Sunday, February 28, 2010

2020 Digital Vision: Imagine...

Today we find ourselves grappling with waves of digital change. Some we watch come ashore and treat within the natural ebb and flow of progress, others are big waves that just like the surfer we must master, others are like tsunamis and although we know their impact will be significant and disruptive, we are powerless to stop them and can’t predict the resultant landscape.

Today’s World

Everyday we read every day about another digital public library offer. It as if the publishing world has not woken up, or even thought about the implications, potential risks and opportunities. They are now positioning themselves, or being positioned, as an enabler of change. They are moving from the back of the queue to the front. Overnight they could become the digital place of choice. We are moving from bookshelves and bookstores, which were physically constrained, to ‘libraries’ and ‘repositories’ that are virtual. The mere words should tell us who is in the best position to appeal and meet the needs - after all it says library on the can.

We have seen huge technology leaps in a relatively short period of time and in a decade, the laptop now finds itself within a smartphone, netbook and tablet. We have seen the rise and predicted decline of the dedicated ebook reader. Some will say that they are still on the rise, but many have already swapped their allegiance to the new multi media mobile player and that is only the start of what is to come. Anyone who wishes to see the potential futures should look at the work of Panav Mistry. We guarantee they will be disappointed with today.

Communications is no longer the dirt track it was only a decade ago. Video and streaming has not, as predicted, killed the network, but rather has made the networks respond. Bandwidth we thought was impossible a short while ago, is rapidly coming to all.

The Gorillas have come to the media backyard and want to own it. Goggle, Apple, Microsoft are no longer start ups but formidable global corporations that are capable of rapid change and have the ruthless ability to acquire any upstarts. The media publishing giants of yesterday are still stuck in their media specific silos and are powerless to walk away from the tunes these multi media pipers play.

We no longer need to visit friends, have dinner party conversion, or even go out. The friends we didn’t even know we had, had forgotten and even those next door are now just a click away 24x7. We no longer go the social club it comes to us.

Finally, we are now in Andy Warhol’s ‘15 minutes of fame’ world. Yesterday the media restricted our ability to gain exposure and fame, but today the media is enabling it to happen in many ways. Self promotion, publishing and recognition are becoming less of who you know and more about knowing what to do.


Let’s step forward a decade and gain some 2020 vision of what might happen and what the media world may look like.

We could finally break free of those technology boxes that have restricted our technology interface. No more PCs, netbooks, laptops even smartphones. We find ourselves in Pranav Mistry’s world of sixth sense devices. We can read off a blank piece of paper, project onto any surface, dial off the palm of our hands. Touchscreens were just the beginning of expressing ourselves intuitively and not through a keyboard.

Citizenship has been reinvented and now anyone can access anything for free via their citizenship. Libraries are virtual. The power of the developed world lies in the power they have to connect, share information and media resource and create social networks. The key is to gain conformity not through exclusivity but inclusivity. Goods and services are still traded, but digital media is now available to citizens on demand.

Content is not owned but on demand. Finding the digital needle in the digital haystack is where the power lies and Context not Content is key. Digital piracy was defeated not by DRM, DMCA or law, but by making content free through the public library. Why buy when it’s free from the nearest cloud? Pirates can’t compete with free.

The world of iCreate, iPublish and iDemand has changed the economics of much of media. Content has effectively been democratised. Rewards are still there and the public coffers have been expanded to pay out more on lending and through collection agencies. The power has shifted back upstream to the creator and downstream to the few aggregators who dominate the supply.

You may think we are dreamers, but we guarantee that we are not the only ones.

Are All Tablets Good For You?

It is somewhat sobering to read that Palm, the company behind the Pre and Pixi smartphones and heralded as a serious iPhone competitor only a year ago has warned that its sales for the year are likely to fall short of the projected target owing to the fact that its smartphones have failed to compete.

The return of the Tablet offers much but like 3D it has yet to deliver. It certainly will herald the rethinking, if not end, of those terrible ebook readers and their single application black and white world. Will the tablets been another transition of have they the legs to last a little longer? Mobile, screen and battery technology are certainly major factors and its also interesting to watch what will be the media or application driver.

This year promises many tablets. Some will be hard to swallow, others will not deliver the fix required but just like the eInk ‘lookie likies’ before them their will be many chancing their arm. Google, Mircosoft, HP, Sony, Samsung, LG, Dell and of course Apple will make their plays along with many smaller players such as Haleron, Freescale and the JooJoo. What will be the differentiator, the price, the applications, the media, the package, the look?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Don't Think Twice Its Aright?

Do you know what is legal and what is illegal with respect to copying; films, videos, music, text, illustrations, graphics, photos? It’s still illegal in the UK to rip a CD from your music collection onto your laptop or MP3 player for listening on the move?

A UK consumer watchdog , Consumer Focus have researched consumer attitudes and claim from its findings that copyright law is outdated and that millions are unaware they were breaking laws. Copying a CD or DVD onto a computer or an Ipod for your own use is defined in law as format shifting. An argument against allowing people to shift format was that the artists could claim that these works only had a limited lifespan and so people should pay them again for having the work on a different format. Ofcom claim that some 41% of the UK adult population, 18 million people, own an MP3 digital music player, such as an iPod and 5 million who own mobile phones that have a MP3 music player.

In a poll performed by Consumer Focus , of 2,026 people, some 73% said that they did not know what they could copy or record and almost 38|% confessed of copying music files onto their digital players.

The research has thrown light on the outdated copyright laws in the UK.
Consumer Focus acknowledged that not a single person has been prosecuted for format shifting for their own use but argued that the law had to be changed if the music industry wanted consumers to take its concerns over piracy seriously. A spokesman for the BPI, the record industry trade body, said: “We agree that the format shifting of legitimately purchased CDs should not leave consumers in a legal quandary.

The law may be in need of change here, and education is needed to bring common sense to the table. However, we now face challenges to yesterday's copyright in many areas and there is a clear need for more common sense and education on many fronts.

So will you stop and think twice before you copy that track to your MP3 player or simply do it and say the law is an ass?

GBBR: The Authors' Vote Is In

The Authors Guild of America represent some 8,000 authors the Society of Authors in the UK has another 8,500 members and both support the revised Google Book Settlement. Today came the surprising and shocking news from the Guardian that some 6,500 authors agents and publishers have exercised their right and consciously opted out of the settlement.

Many in the industry advised the authors to opt in by default with the proviso they could collect their few bits of silver and then opt out at a later date. Many have followed that route with caution, many are still lost is the reams of paper, complexity of legal jargon and some still don’t know about it. However, 6,500 had taken the bold step to say ‘No’ and with some defiance send a cold message to their representative bodies. The silent majority is speaking out and should have their concerns listened too.

The list of opt outs is also surprising as it is littered with significant names from authors such as Ursula K Le Guin, Jeffery Archer , Zadie Smith , Monica Ali, Jacqueline Wilson, Jeanette Winterson, , Anne Fine, Helen Dunmore, Conn Iggulden, Graham Swift, Keri Hulme, John le Carre, Andrea Levy, Quentin Blake, Philip Pullman, Louis de Bernières Melvyn Bragg and Simon Sebag Montefiore. Literary estates have also opted out and include ; Roald Dahl, Rudyard Kipling, H G Wells, J G Ballard, James Herriott and Neville Shute. The list goes on and agencies have also opted out on behalf of their clients.

6,500 is no mean number and in terms of those who created the deal and supported it revision it must question their judgement. This is without the orphans and estates who where overridden and dragged into this settlement. The sheer weight of literary objection should make the people behind this cheap backdoor sale of copyright have sleepless nights. Let’s hope that common sense prevails and that the courts reject it as a bad settlement. The question we have to ask is how you put 6,500 objectors back in the bottle if is accepted?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Digital Publishing: Whose Zooming Who?

