Thursday, March 31, 2011

Will Kinect Be Bigger Than Tablets?

Speaking at a lunch held in Sydney by the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA), Microsoft ‘s chief research and strategy officer Craig Mundie, has predicted the death of tablets and claims that their existence will be short lived as they get squeezed by the ever decreasing gap between smartphones and laptops. He said, "I think there's an important distinction - and frankly one we didn't jump on at Microsoft fast enough - between mobile and portable,"

So is he right or wrong and is it merely a push to get PR or a genuine vision of change?

What we do know is that the tablet is consumer market’s hot device today, but that means little as technology can change so fast. We know Miscrosoft is working to get their own tablet OS out this year but that they pulled the plug on their own Courier tablet last year.

Mundie admitted Microsoft’s failings but that they are determined to go after the smartphone market and even envisages a phone that beams light directly into your retina so you can view HDTV.

As for desktops, Mundie predicted, " the successor to the desktop is the room, that instead of thinking that the computer is just something on the desk that you go and sit in front of, (in the) future basically the whole room is the computer and you go in it."

Mundie discussed the Xbox 360 Kinect motion-sensing accessory will be be soon offered for the PC. This could be very interesting as it starts to free the computer interface and make in more intuitive using gestures and voice commands, or what Mundie calls this the "natural user interface". This could revolutionise many aspects of technology and human interface such as teaching, healthcare etc. This by itself could change the way we look at and interface with technology and even support some of the thinking expressed by Mundie re tablets.

Mundie predicts that within five years computers and televisions would be sold with Kinect sensors built in.

Google +1 = Social

Google’s hold over the search world is significant and everyone understands the term 'to be Googled'. They have built a massive business on their ability to index the world’s information and render it on demand along with Ad Words and other advertising revenues. Now Microsoft has taken an anti-competition complaint against them to the European Commission.

In a detailed blog, Microsoft's general counsel, Brad Smith, outlined the Microsoft's claims that Google used its dominant position in the search market to restrict the growth of Microsoft services:

  • Using technical measures to stop Microsoft's search engine Bing from indexing content on Google-owned YouTube.
  • Blocking Microsoft Smartphones from operating properly with YouTube.
  • Controlling access to online copies of out-of-copyright books.
  • Limiting the ability of businesses to reclaim "their own information" generated through Google advertising campaigns for use elsewhere.
  • Compelling leading websites to only use Google search boxes on their pages.

But search by itself may not be enough in today's socially connected world. So it’s interesting that on the same day that they are accused of abusing their search domination we have Google settling an FTC complaint over their faile social network service ‘Buzz’ . According to the settlement, Google will have an outside privacy audit biennially for the next 20 years, and won’t use personal data it collected for one purpose for another without permission. More interesting however, is its fresh attempt to muscle into the social network scene and take on Facebook.

Google has now embarked copying the ‘like’ features of Facebook in order to add a social element to its core search service. It’s new ‘+1’ buttons will appear next to its search results and adverts and will enable users to signal personal preferences that would then appear in other search results seen by their friends. With +1, anyone with a Google account can register a vote of approval, which can then be seen by other searchers.

Google explained in a blog post :
When you do a search, you may now see a +1 from your slalom-skiing aunt next to the result for a lodge in the area. Or if you’re looking for a new pasta recipe, we’ll show you +1’s from your culinary genius college roommate. And even if none of your friends are baristas or caffeine addicts, we may still show you how many people across the web have +1’d your local coffee shop.

Google state that the vote currently will not change advertisement positioning or cost. Google appear to be trying to get users to create a public page and identify services that work with that page and then they have a reverse built social network which supports advertising growth.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Music Lessons?

Music is a complex business that is not just about selling recorded music. It like all media is fundamentally a rights business with creation, performance, synchronised royalties.

We all know the music business remains stuck in digital treacle and it is no surprise to see that the global recorded music sales fell by some $1.5bn (£930m) last year.

The UK music business physical sales dropped by almost 20% with the overall performance down some 11% and although digital sales continued to rise by some 20% it did not offset the equivalent loss in physical sales. The result is that the market is shrinking and the UK is sliding down the ranking and has now been overtaken by Germany.

Now US economist Joel Waldfogel disagrees with the music industry bodies and major labels and claims that music piracy hasn’t hurt the creation of new music, but that changes in creation, production and distribution have turned the previous economics of scale of their head. He and many academics also claim that there is no link between Internet piracy and the revenues of the major music labels and that the losses claimed by the industry itself are being hugely exaggerated.

With new and cheaper recording technologies, digital music outlets and social networks, many of the tasks that were previously fulfilled by the big labels could easily be taken over by independent labels, or even the artists themselves. This sounds very familiar to that being experience in other media sectors. The economics are changing and scale is no longer an asset.

EMI was acquired last month by Citigroup and rival Warner Music is also seeking a buyer and many question whether there is a future for these former titans? EMI's losses over the past four years total £2.82bn.Warner’s fourth-quarter revenues in 2010 was down 14% at $789m and its digital turnover fell 5%, giving it a loss for the quarter.

The big labels’ monopoly is falling apart as their role can be taken over by independent labels that operate with a much smaller profit margin. Where the majors sometimes have to sell half a million albums to break even, independent labels can do the same by selling 25,000 or less.

Established artist now make a substantial amount of their money from live music and some claim this could be as high as 90%.

