Friday, August 31, 2007

Tell Me Where I am, Please

The new TomTom new high-end product, the TomTom GO 920 T, has voice recognition. The device also includes new enhanced positioning technology, which uses movement and gravity sensors to calculate drivers' positions when GPS signals are not available because there is no direct line-of-sight connection to a satellite, such as when driving in a city with tall buildings, underpasses or bridges.

Driver distraction and the current need to key instructions is a recognised safety hazard and therefore speech recognition enables user to ask for information and receive directions in return. But imagine a car full of kids – I wonder what it will instruct you to do?

The TomTom GO 920 T global positioning system comes preinstalled with complete maps of Europe, the U.S. and Canada later this year in the US at a retail price of US$699.95.

Textbooks for Rent

As US College students all prepare to return to campus, have launched a new textbook rental service.

Why rent when you can buy? Well text books aren’t cheap and often only a fraction of the content is required but more importantly once you have completed the course do you need the book? The used textbook market has always existed and flourished and with used book sales now widely available over the net, why buy new when you can buy an old copy cheaper?

Bookrenter have tikiman as their logo and who says on his MySpace Facebook websites ‘I’m the life of every luau party and quite the tiki girl magnet! I enjoy surfing (both in cyberspace and on the scenic beaches of Hawaii), eating at Wahoo's Fish Taco, and of course, saving college students money by renting them books at affordable prices.’

Well what more could you ask for, a cool dude who wants to rent you books at a fraction of the cost of new. Why buy when you can rent?

They offer new or used textbooks for flexible rental periods from 30 to 125 days and simple return process. A bit like Blockbuster videos, delivered to your door with an addressed label for return. The student can even buy it at the end of the rental period at a reduced price. They even add a touch of ‘greenwash’ saying that, ‘By re-renting books, hopes to reduce the approximately 20 million trees consumed a year by the US book publishing industry’.

Is the service any different to a library loan and if not, why can’t libraries do it? What happens if you write some notes or mark the book , after all that is what often happens to text books? Given that they are partnering with Amazon it also begs the question of whether the stock is merely pulled down from Amazon as new and returned there as used stock.

The bookrental model appears to be very simple, cleverly aligned with Amazon and could have wide appeal. However, will it further cannibalise the already hard hit campus stores? Also, as we look at the academic and wider learning market, we now see the emergence of true digital customised content or course pack materials. Will these work with, or against this new business model?

Finally there is an interesting question about rights and how these relate to rental, in usage, royalty and the library world.

Thursday, August 30, 2007


We now hear about the coming wars between the iPhone and the new Nokia phone. Both will hit the UK market later this year but both differ in their delivery channel. One says, download onto your PC and then transfer to your mobile, the other, download straight onto the mobile. The difference may seem minor to some but to the consumer may be enormous. Why mess about transferring stuff around when you can get it delivered direct to the device you want to hear it on?

Nokia has unveiled several new wireless devices and services, including a music-download offering to rival iTunes. Nokia has also announced new offerings focused at entertainment, games, along with the Nokia Music Store and the N-Gage mobile gaming service.

Apple is rumoured to be announcing a new iPod on Sept. 5. The new device is also rumoured to be very close to the iPhone in its screen and begs the question why they don’t just cut to the chase and merge the two.

Not Waving but Drowning...

I read with great interest Fred Newman’s piece on Bookselling in the Digital era which was featured in Publishing News this week. Many of the points made where very valid and much of the logic of his overall premise is correct – bookselling is changing - not because books are changing, or because publishers are changing but because the consumer and what they expect and want is changing. This is an extra challenge in a market that has a many to many supply chain, where titles are often unique in there relationship to the channel and in market which has so much product.

We therefore return to the digital role for Booksellers, or bookselling in the digital era? Are they the same or different? Is there a digital role for booksellers, or do they merely have to adapt how they sell physical titles within a digital environment? The Brave New World report clearly and resolutely stated the case for the inclusion of the existing channel in the digital market. It argued for consumer research and trend analysis and importantly it talked about co-operation and a collaborative approach. So why are we still going over old ground and a case that was made 12 months ago? Maybe it because, like the Supply Chain 10 years earlier, many listened, many agreed, but then went about their own exclusive agendas. The publishers today are far from co-operating let alone collaborating. If anything it’s like the ‘wild west’ with everyone trying to outsmart each other whilst smiling and exchanging platitudes. The retailers know how to retail to the mass market but in the main don’t have direct marketing skills and services let alone digital capabilities.

