Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Morning After the Great Book Bank Robbery

Today there is much rejoicing in the digital ranks. After all Google has just bought the industry for what would appear in this crazy world of money – a snippet.
So everyone will get paid and literature will flow freely around the Internet. You will be able to view and buy any book from anywhere and all those messy rights contract issues with digital just got settled. Libraries will get more members, publishers will sell back and forgotten lists and even authors will get recompensed. There will no more orphans as any lose strays will soon get sucked up and adopted.
Next will be the other legal battles that Google has in motion to capture the rest of the media and information world.

Is it good or is it bad. Who are the winners and who are the losers?

A hefty slice of all future revenues will remain with Google and as with any division of money, someone will have to pay for that slice. So what’s in it for booksellers? What will be the relationship between authors and publishers as they become tethered for life with no divorces? What will it mean to consumers as they become faced not with a huge virtual choice but everything ever published at a click?

Before the great adoption land grab takes place its now time to lay claim remembering this is an ‘opt out’ not an ‘opt in’ world. Forget right reversals Google has wiped that of the agenda in one swoop and some major publishers have got their way, albeit with Google’s considerable help. There is now no ‘reprint under consideration’ only a notice saying ‘Go get it from Google’.

Finally in the global networked world, is this a done deal for all and how do we deal with a world divided by Google. How will others now negotiate with both hands tied behind their backs?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Great Book Bank Robbery?

Today is a sad day for copyright and publishing as we know it. Google has settled their long standing case against the publishers and authors and have been given a green light in many areas. The most alarming is the out of print area where we would suggest coupled with the Orphan Act the gates are now open. Here are some snippets direct from Google and we would ask you think out the implications.

We have taken abstracts from the Google pages (in italics) the full write up can be found at Google Book Search.

Out of print books
Until now, we've only been able to show a few snippets of text for most of the in-copyright books we've scanned through our Library Project. Since the vast majority of these books are out of print, to actually read them you'd have to hunt them down at a library or a used bookstore. This agreement will allow us to make many of these out-of-print books available for preview, reading and purchase in the U.S.. Helping to ensure the ongoing accessibility of out-of-print books is one of the primary reasons we began this project in the first place, and we couldn't be happier that we and our author, library and publishing partners will now be able to protect mankind's cultural history in this manner.

Accessing books
This agreement will create new options for reading entire books (which is, after all, what books are there for).

Online access
Once this agreement has been approved, you'll be able to purchase full online access to millions of books. This means you can read an entire book from any Internet-connected computer, simply by logging in to your Book Search account, and it will remain on your electronic bookshelf, so you can come back and access it whenever you want in the future.
Library and university access
We'll also be offering libraries, universities and other organizations the ability to purchase institutional subscriptions, which will give users access to the complete text of millions of titles while compensating authors and publishers for the service. Students and researchers will have access to an electronic library that combines the collections from many of the top universities across the country. Public and university libraries in the U.S. will also be able to offer terminals where readers can access

Buying or borrowing actual books
Finally, if the book you want is available in a bookstore or nearby library, we'll continue to point you to those resources, as we've always done.

International users
Because this agreement resolves a United States lawsuit, it directly affects only those users who access Book Search in the U.S.; anywhere else, the Book Search experience won't change. Going forward, we hope to work with international industry groups and individual rightsholders to expand the benefits of this agreement to users around the world.

Three types of books
This agreement helps define how our users may access different categories of books on Google Book Search.
In-copyright and in-print books
In-print books are books that publishers are still actively selling, the ones you see at most bookstores. This agreement expands the online marketplace for in-print books by letting authors and publishers turn on the "preview" and "purchase" models that make their titles more easily available through Book Search.
In-copyright but out-of-print books
Out-of-print books aren’t actively being published or sold, so the only way to procure one is to track it down in a library or used bookstore. When this agreement is approved, every out-of-print book that we digitize will become available online for preview and purchase, unless its author or publisher chooses to "turn off" that title. We believe it will be a tremendous boon to the publishing industry to enable authors and publishers to earn money from volumes they might have thought were gone forever from the marketplace.
Out-of-copyright books
This agreement doesn't affect how we display out-of-copyright books; we will continue to allow Book Search users to read, download and print these titles, just as we do today.

The Book Rights Registry
The agreement will also create an independent, not-for-profit Book Rights Registry to represent authors, publishers and other rightsholders. In essence, the Registry will help locate rightsholders and ensure that they receive the money their works earn under this agreement. You can visit the settlement administration site, the Authors Guild or the AAP to learn more about this important initiative

Again we have long argued for a rights clearing house but not one that is tied to an act such as this. Some may say that the industry has opted for the easy route and one that means that they can effectively abdicate from the job it should have done long ago.

So out of print but in copyright books become fair game and the question is who owns what, what happens to rights reversals, how do royalties get paid and to whom and who is the seller?

So is Google a bookshop, a search engine, an advertising agent, a library resource or as some have said an omnivore?

Kindle in the University

The race to capture the US university market presents some complex digital issues but offers huge opportunities and rewards. In August we wrote ‘Catch them young’ which detailed the adoption of iPhones in the classrooms and mentioned reported on Amazon’s attempt to get the Kindle to replace the textbook.

Yale, Oxford and the University of California have all adopted Kindle programs, and now Princeton University Press will begin publishing Kindle-edition textbooks, launching, Robert Shiller’s new economics book “The Subprime Solution” on the device two weeks before the hard copy. Princeton plans to roll out hundreds of books through the Kindle’s online store. The questions over over the commercial ‘revenue sharing’ arrangements are between the parties and whether , as some may say, Amazon is buying trade.

