux software projects and Intel will acquire a licence from Nokia that is used in modem chips.

Intel's microprocessors are found in eight out of 10 personal computers, while Nokia boasts around a billion mobile customers. This partnership obviously pitches Atom chips against ARM chips and accelerate the adoption of smartphones in the world from its current 10% of market share to the majority of the market.

Far more exciting is the news that Adobe Flash10 is coming to the mobile world for most mobile operating systems later this year, including Google Android, Microsoft Windows Mobile, Nokia Symbian and Palm WebOS. However, no mention of Apple’s iPhone.
Developers will be able to get their hands on a beta version of Flash Player 10 mobile later this year.

Why is Flash10 such a big deal? Flash Player 10 will enable smartphones to offer a richer Internet browsing experience, support videos embedded on some websites and importantly enable web based applications and breaking the reliance on app stores and control.

Flash8 or Flash Lite has been available on mobile platforms but the new Flash Player 10 will bring an improved graphical and audio performance, across more mobile operating systems.

The big question is Apple who face so many challengers on so many fronts but continue to go a lone path. This could serious help the real contenders such as Android and Palm's WebOS.

Ring Mummy and Daddy

Would you want to give a four year old a mobile phone? More than half of children in the UK aged between five and nine now own a mobile phone.

A mobile phone targeted at children is to be launched in the UK from Firefly. The glowPhone has only five buttons, one is a direct line to the child's mother, another to their father, another accesses a phonebook that can hold 20 numbers - all individually entered by the parents. The phone can also be set up to block any incoming calls from unrecognised numbers.

No internet, camera, or SMS just a simple phone.

Will it be allowed into the UK? The glowPhone, is already on sale in the US and Ireland, is expected to cost £85 without a SIM when it is released in the UK. Over 7,000 of the phones have already been sold by O2 in Ireland, where it is available on the O2 network.

We don’t think that publishers will be able to target this market but we bet the calls could soon mount up especially to the parents when they are out of site!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Plastic Logic Demo

If you want to look at the Plastic Logic from Wall Street Journal 'Plastic Logic: The Full D7 Demo'

Looking at the demo it looks still like a prototype. It sounds like a technology looking to solve a problem and one that was announced very early, no pricing, still crude and clearly shows they have some way to go yet.

Children Always Have To Ask 'Why?'

My daughter wanted to buy her mother something special for her retirement. Her mum lives and works in education in Kala Lumpar and spends half her year there and the other in Toronto. She reads a lot and travels a lot.

I was next asked,’ Why does the Kindle only work in the US?’ I explained although I somehow found myself repeating the question.

‘What other reader would you suggest?’ Again I gave a long list and explained what little differences there were and found myself wondering how you would honestly choose.

‘Can she buy books and download them anywhere?’ Why do they need to be downloaded to a PC first my Apple doesn’t?’, ‘If I buy a download will it play on any device?’, ‘Can I share books with my mum?’, ‘Are the books cheaper?’,’Are all the books in shops available digitally?’, ‘ DRM?’, ‘Why is it only greyscale?’, ‘isn’t a bit silly carrying hundreds of books around with you all the time?’

You may think my daughter is young , she isn’t. You may think she is a bit dumb, she isn’t and holds down a major job with a major global blue chip broadcaster. You may think she isn’t technically savvy, she has a Blackberry, netbook (work) and iPhone and laptop (private) and often teaches me stuff. It wasn’t till I was put on the spot and had to answer hard question I realised how difficult we make digitisation for consumers.

The answer was an iPhone but I was then told she likes handle books not gadgets.

Are All Pirates Treated Equally?

The piracy battles rage on with on one hand the content owners resolute to take on the fight through every and any means and on the other the pirates who play by different rules and vales. Some may think it’s a battle of morals between right and wrong but the reality is that both sides do not agree even on the definitions and therefore are fighting over principles that they will never agree on. Media companies are struggling to persuade consumers to pay for video, music or news online and many consumers believe content on the Web is free.

“The history of file-sharing is that every time the industry takes action, by the time it tackles a bigger source of the problem, the problem has moved elsewhere,” said Mark Mulligan, analyst at Forrester Research.

A recent study has found that 8 %of consumers have admittedly watched an illegally downloaded video file. The study, conducted by research firm Futuresource Consulting, surveyed consumers in the US, UK, France and Germany. The survey also found that 90 percent of those who watched video content online had never paid to watch news or recently-missed TV shows. Just over half had never paid to watch new movies. But most said they would or might be willing to pay in future.

Last week Jammie Thomas-Rasset was found guilty and received what many see as an obscene fine totally out of proportion to the crime. Was she guilty – Yes. Should she be fined – Yes. However the fine itself has just made life more difficult for all as its hardened one side and introduced an element of bad press for the winners. Where The Pirate Bay guilty – as Napster, Kasaa and others before. The the RIAA (Recording Industry Assn. of America) has failed to cut into the volume of copyrighted material on peer-to-peer networks, what has started to shift the balance has been broader licensing. Often people still turned to piracy because they couldn’t find what they were seeking on authorized channels.

In last week’s Digital Britain white paper the government set out its ambition to reduce online piracy by 70 per cent. Its plans included requiring internet service providers to write warning letters to customers spotted illegally downloading music, TV shows and movies, while persistent “offenders” could be pursued in the courts.

If, after a year, fewer than 70% of those receiving warnings ceased downloading, Ofcom could impose measures such as barring specific sites, filtering illegally acquired content or limiting the speed and capacity of broadband connections.

So on one hand we have everyone trying to control. Restrict and grapple with copyright infringement but is this message a consistent one?

Google scanned significant copyright material in the guise of fair use. The case was never proven because it was railroaded to produce a settlement that only lawyers can comprehend. It is also viewed by many as rewarding those who infringed. What message does that send out to the market?

What we face is a law and governance that flies with the wind or some may say the dollar. What is right to prosecute those who as individuals can make little impact on the numbers, prosecute the carriers who give them a portal, prosecute the services that are happy to work within DMCA and a safe harbour or those who scan first, claim it is for humanity and then say they are going to be a bookseller and sell the stuff they effectively took?

Crazy world and clearly one where some are more equal than others.

iPhone News

We note that over one million iPhone 3GS units were sold in just its first three days and take a quick look at iPhone world..

Three Book App Moments
OUP has made 11 of its reference dictionaries available for the first time on the iPhone and iTouch Apps at £8.99 each. They are searchable, have unlimited bookmarking and you can email the definitions to friends.

The available titles are: Oxford Dictionary of Accounting; Oxford Dictionary of Biology; Oxford Dictionary of Business & Management; Oxford Dictionary of Chemistry; Oxford Dictionary of Computing; Oxford Dictionary of Finance & Banking; Oxford Dictionary of Law; Oxford Concise Medical Dictionary; Oxford Dictionary of Music; Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy; Oxford Dictionary of Politics.

