Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Going Rogue: An eBook Life

HarperCollins is planning to bring forward the publication of Sarah Palin's memoir, "Going Rogue: An American Life," from Spring 2010 to November 17th this year. They obviously believe that it can compete in that Christmas market and after all, the quicker its on the shelf, the quicker it will earn out.

The ebook version is being held back a few weeks until December 26th so that they can learn what impact it has on sales and according to CEO Brian Murray, ‘The publishing plan is focused on maximizing velocity of the hardcover before Christmas, at a time when hardcover sales in the industry are down 15%.’ However, in contrast Harper are publishing Michael Crichton's novel, "Pirate Latitudes," which will be available as an e-book Nov. 24, the same date as its hardcover release. Truly some would suggest that Harper see the market as one big testbed and consumers as mere numbers to be crunched in the pursuit of ‘maximising the velocity of the hardcover before Christmas.’

Today we are clearly seeing the emergence of a US ebook market. It has many consumer issues on price, DRM, devices, but confidence is growing despite these potential obstacles. If publishers are inconsistent in how they address these and the release dates, this will not only potentially confuse consumers, but begs the question as to whether consumers are being used in pursuit of ‘maximising the velocity of the hardcover before Christmas.’

Let’s not mix up issues. Harper are not saying that they are delaying epublication because of piracy issues, it is purely down to money. The jacket price will no doubt be factored to accommodate discounting and the marketing hype geared to sell hardbacks at maximum margin. Some would suggest it isn’t hardback cannibalistion that is the issue as much the lack of credible ebook price within the market. At a time when you want readers to invest and have confidence in digital the last thing you should consider is potentially insulting their intelligence.

Perhaps Palin’s title is quite apt!

C5 to Show Live Soccer on iPhone

The iPhone still continues to dominate the mobile world and redefine the boundaries around its use.

Today UK TV Channel Five has announced that it is to offer Apple iPhone live football matches for a one-off fee of £3.99.So if you have an iPhone and you support Glasgow Celtic or Rapid Vienna you can watch Uefa Europa League game tomorrow on your iPhone or iTouch.

Channel five may not broadcast the top European games or the premiership but it can show all 16 rounds of of the Europa league competition.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Apple Open Up UK iPhone Market

Following the news that UK network operator Orange was to sell both the iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS and effectively end the exclusive UK arrangement between O2 and Apple, which has been in place since 2007, Vodafone have now announced that users can register an interest online, with the handsets becoming available to customers from early 2010.

So the exclusive madness looks to be ending and leaves only the likes of 3Mobile outside the party. However, we believe that could soon also follow suite and some customers have already been offered deals.

Dreaming Can be UnWise Ms Hodge

So we are discussing a public library where the reader can sit at home, make their selection online, have the books, DVDs, whatever, delivered to their home and one which will allow members to drop off their books at other libraries. Some think what is being proposed in the UK is daring and could even rival traditional retailers and Internet stores such as Amazon and that it will revitalize the library system. The plan which will also recommend late night opening and a new marketing model based on the most popular bookshop chains, will be published next month by Margaret Hodge, the arts and culture minister.

The reality it is already coming even without Ms Hodge!

Libraries in many countries now supply ebooks and are open all hours. Digital books can be loaned out and become unreadable after a time period. This truly is a virtual library offer and exists today so why try to retro fit it into the physical world? We already have interlibrary loans so why extend the inter library returns to something which clearly isn’t very green nor wise in the current economic climate?

The idea that libraries become a bookstore is very interesting as it smacks of a pseudo nationalization of bookstores. Hodge also suggests that local authorities should consider relocating libraries to train stations and supermarkets. So what is left in the Hodge vision? Maybe she desires a pact with Google, Espresso print machine in every library, product placements inside every jacket, or perhaps to turn those libraries into property development plots?

The issue we must discuss is the potential conflict between the retail and library commercial models and its impact on authors, publishers, retailers and readers. Some may suggest that Ms Hodge obviously is somewhat a dreamer and her grasp of publishing economics is somewhat short of reality. We even had to check that it wasn’t April 1st.

So Which Device Has That X Factor?

So what is the coolest gadget and what do we want for Christmas 2009? Yesterday the iPhone was anointed the number one of ‘cool’ in the UK, but that was like stating the obvious and the challenge is to understand what will be the number one tomorrow and some of the dynamics that will help it achieve the converted status. What will have the X Factor?

There are a number of consumer factors that will always decide as to whether the device is a winner and a ‘must have’, or is a another ‘also ran’:

Look and feel – image is important in this ‘designer label’ age. Skoda may make great cars but they do not have the same cache as Mercedes or BMW. Apple has always had a strong iconic brand which has been built on design and functionality. If Apple were to launch a tablet device tomorrow it would be a success because it is Apple as its solutions are 100% image and 80% functionality.

Convenience – for convenience read convergence. Women want a device that will fit in a handbag, but still leave room for the other essentials of their life, whilst men really want it to fit in their pockets. One device is a must, two starts to become difficult and three is a bridge too far for many. So what do we all need on the move? A phone and after that email, text, office basics and then access to information, music, content, photos, video , games etc. Very few of us now carry a camera – it’s in the mobile. The MP3 player may have had its day and many single applications devices will follow. The key is that they start as standalone devices and then flip. The eInk devices may be easy to read in all conditions, but with OLED coming fast to small screens, their advantage, even in this area is not sustainable. Anybody who has read a book on an iPhone will tell you it isn’t hard to adjust.

Price – this is a major player once the device becomes commodity but is not so important if the perceived value is high or the device is in the early stages of its market.

eInk readers are transitional devices and although the technology gives them the edge today they act and look like the old clunky 8 track players of the 80s. Their major plus is the screen and its readability and power saving, but the major minus is the screen as its black and white and no matter how many greyscales you add its still black and white. The device can do much more, but then it starts to compete with other devices that can do a lot more. We think the device is a short term toy that readers will grow out of and will age quickly.

As more gets loaded onto the smartphone then the power demand grows and the tedious task of recharging becomes more frequent. However the screen size and quality is getting there and with new technologies such as OLED will make it. Not only can it play it can record. Not only can it show photos it can play video and all in full colour. The challenge is that the market is fragmented, and we have issues on operating systems, browsers, exculsive carriers and of course applications. The iPhone has show what can be done and is guaranteed to lead the way for some time to come.

We all want a tablet or a device that is half way between everything and can potentially offer that single device on the move. Apple is coming sometime, Microsoft is now threatening to spoil their party and you can guarantee that others have seen the opportunity. When is a tablet a smartphone and when is it a netbook, or a ereader etc? What is clear from the hype over the Apple tablet is that is what the market demands and if positioned and with the right support offer and price we could have a clear category killer. Anyone who has doubts click here and watch this video from Gizmodo.

Netbooks will appear and offer much for the office man on the move, but the right tablet and even smartphone render them limited in their appeal. Perhaps size does matter and big is not as good as small!

Game machines are the one dark horse. Should games migrate onto smartphones and tablets or do they offer a reverse path? We have seen Nintendo toying with ebooks, but in a half hearted offer. When you see devices such as the PSP it makes us wonder why Sony don’t develop the device for digital content. Perhaps they think that once a gamer, always a gamer and a dedicated device is needed, but is this reality or an historic viewpoint?

What is clear is that the device wars go further than ebooks. We remember that Betamax was a superior technology to VHS but failed because they didn’t invent the consumer camera, MP3 is inferior to many other music formats but is more widely available on devices and DRM free. Winners don’t always follow convention logic but they strangely can be predicted.

Monday, September 28, 2009

iPhone Goes Orange in the UK

Orange is to sell Apple's iPhone in the UK. This move which has been widely expected clearly ends the exclusive deal Apple had with O2 which has been good for O2 but some would argue bad for Apple.