Creation, promotion, and distribution aided by new technologies have changed the music landscape and the Internet offers millions of ways to promote content at a fraction of the cost of the old world. Youtube, Facebook,, Spotify and Pandora, now offer artists many new platforms to promote themselves.

Distribution has changed too and with little investment artists can now upload their work for sale on iTunes. The loss of major UK retailers such as Zavvi, Borders and Woolworth has also changed people access to physical music as they are increasingly forced online and once there they aren’t going back.

The impact of these seismic changes don’t just impact the UK with the global recorded music revenues falling by 8.4% last year. According to the Recording Industry body, the IFPI, physical sales, fell by 14.2% year on year. Again although digital revenues grew by 5.3% and account for 29% of all recorded music revenues the growth rate of digital revenue growth has halved year on year .US overall sales fell by 10% with physical sales down 20% and digital sales are stagnating with 1.2% growth. Japan’s music market declined by 8.3%. Digital revenue growth in Europe continues to grow by some 20% plus but still does not compensate for the decline in physical sales.

So is Waldfogel correct to conclude that piracy is not the root of the music industry’s declining fortunes and that the entire music industry has instead changed with more power going to the artists and smaller labels? We believe that today music is more alive, accessible and broader in its offer than ever before. If we accept this, or even a large proportion of this, then we better take a cold look at what is happening closer to home and focus less on yesterday’s economics and models and more on tomorrow’s.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Asus Eee Pad Transformer - Tablet or Laptop?

The first table we saw that impressed was a HP laptop whose screen could be swivelled and the reason it was impressive was it was then used to project slides to support a conference presentation and the presenter proceeded to drawn onto the tablet to highlight and project drawn images etc. However, the price was just too much and it was obvious that the device had a clear weak spot in the swivel point, but it did impress.

Now Asus have announced the first shipments of their Eee Pad Transformer. It’s called the Eee Pad Transformer because can use an optional Qwerty keyboard docking station with unique Android function keys. The scratch-resistant 10.1” Gorilla Glass touchscreen can be viewed at angles up to 178 degrees and it is claimed to provide 50% better rendition.

It follows the usual Android tablet spec in having an Nvidia Tegra 2 dual-core processor, coming with Google's Android 3.0 ‘Honeycomb’ operating system, aka "Honeycomb" and is preloaded with Polaris Office 3.0, which supports the most PC file formats on PCs, such as MS Office, XLS, XLSX, PowerPoint, Adobe PDF, and image files.

The battery life on one charge is some 9.5 hours which increase to 16 hours when docked. As with other mobile tablets it has a 5MP rear camera that can record HD video and a 1.2MP front-facing camera for videoconferencing and can support both WiFi and 3G. As with laptops it has a mini-HDMI port, a 3.5mm audio jack, two USB ports, a built-in SD card reader and also SRS Sound technology.

So is it a laptop or a tablet, a mobile device or a PC? Will the price of $500 to $700 be low enough to tempt those looking for something extra?

As Android Tablets vie for position it great to see them all trying to be different. We think that the docking station isn’t enough and we would like to see more voice recognition and intuitive interfaces than a keyboard.

MySpace Heads Downhill, Whilst S&S Seek A Tweens Social Solution

Remember a social networking site called My Space? It transformed Lily Allen from a bedroom performer into a star and the Arctic Monkeys from an obscure Sheffield band into headliners. It once had the market share of social networks and was the place to socialise, but today it is shrinking, looks like yesterday’s news and is no longer the hip and the place to be seen.

MySpace have already tried to refocus the service on music, but perhaps music alone and a ‘music destination’ is just not enough.

Analysts ComScore claim that MySpace lost more than 10 million unique users worldwide between January and February this year, reducing the number of users from 73 million down to 63 million. Worse still is the year on year drop which equates to some 50 million. Some may say these figures are very respectable and they would be if the trend was in the ascent but in the decline they could so begin to freefall.

MySpace has already announced plans to cut some 500 of its workforce and Rupert Murdoch's News Corp 2005 purchase is starting to turn into a dog and some would now value it at around just 15% of the £330 it cost.

Facebook and YouTube have established themselves as the social hotspots today with many now falling by the wayside. MySpace even faces further competition from streaming services and blurring of media MySpace looks destined to become either very niche or quickly forgotten part of News International.

Meanwhile there are plenty of social wanabees and last week Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing has launched an online interactive book club for tweens on Everloop, a recently launched social media platform for tweens. Simon & Schuster had launched the club to connect tweens with favourite books and authors and will begin with "Dork Diaries: Tales from a Not-So-Fabulous Life," by Rachel Renee Russell and "SPHDZ Book (hash)1!," by Jon Scieszka. Book club members will be able to engage in online discussions with authors.

Connecting young readers and authors is hard as sites like Facebook are very conscious of the dangers of social networking and bans a reported 20,000 children a day from using the service. So along comes Everloop to fill the gap between the ages of 8 and 13 and ties every child to an adult but just because the adults like it doesn’t mean its hip to the kids and it still has to police this ultra sensitive market? Once a child is no longer a tween then by its own rules it moves on and probably to Facebook. If Everloop succeeded it could be huge, if it fails it goes the way of Bebo, AOL and others who have been down this path.

The problem for publishers is that they are struggling to build up a network and build a service. When the figures don’t meet expectation they then have to determine whether its down to them, or the service.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Catherine Cookson: The New Agency Model?

