Friday, March 28, 2008

Digital Demand Games

The news today that was widely covered and reported in the Wall Street Journal is that Amazon has announced that it will only sell print-on-demand books printed by its own print-on-demand service BookSurge.

Next it will only be selling ebooks on its Kindle and in its own Mobibook format. This will be followed by its decision to only sell audiobooks either published by its producer Brilliance or that are formatted and protected by its new acquisition Audible.

The Gorrilla is starting to flex its muscle.

Over the last few years the print on demand business has boomed and at its head is Lighting Source who are owned by Ingram. This short cycle print and distribute model has appealed to many where the sales are volatile, vanity or pure ‘long tail’. Services such as Lulu and otherss have catered to publishers looking to reduce overhead on inventory. So what will this aggressive and exclusive stance mean to the trade?

To many publishers who use the pod services merely to do short print runs and not true on demand prints this will not matter. But for the vanity and on demand sellers it will as their benefit is in the sales channel as much as it is in the no inventory overhead.

The real important issue is that Amazon need all their various publishing companies to fully compliment each other. Booksurge has grown but in comparison to others it’s still small so they have beefed it up. Some however may take amore Machiavellian view and recognise that he who holds the pod file also holds the metadata to create widgets and ultimately digital ebooks. Perhaps the Kindle also requires a boost and why not keep it in the family?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Hear Hear!

We read in today’s Bookseller ‘Mobile Deal for Random’ of the new audiobook download service from for Random House titles. What is different and refreshing is that they have bypassed any PC or intermediary device and gone straight to where it will win – the mobile phone.

We as expected had to try it out and there are a couple of titles to demonstrate the service and a sample chapter to download for free. Within no time we were listening to The Bone Garden by Tess Gerritsen. The sound was clear and the information was embedded within the file such that once stored it was instantly displayed.

The best was the fact that Random House true to its earlier statements have gone with a MP3 service and dumped the doomed DRM formats.

Will it take off? We have long held the view that audiobooks must go digital and download. Afterall it the same user experience and less hassle. It has the best chance to do so in our opinion and if others follow will set a trend that will cut the new Amazon Audible honeymoon short. Well done Random House in continuing to show the way forward to what could be a significant market.The sound on the tube and bus will be very different and we may hear an alternative to the thud and hiss of music on mobiles.

Many questions still remain. Will the existing channel be able to sell the service and files or is it a direct only channel? How will it plug into the library channel? Will the pricing change to reflect what people expect to pay or will it still remain linked to the CD and its high costs?

We can now see even more clearly the end of the CD dominance and death of DRM on these files. Lets hope the trade gets behind this bold step; authors, agents, publishers, wholesalers and retailers and others come to open up competition in the market.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Write to Earn

We must always remember that there are only two players that count, the author who creates the work and the reader who pays for it. All the rest are intermediaries who should add value and invariably also cost. If value is not seen then just like in other sectors no one’s position is safe, agents, publishers, printers, distributors, retailers etc.

Yesterday, The Bookseller reported under its title ‘Radical Change Required’ about last week’s author payment model discussion at the British Library’s Intellectual Property round table debate, "Authors and Publishers in the Digital Age". The debate questioned how authors would secure a living within the emerging digital market.
It is fair to say that all media creators face similar challenges. In some cases the form is changing, in others it’s the audience,or the channel and all too often it’s the existing business model, but in publishing many would argue,that its the above.
Of course it’s a threat if you look at the glass as half empty, but we would argue that it’s a far greater opportunity for all.

The real challenge is separating the myriad of different works that we are guilty of seeing collectively as books. The reality is that they have been merely joined together by a single format – the book, which has merely provided a straightjacket between two pieces of card.

Children’s book writers will have different opportunities to poets, to novelists, to text book authors, to travel writers, to reference contributors, to biographers etc. This means that they all could have potential different business models and rewards. The problem is that we all too often generalise. We see publishing as one industry and not as different ones, once joined by merely a common format – the book. The problem in generalising is that you loose the specifics and often dilute the argument to the lowest common denominator.

