Sunday, November 29, 2009

Can You Cut Your Paper Waste by 25%?

How much do we all spend on catalogues of all shapes, sizes, frequencies? We all receive the full colour catalogues, some pass more the than that glance but many fall into that filing cabinet called the waste bin. The challenge is to get the ‘product’ in front of the customer who may be a trade intermediary or the consumer. Unless they are aware of it they can’t stock or buy it.

The US retailer JCPenney now release that customers increasingly shop online and will stop publishing its twice-yearly "big book" catalogues. Instead they will publish specialty catalogues and focus its efforts online and on social networks. The ‘big catalogue’ has all the usual catalogue issue; a long lead time, out of date information, delivery waste, lack of customer response information and feedback information. They say that sales from the big book peaked about 10 years ago with sales around $4 billion and say at its peak they printed 14 million copies a year and currently this has reduced to 9 million.

Although they will retain some catalogue business the elimination of the catalogues will cut the company's paper use by 25% to 30% percent in 2010.

Thinks about the booktrade, although smaller in its size could it cut its waste by 25% and still remain focused and even improve its communication to intermediaries. Digital catalogues are obvious but still are slow to dominate over those glossy expensive brochures and catalogues that we may not know have even have been opened.

WiFi and the Digital Economy Bill

The UK's Digital Economy Bill which is already hitting much opposition with over 22,000 objections listed on the government’s official petitions site now faces a new potential problem in that it could be in breach of EU laws. Professor of Internet Law at the University of Sheffield Lilian Edwards has now claimed that the Bill could make it impossible to operate a free wireless network legally.

The Bill is aimed not just at the suspected copyright infringer but at "a subscriber to an internet access service [who] has allowed another person to use the service, and that other person has infringed the owner’s copyright by means of the service". This means if you have a wifi service which is unsecured you would become responsible for their alleged copyright infringement. So anyone with a free Wi-Fi network now is liable for strangers' copyright infringements. So does this include or exclude cafes, hotels, community services and remember Swindon is about to offer city wide wifi.

Wi-Fi operators could police their networks and block certain unlawful file-sharing sites, but is this really pratical and who decides and draws the line? Then there is the question of the European E-Commerce Directive, which gives network providers immunity from liability for the actions of their users while they are ignorant of those actions and have no real effective control. The Directive also says that operators have no obligation to monitor networks.

China Digital Wars

China is a huge opportunity for all and digital publishing is no exception. It is predicted by DisplaySearch’s 'BUY: e-paper display' report that China will experience ereader device growth over the next 5 years from 800,000 to 3 million, which would represent some 20% of the global ereader sales market. The questions are many. Who will win the prize and will it be a Chinese or foreign offer that steals the show? Is China prepared to roll over and let the likes of Google dictate terms on Chinese writers and their copywrite? Who will digitise the content?

The Founder Technology Group is a major Chinese conglomerate with some $6.6 billion revenues. Around 50% of these revenues come from IT services and products and it has its own digital publishing group and online digital books website, is already the largest digital library in China with over 500,000 digital books and now plans to increase this to 1.8 million books.

Google has already run into opposition on its scanning some 20,000 Chinese and as some would say in their usual practice scanned first before getting authorization from Chinese writers or regulatory agencies.

But the players are as vast and diverse as the country. These now include Founder’s, Google’s Google Books, China Mobile, China Unicom, Datang Telecom Technology, Hanwang Technology and Beijing Huaqi Information Digital Technology

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Spam, Spam, Spam

Spam is the bane of the Internet and we all spend time building rules and junking these unwanted pest. So it was good news to read that Alan Ralsky, "Godfather of spam" has been sent to jail along with his team for some 4 years for wire fraud, mail fraud, and violations of the CAN-SPAM act.

Ralsky conned many into investing in IPO stocks which in turn boosted their stock price and enabled the owners to quickly exit and forward tens of thousands of dollars from Hong Kong to the Standard Federal Bank in Troy, Michigan. In July 2005 over $1.5 million was transferred! The operation was sophisticated with operations in New York, Brazil, California, Hong Kong, and Dayton, Ohio.

It is claimed Ralsky earned more than $2.6 million between May 1 and December 1, 2005. alone, but the feds were closing in. A three-year investigation by the FBI, the US Postal Inspection Service, and the Internal Revenue Service (with a little help from the SEC) untangled the conspiracy. In 2007, the government moved to indict the entire conspiracy.

The only issue is that someone no doubt will step up to fill Ralsky’s shoes.

Mobile Race Has Two Clear Winners

We have long written that the current mobile wars have at their heart two major keys; applications and technology. The applications wars is raging but today has a clear winner in Apple’s iPhone. The question is whether leisure application can flip into business ones and it hard to see any reason this should not happen. So we are down to how many times developers wish to write and maintain their apps, one maybe two but not many times. The result is Apple and potentially Android and the rest face hard times.

The second key is technology and although Apple has the advantage they are not as open as others and still have a tendency to live in Appleworld. Their stubbornness towards Flash is a great example of them wanting the games played to their rules. Technology will always come from where you least expect it and also Apple should have learnt that standing up to the market can backfire. Remember the days when PCs first appeared and again we had similar battles? Interestingly the one offer that has taken the neutral ground and potentially offers the best challenge by not being tied to hardware is Android. Couple this clever approach with the backing of Google and its open software and there is a real contender.

Ars Technica covers several aspects of this battle and is supported by the latest Mobile Metrics report for mobile ad firm AdMob. We will not steal its thunder but have borrowed the two diagrams from the article which speak volumes themselves.