When you have sold over 100 million books, been the most borrowed author for many years in UK public libraries and had many of your works turned in to TV drama films you may ask whether you need a traditional publisher to go digital?

Following the lead of the likes of the Ian Fleming estate, the Catherine Cookson Charitable Trust has now decided to release 100of her works as ebooks . This really starts to set a precedent that many major literary estates and authors whose contract are not digitally tied may well follow. The print publishers, Transworld Publishers and Simon & Schuster, now look to loose out on all digital Cookson sales and far from positioning her for the digital world look to have lost her.

Catherine Cookson’s agent is now publishing the 100 e-book works through her own company, Peach Publishing.

Back list authors such as Cookson have made a great deal of money for their publishers, but lately have attracted relatively little real marketing, or brand exploitation and this is stimulating them and agents to rethink the management of their digital brands and opportunities.

My father in law Deric Longden has also taken a similar route with two of his best selling biographies which were turned into internationally acclaimed the award winning films, Lost For Words and Diana’s Story. My mother in law Aileen Armitage is about to reintroduce some 12 of her 34 historical novels as ebooks having been told by her previous publisher that there is no longer an interested in the genre.

Perhaps publishers need to look a bit harder at authors such as June Barraclough, Jean Plaidy, Nora Lofts, Shelia McCullagh and recognise that these perennial and previous bestsellers could offer them much digitally.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Great Book Bank Robbery - Feedback

We have all read the press coverage, but what is often far more enlightening is industry and specific feedback from blogs.

Here are some articles worth a read:

From the Hathi Trust
Libraries are not leaving the future of digital books to Google. In light of Judge Chin’s rejection of the Google Books Amended Settlement Agreement, Authors Guild et al. v. Google, HathiTrust will maintain our commitment to long-term digital preservation of library collections curated by generations of librarians at great research libraries around the world.

From Jane Little at Dear Author
I saw some people indicate that they thought this was a blow to Google. I don’t perceive it to be a blow to Google in any way. In settling, the plaintiffs gave signals that they believed their copyright infringement claim was weak. Post ruling signals repeat this.

From John Bergmayer,a staff attorney at Public Knowledge and a member of the Colorado Bar.
As for orphan works, Congress needs to act. The law needs to be fixed to allow orphan works to be used in reasonable ways while respecting that they’re still under copyright. It’s great that Google and the Guild thought creatively about how to pay any orphan works rights-holders who eventually came forward, but a situation where the orphan works problem is “solved” by creating a monopoly digital library is untenable. If Google is able to exploit orphan works, then anyone else should be able to on the same terms.

From J Mullin at
The best result that could come from this settlement would be renewed attention among thinkers, librarians, and Congress to the serious problem of how to create the universal library that future generations deserve. Now that those who complained about the “audacity” of this deal have won the day, we all need—not just Sergey Brin—to start thinking audaciously about how to study and preserve human culture in the digital age..

From James Grimmelmann Associate Professor at New York Law School writing at
My read is that the parties are not enthusiastic about litigation. This has been a long road, they are tired, and the publishing world has moved very quickly from underneath the settlement. They will be happy to have a settlement that lets everyone claim a kind of minor victory, and to be done with the ordeal. A few of the author objectors, who would like to see Google razed to the ground and Mountain View sowed with salt, will continue to object, but most of the others will quietly shuffle away.

Finally a schematic from Library Copyright Alliance which chart the many ways forward for Google Books Settlement (PDF) Specifically it's the "March Madness" developed by Jonathan Band.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Great Book Bank Robbery - A Close Shave?

Remember Judge Chin and the Google Book Settlement? Well it appears that the judge has finally made his ruling and his answer is NO!

We obviously now need to draw breath and understand the ruling in detail and its implications on all parties and their positions moving forward. Having fought this madness from day one, we at least are relieved that the Great Book Bank Robbery has once more been foiled. Someone asked if we were happy at the result, our answer is one of cautious relief, but frustration it took so long, divided the industry and it is unclear whether we have really learnt how we nearly sold a lot for a little.

However, the Judge does leaves the door open for yet another revision, but will all parties continue to flog this near dead horse and make more lawyers rich. Will Google capitulate and bend further?

The challenge is, that without a continued case, some will say Google will be vindicated and continue business as usual. Others will say that the mess that we have today is a direct fault of pursing a case for a settlement and accepting one that was not found wanting once. but twice.

The ‘opt in’ Judge Chin states is a logical change, but may be one that is a bitter pill for Google to swallow, as it will certainly exclude the orphans and foil an audacious and ill conceived settlement attempt by some to sell what they didn’t own.

So where do the APA and Authors Guild now stand? Will they try once more to seek international approvals? Will they try to work with the EU’s initiative? Will all parties just soldier on and conjure up a third settlement at whatever price it takes?

The Authors Guild and APA need to ask why an industry that is all about rights trading has no rights registry. They now need to wake up and recognise the close shave we have all had and bring all parties together, create a registry for all that is not tied to any deal and importantly listen and learn from this episode.

To read the ruling

To read statement from Authors Guild

To read statement from APA

AFP wire covering Google's reaction

Amazon Dump Lendle By NoReply eMail

Amazon has acted and effectively shut down, Lendle, revoking its access to the API that made their ebook lending service possible. Interestingly it apparently sent its ‘Dear Lendle’ notice by a ‘no reply’ email (very 21st century!). Obviously if people lend and even rent books that changes the dynamics of the commercial model and Amazon would be naive to allow an entity to live off their service without a sizable contribution. It also muddies the waters for what Amazon may wish to do long term on lending and rentals. Finally, the customer relationship would exists outside of Amazon.

