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…

An Alternative to Trees?

We talk about eco friendly paper and saving trees and were somewhat taken aback to discover an alternative via Vision Paper ( They work with U.S. farmers to produce tree-free alternatives to paper fiber based on kenaf-based papers.

Kenaf is a 4000 year old crop that originated in Africa, and is now being farmed in many parts of the U.S. A member of the hibiscus family (Hibiscus cannabinus L), it is related to cotton and okra, and grows well in many parts of the U.S. and requires no fertilizers or pesticides for growth. It offers a way to make paper without cutting trees. Kenaf grows quickly, rising to heights of 12-14 feet in as little as 4 to 5 months. U.S. Department of Agriculture studies show that kenaf yields of 6 to 10 tons of dry fiber per acre per year are generally 3 to 5 times greater than the yield for Southern pine trees, which can take from 7 to 40 years to reach harvestable size. Kenaf fiber papers are energy efficient to process, while using fewer chemicals and no chlorine compounds.

It may not prove a viable solution to the demands of the industry but does demonstrate that alternatives to trees are around.

New York to Collect Affiliate Tax

Ok you operate out of New York but list books internet retailer affiliate under ABE, Amazon etc. Sounds familiar and has been very successful for many who could not reach the larger audience.

New York state's Department of Taxation and Finance has now stated that anyone with an Internet "Affiliate" will have to collect NY Sales Tax. Last week they stated a "requirement to register as a sales tax vendor for out-of-state companies soliciting sales through representatives." As a result any "affiliate" in New York, even, a person selling as an Amazon Associate, must, where tax is applicable, pay sales tax on all sales.

According to the report in Publishers Lunch, the state has implied that the policy is not subject to challenge, and is "intended to clarify current policy and does not reflect any change in requirements for vendors doing business in New York State." Businesses have until December 7 to register and begin compliance without facing penalties.

It throws up interesting questions about affiliate programmes, taxation rules within a global economy, and the location of business registrations and offices. What would be the impact if every state adopted the same rules?

We frankly leave taxation rules to those who know best and don’t always understand the implications of what you sell to who and where and the rules that are applied. However there are many who are building businesses on affiliate programmes and aiming to benefit from local pull, increased noise and alternative offers. It is unclear how this will pan out or whether it is merely teething issues that just go away.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Publishers' Benchmark

A new publisher’s Forum has been launched by that dynamic publisher Emma Barnes of Snowbooks. First she gave us her Second Life experience now the acclaimed small publisher has started a forum where publishers large and small can exchange ideas, compare takes on the market and swap tricks.

The Publishers Benchmarking Forum aims to enable all to compare notes and judge what you are doing right or wrong. It has been called ‘The Pub Bench’ to reflect that pastime of swaping notes, confidentially over a pint in a pub. It is only available to members of publishing companies registered at Companies House and the site is subscription based with the first month free and a charge of £12.50 thereafter. Those who sign up are given a randomly generated username upon subscription in order to safeguard anonymity.

It may be a great forum for everyone learn and exchange notes ‘behind closed doors’. It certainly is a welcome entrant to the market and something that should have been started a long time ago. Hopefully it will attract input from those who genuinely have something to share and help everyone get to grips with the myriad of issues and challenges we all face today but are often to embarrassed to admit we don’t have a clue about.

No Exclusive iPhone Deal at HarperCollins

Last Friday we followed up on a page 3 news piece from ‘The Bookseller ‘ 9th November, 2007 that stated ‘HC in exclusive iPhone Deal’. We closed by stating that ‘we hope that logic prevails and the exclusive agreement is short lived.’
Well it would appear that there is no exclusive deal and that logic does prevail. We are pleased to correct anything we get wrong and many thanks to our friend Graham Bell at HarperCollins who emailed us:

Quite simply, HarperCollins has not inked any deal with Apple to provide book content for iPhone users. There is no 'exclusive'. There is no 'free'. In fact, there is no deal...