Today we read two different but insightful views on the current digital book arena one that looks from a fresh perspective at the ‘Great Book Bank Robbery’ (Google Book Settlement) from Erik Sherman at titled ‘An End Run Around Authors' Contracts and Copyright,’ and the other, from Joseph J. Esposito, CEO of, posted at
‘The Scholarly Kitchen’ and titled, ‘Platform Wars Come to the Book Business.’

Joe claims that the 3 technology giants; Amazon, Apple, and Google, ‘are now implicating the book business in their attempt to establish a technical platform. These are big players — and, more importantly, smart players — for whom books are the equivalent of software applications. The idea is simple — get enough books running on your platform, and everyone will want to have access to that platform. The risk for publishers, if not the likelihood, is that they will become collateral damage.’

Joe recounts his experience at Encyclopaedia Britannica when it was embroiled with a war with Microsoft and its ‘Encarta.’

He offers his thoughts on Apple pricing, ‘If Apple could have gotten publishers to price the books lower, they would. Indeed, how about free? Free is a good price. It will expose the brand, and don’t you want to participate in the future of the digital world?’

On Amazon’s strategy, ‘ lock consumers into its e-commerce platform… monopolize their (best customers) online book purchases … if aggressive pricing means that the entire bricks-and-mortar supply chain goes up in smoke, who cares .’

On Google, ‘Google, as the index to the Web, occupies a privileged position. As more content comes online, the need to look things up in that index grows. This means more advertising to be sold on the many Google services. The Web is a rising tide lifting the fleet of Google’s many boats.’

Joe makes a strong case as to why Google through their approach could be the one to watch, ‘Google wins twice — from the sale of Google Editions and also from the sale of marketing services that publishers will invest in to drive Web traffic to the various sites, including the publishers’ own, that sell Google Editions… the more e-books that are displayed through a Web browser, the better it is for Google. This does not mean that Google Editions are not in publishers’ interest… What is not in publishers’ interest is being in a situation where there is no escape from the platform wars fought by others.’

Which brings us to the article by Erik Sherman in Erik claims, contary to ourselves, that the orphans aren’t the prize in the Google settlement and that, ‘Suddenly, a scanned version of the book becomes an e-title, and the publisher walks around the limitations of an existing contract with the author. Through the power of the settlement, authors would find that they were locked into arrangements with publishers that they never made. Publishers can now get a piece of the electronic pie, even if they didn’t negotiate for it…So the publishers can use Google as an outlet to offset Amazon’s power, and Google becomes a favored reseller because it can electronically sell book titles when a normal e-book version isn’t available.'

As we all try to predict the future it is often wise to understand today and explore all the angles. We may not agree with them all or on everything they say, but what is clear, is that the agenda is now being driven by Amazon, Google, Adobe and Apple and there are many wars and skirmishes ahead. Ironically we found these parting words from Joe interesting to ponder, ‘ why it is that people outside the book industry developed the first major online bookstore, the first sexy e-reading device, and the premier search index to books.’

To read Joseph J. Esposito at The Scholarly Kitchen, ‘

To read
Erik Sherman at titled ‘An End Run Around Authors' Contracts and Copyright,’

Colour eReader or Bad Video?

Well here a Liquavista Colour ereader developed in partnership with Texas Instruments and Freescale. It has a 6" colour reflective display that even plays videos!Texas Instruments has provided the e-ink on their OMAP open platform, and Freescale is working a similar prototype on a different platform.

The say that the eproof is in the eEating so here is a YouTube video, together with escalator backing music, what sounds like a dentist drill and not very good camera work.

Why the ereader is encased in a Kindle type box is confusing as it makes it look so dated?

Wal Mart Buys Into TVOIP

The Internet is now stepping up to streaming video and film, mobiles are able to play them and TVs are becoming wired to use this new delivery. Many have already exploited TVOIP technology (we just made that up – TV Over The Internet). So why have satalite when you can get TV and video over the Internet?

News now breaks that WalMart is acquiring Vudu, an online movie service that is being built into TVs and Blu-ray players. Research firm iSuppli, which estimates that over 60% of high-definition televisions will connect to the Internet by 2013. A combination of Wal Mart and Vudu could boost sales of TVOIP ready televisions and players.

Microsoft, Sony, Amazon, Netflix, Blockbuster all offer online TVOIP movie stores and Apple sells movies and TV in its iTunes.

What we are starting to see is a sea change from the days we all bought VHS tapes, then DVD discs to TV and video on demand over the Internet. This is the same shift we see starting in music where players such as Last FM and Spotify are rewriting the rules. We are bound to see the same with other media and even the bookshelf is finally being threatened.

Remember that Amazon was first seen by many as a bookstore but in fact it was building a consumer channel capable of selling anything. Wal Mart are now building an integrated TVOIP which could connect them to many households and of course sell anything.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Jobs Continues to be in Flash Denial

We know Steve Jobs hates Flash and will not allow it on his ‘iP’ platform. He cites bugs, consumption and general denial. If iPad used Flash he claims battery life would reduce fro 10 hours to 1 ½ hours. We sit an listen to the man because he is Steve Jobs but we also recognise his Midas touch might be often goldplated. The launch of the iPad had blue cubes displayed where sites had Flash but it didn’t sdistrurb Jobs as he obviously think we are all wrong and he is right.

Adobe is pushing the Flash media player onto a wide range of devices, with Flash Player 10.1 on Linux, Android and Windows tablets and mobiles. Jobs favours HTML 5 standardisation and pushing its adoption and development use and says that Flash causes crashes on Mac OS and that it has been optimised for Windows. Apple first said it would be adopting Flash then took the decision to ship the iPhone's Safari browser without the Flash plug-in.

Adobe is now working on optimising Flash and Flash Lite for OpenVG 1.1 and OpenGL ES 2.0 and is using Imagination's PowerVR SGX and VGX graphics cores. It is also collaborating on optimising Flash 10.1 for Android, Windows CE and Linux. 19 of the top 20 mobile device manufacturers are now part of the Open Screen Project with only Apple being the major absent. Adobe's Open Screen Project is creating chipset support for the Flash runtime on such as Nvidia's Tegra 2, Qualcomm's Snapdragon and Freescale's i.MX515. This certainly is a game changing move.

Now Jobs is widely reported trying to get the Wall Street Journal to ditch Flash for the iPad. The Journal is not alone in adopting Flash to deploy Videos, slide shows, news, graphics. Jobs says of Flash, "We don't spend a lot of energy on old technology." He compares it to obsolete systems Apple got people to ditch; the floppy drive, old data ports and the CD.

Jobs’s biggest claim is that would be "trivial" he suggested the Journal used the H.264 video compression system could be very effective and cheap on video but is reliant on a privately licensed and patented technology. H. 264 clearly does not fully replace Flash today but imagine the effort to write most of the sites out there today happily running Flash? Imagine the training, the skills acquisition and the integration into the editorial workflow.

To read more on HTML5, we recommend the Gizmodo article, ‘ Why HTML isn’t going to save the Internet’ . We it offering a form of DRM to websites restricting users ability easily capture video and audio content to their hard drives, coupling ads to content and simply doing things it is almost impossible to do without Flash.

GBBR: Grimmelmann Summaries the Day in Court

Many thanks to James Grimmelmann and his students for this long but enlightening account of the Google Settlement Day in court last week. James is Associate Professor at New York Law School, and is affiliated with the Institute for Information Law and Policy.

The account is well worth reading and presents a good insight as to how arguments for both sides may be interpreted by the Judge.