Authors are the creative heart of publishing, but again we all ten to generalise here too. The average author publishes less that two books and there is a vast gulf between the successful ones who publish many titles and earn a living doing so and those that are less successful, maybe have one title published and for whom it is a secondary means of living. How do you create a standard way of sustaining creativity across the varies different forms and levels of need? The reality is that market forces will always prevail, but here the trick is to at least give the creators a fair return on digital sales and in doing so, encourage a ‘win win’ publishing environment for all.

Double Agents?

This last couple of weeks has shown us how easy it is to forget or pay token gestures to authors. Nobody would be as bold as to stand and say a bad word about them in public but often actions speak louder than words.

We wrote last week about the ‘landgrab’ by a literary agency to revert rights and secure them in ‘safe keeping’ in the long tail print on demand channel. No marketing fees or promotion incurred here, just a one off conversion cost and every sale results in an additional bonus. Will authors and their estates get 90% of any revenues earned, or will they end up with a lot smaller percentage and the usual babble about investment and risk and the cost of redesigning the jacket! Will they get a second publication opportunity - highly unlikely - as to many, this is in fact their last publishing opportunity! They may well have done it themselves and in doing so also colected all the revenues raised. Mind you the agent may still have wanted their cut!

The question of who offers authors what advice, is interesting. Some may agrue that an agent who offers backlist print on demand under their label, a clear conflict of interest. They may say that it is may be praying on the vulnerability of some in this new uncertain world and obviously betraying their position of trust. You would not expect your account or tax advisor to recommend you to invest in their own company or schemes, so why accept this ‘bad’ advice.

We must always remember that there are only two players that count, the author who creates the work and the reader who pays for it. All the rest are intermediaries who should add value and invariably also cost. If value is not seen then just like in other sectors no one’s position is safe, agents, publishers, printers, distributors, retailers etc.

Authors deserve guidance and good advice and they afer all are the ones that create the content that is publibishing.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

200,000 Read Mieko's Blog

Mieko Kawakami, has just been heralded as Japan’s biggest literary star. Her fame has not been created between the jackets but on the Internet were her poetic, street-wise writing has not only stood out among the many Internet diaries but has achieved the 31-year-old, former bar hostess and bookstore clerk, this year's Akutagawa Award. Theaward is named after "Rashomon" author Ryunosuke Akutagawa and is Japan's most prestigious honor for a new writer in Japan.

According to the blog trackers Technorati Inc, there are more blog posted in Japanese than any other language, some 37% or 1.5 million a day. Postings in English only account for 36% of all blogs are, according to., which tracks nearly 113 million blogs globally. Last year, Technorati found 37 percent of all postings were in Japanese - about 1.5 million per day and greater than all the postings in English, 36%. It is said that more content in Japan is personal in it nature whilst in the US and UK it is media orientated and news based.

Kawakami's readership has skyrocketed from its early days in 2003 to around 10,000 a day and a staggering 200,000 on the day she won the Akutagawa. She started the blog to draw attention to her music, but the early entries became her first book. Her third book won the Akutagawa.

Kawakami's award-winning novella, "The Breast and the Egg," covers new territory in Japanese literature; divorce, the question of beauty and solitary womanhood and have huge appeal to Japanese women.

Will blogs become books or authors become blogers? The book is starting to cut itself free from the book straightjacket and creative writing will continue to flourish irrespective. Japanese culture is significantly different from western culture but the remarkable acceptance of the blog and Keitai novels will have an influence on all in this global market.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

So if the World Goes Broadband What Does it Mean?

Broadband subscriptions in eight European countries are now above the levels in the United States and Japan. The EU stated this week that the EU has added 19 mill broadband lines in 2007, the equivalent of more than 50,000 households per day.

According to the commission 4 countries lead the world; Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands and Finland, and another 8 have higher penetration rates than the U.S. and Japan. Britain, Belgium, Luxembourg and France also surpassed the US in 2007 and this year Germany joined them. The European telecommunications market is now worth 300 billion euros.

As the bandwidth increases so does the opportunities. The mobile broadband market is also exploding and now driving new services and offers.

