Monday, August 31, 2009

The ePrice is not Right

The news this week that Sony want UK ebook pricing to come down demonstrates that the issue of ebook pricing has many vested interests. We can’t assume that these perspectives are shared and in many cases are in fact pulling in different directions.

What is clear is that there is no standard epricing approach. Most publishers choose to align the digital price to the recommended retail price (RRP) of the physical rendition, but even here there is inconsistency. Do they choose the hardback, the paperback or start with the hardback and then flip it to the paperback when it is released? Go they hold back its release and release it alongside the paperback? If the price remains aligned to the physical rendition does this mean that when a reprint is produced with a higher RRP the ebook price rises too? Audiobook pricing has long stood by itself and has not been aligned to the physical rendition, so why do it to ebooks? The big question remains - How does the consumer feel about different pricing for what is exactly the same product?

Some believe that a staggered release similar to that used in the film industry is the best way of avoiding the cannibalising of hardback sales. This may work for a few but the content isn’t any different and the experience is much the same and deliberately denying consumers access is an open invitation to the digital pirates who plague the film industry and feed off this staggered release policy.

Some argue that the publishers have given away control of price but others would suggest they never really had it and their only action was to raise prices to offset discounts but maintain margin.

We must also remember that audio books and ebooks incur tax. In the UK physical books are tax free or zero rate whilst digital is at full rate 15%. In other countries the rates differ between the physical digital renditions and across Europe there is little standardisation on VAT. An ebook to a Dublin reseller will not cost the same as it does to a London reseller, but they may well sell for the same price. As all books are sold VAT inclusive, the consumer is often unaware of the tax incurred and only sees the price paid. However, unlike other products, here we have an identical product where VAT is charged differently based on whether its digital or physical. We all see the stupidity, but we must not assume that cash strapped governments will level them at the lower rate.

Then we have the retailers who want to create a price incentive and some big players are prepared to discount at a loss. We have ebook device manufacturers who like Sony only understand volume sales and want cheap books so they can sell more devices.
Finally, we must also not forget the author who is struggling to establish a living based on royalties that can appear to be a moving target. If the ebook becomes a cheap rendition how will the author be rewarded? Where do they want the price to be set?

We already have royalty contractual issues on ebooks. Should these remain as a fixed percentage of RRP, should it be a % of net receipts, should digital be fee based, should they be treated as special sales?

Its understandable to reduce the price of ebooks, to sell them at a fixed price point, even give them away as promotional leaders but the author must be included in the mix. Today we read that Smashwords, a self publishing operator is to supply B&N with their titles. They publish some 2,600 titles per year and give the author 82% of the sale. Is it now time for more authors to wake up and smell the self-publishing coffee?

What we believe is important is that each perspective is understood, but that the industry is not seduced by new entrants with different drivers and works to bring some sanity to this new market opportunity that will enable it to grow whilst rewarding everyone who adds value.

Sunday, August 30, 2009 Offers Dutch eBooks has had an interesting journey from those heady days when it was to take on Amazon and was claimed by some to be the real global ecommerce site for books. Well it did conquer Holland, changed ownership and has now launched its ebook serviced backed by Sony and eBookHuis (Centraal Boekhuis).

The noise is obviously about Sony readers but given these work with Adobe’s ACS4 DRM server the news is that it should be open to all and not exclusive to one.

A wide range of Dutch International Writers works are available worldwide and the ebooks will be about 20% cheaper on average than a physical copy and already works with many writers and publishers in their distribution channels through Centraal Boekhuis. This new European initiative will ensure that its not just US and UK etitles in the Dutch market.

Asus May Have a Few New Tricks For eBooks

The ereader market is becoming more crowded. Asus, the manufacturer of the successful Eee line of netbooks, announced on Thursday that the company will be entering the ereader market. Jerry Shen, company president for Asus, said that the company is planning to introduce an eBook Reader under its Eee Brand family by year end.It is not alone in going after this market with close competitor MSI is also planning to them. The Eee brand stands for budget-friendly products. Remember these are the team that shock the notebook and low end pc market and have driven up their market share against some big players.

We are reminded of an article we wrote in march this year which we have repeated below. Now that would be exciting if it were to happen!!

Back in 2008 Back in October 2008 ASUS and Intel launched The sites slogan was you dream it, Asus Builds it, Intel Inside and it was all about getting people to share their ideas on a community designed PC. Now they want people to give them more thoughts on a Multiple Screen and Touch Interface. You can vote, comment and dream in much more detail about the Dream PC.

Last week they had a little poll from; Extend, Projection, Dual, Dual Touch, Modular Displays and tablets. So it’s no surprise the displays won the day. An extendable screen that is tiny when compact but grows when required.

This is how Asus describe the concept:
The dual panel offers a flexible working space in which users can adapt to suit their prevailing usage scenarios, for example adjusting the size of the virtual touchpad and keyboard. Through hand gestures, handwriting recognition, and multitouch, users are presented with a control surface that is both flexible and intuitive. Users can use the dual-panel concept in a myriad of usage scenarios, for example as a conventional notebook with multitouch screens, a virtual keyboard and touchpad; a multimedia hub, in which both dual panels could combine to form a larger display for widescreen entertainment; or an E-book mode in which users can hold the dual panel concept notebook just like they would a conventional book while flipping pages through intuitive gestures or by touch. These concepts aim to bring convenience to the user through technological innovations and user-centric design.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Some very good videos to show the power of N900

Nokia N900 Enters With Flash

So how many horses does Nokia want to back? It already owns the symbian operating system and has announced the Booklet sub-notebook computing device, which will run on Windows. Now it has announced the interesting N900 internet tablet, which will run on the open source Linux-based Maemo 5 software.

The new 3G device features an ARM Cortex-A8 processor and 1GB of application memory which means many applications can run simultaneously. It also has a high-resolution WVGA touch screen, HSPA and WiFi, 32GB of storage (expandable to 48GB via a microSD card), a 5MP camera with Carl Zeiss optics and fast ARM Cortex-A8 processor (the same chipset the Palm Pre and iPhone 3GS utilise). HSPA and WiFi, 32GB of storage (expandable to 48GB via a microSD card), a 5MP camera with Carl Zeiss optics and fast ARM Cortex-A8 processor (the same chipset the Palm Pre and iPhone 3GS utilise). If you get tired of ther touch screen it also has a slide-out QWERTY keyboard. Sounds an interesting offer and at around £450 it is priced about righto give the others, including the long anticipated Apple tablet a run for their money.

The switch to Maemo is interesting and enables Nokia to deliver open-source technology that has strong ties with desktop platforms. However the thing that caught our eye is the full support for Adobe Flash 9.4 which could open up many opportunities in the media world of film, video, marketing and online content.

Spotify App Approved for iPhone!

In a move many wished would happen but half expected not to happen Apple has approved the Spotify iPhone application.

We previously showed a video of the iphone app. and now wait with baited breath as it potentially starts to change music as we once consumed it and hope that it isn't a false call like the recent Android app.

The app is free on the app store but the user to have a premium Spotify subscription, which costs £10. It now has the opportunity to change the way we all listen to music on what is the largest digital music platform Apple.

For anyone who has been living on another planet this years the Swedish music streaming service offers a comprehensive, free library of millions of songs. The user selects their playlist and the music plays. Tonight we were listening to the brand new Neil Young Archive volume 1 and earlier today we had Antony and the Johnsons in the back ground as we worked.

Spotifty is different in that it actually questions the old ownership library rules and plays on demand. The model shifts from pay on consumption to one that is or subscription driven, giving the user choice free with ads or subscription without. The app on the iPhone even will stores the playlist so users can listen offline.

The service was launched last year and has more than two million users in the UK, and more than six million across Europe, with the US in its sights.Universal Music in Sweden claim that Spotify already generate it more revenue than iTunes.

Spotify is also ready to launch mobile phones running Google's Android software.

Roll over Beethoven!

Social Networks Grow Up

What do we really know about the use of the technology we now take for granted and part of everyday life. Who uses Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Linkedin, SMS, Blogs and what drives their usage?

An interesting article in the New Your Times raises many questions about the user demographics and use of this new communication world.

New technology often is first adopted by the young and then permeates to the older generations and we assume the young drive adoption of technology. According to comScore, today’s new ‘must do’ service Twitter, has a demographic that consists of only 11% of its users being teenagers. It appears that Twitter may have buck the trend. We have already reported on Ivy Bean who twitters and is 103!

What is becoming evident is that the older generations that are driving the real growth of social networks today. Today teenagers only account for 14% of MySpace and 9% of Facebook and we doubt very many use Linkedin. Forrester Research have issued a report that claims that the use of social networks by people aged 35 to 54 grew 60% in the last year.