If the planned merger between Orange and Deutsche Telekom's T-Mobile goes through and creates a 28.4 million customer business and becomes the UK's largest provider, it certainly would open the flood gates to many more iPhones being taken up.
It is estimated that some 75% of the UK market would be able to have an iPhone and with the Pre and other competitors struggling to catch up the iPhone could become a category killer in the UK.

It has also been announced today that the iPhone app store has just clocked up its 2 billionth download. It is only a few months since they announced that they achieved 1 billion! The others are clearly way back in the dust.

The other interesting thing to watch is the reaction of the other non iPhone carriers who are already struggling to offer exciting models and now find themselves squeezed by the big boys. Some suggest you will be able to get an iPhone through the other carriers on a ‘special deal’ and that these exist already. Whatever the case the iPhone could be the phone most people are using this Christmas and New Year to phone friends and family.

iPhone Goes Orange in the UK

Orange is to sell Apple's iPhone in the UK. This move which has been widely expected clearly ends the exclusive deal Apple had with O2 which has been good for O2 but some would argue bad for Apple.

If the planned merger between Orange and Deutsche Telekom's T-Mobile goes through and creates a 28.4 million customer business and becomes the UK's largest provider, it certainly would open the flood gates to many more iPhones being taken up.
It is estimated that some 75% of the UK market would be able to have an iPhone and with the Pre and other competitors struggling to catch up the iPhone could become a category killer in the UK.

The other interesting thing to watch is the reaction of the other non iPhone carriers who are already struggling to offer exciting models and now find themselves squeezed by the big boys. Some suggest you will be able to get an iPhone through the other carriers on a ‘special deal’ and that these exist already. Whatever the case the iPhone could be the phone most people are using this Christmas and New Year to phone friends and family.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

More eBook Pretenders

We get somewhat shell shocked with the constant dribble of new eReaders and wonder how many will survive a cold winter and are real contenders and how many are just after their 15 minutes in the spotlight. Last week iRex caused a minor stir with their new model. The attention was captured because it was 3G enabled and lost because of its price and lack of touch screen – there again iRex is used to being off target so nothing mew there.

Today we spotted yet another pretender the Hexaglot N518 powered by Hexaglot, which is another 5” eInk ‘lookie likie’ which boosts as its unique selling point that you can also draw and even write on its display screen. Naturally the device has all the usual features and with their special sensor pen the user can write directly on the screen, adding comments, notifications and by handwriting text recognition converted into printed text and saving them. It also appears to be able to support Adobe’s ACS4 DRM. However at 279 euros its off taget.

Florida University Start Free Text Book Initative

Florida University System’s Board of Governors has approved a pilot program allowing students to access some of their textbooks online for free. The pilot program is called Orange Grove Text Plus (OGT+) is a joint initiative of the University Press of Florida and The Orange Grove, Florida’s Digital Repository. The goal is simple - to reduce the cost of books to students.

OGT+ uses open textbooks which are generally licensed to allow anyone to use, download, customize, or print without expressed permission from the author. OGT+ also includes a number of scholarly monographs offered for free online access by the University Press of Florida and collaborating authors. OGT+ offer currently only has 89 textbooks and 21 scholarly monographs free online, but plan to add more titles on a continuing basis. They plan to include a large selection of content from UPF’s backlist of more than 1600 titles and may eventually include books developed specifically for this imprint.

The Students will have unlimited access. Students can also use the site’s one-click ordering to order a paperback copy of the book printed, bound, and shipped directly to their home for about half the cost of traditional textbooks. Instructors can now use OGT+ textbooks in their entirety, linking the online version of their textbook directly into their course web page within their learning management system (LMS). It is intended that instructors will also be able to customize the text and effectively create bespoke mash-ups and each new version of a text book will have its own unique ISBN.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Grindhouse Introduce Girlie Apps on iPhone

Wherever technology goes pornography in its many levels follows. Now Grindhouse Mobile has managed to get past the iPhone to slip in a couple of porn-star-branded applications.

The applications don’t show naked girls but act as appetizers, teasers to get users to subscribe to live updates via a premium service. There is a blog photos of semi clad girls who are promoted as ‘amatuers’!

Sunny Leone's a premium version is currently awaiting approval and apparently offers more features, photo sets. videos, games, blogs and ways to contact Sunny on our phone. Former Penthouse Pet, Aria Giovanni’s app is the second adult application developed by Grindhouse to be approved by Apple. Again the next version is pending approval and will include several new features, more content.

Grindhouse has closely followed Apple's strict guidelines while developing an offering that is ‘compelling and user friendly.’Grindhouse plans to present more as the industry finds its own inovative ways around any censorship issues.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Great Book Bak Robbery: Time Out To Think Again

As we flew back from India we were frustrated that we somewhat disconnected from the breaking news on the Google Book Settlement. When we landed it was somewhat an anti climax to read about it unravelling. When now see the parties all run feverishly around to re negotiate something in an attempt to resurrect the deal that satisfies all parties and the DoJ and are tempted to visualise the pig and the lipstick.

The reality has finally come home to many that the deal, was not only unpalatable to many, it was constructed in the back room, by those who should have known better. Who and what will follow is bound to be better than what was brought to the table last time and we can only hope that they have learnt from the mauling.

What is a shame is that the whole affair has, in less than a year, polarised the market. It has overshadowed the digital debate, introduced complexity not clarity in its attempt to be smart and worst of all tried to change things, not through debate and open discussion, but by what some may say was blind arrogance. When debate and discussion ensued it was initially knocked back with an air of ‘we know best’, but finally debate ensued and it would be hard to find many that were totally supportive except those closest to it.

Today we must now address the opportunities that the digital world presents. We all understand that copyright needs to be reviewed and when found wanting ensure that it is addressed through bodies such as Berne and not through a back door. Yesterday Barrack Obama made a speech at the UN about how the US role in the world will change. Let’s hope that the lawyers, guild, publishers, Google and all took note. People will follow change if change is reasonable, open and fair but not when it isn’t.

The only winners today are the lawyers lets hope tomorrow that changes.

Children's Book Publishing in a Digital Age

It is interesting to read the recent article in PW about the US forum held by the Children’s Book Council on “The Current State of E: Publishing in the Digital Age,” and also to note that The Bookseller is to hold a similar event on 1st October.

Digital children’s publishing is a difficult genre. After all there are significant differences between the needs of the various age groups. The infant is learning to read in basic steps and needs lots of images to help them, they are also read to by guardians which changes the dynamics of the experience to one that is shared.

Illustrations and graphics are important in these formative years and the stories or texts are often short and certainly the pages are full of colour. As the child develops and starts to read to themselves then the stories get longer and the need for graphics diminishes until they reach an age when pure textural stories take over and they are able to form their own images. Children’s book buying also changes over the development of the child where initially the books are bought by others to a stage where they are chosen and eventually bought by the child and even driven by peer groups. The age of the reading group also demands many similar changes over the creative, editorial, production development period which all can impact the content, the packaging, the marketing, selling and the way the work is read.

So having stated the obvious, how does digital impact children’s publishing? What should publishers be considering today and what is likely to happen moving forward into this Brave New World?

Publishing is a rights business and children’s publishing has had a potential wide usage of rights. After all, we can all picture images from our childhood, many of which had associated merchandising. Some were lucky to transform onto the small screen and some even the big screen. The classic rights rule of acquire wide and use narrow is never more true than in children’s books. It is likely to even be more important in the digital world where digital games, animation, graphics, video is no longer a skill of the few but open to all and the ability to exploit rights very easy. We also live in a global networked economy and although the words may change, the images may remain the same, or visa versa and digital technology can often now transform content and associated materials in a click.

The work itself is no longer straight jacketed between two pieces of stiff card. Publishers may not want to be the experts in technology but they now have to manage diverse technology and its interaction with content. We have often wondered which the more valuable asset the image is and artwork or the text and the story. Both go hand in hand and the lower the age group the more the balance. It is not just a case of capturing and developing digital content but managing it as digital assets that can be repurposed many ways. Publishers now must consider the interaction with the reader that digital offers and manage multiple user offers. There is also the question of whether the child can customise the work and ‘own’ it in a way that increases the value to them.

