Sunday, March 28, 2010

Copyright Infringement: Who knows best?

As we are about to get the UK Digital Bill pushed through parliament by use a government ‘wash up’, we looked across to France to see how they have faired with their ‘three strikes law’.

France's recent disconnection law has still to cut off it first P2P pirate, but according to a team of French researchers who affiliated with the University of Rennes, online copyright infringement is down on P2P networks. However, they also claim that copyright infringement is up in other areas such as online streaming and one-click download services like Rapidshare. A report on the research by Ars Technica , claims that since the law was passed, the total people infringing has actually increased by 3%.

The research was based on 2,000 phone surveys in Brittany and claims that 15% of P2P users have already stopped using the networks, but found that over 60% of those former P2P users had simply migrated to alternative illegal streaming sites and HTTP-based download services. The cultural change expected by adoption of the Daconian ‘stick’ approach has apparently failed to address the fundamental problem and merely made consumers turn to other sources. The problem is not in enforcing the law, but in educating consumers and providing a market of ‘give and take’. It like soft drugs you don’t lock up the casual user, you target the source and face the reality that a certain amount of tolerance is required. Copyright infringement will never be a zero tolerant zone in a digital world.

The research backs up what recent the BBC Panorama report in claiming that pirate users are also regular digital music or video buyers and not everything they download is illegal. This is even more a reason to not criminalise users, but to look to ways in which to strike a compromise and gain and share a level of common understanding. To often we find its commercial bodies who drive the draconian measures, only to find that they alienate and don’t work.

We were surprised at the pages of comments on the Ars Technica article and perhaps these start to show the divide in thinking between the sides. It is alarming how easy it is to drive consumers into a position which many on the other side don’t accept or understand. This cultural gap was further amplified in another article about French language comics and a term we had not heard before ‘Scanlations’. Scanlations are the unauthorized scans , translations, editing and distribution of comics. The practice is often used to take Japanese (manga), Korean (manhwa) and Chinese (manhua) comics and make them available on the web for free. The issue is that the copyright is infringed and the problem is significant with sites being openly embraced in the western readers and now evenly openly available via mobile apps. The opportunity arose due to the general lack of Japanese manga releases outside of Japan and that importing manga directly from Japan was expensive and required knowledge of Japanese language and culture to understand the originals and translate then for western youth.

Now some 750 French-language comics authors and creators have signed a declaration to stop granting digital rights to their publishers until digital industry models are established and the broader issues of copyright infringement are addressed. This was reported by Icarus Publishing in an article ‘Why should publishers pay for digital rights?’ and reference a very informative article by Jason Thompson, ’How To Illegally Read Manga Anywhere: The iPhone Manga Wars of 2010’

However as with the Ars Techinca article we were surprised at the volume and strength of comments on the Thompson article. It clearly indicates that we have a growing digital divide and one that needs to be listened to and understood if we are to avoid creating a wider chasm between users of digital stuff.

Rethinking the Future: Skinput

If you think the iPad is the future, think again.

When we reported on Pranav Mistry on TED we thought we were still seeing a future and innovation that was years away, but today we read that it may not be so far into the future as we thought. Remember how Pranav Mistry took pictures using his fingers to form the lens, or how he used his wrist as a watch, or how he used his hand as a keypad and how he could project and manipulate images onto any surface ? His logic was to interact with technology directly and effectively scrap the keyboard, the mouse even the screen and enable humans to interact directly with technology. Removing the technology bottleneck

Now Chris Harrison, a PhD student in computer science at Carnegie Mellon and colleagues Desney Tan and Dan Morris from Microsoft Research, have taken this concept and created ‘Skinput’. The technology uses sensors to detect movement in the fingers and skin’s surface and recognise that as sound waves travel through soft tissue and joints they make many of the locations on the arm distinct. Software coupled with the sensors can detect the location, function and subtle movements with an accuracy of 95%.

The prototype’s sensors are currently enclosed in a bulky cuff but it is envisaged that this can be scaled down to the size of a wrist watch. So we could soon see an alternative to Pranav Mistry’s sixth sense and a camera, phone,connection to any device,a new display and games interface. Microsoft Research's involvement could indicate that thinks are closer than you may think.

We recommend you to watch both Pranav Mistry Ted presentation and the video below to see a future coming soon to you.

Click to read original report on Skinput and see a short video at BBC

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Moby Tablet is a Whale of an Offer at $99

Marvell has announced a $99 prototype Moby tablet aimed at US students and to them offer real-time content, Wi-Fi/Bluetooth/FM/GPS connectivity, high performance 3-D graphics capability full HD and full support of standard software such as Adobe Flash and Windows Mobile.

Marvell obviously have a very attractive price point and envisage electronic versions of textbooks being updated and refreshed continuously for a fraction of the cost of physical. They have announced a pilot program in partnership with the Washington, D.C., Public Schools, in which the company will donate a Moby tablet to every child in an at-risk school.

The Moby runs under Linux and faces its own battle with the iPad and Windows based tablets and also supporting legacy applications that don’t run under Linux, but it does comes at a price that is hard to resist.

We now start to see a ‘chicken an egg’ challenge. Will textbooks become fully digital first and devices merely rise to the demand and serve them up, or does every student need the device before they all the texbooks are in digital form?

It’s ironic that Marvel chose the same price point for the US student as OLPC did for the third world!

Newspapers Behind the Pay Wall

The newsprint industry is now watching Rupert Murdoch’s News International with interest as it moves online readers from free reading to a pay to access of The Times and The Sunday Times newspapers from June. The UK papers will become the first national titles to charge for access to their whole sites which will cost £1 per day or £2 per week. They also have announced the intent to move their Tabloid papers , the Sun and The news of the World to a pay model later in the year.

What will be the outcome? Will consumers switch to the pay model or simply click to other sites who offer the same or similar content for free. Until now only The Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times have operated a pay wall online, but many argue that there content is more focused and a must have in financial sectors and to many of their readers it’s a chargeable expense. On the other hand papers such as the Guardian has built a significant online following based on free and don’t intend to make any moves away from it today. The New York Times tried to move to a subscription service for features and opinion content but withdrew it when few readers took up the option.

At a time when; broadcast news is available 24x7 over the Internet to even your mobile, when you can get free services to aggregate access to tens of leading newspapers around the world for free, when you can get Google to aggregates snippets and even feed specific interests to you on the move and where the line between journalism and social comment blurs under the democratisation of writing - is the pay wall viable? Over the last decade 24x7 broadcast news, free commuter papers and online news have reduced people's reliance on printed news but set an expectation of free.

The papers expected the business model to shift to one based on advertising but they have seen previously highly-profitable classified adverts and display advertising migrate online to others.

The Times and Sunday Times sites will be redesigned and re-launched in may and move to the new model in the summer. Will additional applications, moving images, dynamic infographics, interactive comment and personalised news feeds entice people to pay or will they merely vote with their clicks and leave Murdoch frustrated.