Newspapers on Demand

Travellers at Frankfurt airport can now access the same day editions of some 1,000 newspapers in 38 languages and walk away with their own printed copy from the store. The Print-on-Demand service was introduced this week at HDS Retail Deutschland’s Virgin Media Store in the Shopping Plaza in Terminal 2. In addition the airport operator's VIP service will also offer the service to international guests.

This obviously is a plus for travellers wanting their local news as they travel but it begs the question why not a digital copy download to a USB stick, mobile or laptop? If the POD machine has access to the content it would be a logical step to offer these download options. Such a service could then be widely deployed using the POD and download hub in major airports and stations and the download only in smaller ones.

Today we have access to literally hundreds of major news and newspaper services via apps on our mobile. Although we experience immediate access, we are often restricted abroad due to internet mobile roaming constraints. However, as wi-fi becomes more ubiquitous and publicly available for free, then the logic of buying a POD machine and the set up starts to look more questionable.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Digital Pricing: Be Careful What You Wish For

The agency pricing model shifts the pricing control back upstream to the publisher who can now play digital retail from behind their desk. But is this a real or just a hollow victory? Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins Publishers, Macmillan, the Penguin Group and Simon & Schuster have agreed agency terms under which they would set e-book prices and Apple would serve as an agent to sell the books to consumers. Apple would take 30% of each sale, leaving 70% for publishers to ‘share’ with authors.

The New York Times report that the Apple terms include a pricing formula that allows for a price reduction if it becomes a bestseller. Apple wants price flexibility for the hottest books, which are heavily discounted in the physical world and at rival retail sites. Apple also wants e-book prices to reflect cheaper hardcover prices where a publisher offers comparable hardcover editions at lower prices. Apple is merely acting as a reseller and there is nothing wrong with that.

So ebook pricing is variable and can be triggered not just by some age factor, but also by sales volume. However is the sales volume triggered through one channel or agent, or all channels and agents and the New York Times best-seller charts? Is the price to be applied universally or uniquely, locally or globally? So will the price to start at $15, $14 or $13? Is the price hike we were told was for the sustainability of the digital market the mere ceiling price point? If the hottest books ship cheaper, are publishers shooting themselves in the foot and giving away the winners, instead of playing them? How will this magic price change happen and who will control this morphing from 'also ran' to 'best seller' and potentially back again? will books at the edge of the charts see saw up and down like yo yos?

We now have an open market with tablets and mobiles appearing weekly. The ebook is only a fraction of their appeal and this technology driven roller coaster is about defining the ultimate media player. Just as we learnt Google was about selling advertising so we should look at others motives.

Multi media devices play; games, videos, TV, music, magazines, newspapers, are social network enablers and can also display books. Its about capturing eyeballs to capture the dollar. Books not only have compete on access and availability, but on time and spend. Apple are already moving the TV and video goalposts on price downwards and price will be a very important element that decides spend and ultimately success.

The ebook will sit and compete with many others and if it holds up everyone wins, but if it doesn’t then prices will be realigned and the people who will do that are the ones closest to the street, or with clear vested interest, not those sitting behind desks.

GBBR: Here Comes The Judge

The ‘G day’ final arrived and not surprisingly Judge Chin declared that he would deliberate before announcing his verdict. Google's opponents made a formidable line up and claimed them to be monopolistic, rapacious, and contemptuous of laws that protect copyright and protect consumers from dominant corporations. Google's who mantra is "Don't be evil" continued to display innocence , but now an increasing number of legal systems and people are questioning how Google defines ‘evil’.

William Cavanaugh Jr. , Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Civil Matters, representing the DOJ stated that “The underlying law is copyright law. This turns copyright law on its head.” He also stated that the issue would be best left to Congress. “If there’s going to be a fundamental shift [in copyright law]. If we’re going to establish compulsory licensing, that should be left to Congress.”

Judge Chin suggested that if the settlement were opt in and not opt out some of the objectors, “you’d eliminate a lot of objections.” The response from Author Guild attorney Michael Boni was, “You wouldn’t have a settlement.”

The Judge hit the nail on the head by saying "I would surmise that Google wants the orphan books and this is what it is about -- orphan books that will remain unclaimed."

We don’t know how long the deliberations will take but only that the publishing industry has been polarized and torn apart by Google’s actions and the perceived need to cut a deal and questionable negotiations. We still believe this is a bad deal, that is about an infringement that was settled by a give away of something no-one owned – orphans.

This is not an advert, it's a Legend

When you watch the video of HTC’ s Legend and couple this with its availability in April and the experience we have had on the forerunner HTC Hero we know that iPhone is not having a clear run any more.

The HTC running Android 2.1 is a serious contender but coupled with the new features of the Legend and we ask the question why have an iPhone? We have full Skype for free on 3 plus premium Spotify as good a range of apps from the Android store and with the Legend’s OLED screen.

Another major plus is that it will support Flash which certainly is a step in the right direction over others who are in denial.

To see what we are talking about watch the video at T3.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Mobile TV

We can already watch streamed BBC on our Android but the apps aren’t official. However the BBC will now launch in April its first applications for the iPhone, including the iPlayer catch-up TV service. The iPlayer on-demand video and audio player currently serves up 20 million requests for TV and radio programmes every week.

The BBC will launch applications based on its news, sport and iPlayer services and content will be free and it is also looking to make the offer available on rival Android and RIM’s BlackBerry platforms.

Users will also be able to send comments and pictures directly to the newsroom.
The BBC said the sports app will be released in time for the World Cup, which starts in June, and will initially focus on football.

The BBC’s free applications will certainly increase tension with companies looking to offer paid-for content and raises many questions about licence fees and tracking abuse. The other certainty is that the networks will certainly feel the pinch as bandwidth once again becomes a potential issue. Others who today offer free news apps include Sky, ITN and papers such as the Daily Telegraph.

In other TV news Seesaw's online service has launched for UK internet users after less than a month of beta testing on 20,000 users. Seesaw technology came from the aborted Project Kangaroo, the internet TV service that was blocked by the UK Competition Commission and the service offers viewers the chance to catch up for free on 3,000 hours of archive and recent programmes from the BBC, Channel 4 and Five.

Seesaw is funded by advertising and 17 major brands including; Ikea, Diageo and Kraft have already signed up. Like Spotify and other streaming services they see a combination of advertising, subscription and pay per view.
"It's quite hard to get people to pay for content online.

So TV is coming to a mobile near you and wide choices of offers are appearing on the internet. How long will we view TV as separate to other media?.

Digital LibraryWorld: Virtual Library in Surrey

Surrey County Council in the UK are proposing to allow library members to download ebooks and audio books to their personal computers, laptops or other devices.

Its ironic that this is happening the week we wrote about Digital LibraryWorld but today we also received an invitation to tender for a national network across a large European state.

Surrey council claims that it is currently in talks to make the service available across all 53 public libraries across the county. It will not be the first nor will it be the last. It aims to encourage people to read more through the service which will include best seller fiction and a range of non-fiction. The question we raised this week remain unanswered whilst this programme and others roll forward with little or no debate and assessment of the implications.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Digital LibraryWorld Part 4: The Hodge Potch

Yesterday the UK government lawyers stated that they believe that public libraries would be legally able to charge for e-books that are downloaded remotely under a library service. This may be the legal position, but what about the moral or social position? More importantly should access to information and literary works be paid for twice. once by taxes and secondly by readers? Should a subsidised public service be allowed to compete unfairly with commercial services? Why should physical books be lent free and yet digital charged within the same service?

Margaret Hodge may have established the legal ground , but that doesn’t excuse her attempts to profit from the public library service as a political football. with little or no regard to the potential damage and the implications to the publishing and bookselling industry. Margaret Hodge will be in effect privatising the library service by the back door and opening the door so wide open to encourage even more radical and disjoined thinking. Today we face a real ‘Hodge Potch’ of ministerial action from a lame duck government and a personal in search for eye-catching headlines for votes in an election year.