In our recent post ‘Freeing Libraries to Compete’ we identified the new services that were spawning to exploit Amazon’s lending facility. We thought it was an interesting and obvious development but was not one that really benefited Amazon long term, nor offered a sustainable model as the services were merely living off a facility that could change overnight and was at the whim and fancy of Amazon.

Another challenge that may have prompted Amazon would be the realisation that if others started to open up loans and enable APIs as these new providers could create cross service platforms, these services may be harder for Amazon to deal with. This way they cut it off before it has even started.

Other Amazon based e-book lending sites such as eBook Fling and the Book Lending Club, are still operating which begs the question whether Lendle just did something to violate their terms with Amazon or they were merely first in the queue.

The salient commercial lesson is not to build services that are totally dependant on one party allowing you to make a living off their back that may not be mutually beneficial.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Come Fly With An eBook

Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, has four hundred etitles available in English or Chinese which can be read in the airport on some thirty devices. However, today they can’t be taken away or downloaded onto the user's own device. The service is run by the airport duty-free shop and was instigated by Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou, whose government-funded Institute for Information Industry injected some $101,720 to establish it.

With up to 17 million passengers a year, only thirty devices, some 400 titles and the restriction to the airport duty free area make the initative very questionable and also whether this has the power to lift off.

However, it does make sense to dispense ebooks at airports and it makes even more sense to rent them for a flight or journey. You could even rent out devices based on a return flight confirmation and deposit security. You could tie the service to major carriers and ensure that the content reflects not just English language but other major languages. You could also sell devices at duty free prices to a captive audience.

Imagine a circulating library in the sky? Every major hub offering a duty free service combined with the major airline alliances. You can preselect your rental when you book your flight and merely activate it on arrival and even have a device waiting for you, just like pre ordering a special meal. At the end of the rental the title merely deletes itself, offering the option to extend the rental at a further cost.

The attractive element is that the loan of the device can be secured against both refundable deposit and a know individual. Unlike other transport everyone is a known passenger which presents great opportunities to market and up-sell and even those in-flight movies could be tied in if the device is compatible.

Taiwan may not appear to have got the model right today but have opened up a very interesting channel full of rich potential and which has millions of potential customers.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Are eBooks Being Straight-Jacketed by pBook Thinking?

Today many see digital as an evolutionary and perhaps it’s the assumption that are being made in this thinking that is causing the issues, conflicts and challenges we face today. Some would suggest that some of the very basic assumptions being made and used to determine digital strategy may be fundamentally ungrounded and not safe.

First, many assume that the ebook is a replacement for the physical book (pbook). Many may accept that both will coexists for some time, but many also believe that eventually, pbooks as we know them today, will be displaced by ebooks. Secondly, we assume that because today we buy pbooks that this model will naturally apply to ebooks. This assumes that all transactions of ebooks will be outright purchase sales. Finally, we all tend to assume all books are for life and once bought are ours to own, build into our library and even pass on to the generations to come.

Today when we buy a pbook it is enshrined in a rights licence that is based on the properties and limitations of the format. We can share it, sell it, bin it, even drawn all over it, but we are not allowed to copy it or exploit it for commercial gain. It is a physical ‘asset’ which we can value, add to our collection and pass on freely to others. In principle the physical format dictates what we can and can’t do and that contract is entered into on its initial purchase. Imagine someone saying that you can’t share it, can only keep it for only a specific period of time, can only retain it on certain bookshelves and are not able to resell it to whom you wish for what you want. These restrictions would be totally impractical and unenforceable.

This is in fact governed more by the physical format of the book than anything else.

Digital content changes these basic freedoms and in their place often imposes constraints and controls that were previously unenforceable. The number of times a file is copied can be controlled, sharing files can be severely restricted if not obviated altogether, the selling files negated and even what devices the files can be played on can be restricted. This shift in what can be granted under a licence makes digital different and demands that the rules and assumptions once applied to the physical book, are no longer relevant. The books aren’t different; it is digital that is different. All sales are rights sales, buy the rights associated with ebooks and the basic assumptions on which these are based now need to be reviewed as merely apply physical logic is unsafe and just results in the ill thought-out stances we have seen recently.

The next set of assumptions we must challenge are about the life expectancy of the ebooks themselves. Do we believe that digital formats are really persistent and perpetual? Maintaining access to digital archives within libraries may be a reasonable expectation, but maintaining the same access privately may not be so simple. Remember Microsoft Reader, or some of the other less popular formats? Remember betamax, eightrack, and formats tied to long forgotten devices. MP3 may not be the highest quality recording but until it was widely adopted DRM free music was being strangled by its own DRM and associated formats. Formats will evolve, but not all versions will remain backward compatible. Some formats will be superseded others may just disappear and that ebook that you thought was for life may have a very limited shelf life. Some believe that DRM (Digital Rights Management) protects and enforces copyright, others that it is yet another factor that radically changes the nature of the transaction and rights sold. Importantly we must recognise that DRM can tie the sale to a specific manifestation of a title and even to a specific service that distributed it. In other words an ebook today can be tied to a specific buyer, a specific distribution server and even a limited number of devices. Fine today but will those relationships still exist in say 10 or say even 5 years time?