So will we be curling up with our laptop and tablet on a Sunday morning or still immersed in a mountain of print supplements? Will the newspaper delivery boys get a day of rest? Will online give the heavyweight newspapers a real sense of what articles actually count and which are mere fillers? Will we pay for what we can easily get elsewhere for free? Is newspaper loyalty that strong?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Preview of Kobo on The iPad

A good insight of what is coming to the iPad with this sneak preview from Kobo

Kobo on iPad from Kobo on Vimeo.

Interestingly they decided to start from scratch compared to the existing Kobo apps. Lets hope the app gets accepted

Choosing Tablets

The Fusion Garage JOOJOO tablet is now shipping to U.S. customers who pre-ordered them.

But we have to ask why anyone would want a JooJoo when they can have an iPad?

The device has the largest capacitive touch screen of any tablet on the market and measures 12.1” in length - but does size matter?

It supports Flash 10.1 and is Java compliant - but the iconic Steve Jobs says the Flash world is dead and HTML5 is the future and who would argue with the man?
It comes equipped with a built-in, rechargeable lithium-polymer battery - so what?

The issue is simple and comes down to Appleworld and a relatively safe bet , versus the Internet and uncertainty? The truth lies somewhere in between and is down to whether we believe apps, or the web as we know it today, is the future. This is an interesting debate in its own right and will have many high profile supporters on both sides of the fence.

We personally believe that the sound-bite application world of the apps is good but does not provide the full answer today. Its like having a specific app to do one thing and needing another , then another to complete to process. Its not a joined up world. Today we have the emergence of the cloud world and also need joined up thinking and solutions. The debate on Flash and HTML5 is somewhat premature and is like saying that the world tomorrow will travel in faster planes whilst living in the reality of today. HTML5 may be the answer but today we have to recognise that unlike consultants and industry gurus we wake up in yesterday’s sheets. MP3 and DRM free dominate today’s music, not because of the Ipod, but despite of it. We have to accept the Apple has changed much ,but like its high profile Air laptop, sometimes Apple gets it wrong in getting it right.

We note today that report that Apple has already listed over 30,000 free ebooks on the iBook store. These aren’t the latest best sellers but public domain fillers from the Project Gutenberg library. Do they really count, or are they merely there to make up the claim that ‘my repository is bigger than yours’. Perhaps the move is designed to stop the iPad's ebook library from being overrun with multiple versions of public domain books wrapped up in a app package by 3rd parties after a quick and easy buck.

Page Turning Japanese?

A group of 31 Japanese publishers, including Kodansha and Shinchosha, have formed an electronic book publishers association, the Electronic Book Publishers Association of Japan. The new organization will research and collect information on the industry and is aimed at forming a collective view and policies on digital issues. The move also comes ahead of the anticipated release of a Japanese version of Amazon's Kindle.

It aims are laudable and are to; form agreements on the securing of rights and profits for authors; providing convenience for readers; and the coexistence of print and digitalized works. They plan to address contract issues, conduct reader surveys, review the formatting of electronic book data, and research electronic reading devices and software.

The association was formed under the Denshi Bunko Shuppansha-kai organization that operates "Denshi Bunko Paburi," an electronic book retail site founded by 13 companies in 2000.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Agency Pricing; The Great Leveller?

Publishers Lunch raised an interesting aspect of the new Agency Model yesterday. Their report claims that the new agency model will be applied equally to all, irrespective of size, channel whether they sell direct or indirect. The implication is that wholesalers such as Ingram will be treated no different to resellers such as Apple.Apparently, Ingram have sent a letter to some 65 retailers that the company serves alerting them that they will have to discontinue the availability of ebook titles from all publishers wishing to do business under an agency model and enter into new agency agreements.

In one move, major and minor ebook outlets could be effectively marginalised. The move means that wholesalers will have to move to the same agency model and terms as others such as Apple and Amazon and if they supply resellers they have to do so within the same agency share. Ingram expects to continue serving its ebook retail clients under the new agreements with publishers. However, they now expect to have to share the 30% agency commission with no movement.

So when some stand on their pulpits and say that the agency model makes it a level playing field for all, they appear to have forgotten the existing trade channel. So much for publishers supporting the existing channel and in enabling resellers to participate in ebooks and the digital world. This channel can’t afford to build the repositories to be independent and they rely heavily on the wholesaler model to supply them economically. Equally the wholesalers rely on the wholesaler model to justify their huge digital investments. Some would conclude that agency publishers only are focused on supporting the big digital channels and not in supporting the existing channels in a digital world.

We hope that in a few years time they don’t look around the digital lansdscape and wonder who killed to independent and medium chains and prohibited them from participating in the ebook market.

EBook device Price Wars?

Has anyone got a clue who is going to dominate the ebook market? Will publishers master the art of direct marketing and go direct? Will Amazon offer the appeal of a one stop shop for all digital content on a myriad of platforms? Will the iPad create the iTunes moment? Or will others come to the for?

One of the pretenders is Indigo’s Kobo who until now have played the content store and reader application game. However they now have launched a cheap e-reader, eink ‘lookie likie’ which is just that except is lands at just $150! So for a lot less than a Kindle you get the same experience and access to the same books but ones that can be read on other devices and other platforms. Forget the clunky connection via USB, the somewhat awkward keys, the childish looking big blue control pad and the reduced storage, this is a cheap and worthy competitor. It even comes pre-loaded with 100 public-domain titles.

But there are others waiting to pitch for your money and even Sony must be feeling the heat as they have cut the price of their Pocket Edition device by $30 to $170 through to April 3. Prices on Sony's more advanced e-readers, including the $300 Touch Edition and the $400 Daily Edition remain the same.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Digital LibraryWorld: Please Whisper As You Order Your Skinny Latte

‘The books will be delivered by post. We want to change the mindset that books can only be borrowed at libraries and to provide better knowledge services… The library sector needs to be proactive in studying issues facing the community by creating new ideas to make our libraries world class... Books could be returned by contacting Pos Malaysia or by sending the books to selected post offices.’

No this isn't the latest quote from the UK government's review of libraries, but from the Director-General Raslin Abu Bakar of the National Library of Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur talking about their initiative to provide online borrowing from July

So what about the UK review of public libraries?

Margaret Hodge, has delivered the UK government's 'The Modernisation Review of Public Libraries’.

As expected it proposes sweeping changes to UK libraries that go far further than Malaysia and many others.These include; proposing that membership should be not restricted to one library but provide access to all libraries, Starbucks and other franchises should be promoted within libraries, Sunday opening encouraged and free internet access enabled in all UK libraries by 2011. Hodge also intends to merge the existing library bodies into one and providing the capability for the Secretary of State to intervene in closures.

Importantly Library members should have the right to order any book, be it an out-of-print edition or an ebook.The government will impose a statutory ban on libraries charging for ebooks and also extend the public lending right to non-print books. So as expected we will see the head on clash between 'pay to read and own', versus 'free to loan from your armchair'.