So we have to now understand what people use these sites for and how and what they communicate.

Is the drive in older users merely a ‘catch up’ and a need to be hip, or is it driven by wider social aspects such as the need to belong to communities, find kindred spirits and express views? Teenagers tend to be more social and live in school and social communities, often with a wide range of friends and communicate on a one to one basis. However, this is often not the case of older generations who now have the opportunity to connect with others they may have never met otherwise.

One would assume that the older generations would be more concerned about privacy and having their feelings, thoughts openly available to what some may say are total strangers, but a look at many members pages shows a willingness to share and express.

If social networking services are to be part of the publishing marketing mix these demographics and social needs need to be understood and not assumed. What will drive the older audience? What is the key to engage with them? Does it require a tight vertical perspective or interest which will probably demand more than just books, or can it survive on a generalist pitch and book alone? We see the re-emergence of the social network sites BookRabbit and and we ask what is different this time?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The ABA's Digital Move Makes BookSense

When we wrote the Brave New World report some 3 years ago we clearly saw the glass as half full for the bookseller. It was clear that what was required was a way of supplying and servicing the channel. However, many publishers wanted digital to be direct, aggregators wanted to control the files and build up their own market, chains wanted to go alone and manufacturers saw an opportunity to lock in their devices.

The news that the American Booksellers Association, have adopted Adobe's Content Server 4 (ACS4) digital rights management server architecture to serve files to customers of their member bookstores, not only makes true Booksense, it is what we envisaged 3 years ago, It is the logic that underpins the Gardner Books Digital Warehouse and is being adopted by other wholesalers and distributors in many countries.

The news that Sony is in involved is in fact more noise. ACS4 is agnostic not exclusive and is fully supported by an increasing number of ebook devices, also support secure Adobe ebooks (PDF) and the only exception to this common ground is the Kindle.
So we are now seeing a significant shift with the major opposition to Amazon not being Sony, iRex, Cooler, Plastic Logic, BeBook but the file server that joins them together - Adobe’s ACS4.How will resellers react to the opportunity that now clearly enables them to participate? Will consumer buy local or from the chain, or from the aggregators? Will publishers commercially enable the current channel to fully participate, or back the ‘stack them high and sell them cheap’ merchants?

Today it is hard to envisage an alternative to ACS4 and once it’s SDK option is taken up by mobile players, we will start to see a level of interoperability sought by many. This is a bold step by the ABA and as long as we steer clear of the false repository wars, we may now see a significant digital step change that is makes it possible for all to partisipate.

Viet Nam Copyright War

It was interesting to read an article today published by the Viet Nam New agency, ‘Most ebook-sharing sites violate copyright’. It clearly shows the problems of a poorer economy which is trying to grapple with increasing demand, high, copyright ignorance, cost and to what to some appears an easy solution – piracy.

Duong Thu Ai, a translator and author of nearly 200 books, says, "About 30-40 websites have published my work. They have never sought my permission." Tre Publishing House director, Pham Sy Sau said most Viet Nam ebook-sharing websites violated copyrights. Due to the scale of the issue, many foreign publishers are hesitant to deal with Vietnamese publishing houses.

Nguyen Vu Phuong, a senior official of the Viet Nam Literary Copyright Centre, says, "If we put ourselves in the authors’ shoes, we will understand how painful and discouraging it must be when their works are easily distributed by a click, while they rarely receive any acknowledgement, let alone monetary compensation. If writers continually receive such treatment, they will not be motivated to create works of great value. Society’s creativity will eventually be degraded.” On the other hand he says, “Viet Nam’s very young population craves knowledge and most is gained from books. Not many young people can afford books from big stores. Because the content is what they want, they try to get it as cheaply as possible, free if possible".

However, help may be coming from a familiar source. Google is reported as suggested a book search settlement with Vietnamese authors. Google would compensate authors, including Vietnamese, whose books were digitised without permission since 2004. It is believed that a deal between Vietnamese authors and Google would put the copyright issue in Viet Nam in the spotlight.

GBS Survey Says - Too Much Confusion and too little Support

The noise on the Google Book Settlement is growing as predicted and the position of both extremes hardening daily. What is clear is that there is little clarity and much uncertainty, as we all wish for a digital future in which we have equal rights and where technology is used for the good of the author and consumer and not merely to offer commercial gain of the intermediaries.

We do not support the status quo, neither do we support what we view as commercial bullying. The issues to us have and remain, representation and orphans. The imprints in copyright works are adequately covered and cause no concern. The public domain is the public domain and by its very name is open to all. Orphans may be without known, or visible, or even disputed parentage, but that doesn’t mean that they can be given away by parties who don’t own them to avoid legal bills and the settle a case that remains unsettled, just botched.

What we wanted was a clear dissemination of the facts but we feel we just got fudge, a few discussions and a trust us we know best’ for some within the industry that should have known better. Where was the real debate? Where was the censuses gathering? How many publishers, retailers, libraries, authors, agents were polled or asked in the last year to vote in the deal?

There has been a marked silence in many quarters.

It is good to see that Publishers Weekly surveyed a cross section of opinion and published its findings in a well structured report yesterday, ‘ Unsettled: The PW Survey on the Google Book Settlement’. The analysis and comments make good copy and show that whatever side you are on, whatever reservations you have, however strong your conviction is, the settlement does carry the majority of the vote cast. But where were the other surveys, even of members of trade bodies within the US and outside but still effected?

PW survey is recommended to all. In its opening conclusion it states:

'Your take on the results of our survey may differ our take is this: there is simply too much confusion and too little support for anyone to feel comfortable. For us, the survey highlights a fundamental question: for all the good and bad scenarios raised by the deal, was it ever reasonable to think that such a revolutionary, unprecedented pact, negotiated in secret over three years by people with loose claims of representation, concerning a wide range of stakeholders, both foreign and domestic, involving murky issues of copyright and the rapidly unfolding digital future, could be pushed through as a class action settlement within a period of months, in the teeth of a historic media industry transition?...'

Whatever the outcome next month, the industry needs to learn how to build consensus, communicate and listen and not be led like sheep by a few 'who know best'.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Joseph Esposito's Concentric Publishing Circles

Today we read what we believe is a very interesting viewpoint from our friend and US publishing consultant, Joseph J. Esposito and immediately ask and received his kind permission to share his thoughts with you. A lively discussion on ebook pricing and releases has ensued within the community ever since Sourcebooks said that they would hold back the ebook of ‘Bran Hambric’ until after the hardcover had had its sales opportunity. Joe’s view:

‘There are many things that are taken into account in setting prices, formats, venues, etc., just as consumers have a wide range of choices. This is simply to say that the environment is competitive. Over-the-top example: Someone who wants to buy Robert Darnton, offered at $20, is not likely to buy Danielle Steel, offered at $10, at least not on the basis of price alone. But if Darnton were $200, the needle begins to move for some portion of Darnton's prospective readers. At $1,000 it moves further. But there is no price at which Steel takes ALL of Darnton's readership. (Darnton, for those outside the US literary world, is a distinguished historian and now head of the Harvard library. If you don't know who Steel is . . . . ) All of this was true before there were digital books; what ebooks does is create greater options and complexity (including pirate sites).

For a publisher, a useful metaphor is to think of the market as concentric circles. At the inner circle (for a particular book) is the hard core readership that will put up with any indignity, any price or format, to get that book. My daughter was in this category for the Harry Potter novels, my son for Lord of the Rings. (For me, say, Italo Calvino, and when I was a kid, it was all Asimov all the time.) At the next circle out from the center, the consumer exercises some discretion ("I will wait for the paperback"). Move another ring out, and there is more discretion ("I'll only purchase this if it comes in the Kindle format"). Any publisher can make up their own typology to define each circle--in effect, an algorithm covering price, format, options, timeliness, alternatives, etc. And this typology gets adjusted for every book.

When someone says, that they will only purchase something if it is in a specific ebook format and costs under ten bucks, to a publisher that prospective customer is in an outer ring. The question for a publisher is how to maximize the return across ALL the rings, which means that some rings compete with the others (aka cannibalization). For Grisham the inner rings are potent; for O'Reilly books perhaps the outer rings are more important. And in five years the relative weighting of the rings (the formats, etc.) may be very different. Indeed, the weightings are changing as we speak.

The reason that legacy publishers with legacy brands pay unequal attention to legacy formats and legacy channels of distribution, is that the legacy world is still generating more money than the world of new media for certain kinds of books. Again, that is changing every day. A smart publisher has to play the game with skill; there will always be catcalls from the bleachers. Mike Shatzkin's idea of debut pricing is one way to play this game. If you are a customer out in the outer circles, you won't like this. But it is not a publisher's job to make you happy. A publisher's job is to make shareholders happy (and to abide by applicable law, including contractual commitments to authors). Part of the skill is in not hurting the people in the outer ring too much as revenue is extracted from the circles as a whole.’