Publishers face significant challenges as ebooks, audiobook downloads, podcasts and blogs are merely the delivery mechanisms. They need to digitise their processes – how they acquire rights, develop, produce, promote, market and finally sell them. It is about changing processes, relationships and rights. Merely trying to increase margin and disintermediate the retailer and channel will not work.

In a world of confusion, the consumer tends to lead and like water find the route of least resistance, Amazon, Google etc. The music industry faced different challenges, but was equally led astray. Look where it is now – would you invest in EMI? All media sectors are facing digital challenges and none are of the woods yet.

Someone once ask why their business had failed even though they had listened, trained staff and responded? The answer given was – You can teach someone to swim but you can’t stop them from drowning, however, the chance of them drowning without any swimming lessons is far greater. Today the industry has to learn to work together, set out clear ‘quick wins’ and adopt an inclusive approach to digitisation. This will not guarantee survival. There is no silver bullet. It is not just booksellers that are at risk but everyone between the author and the reader.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Helping Journalists Thrive, Network, And Collaborate On The Web

In a thought provoking article, the blog Publisher2 raises the issue about the impact that digitisation is having on reporters, editors and photographers. They raise the point that the journalist who used to call up some sources, rewrite a press release and file it on a news desk for the print edition will now find themselves writing a blog, moderating and editing a community of contributors. The editors and photographers will also move from staffers to more part-time and freelance resource.

The article raises many interesting points such as retraining versus rehiring. An interesting quote, ‘… media companies have traditionally not invested in people, they don’t invest in management training programs, they don’t invest in any kind of training of people…It’s a talent industry, so it’s like ‘if you’re not good enough when you get here, you’re out!’ You swim or die, and they don’t treat their people that well. They don’t invest in human capital.”

It summarises that ‘Journalists can no longer be many steps removed from the means of production and distribution — this type of hands on Web experience needs to become part of what defines a journalist’s skill set. While I still maintain that every journalist should start a blog, creating another outlet for original content creation is still a high bar.’

Book publishing is experiencing the same changes as newsprint. Digitisation isn’t just about eBooks, blogs, audiobooks etc these are merely the finished product. It is about changing the total publishing process from author to reader, about how we acquire rights, develop them, promote and market and ultimately sell them. This must mean that the organisational impact both in structure and skills must also change and this is probably the biggest adjustment and challenge to many today.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Kiosk Downloads

Ripfactory’s CD squared is a retail kiosk which enables customers to purchase a CD in a shop and transfer the music onto their portable music player or mobile phone at the point of purchase. It has been specifically designed to easily allow retailers to bring the benefits of digital files to their customers, is stand alone and self-service and can load up to 4 CDs at a time and will also transfer high quality metadata such as Cover Art, Album Titles and Track Listings. Ripfactory is now in talks with major music retailers to secure the placement of the kiosk in stores in the UK as well as worldwide.

Although retail kiosks have failed to engage the book market to-date it is easy to envisage this sort of device as helping promote digital books and the bundling of physical plus digital sales.

Watermarks – A DRM free environment?

Watermarks have started to become the new buzzword. The name comes from the faintly visible watermarks imprinted on stationery that identify the manufacturer of the stationery. The purpose of digital watermarks is to provide copyright protection for intellectual property that's in digital format.

A pattern of bits is inserted into a digital image, audio or video file that identifies the file's copyright information (author, rights, etc.) and are designed to be completely invisible, or in the case of audio clips, inaudible. Moreover, the actual watermark cannot be identified and manipulated and can withstand normal changes to the file.