It is important that we debate the commercial versus public service question and why one medium should be charged for whilst others aren’t for the same work?

If libraries are allowed to compete head to head with resellers, the fight will be created that never previously existed and it will be one that is both unfair and unjust. Public libraries occupy prime civic locations and will be given even greater preferences than the low rent that charity shops selling books enjoy today. Staff will be paid out of the public purse, the services and systems will be paid out of public purse, the content will be bought out of the public purse and the access will be paid for by the public. Even VAT will flow to the public coffers!

We then have the next Hodgism allowing libraries to sell downloads not rent them. In doing so they will compete unfairly head to head, not just with Amazon, but the very fabric of the booktrade and every bookstore.

Libraries have a role, a community place both in the physical and digital worlds. They need to go mobile and digital. They need to create a social layer of information access and service and not just be seen as a place housing books on shelves. They need to be creative and innovative. This should not be at the expense of the booktrade, publishing industry and authors livelihoods. What is the objective?

When we first saw the Barnes and Noble superstore in the90s, with their cavernous space, coffee shops, newspaper racks and casual retail space we immediately thought they were libraries. When the Espresso POD machines first appeared, we immediately thought what a great community hub libraries could give them ands the service and support they could give local bookstores. When we first saw music , audio and PC in libraries, we thought why not. However, what went wrong was that public libraries were starved of the true investment required to transform them, they struggled to modernise and what money was given was often at the expense of buying books. They were often lost with little direction and staff often found themselves torn between being civil servants, information officers and bookmen. There is a need to change, but change should be one that understands the publishing framework and interdependencies that exist today and not ignores them in blind idealism.

Today we must debate and understand the implications of ‘free to rent’ versus ‘buy to purchase’. If we tip the scales too far to one extreme, we could undermine the fabric of what we are trying to encourage – writing and reading. Today we musty agree how creativity is rewarded and although PLR offers a good safety net , expanding this without a further increase in real money, merely dilutes, and does not encourage and reward creativity.

We must now ask what the role of the library is and how we build it into the digital future in a balanced way that encourages creativity, writing, learning, reading and one that builds community and social harmony. The PLR funding and reward system has to be fully included within any change. We talk often about the public private initiatives and closer relationships and there is a real need to explore these in any change. We must avoid actions that can destroy one in order that we save the other.

If the bookstores were to disappear because of commercial competition, we as society will have played a part in it. If bookstores were to disappear because of governmental action, then we as society have ay best let idealism and at worst greed overcome years of establishing a social service. Creating a tax on reading is not what public libraries were established to do. Reading is reading and to condone charging for digital but retain it for physical books, makes little if no sense.

At a time that the government states that access to the internet and even broadband are become fundamental rights for 21st century citizens, to charge for to read digital books is morally wrong.

Digital LibraryWorld Part 3: Digital Supply

As Public libraries go digital what will be the challenges to publishers and the supply of digital content?

The physical supply chain requires many value added extras such as plastic dust jackets, library stamps, library metadata etc. From this has grown a supply service that is geared to providing these services to the libraries. The Good Library Blog wrote last week that library suppliers have agreed physical book supply contracts at 47.5% discount off the cover price of books. The provisos are that the supplier can make the selection of which books are supplied and that these contracts apply to all the books supplied. The supplier will select the best, most appropriate books for the local library. The value of supply contracts is claimed at £90m per annum.

However, does the same logic prevail in the digital world?

In the digital world what is the starting price?

Do libraries need specialist aggregators?

Today the supply of digital books to library patrons can be achieved through an aggregated service such as Overdrive, or through national aggregated services such as , Numilog, onleihe, or technology platforms such as Google, Apple, Adobe and even players such as Amazon and other retail aggregators. Its merely about search discovery, library system integration and authentication, access and content delivery. In fact why can’t libraries get their digital content direct on demand from many sources including publishers?

So why would any library, or consortia, put all their bets on any one player today?

One of the challenges publishers and others face is the integration into the library systems and the supply of contextual information. Many choose to avoid these issues and supply through an wholesaler and in doing so, operate on the same model as in the physical world. However today many digital suppliers players only operate in the digital world and maybe those that operate in both don’t offer the best digital solution. The question of who is best suited to supply digital is not just a library one, but a publisher one too.

Content is king and Libraryworld wants, antiquarian, public domain, back list and front list, in essence every book ever published. Why shouldn’t every library give their patrons access to national or global collections? They are no longer driven by buying every hardback as an ebook lasts for ever and doesn’t get worn out and need replacement. No need for special jacket services or library stamps in a digital world.

So how will the commercial model change? What price will the model be based on? How will usage be charged? What restrictions will be applied to concurrent usage or the number of copies licensed? Will there be license restrictions on inter library loans. Although a different environment, the way in which publishers deal with institutional consortia and libraries may offer some insights. Can publishers now supply direct and work around the intermediary?

The context information supply and library system issues are, or should no longer be obstacles.

Every library should have an open approach to content delivery and recognise the ability to lend on demand.

Just as publishers are having to grapple with a digital reseller channel they now also have to grapple with a digital library channel and how they price, sell, promote and deliver to it.

Next we will look at the thorny issue of retail versus library, pay versus free, market driven versus subsidised, purchase versus rent and royalties versus PLR.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Mobile Updates From Barcelona

Mobile World Congress in Barcelona has opened and news is pouring out in every direction.

Windows 7
Microsoft has unveiled Windows Phone 7 which focuses on social-networking, real-time information, and organising contacts and data in to single “hubs”.Joe Belfiore, vice president of Windows Phone, said, “Too many phones are made to look like PCs. We wanted to come up with a user design that was different, that moved beyond the metaphor of the PC.” Windows Phone devices will feature three buttons - Start, Search and Back and be built around six different “hubs”, based on the services that people use most, accessed through the Live Tiles home screen (not a lot different to the Android in my hand there). However Microsoft has enabled users to access and edit Microsoft Office documents on the device.

Microsoft said that Windows Phone 7 Series devices would be available at the end of the year from a variety of handset makers, including Samsung, LG and HTC.

MeeGo or MeGoo or Me Too

Nokia is merging its Maemo N900 smartphone platform, with Intel's Moblin, which is an open source software project, to create MeeGo. Devices are due out this year but who is driving strategy at Nokia and how many operating systems do they want? They clearly are on the back foot and in danger of losing the plot and claim once again that others will join the show. Sounds more like MeGoo than MeToo.

Remember Symbian, the operating system which Nokia took over and made "open source" and failed to convince other manufactures to adopt. However, Google’s Android, has been installed in 27 different handsets from a range of manufacturers.

Wholesale Applications Community
24 mobile operators, including Vodafone, Orange and O2, have joined forces with manufactures such as Sony Ericsson, Samsung and LG to take on Apple's domination of the mobile applications market. Apple have now claimed 150,000 apps and these are certainly creating the difference today with only Google’s Android showing any ability to compete. This new alliance aims to create an open app platform which will enable developers to reach over 3 billion customers.

The Wholesale Applications Community is the latest attempt by mobile phone companies to ensure they are not sidelined by hardware makers and internet companies that reduce the networks to mere billing platforms and networks. However the industry has a poor record of working within an industry consortium."

Andy Rubin, Google's vice president of engineering, remarked that he was sceptical about the potential success of the mobile phone operators in creating their own application platform, "There is always a dream that you could write once and run anywhere and history has proven that that dream has not been fully realised and I am sceptical that it ever will be."

Maybe less WAC and more WACKY

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Digital LibraryWorld Part 2: The Public Library Landscape

What is the current landscape of the digital LibraryWorld and it challenges and opportunities?