Hodge repeats her new spin she used on Newsnight, "With more branches than McDonald's or Boots, and more visits to libraries than shoppers in London's West End, the public library network is a triumph of infrastructure and branding."

However, libraries face the real prospect of cuts and the review proposes more partnership working, and also suggests that libraries will need to depend on more volunteers. How will libraries fund any change and how will success be measured? Will ebooks offer the huge new opportunities sought or merely be starved of cash? Will PLR finance be raised or remain the same? How will authors fair out of these changes?

Ironically, The Times of India also reports today on their National Library of India’s programme to Offer eBooks and Other Electronic Resources. Currently, users have to wait for more than two hours to get a book, but now they will simply do it online. Their entire catalogue of 24 lakh of books would be available in the digital format online and includes rare published in the 17th and 18th centuries and also some 9,141 books published before 1900 in English and Indian languages.

So libraryworld is changing everywhere, membership and shelves are becoming virtual, and library's digital content service is being delivered to the home. The impact on these radical changes on publishing, authors and resellers has still to be understood and debated. However there is now a question of whether industry debate too late and change is already in motion?

Mobile Moves

Earlier this month we wrote about the Opera web browser being available on Android and how we were impressed with it performance. Now they have gone one better and have submitted it to Apple’s board of censors for iphone app status. The question is whether it will be approved or blocked on the basis that it directly competes with Apple’s own products and services. Opera claim that more than 50 million people worldwide use its range of mobile browsers.

Meanwhile the Palm Pre appears to be at a cross roads with rumours that they may ditch their highly acclaimed Web OS operating system and move to adopt Android. The fuel for the rumours lies in Palm’s inability to penetrate the market and deliver on their hype of twelve months ago. Some would say they should have opened WebOS up as Google did with Andriod and this route if it materialises would make sense but leaves them somewhat out in the cold.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Spotify Now Growing Premium Service

People keep asking why we support Spotify so much and what’s so special about it. The answer is simple if you recognise and believe that online is going to dominate the future and the streaming music is no different to streaming, film, TV and of course books. The other interesting aspect is the business model which challenges payment and replaces it with advertising and subscription but still offers payment!

The Swedish music streaming service has declared that it now has over 320,000 premium users and some 1,000 more joining their paying service every day. We get it bundled in free with our Andriod Hero phone which means we have it on all our devices. Premium users enjoy better quality and advert free music on and off line.

Spotify is now available in six European countries including the UK and has a further 7 million users who enjoy the vast catalogue for free with an advert every 30 mins.One interesting point reviewed by Spotify is that 30% of playlists are of whole albums, which is interesting given the recent Pink Floyd case and today’s obsession with individual tracks. lkb proving that not all web users are more interested in individual tracks rather than albums.

So were Spiral Frog failed others such as Spotify are succeeding and they are not only changing business models but also consumer habits. It certainly will be interesting when they land in the US.

Scanning at High Speed

Today scanning is restricted by the speed by which you can accurately scan the pages.

Now we see a high-speed scanner developed by the University of Tokyop that claims to scan a 200-page book in about a minute. The text is captured using a high-speed camera taking 500 shots per second. Stereoscopic (3D) imaging captures a 3D image of the page which is then reconstructed by the computer and curvature adjusted to create a 2-dimensional scan.

Imagine how simple it would be to scan whole libraries and for pirates to scan the same books if this were developed in production.

Does Adwords Infringe Trademarks?

An interesting trademark case goes before the Court of Justice of the European Union next on Tuesday which will rule on Google’s use trade marks to trigger online ads that are claimed to infringe trademarks and brand-protection. The issue is whether a company can buy the right for its ads to be displayed when a rival's trade marks is searched. Should someone searching Louis Vuitton (LVMH) be shown ads paid for by its competitors. A case referred to the same courts centres on whether Marks and Spencer should be allowed to use the term ‘Interflora’ in AdWords.

The Google’s AdWords system allows anyone to have their paid advertisement appear when a certain search term is entered by a user, irrespective of whether that search term is a trade mark or not. Google gives the highest spots to the highest payers and the advert's relevance and it makes significant amount of its money through AdWords.

To read more

The European Court of Justice has ruled in favour of Google. This means that people searching for branded products could also be shown rival brands or even counterfeit goods.

The ruling states that "Google has not infringed trademark law by allowing advertisers to purchase keywords corresponding to their competitors' trademarks."

Perhaps Coloured eInk is a Dog?

Has colour come to late to the eInk reader world? Will consumers who are yet to buy a eBook reader opt for an eInk device, or a tablet, or a mobile? We may not be that concerned and merely follow the latest and best hype gadgets in this consumable and disposable world, but where will the reader put their money tomorrow?

Taiwan-based Prime View International, who acquired E-Ink last year has displayed 6” and 9.7” colour e-reader screens at the Shenzhen trade show. However before we get too excited the display does not match the 30 frames per second required to support and is achieved by adding an extra layer of colour-filtering glass on top of a standard e-reader display from E-Ink.

Meanwhile in today’s world, Spring Design has announced that their Android-powered Alex e-reader is now available for pre order. The Alex tackles colour by combines a 6" Electronic Paper Display (EPD) with a 3.5" colour LCD screen. So you can watch two screens at once!

We were amused to see yet another Alex and Barnes and Noble’s Nook ‘lookie likie’ from Teclast. What made us smile, was not the two screen approach, but that their market department had chosen to brand it ‘K9’. Perhaps calling the device a ‘dog’ is more apt that Alex or Nook. If these multi screen devices are seen as the answer to monochrome reading and a way to offer media support then we wonder how many consumers will hold onto their cash or simply buy a tablet or netbook.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The UK Digital Economy Bill = A Dog’s Dinner

The Digital Economy Bill, looks more like a dog’s dinner every day.

We have written about the fact that IP addresses are not a safe identification of copyright infringement and that the IP owner may not be the guilty party. The issue can effect and criminalise large families, people sharing communal hubs, businesses, people providing WIFi hot spots etc. You are not innocent until proven guilty, but rather guilty until proven innocent. We have written only this week about the alarming rise of copyright legal letters being sent out in the UK and the manner of these demands. The bill proposes not only Draconian measures but could set back user confidence in their usage for a few pieces of silver.

Then there is the issue of clause 43 which enables collection agencies and parties to effectively land grab and authorises a grant of copyright in respect of works in which copyright is not owned by the body or a person on whose behalf the body acts". If this sounds very much like a an open invitation for Google to come to the UK it not surprising given the same people supporting the Google Book Settlement were consulted in this rushed law. We now potentially give the Secretary of State power to approve clause 43 applications.

We forget that publishing is a rights business without universal or common rights registry and management. This bill fails to even start to address this flaw.

Many artists, agents and ISPs have opposed the bill but have been brushed aside in the need to beat the election deadline and create a Mandleson legacy. This is a bad law being pushed through on the basis of saving the creative industry. It makes changes that potentially impose a Google Books-style scheme in the UK, re writes contracts and imposes Draconian laws on all. It is a pity that the industry bodies that should represent have once again failed to promote dialogue within the community.