As we experience this shift in connectivity we have to question whether the current download paradigm is going to continue to be the dominant one in the near future. If we can access broadband bandwidth from anywhere at anytime why do we need ‘fat clients’ or devices that are expensive to buy are complex to run and consume storage and power? It make more sense to harness the power across the network and from ‘fat servers’. In a bookworld this could mean that the whole format and reader debate becomes a non issue and everything simply goes online. After all if the Kindle can download a book wirelessly anywhere why not just stream it anywhere and forget all the download hassle and the storage of up to 200 titles?

We all too often design solution based on yesterday and what we know and that is alas why they don’t last long.

News or Noise?

We were once amazed how many Bollywood films were produced each year. You can watch two different films every day and still would not see them all! Yet India has a thriving film industry.

We now hear from The Bookseller feed today that Nielsen BookScan report that the number of titles with both an ISBN and a 2007 publication date sold last year hit 118,602, up 36% from 2006 (86,984). The amount of backlist titles a pre-2007 publication date sold last year also increased, up to 758,125 from 590,464 in 2006, a jump of 28%.There are some explanations of new products having ISBNs, an expansion of the data collected and more print on demand titles.

Let’s face it publishing is becoming cheaper. Print on demand doesn’t also necessitate the inventory and Internet, Amazon, and wholesalers can remove the cost of a saleforce and the battle of trying to catch the High Street attention. Chris Anderson’s longtail economics are certainly look to arrived!

Two points to ponder. First one would hope that every title published sold at least one copy in its first year. Even the self published book must sell one copy so does this tell us anything?

The more interesting issue is with respect to backlist as print on demand titles adopt the previous ISBN and obviously publication date. If we say that there are some 2 to 3 million books in print then are we saying that only 30% make a sale in any year?

As we move on we ponder whether a little knowledge can be dangerous and must be treated as noise not news.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A New Role for Agents?

The Bookseller reports today on the role of the agent. In a serious twist today they report that the agency PFD is entering a print on demand relationship with Lightning Source which will enable it to bring back out of print works from its authors and estates and makes these available through Amazon and the two wholesaler channels of Gardners and Bertrams.
This clearly throws the gauntlet down on rights reversals and opens up all sorts of potential opportunities for both authors and agents.

By bringing these works back they effectively block publishers wakening up and doing it themselves and also are one step away from securing the full digital control of these works. It is unknown what the deal is with the authors and their estates but it is obviously better than no sales and is with little if no risk. By selecting the free to play channels they also are well place to pick up ‘long tail’ sales.

Interestingly we were only thinking what the role of the Agent may be in the new World. They could hardly remain as they are today and yet unless they step back into the publishing model it is hard to see how many will not be marginalised in the future.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Discovering New eBook Players

Sometimes its fun to unearth news and sometimes its hard work. Today those smart industry watches at Publishers Lunch made what could have been a throwaway paragraph about a new ebook reader patent from Discovery Communications, who we all know through their Discovery Channel. The news was at best brief and said nothing other than they had got US patent clearance.

Finding more information was very difficult but appears that have been awarded a patent is for an ‘‘electronic book secure communication system” for the home and library by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office on March 6. The patent is ‘‘a new way to distribute books and other textual information to bookstores, libraries and consumers.”

Apparently from a report lodged in the e-book home system is essentially an electronic library that is accessible usable through a portable book shaped electronic reader.

The concept of the system is apparently based on utilising video signal format to also deliver text and a subsystem that allows it to be received and readers to select books and periodicals. This communications distribution is the obvious key ‘‘a novel combination of new technology involving the television, cable, telephone and computer industries.” and similar in concept to the wireless approach that Amazon took in removing the need for the intermediary PC.

The patent is reported to say ‘‘Using the entire video signal, thousands of books may be transmitted within just one hour of air time.” The e-book reader would ‘‘both read books and to interact with the home library software.”

We are left to wonder whether it will ever happen or whether it was just another patent filed. What is clear is that the Sony and the Kindle are transient technology solutions and like others that compete in different user space will be forced into the convergence route. The Blackberry is a classic example of a one dimensional tool thaty is now chasing the convergence ticket to survive. Steve Jobs knows that the iPhone will be a point of convergence so there is little point in developing short life product.