Social DRM has yet to make its mark, but is gathering some momentum. This is about specific watermarking of digital content at a transactional level and to be effective needs to be both visible and invisible. Social DRM does not enforce restrictions and could enable the ebook rights to be aligned more closer to the pbook . However, today we still live in the draconian straight-jacket of encrypted files that can only be unlocked by DRM licence and with their own self interests in mind some want it to remain so.

So at one end of the spectrum we have the pbook trading its rights in what could be described as being driven by ‘market forces’ and sold outright. At the other end we have the ebook and its digital shackles, relationships and restrictions that make an outright sale a joke.

At the heart of the current challenges lies the question of what exactly are we ‘selling’? Some would suggest that we are trying to impose horse drawn carriage rules on today’s cars. They like pbooks and ebooks are fundamentally different. Moving towards a more open licence approach to ebooks may change to total way we sell rights, what rights are sold, educate the buyer into why digital is different and create a less volatile trading market. It could challenge still further the model conflict between libraries and the High Street, but rather than being a negative this could be a very positive move for all parties. We may see ebooks move into a rental, ‘pay as you read’, ‘loan on demand’ and subscription based models of consumption and away from today’s inappropriate outright purchase model. In doing so we may also find a commercial model that rewards stimulates and unites those that matter most the authors, illustrators and creators. Ironically we may also actually create an environment that actually enables the physical book to co exist alongside the ebook.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

HTC Flyer Tablet On Its Way Next Month?

HTC’s Flyer will next month enter the tablet wars and it will offer something different – pen input. This will make it maybe a little more tactile, but will it make it a compelling buy?

In its smart aluminum case, the 7” Android tablet weighs in just under a pound, is 0.5” thick and features; a 1024 x 600 resolution Super LCD touch screen, 1.5GHz Qualcomm MSM8255 Snapdragon single-core processor, 1GB of RAM plus 32GB of flash storage, a microUSB port and a claimed battery life of 61 days of standby and 4 hours with video playback. It also has a front-facing 1.3-megapixel camera, 5-megapixel rear camera, HSPA+ support, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.

The Flyer will run on Android 2.4, which is based on the Honeycomb OS used for smartphones but will use HTC’s Sense user interface and their obvious Android technology such as HTC Scribe and HTC Watch.

However it’s the pen that catches the attention.

The user will be able to use the pen to take notes, draw pictures, and sketch directly on the tablet. The note-taking app Evernote is preloaded and offer synchronisation too and with Audio notes also synced up with the written notes through a Timemark app we have potentially an interesting tablet. Imagine being in a meeting where you capture it in audio and in writing and by tapping on a word you are instantly taken to the appropriate audio point. The question is not whether this sounds a great innovation but whether users want it, will use it and perceive it as adding real value?

There is certainly some real interest such that some million orders have been recorded and HTC claim an ‘order visibility to the end of August 2011,’ even before a release date and price had even been announced.

The two videos may be a bit long but they clearly show the look and feel and demonstrate the use of the pen.

Half The UK Registered on Facebook!

Experian Hitwise’s latest report claim that social networks are the UK’s favourite online destinations. Facebook and Twitter registered 2.4bn Internet visits in the UK in January and Facebook claim that it now has 30 million registered users in the UK alone which equates to half the population!

This comes at the same time that the BBC released its latest stats for the iPlayer, which reveal that more people than ever, some 125 million hits, were streaming live content through over the service. They also claim 2.1 million requests were delivered to the iPad alone in February. The total hits in the month was down from 162 million to 148 million but interestingly some 23 million of these were from Virgin Media iPlayer TV requests.The BBC also claim that there are proportionally more daytime and late-peak users of the service and the majority of users are under 55.

The blurring of the entertainment and social services is seen as one of the main drivers in UK traffic. Sites such as Facebook are increasingly hosting content from entertainment sites and this is driving more social interaction and stimulating more take-up. This in term attracts more businesses to advertise, promote and generally position them on the social map.

There are still strong calls, especially in the EU to tighten security on the social networks and EU law and directives. The main EU thrust today remains focused on "the right to be forgotten", letting users "withdraw their consent" to their data being held. It is felt that service providers should prove that they need to keep the data, rather than individuals having to prove that collecting their data is not necessary.

So we are now clearly seeing a step change from the vertical web services of email, blogs, flikr, youtube etc to one which overlays these within a social network construct that is wider in its appeal and deeper in its richness. Mobile technology such as tablets and smart phones are enablers that now are increasingly permanently connected. It doesn’t mean that the verticals disappear it merely means that these become the feeds that are consolidated through the likes of Facebook.

With half the UK population apparently signed up it clearly now says that we are starting to socially communicate, interact with media, express ourselves and collect and share content and opinions.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

YouTube Quality To Improve With Green Parrot

We found today’s news that Google has bought Irish company Green Parrot Pictures with the objective to improve the quality of the video footage that is uploaded to YouTube very timely and interesting. Youtube has redefined video and film and also enabled everyone to be a potential cameraman, director, news reporter and social observer.

The Dublin-based Green Parrot Pictures specialises in improving image processing to increase sharpness, reducing camera shake and graininess and improving bandwidth efficiency, all while your video is being uploaded to the site. The technology has already been used by several Hollywood film studios and even improved movies such as X-Men and Spiderman.

