Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year!!

We welcome 2008 and believe following 2007 it will be the year that makes significant strides forward on digitisation. We will definitely not all be reading ebooks by the end of the year but publishing will certainly be further impacted by digitisation and closer to that elusive tipping point.

The consumer needs the availability and ability to buy digital content and secondly the elusive reading device and ‘must buy’ pull. Until sufficient content is available we are trying to create an ereader market in a vacuum and although the device is less of an issue consumers want a ‘safe buy’ that has legs or a price that makes the purchase a ‘no brainer’. What they have today is format confusion, DRM madness and over engineering and a price ticket that says ‘special’ not ‘commodity’.

So what are our ten 2008 predictions?
1. Content – a significant rise in volume as more publishers realise that this is not a ‘wait and see’ game. PDF will be dominant over XML and we may well see the epub standard start to become a real consumer format standard and be fully adopted by ereaders. The publishers with established digital programmes will start to digitise their development process based on XML.
2. Context – widgets , widgets everywhere. The effect will be similar to when book jackets were first developed in mid 90s and the impact will be as great. Rich metadata will be the order of the day. Bowker and Nielson will have to respond but may find the world has moved on again.
3. Rights – permissions and licensing will grow in importance and will someone step up to provide that elusive clearing house once promised prematurely by the likes of Yankee Book Pedler and
4. Retailers – will come out of the background and start to take control of the channel again. The chains will expand their digital metadata repositories and do much scanning and collection of rich material. Following Amazon and Dymocks others are likely to endorse their own eroutes.
5. Publishers – more digital directors, more conversions and much activity. Some true small innovators are likely to rise to the occasion.
6. Audio – the death of DRM is inevitable and closely linked to music and in its wake what will happen to Audible and its monopoly? Consumers will vote with their clicks and the book club model is unlikely to succeed. The use of Watermarking technology will grow.
7. Standards – the only standards that matter now are the consumer ones. Adoption of simplified DRM, user interfaces and maybe a continued migration towards ‘508 compliance’. Digital drop ship communications standards are the exception and need to be developed and adopted.
8. Readers – an upgraded Sony, Kindle and the introduction of the Apple offer. The key is not the reader but the content but what is becoming crystal clear is that platform convergence onto the mobile and its network is certain.
9. Gorillas – Google, Microsoft, Apple, Sony, Amazon, Nokia etc. take your pick as they will all dictate how they see the world.
10. Waste – we envisage new opportunities from the digitisation process that will not only increase productivity and depth of by-product but will also start to change inefficiency within the supply chain that only is possible with digital content and context.

We may well get some things wrong and it’s often impossible to gauge the pace of change, but there are also bound to be some left field entries. What could happen that we don’t expect today? We always assume the opportunity or the threat is from within but these more often than not are from outside. For example; we have seen the power of Google to hover up content from publishers and libraries but as we migrate into a digital world other media groups may see more synergy with their content and some new acquisitions start to happen.

Childrens' Second Life?

When we think of children’s entertainment with think books, games, TV, toys, films etc. We often automatically think of the format before we think of the content itself. Is Peter Pan a book, game, film, cartoon, merchandise or all rolled up into one? How do children want to see their favourites, as books as films or as an ‘experience’?

We read today in the New York Times about the growing success of web sites like Club Penguin and Webkinz, were entertainment companies are building virtual worlds for children. Not only can they experience but they can participate and belong in a part online role-playing game and part social scene. These children’s versions of Second Life are proving much more popular and Debra Aho Williamson, an analyst at the research firm eMarketer, estimates that 20 million children will be members of a virtual world by 2011, up from 8.2 million today.

More than six million unique visitors logged on to Webkinz in November, up 342% from November 2006. Disney last month introduced a “Pirates of the Caribbean” world aimed at children 10 and older, and it has many themed worlds on the way. Nickelodeon, has the successful Neopets and is spending $100 million to develop a string of worlds. Coming soon are Looney Tunes, Hanna-Barbera and worlds based on D. C. comics properties from Warner Brothers. Not to be left out toy manufacturers Lego and Mattel are entering the market along with many technology companies. There are now over 10 virtual worlds that involve caring for virtual pets.

Disney’s largest online world is Club Penguin, which it bought in August for $700 million and at the time it already had 700,000 members paying fees of $5.95 a month and delivering annual revenue of almost $50 million.

The interesting question all this activity throws up is what comes first? In olden days the books created the story that moved onto the film and then spun out to the merchandise but does this still hold firm? Will we see the virtual world coming first? What will be the impact on the development of new content and the trading of rights? Many questions will be answered by the money. We will always have books that go on to be successful films but will we have ‘worlds’ that go on to sell books?

Saturday, December 29, 2007

RIAA Play King Canute

The record industry stands like King Canute commanding consumers not to copy and share music and like Canute it appears doomed to fail. It has filed over 20,000 lawsuits against music fans but has utterly failed to halt the decline of the record album or the rise of digital music sharing. The tide has truly swung.

The Recording Industry Association of America, continue to spew out letters to college students and others demanding payment and threatening a legal battle but has it finally lost the plot and gone a step too far?

Jeffrey Howell, from Scottsdale Arizona refused to pay up and took the case to court. Howell, kept a collection of about 2,000 music recordings on his personal computer, something that many of us do. The industry now maintains that it is illegal for someone who has legally purchased a CD to transfer that music into his computer. It beggars belief that the RIAA want to pick a fight with almost all its public. It agues that the MP3 files Howell made on his computer from legally bought CDs are "unauthorized copies" of copyrighted recordings.

The Washington Post reports that the RIAA web site says: "If you make unauthorized copies of copyrighted music recordings, you're stealing. You're breaking the law and you could be held legally liable for thousands of dollars in damages."

In a Los Angeles Times poll, 69% of teenagers surveyed said they thought it was legal to copy a CD they own and give it to a friend. The RIAA cites a study that found that more than half of current college students download music and movies illegally.

The Washington Post put it succinctly in saying, ‘The RIAA's legal crusade against its customers is a classic example of an old media company clinging to a business model that has collapsed.’
The RIAA has created a market of customers who specifically now look to buy independent goods so as not to deal with the big record companies. There are salient lessons here for all intermediaries.

Nescape RIP

Today brings more news that demonstrates that no one can assume the right to exist in the digital world forever. Netscape Navigator, the world’s first commercial Web browser will no longer be developed and effectively die in February after a 13-year run.

Netscape once competed handsomely with Microsoft Explorer but could not compete when Explorer was bundled into the ‘package’. Netscape has since seen the emergence of its open-source cousin, Firefox and now other browsers such as Safari. Where Firefox now commands around 10% of the browser market Explorer dominates.

Some may argue that Microsoft’s dominance was bad and unhealthy but others would say it was good for development in that software only needed to be built to work on Explorer and often trying to port it to other browsers and maintain backward compatibility was a pain if not always possible. The new challenge lies in the mobile world and whether browsers such as Safari can become the de facto standard

People will still be able to download and use the Netscape browser indefinitely, but AOL who paid $10 billion for the product will stop releasing security and other updates on 1st February.

Even the Mighty Wal-Mart Can Get it Wrong

Wal-Mart has withdrawn its online video download service which it pioneered with Hewlett Packard only a year ago. Wal-Mart was the first major retailer to partner with all of the major Hollywood movie studios and TV networks to offer downloads the same day titles were released on DVD. The service was launched in February and was hailed by media industry experts as a "game changer" that could introduce millions of DVD buyers to the practice of downloading.
Videos purchased on can be played using the Microsoft Windows Media Player or the Wal-Mart Video Download Manager, but cannot be transferred to a computer other than the one used to download them. Wal-Mart will continue offering physical DVDs for sale at its stores and online

HP spokesman Hector Marinez said the company decided to discontinue its video download-only merchant store services because the market for paid video downloads did not perform "as expected."