Redrawing Borders Part 2

In the first part of ‘Redrawing the Borders’ we described the changing landscape and the polarisation that is happening across the market. In this article we will look at the vertical, author power and the freeconomy

Vertical. We recognise that book buyers are eclectic by nature and although they will have strong preferences on some genre they are bibliophile by nature. However there is logic in verticals and the argument that focus counts. Be it romance, poetry, crime there will always be that vertical opportunity for both publishers and retailers.

For retailers it’s often about establishing the niche and getting the selection to match that from a broad range of publishers and then augmenting that with other complimentary products and offers. With publishers its about getting the best content packaged right. The interesting issue is that the vertical publisher needs as broad a target market as possible in order to maximise sales, but needs to establish brand empathy with the genre without finding themselves ‘typecast’ in the horizontal offer. For example Do you find Wordsworth, Penguin, OUP classics side by side under classics, literature, fiction or by themselves in the corner? Should Mills and Boon be stocked apart form others or fully interspersed within the shelf? What other offers would you expect alongside crime (deerstalker hats, CSI crime kits, videos, Colombo raincoats)?

Whatever we think vertical segmentation is growing as everyone realises it’s an opportunity to differentiate the offer from the pack. We look at those who have gone belly up in the UK retail market over the last few years; Woolworths, Zavvi, Flop, Borders, none of them where exactly vertical in their focus.

Author power. We used to call it the slushpile and it was a challenge for many aspiring authors to get past it. It then went to slushpile on demand where authors were lured into the print on demand model supported by many vanity publishing operations. Today we see the slushpile becoming the contentpile, the showcase pile, the shop window for all. Some publishers have started to take this on board and have opened up their own ‘X factor’ websites where the voting public determine the winners from the losers. The winner obviously gets a publishing contract, a ‘Simon Cowell’ mentor and turns from frog to prince overnight!

However some new publishers have started to create a total business based around digital self publishing based not on providing x number of books and a bill but on providing a retail shop window, an aggregated service that promotes and sells digital books. The question of sale is interesting as being published can be far more important than making money to many aspiring authors and having a big shop window even more important. Imagine Google with a self publishing offer tied to a commercial engine or even paying royalties based merely on ad revenues based on hits.

Author power is real, its about realisation that big advances and large sales may be only for the few and shrinking and writing may not be so rewarding for the majority. This significantly impacts the High Street retailer as their offer is effectively squeezed. Should booksellers support and promote aspiring authors and become their patrons?

Freeconomy. Whatever we think and feel about the ‘free’ economy, it’s here and it’s not going away. Free obviously doesn’t always mean free, it may just be free at point of consumpsion and is being paid by another business model. A classic case is Spotify the digital streaming service that is taking Europe by a storm. There model is free and is paid for by advertising, premium service sales which are ad free and by downloads. Will it work? The challenge it has is to convince consumers that music on demand makes more sense than music to own and never play. We think it shifts the consumer mindset to a different place and is spot on. Others are already hot on their heels. Can it apply to books? We would simply ask Google if it could apply to books.

What does this all mean to the high street retailer? The answer is difficult as one is virtual and digital and the other physical. What is clear that as consumers have moved to digital games, video downloads, music streaming, the high street didn’t move with them. As business models shift it hard to see how the High Street moves.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Redrawing Borders Part 1

The news of Borders UK going into administration demonstrates the changes happening in book publishing. It will be bad from many and good for some. In an industry so diverse as publishing, change is inevitable but often difficult. We have seen the supermarket and others take market share and apply limited range focus couple with high discounts. We have seen the chains wander aimlessly into discount wars they can’t win. We have seen the emergence of new entrants who aim to dominate through new models.

So is it bad or merely just change? What will be the outcome and who will emerge tomorrow?

We can no longer separate the physical from the digital worlds. Amazon has proved that people are happy to buy physical books on the Internet. The urban myth that you had to see, smell and feel a book in order to buy in it is broken. This doesn’t mean that only the Internet will survive it merely says that the economies of scale and scope that supported the chain model of yesterday are no longer applicable. Today anyone can sell virtual stock and the new chains are potentially aggregators such as Overdrive, Ingrams and Gardners. However, as they widen that offer to digital they themselves face new entrants who see their models as broken as we see the chains today.

There are only two people who matter in all this extended chain – the author who creates the value and the consumer who pays for it. Everyone in between has to earn their place and add value.

So ignoring today’s fresh battles where are we heading next?

We may not have the answers but we can offer some pointers to watch:

Polarisation. The economics that once penalised the small can now work for them. They increasing don’t have to fight the chains, but players whose offer is significantly different. If one looks at music, gone are the many chains that once populated the High Street. We now have maybe one chain and a small, but healthy, number of local small players. The small players have to focus on their selection, offer and customers. What chains that do survive, now have to now fight virtual giants, new entrants, supermarkets etc. It's interesting times, when the largest digital music seller is iTunes, and the largest physical music seller is Walmart.

This polarisation is not just about retail, it applies right across the publishing value chain. The economics and changes effecting book retail equally apply to book publishing, distribution and every aspect of the value chain as we knew it. Those who believe size matters better look over their shoulders at some of the new entrants. Its technology, aggregation and collaboration that often is the key and publishers aren’t in that space today. This collaborative need is particularly relevant given that we wrote about iMags only yesterday.

Small publishers now have the real opportunity to flourish alongside small bookshops.

Next we will look at the vertical market, author power and the freeconomy

Thursday, November 26, 2009


Imagine joining all the publishing houses together on one digital platform that will support every conceivable device from mobiles to PCs.