We would suggest that anyone who shares our concerns visit and considers following the led of many and writing to their MPs about the act before its too late.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

OCLC Sell NetLibrary to EBSCO

The world’s largest library business OCLC, has sold its NetLibrary Division to the world’s largest subscription agent business, EBSCO Publishing. The purchase includes the NetLibrary eBook and eAudiobook platform.

In 2002 Netlibrary was fighting for its life, with bankruptcy staring in its face, when OCLC stepped in and purchased it, in a move then aimed at protecting libraries' investments in eBook content and also to explore its potential under the OCLC umbrella. Today NetLibrary continues to be a significant digital aggregator but in what is fast becoming a crowded space.

EBSCO will provide OCLC MARC eBooks records to libraries free of charge and will maintain NetLibrary’s eBook content purchase model and platform and whilst it also explore eBook subscription options. EBSCO plan to also give access to the NetLibrary eBook content on the EBSCOhost® platform.

It makes sense for EBSCO to acquire an instant ebook collection, platform and library contracts to compliment their market offer. It also makes sense for OCLC to focus on its core business and dispose of a non core division. It must make others look at their businesses and realise that it is no longer good enough to have a repository and platform, but you now have to have a complimentary service that can extend it organically.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

So Who Are The Pirates?

You know that feeling when you return to your car and find a large clamp immobilising it, a instant demand from a man in a white van and him pointing out a parking sign, which often was not exactly always in clear sight. We have only had one such incident and on occasion had bought a parking ticket, but because it ‘was not properly displayed’, we were fined.

Today, even before the three strikes rule passes into law, thousand of demands are being made to alleged illegal file-sharers in the UK. UK law firm ACS:Law acting on behalf of DigiProtect, are issuing letters on behalf of content owners.The numbers are not small with some 60,000 UK IP addresses being identified today and ACS is now applying for court orders to force the ISP to release the IP owner’s physical address. The letters ‘invite’ the IP owner to respond to their evidence and enter into an out of court settlement for around £500 per infringement ‘to avoid litigation’.

Earlier this week the BBC demonstrated how easy it was to steal IP addresses, resulting in owners being potentially falsely accused. The Solicitors Regulation Authority are currently now investigating complaints against ACS:Law and another law firm Davenport Lyons. BPI, the UK music industry body, says that it has no intention of following a similar legal path.

The IP owner is not always the offender. The IP address is not even a ‘safe’ identifier. How do a WiFi hot spot, parents with teenage children, flat mates who shares a communal hub and the innocent defend themselves? How many innocent IP owners may find themselves criminalised in the search of a few dollars? How much of the money collected will be held as a management fee by the collector? Given that claims have been raised against adult material and games, who are the actual content owners and what is the value of the content?

Wheel clampers once had licence to demand money with what some said was malice and it took time before common sense prevailed. In our case we were lucky and our appeal to the ultimate property owner, British Rail, resulted in our getting our money back off the clampers. We doubt that much will come back from these collectors.

To Read more at he BBC:
02 condemns file-sharing letters
Law firm's piracy hunt condemned

Facebook Now Top of the Pops In US

Social networking website Facebook continues to grow and surpass all expectations. In the week ending 13th March it became the most visited website in the US, getting more hits on its home page than even Google’s search engine! This is a grow of some 185% over the same week last year compared to Google’s 9% grow over the same period. Facebook understandably reached the number one position over the Christmas holidays and the the March 6th and 7th weekend and is clearly on a roll.

Research company also claim that Google and Facebook now account for 14% of all US internet access. The Hitwise figures for all Google sites which include Maps, YouTube, Gmail etc account for around 11% of US visist last week with Yahoo sites accounting for around 12% and 7% for Facebook.

This clearly demonstrated that the web is moving from a search and discover surfing tool into a more social networking one and Facebook has clearly taken the pole position over its many rivals. The question now is whether its popularity is sustainable. The effort its users are investing in posting their details, connecting and communicating would indicate that it can only grow. The investment in its growth is not from within but clearly from its members. Will such a service become a true social hub which usurps the twitters and negates much email as we know it today? Are we finally seeing the true social network evolve by organic means? Its interesting that we still see social networking as a service alongside and competing with others but not as the service supported by others. The one other question is what the relationship will be between the app world and the social network world?

Facebook is now beginning to cash in on its success and this year its estimated revenues are between $1bn to $1.5bn. This may appear to be very small in comparison to Google’s last year’s revenues of $23.7bn, but it’s a great start and heading only one way. Google has launched its own social network site ’Buzz’ but has already had many questioning whether its safe to put all your personal, social, search details into one company whose business is about exploiting information through advertising.

See comments for links to stories about MySpace

The Future of Publishing by DK

Watch and read this innovative video from Dorling Kindersley UK. Originally created for internal conference they have now made it available over YouTube

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The State of Digital News

How we access news and what news we consume is changing. The annual assessment of the state of the US news industry ‘Project for Excellence in Journalism's’ was released last week by the Pew Research Center. It contains a comprehensive review of the news and insights into the habits and beliefs of some 60% of Americans who are estimated to get some news online during a typical day.

Only 19% of all surveyed, which includes people who already pay for news, said they would be willing to pay for news online. 82% of those surveyed who had preferred news sites said they'd look elsewhere if their favourites start demanding payment. That clearly demonstrates the size of the challenge news services has in moving to a subscription or pay to view models.

Readers tend to roam to gather their news with only 35% of consumers saying that they have a favourite site that they check each day. However the big sites; Yahoo, CNN, AOL, New York Times, MSNBC dominate the market. The top 7% news sites attract 80% of the traffic with the top 20 sites attracting the majority of that. Pew's survey claims that 25% of readers now get some news on their mobile phones and sourcing news more frequently on social Web sites.

Advertising continues to struggle and saw its first decline since 2002 and some 80% of those surveyed said that they never or hardly ever click on ads. In 2009n newspaper advertising revenue fell 26%, local TV and radio 22% and network television ad revenue was down 8%. Newspaper industry-wide circulation is falling by 10.6% and a loss 25.6% in daily circulation since 2000. These declines, show a loss in print revenues on top of a loss of ad revenues. Without charging for online newspaper are being hit by a double wammy.

The Wall Street Journal already charges and The New York Times has announced a metered system, allowing readers to click on a certain number of stories for free each month, with fees kicking in for readers who exceed that level. The Associated Press will charge for an application it is developing for use on the iPad, Apple's tablet computer.

The news media is no longer finely segmented into cable, online, network, local tv, magazines and newspapers. They are all going after the same online dollars. Some are part of conglomerates that cross media forms. Finally aggregators are now offering snippets and choice at a click and news on demand. How will news adjust its economic models and its resource in what is certainly a Brave New World?