In the music world Universal Music Group has announced that it is to embed watermarks in its forthcoming trial of the sale of music tracks without digital rights management. A unique identifier will be allocated to each individual track and this will enable them to measure what proportion of the DRM-free files appears on P2P networks. Microsoft has also licensed its audio watermarking technology which will enable the insertion and extraction of non-secure information, such as advertisements or songs, within audio files. The interest in watermark technology happens when WalMart are starting to sell music downloads without digital rights management protection. Wal-Mart will sell DRM-free tracks from record companies EMI and Universal for $0.94 per track, or $9.22 per album and offer tracks with DRM protection in WMA format for $0.88 per track.

Will we now see a migration from the stringent, closed and restrictive DRM model to a more open and ‘honesty box’ watermark one?

Publishers in push to sell direct online

The Bookseller reports on publishers' moves to sell direct to consumers online. They reported on Random’s launch of their direct-to-consumer site, which offers discounts of up to 20% and signed copies, HarperCollins’ intent to sell direct by Christmas, Penguin’s re-launch with titles discounted by up to 25% and Hachette’s new look web sites all aimed at selling direct to consumers. Hachette is also aiming to offer next-day delivery as well as "added value" products such as signed editions.

The market is a finely balance one which accommodates, supermarkets, book clubs, independents, special sales, bargain books front and backlists, used, remainders etc. We have all seen that changing one aspect without due thought of others can have an overall negative impact. Some would say that addressing the Net Book Agreement without addressing sale or return was a recipe for disaster. The discounting for the sake of discounting, without looking at the lack of price pointing and the freedom for publishers to put any price on a jacket to retain margin, was another. Today we have some who would argue that backlist should be firm sale and others who may question the impact this may have on a channel that has rarely had to make hard buying decisions.

There will always be publishers who have a strong enough brand or width of appeal where direct selling will work. Examples are many; Penguin, Kogan Page, Mills and Boon etc but in the main this will not be the case and the effort not rewarded.

However, many publishers today ‘sell direct’, but they outsource their customer service to a drop ship service. The publisher merely wants the increased margin, marketing and high level contact and not the customer service and operational one.
Any bookseller who has analysed basket sales will tell you that consumers are very eclectic in their book buying and although there will always be ‘winners’ their also needs to be lots of ‘also ran’s’ to satisfy consumer taste and demand.

There is no harm in publishers direct marketing and promoting online. This is a must for all today. But unless publishers want to fully service their customers, merely passing them onto a drop ship services at the expense of the existing channel may have a detrimental impact on a channel. The channel that still will provide its major source of revenues, after all we must remember that the music industry turned its back on its channel and look at it now.

Monday, August 27, 2007

'eBooks are Coming' - a response

As I returned from my annual break where nothing was digital or remotely ebook to find some interesting news and some usual ‘August noise’.

The Bookseller wrote a feature article about the coming of the ebook. Did it say anything? Well unfortunately very little and it used a games industry practitioner as its catalyst. Yes, it went through the usual doom and gloom, the question of what will be the tipping point and gave the usual suspects their 15 minutes of free advertising. But did it say anything or did it merely raise the fear bar in the market one notch more?

I found the one paragraph about Continuum interesting. It alluded to the issues of where a publisher starts and where the greatest return is, as opposed to what has to be tackled in the longer term. Yes we know publishers aren’t ready, we know that there isn’t a reader today, we know that there isn’t an effective channel today and we know that the majority of publishers are at square one. But if you where a publisher what would you do and where would you start?

What Ken Rhodes raised is the need for a strategy that enables manoeuvrability and the ability to respond to demand. So who runs the strategy? Marketing will have a huge input as emarketing is closely aligned with all things digital. Sales will have an input as revenue return is always a driver. Production will have a say as it’s their domain, processes and relationships that are being turned upside down.

Editorial will have a say in that it is about content development as well as content delivery and merely changing things at the back door isn’t the long term solution. Finally, rights must have a say as that’s what publishing is and where the greatest challenges are both with authors and consumers.

In the ‘Brave New World’ report we wrote a chapter on the music industry. There were many lessons to be learnt. We all assume that the music industry was digital – after all we all had, or could create digital copies of music. The reality was that they weren’t. The inherent processes and contextual information was far from being digital. What they had was huge libraries of content that couldn’t be searched, accessed or sold digitally. Forget the digital content the digital context was missing and the channel was still in the dark ages thinking in terms of albums and singles. Napster, Kazzaa and iTunes all blew the market apart faster than anyone had thought possible and the industry today is still trying to reposition and recover. Why is this relevant to book publishing? Well we still think of content in books - sheets within a jacket. We still market and promote the same way with the same context, even to sending out a significant volume of review / inspection copies in physical format – like - throwing confetti to the wind. We still have not addressed many of the thorny rights issues – rights reversals, customised content.