Today it is possible to sit anywhere in the world, log onto your public library, authenticate yourself and borrow a digital download of an ebook. The download is protected from being copied and printed and once the lending period has expired so does access to the copy of the book. No need to ever go near the physical library. Some libraries are even considering lending you the reading device too! The reading experience is free and there are no second-hand bookstores with used books with those library stamps inside!

Why wouldn’t public libraries embrace such a model?
Why wouldn’t readers embrace such a model?

The digital shelf is no longer restricted and can be virtual and may be national or even global. The library may not even have to buy the stock but merely pay for it on demand. Inter library loans can become virtual with no waiting for the transfer to happen. The library can be open 24x7 with every digital book ever produced on its digital shelf and available.

Why wouldn’t public libraries embrace such a model?
Why wouldn’t readers embrace such a model?

The current prime Library real estate could be released and resources reduced. Why wouldn’t any governing body in today’s economic climate embrace such an opportunity?
What we have described is not a vision of the future it is here in many different examples today. The New York Library is just one of many thousands who operate a virtual library based on a valid library card. Across Europe many are following the model driven by local digital service providers and content. We have ourselves supported the operation of leading players such as in Denmark, which today is widely used across the country by libraries. We have seen the rise of library digital suppliers such as Overdrive who have a very strong growing digital library service in the US and now are bidding to capture the UK. The US giant,OCLC library service, who own the digital division NetLibrary, claim in their January OCLC Newsletter to support 1,212,383 libraries world wide, handle 166,041,975,140 transactions a year, or 5265 transactions per second and are therefore clearly in a position to help many go digital. We then have the Google Book Settlement and although currently confined to the US libraries they clearly would like to extend it.

Why wouldn’t public libraries want to embrace digital and adopt proven models?
Would readers care whose model was adopted?

We then have libraries around the world with either joint initiatives to share their collections of rare books, maps, films, manuscripts and recordings online for free. These may not compete with the High Street and retail models but can provide an added value layer. Initiatives such as the World Digital Library will function in 7 languages – Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish and including content in additional languages. Its objectives are to promote international understanding, to expand non-English and non-western content online, as well as to contribute to research and education. The EU is developing its Europeana, an online archive of European culture from more than 1,000 European national libraries, museums and institutions content. Its launch attracted 10m hits an hour and this even temporarily overwhelmed the service. The British Library has announced that it is to make 65,000 19thcentury works of fiction available for free downloads by the public in 2010 and allow readers to order print on demand copies via

Why wouldn’t readers embrace free digital archives from national libraries?

The thorny issue of commerce is now central. Do borrowers get digital free or pay to rent? Do digital rentals relax the restrictions on the physical model? Do we enter the world of library buying consortia and are collections bought, rented or paid for on demand? Do libraries have the funding to go digital and is it supplemental or substitution to the physical? How can bookstores compete with a ‘free’ model offered by public funding from public libraries who still own prime locations? We thought the charity shops were offered an unfair commercial advantage but some would argue that even they could be at a disadvantage in the digital LibraryWorld.

Having defined the public library and now looked at the landscape we will next look at the digital publishing and supply opportunities.

Australian Court Rules in Favour of ISP's Safe Habour

An Australian Federal Court has ruled that an ISP (iiNet) was not liable for the copyright infringement of its customers. The judge said that even if he had agreed that the ISP had shared culpability for the copyright infringements it would not have been liable because it had an adequate policy for dealing with infringement in place and so enjoyed 'safe harbour' under Australia's copyright law.

The Uk is one of a number of countries in the process of passing laws that demand that ISPs a ‘3 strikes’ and then disconnect the subscribers accused of copyright infringement. The judge said that it was not the ISP's job to protect the business interests of the film company, "The law recognizes no positive obligation on any person to protect the copyright of another. The law only recognizes a prohibition on the doing of copyright acts without the license of the copyright owner or exclusive licensee, or the authorization of those acts. In the circumstances outlined above and discussed in greater detail in my judgment, it is impossible to conclude that iiNet has authorized copyright infringement."

The Australian Copyright Act prohibits the doing, or the authorizing of the doing, of anything that infringes someone else's copyright. This mirrors many countries legal systems and promotes the entitlement of the ISP to 'safe harbour' protection from liability for the activities of their users as long as they are simply a channel through which those users act and as long as they have appropriate policies in place to deal with illegal behaviour.

To read more and the court ruling

Digital Libraryworld Part 1: Defining the Public Library

Public Libraries are distinct from research, school and institutional ones, they hold books but the content, commercial models, patronage and usage are often distinct. Public libraries exist in most nations and generally funded by public sources. They were created to widen the publics’ access to content in order to drive education and literacy and not restrict information and the written word to ones ability to pay. It is regarded by many as a basic right to literature.

The history of the public library can be seen in the scrolls that were made available to the patrons of the Roman baths and although many libraries such as Norwich, Grantham, the Bodleian, Manchester, Ipswich, Bristol etc were established in the 17th century, it wasn’t until the mid 19th century that the public library we know today really took off. During the period the number of libraries in England and Scotland rose to 540 and the age of mass literacy started to take shape. Library growth was further boosted by philanthropists such as Carnegies in the US and libraries became community hubs.

However libraries appear to have lost their direction in the late 20th century. The reasons are many and often complex; wide availability of titles on the High Street, reduced library spending, mass paperbacks, higher dispensable income, increased media competition etc. Number of lending has decreased and in the world of instant gratification, waiting for that copy of the book to be returned, is no longer acceptable to many. When did you last see any spending on promoting public libraries? Some would suggest the libraries have had an identity crisis and even the librarians were becoming Information Officers not Bookmen.

Today libraries now face the opportunities available in the digital world. The questions of whether they are ready, who will lead and where they will be in 5, 10 or 15 years, remain unanswered.

They were created to enable access to the public irrespective of wealth – a basic right. If governments now start to view access to the internet and broadband speed as basic rights in the 21st century, then access to the digital library may become the public right the physical library was established to deliver.

However, lending digital works on the same model as the physical book could be disruptive to many within the publishing chain and even undermine its very core as we know it today. Do we fight change, restrict it or even starve it of content at source? Some major publishers such as Bloomsbury have embraced the challenge, whilst others have declined to let ebooks onto the digital shelves.

What is the answer? What are the potential business models? Who is doing what today? How do we engage in the meaningful dialogue and avoid the issue becoming a political football or as the current Minister Margaret Hodge is advocating a ‘Hodge Potch’ of ideas without context.

We will be writing this week about today’s digital landscape and the opportunities and challenges to the digital Libraryworld.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Google Acts On Copyright Infringement?

Google has deleted a number of popular music blogs that it claims violated copyright law. Some may say that this is an ironic twist at this moment in time.
The sites, hosted by Google's Blogger and Blogspot services, received DMCA complaints and were issued notices only after their sites and their content were wiped from the internet.

Google’s notice stated, 'Upon review of your account, we've noted that your blog has repeatedly violated Blogger's Terms of Service ... [and] we've been forced to remove your blog. Thank you for your understanding.'

This is despite the open relationship between labels to review and promote and as one blogger Lipold wrote to Google, 'I assure you that everything I've posted for, let's say, the past two years, has either been provided by a promotional company, came directly from the record label, or came directly from the artist.'

However, we would like to ask Google why we can enter a search on torrent ebook sites and get many results of sites who are clearly sailing close to the copyright wind. We appreciate that these are not blog sites controlled by Google and DMCA take down applies to the site, but they can be discovered through Google and Google derives revenues from associated advertising.

GBBR: The Final Countdown?

So we are one week away from what should be a significant step for copyright in the digital age. The decision rests with one court and its ruling will have significant ramifications for all. If rejected it will clearly leave Google exposed and given their investment they are almost certain to appeal, kick and squeal and probably continue to do what they believe is right –scan unopposed. If it is passed we see copyright being rewritten and the orphan works hovered up unfairly and a potential explosion of litigation.