Interestingly there will be the library battles between the Adobe Digital Editions and other media libraries and Discovery may be angling to position themselves here as trusted gatekeepers. What is clear is that the tipping point will not be the ebookreader as we know it today.

Music is Heading South by Southwest

The music business is a weird world and the question of who makes the money going forward has long featured in this blog. As George Martin put it way back in the 60’s referring to a Beatle album, ‘ the album is the menu the concert is the meal.’
The highly successful South by Southwest US music festival has once again raised the questions of what make success and how musicians get paid. The veteran Lou Reed was also blunt about musicians getting a label contract. “You have the Internet — what do you need it for?”

Many big stars now want to control their own world and money. Radiohead, the Eagles, Nine Inch Nails, McCartney, Joni Mitchell are deserting those companies, choosing to be free agents and new models. They are being joined by the likes of Madonna who recently bought herself out of her deal. Even moderately well-known musicians such as Daniel Lanois, noted during his set that he now sells his music directly online. “We can record something at night, put it on the site for breakfast and have the money in the PayPal account by 5.”

Reed also rasied the interesting issue of sound quality, ‘you hear they've got a newer version (of MP3) that sounds better, and you suddenly hear the other instruments that are on the song. They've got to bring up the standard. You have the world open to you now; you can get almost any song in the world as an MP3, and I suppose if you like it you can go out and try to find a version you can actually listen to -- if you like good sound. If you don't like good sound, none of this matters for a second.’

So its not just a case of DRM free it could also be one of quality of sound. Does music dumb down like YouTube videos and leave space for those who want the full quality experience to pay or does it match quality with free DRM quality? This is an interest issue for all media and brings home the point that although anyone can create the quality may matter to many. The book industry has its ever growing slush pile, self publishing services and social network offers but quality is always sought by the majority.

Finally, the Internet looks to have brought musicians some unlikely corporate allies with this year’s festival having brand-name sponsors such as Citigroup and Dell.

Friday, March 14, 2008

A Lesson in Social Skills

AOL is buying BeBo the number three social networking site as they start to reposition their offer and see obvious need for a social network community.
Do all social sites need to be huge to offer potential? What drives a social network site? We know Facebook started as a college site and then morphed into a post graduate reunion site before young executives found it the hip place to be seen. We are aware that MySpace and Facebook have enjoyed a meteoritic rise and now have been bought for huge sums but what about the smaller want-to-bes?

An interesting site is . It does what it says on the can ‘sell student books’ enabling students sell their used books and importantly as they do so engage in a community site that offers shared communication not just on the books. It has all the right ingredients; a need (giving students extra cash for unwanted books), an audience (students) and value added as the students act as a validator of what books matter and which texts count. Just like the lecturers did before than they help qualify and rate the content.

We love the rouges gallery of ‘sexy sellers’ and it clearly appeals to many.
The really interesting thing is that they are continuing to push the site boundaries and stickiness and are now adding accommodation and laptops to their trading offer. This is one savvy set up and deserves to be a success.

London Word Festival Opens Digital Doors

Yesterday we spoke at the London Word Festival at the Bishopsgate Institute. The event was titled The Creative Word: Book Futures: Reading, Writing and Publishing in the Digital Age. It was great to have a room full of consumers all partisipanting in the ensuing debate. Well done London Word!

For those who enjoyed the speeches and healthy debate here are our words:
Today the future of the book is being changed by the digitization of content, network access and globalization. It is a complex issue and is not unlike climate change in that it has doom mongers, prophets, experts and many who want to ignore it and hope it goes away or seek leadership. We all know that it’s happening. We all know the impact is going to be significant. However, no one knows when, by how much and what the result will be.

Today, we focus much debate on the ebook, ebookreaders and the consumer demand. The reality is that we are predicting and discussing consumer demand in a vacuum and what many of us believe is transient technology. The vacuum I refer to is a lack of digital content and consumer offer. The issue today is not the ebook or readers or formats: it’s that there is little if no digital content and publishing is still in the main an analogue process that produces bound books. What is the use of an ebookreader if there is little content and few places to buy it.