To read to full report click here:The State of News Media

Newsnight: The Future of the Public Library

The topical news programme covered the role of public libraries and featured Margret Hodge the minister responsible for the current review and Alan Gibbons, author and library campaigner.

What is clear is that by normalising the library stats they start to become meaningless. It fails to identify those libraries who are thriving and why and those who are failing and need attention. It merely says that they all are failing.

Hodge came out with some classic noise stating that there are more libraries than Starbucks and Boots and more people visit libraries than shop in the West End – what a Hodge Potch. She clearly is keen on ebooks pointing out that only 12 out of 151 authorities are considering them and again mentioning them as the future. She also accepts that money is going to get squeezed so she wants to look at new funding opportunities but she clearly stated that there will be no change in the law governing libraries.

A cynic would suggest that she clearly sees the opportunity of cutting costs and privatising the service. That may be reality but it’s the lack of clarity on PLR, the free to lend model and the potential UK virtual library which are not being discussed.

Clearly ebooks don’t need to be bought more than once as they don’t wear out, they don’t take up shelf space, they can be provided and funded through a public private partnership and they can be serviced independent of all that prime real estate.

Perhaps we have to wait till next week to find out whether it will be a Hodge Potch or whether see will address the management and role of libraries in the 21st century.

Click here to see the BBC iPayer clip of the programme

Panorama – Are the Net Police Coming for You

Last night the topical BBC news programme reported on the proposed Digital Bill going through parliament and asked what is impact is likely to be on the controversial three strikes rule.

Prohibition never solves mass social issues it merely drives it underground. It’s also clear that technology is more than capable of adapting to hoodwink and deflect the monitoring of file downloads. It’s amazing that although you can go to the likes of Google, which ‘advertise’ the offenders, enter a search and be connected. You can go to sites who provide files and operate under ‘safe habour’ rules which when notified by a rights owner will take up the illegal file after the horse has bolted. Yet governments believe they should go after the people in the middle, the ISP providers, who just provide the pipe and the owners of the connection, who pay the bill.

The reporters demonstrated that tracking copyright infringement could be a nightmare with the broadband owner being responsible for access that is almost impossible to control. They analysed the downloading habits of a ‘typical’ three children family and a group of students at university and the level of illegal downloading was significant. However they also showed how easy it was to steal ‘secured’ wifi access and use dynamic IP addresses. The point being that the serious infringers will bypass the law which is likely to catch the unsuspecting and the guardians. Making parents, guardians and providers of WiFi access hot spots, institutional accesses responsible for something they will find difficult to control.

Musicians interviewed were clearly divided on the issue but the debate appeared at times to be more about the role record companies and the machine than the artist.

The hypocrisy is that at a time when broadband is becoming a basic right and creativity is sought, the use of the service is being potentially strangled by a law, that is targeted not at the source, but at the user and will create uncertainty and apprehension where freedom and confidence are needed.

If you are able to watch BBC iPlayer click here to see it.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Something Useful for eInk?

TokyoFlash have created an E-ink display watch which can be set to tell the time by either normal numbers, or cryptic patterns of dashes and lines. The device can connect via Bluetooth to your phone and a vibration alert or a blinking indicator alert you to incoming calls and text messages.

The band is made from flexible stainless steel with an incorporated epaper display.

You have to vote at their site and if enough votes are registered then they will take it to production.

Survey: EReaders In The Wake of iPad

So what is the consumer reaction to constant change? How do they feel being at the bleeding edge of technology, where last week’s announcement is superseded by this week’s launch?

We have seen an explosion of eInk ‘lookie likies’ in the past 18 months. Such was the level of new devices that we even stopped reporting on them. Some manufacturers have not only upgraded their offer but have multiple offers running in parallel in the same market. We seen resellers flip suppliers like changing socks. In these dynamic and chaotic times consumers usually seek sanity and to narrow the range. The fittest doesn’t always win, nor does the biggest marketing spend and sometimes it can be down to being on the right shelf at the right time.

Now a survey of 3,171 consumers by ChangeWave which was conducted after the Apple iPad announcement, not only shows the iPad demand, but also the potential consumer backlash to uncertainty and constant change. Some may say that they yearn for a safe pair of hands and consistency of offer.

The interesting insights came in looking at the responses of consumers who already own an eBook Reader. Some 68% had a Amazon Kindle with only some 10% having a Sony Reader

When asked if the iPad had been available would they have still bought their current reader, some 45% of eBook Reader owners responded said yes. However just over one in four 4 (27%) said they would have bought the iPad and around the same number (30%) were undecided. Some would say that this shows either a high dissatisfaction level with the current reader and even potentially a high dissatisfaction with their return on investment.

When asked about their planned eBook Reader purchases over the next 90 days the survey shows the Apple iPad is now poised to capture an astonishing 40% of the e-Reader market.

The Kindle still holds a reasonable position but if these figures were reproduced in the market serious questions would be asked of Sony’s staying power at 1% and the wisdom of geographically restricted branded offers from Barnes and Noble and its Nook.

The survey also suggests that consumers are likely to be buying the iPad over a period and not simply rushing out to buy on the first day. This may give some comfort for the rest but given that there is likely to be a strong second wave of tablets from HP,Dell and Google has to play its card we think this is the best they are going to get.

The clear message came in the preference of features offered by the iPad. Single device ereaders must look hard and realise that they just aren’t what is required and although they offer eInk clarity OLED and technology is going to negate monochrome. Consumers want what we have all said – a multi media device linked to the Internet. Over two in three (68%) want to surfing the Internet and that itself should make Mr Jobs even more anti Flash as it poses its biggest threat and opportunity to the other tablets. The tablet obviously must be a social device with email at 44%. But the really interesting demands where in reading with eBooks (37%) scoring over magazines, newspapers and periodicals (28%), and surprisingly video (24%).

To read the report: A ChangeWave survey of new iPad owners is set for early spring.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

iPad: Text 2 Speech Again?

Remember when the Kindle DX appeared and the Authors Guild jumped on their text to speech facility? The claim was that they believed the reading was a “derivative work” for which Authors and Publishers should be paid royalties. Amazon conveniently stepped side-wards and left it to authors and publishers to decide what could and couldn’t be heard.

Now in the iPad world Apple has stated that the iPad will read all ePub format eBooks outloud to you. Apple state that “iBooks works with VoiceOver, the screen reader in iPad, so it can read you the contents of any page.” The synthesised reading experience will not be as good as hearing an actor deliver the words, but it will offer it and states it with no caveats on the author or publisher agreement.

Will the Guild will once again stand resolute, or will it bow to the Apple dazzle? If Apple is given a free run, will Amazon return and claim that what is good for Apple is good enough for Amazon? We would expect all the tablet devices to offer text to speech and for that matter most digital devices to have it as a standard in the near future. But does money have to be paid even if the facility is never used just because its there? If someone trys it and on hearing it rejects it, is money still due? If the rendering is dynamic is that creating a new rendition or form or merely using the same one and therefore not subject to royalty. Will the new feature simply create great opportunities for the visually impaired that should not be overlooked?