The publishers of over 50 leading magazines have taken the bold step and include heavyweights such as Time Inc., Condé Nast and Hearst and publish journals such as; The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Vogue, Time, People, Sports Illustrated, Esquire and O, The Oprah Magazine and many more. The concept is about creating a iMags with the ability to supply digital and physical renditions in one common store – an iTunes for Magazines.

The venture is still to be officially formed but will create a new company and organisation to support it with John Squires, executive vice president at Time Inc., becoming its interim executive whilst the search is on for a new permanent executive.
The logic behind the new venture is that collectively the magazine publisher reduce their risk, stop competing on high cost and risk technology and create a collective that should prove a one stop shop and attractive to consumers.

Creating device interoperable content is going to be a challenge as what consumers want on a mobile will be different to a notebook or PC. Colour will also be a major factor and eInk magazines will certainly look and feel very retro. This is not an easy challenge but it is interesting that the publishers have chosen to work together to crack it and not merely give the ground over to one of the new technology entrants. Could this happen in the book world? We already have Coursesmart trying to do something similar but its hard to see the trade sector collaborating when there is so many options available and reasons not to.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Tesco to Sell iPhones

It seems the UK is now open season for all who want an iPhone. Only yesterday we were offered one from a service provider who isn’t supposed to have a contract and today supermarket giant Tesco announced that it hoped to offer the phone "in time for Christmas".

The Tesco deal will be tied to Tesco Mobile who already has 2 million mobile customers and is a joint venture with O2. Tesco has not revealed tariffs, but you can guarantee they will be "competitive".

Vodafone and Orange have signed deals to sell the phone but others clearly will sell and support contracts for iPhones. The question is what this does to the balance of the market and also others who are trying to gain ground? Tesco will certainly empty pockets and brings the iPhone right alongside the weekly shop. The one big casualty will be the devices that are tied to operating systems who haven’t got an app store and whose system doesn’t appeal top the developers. So who would you back: Blackberry, Symbian, Android, Palm, Windows?

We have an iPhone but our second contract is up for grabs as we speak – watch this space.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

What ELSE Would You Want?

Having been alerted to the new and ‘next iPhone killer’, we spent time absorbing the slickest, heaviest and at times, most frustrating marketing mobile experience. The mobile phone called 'First ELSE' comes from Israeli mobile design house Else and runs on a Linux platform, jointly developed between Else and Access, a Japanese mobile software company.

It is hard to describe the demonstration as you feel caught somewhere between the Matrix and The 5th Element, sci-fi meets surreal meets slick graphics and design. At it heart is a concept of menu control similar in its simplistic approach to when we first saw the original iPod wheel or the touch screen ‘pinch’.

First Else is designed to be application-centric and offer the best of experience whether it is a phone, music player, mail service, navigation tool. They claim that its like rolling the best devices together and creating one best of class. Navigation is a single handed thumb driven touch screen experience. Importantly when you receive a call from a partner the phone automatically displays the information about them you would expect plus much more. The additional information may be the last email they sent you, documents or folders flagged against them.

The potential of what they have done is so simple, so elementary that it will frighten many mobile players still struggling with clunky systems and will certainly raise the bar for all. Whether they fail or win, they have clearly brought innovation to the market and whether we see the others follow is not a case of ‘if’ but ‘when’.

The phone itself will not be available until next year but check it out before you commit to that 18 or 24 month new contract. Try it out yourself

Line Up The Exclusive and Special Editions

Here's a good game for Christmas - line up the Sony exclusive readers.

1. UK retailer John Lewis exclusive.

2. The Ian Fleming / James Bond limited edition.

3. The Michael Connelly limited edition.

4. The Debbie Macomber limited edition.

5. The Danielle Steel limited edition.

6. The James Patterson limited edition.

7. The Harlequin 60th celebration Romance limited edition.

8. The Mills and Boon exclusive edition

Exclusive Digital Bundling To Sell More Tin

Bundling a ebook reader to an exclusive ebook launch is a bit scary, as it sets yet another ‘exclusive’ deal and feeds on scarcity and demand.

Sony UK has announced another of its spray paint limited edition models of their Reader Pocket Edition™. Remember the John Lewis and the Mills and Boon Romance ones, well we now have the thriller one. They appear to have have now found some midnight blue paint for the reader and created a ‘premium case’ with an embossed Alex Cross logo on the front. Obviously that by itself would not generate much interest, so they have thrown in The James Patterson’s best selling Alex Cross novel, ‘Cross Country,’ selected excerpts from two James Patterson books and a letter from the author. However the real offer really revolves around every customer who purchases the bundle being able to download a new James Patterson novel ‘Worst Case’ from Christmas Day. The hardback and eBook will go on general sale from January 21st 2010. The bundle will be available from 30th November. So unless you are a Patterson freak or like very expensive books the deal looks a bit weak.

So the ebook is not only coming out on first, which we fully support, but exclusively to Sony for some 3 weeks, which we feel is a bundle too far. At a time when we are trying to combat piracy and grow the digital market, it is questionable whether creating scarcity and bundling demand in a clear exclusive deal, is good for the industry or merely good for Sony. Why should other buyers who have invested in supporting the ebook movement be penalised so blatantly so Sony can ship more tin at Christmas? More importantly this sort of exclusive deal just encourages pirates to break the restrictions which will not be hard to break and therefore merely feeds the very people we are all trying to restrict.

We hope Random House will see sense and respect that James Patterson’s readers do not just want a midnight blue premium ticket reader to enjoy their reading.

Fry Tweets His Objection to Mandleson's Piracy Bill

Stephen Fry is once again showing the power of Twitter and using it to try and thwart the government's proposed internet piracy legislation.