The case was bought by the Authors Guild for the wrong reasons and their incentive to cut a bad deal paramount from the beginning. The publishers were concerned with protecting the rights they clearly owned and some would suggest care little about anybody or anything else. The UK, Australia, Canada have been sucked in deeper by their ‘parents’ into the Amended Settlement Agreement (ASA).

Now Google has stepped up to pre-state its case they say that the eBook business has plenty of competition citing coverage of the new Apple iPad, but they fail to mention that this competition is not about hovering up orphans and opting in by default or even scanning first and asking last. They state that they have spent millions to create a modern, digital equivalent to the Great Library of Alexandria and that they should be applauded not derided. It as if spending money makes everything right. They appear to be now claiming righteous and moral high ground deriding and sneering at protesters "many of those complaining about the settlement's terms [who] are not themselves class members."

Google claims that the settlement will never please all parties but that it is a fair compromise and reasonable and adequate to the class members. They also claim that the objectors have failed to identify the harms it will cause and offer no practical alternatives and competitors ignore their own market positions.

Google argues that ‘the opt-out feature of the settlement is of vital importance because that feature makes it possible for the plaintiffs and Google to establish a market for out-of-print books that otherwise simply could not exist in light of the prohibitive transaction costs of identifying and locating individual Rightsholders of these largely older, out-of-print books.’

As if now arguing on a technicality, Google state, ‘It is a remarkably creative settlement, beneficial to the parties and absent class members and the public, but it is also a settlement of the case the Court has before it’

The US Department of Justice has once again applauded the intent but clearly said the package is not good enough. Many have spoken up against it and others for it. Many just want it to be settled. We still believe it is a bad deal which at it core deals with absent plaintiffs for their own gain. Orphans are vulnerable and should not have mass adoption forced upon them in such an exclusive manner.

Friday, February 12, 2010

To Shazam

There should be a verb, to Shazam.

One of our favourite IPhone and Android apps is music identification software Shazam. When we hear a song and want to know what the song is, we merely Shazam it and it identifies it.

Shazam has announced that users can now create stations in Pandora which will include additional songs by the same artist and similar ones. If a song has been tagged, an icon appears in the "Tag Results" page which then takes the user directly to their radio station. The use of tags has also been linked to to generate a list of upcoming shows based on the tagged artists and based on the user's location.

What Shazam is teaching us is the power of context, or information about the content or associated with it. In these cases the ability to extend past the track to others or to related concerts may have even more value and the search and discovery is not via a normal text search but by a sampling of the content itself.

Larry Lessig: How creativity is being strangled by the law

We once again bring you another thought provoking video from TED. This one is by Larry Lessig who talks about reinventing, re-purposing and unlocking content within the 21st century and the principles behind licences such as Creative Commons. Worth watching but give yourself time to absorb.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Is Apple's Tablet Unpalatable?

So we return to the iPad and its Flash denial and current Camera shy offer. It has certainly stirred the market, but will Appleworld, its geek following and its renown agoraphobia be enough to compete?

We now find ourselves with yet another proprietary and restrictive world for books. Apple may support ePub but only their way. We will have yet another locked DRM ironically named ‘Fair Play’, which could mean Appleworld books are restricted to iPhone, iPad and iTouch. Not exactly the interoperable world that many have campaigned for and we all seek and probably even more restricted than Amazon’s much derided position. We effectively will have a common epub format restricted into different worlds, but who cares when Apple has the Midas touch, Google aspires not be evil and Amazon has to be brought down to size. Maybe a bookseller will feature somewhere?

"You know, I'm a big believer in touch and digital reading, but I still think that some mixture of voice, the pen, and a real keyboard—in other words a netbook—will be the mainstream on that," says Bill Gates on the iPad.

It appears the Appleworld is based on the content as well as designer touch. The worlds of iTunes, IBookstore and what maybe iTV.

It is strongly rumoured that a new TV pricing scheme is being formulated by Apple to offer US production houses TV shows to consumers for less than a dollar. Apple currently offers TV shows for $1.99 for standard-definition episodes and $2.99 for high-definition episodes. For an entire season, consumers might pay $49.99 in high-definition for a popular television series. The new price is very likely to be that famed 99c. The price is aimed at driving more consumers to buy the iPad and enjoy music, games, Tv and books all price pointed to attract and where possible locked to Appleworld.

Microsoft has not laid down and has announced Windows 7 based tablets from partners such as the HP Slate, Archos 9 and Acer. Asus has announced their “killer product” which is due in June. The Archos 9 PC Tablet is claimed to be the thinnest tablet on the market. The interesting thing is that when a tablet runs on Windows 7 it means it can run anything that can run on a Windows computer. Another tablet is the JooJoo by Fusion Garage, a Singapore based company. Originally called the CrunchPad it was designed to be a complete web browsing tablet.Then there is the Adam Tablet from Notion Ink, which will come with Google’ Android operating system so offering a different perspective.

Finally, Panasonic is launching a industrial strength tablet built for the tough life of supporting maintenance, law enforcement and field sales workers, which is hardly for the designer ‘media luvvie’ and comes at a 'tough' $3,379 price.

The big question is whether we are really heading towards tablet take-over or to a bigger cloud game in the sky and a different consumption model for media and access. Who will get the consumer time when games, video, TV,music and books sit side by side on the same device in full colour, stereo and animation?

Warner Threatens Music Streaming Model

We have long watched and waited for music streaming to become commercially viable and right back to the days of Spiral Frog we could see the potential, it was just a case of getting the model right.

The big success story of last year was Spotify, who took captured 7 million users across six European countries and presented competition for others such as and We7. The record companies came on board, the consumers came onboard, the advertisers came and importantly they started to break the mould. Some said it was just like having your own radio station, playing your own selections and for a premium payment, you could even switch off the adverts. However the majority selected the free model based on advertising sponsorship over subscriptions. Three mobile even plugged Spotify premium into their contracts and we got it included in ours.

Now Warner, one of the four major labels, have declared that streaming services were "clearly not positive for the industry". The real issue is that they are not lucrative enough for labels and the fact is that the are popular with the consumers and are legal.It obviously would make sense to fight piracy with something that consumers clearly want than acting like a spoilt child and saying ' we don't want to play'.

So 7 million are on Spotify, 2.5 million are on We7 and there are others queuing up to offer the new service and we also have the likes of the mobile operates getting in on the opportunity, but a major label now wants to change the game and move the goalposts. Does it sound familiar to other media markets where commercial controls are being fought over?

Will Warner merely tear up the deals they have and tell 10 million consumers they got it wrong and don’t want to play any more? Will they try to shift the price up, demand subscriptions for all and demand a greater return? Will they honour what is in play today and squeeze future deals out?

What is clear is that Warner are showing the sort of uncertainty and arrogance that has been indicative of the music industry labels since the advent of digital. The one industry not to follow is music and its digital music experts, that is unless you want to know how not to do it.

The main legal streaming services have deals with most major and independent record labels and pay royalties for each song played but the amount is less than a label would earn if that song was downloaded or if they had a greater slice of a listener's monthly subscription.

However just to demonstrate that music is a minefield of contradictions, Rob Wells, senior vice president of Universal Music Group International, said only last month that Spotify was well on the way to proving its commercial viability and had, ‘a very sustainable financial model - full stop’.

Will Warner pick up their sticks and leave the field demanding their new terms are met? Will Spotify delist them? Will consumers go back to downloads and the old model or will they return to the pirates? These are dangerous waters and raise many questions about who controls what? It is also about giving consumers a continuity of service and trust that what they have bought or signed up to will not be withdrawn because someone changed their mind.