I come for the firm belief that Digital Publishing is Publishing.

It is not about ebooks, audio book downloads, online, podcasts, blogs, widgets etc. these are merely the delivery formats. It is about haw and what we create, the rights that are acquired and traded, developed, produced, marketed, sold and read. It is about the changing roles and relationships rights across the life cycle from Author to Reader. It is about rights across its life cycle from creation to public domain. It is also about understanding consumer behavior.

The big problem is that we all love and are comfortable with books. Authors love to write them, editors love to edit them and readers love to read them. We have been educated with them and have grown up with them.

If asked to describe a book many would describe its size, even the number of pages and authors the number of words. All books consist of front matter, content and end matter.

I would suggest that the form has always dictated the content format and its creation. Some would argue that the bound book has been a straightjacket to creativity in that it has dictated what many write even how they write. Have creators adapted to it? Yes. Have some great works been created in it? Yes.

However, digitization now creates the opportunity to explode the spine of what we have known for the last few centuries and present content differently. Will it replace the book? No. Will it replace the book – No? Will it help redefine it and how we develop and sell it – most definitely?

Will the digital book be the same as the physical one. I hope not otherwise we will have fallen into the same trap as we did between the hardback and the paperback and to a lesser degree the audiobook.

In removing the straightjacket we also start to potentially express ourselves differently. Look at some online reference works, at what travel publishers are now starting to do with their content and what authors such as Kate Pullinger are doing with her ‘ Alice’ novel. There are many examples we could quote as reference and some will work and others will not. But the common thread and enabler is digitization.

Is that wrong or right? Who cares? Creativity and expression is not a book nor is it a blog or anything between. Dickens wrote in installments as did Stephen King when he wrote ‘Riding the Bullet’ and some Japanese authors are doing similar today in their writing for mobiles. You can’t squeeze multi media in between the jacket nor do it as an afterthought.

Unlike climate change, it is not time to defend ourselves against the threat but it is time to engage with it and as Gail Rebuck eloquently said in her speech this week, see it as a glass half full and offering all new and exciting opportunities for all.

UK Trade's Ditital First Steps

The Bookseller in its feed today has let the secret out. They report on the news that the ebook programme has now unofficially landed and being powered not by the publishers but as we predicted at the New Year, by the retailers on both sides of the pond.

Waterstone's and Borders are now poised to put their muscle into the market and although sales will be small the acts themselves will kick start the publishers into action. With Gartdners Books now well under way and offering all the ability to participate we can start to see the Brave New World that we wrote about some 18 months ago.

Rights will be and should be an issue and will take time to resolve. Authors need to be rewarded and the debate over investment is understandable but investment is in the main a one off exercise and brings with addition opportunities and this should not be at the cost of the author. The likes of Gardners and others have stepped up to the challenge and have grappled with the issues. We must recognise that digital content is part of the landscape if you want to be in the market moving forward.

The question of Kindle versus Sony versus online versus iPhone is not for today. But what is an issue for today is building consumer confidence and awareness and matching their expectations. It would be stupid to make a huge fanfare and only have a small fraction of people want available and at a price that is unacceptable.

Audiobooks are also at a watershed and finally have the ability to break out of the DRM straightjacket but again we must address pricing issues and availability now.The industry has a long time to debate the issues and prepare itself now its time to move forward with caution but with purpose.

So 2008 looks as predicted as being the first giant step forward for digital content but is only one step in a long journey and is not yet a leap into the digital world.

Digitising Classics

It’s strange to see the classics now being rebranded with new livery and even re written into today’s prose in the physical book world. A few years ago some publishers were reducing their profile as they were increasingly available for free online and all public domain works. The big question was whether traditional publishers could migrate these works online and make money. Merely replicating the text or even giving them a brush up would be the same as the current hardback paperback repetition and show little value add.