We all remember the books we experienced and enjoyed and often want to share these with our own children. However, like most books they go out of print and over a generation they can become orphans. The author’s rights may revert but the illustrator was fee based and remains tethered to the publisher or can be reverted but is separate to the work. As more and more digitisation exposes the potential wealth of the out of print world then the children’s market is one that offers huge potential. The books may require re editing to survive the politically correct world we now have to conform to but the material is an Aladdin’s cave as it is already known to many parents.

Marketing children’s books is about exciting parents and children. It isn’t about catalogues and dry AI sheets but about creating something that grabs the bookseller, the parent and the child’s attention. Publisher may create digital marketing material to sell physical books and never create a digital rendition and there is nothing wrong with that approach. Marketing widgets need to be two page spreads, support full colour and contain a wealth of support material and extras. They challenge is to get them in front of the buyer and not the store buyer but the consumer buyer. We should also recognise that the child, until they are old enough, will care less about the author or the illustrator but care a lot about the characters and getting closer to them.

Then there is the new laws on safety and whether the child is exposed to lead, danger etc. These would make you think digital could re introduce the sizzle that may be lost soon.

Finally anyone who believes that the digital ebook readers in there current form pass the test are mad. Its asking a child who is familiar with the internet, games machines, HD Television to go back to watching black and white TV. eInk is not just inappropriate in this sector it dies in this sector. Even in school it fails to even come close to the benchmark and publisher here must think as a child not as the devices manufactures wish them to think. Also here we must recognise that children do not have the most expensive smartphones but often the more practical and cheaper mobile. They do all have, or increasingly all have access to PCs, laptops etc.

This brings us back to the original article on the US forum. As reported it appeared to be more of a sales pitch by technology and channel providers than a serious look at the digital opportunities, trends and landscape that is children’s publishing. The US speakers included Follett Digital Resources, Ingram Digital, OverDrive, ScrollMotion. It is also interesting to note that the UK speakers come from Nielsen BookScan the BA children's bookselling chair, Scholastic Children's Books, and the panels includes Tesco, BCA, Bounce Sales & Marketing, Gardners, Penguin , PatandPals and TIGA, the national trade association that represents game developers in the UK and Europe.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

ABC: Mobile Is A No Brainer

A survey from the Audit Bureau of Circulations reveals that print publishers are focusing on the Mobile market as a prime opportunity; to build their brand, reach new audiences, generate new revenue and offer advertisers locally targeted audiences.

ABC and its digital subsidiary, ABC Interactive, has some 4,000 members in North America and is a forum of the world's leading magazine and newspaper publishers, advertisers and advertising agencies. They recently conducted an online survey of its print publisher members. "Going Mobile: How Publishers Are Preparing for the Burgeoning Digital Market," offers an insight into some of the current initiatives in the mobile market.

The survey found that; over 80% of newspaper and magazine respondents believe users will increasingly become more reliant on mobiles as a primary information source in the next three years, 70% agree that mobile is receiving more attention at their publication this year than last, Over 66% believe their publication already has a mobile plan, 44% say that the devices increased visits by up to 10% today. 50% believe mobile traffic to their Web sites will increase by 5 to 25% in the next two years. So mobile is certainly on the agenda.

56% of senior executives have plans to develop a smartphone application in the next 24 months and 17% already have an app in production. However they do not plan to abandon print with 75% believing their publication will be available in a print form five years from now. Over 50% of thr respondents believe that the future business model of mobile content will be supported by both advertising and subscriptions and importantly 33% believe in the 3 next years that mobile will have a significant impact on their revenue.

To learn more, visit

Is Scribd Doing Enough?

The US law firm of Camara & Sibley is seeking class action status against document-sharing website Scribd in a Texas federal court. The charge: Scribd makes it just too easy to upload copyrighted content without permission, and the company should be held liable. We have long said that the DMCA's "safe harbour" provisions which protects websites such as Scribd is reactive and not proactive and act after the horse has bolted. The lawyers are used to controversy and could be said to court it having been those that defended Jammie Thomas against the RIAA.

They now represent Elaine Scott, a Houston author who found her entire book ‘Stocks and bonds: profits and losses’ available for download on Scribd and that the book had been downloaded over 100 times. The case is not about the prompt action on take down but the fact that it was put up in the first place under a ‘safe harbour’ protection and profiting from them until a copyright issues a take down notice. The onus they say and we agree should not be on the rights owners. Kiwi Camara, Scott's lawyer, is quoted in Ars Technica saying, "The West coast technology industry has produced a number of startup firms premised on the notion that commercial copyright infringement is not illegal unless and until the injured party discovers and complains of the infringing activity and the infringer fails to respond to such complaints... Scribd, is one such egregious infringer."

Interestingly he contends that Scribd isn't a "service provider" at all, but a publisher—which would remove the DMCA immunity—and also that Scribd by displaying adverts makes money directly off of infringing works, which could also threaten safe harbour protection.

Monday, September 21, 2009

How Green Is Your Magazine?

US magazine ‘Entertainment Weekly’ is about to change the way we read paper magazines. It will introduce in its September edition a wafer-thin screen which is embedded in the pages and that will promote TV shows and Pepsi.

We first saw the eink screen in Esquire but this clearly goes one step further and offers video-in-print. The concept works a bit like the novelty greeting cards that play music when they are opened. A screen, which is around the size of a mobile display and a quarter-inch–thick, automatically starts after 5 seconds of opening the page with the advertisement is opened. Each chip that stores the advert is capable of holding up to 40 minutes of video and has rechargeable batteries. However just like the greeting card there is a user beware flag as there are no volume controls and therefore everyone in close proximity will hear it too. Great idea to get people talking but a problem for the poor guy who is just trying to read the article!

CBS is promoting shows such as The Big Bang Theory, Two and a Half Men and a preview of the network's autumn line-up. Pepsi is promoting the Pepsi Max soft drink. The video ads will only appear in certain copies which are posted to subscribers in Los Angeles and New York.

The additional cost of inserting the video ads into the magazine has not been revealed. But the aim is to charge a premium for the ads that use the technology as they have much greater potential to grab the attention of a reader. Also CBS and Pepsi refuse to reveal how much the advertising cost are but it has been suggested that it could be as much as $20 for each copy.

At a time when newsprint and magazines are grappling with digital change this could be seen as a mere gimmick. It would appear to make more sense to invest in advertising within digital which could give as great a return than showboating technology which is cumbersome, adding addition distribution cost, is not reusable or recyclable and therefore environmentally unfriendly.

Nice technology but wrong application today

Further Education's Digital Tectonic Plates

We were recently in Iceland which among other things is living proof that tectonic plates can collide, or pull apart and from it can come benefit. In Iceland’s case it is free energy. The tectonic plates between free and paid for Further Educational content is equally fraught and offer much for all, but some would suggest that we can’t wait for nature to take its course on this occasion.

The Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) has reported the findings of its ‘e-books for Further Education (FE)’ research to make 3000 e-books freely available to every college and sixth form in the UK. In the next 5 years, the project aims to enable all students in FE in the UK to access online course texts to support their studies.

The research studied UK student usage of 36 online textbooks at 127 universities during the period November 2007 to December 2008. In that time, 46,000 visits were made and more than 761,000 pages were viewed. More than 50,000 university staff and students were surveyed. The e-books on offer via the project were chosen by ballot system by colleges across the country, with more than 80,000 votes cast. It also compared print sales of the same textbooks during the period which fell during the print-sales-only period 18.7% and fell 13.7% during the subsequent free-access period.