The problem is that there are no silver bullets to digital book pricing and what works for one will not work for all. Perhaps the concentric circles are more like Venn diagrams in their appearance. In the end, we believe that we live in a consumer centric driven market and pricing and availability of content, in whatever form, will be ultimately driven by them.

Its Still Down to those Orphans

The recent Google Book Settlement objection raised by Scott Grant caught the attention of many. But what did it mean and was it correct in its legal assumptions? We read James Grimmelmann’s take on the objection with interest and would urge you to do the same, 'GBS: Scott Gant's Attack on the Class'

‘This is a very good brief. It is the best-written and sharpest filing I have seen in the case. Only the proposed settlement itself tops it in imagination…’

James Grimmelmann is an Associate Professor at New York Law School, where he is affiliated with the Institute for Information Law and Policy and write and teaches on intellectual property and Internet-related subjects.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The LG Watch Phone Has Arrived

The touchscreen LG GD910 3G watchphone finally goes on sale in Britain next week and will be available from Orange for a limited period only.

Ok it may not have apps and full internet surfing and it may also cost £500 but it certainly looks cool and practical and a great Christmas present for the boy who has everything!Want one!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

News Corp Cuts Cloth as Friedman Moves On

News Corp. has had to act in the face of disastrous results and the press is now awash with stories of their various initiatives’. These include; forming a consortium that would charge for news distributed online and on portable devices, a potential move from ‘fortress Wapping, the sale of their free London paper and a pay reduction for Rupert.

Chief Digital Officer Jonathan Miller is believed to have met with news publishers including New York Times, Washington Post, Hearst Corp. and Tribune. Ever since William Dean Singleton, chairman of the AP and chief executive of MediaNews Group Inc., spoke in April against the "misappropriation" of news on the Internet, the momentum to look at charging has been growing. Robert Thomson, Wall Street Journal has gone as far as to call the news aggregators who believe in free content, "parasites or tech tapeworms in the intestines of the Internet."

Although newspapers have built an online readership, the revenue hasn't followed and Internet ads are still not significant. However, erecting pay walls may prove counter productive and just fuel infringement. Instead News Corp. is proposing a single online registration for readers to use across all news sites and to track the stories each person reads. They believe this accumulated demographic would appeal to advertisers but a consortium of newspaper publishers also risks raising issues of antitrust.

Murdoch needs to move fast to stem the flow of a red balance sheet and wishes the new charging model to be extended to tabloids such as the Sun and the News of the World where they believe they can capitalise on the perceived popularity of celebrity stories, scoops and what some may regard as high reader interest and low quality content.

News Corp are also looking to move from ‘fortress’ Wapping in the East end of London which grew to fame through often violent picketing in 1986. It has apparently agreed to occupy about 180,000 sq ft of the Thomas More office scheme, which is big enough to accommodate the majority of its Wapping workforce. This would free up the Wapping site for residential development but even with the Olympics in 2012 the timing in the current climate may prove a bit premature.

Mr. Murdoch’s son James has announced that they plan to close the 3 year old London Paper, which posted a $21 million pre tax loss for the year. The London Paper handed out over 500,000 copies a day, compared with 400,000 for the free London Lite, which is owned by Associated Newspapers. Mind you giving away papers is easy so the numbers are irrelevant really.

Cuts at News Corp. have included large-scale job losses at the social networking website MySpace. In response the 78-year-old Rupert Murdoch's pay has apparently dropped 28% down from $27.5m, to $19.9m (£12.1m) . Although Murdoch's base salary of $8.1m remained unchanged, his performance-related bonus slumped from $17.5m to $5.4m. He did received a $6m in pension contributions and share awards and his son James Murdoch, who oversees News Corp's operations in Europe and Asia and chairs BSkyB television, saw his total remuneration drop from $10.9m to $9.2m.

Finally. Just as if the news wasn’t bad enough, OpenRoad Integrated Media, a new New York based eBooks marketing and publishing start-up, has raised $3 million in funding. What is interesting is that the company was founded only this year by Jane Friedman, former CEO of HarperCollins Publishers Worldwide. She left Murdoch last year and with Chris Lederer, former CMO at HarperCollins aims to go beyond books into “integrated media”. So even Rupert’s ex employees are now striking out to make it on their own.

So where is HarperCollins going and is it a long term News Corp asset or a liability in these changing times?

Friday, August 21, 2009

Opting out of Google?

A funny clip from those smart guys at The Onion

The Great Book Bank Robbery - The Opposition Grows

The momentum of opposition to the Google Book Settlement is growing as the date for judicial decision draws near. Is it surprising that it has taken so long to treat through the treacle that is the settlement and wake people up to the potential implications. The one thing that is clear is that the settlement has divided the publishing community like no other issue and as predicted the noise levels from both camps is only getting louder.

Today the Wall Street Journal broke the news, 'Tech's Bigs Put Google's Books Deal In Crosshairs', reporting that three technology corporations have joined with some library associations to challenge the settlement. Many nay expect Microsoft, Yahoo and Amazon to oppose the settlement and the Internet Archive has been a consistent objector since the settlement was announced. But the fact that they have apparently all agreed to join together and co-led by Gary Reback, a Silicon Valley lawyer involved in the Department of Justice's antitrust investigation against Microsoft Corp. last decade would indicate that they intend to jointly fight the settlement. Expect some mudslinging from Google against Microsoft and their partners as the fight could get a little muddy.

Slowly the opposition from authors, librarians, European booksellers and publishers and privacy advocates has increased and the U.S. Justice Department and state attorneys general are still continuing their investigation into the settlement.

Others are claimed to be considering joining the group.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Flat World Expands

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

Then earlier this year we reported that Greenhill SAVP had invested $8m Series A financing in Flat World Knowledge.

Now Wired gives us a healthy update on this innovative company’s progress. It reports that Flat World now claim 40,000 college students at more than 400 colleges are going to be using their digital, DRM-free textbooks in the coming semester, up from their beta of 1,000 students in 30 colleges in the last semester.

Flatworld pricing is based on an 'a la carte' model where online can be free, a PDF some $20 and a printed rendition of the same textbooks could cost up to $60. Flat World’s use of Creative Commons licenses also is not just to the student to allow unencumbered non-commercial use, but also the lecturers to add supplemental material.

Flat World now are working on supporting the likes of the Sony e-book reader and Amazon Kindle and plan to use their most popular format the PDF to achieve this. It will be interesting to watch how the most widely supported digital format, PDF, promotes a DRM free textbook in a flat world.

iTunes Continues to Dominate Digital

A new report from the NPD Group claims that 25% of all music sold in the US is sold through the iTunes Store and paid digital music downloads have continued to grow to 35% from 20% in 2007.

iTunes remains the clear market leader across all music sales, followed Walmart (14%) and then Best Buy came in third. When looking at only online sales, iTunes generated a staggering 69 % of the digital music sales in the 1st half of 2009, followed by Amazon MP3 with just 8%. CDs continue make up 65% of all music sold, with Walmart leading the physical sales market with 20% market share. However, digital music sales are growing at 15 to 20 %, and CDs falling by an equal proportion, forces NPD to predict digital music sales will nearly equal CD sales by the end of 2010.

The interesting observation would be the continued power of iTunes in the digital market. It raises the opportunity of Apple becoming the media source store, for not just music, but all digital files, including books.

Read Comics and More on a Sony PSP

Sony is facing increasing competition in the handheld gaming space with new threats from the likes of Apple, which can offers a portable games experience on its iPhone and iPod touch devices. They are also under threat from the likes of Nintendo, who are already offering much more than games on their consoles.

The Sony PSP Go, goes on sale in later this year and is aimed at restoring Sony’s position. The device is half the size and weight of the original PSP (PlayStation®Portable) has 16GB of flash memory and allows users to store thousands of songs, photos and games on the device and so compete head to head with Apple. It also has a slide-out control pad, Bluetooth, as well as a memory card slot to expand its storage limit.

Marvel Digital Comics are going portable on the new Sony PSP go service to be launched later this year. The new service will offer a library of Digital comics from several sources including the leading ones from Marvel such as, Spider-Man, X-Men, StarTrek and the Fantastic Four

The user will be able read page by page or frame by frame from wherever and enables then pick up the latest digitized editions from any Wi-Fi hotspot, download, build a library of comics and importantly widens the reach of the PSP to provide more entertainment on the go. The intuitive Autoflow feature allows the user to zoom in and move from frame to frame on each digital page, mimicking the way your eyes would move across a print page from left to right.