As we wrote before it will be some time before text to speech can be anywhere near the quality of today’s actor delivered audio book, but does opposing it today make sense on what is substandard audio, or should the debate be had when quality is such that it makes it relevant?

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Scrumpy Time

So what will be the impact of the iPad and emerging tablets on publishing?

DRM (digital rights management)

MP3 DRM free music gained acceptance not through iTunes, which had its own DRM, but through the need to transfer music between devices and buy or acquire it from many places. Interoperability is a need that many seek, but it often achieved behind closed doors.

The news that Barnes and Noble are to deploy an app for the iPad which effectively sells ebooks outside of ‘Fortress Apple’ will no doubt be followed by everyone else who has a store outside of the orchard. If permitted by Apple’s gatekeepers it would seriously question the need for iBookstore.

However the interesting news is consumers will now be able to load non-DRM ePub titles to the iPad device via iTunes. We all thought that the iPad would use only files protected by their ‘fair Play’ DRM, but this latest announcement clearly changes this. Does it mean you can effectively transfer files that are already DRM protected by the likes of Adobe’s ACS4 platform , or as expected is it only non DRM files. Permitting and even encouraging non DRM files actually also introduces interoperability. The big question is whether this will fuel consumers demand to finally break the DRM ebook straightjacket?


We are all probably confused as to what ebook pricing is going to prevail under the current agency fixated world of hype and counter spin. However, the introduction of stores within apps on the iPad introduces noe not only introduces multiple offers it could introduce comparison apps. It is easy to see price comparison starts a clear must have. After all why pay anything more than the lowest price for a digital download, when what you get is exactly the same, irrespective of brand, offer or app?

Tablet A Go Go

We know HP, Dell and Joo Joo are to enter the tablet market. There is bound to be big battles on Flash versus HTML5, Internet versus apps, LCD versus OLED, online versus download.

The tablet isn’t the finally solution but another step towards it.
Finally we were clearing out some cupboards yesterday and came across three devices; a Psion organizer, a VHS tape and a Dictaphone. None of them survived and all went to the tip.

Is Plastic Logic an Oxymoron?

Sometimes the wait is too long and by the time that something arrives the world or one’s needs and aspirations have moved on. Imagine being told about the iTouch or iPod 3 years ago and still waiting for them today? Alternatively being sold on the Kindle 2 years ago and still waiting for that single device monochrome screen the wake of the tablet era. Would you still want them today?

The only creature with a gestation period longer than the Plastic Logic Que proReader is an elephant and maybe that’s what it will feel like when it finally arrives. Pre-orders of the $649 and $799 business-focused readers have already sold out and were expected next month but a further delay has now been announced. Would you want one when tablet in full colour with full media capabilities and much more are about to land and at a cheaper cost?

Irrespective of their screen technology they sound to us like Betamax in a VHS world or VHS in today’s world.

Friday, March 12, 2010

So which One is Pink?

The interesting diversity of, cultural, creative and commercial conflicts once again surfaced in the courts yesterday. Pink Floyd won a court ruling against EMI that prevents EMI from selling the band’s single downloads on the Internet from the their concept albums. Pink Floyd signed with EMI over 40 years ago and sales of its back catalogue is only only surpassed by The Beatles.

EMI are embroiled with trying to retain their big bands in this shifting power struggle between artists and the music production companies and many such as Radiohead have already voted with their feet. In this latest battle EMI had successfully applied for a news blackout for reasons of ‘commercial confidentiality’ so many of the details remain on the ‘Dark Side of the Moon’.

Pink Floyd successfully challenged EMI’s right to unbundle the band’s concept albumns and sell them as individual tracks online. The case rested on a contract forbidding EMI from selling records other than as complete albums without written consent which in the words of the judge was to “preserve the artistic integrity of the albums.” The judge ordered EMI to pay Pink Floyd’s costs, estimated at £60,000 and also refused the company permission to appeal.

The case is obviously about the contract but it is also about moral rights and the artist right to say no. We may not like artist power and all long to have ‘Money’ or 'Us and Them', as our ringtone. But if the artist says no and we should respect that, even if it fly’s against commercial gain or technology. Floyd probably don’t need the money, they already have the recognition, they may be happy to even give their work away and we must respect that their 1973's 'Dark Side of the Moon', in which tracks merge, has already sold an estimated 45 million copies.

The verdict means the band's music may now have to be taken down from the iTunes online music store. It highlights that the envisage world of mash ups (customised books) and customised texts may have some interesting challenges ahead.

Today JK Rowling refuses to render her work into ebooks and so be it. The Beatles have made a digital download stand.

Perhaps that’s why they are who they are and create what they create.

A Cacophony of Digital Noise

Today's digital book world must be confusing for consumers and resellers and let’s face it most people! It is as if the world can only talk about digital books and yet we find ourselves still firmly routed in a physical book world.

How many bases must a ebook reseller and publishers cover today? They may want to have an iPhone app, obviously will need to cover the eink ‘lookie likeies’ that are mostly crowded around Adobe’s ACS4 DRM service, then there is the kindle fortress. Lets not forget Google Editions, the 'restricted' but open world of the iPad, we mustn’t forget Android and then there’s Blio. We are still in the world of DRM and secure files. We still are download focused with online waiting patiently in the wings. We still have not addressed the challenges and opportunities of libraryworld? We almost forgot that publishers are going digitally direct and finally we have the increasingly challenging self publishing world of the likes of Scribd and Lulu.

Take the relatively short look at the digital world of US Bookseller Barnes & Noble. First they thought Barnes & would crush, they then caved in and handed their Internet business over to them, then they reversed that and came back as themselves. Then the current ebook wave hit them and they acquired Fictionwise, when some said that they should have probably bought Stanza. They went for their own device, the Nook, then after the euphoria, started to grapple with its challenges. They became device agnostic one day and introduced Samsung the next. Now they boldly plan to release bookstore and e-reading software for the iPad with an application that would compete with Apple's own iBookstore.The new Barnes & Noble, iPad-specific version of the software has been designed specifically for the iPad and Amazon has yet to announce its iPad plans.

We read about millions of digital titles, many of which are public domain and have dubious merit, but they make the numbers look good even if you can't find the latest release! Some say that we are still in the school yard and bragging days of ‘my repository is bigger than yours’. Some question whether size actually matters over substance.

The noise levels are certainly increasing with big resellers and publishers appearing to be slugging it out on what appears to be every digital platform. Meanwhile Gorillas, such as Google, Amazon and Apple, are demanding their way. New hardware devices, like rabbits on a Spring day, pop up everywhere and everyday.

What about the physical book reseller? What should they do today and is their digital future beyond their grasp? We still believe in what we wrote nearly four years ago in our Brave New World report. However, has the market responded, or has it adopted the same response it did when the Internet first appeared and said ‘not today thank you.’ Bookselling is bookselling be it physical, digital, antiquarian, remainders. Readers are by their nature eclectic both in their taste and how they read.