The study recommends that publishers develop better e-text platforms, which could include removing digital rights management, making content available to plagiarism detection software vendors, and having e-books include and conform to ISBN standards. It claims that many students viewed the texts online, and did not download them even though downloading was an option. Most of the textbooks were scanned for content, not read completely, and the incidence of cutting and pasting information was high. This is very interesting as it would support the view that online is important and that online is used for reference and mashing of text. It would indicate that merely replicating the physical book as an ebook may be not what is required. This clearly presents many publishers with not a DRM issue but a rights issue as it suggests that it isn’t the content that needs protecting but the rights cleared to facilitate mash-ups which is a subtlety but different perspective.

JISC wish the new ebook titles to be available to students at anytime, anywhere which again raises some interesting issues. Colleges will also be able to build a digital library of e-books tailored to meet the needs of all its students and buy additional e-books at specially discounted prices to add to their collection. What is not clear to us is whether all the books will be made free under the same terms or will the additional ones be restricted?

It is hoped that the results will give publishers the confidence to release more e-books. We see both pluses and minuses here as there should be the realism that students with little discretion always buy what is required for their courses. However we note that they still want print and this would suggest that the Flat World Creative Commons approach would make sense. This suggests that there is an opportunity for superior product development and integration.

Details of how to subscribe to the online catalogue

Details of the e-books for FE project can be found at JISC

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Publishing Isn’t One Digital Industry

The one thing that is certain about publishing tomorrow is that it will be different to today. Many will see digital as just another book, or the same book in a digital jacket. Others will see digital as a marketing opportunity to get digital out, not last, but first. After all if digital pricing is going to be cheaper then why not use it as the leader and not automatically presume it has to be at the end? Others will see that trying to squeeze something that was designed for the printed page onto a screen doesn’t always work and giving it the same constraints could be viewed a madness.

Digitisation is challenging and changing not only the way content is developed, packaged, the associated marketing and promotional material, the ways it is consumed but in some cases the content itself. Will the book merely change its jacket and be a digital clone of the physical content, or will the content itself change to fit the new potential digital opportunities often can depend on the sector and the use? We must remember that publishing in not one industry but several that were merely joined together by a common format – the book.

If we look at some specific genre we see different challenges and opportunities which will lead to potentially diverse digital road maps moving in different directions and at different speeds.

If we look at travel publishing - is the content; real time information or just current, expert guides or social recommends, multi media or book format, digitally consumed online or offline, interactive or static, detailed maps or GPS based or even hand drawn, social or expert advice and input, etc. It is clear that the user has a wealth of information now available with a click on the internet. This instant connectivity to information is longer tethered to a landline and is now available on the move. Look at iPhone apps like Urbanspoon, which with a shake of the phone, can not only identify where you are but identify all the restaurants near you, describe them and give you directions to them. Services such as Youtube have not only redefined videos but have made every tourist a potential travel cameraman and journalist. Travel recommendations and experience is longer restricted to the expert guide and can be a social experience.

Travel has always had strong publishing brands, often based on demographics, lifestyle and interests. It is easy to see travel as a vertical market opportunity which may be publishing brand centric but where the content is no longer confined to the publisher and the book is now clearly only part of the overall mix and revenue model.

If we look at the huge area that makes up learning we see many differences between the different levels and then there is vocational and distance learning. They all have their own requirements with respect to trainers, students, courses, measurement, institutions and even guardians. What is clear is that it has never been about the book but about learning the content can be supplemental, basal, assessment, teaching guides and notes and much more. Students need access to information and use it differently at different stages of learning. Students need to be pointed to material that is appropriate to their individual needs which may be different for that of the student sitting next to them.

Again educational publishers have built strong brands and a wealth of material but again learning is not confined to text, images, animation, video and the book is only part of the overall mix and revenue model.

You may think that the examples above lead all publishers to be vertical brand players or building vertical partnerships to exploit their content within a more focused but comprehensive offer. This may be so for some sectors but is not true for all and we must beware of false prophets and sweeping generalisations. Every publisher has always specialised in the content they produce but in a digital world it is the channel and the consumer that is changing and it is this that is now forcing all to redefine their market, channel and consumer demands, revenue model and how to connect the dots from creator to consumer.

The Great Book Bank Robbery – US Justice Says Deal not Good Enough

The US Justice Department (DoJ) has issued a weighty paper on its findings into the Google Book Settlement which has sparked off many commentaries and predictions as to the potential outcome. To read the full paper ‘STATEMENT OF INTEREST OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA:REGARDING PROPOSED CLASS SETTLEMENT’

They clearly see the potential benefit in moving forward but raise significant issues that they believe would be best addressed via further dialogue and negotiations and go some way to laying the foundations to address the current situation. The DoJ clearly wants a revised settlement, a re-notice and renegotiation which some mat say says clearly that what was negotiated is what many have said all along – unworkable.

They said in their filing that the court “should reject the proposed settlement in its current form and encourage the parties to continue negotiations to modify it so as to comply with Rule 23, which sets parameters for approving settlements of class action lawsuits and the copyright and antitrust laws."

“The Proposed Settlement is one of the most far-reaching class action settlements of which the United States is aware; it should not be a surprise that the parties did not anticipate all of the difficult legal issues such an ambitious undertaking might raise.”

“As a threshold matter, the central difficulty that the Proposed Settlement seeks to overcome – the inaccessibility of many works due to the lack of clarity about copyright ownership and copyright status – is a matter of public, not merely private, concern. A global disposition of the rights to millions of copyrighted works is typically the kind of policy change implemented through legislation, not through a private judicial settlement.”

“Given the parties’ express commitment to ongoing discussions to address concerns already raised and the possibility that such discussions could lead to a settlement agreement that could legally be approved by the Court, the public interest would best be served by direction from the Court encouraging the continuation of those discussions between the parties and, if the Court so chooses, by some direction as to those aspects of the Proposed Settlement that need to be improved. Because a properly structured settlement agreement in this case offers the potential for important societal benefits, the United States does not want the opportunity or momentum to be lost.”

The DoJ, clearly believe that the agreement as it stands today is unacceptable but equally seek an agreement that is fair to all, protects competition, makes out-of-print works more available and creates accessible versions for the disabled. They suggest imposing limitations on the most open-ended provisions for future licensing. They sit somewhat on the fence as to whether the settlement is anti trust, probably as they want all parties to try harder but ask for the provision of some mechanism by which Google’s competitors can gain comparable access. They rightly raise concern as to whether the named plaintiffs took due care of the rights of orphan and foreign owners. The solution here is somewhat a cop out and doesn’t come down on the clear need for opt in not opt out. The suggestion that foreign copyright owners have representation in the negotiations is interesting as it could be what some parties wish for and may clearly start to make the deal even more global and raise even more hostility abroad.

The DOJ's opinion is likely to be seen a major blow against Google and one for seeking agreed change that is inclusive and respectful of all interests not exclusive and some would suggest negotiated by the few on a ‘we know best basis’. Let’s hope that the judge agrees and common sense prevails.

How to Grow a Digital Repository

Some do it openly scan and ask questions later, others walk the streets and cut the commercial deals to acquire files, some go after print on demand files and now Amazon appears to have found another trick to grow a digital repository by stealth.

The announcement this last week that Amazon is looking for all new titles to be placed in their 'Search Inside The Book' (SITB) program some weeks before publication would on the surface appear sensible and one to pursue. After all it would let the consumer see and sample the book ahead of publication and also increase the probability that the correct sample is there on the day of release. So why would it raise our eyebrows?

Well to Search inside the Book would be asking all publishers to upload the PDF of the title. Not part of the book but the book and probably a full text searchable PDF which they should have at that stage. That is principle is a heartbeat away from an ebook in many flavours and why not let Amazon convert it to a full ebook for free as part of the deal. Obviously the rendition of the digital ebook would be effectively exclusive to Amazon and other swould have to pay to convert it again but Amazon could kill two birds with one stone and get ebooks available on the release date and also get marketing usage of them in advance of publication.

Now we may well be jumping the gun and making two and two equal 5 but it certainly makes a lot of sense to us.