This brings us to question where convergence ends. Will we soon have a gaming console that is a phone and can compete with a netbook? The only one device that stands outside of this convergence is the eInk ebook reader. Can eInk sustain its postion or will users decide that colour beats shades of grey? It looks as if Sony are backing two horses but will the consumer understand this or be confused?

It's Down to Selection not Age

So there is little value in those lost orphans and out of print books that Google are fighting over. Many soldier in the belief that the front list publishing fixation will continue, with that 13 week window deciding success and failure. However, others believe that the value lies not just in the bestseller punts of tomorrow, but also the wealth of material already published.

Some continue to believe that books rarely get a second chance and that if they have failed once, they will fail again. Also if the were successful first time, then they have had their 15 minutes of fame. This fixation on the front list often flies against all reason and the consumers continued interest in back lists and classics. We only have to look at film, music and other media, to see that there will always be a second new audience. Consumers rarely skip straight to the copyright page to see when a book was published and the publication date is irrelevant to many.

So why so many have books fallen by the wayside? Over time lists have often been exchanged or bought, publishers cease to trade, authors become impossible to trace and rights records become hidden in cupboards and filing boxes under thick layers of dust. It is therefore difficult to establish the rights owner and get permission to reprint. The truth is often as easy to publish a new title, than revisit the old and the print and distribution economics were often against a punt on a second life.

However, today’s digital technology changes this, offering low risk print on demand and short print runs, internet marketing and ecommerce to a viral audience from a virtual warehouse. The ebook extends this opportunity and now every book has to compete not in 13 week window, but against every title ever published. The key to re publishing is the same as with new titles – picking the winners. However, unlike new titles who’s visibility depends on marketing and placement, older titles can have a sales history which may also help in their selection. They also may be relatively cheap to acquire.

We have recently seen the success of Cambridge’s print on demand programme, Faber and Faber’s new classics and Penguin’s continual programme of refreshing the back list and keeping it imprint. We now read that Barnes & Noble will republish out-of-print books in redesigned hardcovers. The first 33 titles in the series, include works by Loren Eiseley, Norman Cohn, Ted Hughes and Owen Barfield.

Barnes and Noble have long be publishers, reprinters and packagers. In the eighties they had talented scouts such as John Kelly and Jeanette Limodjian who fed their successful mail order business with their Dorset imprint of highbrow selections. Remember titles such as, 'The Verbal Art of Self Defence' and 'The Mabinogion?' Now under the stewardship of Sterling Publishing we believe it is a return to proven ways. Importantly they are booksellers with a history of knowing what sells and have multiple sales platforms form which to promote and sell these new editions.

We believe that Barnes and Noble’s move is very wise and also significant in that it starts to return us to those early 18th century days of the likes of Robert Dodsley, when booksellers were bookbinders, booksellers, rights owners and publishers

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Bibliotheque Nationale de France Sells Out to Google - Livres Libres?

The question is not whether Google can digitise the world’s libraries, but who or what can stop them doing it.

Many choose to say no and do there own thing and one of these was France's National Library (Bibliotheque Nationale de France (BNF). However, they have now given in saying that it was a pure commercial decision – Google could finance it no. Now the BNF will be joining the others who have opened their doors and shelves to Google’s project and its scanners. The library claims that despite it needing some €80 million to digitise works from 1870 to 1940, only €5 million a year was forthcoming and so, Google with its deep pockets and thirst for everything written, stepped back in and made an offer that the French couldn’t refuse.

Google scans items for ‘free’ and has so far added about ten million works to its Books Search database, the great majority of them out-of-copyright works. Non-copyright books can be read for free, while only extracts are available from the rest. However some would say Google has a track record of ‘scan first and claim fair use later’. Despite the strong voices and arguments against the Book settlement in the US, Google is clearly only one step away from what some would say is a free pardon, securing the US market for chump change and rewriting copyright through the backdoor.

What is clear is that Google’s vision doesn’t stop at the eastern seaboard and they intend to attempt they same trick again in Europe. Does Google understand European bookselling and library culture or even care about it? Do they only see world domination of all information and with it the advertising and other revenues associated with it as their destiny? If money counts then many would say that Google will always win over heritage, values, culture and even the law.

Cutting the Cost of Textbooks

The New York Times introduced us today to yet another iPhone app which may well prove very popular with many US students. At a time when students are preparing to resume classes that app offers them a price comparison on all those textbooks that the need but don’t want to buy. Bigwords claim average savings of 66% on new books and over 35% over buying online without its search engine.

The Bigwords iPhone App is free and sifts out the best deals based on buying new, used or digital, or just renting. The app collects the details of all the books the student needs and then searches against some 30 sources and identifies the best deal, factoring in shipping costs and discounts etc. The purchase can be then completed through the app or on the student can email their selection and complete the purchase on a PC via a link in an e-mail sent by the app.

We like their app strap line, 'keep it in your pants.'

The offer will certainly will appeal to many students who will have the iPhone but not necessarily the money for the book.

Argos Goes COOL-ER

To buy an ebook reader today tends to be through a bookretailer, over the internet and is often linked to someone who can also sell the content. Interead the maker of the COOL-ER ereader, have announced that it has partnered with Argos, a leading UK catalogue and online retailer of consumer products, to sell COOL-ER ereaders. Argos has some 700 stores, a turnover of £4.3bn,claims 130 million customers and catalogues some 17 million UK households. The Argos COOL-ER will be available in hot pink, black and silver.

The distribution partnership effective starts to shift ebook readers into the consumer product market and alongside the myriad of other electrical devices. Obviously this should lead to volume sales of the units and promotes COOL-ER's companion online bookstore,

The interesting question is how the Argos demographic will react and whether it is the right book buying demographic today. There is also the question of whether the consumer will associate ebook readers with Argos and other consumer devices, or find it through internet comparison and search, or whether it can be an impulse buy from the Argos catalogue?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

82 Million iPhones in 2012?

We have long supported the consolidation of technology on a mobile and netbook. It makes sense as storage and computing power expands and technology shrinks and also costs tumble that tomorrow’s technology will consolidate on the mobile and netbook platforms. reports on a study released by RBC Capital Markets that further supports this view placing smartphones at the core of the next wave of computing.

RBC believes that there will be different smartphone centres of interest dictated by usage and each with its own leader. They suggest Apple will head up the “media-centric” devices, RIM the “productivity-centric” business phone with other centres being based on “PIM-Centric” ( personal organization) and “cloud-centric” (social social-media/email0. We believe that they are wrong on there division and that these bands will not be so defined as they conclude. Phones will be phones and the only division will be on the economic bands not functionality.

RBC forecast that Apple's market share will rise from 10.8% to 16.3% in 2012. We believe that only the turnaround in fortune of the current incumbents, such as Nokia, or the take-up of Android threaten Apple today. One of Apple’s greatest strengths is their app store which will take some catching. This means that Apple's total mobile market share is predicted to rise from 1.1% (2008) to 5.7% in 2012, or 82 million iPhones on the market in 2012!

Who's Watching Who?

So you send a friendly email to a colleague, a friend, a relative a competitor. The question you must ask is whether anyone is watching and monitoring your emails. Sounds very 1984 but report that Email security company Proofpoint have claimed that almost 40% of companies who have more than 1,000 staff employ someone whose job is to monitor the outgoing email of colleagues.

The survey of some 220 companies involved interviews with their email chiefs and found in increase of some 9% in monitoring activity over their previous survey in 2008.

Email isn’t the only communications problem with 18% of the companies having conducted an investigation into employees' use or blogs or message boards. 17% had disciplined an employee for breaking company rules on their use and 9% had resulted in staff being fired over blog and message board.

So what’s your company policy on internet usage and is it linked to a disciplinary policy? How much time do employees spent surfing, emailing, twittering and what do they communicate? Its too easy to slip into 1984.

Readers Digest To Slip Into Chapter 11

It most probably would have been in a doctor’s and dentist’s waiting room, but most of us have glanced through or read a Readers Digest magazine. The model of short and serialised stories set it apart from the book and made it attractive to many. Reader’s Digest was first launched in 1921 by a husband and wife team and began as a mail-order collection of condensed articles from other magazines and evolved into direct- mail pioneer and one of the world’s largest publishers. Of its 94 magazines, 9 claim to have a circulation over 1m in the US alone, and its titles claim a combined global readership of 130m people in 78 countries.

Short stories and articles are well suited to the new eformat and better still to the mobile world. Readers Digest also already has a well honed mail order and direct mailing operation and finally their model is advertising based. If anyone was equipped to migrate into the digital age, one would think it would be Readers Digest.