In another launch IDW Publishing is a new line of digital comic apps allowing fans to download comics directly to their iPhone or iPod Touch. The 12 new movie-related digital comics are a must-read for all TRANSFORMERS fan, setting the stage for the upcoming TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN film. The iPhone comics are supported with a custom landing page on the iTunes store and feature panel-by-panel viewing, easy to use controls, such as “swipe” navigation, and a convenient table of contents function. These come on the back the 40 digital comics, such as Star Trek: Countdown that IDW have already created.

After reference and comics we also note that The Audiobooks app has captured the number one Apple's free App spot for the books category. The app introduces a catalogue of 1,800 free audiobooks to iPhone and iPod Touch users and potentially offering a audiobook long overdue moment.

The catalogue of nearly 10,000 hours of listening is to be applauded as it uses recordings from the LibriVox Project, which is a collection of volunteer-read audio books from the public domain.

Market News
Meanwhile anyone who doubted that Apple had created the winner of the smartphone pack need to look no further than the news that a survey, by market research firm Crowd Science, found that 40% smartphone users who don't have an iPhone want one next time round and 80% upgrade to the next Apple device next time. Interestingly only 14% of non-BlackBerry users would switch to a BlackBerry device for their next mobile phone. According to Gartner Apple has doubled its share of the worldwide smartphone market in the first quarter to 10.8% from 5.3% a year ago. Another interest note from the Crowd Science study was that 71% of smartphone subscribers use them for both personal and business purposes, with only 3% using them just for business.

The Downside
One downside appears the news that all the exclusive carriers appear to wantto charge for tethering, or being able to use the iPhone as a mobile modem for the laptop. Some say its hard or almost impossible for them to detect and others point users to simple way to break it via benm.at. Tethering is an obvious benefit to mobile people and was made available as part of OS 3.0 so it seems harsh that the carriers are using to raise revenues and create a barrier to buy when it would be a major plus if it was free within the unlimited Internet access plans.

The other downside appears to be the news that the Interim Federal Communications Commission chair Michael Copps is calling for an examination of exclusive handset deals to establish if they are restricting innovation. US Senator Kerry wrote to the FCC suggesting that such deals risk giving too much power to dominant networks, with particular reference to the iPhone and AT&T.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Tecnology In Schools Isn't About Digitising Textbooks

In ‘A Day In The Life’ The Beatles sung about the news story of 4,000 holes in Blackburn, Lancashire, but The Telegrapgh gave us a different sort of news story from there today.

The Redeemer Church of England Primary School has been voted top ICT (information and communications technology) primary school in the country with the judges remarking that ICT had been "totally embedded" in all aspects of the school experience, there was "exceptional practice" at foundation stage, and pupil assessment was "exemplary, not least through self-assessments".

Four of the school's brightest 10-year-olds have won a nationwide computer-engineering competition, which required them to programme a Lego vehicle to perform precise manoeuvres against the clock. Educationalists from all over the world now stop off in Blackburn to see what's been achieved at The Redeemer, and with what equipment. Most significantly, the school has been declared a regional training centre by computer giant Apple, whose products proliferate throughout the classrooms.

In 2005, Ofsted rated the school among the bottom 10 % in the country; now it's in the top 10 %. The school is only five years old and has spent as little as £40,000 in making its transformation.

So what is different and how did this school transform itself?

They not only have embraced technology but have built it into the learning experience. instead of geography and history, pupils study "knowledge and understanding of the world" and instead of art and crafts, they do "creative development".

Head teacher Alison Ashworth-Taylor says, "While teaching children to operate within the present pen-and-paper examination system, we are at the same time training them for a future in which technology is going to play an ever bigger part. Quite what form that will take, no one knows. But at least our children will be ready for it."

Not every school has the knowledge or the talent to be a Redeemer, but it’s refreshing that they are not merely replacing textbooks with screens but using technology to enhance and engage the children in learning.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Thomas-Rasset Gets Huge Fine

In the only file-sharing case to go to trial in the US, a jury in Minnesota has found Jammie Thomas-Rasset, guilty and ordered to her topay $1.9 million (£1.2m). Her first trial ended without a verdict.

A spokeswoman for the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) said the companies are willing to settle out of court for a much smaller amount. Most people targeted by the RIAA had settled for around £1,500 each. The massive damage award, which increased from $9,250 per song in the first trial to $80,000, might sounds could actually work against the RIAA and further entrench those who support file sharing.

With Thomas-Rasset and the defense team talking hard about continuing the fight and with such a huge fine it looks certain that the battle was won by the RIAA but that the war is far from over.

Companies including Sony, BMI, Universal and Warner Music say they are now concentrating on working with internet service providers to crack down on the worst offenders of file-sharing.

Thursday, June 18, 2009


Publishers build social networks sites around, students, authors, genre, and of course teenagers. Some like Tor.com are trying to create a vertical community, in its case for Sci-Fi lovers, others such as the new ‘Pulse It’ from Simon and Schuster, just go for them young.

Do they work? Well if they didn’t they would be building them would they? When you start with a base near zero then all sales look good. It is not difficult to see why Simon and Schuster shouldn’t get traction as they are; giving away one book a month to be read online for free, points for reviews and site actions, and users can win free books and other prizes. The trick is often not starting a social community but still being there and getting that ‘stickyness’ to keep them coming back. Obviously publishers also have to be able to compete with the others. The everyone needs to respond to change and get that most important thing the user gives - time. We wish them well, but wonder if it were better inside a larger social site rather than competing with other publishers and social sites.

We looked a Tor.com and were impressed that they have taken an inclusive and not exclusive position, inviting other publishers to sell and promote their own titles alongside theirs. This is a brave move indeed for a publisher and one we have long advocated and support. Is it any different to sites like Baen,com? Well that a personal call but we believe it lacks that Baen roughness and clear Sci – Fi design. However, the designer tee shirts and mugs and blogs are all interesting.

However, why did HarperCollins put the Simpsons Mini Calendar and Simpsons Work Calendar 2010 on the Tor.com site – obviously not quite science fiction to most of us, or perhaps they knew something we don’t. After all Homer does work at the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant!

MSN To Get Off Their Soapbox?

Microsoft launched the Soapbox video user streaming brand in September 2006, days later Google purchased YouTube. Did you know that through Soapbox MSN Video has 35 million unique users, who watch 250 million video streams each month. No – well perhaps why it was reported today in The Register that Microsoft plans to "significantly scale back" its Soapbox service.

If you are still curious as to what Soapbox gives you today then watch this Cnet video.

Speaking with Cnet, Microsoft vice president Erik Jorgensen said that Soapbox's YouTube-like user-generated video setup is just too expensive considering the state of the economy. But he didn't exactly say how Microsoft plans to cut the service's costs.

Quote On The Great Book Bank Robbery

"That settlement needs to be revisited, and is being revisited....It doesn't seem right that you can get a prize for violating a large set of copyrights."

