Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Size Does Matter!

This week we read that Hewlett Packard are to release two new laptops that are lighter, thinner and have extended battery life. The EliteBook 2530p, weighs just over 3 pounds and the EliteBook 2730p is an ultra-thin computer that converts to a touch-screen pen-based tablet computer with a twist of its screen and weighs 3.7 pounds. They recognise that travellers demand true portability not lug-ability. We have already written about the iPhone applications and the ebook reader developed by Fictionwise and today read that Lonely Planet is to make its content available via Nokia mobiles.

Not only is the world shrinking through technology but the technology is also shrinking and converging. So what about the content itself? Today we joined a email discussion group supported by Peter Brantley the force behind the

The points we made were:
If we all agree that the short story or serialised novel or reference work is the ideal form for mobile and e content and I would venture that only a few and the brave would venture to read war and peace digitally, we have several fundamental challenges to face.

1. The economics of publishing today is skewed toward a print economic model best described as a ‘strightjacket’ binding 250 pages and x thousand words. This is economic to develop, print, market and shift. Why on earth do we simply see this shifting like a hardback to a paperback and to digital. Even the video guys saw merit in additional material! The audio guys realised that unabridged didn’t always make sense! So why not like the Keitai novels, Dickens, S King think again and also think of the consumer experience not merely replicating formats?

2. Payment models are not an issue. There are many examples of models that work on wallets, subscription, micropayments. The issues that may be more relevant are tax and price points. Consumers don’t want to know about tax so inclusive pricing helps. Price points are very interesting given iTunes and the track revolution in music – 99c a short read?

3. Marketing is not an issue as it is more about selling collections, series, brands than individual stories. Again think music and tracks, think Dickens and King and serials.

The main and difficult challenge is to generate content that is worthy and a demand for it that generates sales. Do authors write the book and then serialise it into chunks or write it in chunks? Is writing a short story the same skill set as the long novel and do we have the short story brands. Can you imagine if Harry Potter had been written and released in digital chunks first then as a book second? We would not be here today discussing the obvious! Some may ask why do publishers insist on digital experiments with first timers and unknown authors and not the block busters?

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