However, the advertising downturn and the high charge of servicing a significant debt has forced the US arm of Reader's Digest magazines to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Chapter 11 gives firms time to straighten out their finances while continuing trade and Readers Digest aim to use it to get rid of up to 75% of its debts, cutting them from a staggering $2.2bn to $550m. This will reduce its annual interest payments on the remaining debt to less than $80m. Today's Chapter 11 filing does not apply to Reader's Digest operations in Canada, Latin America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Australasia, where the company claims to have "adequate funding" to continue publishing.

So will Readers Digest make it through today’s transition and economic difficulties and sieze their digital market opportunity, or will they like so many well placed players such as book clubs, loose their way and allow others to steal their lunch?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Lessing's Thoughts on the Google Book Settlement

Whether you are for the Google Book Settlement or like us against it, the rhetoric is going to get louder over the next few weeks as the decision draws ever closer.

What is clear is that the deal is complex and that much of the debate has been in trying to understand the words. US law experts, libraries, academics, publishers and authors have all voiced their thoughts and many are still lost in the words. Whatever the outcome, it will impact the digital marketplace in the future and has raised the issues of orphan works, fair use, commons licence, rights reversals and even copyright itself.

What have we really learnt from this protracted exercise?

Irrespective, of your viewpoint we would urge readers to listen to a 30 min audio by Larry Lessig, Professor of Law and founder of the Stanford Center for Internet and Society speaking at the Berkman Center workshop “Alternative Approaches to Open Digital Libraries in the Shadow of the Google Book Search Settlement” held July 31, 2009.Sponsored by the Berkman Center for Internet & Society, the Harvard Law School Library, and Professors Charles Nesson, John Palfrey and Phil Malone.

The Berkman Center have also kindly given us a link to a video of the presentation

He may not have the answers but his perspective makes you think about the bigger challenges and opportunities.

Soundbite Tsar?

Twitter is a thing you either love or hate. It certainly belongs in the real time world but often 140 characters brings out both the best and worst of worlds, with many searching for those extra words not written. The UK Conservative leader, David Cameron was caught on radio saying, ‘Too many twits can make a Twat’ and unfortunately had to apologise for his use of words.

Now the experts in political spin doctoring, the Labour Party, have given their MP Kerry McCarthy, ahead of the next election, the job of improving the party's use of social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook. So we have a Twitter Tsar in the making.

Can you imagine some of the classic twits from this government: ‘Gordon’s on holiday back in 8 weeks, enjoy’ or ‘In debt and want a loan on very good rates, call us’.

McCarthy denied politicians were jumping on the bandwagon by using sites like Facebook and Twitter, arguing they were merely an extension of traditional campaigning. She told LabourList, "Rather than being something completely new, campaigning using new media is simply doing what we've always done in a new setting - and rather than replacing traditional ways of doing things, it is about making traditional campaigning methods even more effective." She even described John Prescott, who blogs on the Gofourth website as "one of the best communicators - no soundbites, no pretensions - just very natural", a "great example" of how to use the internet to get a political message across. McCarthy also said: "Voters will increasingly be searching the web to find out what we think about the issues – all our candidates need to start building up that online collateral from now."

Twitter, Facebook, blogs, you tube, text all are today’s communication vehicles and therefore its safe to assume they will be used by all. The question is whether spam and sounbites will replace commentary and detail?

Wikipedia Reaches New Landmark

In 8 years the people’s encyclopaedia, Wikipedia, has changed collective reference and how we collaboratively edit and manage complex works such as encyclopaedias. Gone are the large sets of tomes bought by parents in the hope that their children may benefit. Now Wikipedia is one click away, free and with over 10 million registered members, 17 million pages, a network of over 13 million articles in hundreds of different languages, it truly is the people’s reference work.

Understandably, the number of articles being added has reduced from an average of 2,200 a day in July 2007 to around 1,300 today but it continues to grow organically. Wikipedia’s founder Jimmy Wales’s, recent call for additional funds to help keep the non-profit organisation encyclopaedia going, resulted in $6 million in donations from its benefactors.

Now an article on Norwegian actress and film director Beate Eriksen has become the 3 millionth English language article on the site.

The English version of Wikipedia remains the largest, with the German Wikipedia having close to 1 million articles, the French some 800,000 articles and the Japanese, Polish and Italian sites have around 600,000 each.
Science journal Nature in 2005 said it was about as accurate as the Encyclopaedia Brittanica,.
Despite its issues, Wikipedia remains one of the most popular sites on the web and has proved a source of knowledge and inspiration to other projects hoping to harness the collaborative knowledge of large groups of people.
Well done.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

PLR in a Digital Age

The UK Government is reportedly looking to extend the Public Lending Rights (PLR) programme to include non-print publications such as digital books. The PLR programme compensates authors from a central fund for the potential retail loss of sales of their works. The fund isn’t endless and is capped and shared between registered authors but only applies to printed books.

It is clear that libraries have the opportunity in a digital world to become the community hubs for information, services and media. However, there are many questions still to be answered before this can be realised not least of which is their ability to fund their position within the digital landscape. Some would suggest that it is funding that will ultimately determine their role.

The UK Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) claim that in 2007/8 there were over 11 million loans of audio books and the figure is growing. The ebook is still finding its feet within the UK library but with the entrance of players such as Overdrive from the US and Gardners acquisition of Askews and Holt Jackson, it is now easy to see that digital has an even bigger opportunity than today. The issue of pay versus free and the library relationship with the High Street is still outstanding on price but it is clear that ebooks will be available from any and every library and will not take up any space, removes the question of overdue fines and could be loaned from any armchair.

The Digital Britain report, published earlier this year recommended looking at extending PLR and the DCMS is urging all parties to participate in a public consultation to discuss extending PLR. The consultation ends on 16 October. However, the question remains as to the whether the size of the pot increases or the funds just get spread thinner? It is hard to see how ebooks can be effectively covered whilst their pricing remains unstable and their market penetration is small. Why not reward an author on the work, irrespective of the format, after all a work is created once and rendered many times, so a book is a book, no matter how many times it is rendered into different formats.

Why Not Digital First?

Dan Brown's new novel, The Lost Symbol, is due out next month and Knopf DoubleDay, have announced that an ebook download will be released simultaneously. So will the ebook release prove the stimulus to make consumers buy ebook readers and go digital, or will it be just another baby step along the digital path?

So we have a potential bestseller competing with itself in physical and digital form. However this raises the question of what is different between the two renditions? If all we are doing is taking the print copy and transferring it to digital, then the consumer gains little from the digital experience and has to invest in a reader to boot. If however, the digital work came with extras, then we could see an attraction in added value that would be similar to film outtakes.

We still await the 'Dickens move', where a publisher releases potential bestseller digitally in chapters first and even as Dickens and King did, as it was being written. This could prove a significant ebook moment, with even the physical book being released in line with the final instalment. Someday soon, someone will take that brave and exciting route.

The other challenge we face today with such high profile dual releases is that of restricted channels. Not only are the channels restricted, but they are also controlled by those who have the greatest leverage to deep discount. So Dan Brown now presents us with another ‘Harry Potter moment’, where the industry sells off its greatest assets at the greatest discount and where volume speaks louder than profit.

With more than 81m copies of The Da Vinci Code sold across the world, the impact of a simultaneous release of this new work will however still be interesting to watch.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Yet another 'Lookie likie' eInk reader

Egadget reports on yet another ebook eink lookie likie ereader, the Matsunichi’s ER600 ebook reader.

Nothing new and much the same as the rest of the pretenders but it does optional 3G/3.5G WWAN, WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity to whatever feeds the device. As Christmas draws ever nearer expect many more wannabies.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Bookselling in the Digital Age: Part 2

This is the second excerpt of the presentation given to the Swanwick Writers Summer School, 11th August,2009. By my wife Annie Quigley, owner of Biblophile Books. ‘Bookselling In A Digital Age.’

...So how does the Digital world affect you as authors?

Why does a bookseller need you today?

In today’s digital world the book may be physical but the marketing is going digital in the way that people find it, buy it and value it on the internet.

Yesterday everyone relied on the publisher to promote and market both the book and its creator. Those days are fast disappearing. Marketing and PR budgets are tighter and publishers now will back surefire winners allowing the rest often swim for themselves. Max Arthur, a historian friend tells the story of one publisher (who I shan’t name), setting aside the princely sum of £100 for his book tour budget! What does that tell you about the state of publishing today? I am asking you to consider “Who is the best person to sell the book?”

I quote Ray Hammond again who urges the writer very strongly;
“It’s your business and if you want to make a living you must at least take some responsibility for the selling.”

You may ask “How can I do that?”

First you have to take responsibility for the blurb and the book’s jacket and not just delegate it to a marketing person whom you may never meet. It’s your brand. Remember each key word you choose to describe your work and each description or review is now used by search engines to find and catalogue your books. Today you no longer compete with a shelf of books in a bookstore but millions of titles on a virtual shelf. Can you afford to get this wrong? Can you afford NOT to be involved with the marketing?