Fry has expressed his lack of confidence in the proposed UK law saying in his own style, “Dear Mandy, splended fellow in many ways, but his is so wrong about copyright”. He even claims to have been responsible for introducing Lord Mandelson to the internet in 1997.

Within 24 hours, 8,000 objectors had signed the petition set up by Andrew Heaney of the internet service provider TalkTalk on the Prime Ministers official office web site Just three days lare the figure now stands at 15,500.

Charles Dunstone, CEO of TalkTalk Group and long standing opponent of the ‘three strikes’ approach states, “We don't support copyright infringement in any way but we live in the real world and understand that no amount of policing and censorship will solve the problem.It doesn't matter how many websites are blocked, how many services are shut down or how many individuals are pursued, people will always find ways to access copyrighted content for free.”

The petition is available to view and sign at No 10 website.

The UK Publishers Association has voiced its support for the bill and in particular the long overdue extension of PLR (Public Lending Rights) to payments on digital loans. However, the bill is somewhat of a mixed bag which contains proposals for unlocking orphans, the highly contested ‘three strikes’, issues on contracts and is bound to face a great deal of parliamentary scrutiny as well as a deadline on the end of this government's term.

Monday, November 23, 2009

'Pieces of Eight' : Parts 2 and 3

Pirate Empathy

Some artists understand copyright and have long protected their works others know little and clearly get confused.

NME covered an interesting article on Lily Allen’s views on Digital downloads. Lilly used to have an anti-file-sharing blog which was supported by a host of artists such as Mark Ronson and Gary Barlow.

She now claims in the article that she doesn’t oppose people purchasing burned copies of her CDs as long as they pay for them, "If someone comes up with a burnt copy of my CD and offers it to you for £4 I haven't a problem with that as long as the person buying it places some kind of value on my music,"

We Will Govern You

We now have the potential of the UK Digital Economy Bill which proposes to give the unelected UK Business Secretary Lord Mandelson the power to change copyright laws. It has won support of some but has now been strongly criticised by ISPs (Internet Service Providers Association).

The law will force ISPs to write to customers accused of infringing copyright on peer-to-peer networks by rights holders. Three strikes and you are disconnected and the ISP has to hand over address information if rights holders wish to take court action.

ISPA boss Nicholas Lansman claims the bill will do little to address the underlying problem and any such power should rest with an independent body. He says in a article published in The Register, ‘Rather than focusing blindly on enforcement, the Government should be asking rights holders to reform the licensing framework so that legal content can be distributed online to consumers in a way that they are clearly demanding.’

Importantly the ISPA is also opposed to suspending users' accounts as it presumes guilt and also provides powers to seize the control of domain name body Nominet.
The bill also is to included change for copyright contracts, licensing, and creating an "extended" system which would make it "simpler and quicker for licensing societies to make content available online to consumers and to support innovative commercial services that rely on copyright material". Those orphan works would be "unlocked" for public and commercial use.

As with most of the current UK government policies this tries to fix all with a single swipe and will cause many problems if it ends up being at odds with the global world we now all live in. But there again Gordon Brown did claim to save the global economy.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

‘Pieces of Eight’ Part 1

Today we hear all about the world of DRM (Digital Rights management), copyright, pirates, and a wide debate on what is fair use and what is infringement. The whole Google Book Settlement started out as a case action against Google for copyright infringement. The consequence of it being settled out of court means the case was never proven. This has offered Google the opportunity to put ‘chump change’ down on the table and being given the spoils and much more. It now has even got better as they now renegotiated a revised settlement and got even more for the same money! New plaintiffs such as the UK, Canada and Australia are now drawn into the settlement with no extra cash on the table!

It beggars belief how no one asked for more money for what could be seen as the global literary works of the English language.

The UK Publishers Association has worked hard to fight piracy both in the physical and digital world. We have previously written about the system they developed which allows publishers to log the details of an infringement of copyright. The system automatically sends a ‘take down’ demand to the offending website and logs offences. This is a good start but sadly is reactive not proactive. However the Internet by it shear viral nature, makes the finding and issuing take down notices reactive not proactive and shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted.

As more e-book and smartphone readers appear and joined by online services such as Google Edition, Scribd, Wattpad, the number of illegal copies is likely to grow and controlling them become even harder.

Simon Juden, CEO of UK Publisher Association now has a seat at the Google settlement table and has effectively now made the UK a plaintiff in a US law case. He is quoted in the Bookseller saying, ‘The deal originated from Google taking actions that we still think broke the rules. I don’t think anyone feels comfortable about that.’
Some will say that the industry is now caught between prosecutions and doing a deal with the thieves based not on acceptance of guilt, but on their size and ability to pay their way out of the litigation. Why should one pirate be treated differently than another?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Ordnance Survey Maps for Free

The UK Government has announced that Ordnance Survey map data will be freely available online to everybody from 2010.

The objective is to join the dots between what, when and in this case where and allow people to automatically link and interpret public statistics about crime, health and education by postcode, local authority or electoral boundary. This will be achieved by allowing developers to use information and stats on various subjects to be linked to OS maps to create hybrid enriched web information pages. It will able people to see all the things that are happening in a given location such as traffic accidents, speeding offences and car thefts.

According to Stephen Timms, Minister for Digital Britain, 80% of public sector data refers to a location and hence to a map.

The belief is that the current restrictions on the OS maps has held it back from being used and has favoured the many less accurate alternatives.

Gordon Brown announced the change at a joint event in London with Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web. Next year Brown intends to publish 2,000 sets of data of tax paper agencies: road-traffic counts over the past eight years, property prices lists with the stamp-duty yield, motoring offences with types of offence and the numbers, by county, for the top six offences. It is also expected that transport providers, such as train, tube and bus companies, will have to make their information free to all. The lists go on with hefty banks of data in agencies such as the Land Registry, Highways Agency currently selling their assets whilst this move threatens to give them away.