Only offering one solution, be it digital or physical, will not work.Sitting on the fence just increases the potential of getting splitters where you don’t want them. However, digital moves may result in expensive lessons. Resellers need direction and leadership and to draw on their publishing relationships. That is often difficult as consumers are dazzled in the glare of the digital headlights, publishers try to do it themselves and the cacophony of digital noise grows.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Apple Versus Adobe/HP

An interesting presentation from Adobe /HP on their forthcoming tablet with full Adobe Flash and Air support

Social Change at Broadband Speed

Broadband access is now seen as a fundamental right by 4 out 5 people surveyed in a BBC World Service survey. The research was performed across 26 countries and consumers in both highly-networked and broadband-deprived countries were as one in their belief in the right to communicate. Was TV or radio ever seen as a basic right? Was the newspaper ever seen as a basic right?

Last year, Finland became the first country to make broadband access a human right to be enjoyed by all citizens and the government now has to provide 1Mb broadband to all its 5.3 million citizens.

The race to get more bandwidth and make it more widely available is clearly a challenge. In the UK, Virgin Media aim to use telegraph poles to extend the reach of FTTH (fiber-to-the-home). According to Virgin Media users participating in a test will get download speeds of up to 50Mbps. The objective being to test whether using telegraph poles is a viable fiber option to rural areas and instead of digging and laying cable underground, it merely piggybacks over the posts.

However, fiber has still got a very long way to go with only 15 European countries having a fiber market penetration of 1% or over. The highest fiber penetration is in Lithuania, Sweden, Norway, Slovenia and Estonia.

Broadband speed has even become a political football in the impeding UK general election. The Conservatives are pledging to give Britain the fastest high speed broadband network in Europe. They claim that they will increase the current speeds of between 3MBPS and 4.5Mbps, to 100 Mbps, to most homes by 2017. The current government wants everyone to get at least 2Mbps by 2012 and claims it has already promised 100Mbps broadband to 90% of the population by 2017. The difference appears on how each party will get there, with Labour wanting to raise a levy of 50p-a-month on people with fixed land lines, whilst the Conservatives see private funding topped up potentially with the BBC licence.

So as we move into this permanently connected fast speed information superhighway, what will it mean to the average person, the infirmed, the unemployed and the well off? Will it change how we communicate, what we communicate and how we access information and how we consume media? The challenge is not broadband, but the social challenges and opportunities it delivers.

Android: A Night at the Opera

We have seen Microsoft releasing apps on Android and now web browser Opera has launched a free beta version of its Mini 5 software on the Google Android operating system. The browsers may not be the most popular on the PC but it clearly sees an opportunity on the mobile.

So we downloaded it and installed it and then tested it against the normal Android browser and it was clearly faster. This is its plus point as it compresses web pages making them faster to load and lighter on bandwidth. If you have an Android phone would recommend it.

Opera also offers the Opera Mobile browser which works on Symbian and Windows Mobile phones.

It starts to raise several interesting app issues. First there is ‘Fortress Apple’ which prohibits what it does like, censors anything it deems unsuitable and offers end to end control. Opera has apparently demonstrated a version of Opera on the iPhone, but Apple only allows their own browser on its handset. Secondly we have the question of whether ‘Fortress Apple’ is going to prove it’s Achilles Heel. Remember those betamax versus VHS battles? The winner was decided by the guys who provided the first camera as this was an instant hit with the pornographic industry. On Android you are not censored by it a Browser, a tool from Microsoft or some adult material. Maybe this may prove a decider over time.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

eBook Reader for Tiny Tots

We rember well writing about the Fisher Price MP3 player for kids in November 2006. It looked nice probably quietly sold its quota but didn’t change the market. Today Fisher-Price, subsidiary of toy giant Mattel Inc., has announced its first e-reader that it has planned for this summer, is called the IXL and priced at $79.99.

So is it the toy for every young child who wants to play alongside Daddy and Mommy when they are on their iPad, Kindle or smartphone or is it just another toy? It has a touch screen for those jam covered fingers, has a colour display as children will never understand blacxk and white, is light and about the same size as those grown up toys. It’s even build to be maltreated and thrown around.The home screen even looks similar to that other big boy’s toy – the iPhone.

The device is designed for early readers between 3 to 6 ands offers a read aloud option which we are sure the Authors Guild will not object to! Words are aligned to animation offering and spelling help is built in so offering kids a learning experience

More stories, games and art studio app backgrounds can be downloaded through these CDs, at a cost of $24.99 each and it plays games, MP3s and offers a colouring book.

You have to hand it to Fisher Price this will appealto kids who want to be like mummy and daddy and mummy and daddy who want their kids to be like them. We wonder who will read the bedtime story the parents or the IXL?

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Digital Publishing Skills: There Are No Silver Bullets

To some the move by O’Reilly to exploit their digital credentials to expand their business into digital distribution makes perfect sense. To others it starts to question the skill set a publisher now need in tomorrow’s digital world. As we have said many times ‘Digital Publishing is Publishing’.

Over the years we have seen many publishers outsource great swathes of their business. Many started with their print production, then their distribution and fulfilment and associated customer service, accounts receivable finance, royalties and even their sales-force. Some have taken the bold steps to use contractors for graphics, copyediting and indexing. Some today are just ‘publishers’ with everything else outsourced. Some created separate divisions which were cross subsidized by taking on other publishers’ operations.

So what is a publisher today in today’s print world and what will be a publisher in tomorrow’s digital world?

It makes sense to assume that the physical channel is not necessarily the best equipped to be the distributor for the digital channel. One is steeped in logistics, physical fulfilment, customer service and is importantly geared to B2B supply chain management, the other is about digital technologies, digital platforms, virtual and white label inventory and increasingly B2C digital supply.

So is the O’Reilly move such a great seed change some would have us believe?

We have seen digital library shelves for other publishers from the likes of Bloomsbury, Macmillan’s textbook mash up offer to fellow publishers and now OReilly’s end to end digital conversion and distribution service offer to all. These are not wrong, nor are they necessarily right, they are merely digital ventures. They are no different to today’s outsourced world. Some will succeed and some will fail and be forgotten.

Some may suggest that it isn’t the case that the publishers offer better technology and economies of scope or scale and more a need to cross subsidise their own operations. It may be that they want to own more of the channel and protect themselves from bigger fish. Some may have invested heavily in smart technology that needs to be exploited and give a return.

The interesting challenge is where the physical and digital ‘fulfilment to royalty’ services overlap and whether we are talking about the supply of mere technology or full internal business services? Certainly the 25% of net receipts O’Reilly propose to charge would appear a steep call, but it is probably just a stake in the ground and aimed at the many small publisher who are looking with interpretation into the digital divide.