The Internet video business remains uncertain and is changing rapidly and this move shows that even the big players can get their digital moves wrong. Who would expect Wal-Mart, HP and the major studios to get it wrong? However, we must also look to the digital success stories and ask if we expected them to get it right? What is clear is that there are many experimental services right across the digital arena and predicting success is often down to making money or as Amazon proved sustainable cash flow.

Today we look back at some of the services that didn’t make it, wrong technology, wrong business model or just wrong time.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Talking eBooks

Talking books are one thing but talking ebooks?

Iranian inventor Ramin Sedighi has demonstrated a prototype of his talking ebook , which is designed for education. The system translates and explains out loud texts and words the moment its electronic stylus touches its screen. It also "explains" pictures, although press reports doesn't "explain" whether it does image recognition or whether the books need to be specially formatted.

The device could provide a very effective method for teaching subjects such as foreign languages and will be available in early 2008. It contains a USB port, audio output, electronic pen, 512 megabyte memory for storing 15 books and a SD card which can store 60 books as its flash memory. It works with electricity or battery, is as big as a 13-inch laptop and is light enough to be portable.

The question is whether the western world is ready for a new technology from Iran?

US Consumers are Becoming 'Broadcasters'

New consumer statistics from a Deloitte & Touche new-media survey of 2,081 Americans, conducted October present some very interesting insights to the US market and consumers.

  • 38% are watching TV shows online with 20% viewing video content on their cell phones daily or almost daily.

  • 36% use their cell phones as entertainment devices (only 8 months earlier the same survey only found 24%, an increase of 50%)

  • 45% are creating online content like Web sites, music, videos and blogs with 32% considering themselves to be "broadcasters" of their own media.

  • 62% of consumers aged between 13 and 24 and 47% aged between 25 and 41 are using their cell phones as entertainment devices, (up from 46% and 29% respectively).

  • 54% socialize via social networking sites, chat rooms or message boards, and 45% maintain a profile on a social networking site.

Interestingly for advertisers, 85% still find TV advertising to have the most impact on their buying habits, with online ads second best, with 65% and magazines at 63%. Clearly the adveryising power of the Internet is coming of age.

Samsung Flat TV Update

Samsung has announced it has developed a 31-inch ultra-thin organic screen, raising the stakes in an worldwide race for organic displays. Active-matrix organic light-emitting diode (AM-OLED) is seen as a growth driver because they produce brighter images and use less power. The displays are only 4.3 mm thick, or one-tenth of a typical liquid crystal display panel, and consume less than half the electricity needed for a 32-inch LCD screen, making them attractive to the green movement.

Samsung SDI is also planning to mass-produce 14-inch screens in 2008.

The interesting thing is that as the quality of screens improves and they shrink in size then the potential for reading becomes greater. The screen is where the digital rubber hits the road and will determine whether consumers adopt them for reading or keep them for just for entertainment.

The World is Definately Flat!

Sony will stop making rear-projection televisions and focus on liquid crystal display (LCD) and organic light-emitting diode (OLED) technology in the flat-TV market. This follows similar moves by Seiko Epson Corp and Hitachi.

Demand for rear-projection TVs, which were once dominant in the large-sized flat-TV market, has been dropped as consumers switch to the flat screens and cleaner design living. Sony expects to sell more than 10 times as many LCD TVs: 10 million LCD TVs this fiscal year through March, up from 6.3 million the previous year.

Manufacturers are all working on LCD technology for TVs, as well as another technology called Plasma Display Panels, or PDP. Earlier this month, Sony began selling a small 11 inch TV that uses a relatively new but expensive flat-panel technology called OLED which we wrote about earlier this year. Sony's XEL-1 measures just 3 millimeters, or 0.12 inches, thick and delivers clear vivid images.

However the market is very competitive with many collaborative deals similar to the one where Sharp provide Toshiba with all their LCD screens. What is clear is that Flat is the only way forward today and the race is on for both the large and small screen market.

Warner Rolls over to DRM Free

Until now Warner has been resisting selling music downloads in MP3 format without DRM. However this week they relented and signed a deal with Amazon. This raises the number MP3 files available for download via Amazon to close on 3 million songs. Major music labels Universal, EMI and thousands of independent labels had already signed large portions of their catalogues to Amazon. Only Sony remains in the DRM camp and the odds are they will roll over very soon.

Interestingly the recording industry had argued that DRM itself is not what makes some songs incompatible with some digital players, but the fact that there are different versions of DRM in use. The fact that Apple DRM was proprietary and not licensed to others was a major area of concern.

Amazon only sells MP3s, rather than a mix of protected and unprotected music on offer at stores such as iTunes and Zune.

What does all this tell the book industry?
· Multiple, complex and proprietary DRM doesn’t work and is not acceptable to the consumer.
· The major houses dictate the rules and never work as one so.
· The Audible model on audiobooks is not sustainable and is counter productive to the industry.

The industry needs to quickly establish the middle ground on formats and service before others dictate it to them. However this has been the challenge for the last few years and the reality is this consensus is difficult in an industry that is so fragmented and poor at collaboration.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Reviewing Our Predictions For 2007

At this time of year every paper is looking both back over the last 12 months and forward over the next. Predictions are made and quickly forgotten so what did we envisage for 2007 and how accurate were our predictions?

We got some wrong:

· Macmillan’s audio MP3 player. Made less of a noise and more of a whimper and certainly didn’t create any momentum. Wrong
· 508 compliance. Still an issue too far for many and has still to have the impact the US government seek. Wrong
· New technology, in the form of OLED screens, or the Hearst reader. The screen technology has still to make its impact. Wrong

We got some right:
· The announcement and initial roll out of a new distribution environment and services to support digital content within the existing channel. Gardners Digital Services announced and starting to move forward. Right
· The start of real POD services based not on short print runs but distributed printing at affordable prices. POD still moving at pace and people now looking to distribute to print rather than print and distribute. Foyles looked at the Espresso machine. Right
· Richer and richer bibliographic services and the need for every publisher to engage in its provision, even if they don’t sell digital content. Spot on and the world went widget mad.
· Increased importance of Internet sales, emarketing and community engagement and participation. The Internet is clearly here and becoming pervasive in all markets. For the bookstores it is now a must do. Right
· Omnivore fears will stoke more publishers to join their ranks but major publishers will continue to build their repositories and control their digital assets. Right fear and uncertainty made the biggest critics spread their bets and the libraries queue got even longer.

And some are hard to measure:
· Booksellers will increasingly sell old, used, new and digital side by side. Not yet but certainly coming

So we must now compile our list for 2008...

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Another Giant Technology Step Forward

Intel last week announced a tiny drive called Z-P140 that could help bring the power of desktop computers to handheld devices.

The flash-memory-based hard drive, is bout the size of a thumbnail and weighs than ‘a drop of water’. It is one of the smallest on the market competing with similar chips from Samsung, which store data in gadgets such as Apple's iPod nano and iPhone.

It currently comes in two- and four-gigabyte aversions, which are available to manufacturers for use in handheld devices. The first products featuring the new chips will be available in January. However the Intel chip has been developed with a standard electronics controller built in, making it easy and inexpensive to combine multiple chips into a single, higher-capacity hard drive of 16 gigabytes today. Only two gigabytes is required to run some operating systems, such as Linux, along with software applications and it will work well with Intel processors, which make it useful for the ultramobile-PC market.

In 1999, the flash-memory market was nonexistent, but in 2007, it amounts to $15.2 billion and is expected to continue expand at pace offering much to the technology convergence and the potential one device fits all dream. One flash criticism is with respect to memory cells, which hold the electrical charges that represent data, tend to wear out quickly. However, Intel says that the new memory cell can have data written to it and erased from it up to 100,000 times and therefore no single cell gets overused.