It would be a tragedy if Warner renegotiates with Spotify,content is withdrawn and the commercials are rewritten before they have had chance to settle. It isn’t just about getting premium subscriptions but also about the advertising model and shifting to streaming technologies and that takes time and importantly needs consumer confidence to be sustained not played with.

The pirates will obviously be watching with interest as Warner tries to correct what they see is wrong with the model today.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Googleworld Gets Buzzing

Google has launched its Gmail-based social network platform called Google Buzz.
The network will compete head to head with the likes of Facebook and Twitter and of course will be fully connected to everything Google including your movements, thoughts, friends, searches and whatever. Is it me or does Googleworld start to become a little potentially eveil in its reach and knowledge?

Buzz will club the 175 Gmail users together and integrate with Flickr, Google’s YouTube and the various other Google platforms, mobiles and Twitter. You don’t have to leave Google world as the track your every movement and click.

Updates will be flagged directly in the user’s Gmail inbox and profile page and a mobile version of the platform will incorporate location-based services so a user’s update will be tagged with their current location and users will also be able to search for updates from people nearby.

Google is now planning an enterprise version of Buzz, aimed at businesses using its Apps platform.
What do they want to be when they grow up?

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Let There Be Light

There are pros and cons to all technology and what many view as a big plus often is seen by others as a downside. Today we now see attachments for eInk readers that compensate for its perceived greatest strength its lack of a back-light. We can see clearly in the sun, on the beach, on the street and under the full glare of the sun but we can’t see that well in a dark environment.

So for between 20 to 30 this can be fixed with a simple light or even a torch held between the teeth! Whatever you use remember to pack it in the travel case!

Guilté as Charged: Maybe?

Hold that guillotine!

In December the French courts ruled that Google was to stop scanning and digitising French books without publishers’ approval. The case was bought by one of France's biggest publishing houses, Les Editions du Seuil, who claimed thousands of its works had been digitised without consent. The court ruled that "Google has committed acts of copyright violation to the detriment of Le Seuil" and also ordered Goolgle to pay 300K euros and a gesture of 1 euro to the SNE Publishers' Association and the SGDL Society of Authors.

We thought that was it, done and dusted, but when you have so many lawyers, much at stake and probably a argument or two up your sleeve its never over. Google has now filed an appeal of a court decision.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Walking Backwards to a Net Book Agreement World?

Some would suggest that the publishers have wrestled price control back from the discount chasm that was in danger of undermining the economics of publishing, others that the winners are the authors and some that Amazon merely backed out of a price war to win a fixed margin on all ebook sales. The reasoning will differ according to your allegiance, but what is clear is that the battle is far from over and the water has just got a whole lot muddier. As always we jump to applaud something new before we understand the real implications.

We now have a clear difference in pricing models between the physical and digital book.

One is free and unrestricted the other now set by the publisher. The physical price has been set to accommodate the current high discounting and only the foolish would pay the false price on the physical jacket. It is common to see high discounted price, bundled offers and generally everyday low pricing on the hardback. Now we have a price hike from Amazon’s ebook $9.99, to an agency model price which is set by the publisher and is aimed at guarantying ‘acceptable’ ebook pricing and margin whilst also guarantying hardback sales don’t collapse.
So it will be highly possible to see a hardback for sale at a high discount competing side by side with a more expensive ebook with no discount. We will also see ‘extras’ being added to the ebook, some would suggest not to primarily enrich the content and experience, but to merely justify a higher price. We then we have tax which current is not evenly levied against the two different format types, but has to be paid for the digital copy by the consumer or buried in the price.
Last week we were in Holland and discovered their ebooks, unlike their physical book prices, aren’t controlled. So a physical book is sold at a fixed price with a tax of 6% and ebooks are sold at discount with a tax of 19%. The ebook market is growing but the ebooks are attracting lots of special bundle deals and obviously are ‘cheaper’. The Amazon deal presents us with the opposite a controlled price on an ebook and a free or unrestricted pricing on physical books. UK pbooks are tax free whilst their ebook counterparts attract full tax at17.5%.

So we wondered whether we now find ourselves walking backwards into the UK’s old Net Book Agreement or just another ebook pricing issue? In those NBA ‘safe’ days booksellers were unable to discount and except for the month of January and the National Book Sale, it was a level playing field for all. We wonder what it would have been like if paperbacks were controlled then and Hardbacks not, or visa versa? How can we advocate controlling one market whilst letting the other be free of control? What message does that send out to consumers? What is competitive and what is price fixing and anti competitive?

Some would suggest that it was easy to take on Amazon with Google Editions and Apple coming into play, but that it would be very hard to take on the physical discounters.
We now also have the next new policy of tiered pricing, where the price will drop after some period at the whim and control of the publisher. It is like a ‘sell by date’ where the shelf life is determined but some marketing manager in some distant publisher’s office. How will that be managed, communicated and explained to consumers? Perhaps it will be like the National Book Sale after all or more likely prices will be moving every month.

Finally, authors have now mainly moved over to 'net receipts' contracts, which are based on the price that publishers receive from the resellers. So what should the author deal now be on ebooks? Should it be based on net receipts, on a fixed margin, related to other renditions and will it be higher or lower in real terms to the physical book? If publishers can neatly separate the physical from the digital why can’t authors do the same.

What we have is a change of ebook pricing driven by the perceived need to control digital discounting and the agency plays of Google Editions and Apple. However can we have one price model for digital and another for physical, or is that the next target?

$5 Million Advert

Can you spend $5million on a single TV advert? Google's minute long commercial during the US Super Bowl not only was a significant change to advertising policy but also shows once again how little they are paying for the Book Settlement.

As one of the world's premier advertising slots, the Super Bowl demands top dollar and offers a massive audiences. Companies can be charged around $2.5m for a 30 second spot and the game can gross $213m from advertising alone.

So we had the Chrome adverts on billboards everywhere and now further spending advertising its search engine which has grown to dominate with little external marketing. Are Google on a product awareness campaign or a public relations one?

Sunday, February 07, 2010

GBBR: How Not To Play Poker

So according to a blog posted at the Authors Guild, they claim the settlement was more about preventing digital piracy and defining fair use than copyright infringement. The Guild clearly disagrees with the US Justice Department's reading of the law. They state that they didn’t press the Google litigation through to the end because they view copyright litigation as being uncertain and feared that their view and opinion on fair use may not have prevailed.

They believe that if they had lost if would have been ‘open season on scanning of your out-of-print and in-print books’.

They ironically believe that if they had won the victory could have been ‘Pyrrhic in the digital age’. They feared that victory could put them in a similar position to the RIAA (the Recording Industry Association of America) who have won many hollow victories and may be losing the war. They also feared being outmanoeuvred by technology and pirates ever chasing the uncatchable.

Even before a settlement has been approved or rejected the Authors Guild have clearly shown their hand and why would Google budge an inch further? Who but the most naive would play such an open card in the middle of the game? In focusing all their efforts in trying to ‘harness’ Google, they could have left the door wide open to all. The only people who have benefitted in this sorry tale to date are the lawyers.

Friday, February 05, 2010

The Great Book Bank Robbery - DOJ say Not Good Enough

We have stated long and hard our thoughts on the proposed Google Book Settlement and have probably written more about that than anything else. In our opinion it proposes a major change on copyright via a back door and our primary position has been against the mass adoption of orphan works and the continued ‘scan first ask later’ attitude of Google. The amended proposal which goes before the court on 18th of this month makes no changes to the fundamental flaws within the original settlement. Many have been confused by the complexity of the settlement, many believed that because it was drawn up by their superiors it made sense, many were merely sleepwalking into change. However the numbers of objectors has swelled, publishers, authors, even governments have stood up and questioned it. No one has been balloted and industry bodies have shuffled and claimed support from the silent majority. The amendment even widened the plaintiffs blindly bringing in countries such as the UK and Australia.