This last weekend we spent some time filming the first dozen Bibliophile Book Reviews which when edited were posted on YouTube. The intention is to capture Annie’s book buying and editing enthusiasm to promote some of the 300 new titles Bibliophile lists each month. Bibliophile has some 50K unique copyrighted blurbs, so we thought we should capture some video blubs and now Google are potentially make them even better!

to see more bibliophile book review videos

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

EU Aims Their Arrow+ on the Heart of Digital Copyright

There are two rights issues we have written so much about over the last few years, one being the hierocracy that publishing is a rights business without a rights registry and the second being the need to protect orphan works from wholesale abuse and exploitation whilst freeing them from digital obscurity.

On march 10th European commissioner Neelie Kroes spoke to IFRRO (The International Federation of Reproduction Rights Organisations) on the launch of ARROW Plus (Accessible Registries of Rights Information and Orphan Works towards Europeana). Arrow was established in 2008 to identify the copyright status of European works and do through co-ordinating the activities of libraries and rights management bodies to estrablish the details of who owns the copyright in written works. Arrow will now be extended to Arrow Plus and cover multimedia material and is seen as a critical component in the reform of the law surrounding orphan works.

In her speech Kroes stated that Arrow Plus was now aimed at addressing what she referred to as a serious risk of a "20th century black hole" on the internet. She stated that ‘estimates of the number of orphan works in cultural institutions vary from ‘around 20% for films and slightly less for books, at the low end, to up to 90% for photography at the high end…The British library estimates that 40% of works in their collections are orphan and over 1 million hours of TV programmes from BBC archives are not used due to the impossibility or the disproportionate cost to trace rightholders – and the risk of a subsequent legal action is simply too great for this material to be made available online.’

She went on to say that, ‘while the US is looking for solutions through complex judicial means, Europe should move forward and find innovative practical solutions for tapping the huge treasures of our culture.’

Kroes importantly outlined her “Vision” ‘One search in ARROW should be all you should need to determine the copyright status of a cultural good in Europe. If it were embedded in the forthcoming Directive on orphan works, ARROW could become the official portal in Europe where you can find essential rights information and do automated searches of rightholders and copyrights. In the medium-term, it could cover all European print works (books, magazines, etc.) in the EU, and afterwards – why not? – also photographic and audiovisual works.’

‘ARROW should become a one-stop shop for determining, easily and quickly, with full legal certainty, whether a work is orphan or not, out-of-distribution or not, and so on.’

We respect that there will be a need to compromise as the Arrow Plus project moves forward but respect that it recognises the two fundamental issues and is attempting to address these not from a single party’s or group’s interest but from a collective standpoint that includes all interests. This alone is a major step forward to that on offer today in the US whilst it awaits Judge Chin’s decision.

Speech transcript

'Smartphone and Free Kindle', Certainly Sir!

If you were a ereader platform and wanted to extend your market in the UK the best option to do it is through bundling it in with mobile providers on a non exclusive basis and to choose Carphone Warehouse who dominate the independent channel. Next to line it up with the traditional consumer electronic devices retailers such as PC World, Currys and Comet, finally make sure its available through the bulk shippers such as Best Buy.

That is what Amazon has done with the Kindle with the Wi-Fi-only version is priced at £111 and the 3G and Wi-Fi Kindle 3G version priced at £152 Kindle 3G. The twist comes when you select a smartphone contract and effectively get the basic Kindle free or the Kindle 3G for a one off cost of £15.

As most book sellers will discover selling ebook readers is not what they do or should expect their staff to do. They are booksellers and as we have pointed out are ill equipped to sell ereaders. The interesting thing now is that the eInk contenders all look sidelined and struggling to compete in a market when a multi platform service such as the Kindle is effectively going for the channel killer.

We have never been a lover of the eInk solution but in the Kindle platform it makes sense and we would even buy into it. This latest move by Amazon clearly gives everyone else a challenge and we believe that unless the service, the reader platform and the reach is multi platform the game could be up in the UK ebook market.

Zune Today, Gone Tomorrow

Microsoft may have made history with the sales of their Xbox Kinect but it appears the writing is on the wall for their Zune media players.

In 2006 when MS CEO Steve Ballmer released the Zune, he predicted that Microsoft could one day overtake Apple. What a long time four year is in today’s technology.

An unnamed inside source has been cited by Bloomberg saying that MS is not going to extend the product further. The media player market has clearly moved on and Zune has failed to move with it. Today the smartphone is the media player and that is why MS have turned their attention to their Windows Phone 7 OS platform.

Freeing eLibraries to Compete?

The book world appears to be caught wanting on one hand to promote reading, the love of books and sharing books as an experience and at the same time also wanting to repress any thought of ‘free’ that they don’t control through license and DRM. The publicity exposure and promotion of giving away 1 million free books on World Book Night is countered by the stance by many over lending ebooks and HaperCollins’s new rules on ebooks life expectancy being 26 lendings. On one hand we wish to promote ‘free to share’, yet on the other, we face the commercial reality of inappropriate terms.

We have long argued about the hypocrisy of free to borrow from the library, versus buy on-demand on the High Street or Internet. As is often is the case within media industries, they react late, often heavy handed and lack any real cohesive position across the market.

Today we find that the digital goalposts have moved. Amazon and B&N now both offer 14 day loans and with this we now find a number of new service providers all geared to assisting readers to share ebooks under a commercial umbrella.