Brown expects consultation would be completed by April on the free provision of Ordnance Survey maps down to a scale of 1:10,000. This could introduce a significant loss to the agency but one that will be offset by the significant benefit to bodies such as Local authorities who currently spend a lot of money getting access to it. A Treasury study performed by a team at Cambridge University, claim found that making all OS data free would cost the government £12m and bring a net gain of £156m.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Google Applies Lipstick to The Book Settlement

Well for most people Friday 13th came and went and left them unscathed.

Unfortunately, before the clock could strike midnight Google delivered its latest class action, no not blood on this fateful day, but lipstick on the their Book Settlement. They now obviously believe lipstick will hide the fact that their settlement deal with the AAP (Association of American Publishers) and the US Authors Guild still will fix a deal. The fact is that its just lipstick and the deal remains the same bad deal that was thrown out by many inside and outside the US courts.

Google is hoping to keep the deal alive with its new provisions; more flexibility to offer discounts on electronic books, undertakings to make it easier for others to resell access to a digital index of books covered in the settlement, increased control for copyright holders and extension to cover Creative Commons licence , but is it enough and is it merely dressing the pig?

The major shift is to widen the case to include other plaintiffs whilst narrowing it to drop those who had a clear case and would have probably derailed the deal. Some would argue that it’s easier to deal with the subsidiary companies in the UK, Canada, Australia, than take on the independent and powerful non English community. Some will say that we have already seen that the UK PA (Publishers Association) dithered for an age over the original deal and its hardly surprising, as we rarely see children take on their parents in public. However, the implications of all the plaintiffs now being covered by a US court deal is interesting and must be down to that 'special relationship' the UK has with the US.

Given the ring fencing to English works, will Google now stop scanning foreign non English works?

We will be looking more closely at the changes and drawing out the good, the bad and what remains the ugly in the revised deal. But the concessions made by the parties to what they defined as a perfect and well defended previous deal still fall around the emotive and divisive adoption of orphan works.

Dan Clancy, engineering director for Google Books, claims, 'the actual number of orphan works is small', but fails to define ‘small’. Others say that orphans are not worth much. Some even claim that the act of adoption, exclusive or not, is good for all.

We will now have a UWF, (unclaimed works fiduciary), which will ‘to the extent permitted by law’ licence to third parties. This ‘to the extent permitted by law’ is one of those phrases one hates as it could mean something different to many people and therefore nothing to anyone. Who actually owns the licence and rights to licence on unclaimed works?

Google appear today to remain the only game in town for the orphan works and will this clear stance on orphans get the backing of the Department of Justice, or be once again found unacceptable.

Rights Registry will now try to establish the ownership of orphans and have funds to do so. Some may argue that could mean that anyone can republish orphans with a suitable disclaimer. The basis being, is that if the Registry has made all responsible efforts and failed to establish right ownership, then the act has been done and orphans are fair game for all? If its good enough for the Rights Registry, then its good enough for everyone else?

The pricing issue continues to be a thorny one and down to whether you trust Google. The DOJ had raised concerns on potential price fixing. Under the revision, the Books Registry no longer has any say in the pricing of books and Google now is responsible for setting prices based on an algorithm developed based on market pricing. So have we taken a backward, forward or sideways step? The one thing that is clear is that pricing is now down to Google.

Our issue remains the orphans and why these can't be excluded, especially if they are so small, uneconomic and difficult to address?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Moto Portable Media Players

We came across Moto Labs by accident but where struck by the clarity of their thinking and positioning of Google's Android operating system. What attracted us first was the picture below - we think it would clearly attract many.

Of the three devices only the 5” portable Media Player is available today, with both the 3.5” Smartphone and 10” tablet under development. What was interesting was the approach they have taken backing OLED technology a media player position and their clear backingg of Android.

They may not be a viable big player but they certainly thinking outside the 'lookie likie' eink box.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Google Sets Its Sights On World Domination

We haven’t had time to digest the latest maneuvering in the Google Book Settlement, but will do so soon. Meanwhile Google continues to stretch its tentacles in the technology world.

The world of VOIP is best known to many through Skype and its services which offer free telephony to a huge community over the Internet. Now Google has acquired VOIP startup Gizmo5 and the assumption is that they will roll into its telephony application Google Voice, which in turn it acquired in 2007 from GrandCentral. The combination of Google Voice’s telephony and Gizmo5’s VOIP offers some potentially sea changing opportunities. Gizmo5, unlike Skype, is based on the same open standards that underpin that other offer Google Wave.

So do Google want to offer free calls and take on the big telecom companies such as AT&T? The $30 million Google paid for Gizmo5 starts to look like chump change that potentially offers a huge return. So will Google become the next telecom company, or ‘the’ telecom company?

Then there is the increasing penetration of Android in the mobile world. Anyone who has missed the Android creep must be asleep as we now see many new devices adopting it almost every week. LG has just announced its Android GW620, Motorola launched its DEXT,Sony Erikson has adopted it for its Xperia X10 family of products and of course we have the HTC’s offers.

However you have to also add this to their $750m acquisition of mobile advertising outfit AdMob.

Finally, just when you may believe that its focus is all mobile you must also note that TechCrunch claim that Google aim to about to release its Chrome operating system for download. The Chrome OS was announced last July and unfortunately adopted the same brand name as their free browser. The confusion increases and is not just between the use of the Chrome branding but their other Android operating system.