The book industry is not one but many industries once joined by a common format - the book. As digitisation evolves these will diverse and move at different speed and in different directions. We are currently trying to predict a market in a vacuum – there is no or little digital content or context. We are not looking at the processes but more at the finished product.

What we need to look at is the end to end value chain, from author to reader and understands what needs to be done, where the quick wins are and how to support the existing business and channel.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Who is Amazon?, has launched a new self-publishing service called CreateSpace which will make it easier for all budding authors to be published. The new service does not charge any of the usual set-up fees to publish a book, and there are no minimum orders required. The author merely sets up the book, orders a proof copy and makes it available to all to buy. Will there be any hidden gems in this new slush-pile? There certainly will be a slush-pile and if there is a success story, who will own the rights and will these be transferable? The answers are not clear unless you can wade through the pages of Amazon and actually find the detail. We thank the Bookseller for pointing the service out, but unless they had given the link, finding the detail some would say was similar to trying to get out of a maze. In fact try it for yourself - it's certainly a challenge!

Ok the author can sell through their own web site. They can self promote the works and they may even be discovered but for every success the odds will be only a bit better than betting on the lottery.

So what’s in it for Amazon? The new CreateSpace Books on Demand service removes substantial economic barriers and makes it really easy for any author to self-publish and distribute them on They certainly will compete with Lulu and the other self publisher sites but is that enough? Will it enrich the market? It may certainly make consumers appreciate some of the value publishers bring to shaping works, copy editing and proofing. It is said that we all have one good story inside all of us but expressing it in a way that captivates, enriches and engages is not something we can all do and even then often without a little help from a friendly editorial team.

However, Amazon offers 'expert staff that can guide you in independently publishing your work or establishing your publishing venture. Combining professional services, you can build a market for your book, create sales opportunities and control your book's trajectory while keeping your options open.' they offer ' a signature cover designed by one of our professional artists... professional editorial services available to have your manuscript reviewed for technical elements, such as grammar and punctuation or more thoroughly for both technical and stylistic elements in single or multiple editing rounds...Marketing copyeditors skilled in writing professional, eye-catching short descriptions, back-cover text, and author biographies can provide services essential to enhancing sales...Press release composition and targeted media distribution services are available and tailored to your specific book genre and region...coordination of merchandising services and other programs to increase your visibility on'

So is Amazon a publisher or a retailer or everything between the author and the consumer?

It has Finally Happening – SpiralFrog

In the Brave New World report last year we wrote about SpiralFrog a free music download service whose business model is based on advertising support. The service was due early in the year and when it didn’t happen we assumed it to be one of those great ideas that may never make it. Well the beta version of the service has been launched in North America. The service will offer over 700,000 music tracks and videos for free and rely on advertising to generate revenues. The licencing companies include Universal, EMI and BMI, that covers three out of the top four. The long overdue full official launch of the service is expected before the end of 2007.

The potential impact of this model is huge and it could revolutionise what we download and how we download it. Coupled with the Steve Jobs' DRM-free movement we can see a completely different music model in the near future. After all, why pay when you can get it ‘free’ and why restrict what you can do when you can elect not to have restrictions? When you add the Prince free album via newsprint its easy to see a value chain that is being not only redefined in real time, but one where there is likely to be disintermediation in a big way. The record producers and High Street retailers are not companies we would invest in.

Can’t wait till hits the UK!

NB Content is becoming Free

The ability to charge for content especially in non-digital media like newspapers, magazines, and video was based on a limited supply of quality product and control of its distribution. DeBeers did it with diamonds, the movie industry with feature films. It is about controlling the market funnel, normalising spikes and managing value. However, the web and digital media have exploded the volume of product (content) and also all but destroyed the control of its distribution. The web has created and made available, more high-quality content, but more disruptively even more ‘acceptable’ content. The web has of course utterly destroyed distribution monopolies. Anyone can create and distribute content on a meaningful scale.