Yesterday the U.S. Department of Justice filed a statement with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. They clearly state that "substantial issues remain" within the revised settlement and that it "suffers from the same core problem", and could give Google a "significant and possibly anticompetitive advantages." The DOJ state that it "remains committed" to working with Google and other parties in the case on the settlement's content.

The hearing still has to happen on the 18th and the dust has to settle, but we hope that finally the industry will wake up. Publishing is about rights; their development, use and trading. It is amazing that as such we as an industry still lack a registry and clear framework to manage and clear these sensibly and that orphans are use as pawns in settlements, their rights given away without recall and we accept one rule for one and another for everyone else.

We hope that GBS is teaching us and whatever happens moving forward it will act as a clear sanity check to us all as we grapple with rights in a Digital Age.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Apple Do It Their Way

Apple have once again stepped in and declared what is acceptable and what is not acceptable on their platform. The latest censorship is on the user’s ability to sharing ebooks between devices via the successful Stanza ebook reading app via a USB connection. The iTunes store notice now reads, ‘Removed the ability to share books via USB as required by Apple’. Apple had demanded that Lexcycle remove the feature from Stanza and as with others before them they were apparently restricted from saying any more by their terms and no disclosure agreement with Apple.

The Stanza app enables users to synchronise their ebooks with a companion app for Mac OS X and Windows and achieve this either by a common USB connection or Wifi.

Apple's Michael Jurewitz has stated on Twitter, there is no public Apple approved API for syncing via USB and that iPhone apps have to talk to PC companions only via the Apple approved via Wi-Fi syncing.Its somewhat fortunate Stanza covered both bases and again raises the question of the control and censorship approach of Appleworld.

Lexcycle and the Stanza reader were acquired by Amazon last year.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Google's Tablet A Trick or Treat?

First their was an iPhone then there was a NexusOne, then there was an iPad to be followed by a GogglePad? Steve Jobs has hardly stopped dismissing and denouncing the ‘evil’ one for stepping onto their patch and Google have now fired the return salvo with a tablet mock up video on YouTube.

The mockups, posted on Google's Chromium Web site, depict a multi tasking device with an on-screen keyboard and a touch screen. There are many internet rumours that Google has been working with the Nexus One builder, HTC and rumours that the work has been halted. Who do you believe in this high tech world of spin and counter pin?

Irrespective we may now face the challenge of Apples app SDK approach with strict control of hardware, connectivity, software and applications in one vertical Appleworld versus Google’s open source, open platform, multi manufacturer Googleworld and cloud. Personally we still prefer the wonderous insights given last week by Pranav Mistry

Does Digital Reading Endanger Your Health?

We all spend an extraordinary amount of time fixed looking into screens, with mobiles attached to the side of our brains, surrounded by WiFi and of course its all safe. Some will even play the ‘green card’ in support of digital reading.

Some interesting facts have again surfaced to show our addiction to the digital fix. The Mobile Data Association claim that in 2009, users of mobile phone in the UK sent some 265 million short message texts on average per day. In total around 97 billion text messages were sent over the year and some 600 million picture messages exchanged. This is represents an increase of 22 billion between 2007 and 20087 and 18 billion between 2008 and 2009. Whatever, it means a lot of thumbwork and staring at small screens!

A study by US welfare institute the Kaiser Family Foundation claims some children are now spending up to 10 hours a day between iPods, mobiles and computer games. 10 Hours is ironically the same time as the battery life of the new iPad. The research also found that much of this was multitasking and is an increase of some 1hour and 17 minutes over its findings in 2004.

Michele Elliott, a child psychologist and founder of the child welfare charity Kidscape, says, “When children are using these devices they are not communicating or interacting with anyone else [in person]. They may be very good at texting but how do they do when they have to meet someone face to face?”

Finally we have the battle between backlit LCD and eInk and the claims and counter claims on the health effect of screen technology. The recent Taipei International Book Exhibition saw several companies promoting LCD devices aimed at schoolchildren. We have already seen many initiatives to ditch textbooks and go digital in education. LCD screens are less expensive than e-paper screens and obviously offer full colour and multimedia and the new iPad also has an LCD screen. The American Optometric Association finds the tie between eye strain, blurred vision, headaches and neck pain and LCD inconclusive and based on current evidence it is 'unlikely that the use of VDTs (video display terminals) causes permanent changes or damage to the eyes or visual system.'

Taiwan's Delta Electronics promoted their colour e-paper screens and new 13.1” e-readers made with e-paper technology from Bridgestone the tyre manufacturers we reported on last year. There was many eInk ‘lookie likie’ ebook readers on show as well as the usual netbooks, laptops, smartphones and tablet PCs. Then we have OLED screens.

So as usage increases and our usage spreads to more devices the question remains, Is reading, texting and digital go or bad for your health?

Monday, February 01, 2010

Is The Digital Price Right?

When we buy a physical rendition we accept the costs associated with its production and distribution and we compensate this in the individual price we pay. A large Art book is bigger has better quality and weighs more than the paperback. Importantly we as consumers appreciate the difference in value we perceive between a ‘solid’ hardback and a ‘flimsy’ paperback and even though the content is identical, there is perceived value in the packaging and extra cost of storage and distribution due to its weight and volume. Importantly the ‘reader’ is free and the storage and distribution factored into the price of the book.

Today’s emerging digital book has a different cost model. Here the cost shifts to the platform to which the book is delivered and read. The cost is born by the consumer who has to buy the tin, pays for the network connection to facilitate its search, retrieval and download. They also have to buy the individual title. The publisher still pays money for their infrastructure but this is a one off capital investment and should not be tied to individual transactions. If he chooses to use an agent aggregator to distribute then these are effectively resellers and should justify their own costs based on the service they provide. Some would suggest that it costs relatively the same to aggregate 1 title as it does 1,000 and although cost increase with size this is not as significant as the initial one off investment.

At the other end of the value chain we must not forget the author and their royalty payment. Some would advocate digital rights are separate to physical both in their licence term and reward. It would be understandable if authors were getting a significant percentage of the sale but they aren’t.

So we come to the thorny issue of digital pricing. There is the common cost of acquisition and editorial between all manifestations of a work. The production costs are different and skewed heavily towards the physical copies. The sales and marketing are similar, but digital buy its nature, is aggregated and not as dispersed as physical. Digital marketing can also support both physical and digital. As the title should only move once it could be claimed that there is little distribution costs per unit or pack. There should be no cost of returns and certainly no cost of shipping returns.

There is a difference is cash flow as money doesn’t flow until after a consumer sale and the stock effectively viewed as being on consignment. No pro-forma required. The publisher is in full financial control of any reseller relationship if they stored and distributed on demand centrally. If distributed to aggregators then the money may flow retrospectively when the terms dictate, but the number of trading relationships is miniscule compared to the accounting relationships in the physical world.

So why are digital books being price aligned to the hardback? Some in the industry suggested not long ago that the hardback was no longer viable, was dead and should be discontinued. Although the consumer demand for the hardback may change, the consumer logic behind it is different to digital and we are in danger of mudding waters and even exposing the price of the same content in a hardback. Some would say that the hardback is a red herring and it is literally about negotiating the right digital price – interesting times. The irony is that the retailers who sell both digital and physical are on a win win ride.

So we come to what is a fair digital price and even price point. The costs and margins will differ between publishers but is not necessarily perceived that way by the public who buy their digital media at normalised price points. We must not forget that the consumer now has to make a sizable investment to buy digital books and the publisher has a sizable reduction and shift in their cost model. In both cases the shift is from individual cost of title towards a cost to play. Consumers are not idiots and the one salient lesson the music industry has taught everyone is that they resent being treated as such.