The Chrome OS is an open source operating system that will sit on top of a Linux kernel and will use a new windowing system. What this potentially does do, is provide the Linux world with a consolidated offer that may win consumer confidence with it being backed by the Behemoth - Google. Will the netbook players choose Windows 7, or will they stay with Linux and now adopt Chrome OS?

Finally,just when you think about indigestion Google has also announced 'Noop', a new testable programming language.

Amazing that a company so young is poised to dominate so much; search, advertising, operating systems, office applications, mobile communications,email, maps and surveillance (Earth downwards), video (YouTube), news, media, books (Search, Editions and Settlement), libraries…

Enough to make you Google-eyed!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Are Symbian’s Days numbered?

Symbian once ruled to mobile waves and was the operating system used by the major players. Then Nokia acquired it and ‘opened it up for all’

The problem was all the new players had their own systems and these were better. Blackberry, Apple and Palm all started to show the direction then there was the dark horse Android. Now even Nokia appear to be backing many horses; Symbian, Linux, and Windows. Microsoft themselves have realise that they must reinvent themselves to survive and Google have clearly captured the world outside Apple.

Now Samsung have hammered another nail in the Symbian coffin in launching their BADA mobile platform ,which means "ocean", to underpin its application offer. Samsung phones will be using Android for high-end consumers and retaining Windows Mobile as it still has the edge in the enterprise, while the new Bada platform will fill that mid-range feature-phone market. Many of the Bada details have still to be disclosed, but it is likely to support widget-based applications similar to the Palm's Pre.

The underlying story still remains – Symbian appears to be losing influence, support and backers.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The £1,500 eReader

VentureBeat review gave us something to think about, the $1,500 digital reader from Intel.

We automatically think is this like comparing apples and oranges , or eInk lookie likies with netbooks or elusive tablets?

The chunky device is not aimed at the average reader but millions who have eyesight problems and need something more suited to their needs. The market is huge but so is the challenge of getting adoption to a device that is aimed at being a reader of all matter; books, t a restaurant menu, a timetable, or a web site. It has a 5-megapixel digital camera that can capture text and read it back. It can read text in the DAISY format, plain text, as well as play other formats such as MP3 music files. The issue is capturing the text as that may sound simple to many but as a task may itself be daunting to some with sight challenges.

An optional book scanning system, the Intel Portable Capture Station, enables users to digitize books with ease, but again why not sort the problem at source and in particular digitize more books and create more audio books for this sector?

Here’s a video of the Intel Reader in action:

I asked my mother in law what she thought of the idea given she is a book lover, an author of some 34 published novels and a winner of woman of the year as she is registered blind. She says she has been shown a similar device that cost £450 but that she only wanted it for the portability but when out she finds it more enjoyable and sociable to get someone to read things such as menus out to her. She also found she just couldn’t be bothered to ‘faff around’ when she is out. She does a lot of reading at her desk, but has a auto focusing camera and scanner set-up which she uses and I will vouch for that even when the images are huge with the characters 6” high! She also has a total PC environment that works 100% on voice recognition.

So there is a need and these devices are as important as others but we must ensure we compare apples with apples.

Predicting Endangered Gadgets

What do you believe will be the top ten ‘endangered gadgets’ that will need luck to survive the end of 2010?

Pixmania, the largest electronics retailer in Europe, has compiled a list of their top ten:

1. DVD players we think this a safe bet not so much threatened by Blu-ray as much as streaming services and access to video via PCs and other devices.
2. Fax machine we thought that had already long gone and was now sitting beside the telex
3. Analogue TV this isn’t even a fair bet as the government has effectively culled them
4. The landline phone we disagree with this as it assumes WiFi will take over land line broadband and it will not and when the phone is thrown in why reject it. Also there isn’t a mobile telephone directory so sorry we don’t agree here
5. Mobile phone charger. Well there may only be one that works on all devices but these aren’t quite dead yet
6. Wii-mote. Not being a Wii man its hard to judge this but the emergence of Microsoft's Project Natal which senses motions and tracks the gamer's movements, without the need for a control stick or wand could be the next novelty in this marketspace.
7. Sat Navs Smartphones versus Sat Nav? A bit simple so certainly looking in need of help to survive.
8. Dongle. The wiFi dongle will die as manufacturres build the function within the box. I’ll miss the stick but not the charges.
9. The computer mouse For the average Joe it already has disappeared and been replaced by the pad and ever increasingly popular touchscreen. Voice recognition will emerge once more and could and dominate but irrespective the mouse could still be around to support specialist who need precision or desktops and pad that need a mate
10. Chip and pin credit cards. This one contused us as these aren’t going anywhere in a hurry so sorry disagree here.

So what would our list be?
1. DVD players
2. Fax machines
3. Sat Navs
4. Dongles
5. 1st generation eBook greyscale only eInk readers. Sorry but black and white is only fit for retro nights and isn't going to switch on consumers once they see colour
6. The LG digital watch phone. Great novelty but just that
7. CD Players. Why have a player when it comes with every Netbook, notebook, laptop and streaming and digital is growing. 'click to get' more than 'download to but'
8. Dedicated Radios apart from the windup radio on the allotment why have more clutter
9. Non Flat Monitors desk top furniture such as this will be confined to old movies
10. Palm Pre Too many players and some has to go and we don't see them making the cut but there may be others too who are big today.

Good game why not try it at home!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Another eBook 'Lookie Likie'

Now we suggest you decide what is different apart from the name? We bet you can even give the specification of these devices without looking them up. Give you some clues:

screen size?
Formats supported?