Search Engines in particular have become the intermediary of discovery and proven to be pivotal in transforming the economics of content. We may not always agree with the ranking of the results, we may object to the ‘pay to be visible’ approach, but we all use them and importantly, rely on them.

Newsprint started to charge subscriptions to let you access their columns, but this appears to have now failed. As there is always someone else producing similar content for free and even if the free content isn’t “as good as” the paid content, it often doesn’t matter because there’s so much acceptable content for free, it is become impossible to charge.

The New York Times is reportedly now poised to stop charging readers for online access to its columnists and other content. In 2005 the NYT began charging for access to well-known writers, including Maureen Dowd, Frank Rich and Thomas L. Friedman. However, the number of Web-only subscribers who pay $7.95 a month or $49.95 a year fell to just over 221,000 in June, down from more than 224,000 in April. As clever, talented, and insightful as the NYT columnists are, there are too many other clever, talented, insightful commentators publishing on the web for free.

The Wall Street Journal remains the last great bastion of paid content on There are often articles we would love to read here, but not at the subscription price offered and with so many viable alternatives. The question now is whether Murdoch will now pull the plug and in taking control reposition the brand as ‘the best for free’.

The next question is with respect to whether short-form content will overtake the demand for long-form content online. Short stories, reviews, articles etc are easier to produce and post. Novels and longer works have to sustain quality throughout and are therefore harder to create. However, these being eroded by the proliferation of short-form text content? Blogs and social networking have also played their part and have created new “business models” not based on price, but personal branding.

This is a major shift in the valuation of content and starts to raise many questions. Can publishers control markets by monopoly? We have seen the constant acquisition and disinvestment strategies of the large players but is that enough? We have seen the impact of social sites on music and video and the changes these are having even on mainstream production.

Finally, we all know that the most influential company and mediator of this change on the planet today is Google.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Skype moves ever closer

Some may argue that we write a lot about VOIP services such as Skype and that this is not relivant to publishing. Maybe they are right and maybe …

Sykpe 3.5 now allows users to add videos from Social networking sites embedding them into both voice and text chats and intimate the caller’s ‘mood’ and express this in the form of an entertaining video. The new software also users to capture a still image from a Skype video chat and several ‘phone’ features such as auto redail and line transfer of inbound calls to a user, group, landline or mobile phone.

The point is the VIOP is staing to become functionally rich and an effective way to talk, chat and now exchange video and stills. We need to think about this in terms of viral marketing and promotions and recognise this community is not outside the phone system but increasingly inside it. It is also increasingly moving from a PC tool to becoming platform independent and moving to the mobile platform.

AA Guides to London

Travellers to London can now find their way around town using the new AA Smart Travel Guide which comes on a memory card and can be played on a mobile phone. It offers users a comprehensive guide to the city, including mapping, information on points of interest and things to do, guides to restaurants and hotels with ratings, and last minute travel advice.

The Guide has been developed by the AA with Ordnance Survey for use on Symbian S60 smartphones, such as the Nseries from Nokia and can be used as a standalone guide or with a GPS receiver (either external or built into the handset) to pinpoint users' locations.

The AA Smart Travel Guide: London is available now for £24.99 from Stanfords and WHSmith Travel Stores, with wider availability from September. The AA has lined up a further 12 European city Smart Travel Guides plus one for New York, which will be released by spring 2008.

The development certainly moves the travel digital agenda forward and combines two major travel / map brands – the AA and Ordnance Survey. The distribution and price is questionable. It may be more convenient than having the book but is it as rich? Will the user simply use Google maps via a 3G phone to achieve much the same at a fraction of the cost? Will the memory cards be upgradeable, or would you need to buy a new one next year? Why restrict distribution to WHS and Standfords? Suely this should be sold through mobile shops, PC outlets, on the web, newsagents and tourists shops. Merely putting it in bookshops, albeit travel bookshops, may not be the best way to gauge market response.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Keitai Novels

There are many differences between Japanese and western cultures. The differences have always been fascinating to try and understand. Over 15 years ago they were installing high cost robotics to clean department stores after work and also handing out fully charged credit cards over the counter. Today their approach to digital books again shows us differences in culture and the impact that this can have on the adoption of technology.