What HarperCollins and NewsStand HAVE done is create a website and JavaScript 'application' that allows iPhone and iPod Touch users access to our Browse Inside online book previews -- and in part because of the impressive touch-screen on those two devices, it looks great. One thing you didn't mention is that you can also preview a few minutes of the audiobook versions of many of the titles. I am pleased Apple chose our website as a 'staff favourite' to feature on its directory of iPhone-compatible websites, but the fact is that ANYONE can create their own iPhone-friendly website and submit it for inclusion in the Apple directory.
But if you don't have an iPhone or iPod Touch, you can preview samples of the same books -- and thousands of others -- via our main consumer website at So we see the iPhone version of Browse Inside as a way of extending the reach of our existing digital marketing. The idea of exclusivity arises from the fact that HarperCollins appears to be the only publisher that has done this for the iPhone and iPod Touch, not because of any deal with Apple. And we certainly aren't preventing other publishers doing something similar.
We continue to add both backlist and frontlist books to Browse Inside, and we will extend the selection of titles available on the iPhone too. But we're also discussing with booksellers the ways they can put Browse Inside on retailer's own websites. HarperCollins really doesn't want to keep this all to itself.
There's no exclusivity here...

Second, it's worth emphasising that like our main Browse Inside, and indeed like similar widgets from other publishers, the previews can be downloaded to an iPhone or iPod Touch only for viewing purposes.

They can't be saved, extracted, printed... You can read the first few pages of the first couple of chapters, but that's all.

Rough Guides to...

Following on from the acquisition of Lonely Planet by BBC Worldwide, Rough Guides has tied-up with TV broadcaster Channel Five to air a series of travel shows next year that are to be made by independent production company, Lion Television.

The shows will be weekly, based on the Rough Guide books and explore the top five destinations in a number of holiday categories. Each episode will be branded ‘The Rough Guide to ...’ and is planned to be 30 minutes long.

TV is becoming a place for publishers to build brand, extend reach and develop content.

Monday, November 12, 2007

DRM is not the People's Choice

U.K. music download store, 7 Digital, reports that its DRM-free music downloads are outselling other formats by a factor of four to one. Given the choice, consumers prefer MP3 DRM-free formats. They claim that 78% of downloads are MP3 with no DRM. They also announced that over 60% of its 3 million strong catalogue is now available DRM free in MP3 format and is expecting this to increase to 100% in the next 18 months. 7 Digital do sell audiobooks and although the range is small they do have MP3 audiobooks.

The shift towards MP3 would appear to show the consumers prefer non proprietary formats that offer true interoperability. The shift towards DRM free clearly demonstrates the direction consumers which to follow and the increased size of the DRM free catalogue is given them the necessary choice.

Audiobooks may continue with a DRM proprietary format from Audible but if music continues to move it is hard to see this as sustainable. The question is whether Audible will move or entrench. What is becoming clear is that DRM as we know it today is transient technology and may well be replaced by an open ‘honesty box’ approach potentially supported by less restrictive technology such as watermarking.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Is it Wise?

The Iphone launches in the UK today and HarperCollins has announced that it has signed an exclusive deal with Apple to provide free book content that will enable all iPhone users to download content. The content is of samples of titles that includes Nicola Barker's ‘Darkmans’, Lewis Hamilton's new autobiography and ‘The Dangerous Book for Boys Yearbook’.

The problem is that the deal is exclusive and although it may well boost HarperCollins sales of their titles it does not promote or encourage the wider market. It could be regarded by some as ‘I am all right jack’ attitude and counter productive with respect of the wider audience and market. If digital content is to get the attention span then the trade has to learn to work together for the good of the trade. It is often better to have a slice of the larger pie than all of a smaller one.

Collaboration and consistancy of user offer is important and exclusive deals may work in commodity markets such as mobiles but it is questionable whether they will work in diverse ones such as books.

We hope that logic prevails and the exclusive agreement is short lived.

Thursday, November 08, 2007


It would appear that the world of James Bond is available to all. The array of devices may not all be a sophisticated as Q’s but the range is sufficient for the average spy. Having written so much about mobile technology and its pervasive nature and growth it is interesting today to read about another device that is freely available to buy – the cellphone jammer.