Don't know then click here

Sky Sports Are Cheaper on an iPhone

Today Sky charges from £26.50 a month for Sky Sports 1 or 2, or £35 for its total sports package - excluding ESPN. Now Sky Mobile TV, the latest iPhone and iTouch application, which is free to download, will allow users to watch live sports on Sky Sports and ESPN as well as Sky News over a wifi connection and for just £6 a month. Users will not only be able to watch Premier League, Football League, Scottish football, rugby, cricket and golf and much more sport. The existing Sky users will have to apply separately for the new service as its not bundles to existing TV services.

Sky claim over 2 million downloads of their applications on the iPhone to date, including Sky Sports and Sky Sports Football Score Centre and other mobile carriers have enabled the service other mobile phones over the 3G networks. O2 is offering its iPhone customers three months’ free subscription to Sky Mobile TV.

Where In The World?

When it comes to looking at new offers we always like to check out the deal – doesn’t everybody?

So looking at the new 'Kindle for the PC', caught our eye today and we had to look past the glossy colour pictures as these were obviously positioned for those who read their books in black and white greyscale.

First we were keen to see how many titles were available:

US 372852
UK 296019
Africa 196166
Asia 304938
Australia 289163
Canada Nil
Europe 302511
India 293319
Latin America and Caribbean 308759
Middle East 301723

It was also interesting that the standard page threw up ‘The Christmas Bus’ and a romance with a very provocative cover ‘Bound for the Holidays (Ties That Bind book 1) under the Middle East selection! All the prices were in US dollars. So although the system could deal with the complexity of territorial rights and territorial pricing it only knew dollars.

We then looked at the newspapers and got really confused. The US pricing for UK newspapers was listed at $9.99, yet the UK pricing for the same digital file was $22.99. Obviously it costs a lot to ship the file back top the UK! We immediately thought the same would apply to magazines, but this was not the case and prices were comparable.

So what does this little exercise tell us?

Well the international offer is clearly at variance to the US and that their territorial regions are somewhat ambiguous. We still feel this is a real winner in the long term, so we are only critical of the pricing and territorial differences today. However, if Amazon with all its book knowledge perform so, what do we expect with regards other new entrants who know little and some may say care less about such sensitive issues?

Monday, November 09, 2009

Shazam Cashes in with Premium Service

One of our favourite iPhone apps is Shazam. We sat at David Byrne concert and pointed the iPhone at the stage and instantly knew that song that was puzzling us and much more.

Now Shazam is introducing Shazam Encore, a premium version of the music recognition service that claims speed, similar tracks and a “drive and tag” mode that will let you know what’s playing on the radio when you’re driving. Shazam Encore costs £2.99,but it introduction will limit basic free Shazam users to just five tracks per month.
The moral of the story is if you find you have a good app then create a premium app and milk it. Will this work for individual content applications such as books or is it just applicable to generic range offers such as store and services such as Spotify and Shazam.

GBBR: Beware Friday 13th

Who would pick a day such as Friday 13th to go to court? Rather than bury themselves under the sheets and wish the day away, the parties to the Great Book Bank Robbery have requested an extension to November Friday the 13th.

Who will put the knife into who? Who will survive the day? Will the Google Book Settlement survive or will it be cut down in the courts?

Know one knows the outcome?

Sunday, November 08, 2009

U2 Open Up New Revenues Online

We once watched sport for free on TV but increasingly we now have to pay to watch it live and even those national soccer games are under threat as sport goes live over the internet. People will always pay for something they want now and so achieve instant gratification. After all its why the porn industry has always been on the bleeding edge of technology. Now music may have found a niche too and as music labels continue to be lost in space musicians may have found another way to leverage money.

Last month those progressive technology supporters and rockers U2 recorded a live performance at the Rose Bowl, Pasadena, California for simultaneous viewing on the YouTube website. The video which was one of the first of its kind attracted a staggering 10 million hits. It was such a shock to all that Google hadn’t even sold sponsorship deals for the event and YouTube had refused to pay U2. We think U2 would demand payment in the future and pay per view for those special concerts could be an additional revenue earner especially if they are sponsored too. 10 million is a significant number and one that TV producers would be very happy to achieve especially for a music concert!

YouTube is now apparently considering a change in strategy that may see it offer a different service on a pay to view basis. Big band certainly have another opportunity to raise money and as George Martin once said way back in the sixties in his days with the Beatles, ‘the album is the menu, the concert is the meal.’

Saturday, November 07, 2009

GBBR: Monday 9th November 2009

We may all remember this date in the future. It is the date when the perpetrators of the Great Book Robbery stand once more before the court and present what they believe will give them the green light to proceed.

Google, the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers have spent a great deal of time and effort and money polarizing and confusing the global publishing market. We now we have a critical date where they have to present their revisited proposal to the court . Only they know if the changes are significant, cosmetic and the chances of passing the court and reversing the resounding rejection given by the US Department of Justice. Whatever the outcome, it will take more than a day in court to mend some of the damage they caused in their bad judgment in seizing a prize with chump change and with little regard to those who weren’t represented. We can only hope that they at least have learnt to drop their ‘holier than you’ attitude and accept their previous judgment was flawed.

The process has stimulated action from government and as raised the issues of Orphan Works and copyright but it also has caused confusion. Google has continued to move forward with its program and now has announced Google Editions – the world’s biggest digital bookstore.

We only hope that the concerns by the U.S. Department of Justice, authors, publishers, academics, libraries, foreign nations, state Attorneys General, consumer advocacy groups, booksellers and many others have been listened too in revising the terms of the settlement.

Friday, November 06, 2009

More eInk and Chips Please

Its Friday so it has to be more eInk and Chips!