Would you expect the size of modern handbags to drive ebook downloads to mobiles? It may not be the factor but it is one recently attributed to ‘keitai author’ Mica Naitoh. What is a ‘keitai author’? This is a new bread of authors who are write books for your keitia or mobile phone. These are written in instalments and in 5 years have jumped from zero to a $82 million and growing business.

Publishers first tried established authors but they didn’t sell. They then tried pornography, a usual front runner in all new technology but again it didn’t sell. They found that mystery and romance did sell, not to slushy and with some sex. The Dickens and King model of instalments also worked and a booming new channel and audience were established. The Brave New World report on Yoshi who wrote a very successful keitai novel ‘ Deep Love’ which turned into a book, sold 2.7 million copies, a film, a television series and a manga comic.

Perhaps we may see Mills and Boon by instalment?

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Eminem's music publisher sues Apple over downloads

Eminem has filed a federal lawsuit against Apple for allowing music downloads onto iPods without permission. The suit, filed in Detroit by Eight Mile Style and Martin Affiliated, alleges that Apple has not compensated them for 70 to 80 songs, including tracks from the Grammy Award-winning "The Eminem Show” which has sold some 7.6 million copies.

The company seeks more than $75,000 for copyright infringement, unfair competition and a violation of the Michigan consumer protection act. It also asks for damages of up to $150,000 each time a song is downloaded. Apple is reported as repeatedly asking Eight Mile Style for permission to use its copyrighted songs for downloads which has been denied.

But Eight Mile Style attorney Norman Ankers contends that record companies need permission from copyright holders before downloads can be authorized. Universal Music distributes the songs through the Interscope recording company and Apple offers them for download.

The lawsuit says users pay Apple a fixed fee of 99 cents to download a song. Recording companies get about 70 cents of that amount with music copyright holders generally receiving about nine cents for each download.

This becomes a classic case of whose copyright is it with Eight Mile Style being the publisher and Universal the producer. The music publisher sued Apple in 2004 for copyright infringement, alleging that Apple used Eminem's "Lose Yourself" in commercial TV ads for its iTunes music store. The case was settled out of court.

An interesting case to watch and not just for music.

Cheaper Journals?

Cheaper journals? I had to read the article again as I must be dreaming. It was like listening to Gordon Brown giving us all a tax cut – there has to be a catch, after all we had nothing like this before and to the contrary only heard about journal price increases for many years.

Oxford University Press is reported to be lowering prices on its range of 28 journals in its "hybrid" Open Access (OA) scheme by an average of 5%.

Major journal publishers have all launched hybrid open access schemes which enables authors to pay for their articles published in traditionally non-OA journals to be made freely available. The successes of the schemes are dependant on authors signing up and adopting the new model. Once sufficient sign up is achieved then the costs reduce and the price can come down – simple commerce.

However, it is reported that Elsevier and CUP have only got 1% of authors to agree to make articles Open Access in their hybrid journals and it appears still early days. One swallow doesn’t make a summer but we may be witnessing a change in the commercial model and relationships in this highly lucrative and important marketplace.

VOIP takes to the Skies?

eMarketer reports figures from the Yankee Group which estimates that 9% of all US households subscribed to VoIP (voice over internet) services in 2006, up from 4% in 2005. The number of VoIP subscribers in the US grew 125% in 2006 and now is around 9m. The report forecasts that the VoIP market will continue to grow significantly over the next few years.

This in turn leads us to question the roll of the mobile phone and the carrier services. Today I use Skype over my mobile phone and although there are limitations over the PC application phoning and receiving calls to international numbers has never been cheaper.

Its no longer a case of why we should be on Skype by why anyone shouldn’t be on it?

Now comes news that American Airlines Inc. will test in-flight Wi-Fi services across the U.S. starting next year. Other airlines including Deutsche Lufthansa AG, Southwest Airlines and Qantas are all reported to be planning to test similar in-flight technology. Passengers on American flights would soon be able to e-mail and surf the Web from laptops and handheld devices while primarily on transcontinental routes.