Hymns on line

The US Christian publishing market is significant in its size and has long been innovative with developments such as its own TV channels. The major dominions all have large publishing interests and these are complimented by major houses such as Zondervan. For many years the sector has been one of the most switched on publishing sectors in the US. We remember the Sunday Baptists, some ten years ago, offering a subscription service to sermons on demand which printed locally each week at the church. In our blog on October 23rd we wrote about Godtube and its video service Godcaster.

We have long said that religion, like travel, is a natural early digital publishing opportunity. It is often consumed in chunks, is multi dimensional and multi format and as proven by its oldest and bestselling title - will always sell to a loyal audience.

HarperCollins UK has announced the launch its online hymn offer which features some 1,800 songs. Through its website,, users will be able to search by the song number from the hymnbook, composer name or title, compile play lists and share these with friends, print lyrics, download sheet music and listen to a simple version of the song online.
The website will go live on 14th January and will feature three bestselling hymn-books; Mission Praise, Junior Praise and Carol Praise and also has a chart of the top ten most popular songs. Subscription can be as an individual or as a group and is currently discounted.

Somehow I still cherish the sight of a congregation fumbling through a well worn hymn book as they rise to their feet to sing and the odd noise of a book being dropped onto a stone floor. Pre printed sheets will not be the same, nor will the rolling autoque, or video screen, but you can never rule anything out tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A Year in Digital Music is a Long Time

When iTunes started to dominate the music download market it looked a forgone conclusion that their position would be sustainable and that combined with the iPod the market was sorted. A year is a long time in this digital age and now many are starting to question iTunes position with some very interesting new services which do not replicate but shift the business model in different directions. What was its strengths – the combined channel and player, plus defined price point, may yet prove its weakness.

First we had the pretenders to the iTunes crown- Sony’s Connect, MTV's Rhapsody America and Microsoft’s ‘me too’ Zune service. Interestingly these are all suffering and irrespective of their high profile backers are not matching their expectation. Perhaps merely copying a good idea is not the key?

One of the biggest shifts came from the artists who started to take control and redefine their own value chain. Prince exploded into the Mail on Sunday with Planet Earth and introduced both a new channel and new model ‘free with paper’. Radiohead told the record companies where to go, released themselves and started with an honesty box price approach. McCartney and Mitchell went to Starbucks and sold well through a new label plus retail format. Madonna bought herself out of her record company for £50 million and aligned herself with her merchandising and tour values and is now rumoured to be soon followed by Robbie Williams leaving EMI. Who would be a record company today?

Then came the rights management-free MP3s from EMI Music, Universal Music Group and a handful of independent labels. After years of fighting Napster, Kazza, and even the public, the music industry finally realised that perhaps restrictive DRM was not the answer. Something many consumers could have told them years ago and the record companies then lurched from DRM to non DRM in a heartbeat. Amazon stepped up offering DRM free, Jobs claimed it was his idea all along and the likes of Amazon jumped from nowhere to the third largest download retailer behind iTunes and emusic. It interesting to note that Amazon’s entry and achievement is without Sony BMG and Warner Music Group catalogues -who still weirdly, think that they control the music business.

Then there was the ad supported business model and the service we have written much of and admired from its concept – Spiralfrog. After much delay it finally launched in the US with all major labels and many independents onboard. The question is whether it took too long and in fact lost its own momentum? Others have now jumped on the same bandwagon and its questionable whether that delayed launch is going to be a wait too long? Slacker has jumped in and stolen much ground not only moving fast but starting its free, ad-supported customizable online radio service and following this with a portable device that uses Wi-Fi to update channels, and a subscription service tier that offers users more functionality for a monthly fee.
Now we have the likes of Nokia launching a free download model based on restricted models and service subscriptions. They certainly have the market clout and pressence and will give the iPhone and interesting race. The question in this area is where the mobile carriers or the mobile makers will prevail?

The latest service to turn our heads is IMEEM. They started effectively on one side of the fence by letting users stream free music, then when the record labels initiated legal action against the service, Imeem implemented filtering technology and an advertising system from Snocap to reward the companies every time a user played one of its songs. Interestingly it is a music centric experience and offers a different social interaction that others don’t. Will it succeed? We think so but there again the New Year beckons and 2008 is likely to see as much change as did 2007.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Palm RIP?

Remember Palm that handheld manufacturer and one of the first to offer an ebook reader?

Palm, which has a worldwide staff of 1,150 has announced that it is lay off around 10% of its staff. Palm has struggled against stiffening competition on all front over the past year. Palm warned last week that it now expects to post a second-quarter loss and revenue is expected to some $20million below expectations.

Interesting, one has to look hard to find even a mention of an ebook reading capability and they obviously aren’t going to be a big player in the ebook world which shows the fickleness of the market.

The Joys of Price Fixed Markets

Amazon has been ordered to end free delivery on books in France.

It has taken three years but the French Booksellers' Union (Syndicat de la librairie française), has finally got their way and Amazon now has to start charging for the delivery of books and pay compensation to retailers. The reason is that the courts in France ruled that it unfair trading practice..

Retail prices, particularly of books, are tightly regulated in France where selling products below cost to attract customers, is illegal. Books retailers must also not offer discounts greater than 5 percent on the publisher's recommended price. The free delivery offered by Amazon exceeded the legal limit in the case of cheaper books.

This victory follows that earlier this year against, an online bookseller with operations in France, Spain and the U.K.

As always, we wonder how this is going to work out in the global digital world? It is understandable when one looks at the discounting mess the UK finds itself in today to pine for the return to fixed prices. We are were we are and there are only two winners; those who set the prices and those who buy at discount. The loosers are the creators who get poor reward for selling more units and the retailers who live in a reactive environment they can't control.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Penny Fiction

An interesting article from Associated press tells how ebooks are being sold and used to support gamers. The important point was made that these are used as reference aids to help the people play the games but also that some of the material is short, as few as five pages, and commensurately low priced, at $1 or $2. They have broken out of the physical rules and adopted an open PDF approach caring less about piracy and more about accessibility. Even their larger ‘books’ are priced cheaply and they recognise it is perfect for electronic distribution."The more we treat a PDF like a book, the less likely people are to get it," Gareth-Michael Skarka, of Adamant Entertainment said. "You price it low enough that the consumer thinks of it as disposable."

Toronto-based Harlequin Enterprises Ltd. publishes 120 to 140 romantic novels per month, all of which are also sold in the US as e-books. Although these sales only represent a fraction of their sales they are starting to see traction and have started selling short stories exclusively as e-books, pricing these at 89 cents.

The point may be that we have to rethink the book just as the K novel has been re thought in Japan. Maybe someone should step up to the Dickens serial model. After all that is what Jobs did to music by moving from the CD to the track.

Maybe we have to stop linking the price to the physical book after all it makes no sense for it to be linked to the hardback and then be linked to the paperback when that comes out. After all it’s the same product!

Is Google in taking us up into the Clouds?

Imagine a world where you don’t need to worry about data. Where your files are only accessible by you, from anywhere around the world, on any device you wish to use. One immediately starts to worry about security, accessibility, backup, but are these real issues or are they a reflection of how we thought yesterday, when we have to own physical things ourselves in order that they we ‘safe’?

We are all familiar with the concept of servers that store data and effectively make this happen within a localised environment such as a company or service and the migration of applications onto these same servers making the demands on the client machine smaller. Cloud Computing just takes this a step, or leap, further.

To know how you'll be using computers and the Internet in the coming years, consider the typical Google employee his software and data--from pictures and videos, to presentations and e-mails all reside on the Web. They are already starting to practices what is considered by many technology experts to be ‘cloud computing’. Google already lets people port some of their personal data to the Internet and use its Web-based software. Google Calendar organizes events, Picasa stores pictures, YouTube holds videos, Gmail stores e-mails, and Google Docs houses documents, spreadsheets, and presentations.