It is therefore refreshing to hear that Penguin US, one of he recognised ‘classic’ publishers have announced the launch of "expanded ebook classics". These will start in May with a version of Jane Austen's ‘Pride and Prejudice’, followed by nine more titles and are all priced the same as their paperback editions, $8.

These will offer added value with features as a reviews from the time of the original publication, a Austen chronology, guides on period dancing and social etiquette, a filmographgy, fashion illustration and guides to Austen sites and information on the decor and architecture of the time. It will be like seeing those outtakes and extras at the end of the DVD. It wioll be interesting to see how much of the extras are public domain and how much is original and whether the publication of a public work demands DRM.

We salute Penguin in this bold and sensible route which should provide readers with a greater insight to the times and background of the times in which the book was written. After all the book content itself is free so actually providing the extras could justify charging any money. Also if you published all Austen’s works the majority of the extra material can be reused. We now hope that the research and it presentation is of the quality associated with a classic work and extended to others.

Finally, one would hope that Penguin will make these available in the UK at the same time. After all they are public domain and there is no reason why not and it would certain help to address the imbalance of digital content available in the UK compared to the US.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Digital Climate Change

We applaud the speech that Random House chair and c.e.o. Gail Rebuck gave this week. The speech itself was fully reported in today’s Bookseller briefing and is well rounded and gives a thorough viewpoint of why the digital glass is definitely half full and not half empty. Digitisation is impacting everything to do with publishing and even the content itself.

It was interesting to read the speech on the back of having watched two BBC programmes last night. The first was on the history of the typewriter and the second on the emergence of the tabloid press. What these programmes clearly showed was that technology and social change are cyclic and the changes that happened at the end of the 19th century were very similar in their impact to those we are experiencing today.

In the case of newsprint the broadsheets had existed and presented their reports the same way for many years. The tabloid came in the form of The Daily Mail and shook their very foundations, presenting different news, not for the elite but for the masses. It was possible due to the literacy boom created by education, social urbanisation and the emergence of efficient distribution. We could not help drawing a parallel with the Internet and technology boom of today. The tabloid and its journalism has survived and the broadsheets have followed its path.

In the case of the typewriter it was providing automation and replacing the pen in the early explosion of the office. The demand for automation was a given. The sheer number of different typewriter machines and type layouts reminded us of the many format wars that litter the technology battlefields. It was interesting how ‘qwerty’ won the final battle and the fact that the best doesn’t always prevail. The typewriter may have gone by the qwerty keyboard remains long after its layout justification has gone.

The digital publishing evolution is not about ebooks, online, audio downloads, blogs, these are merely the delivery mechanisms. It is about the book and the divergence of publishing sectors that were once joined together merely by a common format, jacket and spine.

Gail ‘s speech is encapsulated in her line, ‘Digitisation is here and books will never be the same again,’ and in her belief that this is grounds for optimism. Digital publishing is publishing and is changing and challenging the rights acquired their developed, how it is produced, what is produced, how it is sold and marketed, what is read and how it is read and finally, the roles and relationships right across the total publishing life cycle.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Mobile News

Many believe as we do that the mobile platform will dominate the digital world along with the ‘heavier’ Laptop and that everything else, including the clunky Kindle and Sony readers are just transient noise.

We bring you some more interesting news this week from the world of mobile.
The one thing any technology aspires to is universal mass adoption. Can you imagine one country adding 2.05 million new mobile subscribers in January and in doing so taking the total number of users to 36.4 million? The country is one of the world's fastest growing mobile markets, but is one often viewed as impoverished country of over 140 million people. They also predict that the number of mobile phone users will be around 50 million at the end of 2009. The country is Bangladesh.

Convergence continues at a pace with devices and functionality morphing to offer the user everything in a single device. Sony has just announced that it would add a Skype Web phone function to its PlayStation Portable later this month in Japan. This move is not only an attempt to gain back market share in the games market, but a recognition that technology convergence is inevitable. Many believed that the game market would be one of the last to cede to the mobile phone platform, but Sony’s plans to start selling the microphone to enable Skype over their Playstation clearly shows that convergence is key. How long before the single dimension and transient ebook readers get the message?