Jeff Bezos on being asked about the Google Book Settlement in an interview by Steve Levy, Wired Disruptive by Design Event in New York, June 2009.

Publishing News in The 19th Century

The rich and interesting 19th century of British history can be now read online via the newspapers of the day. Some 49 national and local newspapers have digitised by the British Library with funding by the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) and technology from Cengage Gale.

Over 2 million pages, from newspapers such as; The Birmingham Daily Post, The Aberdeen Journal, The Daily News, The Examiner, The Northern Echo and many more. They cover the rich tapestry of events such as; The Napoleonic Wars, The Great Exhibition of 1851, The Whitechapel Murders, Urban Growth and Social Reform, the Crimean War, the abolition of slavery, the rise of the British Empire and much more. In 1800 around 40% of males and 60% of females in England and Wales were illiterate, in contrast by 1900 illiteracy for both sexes had dropped to around 3%. This was the age of mass education, reading and the papers fed the new skill.

On 5 January 1900 the Manchester Weekly Times advertised itself: 'All who enjoy breezy, healthy fiction should make a point of reading these deeply-interesting and up-to-date serials.' Serious news was central to the role of the press, but also the wit, gossip, and articles on entertainment and lifestyle were essential to their popular adoption, appeal and commercial success.

Access to everything bar The Graphic and The Penny Illustrated Paper cost £6.99 for a 24-hour pass with up to 100 downloads or £9.99 for a seven-day pass with up to 200. This contrasts with individual titles who have digitised their own back catalogues such as The Times, The Guardian and The Economist and cost in the case of the Economist Historical Archive, some £1,500 a year.

Is the service is purely one of archive, for the researchers that will use it or a public sevice to be enjoyed by all? It would be great if this wealth of public work were opened up free for all to delve into enjoy as a national treasure. Constructed as is we feel it will feed researchers who have specific topics to investigate, but will not encourage the public to merely dip in and enjoy.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

US University Presses Face Tough Calls

US University Presses face difficult times with declining readership and tax revenue budgets forcing public and school libraries to buy fewer copies of university press publications.

Utah, Washington, Yale, New York have all claimed difficulties and cuts. Now they are joined by Louisiana State University Press where officials are considering cuts or even closure as they face state budget cuts of $40 million at the Baton Rouge campus alone. Chancellor Michael Martin claims that they allocated $500,000 of university money to the press in the last fiscal year, but that they spent $1.4 million!

If they digitise their program and its archive it will cost money. If they don’t digitise they face a growing market, which is cannibalising their sales and where they don’t compete. Should university presses be forming publishing consortiums which may offer economies of both scale and scope? Should they just cut back and if so what is the appropriate level to support them? Should they look for grants or sponsorships to publishing books in specific fields of research?

Whatever the answer, university press operations are no longer a given. LSU may believe that their value to the university is in its four Pulitzer-winning works, 240 other awards and in the 75 to 85 new titles it publishes each year. However, others may question any organisation that exceeds budget by 180%.

Spainish Pirates Ahoy

Pablo Soto launched Blubster in 2001 and it grew from its humble Spainish routes to be one of the world's most popular peer-to-peer Internet file-sharing programs of recent years. Within days of its launch nearly 1 million people worldwide had downloaded it. Although Soto collects advertising revenues he still operates out of his grandmothers apartment and lives in a rented flat.

Now Soto finds himself in the latest major piracy battle against the music industry. Promusicae, the Spanish record label association that includes Sony, Universal, Warner and EMI, is suing Soto for 13 million euros. Promusicae hope the case will mirror court rulings against operations such as The Pirate Bay and also force Spain to draw up new legislation and enforce it.

According to the U.S. copyright industry group International Intellectual Property Alliance, some 2 billion music tracks were illegally downloaded in Spain in 2008, compared to 2.2 million purchased legally. This represented a loss of $1.6 billion in revenue in 2007 and 2008.

Soto, 29 claims that Blubster is a fully legal Internet tool and that he is not responsible for what people do with it. He claims legitimate uses include downloading historic speeches, uncopyrighted music and public domain intellectual property such as music and books. Soto argued that if he is guilty, so too are companies such as Google and Spanish telecoms giant Telefonica that permit the process. Downloading copyrighted material is illegal in Spain but is not a criminal offense, and courts rule it an infringement if used for commercial profit.

Social Space

Social networks can be like fashion they come and they go. How many social networks can one belong to?

We have seen Friends Reunited, BeBo, LinkedIn and many more come stutter and wane. Now it’s the turn of that one time leader of the pack MySpace to experience downturn. It no longer is in the prime slot which is now held by Facebook. It has announced it will cut staff by 30% to better compete.

So is cost cutting going to change the service, alter the consumer and market perception or is it just damage limitation?

They may appear more attractive to purchase now and get bought. They may reinvent themselves, or remain in downspin and become just another site with the hundreds of what2bes. Social sites come and go as fashion, people put enormous amounts of effort to climb there slipper poles and socialise but when crowds move they often leave empty spaces behind.

News Magazines

As news magazines such as Time and Newsweek struggle this is an interesting interview with Michael Hirschorn by The Atlantic. It discusses how The Economist in a global world has succeeded where others have struggled with a parochial world and offers some interesting thoughts.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Textbook Viewpoints

On one hand we have Seth Godin’s view on textbooks.

‘They are; expensive, don't take you from a place of ignorance to a place of insight, are out of date and don't match the course,are far from engaging or inspirational and are incredibly impractical.’

‘Professors should be spending their time devising pages or chapterettes or even entire chapters on topics that matter to them, then publishing them for free online... Any professor of intro marketing who is assigning a basic old-school textbook is guilty of theft or laziness.’

‘This industry deserves to die. It has extracted too much time and too much money and wasted too much potential. We can do better. A lot better’.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has launched a program widely reported and that is intended to get public schools to use fewer textbooks and more online learning materials. However are his motives on the same lines as Godin’s? Maybe Arnie is trying to turn the planet green and sees the paper and process of textbooks wasteful? Maybe its all down to money and voters?

The aim is to get the state's 6 million public school students to use more online learning materials and saving millions of dollars a year in textbooks. The question is how much will the program cost and will the savings be greater than the cost. It’s interesting to note, that in the state that spawned Google, Apple and Facebook, the biggest beneficiaries may be the Silicon Valley companies that drive much of the state and will have to provide the infrastructure.

"We expect the first science and math books to be digital by this fall," Schwarzenegger said. "If we expand this to more textbooks, schools could save hundreds of millions of dollars a year, and that's hundreds of millions of dollars that could be used to hire more teachers and to reduce class sizes."

Will Schwarzenegger's proposal merely increase disparities between students in poor schools and those in middle-class or wealthier districts or provide a level playing field for all?

Schwarzenegger has already billions of dollars from school budgets over the past two years and has proposed another $5.3 billion in education cuts next year cutting the textbooks and instructional materials from $419 million to $350 million last year.