It is widely expected that Google will launch a service next year that will let people store the contents of entire hard drives online. Industry watchers believe that Google will pull together its disparate cloud-computing offerings under a larger umbrella service. But they are not alone, Amazon's Simple Storage Service, offers unlimited and inexpensive online storage, AOL’s Xdrive services offer a capacity of 50 gigabytes and Microsoft’s SkyDrive, is currently in beta, with a one-gigabyte free storage limit.

Yahoo, Microsoft, and Apple are all sitting atop huge volumes of people's personal information and a number of online applications, but these need to be integrated. Many now believe Google has the culture to push the boundaries and tie together the pieces of cloud computing to make it happen.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

New Copyright Rules for All?

We read with interest the lengthy report on the recent European publishers and copyright debate under the European Information Society Commissioner Viviane Reding. She is introducing a package that she believes ‘…will cement copyright as the cornerstone …create the appropriate balance between ownership and access … that says that member states shall ensure that subscribers to electronic communications services or networks are clearly informed in advance of their obligations to respect copyright and related rights and of the most common acts of infringements and their legal consequences.’

She also said the European Commission will focus on how Internet search engines work and help users to critically assess online content and would ask member states for support by organising events in 2008 on ‘the exchange of good practices’. She also gave support to an open standard project called the Automated Content Access Protocol (ACAP), developed by publishers to allow them to control what is identified by Internet search engine robot “crawlers.”
What does this mean? More initiatives, more consultancy fees, more confusion and many grand words.

Then came the debate:
Cory Ondrejka, chief technology officer at online society SecondLife, told publishers that digital rights management (DRM) could be a hindrance.

Ronald Schild, CEO of German book marketer and publisher MVB, said the biggest challenge for industry is to reconcile the needs of the copyright holder with the public right to get information, and “not make the same mistake as the music industry” by using DRM. Stephanie van Duin, director of business development at Hachette Books, also said the publishing industry needs to learn from “what happened to the music industry.”

Mario Tascon, director general for content at Spain’s PrisaCom, said Internet and newspaper are two totally different media. David Hanger, president of the European Federation of Magazine Publishers and former publisher of The Economist, said readers have an irreplaceable love for magazines.

Claude Droussent, editorial director at l’Equipe, said that it will be impossible to tell readers to wait until the next day’s morning daily print version to obtain information about developments that have ended many hours earlier. He said his company’s motto is “one media, one content,”
Kees Spaan, vice president of the European Newspaper Publishers’ Associations and president of the Dutch newspaper association, said that without advertising there would be no newspaper. He harshly criticised Internet search engines like Google and Yahoo for giving away newspapers’ content without partnering with the publishers to ensure they are properly paid. But Jean-Christophe Conti, European vice-president for search marketing at Yahoo, encouraged publishers to put their content free online and to make partnerships with search engines so all can benefit from big advertisers.

So much posturing, many differences of opinion, and even more initiatives from Brussels; no change there then.

Jouralists should check their stories

We again spent time following through the links of a news article reported in The Bookseller to discover yet again the posting was noise. The article referred making Starting a Business in France by Richard Whiting, the first in a series of books to go online during the coming months.

Forget the press release and look at the site. One side is a white label store for Audible and the other is a not live, their catalogue is all about overseas property, news is more diatribe on overseas living and retirement,and on their contact page you find a link to which a US ebook and pbook store with some 600 titles in ebooks of dubious quality.

Really it takes 5 minutes to check stuff out and the Bookseller should know better.

The Cat is out of the Bag

The music business appears to be switching its business model so fast that it is in danger of really screwing itself. Imeem has now finalized a licensing deal with Universal allow it to position Universal songs and videos for free, on-demand, and interactive streaming.

Imeem has also completed licensing agreements with Warner, Sony BMG, EMI Music. Imeem is now using the catalogues to power an ad-supported business model that shares revenue percentages. Although it is a fresh revenue source for the record companies today it is not a substantial earner.

According to research group eMarketer, networking-based revenues will move from $900 million this year to over $2.5 billion in 2011.

The issue is not whether the model will work but how many will succeed and whether by introducing this the cat is effectively well and truly out the bag and never going back in. Imagine you stream all you want for free and then save the files and repackage them why would you ever buy anything again? The softweare to capture, convert and do this is here and available to today and sitting on a laptop near me. The risk is not that it succeed but that it doesn’t match expectations.

Are You LinkedIn?

So we have teenagers on Bebo and Myspace, students and young aspiring socialites on Facebook and professionals on LinkedIn. The world divides into social clubs. They are all trying new things with degrees of success or in the case of Beacon and Facebook failure. LinkedIn, which was the fastest-growing social network in October, attracting over 17 million registered users globally and about 5 million unique visitors in the US.

Now LinkedIn has opened up outside software developers, starting with BusinessWeek magazine. LinkedIn’s aim to migrate from an online contacts and referral database into an indispensable daily tool for business users. It is also participating, along with MySpace, in Google Inc's OpenSocial developer network that seeks to create a way for all developers to write software that will work on all platforms. MySpace is also a member of OpenSocial.

McGraw-Hill's BusinessWeek will link keywords, such as company names, to the LinkedIn service. Visitors to the BusinessWeek site, who place their mouse pointers over certain keywords will trigger a pop-up box detailing how many of their LinkedIn contacts are related to the company or keyword. Unlike Facebook LinkedIn win have greater control over what developers do on the service and thereby avoid it being taking over by some of the less useful and frivolous developments that have found themselves on Facebook.

The latest rumour is that LinkedIn may soon be acquired by News Corp and would make a logical sister for the recently acquired Wall Street Journal publisher Dow Jones & Co Inc this week.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Disney World 2.0

Walt Disney's Internet arm is about to launch a UK portal aimed at teenagers and showcasing its games, films, music and social networking assets. The Web site will launch on next week and follows the launch of the concept in the United States earlier this year. The Disney site, like its U.S. sister will have at its heart a feature called Disney Extreme Digital, aimed at children that allows them to customize multi-media content simultaneously while watching and sharing videos, messages, music and games.

The site has parental protection and prompts children to use Disney-proposed online chat phrases that are polite. The UK Web site will include what Disney describes as "snack-size" movie and television clips, podcasts and locally produced content alongside archived and new material.

Disney will have a mix of business models based on advertising, sponsorship ,subscriptions and transaction-based services and will have online shopping for their products.

Disney has opted not to aggregate with other s content and focus on leveraging their own brand and content. One only needs to look at the success of the Disney parks, films and width of their content to see that they have the brand pull to succeed where many others will fail to do so by themselves.

Educational Games

Doug Thomas, an associate professor at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication, is developing a game for students ages 10 to 12. He believes that games teach students to experiment and grasp ideas in ways that textbooks don’t.

"Modern Prometheus," uses the story of "Frankenstein" to teach ethical decision making, with the student being forced to make a series of choices that impact the game's outcome. The student must help the doctor cure a plague that is threatening the town. Do they steal body parts from a cemetery, a key requirement for curing the disease.

The students play the hour-long game individually, then discuss their choices with their teachers and classmates.
Thomas is also collaborating with Professor Sasha Barab, of Indiana University whose "Quest Atlantis" game is used by 4,500 students around the world.

Friday, December 07, 2007

The Internet is arriving at Terminal 1.

The cabin crew will be coming among you to hand out your complimentaary , drinks and laptop connevctions. In the event of turblance please log off.

From next week several US airlines will start to test Internet service on their planes. JetBlue Airlines will offer a free e-mail and instant messaging service on one of its planes, and in the coming months several airlines American, Virgin America and Alaska plan to offer broader Web access.