Last month we wrote about eink and chips and Freescale Technologies teaming up with eink to move functionality onto their chips. Now fellow chip maker Marvell is announcing a new ARM-based microprocessor tailored for the eBook market. The chip again will further reduce the cost of eBook eInk readers. Marvell claims that it has been able to cut about 15% of the costs of an eBook system as well as provide improved productivity in turning pages in less than a second. Marvell’s new Armada family of processors will now include the Armada 166E, which will run at over a gigahertz and is based on the Armada 100 series chip designs.

The original Amazon Kindle used a Marvell chip, but was replaced on the later Kindle with a Freescale chip. However, Entourage will use the Marvell device in its ‘Edge’ and another Marvell customer is the long awaited Plastic Logic Que eBook reader.

A Day At The Tablet Races

So who will emerge in the forefront of the tablet race? Some ask if there will be a race or will the bookies favourite ‘Apple’ merely turn up and romp home with the spoils? The one thing that is certain is that the events will unfold differently to that expected and that Apple is clearly starting out as favourite.

More is emerging on the Microsoft Courier, yet another rumored tablet with its own mythology. It is claimed by the likes of Gizmodo that the device's main function will be as a day planner/notebook able to take notes, snap photos, browse the Web, and clip photos and text from Web pages. If Microsoft believe that is the real market demand they obviously have yet once again missed the point and more importantly not looked at a smartphone.

However, it is rumored that the Courier tablet will have 2 x 7” colour screens. These will be housed in a book looking device with a hinge in the middle. No keyboard handwriting recognition for text input which is fine if you really want to spend hours getting it tuned to your handwriting. Do Microsoft seriously believe that there are millions of Bridget Jones’s out there looking for a new virtual journal?

The Smart Agenda would essentially be a condensed version of your Infinite Journal pulling together day-to-day information for easy reference including e-mails, to-do lists, appointments, and recent messages. Clicking on any of these items in the Smart Agenda would take you to the page where these items are stored in your Infinite Journal. Microsoft may be focused on clouds today but where is this Courier going that smartphones aren’t? We think that the current interest in tablets is driven by the need for a multi media device that is portable and that bit bigger than a phone and in reality a tablet should be able to do anything rumoured against the Courier.

So we continue to wait for the favourite.

The iPlayer is Coming to TV

A few years ago we all had to have a VHS player, then a DVD player and some made it as far as Blueray, but streaming the Internet and consolidation is changing this. Why buy when you ‘click and get’, why record when you can get relays on demand? The world of broadcasting is rapidly changing and in a few years we have gone from a TV with many boxes to potentially an all in one box. Anyway we just want a nice flat wall mount screen and don’t want wall mounted boxes.

The highly successful BBC iPlayer service has already announced limited overseas support which will make overnight business trips a lot more palatable! Now, from the end of this month they will launch a limited TV service with a full services planned on the Freesat platform early next year. It will enable viewers the opportunity to catch up on programmes not on their computers but on the TV in their living room. No more having to huddle around the PC and carry it through into the living room.

The Freesat subscription-free satellite TV service joint venture between the BBC and ITV, already gives viewers access to more than 140 television and radio channels will now offer even more. Already users on not just PCs but Sony's PlayStation 3 games console and Nintendo's Wii users are able to access iPlayer services.

Some may say that the BBC should focus on its programming others that services such as iPlayer are correctly focusing on their customers needs and access to content is as important as the content itself.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Mobiles, eBooks, Androids and Media

The Pulse Report from San Francisco-based analysts Flurry claims that in the last four months, book apps have exceeded the popularity of games apps on the iconic iPhone. One out of every five new apps launched in October was a book! Apple clearly have a potential media winner if they ever get a tablet to market and also they have the potential to do to books what they have done to games. Everyone said that the games needed dedicated devices and although these still dominate there is a clear segment that are happy with just one device.

Meanwhile the Androids are still coming and Motorola plans to get back in the race with its Android 2.0-based Droid handset, called the Milestone in the UK. There appears to be a number of differences with the UK version having HSDPA 3G and multi-touch technology. The there is the Sony Ericsson Rachael Android smartphone Xperia coming to the market. Take a look at the video and make your own mind up but it clearly looks a good multimedia Android handset?

We get confused when we type in and and discover two different Australia companies both selling ebooks. Must be something down under but clearly confusing. Why may you ask did we look at as we were vary familiar with and wouldn’t have noticed the ‘s’ difference. The answer is we spotted an 80% discount offer that we wanted to find out more about. 80% of list is somewhat a bargain and explains why trade publishers are moving more towards net receipt royalties.

The offer is a ‘eBook Happy Hour’ that will be available for just 60 minutes from 8pm to 9pm in USA, UK and Australia to the first 500 eBook Club members. We read on and realise that we had missed the USA offer as it happened last week on the 28th 8pm till 9pm eastern. Apparently you could have Michael Connelly’s ‘Nine Dragons’ for just $5. We also missed the Australia offer which happened on the 29th and the UK on the 28th, which at $5 or £3 a book could have been very cheap indeed.

Interestingly unlike, (confusing isn’t it) use their own file format and reader but do sell cheap books during happy hours.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

eInk at 200MPH and Clearly Round the Bend?

When we see the current eInk eBook readers being brought to market we wonder how many the market can absorb and how many will loose their shirt in the process?

We have had eInk watches so thought what's next?

We then found a great article at showing us a pliable e-reader, designed by the tire maker Bridgestone. The prototype is just 5.8 mm thick and features has a 10.7” touchscreen but is likely to remain a prototype as they have no plans to bring it to market. So as the Fomula 1 circus comes to the end of the season its obvious the guys at Bridgestone had some slack time so they knocked up a cute ereader. They even have a 13.1” screen in development and probably designed to be built into some formula 1 car very soon.