Two questions remain unanswered - the cost, we all know that airlines are not good at costing such services to their captive customers and whether they would allow VOIP services as voice calls in-flight may ‘disturb other passengers nearby’.

It appears we will be connected whereever we are.

First the iPhone now the gPhone

As mobile phones become more sophisticated and mobile network speeds faster and Wi-Fi more pervasive it is clear that the computer connection device is the mobile. Over 20% of UK mobile subscribers are expected to have access to the mobile internet at broadband speeds by the end of this year. This opens up new wars which are not so much about carriers but about content.

Rumours are now spreading that Google is aiming to enter the race and launch a “Google phone” especially tailored to its services and aptly nicknamed the “Gphone” which will ensure its own products such as its search engine, e-mail and Google Maps are showcased. Importantly the failure of 3G services on mobile phones and a lack of “web friendly” handsets has held back the market for mobile advertising.

A Google-branded phone could go head-to-head with Apple’s iPhone, which is set to be launched in the UK before Christmas. It is easy to see Yahoo, Microsoft, eBay all wanting a bigger slice or to protect their slice of this market. Google has already brokered deals with mobile phone companies, including Vodafone, the British operator and its search engine also comes preloaded on handsets made by Samsung and LG. But partnering may not be enough and may not give Google the control it desires. We must also be aware that Google may not wish to have their applications running under Microsoft’s mobile operating system or Apple’s iPhone.

Mad4Mobiles claims to have uncovered a Google patent for a mobile application that filters and adapts your searches based on where you are, what time of day it is, and what you’ve previously search for. For example it found you a restruant in the early evening and when you turned your phone on again an hour later at 10pm, Google would know you wanted bars near the restaurant. At 11pm Google again predicts you need a list of local taxi firms. Too much information and scary but its just a case of joining the dots.

Friday, August 03, 2007

So how do you identify a digital fragment?

Nielson informs us that the number of titles published in 2006 in the UK has grown from 110,925 to 115,000 and globally in the English language from 256,500 to 258,350. In addition the number of publishers has risen to 2801 from 2739.

In years past we would all raise our hands, scream and say ‘can the market ever consume that many books?’ However, today the world is changing and we should welcome the news. The questions now are what is a title and how are ISBNs being used within the digital world? To-date, the allocation of ISBNs has been the barometer commonly used to measure the volume of published works but it becomes increasingly murky in the digital world.

As every individual rendition of a title requires its own ISBN the digital world potentially doubles the potential number of ISBNs. There will be separate ones for MS Reader, Adobe, OeB, Mobibook, Sony etc. They will be many different ISBNs against the same title (hardback, paperback, audio CD, large print, ebooks etc).

We welcome the long overdue introduction of the ITSC (International Standard Text Code) which will be the system for the identification of textual groups of works. The ISTC will be a unique, internationally recognized and permanent identifier for each textual work to which it is assigned. It will uniquely distinguish one textual work from another across national boundaries and language barriers, regardless of the various editions and/or formats in which a textual work is published. The ISTC starts to address the aggregation of works and is long overdue but still poorly communicated to the industry.

At the other end of the spectrum, the digital world introduces fragmentation, be it chapters, pages, or paragraphs. These can now be sold individually, or combined with others to form a new work. Today many have started to issue ISBNs against these fragments and although this is not desirable, fragments need to be identifiable and track able in the digital world. Permission rights may be assigned to fragments and importantly transactions need to be aligned to them.

So we have a potential explosion of ISBNs which all will require their own metadata, rights, commercials and a need to be resolved. We also have an explosion of contextual information in an increasing number of media formats and constructs. Some may immediately point to the DOI as the solution but others that its open ended construct and resolution would not be conducive to the wider commercial sectors.

What is clear is that we may find standards coming not from within, but out with, the industry to fill the gap. That is unless the standards bodies can act swiftly, agree, communicate a solution and move the agenda forward.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Fair Use versus Free Use

The issue of copyright appears again today in the New York Times where they report on an association of computer and communication companies, who have raised a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission accusing several publishers and other media companies of misleading and threatening consumers with overstated copyright warnings.