The plan is to create wireless hotspots in the sky once the plane has reached cruising height. Virgin ,who were an early pioneer of in flight entertainment, plans to link the technology to its seat-back entertainment system, enabling passengers who are not travelling with laptops or smart phones to send messages on flights.
The question is whether the cat is out of the bag? How can you allow internet access and not VOIP services such as Skype and we are already facing the prospect of mobile calls. Imagine a long haul flight next to a chatterbox. However it looks as though the initial speed will be equivalent to dial up so will restrict many broadband services.

Will they or won’t they charge? A nominal sum of $10 looks on the cards but at a charge so low why not give it away?

Internet access offers everyone an opportunity to sell or connect to a consumer who is strapped into a seat and really is a captive audience. The opportunities for publishers and retailers is significant and the hand baggage check in queue will grow as everyone brings on board their laptops, Blackberrys, PDAs, mobiles, iPods etcs.

News , Noise and Old News

Its weird that you see something in the press and wonder where you first read it and then what is behind it. Today we were drawn to an article stating that reading on iPods may soon get a lot easier. You may have seen the article but if not it came from the Hindusania Times which immediately caught our interest as it wasn’t usual source for such stories. The article linked to the Asian News International article which was identical word for word and published 3rd August, 2007. Both articles referred to a Daily Mail Article that was far more detailed and published on the 3rd August, 2007.

There’s obviously no news like old news.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

How do we reward the songwriters?

Music continues to loose its way and it looks more and more likely it will go DRM free and be free to consume on an ad paid model. 7digital the London based download store has dropped the price of its 3 million catalogue of MP3 tracks to 50p which way below iTunes 79p. Can you remember the original iTunes price point and do you care? Prices are tumbling, DRM is loosing ground and the record companies are all scrambling to do any deal that generates any money.

It raises the question of royalties and how the creators and performers get paid. The Songwriters Association of Canada (SAC) is proposing to charge Canadian internet and wireless users $5 per month to compensate musicians for revenue losses due to illegal file-sharing. They also propose the radical step of making the sharing of music on peer-to-peer networks legal. So its like a web licence fee you pay irrespective of whether you consume, or don’t, or even if you already pay a service such as iTunes. What next? Lets have a tax on connecting to the web or an extra levy on MP3 devices including PCs. Taxation models don’t work as they create administration which adds a cost and in turn dilutes net revenues and that is without proportioning out the spoils.

Let wake up and smell the coffee, music is changing both its business model and how it is being delivered. Let’s ensure the artists and writers are correctly rewarded through the revenues raised and not sold short by clueless record companies who lurch from one mind-boggling deal to another.

What does this mean to books? Not a lot today but it shows what can happen when the kids take control of the chocolate factory.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Nokia Want the Music Consumer

Nokia plans to offer unlimited music downloads. The world's biggest mobile manufacturer has announced a deal with Universal that will effectively give customers with certain phones unlimited access to millions of tracks for a year and allow them to keep the music afterwards. The other major labels are in discussions to follow Universal.

So will this latest lurch by the record companies challenge the previous pay-per-track sales model? What will be the impact in the relationships between the carriers and phone manufacturers? Who will own the consumer, Nokia, the carrier, the record label, the advertisers or the artist?

So it ends up free illegal downloads and sharing versus relatively free legal downloads. The consumer certainly is the winner here, but what about the artist, the writerand the cost of development?

Research firm Understanding & Solutions estimates that mobile music is around 13% of global music retail value and that the mobile music market should grow to $11 billion by 2011.

Nokia's new venture is due to start in the second half of 2008 and no doubt the game will have change again by then but what is clear is that Nokia have taken the music market and flipped it upside down. They are positioning themselves for a fight with Apple and the mobile carriers and record companies are mere pawns in this may muddy the waters but to-date, unlike the Nokia-Universal offer, customers cannot burn their music or transfer it onto a PC, meaning it is lost after the contract expires. They can only share music with other MusicStation customers while their contracts are current.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Is Facebook Fatally Wounded?

Imagine you put all your details into Facebook and were one of the millions who backed the social site over the others. Just like Gordon Brown the days are getting longer the news worse and the whole world seems to be unravelling in front of Zuckerberg’s eyes. The speed of decay within a fickle market who are always expecting something better is in the wings, is alarming.

For a social media company, they failed to understand the first thing about communication; through their arrogance they have alienated the press. The bad press extends from the blogosphere to mainstream media and bad press is causing advertisers to vote with their feet and jump ship. It didn’t have a safe adult at the helm offering experience guile and stewardship and appears to be operating its way out of its mess like a child in a chocolate factory.

In weeks Facebook has turned all the people who supported it into a mob begging for blood. It’s gone from media darling to devil, from the place to be the place not to be. It is fast becoming the Northern Rock of the social networks but doesn’t appear to have a ‘white knight’ in the wings.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Spam and Facebook

The two areas we hear most about with respect to the Internet are spam/junk email and social networking sites. To some the later is a godsend to others they are both pains.

One of the major social sites - Facebook believed that they can walk on water got their advertising concept Beacon wrong and misunderstanding the market and and worst of all their users. They presumed users would not object to their details being shared on purchases made on partner websites to Facebook friends via News Feeds. The backlash caused the social networking destination to quickly respond, "Users must click on 'OK' in a new initial notification on their Facebook home page before the first Beacon story is published to their friends from each participating site."

London Online 2007 claims that nearly 400 people have already joined the Facebook group for the show and requested visitors to join and start making connections in advance of the conference? We found the group just above ‘Vote Crystal Sexy Lady Contest 2007’ with 260 members and below ‘Get "Lady In Red" by Chris De Burgh to Number 1 in the UK in 2007 Campaign!’ with 700 members. Glancing through the profiles of the 435 people in the group we found only 3 people we knew. Maybe we don’t know many people or maybe the people we know haven’t go the ‘me too’ bug.

The dreaded junk mail maybe closer to being dealt a blow.

Mr. Kirsh was an M.I.T.-trained engineer, who has a strong track record of technology innovation which has made him a fortune of over $240 million. He has now created Abaca who claim that they can filter out 99 percent of all spam, and supports the claim with a money-back guarantee.

Abaca turn the normal spam blocking approach on its head, profiling the recipient of e-mail rather than the sender. Abaca, recognize that the ratio of spam to legitimate e-mail is individually unique and that it is also a singular identifier that a spammer cannot manipulate easily. By assessing the combined reputations of the recipients of any individual message, the Abaca system determines the “spaminess” of a particular message. Mr. Kirsch asserts this provides a high degree of accuracy in deciding whether the message is spam.

DRM in Music Fast Becoming Fatally Wounded

What makes a tipping point and makes a nice to have a must have, a nice design a design icon and good seller into a market leader?
Pepsi and Amazon are planning a yearlong download promotion which ios forcing Warner and Sony to consider distributing music in the MP3 format, and move on from the now unfashionable digital rights management technology. News of the Pepsi promotion, expected to be announced during the Super Bowl in February, coincides with Wal-Mart's ultimatum that major labels supply with their music in MP3.

EMI and Universal Music Group began their move earlier this year. Disney's has joined the list of labels testing MP3 at Amazon and EMI began selling its music in MP3 format in June. WMG and Sony BMG Music Entertainment both have remained in support of using digital rights management for music downloads. But times change and the writing appears to be on the wall with sources saying Sony BMG is considering an MP3 test.

The impact of the move will be fatal to those who believe that DRM is the way forward. The tipping point will occur and we will all embrace MP3. As with Betamax and VHS the battle is not won by technology, but by those who create that special thing that turns the market. Once a tipping point is achieved there is no going back. The impact on audiobooks is inevitable and even those who lost their nerve in Penguin recently will have to reconsider their position quickly.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Reading Habits Protected in US

What did you buy last week or the week before? What books have you bought from Amazon?