Secondly you must become familiar with blogs, websites, podcasts and social networking sites. You may not use them all, but I would urge you, make your choice out of knowledge not out of ignorance. We need those new kinds of feeds to stimulate the book buying market, to provide supplementary information such as biographical details and to encourage a younger generation to take an interest in our work.

Perhaps if you do this correctly, I and Bibliophile may never see your books!

Book tours may be being squeezed and school visits now shrouded with awful government checks and licences but the virtual world exists and a virtual tour is now possible from your armchair.

Thirdly, you must become familiar with your local bookseller and librarian. Work with them at how best to promote yourself and maybe offer to add content to their websites and newsletters or offer readings and signings. Consider how are you going to make fans, and connect with readers…
And last but not least, what are you going to say about yourself, your influences and your methods of writing?

Selling your book certainly doesn’t stop at finding an agent or getting a publisher. That is the very start of an exciting journey. As rights may no longer revert in a digital world, the book may stay in print in perpetuity, its life cycle only over when every opportunity to sell it exhausted.

The digital world offers authors a great deal just as it does booksellers, so let’s make it fun and work together to make success happen. Far from sitting back, we planning to re publish my mother Aileen Armitage’s books in the formats of both Print On Demand and ebooks.As a bookseller I know that these books can be sold and am determined to bring them back into print for a new generation of readers.

Two titles I brought back from obscurity and wrote new Introductions for were The Night Side of London and The Memoirs of An Erotic Bookseller (which is not my autobiography!) But rather than order long print runs, they are published POD.

The POD machine has at last arrived Charing Cross Road in Blackwell’s and can produce a book in 5 minutes bound and ready. I am tempted to invest in one and would do so if more writers’ works become available as digital files for me to select from.
Just before I finish, I would like to regale a wonderful story about the late Bill Smith. Bill also found fame as a publisher and was the last person to be charged and acquitted under the Obscene Publications Act. He had reprinted a book called The Amorous Illustrations of Thomas Rowlandson and discovered that the original erotic watercolours were held at the Queens private Library in Windsor no less! Bill’s defence summary in court was delivered in style, with his thumbs tucked under his imaginary braces, “Me Lud, surely if they’re good enough for Her Majesty, they’re good enough for her subjects!” Case dismissed.

I am such a dyed-in-the wool bookseller that maybe then I shall go back to the old tradition of taking orders then printing individual books for my customers. This was what bookseller/printer did 300 years ago before the profession of “publisher” was invented! In fact the prosperous 18th century booksellers were all large copyright owners.

May I end by reading from one of my favourite books, The Life of Robert Dodsley, “… for the real money lay in ownership of copyrights, not in the retailing… booksellers were the entrepreneurs who purchased rights from authors, and, binding to others, merchandised and finished the product through advertisement and trade distribution.”

What goes around comes may around. Let’s make bookselling fun, and long may the author-bookseller relationship flourish - here’s to our digital future! `

The Three Rs: Authoring in a Digitral Age. No. 3 Rights

This is the first part of the presentation given to the Swanwick Writers Summer School, 11th August,2009. It is based on The Three ‘Rs’: Authoring in the Digital Age.

The third R is shared between rights and reward.

It brings me back to that Litopia discussion and the issue of how authors get rewarded in this digital age. Let’s try and park the physical book world to one side and look purely at digital rights and reward.

Today author advances are disappearing or shrinking. Digital rights are effectively being talked of as a single subsidiary right but we must recognise that these are different from the rights we are familiar with today but can also affect them.

What happens to the rights reversal in a digital age where print on demand and an ebook can mean a book is never out of print? Why should a work be effectively tethered to a publisher in perpetuity?

Always make sure that you can revert your rights and when the conditions for reversal are reached get them back. You can with little effort, sell as many digital individual copies of an out of print work as a publisher and enjoy more return.

Guess what the price of an ebook is today?

I can’t tell you the answer only that some publishers tie it to the current renditions RRP, others to the hardback, and others to whatever. The price has to include tax which changes from state to state, country to country and even within the EU is not standardised. The consumer is however now seeing Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Borders US, Indigo in Canada and others trying to create a $9.99 price point.

Remember that iTunes moment everyone talks about? They did it by creating a .99 cent price point. I would predict that ebook prices can only go one way and it isn’t up.
Many are using the ebook as the promotional lost leader to capture the physical sale. Others are saying that they will not release the ebook until after the hardback has had its day so avoiding the cannibalising of hardback sales.

James Patterson today has a best selling US ebook ‘The Angel Experiment’. It isn’t new it came out 4 years ago. The reason it is a best seller today is that its been given away to promote his new series. Mega authors such as Patterson may be able to give their books away, big publishers may think it a smart marketing move, but what impact could it have on authors and publishers who don’t enjoy the same economic freedom?

It’s often like the wild west out there today.

But remember the contract you sign today will not deliver royalties for some time and can you predict what the market will look like in 2 years or 3 years?

Should there be a separate digital rights contract which is not based on the physical rendition but on a fixed term licence?

With physical sales came returns and so royalties took time to be paid. However with digital sales there are no returns so why does the author have to wait? Why not transfer the money when it hits the till or at least not long after?

Should digital royalties’ be based on a % of RRP, which is often meaningless in the digital rendition?

Should digital royalties be based on a % of net receipts, which if the current trends continue could be a % of little or nothing?

Should digital royalties be fixed amount? Publishing may be a gambling business but who will gamble on predicting that today?

Should you negotiate different rates based on the different channels as Google, Amazon, Apple are all different in their models? Just like yesterday’s territorial rights they can all be done separately.

Then there is the Google Book Settlement in the US. My thoughts on this debacle are well documented but what I would say it has raised it the whole issue on copyright. I find it amazing that an industry that is all about copyright and rights failed to create a rights registry to control them and waited for a handout from Google to even start the process.

I see a fantastic opportunity for writing talent in the digital world. Tomorrow you may not have the same dependency on some relationships that you believe pivotal today.

I believe that publishing is about joining those dots between the author and the reader.

I believe in the right for authors to revert their rights and not be tethered to a publisher unless they want to be.

I believe that digital rights should be term based and reflect the different channels.

I strongly believe authors should see a greater slice of the digital pie.

I also believe that there will always be publishers and retailers, but they may not be the same number, or that they will provide the same services they do today.
The one thing that is certain is that tomorrow will be different and you are in the best position to benefit.

You are no longer in that theatre performing to an audience hidden in the dark. You can switch on the lights and embrace the digital age.
Enjoy the journey!

Sony to finally bury BBeb

The news that Sony are to scrap their proprietary BBeB format and focus on epub, is both good news and long overdue. It begs the question why they ever thought that their format was ever going to cut it and like many Sony formats before them has proved a bridge too far.We have never been asked to provide the BBeB format.

In adopting Adobe’s ACS4 digital rights management Sony were the first to embrace epub with encrypted protection and also Adobe ebooks which are also fully compatible with ACS4 and the Sony Reader.

It is easy to see both these formats, one PDF based and the other XML, being the dominate formats outside of fortress Kindle. Many of the ‘lookie likie’ eink readers are now openly adopting ACS4 which whilst DRM is still the requirement is the key to providing secure open files that are interoperable between devices.

We presume that Sony will offer customers who have BBeB files a migration in their announcement.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Three ‘Rs’: Authoring in the Digital Age, No. 2 wRiting.

This is the second part of the presentation given to the Swanwick Writers Summer School, 11th August,2009. It is based on The Three ‘Rs’: Authoring in the Digital Age.

Writing is the most controversial perspective and questions the work itself.

For the last couple of hundred years Books have been ‘straight jacketed’ between two pieces of card. The reason was simple and down to economics. The most economic format was what we see all around us today, 250 to 300 pages or around 75,000 words.But a digital age doesn’t have the same economics or constraints. The digital age has the potential to explode the spine and free writing from its current economic straightjacket.

Will it happen tomorrow? Will all books change?

It is already happening albeit slowly.

What do these authors have in common?

First we have the Keitai novel which is huge in Japan. This is a new bread of authors who are write books for your keitia, or mobile phone. These are written in instalments and in 5 years have jumped from zero to a $82 million and growing business.

Yoshi who wrote the very successful keitai novel ‘ Deep Love’ was turned into a book, which sold 2.7 million copies.

Mieko Kawakami, who is pictured, is a blogger who has been heralded as Japan’s biggest literary star. Her blog enjoys a staggering 200,000 readers every day and her third book won the prestigious Akutagawa literary award.

Next is Kate Pullinger, an established writer who I interviewed, who is now fully engaged in creating multi media stories that often evolve in instalments. It can be a shock to first see her work and you may not like it, but she recognises that stories are not exclusive to text, sound or visual and can be multi media.