BookLending, Lendle,eBookFling, ebookexchange, ebooklendinglibrary,Fictionwise Booklends, are but a few of the services now aiming to cash in on sharing or lending books.

Before Amazon, B&N and Google etc become the new library services we should explore our options. After all, what is the difference between one exclusive loan by Amazon and another by the public library?

Should public libraries ‘rent out’ ebooks, as opposed to the current ‘loan for free’ model? If you find the ebook you want is out on loan and don’t want to wait in the queue, why not buy it online there and then? New York Public Library apparently already has a "Buy It Now" link, which is "powered by" OverDrive and gives a portion of the revenue from purchase back to the library. Is this not merely a shop within a library and why shouldn’t libraries sell as well as loan?

If all public libraries also sold ebooks we could see an explosion of ebook virtual shelf space. We could find ourselves with a new book ‘chain’ , with the libraries becoming white label stores. Public libraries suddenly could enjoy a revenue stream ,that could not only subsidise their continued existence, but also provide a compelling offer of loan, or buy, or even rent.

Surely that would promote reading and put the library back in the centre of the community and even promote physical loans.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Nanotubes Could Make Mobile Life Even Easier

Last month we wrote about Nano technology developments at Harvard that could revolutionise chips now we have nanotube technology from a team of electrical and computer engineers at an Illinois university that may revolutionise power to mobile devices and render that battery charger obsolete.

We have all experience that frustration when the mobile phone alerts you that its battery is almost out of juice and you are on out and about and unable to meet its demands for a top up. More frustrating is when you go away and forget the charger only having to buy a new one or suffer the withdraw symptoms of being not connected. We have all seen the marketing push by the smartphones, tables and laptops about battery life and we all appreciate what that extra life offers.

The research involving the new nanotechnology could mean mobile phone batteries lasting not days but months between charges. These ‘nanotubes’ are minute carbon tubes some 10,000 times smaller than a human hair which not only could extend battery life by up to 100 times but also lighten the device and obviate that extra luggage of the charger. Scientist believe that they could even obviate the need for a battery and that could revolutionise mobile technology making what once was clunky and heavy very light and ultra portable. Finally the satellite and military applications that could benefit make the development of the technology almost a given.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Kinect Officially The Fastest Selling Consumer Electronics Device

What holds the record as the fastest selling consumer electronics device? Could it be the iPhone, Kindle, iPad , Playstation, xBox, or was it the good old Sony Walkman?

The answer is happening as we speak and is Microsoft’s Kinect sensor system, which since its launch on 4 November, has sold over 10 million units. Guinness World Records claim, that no other consumer electronics device has sold faster within a 60-day time span and has declared it, the fastest-selling consumer electronics device on record.

Kinect is an infrared camera addition for Microsoft's Xbox 360 games console that allows the system to track body movements. It's, like Parnav Mistry’s TED insight into the future, offers a cleaner and more sensible human interface with the machine. It uses four microphones, a dedicted processor plus a colour VGA motion camera that can track movements at 30FPS. Kinect is the first mass-produced device that controls a video game via motion and voice control and without the need to hold any controller.

Why do we still have to type in words, have one dimensional controls on our laptops and even tablets? It's just under a year since we wrote about the exciting world of Mistry and through Kinect it is here today. With natural human interfaces, will come huge changes that will fundamentally change how we do everything and interact with devices. This is no longer in the labs and the Kinect shows that people want it and if priced right, it flys off the shelf. Now if only someone would make that leap forward on a tablet.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

iPad2 and the Tablet Contenders

Apple has launched its second generation iPad tablet computer. The new model has a faster processor, front and rear cameras, improved graphics and it is a full one-third thinner than the current iPad and some 15% lighter at 1.3 pounds vs. 1.5 pounds.

In 2010 Apple was the only tablet show in town. According to research firm Strategy Analytics up until September Apple had some 95% of tablet computer sales selling some 15 million units in the year. However by the end of the year the figure had fallen to 75%. The Android tablets made that slide and now are joined by other platforms such as Microsoft's Windows 7 and HP's WebOS. Some 82 new tablets were launched at the CES show in January. However despite the new platform entrants it is hard to see anything but a two horse race between Apple and Google.

iPad 2 will go on sale in the US on 11th March, followed on the 25th by 26 other countries, including the UK and pricing will remain as with the current iPad.
But what about these new contenders?

Motorola Xoom

The Motorola Xoom tablet is probably the prime contender today to compete with the iPad and is planned to be released in the UK at the beginning of April and will ship with Google's Android 3.0 Honeycomb operating system, Nvidia's Tegra 2, dual core processor, 1GB DDR2 RAM and 32GB of storage. Other features include a 10.12 HD widescreen display, 5-megapixel rear-facing camera and a 2-megapixel front-facing camera, support for 1080p HD video and video calling over Wi-Fi, 3G and 4G, a 1,280 x 800 display weighs in at 730g.

There are many good points but it will be very interesting to see if the UK Xoom will ship with Flash support, as this will give it many supporters day one.
It will priced alongside the iPad at £499

Samsung Galaxy Tab

Samsung plan to introduce "more surprises" at their 22nd March event. It is strongly rumoured that they will introduce an 8.9” model its Galaxy Tab range which includes its 7” model and a 10.1” model they announced at Mobile World Congress last month.