Contrary to the wise words of some there is no digital silver bullet and many digital options. More importantly one digital swallow doesn’t make and digital summer.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Another Day and Still Eink Keeps Trying

We have seen so many eInk 'lookie likie' ebook readers we are somewhat punch-drunk and find ourselves asking how many will survive, what differentiates one from another, and if eInk is a mere digression and limited life technology when it comes to ebooks?

E Ink claim that they will have a colour e-paper reading panel by the 1st quarter of 2011. The claim by Sriram Peruvemba, VP of marketing at EInk in PC World is that they will introduce colour e-paper displays shortly. Although prototypes are working in E Ink’s labs, it will take up to 3 years to actually reach the market. Is it too little too late? Will black and white readers survive long enough under the threat of full media and colour tablets, mobiles and netbooks?

Then there is Qualcomm’s mirasol technology which is planned with touchscreens later this year. You can see Mirasol technology at their web site

Then there is the likes of new ereader entrants such as Asus and their DR-900. The DR-9000 has a 9”, monochrome touch-screen display with a 1,024x768 resolution and is no thicker than a pencil. Asus has already proved themselves in the laptop world, so is this an natural extension? The DR-900 is WiFi and has a built in Web browser and can access RSS feeds but appears to be very limited in the formats it supports and today can’t support DRM files.

GBBR: March Madness

Library Copyright Alliance has released this diagram which shows the maze of options available for Google Books Settlement. The schematic was developed by Jonathan Band and shows that the outcome is complex and that litigation and appeals are clearly expected. Click on the link to see the diagram issued by the American Library Association (ALA), the Association of Research Libraries (ARL), and the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) they have called “GBS March Madness: Paths Forward for the Google Books Settlement.

What we can't predict is Judge Chin's verdict but what we can predict is that this will be but another step along this divisive and ill conceived settlement that has slit the publishing industry, raised over 6,500 author and publisher objections and was entered into by one side to supposedly stop piracy and on the other to capture all books printed for what can best be described as chump change.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Wading Through Patent Infringement Treacle

The world of technology appears knee deep in legal actions alleging infringed patented of technology.

In the latest case Apple is claiming HTC has infringed 20 patents owned by Apple used in their iPhone’s .interface and its underlying hardware and architecture. It’s no secret that HTC is probably poses one of Apple’s greatest threats today and are behind Google’s Nexus One handset and several others that use Google's Android operating system. Not that that has anything to do with the action filed with the US International Trade Commission and a district court in Delaware and where Apple is seeking a lasting injunction which would bar HTC from selling phones that use the disputed technology in the US.

Meanwhile in an action started at the end of last year, Apple is being sued by Nokia for 10 patent infringements within the iPhone. Apple response was to countersuing Nokia in a tit for tat legal action claiming infringement of 13 of its patents. In a second case launched at the beginning of this year Nokia claims that Apple infringed seven further patents in almost all of its products.

Not only are the lawyers busy fighting these cases but Kodak have asked the US International Trade Commission (ITC) to investigate the makers of the iPhone and Blackberry, over patent infringements on the technology used for previewing pictures. The technology in question has already scrutinised in court and in December last year , an ITC judge ruled that Samsung infringed upon the Kodak patent.

Finally, but probably not, Blackberry makers, Research in Motion won their defence of a patent case issued against them by Motorola after a UK Judge rejected the claims and also invalidated the Motorola patent. The decision will be a blow to Motorola who had claims with U.S. International Trade Commission seeking a ban on imports of BlackBerry smartphones into the USA.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Crossing the Digital Divide

“The most important thing is not to optimise what you do, but to find out and decide what you should be doing… find out where you should really be and to make sure that you are climbing the tallest peak, not just a false summit…If you get stuck on a small mountain, you get to the top and look around and you find you’re on the wrong mountain. A mile away is a mountain that’s twice as tall…Learn how to search the landscape very widely, and to make sure we find the tallest mountain to climb – that we find the right thing to do. And having done that, if we find ourselves on top of a false summit…In other words we’ve got to get down the mountain, and cross that desert, and come up on the tallest peak. And that’s called letting go, killing a product at its peak.”

These wise words from Kevin Kelly, executive editor of Wired in “Rethinking the Future” may be over 10 years old but still very relevant today. It may not be so much about killing the product at its peak as understanding which mountain you are on and its limitations.

The companies who should have made the digital transition and who had something to offer have often lost the digital way or struggled. was going to crush Amazon but didn’t understand global branding. B&N was going to be the internet bricks and mortar and learnt that teaming up with Amazon wasn’t the best strategy. BCA failed to understand what it had and what it didn’t have and lost the perfect digital launch pad. HarperCollins thought they had a brand and ‘Fire and Water’ would be a no brainer to the readers. Encyclopaedia Britannica thought that their brand was untouchable. The lessons are many and often hard ones.

As we read that there is much interest in buying Readers Digest we first have to question why such a perfectly positioned brand failed to deliver in the first place. True there were many financial challenges but they had a brand, they should have had the best mailing list in publishing, they certainly should have had a warehouse full of short stories and byte sized chunks ideal for the mobile on demand world, etc.

Sometimes crossing the digital divide, between the limitations of the physical mountain and the opportunities and challenges of the digitally inclusive one, are just too much. Digital Publishing is Publishing and as we have often said it isn’t just about ebooks, ebook readers and finished works.

Digital LibraryWorld: Where Have All The Readers Gone?

The Pittsburgh Tribune Review reports on the Shaler North Hills Library and their digital experiment planned for National Library Week in mid-Apri. Library members will be able to not only loan ebooks from their 18,000 collection, but a lucky few will also be able to borrow one of nine Amazon Kindle readers the library has bought for their members. The Shaler library has seen the number of users using their ebook service mushroom from 82 to 4,500.

Meanwhile here in the UK the Hampshire Library are the latest to offer free armchair reading. Their members merely need to validate themselves and Overdrive’s Pandora’s box opens for free. The files are still restricted from copying and printing, but they are free to read.

Last weekend we had two guest stop with us in London. One was from Kent and the other Shreswbury. Both were teachers, big readers and members of local reading groups. They didn’t buy books any more and were getting their reading group books for free from their library. The library even supplied a reading list for their groups to choose from and their reading schedule was planned out for the next few months. Obviously this is great for the libraries and publishers, but not so great for authors and resellers. Heavy readers are potentially being taken out of the buying chain, new potential readers are being introduced to spoon feeding from libraries and books that should be in circulation were ‘on reserve’. We are pleased to see active reading, we are pleased to see library resources being used, but we question the long term economic impact, its level of adoption today and where healthy promotion of reading becomes unhealthy resellers and authors.

The step from physical to digital reading groups, like the step from buying physical to loaning digital books is a small, but the implications may be far more wide reaching. There appears to be little or no debate and what there is, tends to be focused on the role of libraries and not digital publishing and business models. Perhaps publishers still sell books so have little need to be concerned today if a few more resellers go to the wall. However when digital has grown to say 15% on the market will it be too late? Are free to loan digital books from the armchair now a given public service and the digital future we predicted yesterday?