Next author Stephen King, who in 1999 published his book ‘Riding the Bullet’. He did so over the internet and produced and sold one chapter at a time as he wrote it. Many derided the experiment and said it was a failure but the reality was he sold hundreds of thousands of chapters, broke new ground. Today he continues to experiment with digital and is to write an exclusive Kindle novel.

Next is our good friend Duke Redbird who is an Ojibwee Shaman and who wrote a poem ‘I am Canadian’ which he read to the Queen in 1977 to celebrate her jubilee. Scholastic have now published a book with just that one poem in it which is now going into all Canadian schools. If one poem can be a book it can easily be a rendered into many digital formats.

Poetry is no longer straight jacketed into economic collections and each poem can digital stand in its own.

Next is Kurt Vonnegut who died in 2007. His estate has just announced that 14 of his unpublished short stories are to be published as individual ebooks and then secondly as a printed collection.

Apparently Mr. Vonnegut is claimed to have told an interviewer in 1995 that he would “welcome” being called a Luddite. I think his estate has clearly taken a different stance.

Finally, let’s remember Charles Dickens. I borrow the following extract from his Wikipedia entry.

Much of his work first appeared in periodicals and magazines in serialised form, a favoured way of publishing fiction at the time. Dickens, unlike others who would complete entire novels before serial publication commenced, often wrote his in parts, in the order in which they were meant to appear. The practice lent his stories a particular rhythm, punctuated by one cliffhanger after another to keep the public eager for the next instalment

But it not just about how or what you write but also how you publish and promote it.

Today you need to be familiar with online content sites such as Scribd and Wattpad. These are the new generation of self publishing; they are not based on print on demand, but are online and attract huge audiences. Publishers, are also now experimenting with sites to let aspiring authors post their work on, in a hope to get noticed. I recognise that to many, this may be today’s slush pile, but we must also acknowledge that to others, it may be tomorrow’s reading platform.

Keep your minds open and decide on the basis of knowledge not ignorance. Digital writing is and will be different, will it replace tradition requests for 75,000 words and it it may suit you and your readers...

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Bookselling in the Digital Age: Part 1

This is the first excerpt of the presentation given to the Swanwick Writers Summer School, 11th August,2009. By my wife Annie Quigley, owner of Biblophile Books. ‘Bookselling In A Digital Age.’

…One friend of mine is the professional sci fi writer, speaker and futurologist Ray Hammond.Ray is hired by large corporations to predict technological advances and is now a very well paid and respected consultant. He says: “A book in print is dead. It has to be alive electronically, or it’s dead.”

Ray may talk about the future but lives in the present. He said to me last week at a signing of his books at Bibliophile, “I am thrilled Bibliophile is recycling two of my books and having me here to sign them today. In this way it brings pleasure to readers who may otherwise not find them or could afford them at full price. “

These thoughts demonstrate today’s dilemma for writers. We are at a time of change and the reality is that both digital and physical books will live side by side for many years. Remember, books have to be alive electronically, or they’re dead.

How much will a digital book cost?

Some publishers predict the same price as a paperback. If like me you have an iPhone and use Ereader software like Stanza, you expect to pay a very small sum if anything for an E book.

Ray Hammond makes a living out of predicting future technologies and he say that he expects his books in digital form will be made available for free. In this case, how then are we all make money if it’s free? What Ray is describing is the conflict between extreme views but lets get real, change will not be overnight. I believe the glass is half full, not half empty, and that there are many opportunities for authors in today’s digital world and perhaps being less reliant on publishers is one of those realities.

Self publishing will be huge – and I don’t mean vanity publishing. You will need an understanding of copyright and marketing.

Will the digital revolution impact bookselling? - yes
I spoke at an International booksellers conference in South Africa three years ago on this topic and re reading that speech I had said: “I want to sell e-books and audio downloads in the future and therefore have to look for reliable suppliers and select titles at the right price. As soon as I can, I will offer them for sale them alongside physical books.” As I said, that was three years ago and in the meantime, publishers have been slow to announce and commit to a digital publishing programme, particularly in this recession.

We have to recognise digitisation is only just evolving. America’s largest booksellers Barnes & Noble is only just setting up digital store; Waterstones set up their ebook website 12 months ago and Borders UK and Blackwells have only just gone live on ebooks. Wholesaler Gardners can now supply any bookseller with some 100000 new ebooks, so any bookshop can join this scheme.

So we are the start of a journey and there are many conflicts to resolve. The one thing we can be certain of is that the future of bookselling will be quite different from today and I want to be part of it. Like myself, many other booksellers don’t want to lie down and give away our traditional hand selling market to the likes of Amazon, Google, Apple or even Tesco’s, Sainsbury’s and Asda. We want to sell physical and digital – we want to sell books.

Supermarkets today claim 20% of UK book sales, and Amazon another 20%. This was unheard of just 5 years ago. If another 40% of titles are deep discounted by publishers, how are authors going to make money? What percentage is left after the publishers’ costs for you to take as a slice of the pie? You may sell thousands of copies of books into a supermarket, but at what cost?

Here is a little of my life in bookselling.

Publishers send me reps to showcase their titles and in truth, for every 100 books I am shown, I select just one. The criteria I use varies, but I have to make sure its right for my members, be confident I can market it and sell it. I could easily be buying 100 different titles at a time and a minimum of 100 copies of each and if I do my job well, we can oversell and rush back for more stocks. After 25 years of bookselling, I cannot claim to know each of our 100,000 members but they certainly know me and share a discerning taste in literature on which they can rely.

My oldest customer Mr Martin Stern, asked his daughters to arrange to bring him to visit Bibliophile for his special 90th birthday treat. Here we are pouring over his favourite S J Perelman tome!

If I can be brutal here, I recognise that some books fail because the publisher’s blurb was poor or the jacket didn’t represent or sell the content. I endeavour to ensure that every Bibliophile review sells the book. Bookselling is certainly not just down to price!

I am often asked two questions, “What makes a book sell and what are your bestsellers”?

In brief, it is beautifully made art books, conspiracy theories, crime fiction and Signed books which I love to sell and collect, so I regularly organise author visits. By genre, it is predominantly non-fiction - art, history, religion, war, humour and erotica. Not necessarily in that order!

Bibliophile has a vast reservoir of independent book reviews going back 30 years for something like 60,000 titles. With valuable sales figures for each, we can consider re publishing from this rich backlist and knowledge...

The Three ‘Rs’: Authoring in the Digital Age: No. 1 Relationships

This is the first part of the presentation given to the Swanwick Writers Summer School, 11th August,2009. It is based on The Three ‘Rs’: Authoring in the Digital Age.

The Number 1 ‘R’ is about Relationships

What is the most import relationship you have today?

The agent, the editor, the production department, the marketing team, the PR department, the sales force, the warehouse, the wholesaler, the book chain, the independent, the bookclub, the supermarket, Amazon, Google, Apple, the library, the school, the teacher, the student the consumer.

I would suggest that the most important relationship yesterday was that or those closest to you, the agent, the editor and the development process. Readers always are important, but if the amount of effort expended related to the importance, the answer was clear.

Many of the relationships I listed were outsourced to others and mainly the publisher. It wasn’t the time that dictated this, but often it was the effort and inability to do it effectively.

What is the most important one to you tomorrow?

I would suggest that the digital world potentially turns much yesterday’s relationships on their head. Agents, editors and publishers will still be important but now you can connect with your readers in ways that were never possible yeaterday.

If we look at your Readers.

What do you know about them?

How do you get closer to them?

You may want to write and nothing more.Shun your readers and delegate the task to someone else, or neglect it altogether.

But remember what Ray Hammond said about it being your business. Some of the most successful media creators today have joined those digital dots that connect them to their audience. They may be musicians, writers, artists, cartoonists, TV media personalities, whatever. They have learnt how to use today’s digital tools; websites, blogs, twitter, podcasts, social network sites etc. They have learnt which works for them and they are making it happen.

How do you now connect to those readers you don’t know?

Last night Ben Crystal spoke about Shakespearian actors engaging with their audience in a theatre with the lights on. Digital now offers you the same opportunity, the same thrill, emotion and reward. Importantly the opportunity to switch on the lights and connect to your audience…

Sunday, August 09, 2009 Plots Pay-per-Article System

Rupert Murdoch has declared no more online news for free but has yet to declare how, when and the impact is going to be interesting to watch. Now the aims for one-click pay-per-article system by next summer, and plans a review which could put an end of any free content on the website. currently offers users who register their email address access up to 10 articles a month free of charge and some 1.4 million have registered for this service. However, internet users can currently browse a couple of articles each month without registering. An online subscription costs £150 a year, a premium-level service that includes added content such as the Lex column costs £199 a year.