It’s Back to School with a Spark

Barnes & Noble has announced the relaunch SparkNotes (, their study aid website that offers study guides, discussion forums and learning aids to help students in their return to classes.

It offers: interactive Quick Quizzes for Top 20 Literature Study Guides, a Flashcards Application covering subjects such as, English Vocabulary, U.S. History and Biology, 700 ebook SparkNotes study guides, a series of blogs providing tips and
advice on subjects such as; tips and tactics for taking the SAT, guidance about selecting and applying for college and
Financial aid and writing, grammar, style and assignment planning.

Barnes & Noble are not e alone in seeking to get the student connected and to offer content on the back and it’s a pity that the UK supermarket retailers don’t follow this example instead of merely sourcing uniforms at giveaway prices.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Great Book Bank Robbery - What Do You Want To Be when You Grow Up?

A question we often ask children, ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’ We often ask the same of businesses who appear to be spreading their bets across several opportunities. We could now ask ourselves and Google exactly what the book settlement will look like if it is allowed to mature. What started out as a case action against copyright infringement is now clearly turning into something that if unchecked could morph into a category killer. Some will rub their hand s and say it will be for the good of all, others are desperately holding up warning cards and Google’s response is to ask if anyone could have done better!

Many predicted that Google aimed to be a bookseller – the finally declared their hand and the implications are still not really being thought through. Many saw the obvious link through to print on demand and to move into physical books and to further exploit the assets they acquire for chump change. Many saw the dangers to the library infrastructure and the potential danger of ‘loose pricing arrangements’, but many blindly appear to trust strangers bearing gifts. Many saw the need for a rights registry and welcomed the impetus to initiate the move, but we have already seen who really owns it and their ability to change even the construct of it while it is being deliberated in what some would say is an attempt to merely get their way. Many saw the emerging conflict with digital aggregators and service providers but dismiss this as mere commerce and forget the investment and legitimate route that these took. Will they go the full circle and become a publisher? We doubt it but a facilitator of self publishing may well appeal and who can stand in their way?

What prompted us to write once again about what we named last October as ‘The Great Book Bank Robbery’?

Google recognises that simply digitizing the world's books is merely the key to the door, exploiting them and ‘sweating the asset’ in every conceivable manner including turning them back into print pages is the real goal. Google will provide some 2m out-of-copyright book titles to the On Demand Books partnership. This may double the service’s inventory today but what about tomorrow? We talk about the Amazon, Google battle but what about the Ingram, Google one in areas such as print on demand and digital distribution? Depending on the outcome of the US Justice Department's investigation into the Google Books project, they could soon get access to a further stash of 'orphan' book titles. It is expected that they will raise a number of concerns with the settlement but charm and platitudes will no doubt follow from all parties to the deal. We may all dispute the number of orphan works but the issue has never been about whether this was one or 6 million the question was about the exclusivity, the clear breach of their current legal status and now even what can be done with them once the flood gates are released.

On Demand Books will obviously benefit and retailers with the machine will wonder about the franchise sitting on their floor alongside the coffee one and what is the real draw and who owns the customer. The Google Books titles will go on sale through the machine at a recommended retail price of USD8. From this, On Demand Books and Google will each take an estimated USD1 cut, with USD3 going on materials and the remaining USD3 profit going to the retailer that houses the machine. Google claims that it will donate its share of the profits to charity.

So as we take it all in and await the next announcement partnership we ask once again what Google's Book Settlement wants to be when it grows up? We are reminded of that thoughtful presentation on the subject by Larry Lessing ‘Lessing’s Thoughts on the Google Book Settlement’ . Perhaps we should all be mindful of tiger cubs, they may look like kittens, act like kittens but grow up to be something very different!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Reading Palms

Is Palm going to make the transition from past player to serious iPhone competitor? Its financial figures would indicate that it is improving its performance ahead of Wall Street expectations but will the Pre save it or prove yet another tombstone in the smartphone wars? Predictions had varied, with most expecting losses of around $35m, revenues of $297m and around 500,000 units sold. The results after one time losses delivered a loss of $13.6, revenues of $360m and units sales of 800,000.However, despite the next quarter being Christmas and European launch of the Pre , the company expects sales to as low as $240m.

Palm has a strong track record of delivering pioneering products such as the Palm Pilot, Treo handset and the Palm Pre but the market is now fiercer than even and the brand is no longer a leader. Palm must capture not just the device technology market but also the app space, the operating systems and the carriers. Aligning itself with O2 in the UK may be seen by many as not a smart move as it has pitched and exclusive tent alongside the iPhone which is either a stroke of genius or as we fear one of madness.

Last week Palm cut the price of the Pre and announced the launch of the Palm Pixi, its second device powered by its new webOS, again some may say not an act of confidence or a wise move unless it delivers the appropriate lift in volume.

Zune Again?

Just when we though that Microsoft's digital music Zune player was to be laid to rest up it pops once again.
The touch-screen Zune HD will be able to download high-definition videos and with the help of a separate docking station, also be streamed to a television. The Zune is still currently only on sale in the US, at $220 (16 GB) and $290 ( 32 GB) and the Zune HD will feature wi-fi access for downloading as well as a web browser and also has a radio receiver for both analogue and digital radio. However, does a $10 lower price point give it any real opport6unity against the iPod/Touch? Earlier this month Microsoft announced that it would discontinue its earlier models of the Zune.
Microsoft also now aim to release a number of free applications such as Facebook, Twitter and games. However do Microsoft really think that with a few apps they can compete with Apple’s 75,000 apps and that they have a winner when iPods have about 73% of the digital music player market and Zunes a miniscule 2%?

Sorry Microsoft you may have smart technology but you are too late and playing the wrong Zune.

Nokia Ask developers to Hack into N900

We have written about the soon to be launched Nokia N900 phone/netbook /smartphone. Now Nokia have announced a competition to encourage, hackers, designers developers and other creative types to use the devices and become familiar with it. The PUSH N900 project was launched on Sunday with the aim of giving people the chance to “get their hands on, and heads inside, the new Nokia N900 and the Maemo platform.” It offers all opportunity to submit a simple brief to Nokia, detailing how they would hack into and modify the N900 and Maemo in order to connect it to something they cherish. Winners will receive a N900, in addition to support and funding to develop their idea, which will then be showcased in flagship Nokia stores around the world.

The deadline for written, Visual or videoed submissions is the 5th of October and the winners will be announced on the 25th.

We hope that the competitors find it hard or that the enteries close any holes – why because we see the N900 as a potential competitor to the iPhone, Palm smartphone world.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Lost Symbol

So as we touch down in Mumbai today we wonder about the storm that is Dan Brown that we have left behind in the UK. There is certainly no getting away from the Dan Brown effect. As we walked through Heathrow Terminal 5 last night the bookstores all had the book at the front with the appropriate discount sticker. We opened the newspaper to read about the supermarket versus Amazon, price wars. We even watched ‘Angels and Demons’ whilst enjoying BA’s in flight hospitality.

So what have we collectively learnt from the Rowling experience? How to ticket high and discount high so create what some would suggest is fast becoming a non value statement. How to build up a promotional campaign to support volume sales through the supermarkets and aggregators who may use the opportunity to create ‘loss leaders’ at the expense of the independents and the trade that support everyday life. How to generate book reading interest in non traditional readers, which is certainly worth noting, but only if it creates more purchases by this group.

When we see how ‘lost sheep’ such as EMI have handled the Beatles remixes and packaged these over the last month ,we see a stark difference in approach. The one thing that is certain at the end of the day is that the Beatles albums will retain their value for all and will not end up as pulp. It may be ok for the publisher to rub their hands and pat themselves on being able to mark up a title so that whatever happens they win, but it’s a trick you can only play once or at best a few times and is one that can screw the rest.