As a prankster or grumpy old man, you can at a flick of a switch silence all those around you. Imagine silence on the train and bus, or when you are enjoying you latte or eating a meal. No more having to listen to the most numbing of dull conversations. As a owner of a store you can now fully engage with the customer and not vie for their attention with someone in their ear. However as with everything the good can also be bad. It can block out emergency calls and other important calls.

London based that claims to ship around 400 jammers a month to the US.

Book TV Forget it?

We were very interested to read Daniel Kalder’s article in yesterday’s Guardian Unlimited, ‘Literary TV to put you off reading forever’. Anyone who has suffered weekend stopovers in the US will probably share the views that he expressed that US Book TV needs a wake up call and is actually doing the industry a disservice.

You may think that a TV station dedicated to books is a good thing. However he claims that the production, 'could not be more amateurish', book readings ‘dull and pointless affairs’. He also claims that although there are authors who can ‘chat entertainingly, perhaps even informatively, and tell amusing stories’ they never appear on Book TV. View for yourselves at and watch their clips - they make many YouTube videos look proffessional.

Interestingly author Jeanette Winterson writing in the Times last month wrote on the same topic and described book programmes on TV ‘to be as dull as racing sloths’. She says of Mariella Frostrup’s ‘The Book Show’ that it is ‘still stuck with the usual sofas facing across a table…how do we communicate the kinetic power of books while sitting on a sofa?’. She went on to compare the passive nature of book programmes to other entertainment which were better served.

The digital age requires fresh thinking we have all witnessed the raise of the widget, the video and the growing multi media exposure we now have on the Internet. The Internet is just another broadcasting channel and as TV and the internet converge then so does how we project books.

One of the largest success stories of recent times is the growing interest in literary festivals which succeed on the basis of diversity, community and proximaty of readers to authors. How do we transfer this to TV and retain the buzz?

It was recently rumoured that a major UK trade publisher was to step into TV and we wondered wether it was wise and they have a formula that would work. We have seen the growth in interest in video clips from publishers, author and companies such as, ‘meet the author’. But what is the format that will spark the difference do what ‘The Tube’ did for music, ‘YouTube’ did for video, 'Film XX' did for movies? We take our hats off to those brave enough to say its not right today. Let's a least remove the sofa and coffee table and give it a shot of adrenaline.

Keep on Running

This year 38,000 runners started the New York marathon. The press may have focused on the achievements of Paula Radcliffe and other front runners but among the rest was a 47 year old, Andre Ditto who was on his own personal mission. Unfortunately Andre was forced to quit after 17 miles due to a fall and swelling knee and you may well ask why we mention it at all?

Andre ran wearing a backpack loaded with 30 lbs. of textbooks and was sponsored by CaféScribe ( to pay for a year's worth of textbooks for his daughter, Blaize Buckley, a biology major at Howard University. Ditto, choose for his pack "Art History," at 1,292 pages, "Principles of Economics" (896 pages), "Introduction to Drama" (1,872 pages), and "Essentials of Marketing" (576 pages) the equivalent in weight to 16 bricks!

CaféScribe who sell ebooks, sponsored Ditto to highlight that the adoption of electronic textbooks would both reduce costs and be easier on the back as well. So who will carry the torch and who will sponsor the load in London next year?

Friday, November 02, 2007

Author Connect

We have seen author videos and heard their podcasts. The sometimes work and sometimes don’t but they should all be applauded for trying to move forward and engage with the market.

We watched a video today of Prue Lieth talking about her new book the Gardner. It wasn’t on Amazon, or a bookchain or even an independent bookshop’s site but on a small provisional newspaper’s site – Newbury Weekly News’ . It may not be new but it was refreshing.

The video is based on a talk she gave to a packed audience at Donnington Valley Hotel on the book which was originally published by Penguin in 2004. The book was then called ‘A Lovesome Thing’ and apparently suffered the then distribution centre crisis at Penguin with only 6,000 of a 35,000 print being sold, and the rest being pulped. Transita has since republished it with a new epilogue and Lieth is out promoting the revised work.

The ability to tie communities through newsprint, bookshops, reading events to authors is exciting and will help bookshops develop in the community. Newbury is certainly ahead of the curve when it comes to use of video within provisional newspaper sites.