One factor that could undermine the initiative is the extent of technology in California classrooms. Education Week gave the state a D-minus this year for having on average, just one computer for every four children. The online material is likely to be supplemental to the textbooks and will result initially in California still buying traditional books.

California's plans to drop traditional textbooks in favour of online material will no doubt get many plaudits but will it succeed in improving education, the budget or merely keep the Valley folk happy?

Samsung Jets In But Is IT Enough?

Samsung has launched the Jet S8000 smartphone in the UK. Its 3.1 inch touchscreen display has an impressive 800x480 pixels, sharper than any others. It also has a new version of the Touchwiz Navigation system, a fast 800MHz processor and universally accepted connectors such as a 3.5mm headphone socket and a microUSB port. In addition, the phone comes with a 5-megapixel camera with a flash, built-in GPS, DNS and SRS Sound effect, DiVX and XVid video support as well as Samsung's own Dolfin Webkit-based web browser plus support for Microsoft Exchange Active Sync. Other goodies include WiFi and 3G connectivity, a FM Radio with RDS, 2GB built in memory and support for a further 16GB worth of storage through microSD card reader.

On the plus side it certainly has the power to deal with Flash and video on the minus side it comes with Samsung's own operating system and although thousands of Apps are promised its this aspect that is deciding the winners from the rest today in what is becoming a crowded space.

How Global Is The Google Settlement?

We received the following comment to a blog we posted last week and felt that it was appropriate to raise it in its own right for all to read.

You wrote: "We must note that although the Google Book Settlement is a US only issue..."

That's right only in the limited sense that the settlement can only impacts U.S. copyrights. A U.S. federal district court can't alter how the copyright laws of other countries are applied within their borders.

But the "U.S. copyrights" impacted by this settlement are not just formal copyrights given U.S. citizens or foreigners living here by our copyright office. They include U.S. copyrights automatically granted by treaty to the citizens of the some 160 countries with which we have treaty agreements. Publish a book in India and you automatically acquire a U.S. copyright. You need not file any document or pay any fee. That's a marvelous aspect of those treaties.

But keep in mind a perverse result of those treaties. They don't permit a country to treat treaty-granted copyrights any different from those it grants its own citizens. The assumption was that countries would treat their own citizens more favorably. But that treaty obligation works in reverse. The settlement can't screw the U.S. authors without screwing all such authors om the world. That is the chief sticking point of the settlement, not the muddled anti-trust implications.

This means that virtually everyone who has written a book published any where in the world will have their U.S. copyright castrated by this settlement. Because of the perverse 'opt-in if you don't formally opt-out' provisions, far-distant authors have never heard of the settlement will be hurt. All Google need do is find a copy of that book, and with a willing library, it doesn't even need to buy that copy.

You are right that this settlement could "unravel" international agreements and the good will on which they depend. Google's scheme depended on other countries not knowing of what the settlement meant until after it was approved. The four-month delay I and six other authors got the court to approve ended any chance of that. European politicians now know what the settlement means and have begun to act.

Google's lawyers also made a major mistake. They assumed those they want to manipulate are stupid. Google had hoped they would counter this settlement with something similar, something to screw obscure U.S. authors, allowing Google to reap most of the benefits. But Europeans aren't interested in reading obscure American books. They are interested in reducing the impact Hollywood has on their cultures.

That's why they're will hit us elsewhere. There's not much money to be made in displaying out-of-print works. Google knows it can only profit from them by being ruthlessly efficient and cheap.

But if this settlement is approved, Europeans will almost certainly hit us where it hurts most. They'll weaken copyright protection where we make the most money: in movies and music. For that they'll be loudly applauded by virtually every member of the creative classes in their countries.

Because of the issues of orphaned works and display on the Internet are so closely linked to existing treaty obligations, there is only one way those issues can be settled. A mere federal court can't do it. Lawyers in the Justice Department certainly can't do it. Even Congress can't legislate an answer for all the world's writers. These issues have to be dealt with by amending those treaties, taking care to be fair to all involved.

--Michael W. Perry, author of Untangling Tolkien

Twitter Captures The News

We all remember Flight 1549 crashing on take off from New York and almost hit George Washington Bridge, captured on a mobile and downloaded on YouTube. News no longer waits for the next edition or even the news broadcast slot, it’s instantaneous and captured by everyone with a mobile with a camera.

Techdirt today offers a useful and insightful way in which how and what we communicate is still evolving. Twitter may not seem the right vehicle to capture events in a few words but it constant stream of twitter can provide views and thoughts uncensored, unedited and raw as they happen.

Today it has given us insights into the troubled post election Iran which have been posted on the Iran Twazzup page . This view into Iran was made possible by Twitter and the ability of thousands of people to easily communicate on the streets of Tehran and elsewhere. It's really quite impressive, and I'm hard pressed to see how anyone could look at what's coming out of Iran via Twitter, and then claiming that Twitter isn't a useful or different communication tool. It doesn’t mean every comment is genuine, nor that each is worth the read, but together they capture a movement and within them there are those gems which truly capture news.

We can think back to disasters that happened in the last half of the 20th century and what would have been different if we had Twitter and You Tube and of course the mobile phone. Would the fog that surrounded Hillsbough or Bloody Sunday still be with us today. Would we have sorted out what happened on that grassy knoll in Dallas.
Techdirt also reported that Twitter’s data center partner, NTT, have actually chosen to delay some critical updates, knowing that cutting off communications from Iran just as so many people are relying on it would be a disaster.

News tomorrow will be broken by the person on the street with a smartphone.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Africa Banking Bypasses Bankers

Over one billion people in the developing world have access to a mobile phone, but do not have a bank account. It is estimated by the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP) that the number will to rise to 1.7 billion by 2012.

This creates an enormous opportunity for mobile banking as bank face enough problems back home let alone make the investment to set up a banking infrastructure.

One of Africa's first mobile banking system, M-Pesa, was launched in Kenya in March 2007 and has now expanded to include countries such as Tanzania and Afghanistan and is planning to launch in India, Egypt and South Africa. Through a network of more than 7,000 agents, the people can make deposits and get cash from a network made up mostly of mostly shopkeepers, with users authorising payments on their mobile phone using a Pin code.

The service has also expanded to include Safaricom, East Africa's biggest mobile operator and others such as South Africa's MTN and Kuwait's Zain are piloting similar services.

The lesson this teaches is that not everyone follows the same technology evolution. Sometimes those that appear to be far behind can leapfrog over a step change and in some cases even overtake others purely because they have less baggage, restrictions and maybe have to do it differently.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Day The News Was Different

For one day, 10th June, Haaretz, the Hebrew language Israeli daily and Isreal’s oldest newspaper changed how the news was written. The paper’s editor-in-chief Dov Alfon exchanged 31 reporters for 31 of Israel’s finest authors and poets. The objective was to honour Israel’s annual Hebrew Book Week and give authors the opportunity to witness and report on the events of the day. Apart from the sports section and a few other articles, The authors’ articles filled the pages, from the leading headline to the weather report.