Finally, we wouldn’t be ourselves if we didn’t ask about the ebook. Yes the embargo worked and files were released with precision, but why was the price set against the hardback and on what some would suggest as different commercial terms? This was the opportunity to do something special for ebooks but a parallel release is hardly special. Why didn’t the ebook get released two days earlier with a coupon to get the hardback at a discount once released? Why not make the ebook truly different and collectable in its own way? Perhaps soon a publisher will be brave, but we will have to wait for the next mega title.

Google Flipping or Dipping Heavy into News

The newsprint sector is changing and facing many challenges which we have previously written about. One big issue is revenue and the changing business model that is being forced on it by the internet and current economic climate. In many ways they never really thought it would change and when it did they were ill prepared. Does it mean they will all go bust – no, but what will happen is that they will have to live in a market where others may well have a greater say in the destiny and revenues and maybe their interactions with their customers.

Google is not surprisingly one of the new major influences in the sector. Marissa Mayer, Google's vice-president of Search, told BBC News, "I don't believe we are part of the problem. I believe we are part of the solution." However, earlier this year, Robert Thomson of the Wall Street Journal called the search company and other aggregators such as Yahoo "parasites or tech tapeworms in the intestines of the internet" and only a few weeks ago Rupert Murdoch declared that it was time to start charging and by doing so wrestle back control.

In response, Google has launched ‘Fast Flip’ which is a news browser that allows the user to virtually "flip pages" of online content faster showing then pages of content as opposed to just titles and short snippets. The user can search on interests, have recommendations presented to them or just look at the most popular articles. Users who want to dig deeper into the story can click through to the publisher's website. Its different, but only time and usage will determine if it’s any better. It certainly is better than the current hotchpotch of news presented to us by iGoogle. Google wants to help you read news in the traditional way, just flipping the page and have the content served to you in seconds and compares Fast Flip to reading a newspaper or a magazine where the reader can turn the pages in a second.

Google has teamed up on Fast Flip with more than 30 providers such as the BBC, Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, Elle, Popular Mechanics, Slate, Salon, the New York Times, the Washington Post and ProPublica. Fast Flip also serves up contextual adverts around the pages and this generates revenue which is shared with the content providers, which Google says is proof that it was keen to help the industry at a time when it was clearly struggling.

So as Google Fast Flips into a new look and feel in order to help save the industry it was interesting to read about its plans to charge for news content itself through a new system of micropayments within the next year. Google announced this in a document it sent to the Newspaper Association of America in response to a request for proposals the association sent to several technology companies including IBM, Microsoft, and Oracle. In its response document, Google stated that newspapers could also use Checkout to charge for subscriptions. It is now up individual newspapers to decide whether to pursue relationships with any of the companies that submitted proposals and that it would share revenue in a similar fashion to the iTunes App Store and its own Android Market, both of which take a 30% cut of revenue..

Interestingly, in a move similar to that taken in books, Google said that it believed that paid content could be a good complement to advertising. This would indicate that they recognise that advertising by itself is venerable and that potentially getting aligned to the content itself could reduce this risk.

Monday, September 14, 2009

LG Goes Android For A Day

One week after announcing 3 new Windows based mobiles, LG have announced their first Android mobile, the LG-GW620. It now appears that the manufacturers are spread betting on which operating system is going prevail with even the likes of Nokia backing multiple horses.

The LG-GW620 looks an intresting contender with full touch-screen, a sliding QWERTY keypad enabling rapid web-browsing, SMS creation and a easier user interface. The screen is 3” inches in size and the phone has 3G capability and the usual LG style.

The LG GW620 will be launching in Europe in the 4th Quarter of this year. So the big question is Android, versus Palm, versus Apple, versus Windows, versus Symbian, versus Linux, versus RIM. Who has the iconic device? Who will have the best apps? Who will have the best carrier or have a carrier independent approach? What is clear is that devices are two a penny. Tethered carrier deals aren’t consumer friendly and unless you can run multiple concurrent apps then the single app mindset of Apple can wear thin. We have the challenge as our contract expires soon and its coming close to decision time!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Great Book Bank Robbery - Back to Congress?

The US Judiciary Committee Hearing on the proposed Google Book Settlement got a forcful and compelling statement from Marybeth Peters, The Register of Copyrights.
The submission can be read in full here.

Speaking about the settlement Peters submits the good that the settlement could bring with through a rights registry, providing access to the blind and print disabled, opening new shared advertising revenue and other potential income streams and also enabling libraries to offer on-line access.

However she submits,

… We realized that the settlement was not really a settlement at all, in as much as settlements resolve acts that have happened in the past and were at issue in the underlying infringement suits. Instead, the so-called settlement would create mechanisms by which Google could continue to scan with impunity, well into the future, and to our great surprise, create yet additional commercial products without the prior consent of rights holders. For example, the settlement allows Google to reproduce, display and distribute the books of copyright owners without prior consent, provided Google and the plaintiffs deem the works to be “out-of-print” through a definition negotiated by them for purposes of the settlement docum Although Google is a commercial entity, acting for a primary purpose of commercial gain, the settlement absolves Google of the need to search for the rights holders or obtain their prior consent and provides a complete release from liability. In contrast to the scanning and snippets originally at issue, none of these new acts could be reasonably alleged to be fair use…

… Rather, it could affect the exclusive rights of millions of copyright owners, in the United States and abroad, with respect to their abilities to control new products and new markets, for years and years to come. We are greatly concerned by the parties’ end run around legislative process and prerogatives, and we submit that this Committee should be equally concerned…

Peters summarized,

… it is our view that the proposed settlement inappropriately creates something similar to a compulsory license for works, unfairly alters the property interests of millions of rights holders of out-of-print works without any Congressional oversight, and has the capacity to create diplomatic stress for the United States…

US House Judiciary Committee Sits on GBS/ Orphans

The US House Judiciary Committee is currently considering H.R. 5889, "To provide a limitation on judicial remedies in copyright infringement cases involving orphan works." Committee hearings are where the lawmakers (Congress and Senate representatives) have a committee that summons those they want to the table and asks them questions with a view to forming an opinion to inform their colleagues. Often they are part of a process where the legislature is trying to make up its mind as to what political action is needed.

So to hold a meeting at a time when a lawsuit is being deliberated is somewhat understandable on one hand and yet strange on the other. Some may say its firing a shot across the judiciary, others that its merely following through its own investigation on what it has being looking at for some time. What is clear is that everyone is now starting to finally realise what a potential seed change the Google Book Settlement would bring to copyright and the marketplace.

It would make sense to most people if the debilitative bodies got together and sorted the rules out. This is not a US centric world and that is why the Berne convention was formed and why it is needed to act today. Individual governments owe it to their creators of intellectual property to come together and agree a way forward and not leave it to a back door judgement. It is no clear that governments are starting to take notice and Google aren’t getting their own way, but the debate now rages and whatever Judge Chin decides, it is clear that it will not be supported by all.

Why did it take so long for the issues to get into the public domain? Why did so many feel that it was correct to trust and not question? Why was debate missing?

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Have They Been Tango-ed?

Do you change your name when you get married or stick with the one everyone knows? Do you create the new double barrelled name so loved by some circles?

Today we see a huge media marriage in the UK between Orange and T-Mobile. Shall they call themselves Orange or T-Mobile? After all they have both built good brands and invested heavily in brand building. No decision is likely on the brand issue until the merger gets full clearance from EU regulators. With 28.4 million customers or 37% of market share the new marriage will overtake the likes of O2 and Vodafone. It will result in redundancies in the workforce and obvious tagets are call centres, high street retail stores and a welcome reduction in mobile phone masts (some 5,000 less).

So do we like; Orange Mobile, T-Orange, Torange, Tango (we think that one may be a problem)?

Spotify Number 1 Top of the Pops

Even though its usage is restricted to Europe and it costs £10 a month to use, the free at point of consumption digital streaming service has within days of its release hit the number one app download spot. iTunes App Store free downloads The Spotify application, which also allows offline listening, was released on Monday for Spotify premium subscribers in the UK, Sweden, Spain, France, Norway and Finland.