The complaint alleges that the warnings may intimidate consumers from making legal use of copyrighted material, like photocopying a page from a book to use in class. It raises the thorny issue of ‘fair use’ which can vary from country to country and where the rules on the Internet are not universal. Fair use could, for example, involve compiling and analyzing copyrighted visual images to create a visual search engine, transferring a song from a CD to an MP3 player or compiling film clips to create a multimedia presentation for a school assignment. The current legal battle between Viacom and Google over YouTube unauthorized content.

So what are the rules over fair use in the UK? This is the official extract from
The UK Copyright Service.

1.What is fair use?
In copyright law, there is a concept of fair use, also known as; free use, fair dealing, or fair practice. Fair use sets out certain actions that may be carried out, but would not normally be regarded as an infringement of the work.The idea behind this is that if copyright laws are too restrictive, it may stifle free speech, news reporting, or result in disproportionate penalties for inconsequential or accidental inclusion.
2.What does fair use allow?
Under fair use rules, it may be possible to use quotations or excerpts, where the work has been made available to the public, (i.e. published). Provided that: The use is deemed acceptable under the terms of fair dealing. That the quoted material is justified, and no more than is necessary is included. That the source of the quoted material is mentioned, along with the name of the author.
3.Typical free uses of work include: Inclusion for the purpose of news reporting.Incidental inclusion. National laws typically allow limited private and educational use.
4.What is incidental inclusion?
This is where part of a work is unintentionally included. A typical examples of this would be a case where holiday movie inadvertently captured part of a copyright work, such as some background music, or a poster that just happened to on a wall in the background.
5.Points to keep in mind...
The actual specifics of what is acceptable will be governed by national laws, and although broadly similar, actual provision will vary from country to country.Cases dealing with fair dealing can be complex, as decisions are based on individual circumstances and judgments. This can be a very difficult area of copyright law. To avoid problems, if you are in any doubt, you are advised to always get the permission of the owner, prior to use.

Any clearer? On the Internet what is clear this that this area is going to get murkier before it gets clearer. It raises the importance of rights management. In the area of rights permissions, knowing what you have and have not and what can and can not be deemed fair use and finally when usage is granted but not free the commercials involved.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Digital Spin on Reverting Rights

I read Oliver Brice’s opinion column in the Bookseller with great interest. Here was a legal man talking on the subject of rights in the digital world. I expected clarity and direction but got little and in my opinion his previous employment at Macmillan had may have swayed his judgement.

Publishing is a risk orientated business where the rights acquired may not earn out for a host of reasons and many of these are nothing to do with the content itself. Some are fortunate and make the cut and some a very reasonable return. To argue that the development of digital repositories should justify holding onto rights for their full term is at best naive and at worst very misleading and mischievous. We need to separate out the initial punt of the work and whether its return from whether it makes the backlist and leads to further works being acquired by the publisher.

The fact that we now have print on demand is not part of the issue as it is misleading. The investment in POD is a one time hit based on a set up cost and is incurred at the likes of LSI, Anthony Rowe and Booksurge. This is where the digital file is held, processed. The fact that publisher often used this as a short print run mechanism and not true on demand fulfilment is also an issue to consider. But the publisher’s digital repository investments are not or need not be part of this equation.

Let’s return to the thorny question of rights reversals which is what is at the heart of this issue. If the publisher has tried to produce, market and earn out but failed why on earth should they now be allowed to ‘keep it in print’ by making it available by POD? Will it sell any more and suddenly generate huge wedges of money – I doubt it. Will it generate the odd sale – probably but this will be as unpredictable as the British weather. The fact that the author can’t try POD themselves at their cost and self republish is a mystery.

Works have their day and die, sometimes like fashion they may lucky and make come back, but for many they merely fade away to be found years later on dusty second hand and antiquarian shelves. Giving publishers the right to retain rights for full term, irrespective of performance, investment and noting that list transfers hands as often as premiership footballers transfer clubs is little comfort for the one person who creates the property – the author.

The cynic could argue that this digital changes the rules ‘ its ours forever’ attitude is merely to retain the publisher position within the value chain. In fact the greatest threat in digitisation is potentially to publishers and the days when authors and readers can connect more effectively is drawing nearer by the day.