Writers used the first person and showed up in nearly every photograph alongside their interview subjects, including the likes of Defense Minister Ehud Barak and President Shimon Peres.

Author Avri Herling summarised the stock market, “Everything’s okay. Everything’s like usual. Yesterday trading ended. Everything’s okay. The economists went to their homes, the laundry is drying on the lines, dinners are waiting in place… Dow Jones traded steadily and closed with 8,761 points, Nasdaq added 0.9% to a level of 1,860 points…. The guy from the shakshuka [an Israeli egg-and-tomato dish] shop raised his prices again….”

Eshkol Nevo’s TV review started. “I didn’t watch TV yesterday.”

Roni Somek wrote a poem, titled “Summer Sonnet.” For the weather report.

David Grossman spent a night at a children’s drug rehabilitation centre in Jerusalem and wrote a cover page story about the patients and ended it, “I lay in bed and thought wondrously how, amid the alienation and indifference of the harsh Israeli reality, such islands — stubborn little bubbles of care, tenderness and humanity — still exist.”

Yoram Kaniuk wrote about couples in the hospital cancer ward, “A woman walking with a cane brings her partner a cup of coffee with a trembling hand. The looks they exchange are sexier than any performance by Madonna and cost a good deal less,” Kaniuk a cancer suffer too, wrote. “I think about what would happen if I were to get better…how I would live without the human delicacy to which I am witness?”

June 11th the paper resume normal service. What a wonderful way to celebrate the diversity of writing.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Pirates: One Step Forward , Two steps Back

France's top legal body, the Constitutional Council, which examines whether bills that have been passed by the French parliament are in accordance with the French constitution, has rejected a key provision of the new legislation aimed at punishing internet pirates. The law, approved last month, gives officials the power to remove web access for those caught repeatedly downloading protected material. However the Council ruled that only a judge could bar people from the web, describing access to online services as a human right.

Some consumer groups had warned that the wrong people might be punished, should hackers hijack their computers' identity, and that the scheme amounted to state surveillance.

We then have the case of the RIAA versus Jammie Thomas-Rasset in her retrial in Minnesota. The defence lawyers Kiwi Camara and Harvard Law professor Charles Nesson aimed to question the very substance of the RIAA case to file a class-action lawsuit against the recording industry later this summer.

However they have already had one set back as their attempt to bar Media Sentry’s evidence on the grounds that they were not licensed as a private investigator in Minnesota has been thrown out. They still aim to challenge the RIAA to prove it owns the certified copies of the copyrights in question. If it can't establish that fact, the case could be dismissed.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

eMartketing Thoughts: 5. Store Once, Render Many

Context is the metadata, bibliographic information, marketing materials that helps everyone find content and of course value it. A significant amount of the Context can be derived direct from the content itself and what we once thought of as content can now be used to promote, sample and validate before you buy.

Today publishers should be storing everything once and render many times. The rendering should be as much as possible dynamic and avoid holding multiple versions and formats in many digital folders and even databases. We should be creating context directly from content avoiding further duplication and effort. Publishers should ask themselves how many times they hold the same context information, which is the authoritative source and who and how it can be changed? We all saw the rise of the ‘book in hand systems’ in wholesalers who couldn’t trust the data feeds. We can now surely do it better.

Delivering emarketing marketing becomes so much simpler when the widget, the digital review copy, the digital catalogue, the online rendition are basically the same file or files seen through different viewers. Mass marketing and direct marketing materials are the same but again viewed through a different viewer by different people. Bibliographic feeds are no longer dry bits and bytes, but now are whatever is appropriate and in many cases can be cut from the content itself. Finally, we now see the emergence of the digital emarketing container which not only reshapes what we distribute but who distributes it and when.

eMarketing today is not just about creating many experiments, social sites, direct campaigns, viral marketing but all these and above all serving the existing channel and enriching their opportunity to sell more physical and of course digital works.

Spotify Android Move

It has been widely reported that Spotify, has demonstrated an offline version of the service running on a Google Android mobile phone at Google's I/O developer event and it appears that just like the desktop client it’s a potential winner. It even has "offline mode" that uses cache to store a playlist and turns the phone into an offline MP3 player with Spotify as its client.

Spotify is working on several mobile versions but the big question is wheter Apple will allow or block what is a clear threat to iTunes. Here is an earlier TechDigest video 'showing' Spotify on a iPhone.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Craigslist to Top $100 Million?

As newspapers struggle with declining ad revenues online classified ad site Craigslist is forecast to exceed $100 million revenues this year. That’s a whopping 23% increase of last year and its bottom-line is likely to be even healthier. First launched in ’95 as a email list the company was quick to undercut newspapers and appeal to a wider audience. Newsprint still dominates but over the last decade has seen its revenues drop 50% from $20 billion in 2000 to $10 billion last year.

Employment advertising, once the a mainstay of the newpapers is expected to account for some 85% of Craigslists revenues which leaves significant potential for future growth in other areas. It is also worth noting that 40% of their revenues comes listing in just three major cities; New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Again this leaves significant opportunities for further growth.

Craigslist employs just 30 people!

eMartketing Thoughts: 4. How Green is Your Catalogue?

We have ebooks, we have environmental friendly books, but we still have huge amounts of book miles and waste. However we often ignore that many still promote their books with ‘unfriendly’ catalogues that are scattered like seeds, far and wide. These often eye-catching glossies contain some books form whom the catalogue is often their only real chance to be seen over the parapet and to attract attention. The question is whether digital technology can help; spread the word better, reduce the waste and increase sales?

Last month Ingram Marketing Group performed a survey which attracted some 2,000 responses from buyers in; public libraries, independent stores, chains, school libraries and higher education. It found that over 49% of respondents were open to using an ecatalogue instead of print one and some 60% had already reviewed books via an ecatalogue. Interestingly 81% of chains said it was a good experience and the majority all said that an ecatalogue was a useful supplement to the physical one. Again the two greatest benefits respondents felt ecatalogues gave were in; improving the environment 28% and reducing clutter 23%.

So it appears that the market is responsive to making catalogues digital.

Do we merely replicate the physical catalogue and send it as a ‘flat’ PDF via email, or do we open it up with embedded widgets, weblinks and extra information that space doesn’t permit within the printed version? The question is about whether we maintain the constraints of the physical page, or break out of them and the structure it imposes?

There is the obvious timing issue. There are catalogues of forthcoming titles whose materials may still be in flux and there are catalogues which reflect the full list on offer and often have both depth of material and are accurate. Unlike the physical world, the digital world can offer real time accuracy and authority. The digital catalogue should always be current and if you changed the jacket today, it will be instantly rendered to all.

A digital catalogue is virtual and can be dynamically rendered many ways from the same source. It’s like looking into a house through different windows, same house different views.

Finally, the digital catalogue offers that one extra it can automatically capture, feedback, queries and of course the order of the physical books which can even reflect individual terms and be posted directly into the publisher's back office system, cutting out even more waste.