We read about US Federal prosecutors withdrawing a subpoena asking for the identities of thousands of people who bought used books through online retailer The withdrawal came after a judge ruled the customers have a First Amendment right to keep their reading habits from the government.

Federal prosecutors issued the subpoena last year as part of a grand jury investigation into prolific seller of used books on Robert D'Angelo, was indicted last month on fraud, money laundering and tax evasion charges. It was claimed that he ran a used book business out of his city office and did not report the income. D'Angelo sold books through the Amazon Marketplace and the prosecutors were looking for buyers who could be witnesses in the case.

The initial subpoena sought records of 24,000 transactions dating back to 1999. Prosecutors later narrowed the subpoena, asking for a sample of 120 customers. A compromise involving sending a letter to the 24,000 customers describing the investigation and asking then to volunteer was then suggested. Finally they found the information on his PC.

The lessons are that Amazon does protect data even when under legal threat to expose it and often those searching will go to what they see as the easiest route before looking under their very noses. It’s a good job they weren’t in the UK they would have probably lost the information to a man on route..

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Open is the New Word

The European Union continues to push towards wider open access publishing, but a move provoking concern among publishers. According to EU statistics, member states account for 43% of the world’s scientific research and the Council of the EU last week invited member states to support various open access options including delayed open access journals and research into how scientific information is accessed.

If we look at the Open University Open Learn programme we get some idea of the potential offer. The impact is not just research but potentially across all learning.The logic is that if the research has already been funded with public money then it should be freely available to all. Publishers are concerned that it could led to the drive to an unfunded mandate with delayed open access, where publishers only have a limited period they can charge for access to journals, after which the articles become completely open access.

Publishing in these areas is about authority, validation and quality the trick is to be seen to adding value. Open Access cuts straight across this and is not just about selling into the institutions but where the material goes from there.

TV ON Demand

The major UK broadcasters, BBC, ITV and Channel 4 are to are join forces to launch a joint on-demand service in 2008. The service will compete with new services such as Joost and will offer viewers access to over thousands of hours of current shows and archive material. The Internet based service may have several options streaming, download, rental and purchase and even possible expansion for distribution to other platforms. The broadcasters already have online platforms, 4OD, and the BBC's iPlayer.

It is clear that TV is changing and watch what you want when you want is becoming the new paridim and real time viewing less demanding. This could offer the potential for others to compete for those ‘entertainment’ hours or alternatively present the viewer with content overload.

Adobe and Yahoo Plan Trojan Horses

The one last corner of the online world that had yet to be filled with banner advertising has finally succumbed.
Trojan Horses are all over the web. You open a page and up pops a advert, you turn to another and a banner ad scrolls across the top, you enter a search and the results ae presented in Google and are often little more than ads. Now comes the news of a new Trojan Horse from Adobe. They have worked out how to allow adverts to appear down the sides of PDF documents.

The impact could be significant and could have a negative as well as a positive impact on PDF use. After all it was the one document you thought you could trust be what it said it was.

Yahoo will scan a PDF document for keywords and then place a banner advert based on those keywords. The adverts would not appear on PDF documents that were printed out, but could be programmed to appear differently each time the file was opened.Yahoo and Adobe will share revenue from the adverts with the publisher of the document.
Book and magazine companies who extensively use the PDF format could be among the heaviest users of the new service and Elsevier and Pearson, are among the first testing the service. The PDF ad model could also provide the mechanism to offer free ebooks paid for by advertising. How this will stack against authors moral rights remains to be seen and may present much litigation.

The advertising world is moving ever closer and how the book trade will respond is going to be interesting to watch.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Broadband Can Get 200 Times Faster

The barriers to high bandwidth start to tumble with the announcement that a PhD student in Melbourne has developed technology to increase broadband internet speeds up to 200 without having to install expensive fibre optic cables. The technology can deliver internet speeds up to 250 megabits per second, compared with current typical speeds of between one and 20 megabits per second.

Dr John Papandriopoulos, who has patent applications for the technology being processed in the US and Australia, won one of Melbourne University's top academic prizes yesterday, a Chancellor's Prize for Excellence in the PhD. He states that interference similar to the old cross-talking interference impedes the broadband services. He solution uses mathematic modelling to reduce the interference that slows down downloading.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

EInk to go Colour

The current e-readers such as Sony and the Kindle are not unlike the initial print on demand services - only available in black. However E-paper pioneer EInk -the company whose technology underpins them and others is now prototyping electronic ink that is bright enough to support filters for vivid colour displays, and that have a fast-enough refresh rate to render video. This could offer a significant boost to the current one dimensional pretenders.

It all sounds so simple, ‘The basic technology uses a layer of microcapsules filled with flecks of sub micrometer black and white pigment chips in a clear liquid. The white chips can be positively charged, the black chips negatively charged. Above this layer is a transparent electrode; at the base is another electrode. A positive charge on the bottom electrode pushes the white chips to the surface, making the screen white. A negative charge pushes the black chips up, rendering words and images.’

E Ink has been refining the total mix; the ingredients, the electronics, and the mechanics of that process. By achieving a higher level of brightness E Ink can use transparent red, green, or blue filters affixed above the picture elements and render colour. In addition E Ink have found s ways to improve the speed at which the particles can move. The results is a e-reader that can display vivid colour images and another a video clip from the animation movie ‘Cars’.

E Ink is working with display manufacturers to develop flexible bendable and even rollable displays.So the future looks very different to today and the change looks as potentially as dramatic as that between the original mobile phone bricks and today’s iPhone.

Open US Mobile Market

The biggest disappointments this year was not that England didn’t make the soccer European Finals or that they didn’t win the rugby World Cup, it was that Apple decided to launch the iPhone in the US with ATandT and in the UK with O2. Many were put off by the hassle of changing networks, or having to find a man who could make it happen but in spite of this the launch was a huge success and set the design bar for all to follow.

It appears that Apple wanted to break the carriers’ stranglehold on handsets, so that Apple could sell iPhones on any network. Verizon has now announced that next year it would be allowing any phone and any application on any phone, to be used on its network. This legitimately will start to open up iPhones to all.

The question now is whether Apple is already on a solution so the phone will work seamlessly on the different Verizon CDMA network. A mere five months after the launch of the iPhone changes are happening and those subsidised handsets are looking increasingly venerable and the US market starting to resemble those in Europe and Asia, where a carrier’s customers can use any compatible phone and take their phones with them when they switch companies.

Next we must watch Google both in terms of the open software it aims to push at the market and of course its own gPhone. If Verizon’s effort is successful, then content creators, software developers and device makers, who have been restricted under the control of the wireless companies, will have fresh opportunities.

Glass Half Empty or Full?

On the back of the announcement from Picador the press vultures are now signalling the death of the hardback.

There are three issues; use, price and content.

The use is simple. Hardbacks are more tactile, easier to lay flat and read and more robust. Libraries require a robust product that can be lent to many and that will continue to look good and survive the handling. The collector wants books that look good after reading and don’t have creased spines. But currently it may be at a price to high for many to differentiate the benefit between the hardback and the paperback. Prices have often risen to accommodate the current discount-mania but leave the hardback out priced. When you look at the likes of Folio Society you see different packaging and targeting of a collector proposition. So why does the hardback often even the same artwork? It’s hardly a collector item or differentiated consumer proposition.

The hardback has for a long time been a great trick. You simply wrap the same content in a hard wrapper and charge twice as much for the privilege. Yes they look nicer, they are more robust and less prone to damage but let’s be real it’s exactly the same content!