The balance is between offering too much free content, which could result in a reduction of subscriptions and registrations and obviously restricting general traffic that could generate revenue through advertising or converting occasional visitors to paying users. If users can’t get in they may well, irrespective of quality, go elsewhere. Advertising may not be happy with restricting views and effectively containing subscriptions.

So the online questions facing newsprint are not simple and its not certain that the brand and content can always carry the migration from paying for physical newspapers to subscription payments for online. If all you ever buy is the FT then maybe its and easy switch if not pay to read is a pain and subscriptions may not be justified.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Are Free eBooks Wise?

There is no such thing as Free and you can offer so much free content that the consumer starts to believe all content is free. Remember Napster and Kazza they created ‘free’ and music never really recovered, iTunes created the $0.99 track and prices only went one way.

Irrespective of the jacket price, we are now close to establishing the $9.99 price point in ebook retail, but even more alarming, some publishers now appear to be hell bent on using the ebook as a promotional release and giving them away free.

James Patterson's latest ‘best seller’, The Angel Experiment, was published some 4 years ago. Readers are getting it from the likes of Amazon’s Kindle site and at a price which is very good even for an old title - free. Patterson is taking the ‘mega author’ big picture perspective and is happily introducing readers to one book free, in order to promote the sales of another. Thousands have been given away. After all, he has probably made his money on the original, so what does he care?

This ‘priming the sales of one book by giving away another’ may be good for big publishers and young marketing wiz kids, but it is bad for smaller authors and publishers who don’t enjoy the ability to give books away!

The problem is that we haven’t established the ebook market and already some have decided they know best and are smart marketers. Promotional ebooks may work for some, but will effect all and some would say that its madness and would urge them, to be careful what you wish for.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Open Access Insight

every wondered about open access where it has come from and what it means?

We love Phd Comics who always amuses us with their funny perspectives

Click here to view their latest insight

Another $199 eBook Pretty in Pink

One a Sony new cheap ebook reader and the same week a competitive ‘lookie likie’ eink reader matches it head on, both on price and secondly by using Adobe’s ASC4 Digital Rights Management (DRM). ACS4 is the only DRM that supports encrypted Adobe eBooks in PDF format and epub files.

Astak has installed the Adobe Digital Editions firmware on their 5-inch and 6-inch devices. Like its 6” big brother the EZ Reader, the new Pocket PRO also supports more than 20 DRM-free formats. New 5” display supports 8-level greyscale and weights 6 ounces. It has some 512MB of memory, plus a SD card slot for additional storage capacity up to 16GB and can play MP3 music files while users read eBooks.

The 5-inch Pocket PRO reader will sell at a promotional price of $199.

We couldn’t download pictures from their site but you can log on and see a Flash image in the various available colours. We liked the shocking pink – very lady like!

New iRex But Same Old Song

Sony one day now iRex has released details of a new and better ebook reader. The picture is a mock up release, but we know that it will have a 8.1” eink touchscreen and be released in the last quarter of this year.

The feature that grabs the attention is that has 3G wireless connectivity which means that it doesn’t need to be tethered to a PC. No carrier has been announced, nor are there details of the supporting ebook store or stores capable of the direct connection.

However, iRex is not without models and against their competitors are on the pricy side. This new model is probably not going to prove the exception. When Sony have just launched cheaper models to get mass adoption, iRex have now to either follow that lead or risk, even with wireless, being left on the shelf.

So is the ereader battles becoming clearer or just starting?

Acer , the world’s 3rd largest maker of PCs, has announced that it will expand into televisions and electronic books. It is reported to be waiting until the market develops before it releases an ebook. You may ask why and the answer is down to volume and we would expect similar Computer manufacturers to follow a similar path when the economics are right.

So as a consumer you have to make some hard decisions, in what are still hard times. Do you buy a device that today is clearly not the end product and could well be superseded within months of purchase, or wait? Do you buy into a device which may be tethered to a carrier or a specific service and book source, or do you wait for interoperability? Like any early technology, when do you buy and expect to write it off? When do you make that heavy investment and transfer your collection, or do you play safe and buy as you read?

We fear that the current ebook reader wars may be raising the consumer awareness but are also adding to their apprehension. The price of the books may be stabilising at $9.99 but the price of the devices isn’t, the service is not standard, the range is inconsistent and eink is still akin to black and white tv in today’s full colour HD world.

Finally, the eink players are banking heavily on news and magazines driving demand and that is understandable. However, where once digital may have been free News Corps words this week that this is not sustainable and has to change means that it could impact how ereaders develop and the service constraints that support them.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

News Corp Delivers Bad News

You may own MySpace, the Times, The Sun the News of the World, the Wall Street Journal, the Australian, Twentith Century Fox and HarperColins but you are not immune to bad hair days. Rupert Murdoch's global media empire, News Corporation, delivered a thumping great $3.4bn (£2bn) net loss for the 12 months to June.

What went wrong? Was it just down to newspapers and advertising revenues? Why did operating profit drop by a staggering 32% to $3.6bn. Cable TV couldn’t counter a slump in income from films, newspapers, books, magazines and online.

In the final quarter of the year, News Corp made a $203m loss, compared to a $1.1bn profit for the same period in 2008.

MySpace, has clearly been outshone by Facebook and could slip to the degree that the likes of Friends Reunited did and shedding 400 staff could be seen as merely treating the symptoms not the underlying cause. The UK newspapers, had a 14% drop in year-end advertising revenue whilst profits in it’s global newspapers business fell from $786m to $466m. Even the bright news that Twentieth Century Fox film studio recorded annual profits of $848m, that was a drop from from the previous year's $1.24bn.

The bad news goes on. The question is what is the remedy? Is it just experiencing a bad day or does it has serious problems and is the balance of media interests now imbalanced? The one thing that is certain is that it can’t reverse bad news across such a wide diversity of interests quickly and that would suggest that some may have to be sacrificed for the larger game.

Spotify March Onwards and Upwards

Many who read this blog may be fed up with us reporting on Spotify but when news is so good and potentially offers so much we are not embarrassed to back winners.

While we all wait for those Apple app censors to approve the music streaming app we discussed a few days ago the Spotify team are rumoured to have raised €15.3m from Northzone Venture Partners at a monster €71.6m pre-money valuation. The service is still in a private beta yet is storming both the investment and music market.

Today comes further news that UK network 3 Mobile is currently in talks with Spotify, to put the music service on its handsets. 3 were the same people to offer free skype calls and Spoyify could be an interesting competitive offer, especially if the Apple police turn the app down.

It is understood that there are options to pre-loading Spotify on new handsets, as making it downloadable.
Well done O2 and Spotify for going where others may fear to tread.

Apple Speaks, Sees and Hears no Evil

We have seen a number of Apple ‘censorships’ on their iPhone apps and now offers another lurch back into draconian times.

The Ninjawords pocket dictionary, which is a paid for $2 app now has been given a 17+ rating and warnings of potential objectionable content. However the Ninjawords for iPhone omits all the words deemed “objectionable” by Apple’s App Store reviewers, who even apparently censored an ordinary everyday English dictionary. The Ninjawords programming team made users type in entire bad words in order to see them but that’s was enough for Apple censors. They also deleted all offensive entries, but unfortunately missed one and were rejected again. Then finally when full clean were given a 17+ rating!

The stupidity of Apple is one thing but what is being censored or restricted are words. Words many of us use everyday. Words that litter the pages of many a modern classic and are probably found in virtually every new novel. Words we hear everyday in all walks of life.

The issue is not whether Apple is right or wrong but why in a world that supports free speech, has with the exception of liable has removed text censorship we are adopting a policy that would be only applauded in repressed societies, dictatorships and probably appeals to governments who disrespect civil rights?

Apple needs to offer control, choice and stop shooting itself in the foot.

Schmit Goes at the Break of War?

The resignation of Google's CEO Eric Schmidt as a director of Apple's board has quite rightly failed to stop the US Federal Trades Commission’s inquiry into possible antitrust violations. "We will continue to investigate remaining interlocking directorates between the companies," said the FTC's Richard Feinstein. However former Genentech CEO, Arthur Levinson, still serves on both boards and has been called to step down from either Google or Apple to avoid antitrust violations.

Apple now clearly compete on many areas; mobile telephone technology, mobile apps, computer and mobile operating systems and maybe even a bookstore. The big question is now whether the two will polarise one on their web centric computing and the other on a more traditional approach. Expect the mobile wars between Google and Apple to get messy as both go after the rest and to dominate the market. Video, music and book wars as one exploits search, discovery and service and the other brand and design cache.

The recent Google Voice apps fiasco was just a starter, created a long overdue departure and now promises more battles in what may be a long war.