Connecting You Sir

Have you ever wanted to ring someone but didn’t have the phone number? Yesterday that was easy you merely looked them up in a directory and hoped that they weren’t ex directory. Then came the phone directory services and for a small charge the number was available. However when mobile usage exploded and it became the primary phone for many people getting unknown numbers was very hard and losing them was a nightmare!

Now a new UK service, run by 118800, plans to change all that. It claims to have some 15 million numbers and will cost £1 and use databases of numbers. It will even act as a switchboard between parties to ensure calls are acceptable to the receiver and of course will offer an opt out service to remove numbers that people want to remain private.

Watch the BBC video to find out more.

The interesting think it shows once more is how easy it is to effectively buy and acquire lists of numbers and address details. The potential use of those little tick boxes at the bottom of agreements now become even more visible.

US Justice Department Asks: Have We Been Googled?

News that the US Justice Department has issued formal requests for information to several of the parties involved in the Google Book Settlement would indicate that everyone is now looking hard at all aspects of the proposal. It doesn’t mean that the US government will oppose it, nor that the several Attorneys general in several states who are looking at the antitrust aspect will oppose it but it does mean that it will be fully scrutinized. It also means that Judge Denny Chin’s September Federal District Court date may also be further postponed.

Both the Wall Street Journal and New York Times report that the Justice Department has sent the requests, called civil investigative demands, to involved parties, including Google, the Association of American Publishers, the Authors Guild and individual publishers.

We must note that although the Google Book Settlement is a US only issue the deal will have a global impact on the digital world, copyright and will be difficult to unravel if we get it wrong. We welcome the investigation, the debates that are ongoing and some may say that we have seen with some of the recent announcements, the GoogleWorld is not always what it appears at first sight. Google’s intent to be the information indexer, the search source, the repository, the library, the bookseller and the advertising revenue manager does beg the question what’s left.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Is It The Same Old Song?

Below is a story we published on the back of a Mirror article and other coverage. Today the story is reported as being unfounded and that no agreement has been reached. It interesting to see the twist and turns of the club and wonder what next?

Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan’s book club is to return to TV.

The Mirror reports that the show that died a million deaths on that obscure digital channel ‘Watch’, has been snapped up by Channel 4, or should that be More4!

Can the phoenix rise from the ashes and be the savior of all? Well it appears that the Richard and Judy Book Club return is without Richard and Judy. A bit like Jonathan Ross Show being hosted by Michael Parkinson perhaps? Apparently there are some great names in the frame to host it but they aren’t called Richard or Judy!

Television offers so much but has never really succeeded in getting past the couch. It tried with the book quizzes but they often made university challenge questions look simple and didn’t sell books and some would say reading. Programs such as IQ , Have I Got News For You have made highbrow fun, but there again they don’t sell product. So it’s a return to the couch, the celebrity reading group and the stickering of the books in the shop window. We can’t knock it but just wonder if there is a better way to do it and whether the Richard and Judy format is past its sell by date?

Personal Computer World to Close

Many in the UK have used its pages of reviews to guide us through the often confusing array of options available when we buy a new PC, laptop, notebook etc. Now after 30 years of service Personal Computer World, one of the UK's oldest consumer technology magazine titles, is closing. We remember it well for being among those geeky magazines that were often heavier that the weekly shop and crammed with adverts, comparisons and reviews.

A combination of factors including the economic downturn and the decline of the computer magazine market have forced the closure and once again demonstrate that it’s not just the economic climate that is changing but our reading and research habits. Yesterday magazines that helped us select cars, PCs, household goods etc where in demand, today we can click and compare online.

Incisive Media, which owns Personal Computer World and more than 100 other business magazines have said that it’s looking to cut up to 50 staff from its 800-strong workforce.

eMarketing Thoughts: 3. Books for free?

Publishers in all sectors have always given away physical books to promote their sale. In some cases we hope to get it reviewed, in others it’s treated as a sample and in others such as education and it’s given with the aim of achieving the book’s adoption. In some the cases, the percentage of inspection copies that are ‘given away’ could be between 10 and 15% of the initial print run and that’s without the associated costs of dispatch and follow-up. In some cases the inspection copy is even invoiced and a return is requested if it is not adopted – more waste. The extra copies can be well worth the cost if they lead to greater sales, but in today’s difficult economic climate and digital world there are now potentially smarter ways to achieve the same and more, for less cost and waste.

People often say that the review practice of giving away physical copies is now better managed and that far fewer books are given away today. Others will point to the basement floor in The Strand bookstore in New York and the shelves of gratis review copies that have been cashed in and some with Editors letters still inside! A trade journal told us that the practice was dramatically reduced. We merely asked them to turn around in their office and describe what they say on their shelves – books. How many had they actually bought let alone read?

Whether its review, sample, or inspection copies, there are now better ways to achieve the same result at far less cost.

Digitally galley and un-proofed copies have been around for some time and continue to grow as they become easier to generate. The challenge here is to ensure that they are created at the appropriate time, that they are secured as assets and that follow up is achieved. Digital inspection copies are now also starting to appear and offer more cultural challenges but significant opportunities for both efficiency and sales across the adoption cycle.

It is not a case of merely scattering digital copies where once we scattered physical ones.

Digital inspection copies should created the opportunity to understand what is read, annotated, bookmarked by whom and when and even if the books was ever opened. They offer the opportunity to better manage distribution lists, offer shared copies, understand what is and isn’t important, capture feedback and follow through the process to adoption. Joining the dots from inspection review to purchase in today’s physical world is often difficult and wasteful. However, irrespective of whether the resultant sales are for a physical or digital rendition, the digital world offers everyone involved in the process reward and benefit. Some may see the digital inspection copy as the vehicle to cut out the campus store and go direct, others as the vehicle to engage the store and strengthen its role in the process and join the dots.

Some may say that reviewers will only accept physical copies and that may be true for some, but not all.

Digital marketing is not exclusive to digital books and removes physical waste.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Interactive Advertising Displays

UK based digital creative agency Clusta have partnered with CBS Outdoor to develop an iPhone-enabled advertising platform for digital LCD screens at London’ largest shopping mall at Westfield. The platform, will enable consumers to control the advertising display on the 57” HD KLCD screen via their iPhone.

The iPhone can make the object represented on the display spin to the left or right and also, by using the ‘pinch’ and ‘stretch’ finger gestures, zoom in or out of the object displayed on the screen and change the colour of the item. The technology is planned to be developed for other smart phones and also include SMS interactivity to receive more information about the product.

Want the latest movie download, blockbuster or just more details on a product? Who needs a kiosk when you can see, select and potentially download in front of a advertising display. Today advertising displays don’t engage they merely broadcast, tomorrow they may capture interest or make a sale.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

eMarketing Thoughts: 2 What is a widget?