The digital issue is in effect exploding the spine and releasing content from the physical cover that was in effect a ’straight jacket’. Even the music business, with its track record of disasters, recognised how to play this game. You now find various different packaging of the music but with different supporting materials. They understand that the collector wants a different package to the regular buyer and are willing to pay for it. There is a whole host of new collector packages hitting the market that will sell and sell at a premium. The video market has long used the ‘out-takes’ that used to go in the bin to enhance the DVD over other channels.

In an age where digital and physical bundles can exists and where there is such a wealth of additional material to support and enhance the offer why on earth do we believe that two pieces of card will continue do the trick? Worse still why do we believe that the issue is so hard to think about its easier to just stop doing it?
The wealth of marketing materials are exploding. We have author podcasts, book video promotions, search inside, etc why do we have to drop hardbacks ‘because they don’t work’?

Hello, why not take the glass half full approach and fill it to the brim?

Friday, November 23, 2007

Is 'Free to Consumer' the New Model?

Free is becoming a new business model that is causing many established players in many media sectors to rethink life.

The music sector certainly is starting to adopt the free, ‘advertising paid’ model with producers such as EMI and Universal licensing their total catalogues out to the likes of Spiral Frog and others. They didn’t have lots of choice being outmaneuvered on all fronts by both pirates, and consumers.

The newsprint world has long had the ‘free local rag’ but these are now seriously growing in terms of circulation and ad revenues. The Metro is generating in excess of £8m profit a year and it is claimed by its MD that it will overtake the circulation of the Daily Mirror within 12 to 18 months. We only have to see the litter on the underground to believe that claim. By increasing its distribution it copies circulated rose to just under 1.4 million in October, an increase over the previous month of 10.6%. In contrast, the Daily Mirror, Britain's third biggest-selling daily, sold an average of 1,525,477 copies a day in October, a fall of 4.68% year on year.

We have recently seen the wall Street Journal declare the end of its highly successful online subscription model. It is hard to envisage the subscription online model surviving.

Then we have Joost and the free over internet TV. We highly recommend you download the beta an experience the next TV generation on the Internet it is very impressive even if the content today is limited. It is free and brought to you by those smart guys who invented Kazza and Skype, so they probably know a thing or two.

In China we have written about BookGG and their free ad paid books. It may not work in the West, especially with moral rights but is an example of the ‘free to consumer’ model.

So what will happen moving forward? What is certain is the business models are changing and the only thing that is certain paying for digital content by traditional models is under threat.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Mixed Music Messages - But What's New

According to the UK industry trade association, the BPI, and the Official Charts Company the 150 millionth download was sold last week. This figure has been achieved over the last three years. So are things picking up for the industry are retailers happy at a time when pre-Christmas sales make up 40% of its revenues?

The digital sales actually amount to an average of less than one 79p per download per head of population per year. Recorded music companies have seen the slide in CD sales not being offset by growth in digital music.

So what is the answer and does one exist? Some blame DRM (Digital Rights Management) for the slow take-up of legal digital services and now more companies are starting to experiment with the DRM-free MP3 format. This charge was started in February by Apple’s Steve Jobs and has been followed by many including the major producers Universal Music, EMI who offer consumers a premium for DRM-free versions of its music on Apple’s iTunes store

At the moment, DRM is clearly seen as putting consumers off and the added confusion about formats results in driving people toward illegal downloads. BPI research this month that found consumers were almost four times as likely to choose an MP3 file as a DRM-protected track when the two were offered alongside each other.

The news from the US is no better. Even though, according to a Jupiter Research report, digital music spending is expected to grow to $3.4 billion over the next five years, and account for more than a third of U.S. consumer music purchases, it will not compensate for the anticipated lost in CD sales. They predict that the music download business will serve as an alternative, but not a replacement to CDs. JupiterResearch president David Schatsky reflects that, "One size does not fit all when it comes to acquiring music and consumer behaviour toward the variety of formats available reinforces that claim."

So even in a digital market such as music the physical product is still holding an attraction. Does this mean will still be enjoying the book for many more years than Mr Gates wildly predicted?

Does Digital = Wild West?

Ok Amazon creates an ebook reader to sell digital book and its now followed by Dymocks in Australia who have launched a website with 120,000 titles and now plan to announce in the next week a deal to line these up with a ebook reader. We understand that it’s not Sony and its obviously not Kindle and given its European, it narrows to possibilities down considerably.

So what‘s next, WHS, Waterstones, Borders, Banes and Noble?

Do we have al the usual suspects all line up against a brand and format wars?

All this posturing and competitive testosterone is not good for consumer confidence and leads to uncertainty which is the mother of all inertia. We already have debates over Adobe, Mobi, Sony, Microsoft formats, now we have battles to tie ereaders to retailers. All at a time when we are trying to create consumer confidence and a market in a content deprived vacuum.

Please we beg all retailer to think collaboration and co-operation and not short term false competitive advantage. After all we now have publishers fighting to create direct digital markets and brand and for this to spill into retail is just inviting someone to enter left field as Apple did in music.

The 40% Broadband Challenge

The Uk has established a clear divide between the connected and the unconnected this divide shows little sign of change according to information gathered by National Statistics (ONS) for September. A staggering nine out of 10 UK net users are connect via broadband services whereas only a far back as 2003 8 out of ten connected by dail-up and only 17% had broadband access.

The statistics show that almost 50% of broadband connections are for services advertised at two megabits per second or faster. So fuelling the video and high bandwidth services.

However the divide between the haves and the unconnected is a challenge with around 10 million homes with no net access and sticking. It is estimated that this is around 40% of Uk households and clearly presents a challenge to information and economic progress and opportunities.

Book Videos need to introduce Sizzle and now includes titles from, Bantam Dell, Chronicle, Hachette Book Group, MacMillan, Thomas Nelson and W.W. Norton as well as the original publisher Simon & Schuster.

Its interesting in the day of the widget to see where the video is today and how the YouTube effect is moving the opportunity forward. Other contenders such as Meet the Author and Bookwrap have been around for some time and although the former has built a healthy collection of takesthey look clunky and ‘Book TV’ish.

What is clear is that the video can promote books but that merely sitting the author in front of a camera and expecting sizzle can often lead to disappointment. Some of the meet the author videos certainly lack sizzle and look clunky. certainly puts effort into the visual experience and also shows complimentary footage and stills with background music where applicable. We certainly enjoyed the clip on Sports Illustrated: The Basketball Book. If we were basketball folk we would certainly buy it.

The new videos engage with the audience the sell the book - they introduce sizzle. They must look at movie and music promotions and recognise the need to fully use the medium. We all want to know why the author wrote what they did but lets make it exciting and less dull and BookVideo is moving in the right direction.

Where do library books go for Winter?

We wrote in October in our blog about ‘Library Dumps Books’ which referred to Wiltshire County Council, decision to send hundreds of library books to be dumped in a landfill site, ‘because it is not viable to recycle them’.

Today we read about Waltham Forest’s ‘lost’ 250,000 books which appear to have gone into the skip and buried in landfill. A Unison union representative was reported in the local Guardian paper, "I know for a fact lots of them were taken to the tip, at least two van loads. There were all sorts, but I know there were brand new books."

Apparently all the borough's non-recyclable rubbish is taken to the London Waste depot at Edmonton to be burned. And anything not already sorted for recycling is destroyed along with the rest. Nearly 75,000 books vanished during January and March this year alone.

David Brangwyn, a former librarian at Walthamstow Central Library, is quoted as saying that staff had spent weeks packing and labelling books worth thousands of pounds before the library was refurbished but no-one knew where they went. "They were perfectly good books and there was no reason to throw them away."