This ad free service gives subscribers access to millions of tunes and pays dues to the artists. It certainly a model to watch not just for music but other media. They now have the audience, the model, the channels (they also have an Andriod offer) and could effectively revolutionise how we access, pay and enjoy a library of works.

We now wait to see if Apple want to revamp iTunes or are happy to see their lunch being eaten off their table.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

The Library in a Digital Age

Let’s take the Library remove all the books and replace them with technology, networks and create a learning and information environment. No more books, shelves or even physical libraries, just a connection to the web. It sounds far fetched and it could never happen, or could it?

How many libraries do you need in a virtual world?

A prep school in New England, Massachusetts is taking the bold step and investing in a $500K learning centre. The new facility will be ‘bookless’ and have flat-screen TVs, a coffee shop, study cubicles and 18 Amazon Kindle and Sony e-book readers for student to use while in the library. The head James Tracy doesn’t see this as anything but a natural evolution similar to that from scroll to books. He even will donate his unwanted cast off books to local schools and libraries to make space for his Brave New World.

So do we want libraries to be divorced of books or be a mixed environment? It may appear logical to remove the books to make way for technology but it begs the question why even have a learning centre? Why not enable the students to work from anywhere, anytime on any technology? This school may be at the forefront and may have taken action that many would see as unacceptable, but we must now question what is a library, albeit it being aligned to a school, community, institution, corporate whatever? Where libraries merely based on the need to aggregate physical books or to act as a centre for information, search and discovery, learning and entertainment? When we have thought that one through we then need to work out the economic model of who pays for what and can books remain free within a library.

Why would any consumer buy an ebook when they can get the same free from the library whilst sitting in the same armchair?

We get engrossed in discussing the pbook versus the ebook, the pspace versus the espace or even the role of librarian, but what we should be discussing is the future of the library in the digital age.

Monday, September 07, 2009

The Great Book Bank Robbery: Pulling a Rabbit Out of the Hat

The Google Book Settlement is seriously flawed in a number of ways, but the parties who constructed it continue to fight. Some would say that they are 'ducking and diving' and rolling out their charm offensive. In a sign that they must now think that they are on the ropes, they have pulled out yet another rabbit out of the hat, this time changing the construct of the governing body of the board to have two non-US representatives on it. They are also undertaking to consult European publishers before cataloguing some European works in its digital library

It’s ironic that this has been conceded on the day that Europe meets to discuss the settlement, but it shows the level of opposition that Europe has finally and rightly mustered. It’s a pity that some publishing bodies didn’t stand up, but maybe their perceived vested interests lay elsewhere.

So once again we have a moving target, or what some may say is a patchwork quilt. What it clearly shows us is that there was a case with respect to foreign works. However appeasement is difficult as it isn’t just Europe and the US who publish, or are even the only signatories to the Berne convention and orphans are still being taken exclusively without recall.

The problem with this 'tome raid' is that it has something to offer everyone. There are parts we all would support, but the shame is that there are but a few who would support the whole settlement. That is the issue – it divides us, not unites us and is so complex that many don’t really understand it.

We hope still that the judge rejects it but await the next rabbit and concession to be pulled out if the hat.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Another eBook Reader Pocketbook 360 & 302

We started to watch the you tube video for another 'lookie likie' eink reader the Pocketbook 360. A bit basic but with a nice 360 degree turn so you can use in portrait or landscape and a neat screen cover.

However the sellers are poor presenters so you have to persevere and you see the Pocketbook 302 which is a 6", with Wifi, Bluetooth, GPS and connection for a keyboard.

They preduct that there will be around 40 different eink devices by next year. That means some aren't going to make it and guarantees the price has to drop.


Two quick views of the UK broadcasting market.

First, on the subject the value and use of the licence fee versus advertising. According to a Guardian/ICM poll published today it appears viewers and listeners are rallying around the BBC and show rising levels of trust in the broadcaster and also support for the licence fee. The Murdoch Empire has taken many a swipe at the BBC and the latest was made last month by James Murdoch when he was highly critical of what he claimed was the "expansion of state-sponsored journalism". The Guardian report that an overwhelming majority, 77%, ‘think the BBC is an institution people should be proud of’ – up from 68% in an equivalent ICM poll carried out five years ago and that 63%, also think it ‘provides good value for money’ – up from 59% in 2004.

The licence fee as a means of funding is still backed by 43%, with 24% thinking advertising should foot the bill and 30% who think people should pay to subscribe to see BBC programmes. Interestingly only 31% backed the licence fee in a similar research in 2004.

To read more on this interesting survey ‘Public rejects Murdoch view of BBC, says ICM poll’

Second, the drop in advertising revenues and the state of ITV. The loss in advertising revenues is double edged as it can’t be compensated by increasing the charges for prime slots and drives down the available investment in new programmes which in turn drives down viewers and advertising. Unlike in the US, where advertising alongside the Super Bowl will cost a significant amount and is open to bidders, UK commercial companies like ITV charges are effectively capped. They are currently unable to fully exploit the earning potential of winners such as ‘X Factor’. ITV is effectively losing revenue because of commercial advertising agreements created before the digital explosion, recession and much more.

Channel 4 is at least bolstered with some licence fee, Sky has its subscriptions and others doesn’t have ITV’s overheads. In January the commercial advertising agreement is up for renegotiation and it will be interesting to see what happens and whether it changes the playing field. It will also be interesting to see if players like Sky in the meantime don’t go after ITV.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Digital Novels That Break The Spine's Straightjacket

We spent some time with some creative media friends one of which is a film producer and talked about what digital content will look like in this new age. It was interesting that he immediately thought games, books and film went hand in hand but stated that the big problem was getting creaters to work outside their comfort zone.

We showed him kate Pullinger’s ‘Inanimate Alice’ and he was transfixed. Having not seen it for many months we too found the creativity and diversity of its construction even more compelling than we have first seen it and interviewed her.

Anthony Zuiker, the creator of the CSI: Crime Scene Investigation U.S. television series, is to release a multi media ‘digi-novel; to be published by Dutton this month. ‘Level 26: Dark Origins’, is a crime novel that ‘ invites readers to log on to a website about every 20 pages using a special code to watch a "cyber-bridge" — a three-minute film clip tied to the story.’

By combining books, film and the web he is breaking the spine of the book and although it appears not to be as greater step to that taken by Pullinger it still is a significant one. Zuiker wrote an outline for the novel, which was then written by Duane Swierczynski, and then wrote and directed the film clips for the website.

Zuiker say the book can be read by itself but believes that the one dimensional ebook readers fail to offer entertainment choice as they don’t play videos. He believes that people’s attention span is shortening and they need more options on how they consumed entertainment and books. "I wanted to bring all the best in publishing, in a motion picture, in a website and converge all three into one experience and when the book finished and the bridges finished, I wanted the experience to continue online and in a social community."

Both Pullinger and Zuiker are exploding the spine that has straight-jacketed creators and although it may not suit all this new environment is enabling some to express themselves and engage with the reader on many levels.

More Mobile Releases

The mobile world is buzzing with new sets and launches:

The Pulse Android ‘pay as you go’ handset by Huawei will hit the market in October and have a 3.5in touch-screen, a 3.2-megapixel camera, GPS and comes pre-installed with Google applications like Google Maps and Gmail. Users will also be able to download applications from the Android Marketplace. The price is £179.99 and for an extra £5 per month, or a £1 a day, you can have unlimited internet access with T-Mobile. The device will also be available to contract customers.

Interestingly, Nicola Shenton, T-Mobile's head of handset marketing states, “With Android, we don't need the iPhone.” A somewhat brave statement but in today’s iPhone exclusive world he has little choice.

LG BL40, or new LG Chocolate, will be available on Orange and the Carphone Warehouse from this month. The original Chocolate sold more than 21 million units worldwide.