Is it a book sampler, a look inside the jacket, a look before you buy? We have seen many widgets of all shapes and sizes. Some were very impressive giving you the real book experience with turning pages in duplex views and full colour, others crude scanned pages that in some cases weren’t even scanned straight! Some merely followed instructions and on displaying the first 10 pages even showed us the blank ones! Amazon gave us a ‘surprise me’ option which was often a poor surprise as it displayed a totally meaningless page and was not even a smart move. Others could only be managed by the publisher so were limited in their application to resellers. Although the reseller could with dexterity change certain fields like the buy now button resolution, each publisher did it differently!

We would suggest that the widget is just a container - nothing more and nothing less. When one starts to look at it this way one avoids the trap of it being a one-dimensional vehicle to merely sample a few pages. It is a marketing box which can offer as little or as much as appropriate, it can become the new tip sheet or advance information sheet, a door to more information, a collector of comments, requests the reps suitcase and much more.

We must remember that eMarketing isn’t about selling digital content but about selling all content; digital, physical, audio, rights and combinations of.
We must also remember that the material never leaves the repository - it is merely viewed and when viewed the information is current and real time.

The widget offers competitive advantage today which is sustainable.

We would suggest that the widget is the base entry point into the world of eMarketing. By itself it is not the answer, but part of the answer in this exciting new engagement with the market.

eMarketing Thoughts: 1. Show Me the Results

We aim to write four more articles this week to expand our views on eMarketing; the use of widgets, digital inspection copies, catalogues and the creation and management of context and content.

Marketing holds the biggest digital prize for the book industry in these changing times. Some have long argued that Context is more valuable than Content. In the late 90’s we were responsible for the highly acclaimed publishing research programme ‘Publishing in the 21st Century’ and some would suggest that our most significant report that we published was ‘N to X : From Content to Context’.

Today’s task is not finding digital content but finding good or the right digital content. Its about finding the digital needle in the digital haystack. We have many sources of information, many degrees of detail, many different ways to look for and value content and content itself is no longer a single format.

We are moving away from the advertising budget being spent on full page spreads in the trade press to viral and direct marketing, from scattering seeds in the wind to running campaigns where every hit, click and resolution can be tracked and the marketing department held accountable for spend! We know can find out not only what we know but potentially what we don’t know.

In yesterday’s world we produced glossy printed catalogues and posted them to anyone standing. Yet we had no idea who read what page or even opened them. Did they themselves provide all the information needed to make a decision or merely opened the door? We distributed advance information sheets which fell somewhere between a flysheet and a genuine information sheet and often ended up being filed with the waste paper. We spent money advertising to the channel to get the book on the shelf and had little left to promote the book to the public. The trade magazines were happy to take the money for the full page colour advert but did it deliver, give demonstrable results, or merely spend the money?

As we move it the digital eMarketing world we are not obviating traditional spend but supplementing it with more auditable and accountable campaigns that can even be integrated into the whole process and help join the dots from Author to Reader.

Spotify Continue to Make Smart Moves

We continue to be impressed by the clear thinking of the people who run what is fast becoming the music model streaming site. Spotify continues to learn from others and navigate what are challenging waters where many have floundered before them.

They now allow unsigned musicians to upload their music onto the service. So are they now going to get flooded with pirate tracks and illegal music and wash their hands and claim a safe harbour like many today across the media market or take proactive action to control what is uploaded? Spotify has signed a deal with Ditto Music, where acts can upload their music and are now be able to type their band's name into Spotify and see their tracks. Ditto Music charges a £2 per month and has made a name for itself bringing unsigned acts into the charts through digital distribution. Like regular acts, unsigned bands will be entitled to royalties when their tracks are played . US band Finch, will be one of the first available on Spotify through the new deal with Ditto Music. By introducing a filter and charged service they have taken a wise step to avoid pirate uploads.

Spotify has also gained official approval by the UK’s Performing Rights Society (PRS) which clearly places them on the right side of the industry and avoids the disputes that others have found others such as YouTube embroiled in.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

As We Await Apple

So as the world awaits Apple’s next announcements on Monday and the undoubted media blitz that will follow we have taken a quick look at some of the others vying for space in this crowded market.

Palm Pre
The Pre has made its long awaited entrance and now its down to the consumers to decide whether it lives up to the hype or becomes just another also ran. The webOS, Palm's new operating system enables concurrent applications open at once. You simply organized the apps like a row of cards and you flick the screen to switch between them. WebOS will also notify you of events that need your attention, no matter which application you're in. Again, making the iPhone look cumbersome and others just clumsy and slow. The Pre’s webOS aggregates contacts and calendar items from multiple sources, like Google, corporate Exchange servers, and can even insert your friends' Facebook photos into your contacts list. This obviously wins over the iPhone’s in many ways but is it enough to make consumers buy or even switch allegiance? Will we get iphone app overload and will the Pre give us the apps that are clearly driving this market?

Whether you get a Pre or not, its has clearly raised the bar on the software will leave its mark on the phones you buy in the future.

We have long awaited LG GD910 mobile watch will be hitting the UK in July but unfortunately only being available via Orange and with a £1000 price tag. The price will almost certainly put off many from being James Bond but will it become a designer status symbol for chavs or merely a nice product at the wrong price? As previously reported it has a 1.4 inch touchscreen, looks good being only 14mm thick, has 7.2Mbps HSDPA, voice recognition, text to speech capability, Bluetooth, MP3 player and tells the time too.

HTC are about to unveil its third Andriod mobile and rumours suggest the announcement will be on June 24th . The HTC Hero is expected to launch in two models, one with touchscreen only and one packing a QWERTY keyboard and so offering appeal to all. With Google’s arsenal of potential opportunities and its cross platform design, the Andriod phones are certainly ones to watch.

Acer’s new Tempo F900 smartphone arrival to the UK appears imminent. First shown in Barcelona in February the device looks set to have a £429 price tag. It features a 3.8 inch VGA screen, Internet Explorer 6, with JavaScript and Adobe Flash Lite, and high-speed HSDPA. Acer has clearly stated it wants to be a smartphone player and have adopted Acer 2.0 user interface to aid navigation and ‘desktop’ customisation, in addition to Google Search, Google Maps and YouTube. Acer is not alone in the move from netbook to mobile and could bring some interesting user friendly aspects to the table.

UK based INQ is to launch a Twitter phone which it claims will be the first mass-market phone to have a client for the social networking phenomenon built-in. It will use the internet to send and receive tweets, rather than text messages. The question is what is so special and surely everyone else can easily follow. Like Skype you don’t buy a device just make it easy to twitter or do you?

Friday, June 05, 2009

Fighting the Flood of Digital Piracy

The UK Publishers' Association is reported last week in the Bookseller as having recorded around 800 illegally uploaded texts and successfully helped to remove almost 90% of them from the web in February. The PA’s infringement software adopts the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) approach of issuing take down notices and tracking the files removal and offenders.