The next key battleground is the mobile browser. We now see an explosion of wireless mobile broadband modems which start to question the broadband landline and importantly open up the full potential of ‘always connected’. Yahoo have now have unveiled ‘ OnePlace’, a mobile phone tool to bookmark links, news feeds or search results on the move. This gives them access to the latest information and feeds on travel, sports and even social network postings. Users will be able to mark their favourite websites on their PC and then synchronize these with their cell phone, or directly on the mobile phone itself. What this tells us is that we are at the start of a battle for mobile search, advertising and the browser world. Apple are actively encouraging developers to create applications for the iPhone and Google are hovering in the wings. Adobe obviously recognise the weakness of imaged based text on the small screen and the need for reflowable text and are actively shifting ground.
Email has long been available via mobiles but it took the Blackberry to bring this home and create a tool that is now used by millions of business people today. Now Apple have regonised that they need to present an alternative to the Blackberry keyboard and eyestrain and have taken the step of announcing that the next update to its iPhone software will support Microsoft’s Exchange email software. Will this fatally wound Blackberry? Probably not but as RIM scramble to wider the use of the Blackberry the vultures are starting to circle.

Finally, we have long argued that Content is content and is not locked into one format. The book trade publishers ‘books’ that are sold by booksellers as ‘books’ and loved by bookreaders as ‘books’. But are book publishers restricted to books or are the content publishers and owners or as an old friend once said ‘rights managers’? If we think of books then its hard to see the content lending itself to the mobile platform. But if we see content then it may do so tomorrow. The Japanese are already seeing significant changes in this direction through their Keitai novels and although these may not work today in other markets, it is certain that they will in some form in the future.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

A Lesson in Digital Creative Writing

We are now speaking to a number of authors and content creators about the digital opportunities and challenges that they now face. We are looking at how it is affecting them, their relationships, and the processes and activities right across the publishing value chain and life cycle from creation to public domain.

This week we had the pleasure of interviewing an author with a difference perspective, Kate Pullinger. We were drawn to Kate by the article she wrote in the Guardian last month, ‘Writers can learn a lot from the Hollywood strike. We deserve a better deal from digital publishing’. The article raised many valid points and clearly touched a spot, as it generated high number of comments.
We were interested in her digital experiences not so much from the commercial side but the writing itself. She has authored several novels, writes for radio, film and for digital media and currently teaches on the MA in Creative Writing and New Media at De Montfort University, Leicester. She was also the Research Fellow for TRACE online writing centre from 2002-3.

So Kate not only writes, but teaches writers and has importantly worked with new media. Kate clearly sees the glass half full and the opportunities for all in the New World, but she also recognises that the format often dictates the form. To put it another way, books are books and their size and structure are often fixed to fit the package not necessarily the content itself. Creating multi media works needs to support multi media at the beginning, during the development and at the end. It is not a case of writing the text and adding the ‘effects’ at the end.

We visited Kate’s impressive web site and her latest digital work , a multi media graphic novel in episodes. We will all have our own views on whether it works or doesn’t but the one thing it certainly provides is evidence that creativity is not confined to a live in a jacket. Just as MTV enhanced music and YouTube changed video, then digitisation has the potential to change the book.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Its Official Audiobook DRM is Dead

Following hot on the heels of Random House’s announcement that they were to sell audiobook downloads DRM free now comes the news that Penguin are to follow the same route. We predicted in the Brave New World report that audio would be a natural format for digital downloading and its heartening to finally see they opportunity coming to fruition.

It still remains a mystery why Penguin pulled out of the 3music experiment but that is now history. It is almost certain that the audiobook download market is sprinting towards DRM free and following the music market trend. This is great news for the existing channel and as we said last week is an interesting dilemma for the new Amazon Audible Brilliance audio partnership.

Two other issues now need to be grappled with; pricing and rights. However the market will ultimately sort the price points and this should be viewed by authors as a great opportunity to promote and sell more works.

We now believe that 2008 will be a tipping point for digital audiobooks and although it will take time for the market to get up to speed the DRM shackles have finally been lifted. Let’s face it the CDs were DRM free anyway!