The new Chocolate features; a 4-inch, 21:9, 345 x 800 WVGA capacitive touchscreen capable of displaying 16 million colours and even has a split screen dual functionality, which means you can have two applications running literally side by side. There is a 5-megapixel camera with LED flash and Scheider-Kruznach glassware and a micro USB port plus a 3.5mm jack.

Then we have the latest revision of Microsoft's mobile operating system,Windows Mobile 6.5. which boasts a new user interface, the revamped OS, the Windows Marketplace for Mobile app store and offers users a hosted backup service called My Phone. The LG GM570, will go on sale on 6 October, the official release date for Windows Mobile 6.5. In the UK and will be exclusive to Vodafone.
LG have claimed its intention to launch 13 new Windows Mobile handsets worldwide by the end of 2010, which in any world is aggressive.

So in one month we must choose our new handset, or wait. This may mean changing carrier and may even mean giving up cherished features like free skype. We are undecided but eagerly waiting to be tempted.Which would you choose?

The World is Not Greyscale

Everyone appears to want colour in the ereader device but as we have previously pointed out this is not a simple switch with the E Ink as it is made up from positively charged white particles and negatively charged black ones in a clear fluid. When a charge is applied, the particles can be aligned to form letters and patterns and remain static until a further charge turns. To achieve colour a filter is placed over the top of the black and white display made up of red, green, blue and white sub-pixels. This obviously leads to a reduction in brightness and the need for a much higher resolution. SiPix has announced the delivery of some color e-ink displays to the market by the end of 2010. It is now down to PrimeView to respond, but the race is clearly on.

However the use and interest in organic light-emitting diode (OLED) technology continues and could render coloured eInk obsolete before it has dried. The Japanese research center, RIKEN, claims a new method of deploying the technology using electrospray-deposited polymer films rather than the spin-coated films which are used in today's OLEDs. This change results in a smoother display where each pixel on it has a higher intensity, even at lower voltages.

OLEDs are now entering the market place as screens for mobile phones and televisions and if costs and wastage could be reduced by using mass-production and simpler techniques these could be adopted further. The breakthrough made by RIKEN could be the factor that changes the future of OLED and screen technology.

LG has announced that their first OLED TV but it will only be a 15-inch sized screen and won't hit UK stores until next year. It is set to become the largest OLED TV available after topping the 11-inches of Sony’s XEL-1, the world's first and only OLED television available on the market. It will offer a 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio, a super-fast response rate, low power consumption and a screen guaranteed for 30,000 hours of use. LG has also announced hopes to deliver a 30-inch version some time in 2012.

Meanwhile, back in the world of greyscale and dull. Wes Dearing ,Sony's UK Product Manager for their eReader, speaking at the launch of the Touch and the Pocket, "We have to work out if the public are happy with grey scale papers or want colour. If the consumers demand it; if they are saying 'we want colour Readers' then of course we will listen and provide that option."

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Is it Vanity Jackets at 40% Off

Some say that the jacket often sells the book and makes the difference and then it is often said that you should never judge a book by its cover…So it was interesting to receive an email alerting me to the latest promotional idea for books – designing your own jacket.

Today, Cornerstone Publishing, part of The Random House Group, is promoting Douglas Coupland ‘s Generation A and giving his followers the opportunity to create their own personalised edition of his latest title. They first buy the special signed hardback edition, then log onto Using a unique code from an enclosed flyer, they can ‘create their own book jacket by writing their own front and back cover text, choosing from over 30 different colours and by adding their own personal message.’

The unique jacket is printed and delivered to them, they wrap it around the book and hey presto, they have a unique jacket. They can also post their design to an online gallery and look at other buyer’s efforts. This must be either the smartest marketing idea or the dumbest. It certainly puts the vanity into fan publishing. Some may say it would be simpler to do it yourself but then you wouldn’t be able to share it with all the other sad people searching for their 15 minutes of fame.

The site already has a gallery of jackets but when all that changes is the colour and the words its hardly unique. You can also buy the book off the site – well you are directed to Amazon and find that the special edition with an RRP of £26 has been slashed to £15.60 which is £1.39 less that the hardback at full price which is also on sale at Amazon for £9.99. Why couldn’t Random sell it direct and at a premium? Why create a whole website and all the effort and then direct sales to Amazon for 40% off?

GBS: 'Last Orders,Time Gentlemen Please'

We now stand just two days away from the closure for objections to the Google Book Settlement and as predicted the voices on both sides are getting firmer, stronger and some are now realising the full implications of what stands before us.

Everyone who has read any of our articles will know were we stood last October on this seed changing proposed settlement. We actually support much of what Google are trying to achieve and applaud some of their achievements, but stand firmly opposed to other aspects of what we see is a flawed package. We now see clear opposition to the settlement, but continue to be surprised on how many still have not got to grips with it and have abdicated the decision to those ‘who know best’.

The question you must ask yourselves today is, where you stand and why? This is not a US only issue, nor is it about creating the world’s greatest library resource. It isn’t about public domain works, nor is it about in print and in copyright works. It is about orphans, foreign works and their authors and about sanctioning what some would describe as theft.

Many will argue that it’s the best offer in town and overlooking a few details, we couldn’t have a better deal. They will often raise that lack of a viable alternative as the reason to support it. They may well say that it will sort itself out over time and that it is impossible to change copyright any other way. Whatever the outcome we all will look back in two years time and will realise that this is the biggest opportunity and also the biggest threat facing publishing today and there will be no going back and whatever is decided, it will shape the publishing future landscape for authors, publishers, libraries, retailers, institutions and consumers.

As every pub landlord cries on closure, ‘last orders, time gentlemen please.’

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Smartphone App Wars

Who will win the mobile app store battles and the associated operating system wars?
Samsung will launch a mobile application store in Europe on Sept. 14 for its Omnia smartphones. They join iPhone, Nokia’s Ovi, Rim/Blackberry and Palm Pre stores and as many operating system battles, carrier exclusives and even device showdowns.

In August Samsung released its mobile widget software development kit (SDK) and its Application Seller Site a month earlier. Users will initially be able to select from about 300 apps, including games and e-readers and they predict that this will increase to around 2,000 by the end of the year. Their SDK is different in that it will let developers create widgets for different Samsung phones using different operating systems, including the company's own proprietary OS.

Nokia is the market leader in terms of phones, smartphones and mobile but has struggled to get third-party developers to develop applications for their phones. They are not alone, after all why do you want to develop 4 apps that each have to be maintained and may not all earn out?

Then we have the formidable LG Electronics, which in July launched an online store for mobile phone applications.

Finally we have Microsoft who is hoping the launch in October of its new mobile phone software, will revive its flagging position in this lucrative market. Today they are estimated to have some 9% share against the 14.3% they enjoyed only a year ago. They are behind RIM’s 20.9% and Apple’s growing 13.7% and a long way behind Nokia’s 45%.

Microsoft’s big card is its ability to run Windows Mobile Office productivity apps such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint. But is that enough and a strong enough differentiator today? They claim a trusted brand but is it it trusted enough and although they can line up all the big guns in support we think it too late, too tired and somehow lacking. Will it fully support touch and compete with the new touch environment.

What is clear is that consumers need to keep their options open in what is a dynamic market.

Marvel and Spiderman Come to Disney

Walt Disney is to buy Marvel Entertainment in a deal valued at $4bn and will give them ownership of 5,000 Marvel characters like, Spider-Man, Captain America, Thor, The Fantastic Four and the X-Men. Marvel have some great intellectual property in their characters which will now be able to be exploited and licensed in many forms to a full greater audience.

Only last month we wrote about Marvel’s smart move to bring their content onto Sony’s PSP. also hosts games, videos and content as the Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited portion of the website, with more than 5,500 comic books available for subscription, including web-exclusive content.

It will be interesting to watch how Disney now exploit their new assets and the impact this move will have on digital comics and graphic novels.