They may have been the first contender against Apple but they somehow still lack some sizzle and the 7” doesn’t excite even before you use it.

The LG Optimus

Unveiled at Mobile World Congress last month the tablet features a 8.9” display and LG are good at making the design work but will we still be looking at a prototype or a contender?

Dell Streak

Dell are building a family from 5” phone to 10” screen with the 7” halfway house. Dell has a good solid reputation and ability to deliver cool looking devices built on a solid brand. Probably, a good ‘safe’ contender.

HP TouchPad

This is certainly the great unknown having chosen to run on the yet to be released dual-core Snapdragon APQ8060 1.2GHz CPU and also their Palm webOS 3.0. The touchpad appears to be one of the most powerful tablets but will its independent approach to CPU and OS work in its favour or as we suspect against it. Probably appeal to the safe corporate buyer but who is going to write those apps to feed the demand?

HTC Flyer

The 7”Flyer should benefit from the strong performance of HTC on the Android smartphone platform. However it chose Gingerbread instead of Honeycomb and is built on single core processor which may appear dated very quickly and more apps search for power.

BlackBerry Playbook

Another 7” expected out in the second quarter. It will certainly appeal to all crackberries but will it appeal to those who have survived without the Blackberry? The other challenge the RIM has is whether it will cannibalise existing Blackberry business as it will do more than the corporate brother and could certainly appeal to those businesses who have a crackberry habit. However it other big challenge is the lack of apps and that could well become its Achilles Heel.

Tablets are devices to be seen with and therefore must first past the ‘cool’ test. They then need to be full of fun and that means media and apps and only Apple and Android tick those boxes today. They must also be different to the PC and smartphone and offer the appropriate experience that others can’t and today that is the big challenge as we need more content and designed content. Finally, they must make economic sense to all and Apple’s Tax Booth has certainly set some thinking back a few months and opened the devices to being super browser and cloud players.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Bibliophile Granted Royal Warrant

Booksellers are often the unsung heroes of the book trade. They are the ones that engage with the consumer, entice them to buy and effectively provide the shop window to sell the books. Today all booksellers face challenging times and therefore it’s good when they get their recognition.

We are very proud that a Royal Warrant of Appointment has been granted to Annie Quigley of Bibliophile Limited into the place and quality of Booksellers to H.R.H. The Duke of Edinburgh, for whom they have been supplying books for over 20 years. A royal warrant is often referred to as a peerage for the trade and they are not given away freely but have to be earned by years of providing service and quality to the royal household and the purse of the Queen, Duke of Edinburgh or Prince Charles.

Bibliophile now joins the elite group of some 800 other warrant owners and only two other booksellers Hatchards of Piccadilly and G Heywood Hill. It is somewhat fitting that we now have a High Street book retailer, a specialist book dealer and a mail order book club and internet bargain book retailer. This clearly shows that the royal household like many other is eclectic in its taste and needs when it comes to books.

In 1992 on the death of her mentor and Bibliophile owner Bill Smith, Annie was given the unique opportunity to buy the highly acclaimed mail order book club. Some 19 years later she has developed the business into the largest independent book club in the UK with over 80,000 active members who buy from the mail-order catalogue and Internet

The Bibliophile mail order catalogue is a newspaper, full of personalised book reviews and published 10 times a year. Each month, her team selects, review and introduce over 350 new titles to add to the 3500 stocked inventory. Bibliophile despatch over 3.5 million books a year from their 5 miles of books.

Annie is not only the owner of Bibliophile, but also the buyer, editor and bookseller. Her passion for books came from her parents, Aileen Armitage and Deric Longden, who are both writers. Due to her mother Aileen’s blindness, at a young age Annie out of necessity learnt to proof read and edit. Aileen was voted Woman of the Year in 1988 for having written 34 novels although blind. Annie says: “I was born in a book!”

Annie has also brought public domain out of print titles back into print under the Bibliophile imprint for Print on Demand and has just published Deric Longdens’ Lost for Words and Diana’s Story as Bibliophile’s first ebook publications with many more being planned in the near future.

Read her book review blog at anniesbookreviewsforbibliophiles or on facebook

This Saturday, The Times will have a feature supplement ‘Raconteur’ on Royal Warrant holders and Bibliophile’s great achievement for booksellers.

BBC To Make International Service Cheaper Than UK

It as if all media is caught between, digital sales versus digital subscriptions, versus digital bundles , versus digital free. It is sometimes mind-boggling to see the variations within the same sectors and the sheep like tendencies of others.

This week we have already given our thoughts on the madness of HarperCollins’s library new rules and the fact that they seem unable to engage their brain before opening their mouths.

We now hear that the BBC’s director general, Mark Thompson has announced that the international version of the BBC’s popular iPlayer service, will cost less than $10 a month, which works out at around £73 a year. Nothing wrong with that, until you compare it to the UK annual licence fee, which is £145.50.

So international customers wishing to use the service via their iPad can do so for less than someone in the UK! It is questionable whether the Apple 30% app tax will apply or not but as if they haven’t a clue Thompson is quoted saying, ‘We're exploring internationally what the right pricing and models are ... the most important thing is the consumer pricing is right.’ Well that’s as clear as mud and to make it even worse they still have to clarify exactly what content will be available internationally via the iPlayer app. Last month the BBC launched a much-awaited iPlayer app for the iPad and Android-powered devices.

As some suggest, lets all experiment first think later.