The one thing that is certain is that relying on take down notices is akin to Hans Brinker sticking his finger in the dyke at Haarlem to plug the hole, but this time it doesn’t work, is too much effort and we only have so many fingers.

The problem we have written about is that this is based on a safe habour approach for the services hosting the files and is reactive and not proactive, so acts after the cat is often out the bag. Service suppliers can only go so far in vetting files being loaded before their safe harbour status can be brought into question.

Sites like Scribd and Wattpad, that potentially offer so much, are caught between a safe harbour and a hard place. However they are only the tip of what is and remains a big iceberg. We have been shown a pirate copy of a highly expensive and prized work which the publisher had not digitised for fear of being pirated. Some may say an open invention to the pirates and one which they have taken. The quality of the pirated work was impressive and amazingly it was being given away by the pirate for free.

So we now have the altruistic pirate who is not even after the money and will spend considerable time to create a near perfect digital rendition of a complex work. This is a digital cover made from the physical book being scanned, OCRed, and then text over image and links being applied to match any digital rendition. This cat is certainly out the bag and having kittens.

So like rabbits you shoot at one and ten more appear all over the place all in different sizes and shapes!

The UK government look set not to follow the French ‘3 strikes law’ and move instead to a half way house where ISP have to slow the pirates down by reducing their access speed. It’s akin to condemning a driver to the slow lane because they broke the speed limit. We can’t see the music industry liking it, nor the ISPs, so it’s a perfect compromise and will leave all unhappy. Importantly it fails to address the cause and merely sticks yet more plasters on the patient.

There doesn’t appear to be an answer or a route that at least mitigates some of the risk? Some would argue that the problem is small, on a similar level to store shrinkage and maybe not worth any extra effort. We would disagree.

Today the book industry is ill prepared for the potential risk. On one hand everyone is jumping up and down heralding the digital dawn and ebooks and ereaders and getting more publicity than previously dreamt of. On the other hand the digital content is for many reasons only slowly materialising, which fuels the appetite of the pirates. We have exclusive device deals which restrict and marginalise the market. We have a lack of clarity on pricing which confuses the consumer and again is a green light to pirates who can make their offer simple and uniform. We have DRM.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Digital Views From News Corp's CDO

Jonathan Miller, News Corp.'s new chief digital officer, is reported in Daily Finance.com saying that he envisions a future where at least some of the TV shows and movies on Hulu, the premium video site co-owned by News Corp. (NWS), NBC Universal and Disney (DIS), are available only to subscribers.

Miller is in charge of coordinating News Corp.'s efforts to find new ways to get consumers to pay for digital content generated by News Corp.'s properties , which not only includes Fox but The Wall Street Journal, HarpeCollins and much more. He also said that newspapers will have to do to convince readers to pay for articles that they're used to getting free on the web.

He has expressed the novel idea of bundles not only of content but also against locations such that you could have a Washington bundle, a New York bundle and offer these at a single price.

Interestingly prior to joining he flipped his Wall Street Journal subscription to a cheaper one from Amazon. He now sees the other side of the table where the Post loose him asa subscriber and Amazon gain him as Amazon subscriber. Not good for the Wall Street Journal won loss both the customer management and the money.

WIPO to Consider Radical Changes To Support the Visually Impaired

A committee of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) has agreed on "facilitating the access of blind, visually-impaired and other reading-disabled persons to copyright-protected works." A proposed t would effectively change copyright laws to allow the supply of books across borders for the benefit of blind people.

According to the World Blind Union (WBU) around 95% of books are estimated to be never published in any format other than standard print. So rendering many 'print disabled'. The new draft treaty would effectively relax copyright restrictions and allow the creation and supply of accessible books without the need for prior permission from the copyright owner on a non-profit basis. Since 2002 the UK Copyright (Visually Impaired Persons) Act, has made this legal in the UK. However the law is limited to visually-impaired persons and does not allow the supply of a digital book to a customer overseas.

The treaty, if signed and ratified would protect all 'reading disabled' persons and it allows the supply across borders of accessible works, as a Braille hard copy or as an e-book. This would enable an accessible version of a book in the UK available to send that to another English-speaking country where they don't have the resources to make books accessible.

Provided copies are supplied exclusively for disabled customers the proposed treaty would also allow for the circumvention of digital rights management (DRM). The WIPO copyright committee has agreed to discuss the treaty at its next meeting in November and its supporters are confident it will make progress

Going From Free to Pay

John Malone, chairman of Liberty Media Corp. which owns cable channels, satellite-television operator DirecTV and baseball’s Atlanta Braves, among other properties—and Liberty Global Inc., an international cable operator was recently was interviewed by Walt Mossberg for the Wall Street Journal.

When asked - how did you get people to pay for what was free TV? Malone responded, ‘ This was a huge fight that we had going back 30 years, 35 years. Everybody said television’s free, television’s free. We were blocked by federal regulation and law from offering television for a fee. That was a law change that allowed us to actually offer it.

The way it was successful was blending together the transport service with the charge for the content. When you were a cable subscriber, you weren’t sure whether you were paying for connectivity or whether you were paying for the content that was embodied in the connectivity.

You had broadcast television initially. Then you started out with distant broadcast. That’s where Ted Turner comes in. Distant broadcast television is brought into a market and added and a charge is increased. You want to get the superstation; it’s another dollar, right? Were people paying for connectivity or were they paying for content? Then, as that blurred environment continued to grow, along comes HBO and says you can watch non-commercially-interrupted movies, but now it’s optional. You don’t have to take it, but it’s another X dollars a month.

At that point, the concept of paying for some television was well enough established in the public’s mind that paying a little more for some premium television started to sell. Of course, that created the opportunity to add the CNNs and the Black Entertainment Televisions and the Discoveries and all of that. Every time we added a channel, we charged a little more. Some of the money went back to the producer of the content.
When the Internet came along, I was terribly concerned that here’s something that’s “for free.” People will pay for connectivity. The industry’s never made successfully the transition to higher-quality content or unique content delivered by the Internet you should pay for. That’s a big intellectual jump.

When asked - How having not charged for something, do you then all of a sudden turn around and charge them for it?

Malone responded, ‘ That’s really the challenge. You should be asking a psychologist. We did it by tying together something that people are perfectly used to paying for—connectivity, communication—with content. If you can introduce incrementally—now you’re getting this 4G wireless data service and, by the way, part of that are these three very interesting things that only work if you’ve got enough speed to enjoy them. Perhaps that’s a way that it can be introduced, just the intellectual concept of paying incrementally for content.

I suspect that it will evolve over time. People will pay on a per-view or on some kind of subscription basis for content on the Internet if the quality is there and there’s convenience. The question you have to ask yourself is, is there going to be an aggregator doing that? This is the role that HBO traditionally did in movies. They aggregated movies and they sold you in bulk. You got 30 movies a month for seven bucks when they started.

The cable industry would love to be the aggregator. Hulu would love to be the aggregator. There’ll be a real competition for that role in the future.

To read the full article 'Show Me The Money'