Its amazing that in this day where library funding is constantly under question and recycling is such a hot subject that books are thrown into the skip and buried in landfill. What also is interesting is that these sales are outside the returns and publisher’s pulping programmes. We note that what was probably common practice yesterday, is fast becoming socially unacceptable to many today. How many more libraries are following this practice?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Kindle Thoughts

So we now have the Amazon Kindle and Bezos has at last put his own personal ‘Midas touch’ behind the ebook. Does this mean we have an ‘Oprah moment’ and the kiss that turns the ugly ebook reader into a Prince and the ebook into a commodity?

The Kindle’s greatest strength is its greatest weakness. The wireless EVDO connection may appeal to the US market, but will not migrate without change to other markets. It’s like going backwards to the old SIM card days. But will the great free offer of wireless connectivity make the difference in a US market that is gradually going community wireless anyway?

So you have just bought an iPhone and now ask yourself, do I want the Kindle at an extra $399? It can’t be used as a phone, doesn’t play videos or games, or audio and is basically tethered closely to Amazon. You can read newspapers and documents but you can do that on any PDA and decent phone today. The new Amazon interface may appeal but at $399 and $9.99 a book it doesn’t stack up. It may hold 200 books but will cost you $2,400 with Amazon to get there!

It is just not sexy in its design and although better than the prototypes, it shows its 3 year germination period. It reminds us of that Michael Douglas film, where he is walking down the beach talking into a mobile phone that resembles the brick - clunky. We have all seen the convergence of technology which has forced even narrow players such as Blackberry to widen their offer. We have seen the design of the iFamily and frankly this is not even in the same park.

Those who argue that ‘if Amazon can’t make it work, no one will’ are both right and wrong. We would agrue that Bezos is not Midas and does not have divine authority he is also not a manufacturer or designer. We must also remember that Bezos is a long game man and believes in commitment to long-term plans, so his nerves are a lot more resilient in the short term than the current ebook market watchers.

What remains an issue, is content. Even with 200,000 titles the volume remains small in comparison to the printed world. Unlike music there is not easy digital tap to be turned in the book market and today we talk about ebooks in a vacuum of content. This will change, but it will be several versions of the Kindle before the volume is there.

Finally we would suggest that the Kindle is for those that bought a Sinclair 5 and those who are already are ebook evangelists and those who believe we are close to the tipping pointy.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The News from Barnsley

Today’s news will be disheartening to many booksellers and yet is a step forward to understanding tomorrow’s world. There are three items we refer to; Victoria Barnsley’s interview with the Independent, The report on Informa in The Times and the predicted announcement today of Amazon’s Kindle reader.

What these collectively tell us is that digitisation is here today and we should stop thinking inside the spine. The focus is still on the channel to market and using digital conent to promote physical books. It will change but slowly. In terms of ebooks we have yet another ‘pretender’ to the tipping point crown but a pretender the Kindle will be.

Our hat goes off to Victoria Barnsley as she clearly covered so much ground in such a small article. Unfortunately the issue that she and the article will be remembered for is that to do with direct market.

‘... one of the most exciting aspects of the brave new world of digital publishing is that it has allowed her company to become a "direct consumer business"...
In the past, publishers had to rely on persuading a bookseller to stock their product, in the hope the right reader would stumble across it. Now, internet search engines mean that people can immediately identify books on subjects that interest them...We've got to embrace the fact that we're becoming a direct consumer business. We have a website and we can have a direct dialogue with our readers. We can capture your name and ultimately sell you something. That's a complete change..’

The Brave New World report stated that direct marketing will work for some and will impact traditional channel, but that it will fail to offer rich choice and only convenience. Even the HarperCllins brand isn’t there today and even though money can buy most things in marketing, we remember the ‘fire and water’ brand campaign. If however the publishers were to form a co-operative … but the track record in cooperation and branding does not support such a thinking.

What we must remember is that the existing channel will still generate the majority of revenues and cannibalising it for a few dollars more, may seem attractive, but may long term end up to the detriment of all. The music business may be significantly different, but when they woke up they found that the high street channel and all but gone. The point is to stick to what you are good at and let others do what they are good at. This is the true discipline of market leaders.

Which brings us to Informa, who through some shrewd acquisitions and publishing programmes, have risen to be a major publishing force today. We often hear about publishers who have a couple of thousand digital titles and estimates of a couple of thousand by next year. These are small steps compared to Inform’s academic Taylor and Francis division, who have some 18,000 titles fully digitised and available not just as PDFs but in all ebook flavours today. Importantly they are now seeing significant growth and spin offs through this wise investment. We agree with the Times that they are certainly worth an investment. Interestingly although their market is better suited to direct B2C trade they make the money in the B2B channel.
Finally will Bezos announce the Kindle or not? Frankly it will raise the noise levels and consumer awareness, but we don’t see it introducing the iPod or iPhone factor.

As we wrote in our report, booksellers need to embrace and not fear the digital world and the channel should be made available to all to fully participate.

Friday, November 16, 2007 gets smart over music

Every now and again you stumble onto a web site and experience a Wow factor and forget to add it to favourites and spend ages try to find it again. Quite by accident we found’s music search site. You put in your favourite musician and the result is perfect.

The layout is simple but effective and there before you are not only search results but also videos, tour dates, lyrics, albums, tickets, wikipedia, tracks etc but look for yourself It just a pity its so hard to find!
Just think if we had a books site that was constructed on the same basis it would be very impressive and a great place to go.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Brave New World; Chapter 2

News is often binary in that it is either good, or bad. Today as we celebrate bringing you our good news - our 250th blog, last night there was also good news when we were honored to be celebrating the 75th birthday of the industry backbone and vital service National Book Tokens. Well done Stuart and team and we look forward to the announced new electronic token.

However, yesterday brought bad news too. After 32 years, Macmillan is to close the iconic Chelsea Pan Bookshop. Pan didn’t resist change and was often first to exploit it. We remember fondly their early adoption of PubEasy, Batch and the larger than life June Formby. Pan Bookshop had been acclaimed by all and duly rewarded a Nibbie.

When we started writing this blog we wondered whether there would be enough to write about and the variety and volume speaks for itself. In the last year the changes within publishing have continues at a pace. The diversity of change is also growing and the convergence of technology increasing, people are now starting to realize that Digital publishing is publishing and this can impact not just what is sold but all the relationships, processes and even the works themselves. There will still be physical books well into the future but they may not be the same as we know them today and may not exist in all genre. The reality is that the only thing we can confidently predict about the future is that it will be different than today and it is about change. The Brave New World report was about defining the future role for bookshops such as Pan in this digital environment its sad that they will not be around to benefit, but we are sure others will be.

We feel that it was timely to again focus our thinking on the impact of these digital changes and are pleased to announce that we intend to produce another report next year, ‘Brave New World: Chapter 2’ Having looked at the issues from the existing channels and retailer perspective the aim this time to review the same landscape but from the author’s perspective.

The author is critical to publishing and is the person who creates the rights, provides the input to the process, is an integral part of its development; helps sell, promote and market the work. The relationships, involvement and processes differ between sectors and markets but are all being increasingly impacted by digitization. At a time when the opportunities to write are exploding through social network, print on demand and long tail economics we are seeing potential changes to the existing author model.

We will keep you abreast of progress and welcome your thoughts and insights and hope this new work will help all.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Wall Street Journal to be Free Online

Rupert Murdoch today confirmed that he is planning to drop subscription fees for the digital version of the Wall Street Journal. The plan as we reported earlier this year would be to substitute subscription revenue for a larger audience that will drive greater and more sustainable advertising to the financial news site.

Instead of having 1 million subscribers generating around £25m revenue a year, the objective is to have at least 10 million to 15 million in ‘every corner of the earth’ and generate significantly higher numbers. has long been the most successful example of a paid-access news site, attracting a wealthy readership that values the site's influential markets news.
It si interesting that only 23% of News Corp's existing revenues were generated by advertising and this obviously leaves significant scope in many areas of the empire…