However with 2,500 universities in the US these, are still relatively small moves. The Kindle may appeal to some but falls far short of meeting demands for colour, and still requires the student to carry three devices; a phone, a laptop and a reader.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Mobile Broadband is About to Get a Lot Faster

The future is dependant on high mobile bandwidth. This will enable mobiles to compete head to head with wired services, including today's fiber-to-the-home and fiber-to-the-node deployments. It will release a new wave of applications and services to mobiles and provide the bandwidth to support video and gaming.

We now read on Ars Technica that Ericsson has achieved speeds of 100 Mbps in the latest tests on its Long Term Evolution (LTE) 4G data networking, which is some 20 to 100 times faster than current typical 3G networks. AT&T and Verizon Wireless have already committed to LTE with the carriers are claiming they'll be ready to deploy LTE in the U.S. in 2010. Sprint has selected WiMax technology, which currently delivers far lower speeds than LTE, but works today.

This explosion of bandwidth will surely knock another nail in the download versus online debate and we will move further to being ‘permanently connected’.

Photographer Takes Copyright Fight to U.S. High Court

Interesting copyright issues continue to be fought out over reusing previously published material in new digital editions. The legal debate and decisions are often conflicting and involve many courts, appeals and time.

We would suggest you read this one article ‘Photographer Takes Copyright Fight to U.S. High Court’ from to get some background to the debate and potential implications.

Oprah's Favorite New Gadget

Ok who would you choose to promote your brand and product in the US? The answer is both simple and as they say a ‘no brainer’.

Oprah has done as much as anyone to promote books through endorsement and has spawned many pretenders such as Richard and Judy in the UK. She has backed Barak Obama from the start and her endorsements can turn frogs into princes. So this week she backed the Kindle and Amazon’s ebook programme.

She loves it that much she obviously ignores the air traffic rules on when to use electronic devices. ‘Right before a recent flight with Stedman, Oprah says she saw a book advertised in a newspaper she was reading and downloaded that very book as they were heading down the runway. "The other day, too, I didn't want to go out and get the paper. It was Sunday. It was raining," she says. "I go, 'I will download The New York Times,' and I just read from my bed on my Kindle." ‘

The report on reads like Jeff wrote it or it was taken straight from the Kindle promotion page. Using the code OPRAHWINFREY you can now get $50 of the price of the Kindle.

Today we have several players squaring up to own the eReader device space. This battle is further complicated by the devices not all being available in every country, or in the case of the Kindle not even being supported outside North America. What impact would Oprah make? Will it make this a Kindle Christmas?

The problem Amazon has is that the device has already been declared dated with the announcements of a new model soon. This means that people will be just buying end of line models which will be superseded before they have read a few books. It’s as bad as Sony’s release of the 700 only a couple of weeks after high profile launch in the UK with Waterstones of their now dated 505.

The problem with the Amazon ebook model is that it is Amazon format, through an Amazon store, at an Amazon price point, over an Amazon connection to an Amazon device – a truly ‘exclusive’. If Amazon were to dominate the ebook market we would have a monopoly where scarcity should not occur and it is illogical to have a monopoly.

However, some would argue that this ‘exclusive world domination’ approach could be the best thing for the market. The likes of Sony would probably disappear as fast as ‘live book search’ and the others settle for the scraps. Importantly the mobile market would seriously take off and that’s one Bezos has got covered and where there are truly giants at work today. The online offer would become increasingly attractive to many. We may finally understand that downloading is not the only solution and hording loads of titles on a device just to own them is crazy in this networked age.

So the question of Oprah’s marketing pitch could prove valuable for Bezos to shift his end of line stock but for the market to work on the real digital offers and solutions.

Friday, October 24, 2008

So what of newsprint in the digital age?

We bet you wouldn't do that with a Kindle or Plastic Logic device!

We have heard as many, if not more, predictions about the death of the newspaper over the years than any over media format. Although its history is long, the tabloid as we know it today is barely a century old. Driven my mass literacy, it rose to give the masses their daily news, gossip, insights, sport and classifieds, but today the world has changed and the newspaper world has to adjust to survive.

Television was the first salvo across its bow. It gave us our daily news which now is on a constant loop and available anywhere, anytime. Moreover it gave us pictures, realism and breaking news in real-time. The Internet has continued to expand on this and now means instant alerts, and access to any story 24 x 7. Also consolidated news from journals such as The Week provided more condensed and digestible reviews than the weighty weekenders.

Mobile technology not only gave us news on the move it changed how users interacted with the news. Suddenly everyone potentially became a journalist or photographer on the spot and who cared if the pictures were grainy – they were real time. Blogs sprung up offering news and views for free. The writing may not have been as creative or clever but like YouTube’s impact on video it was clearly visible.

The Internet opened up the lucrative classified ads , making them more readily searchable and increased their appeal to a wider audience. The free classified operators such as Craigslist in the US, as well as Kijiji and Gumtree internationally extended the appeal. was one of the first online classified sites, and has grown to become the largest classified source, bringing in over 14 million unique visitors a month. This new shift has cannibalized newsprint classified revenues and now the more mainstream adverts are moving online.

Now we have the news meltdown. The Tribune Company has given a two-year notice to the Associated Press that its daily newspapers plan to drop the news service, becoming the first major newspaper chain to do. The dispute may be over new rates but the move is one that signals further changes in these tempestuous waters.

However, the real change is in the user and how, what and when they want and also how they value it.

Buy One - Get A Bundle For Free?

The New York Times today reported that Dell are to sell computers with preinstalled bundles of music from Universal Music Group and films through CinemaNow.

Buyers will be able to select a variety of music bundles to be pre-installed which will consist of 50- and 100-songs and start at $25. The pre-installed music bundles will show up as Music icons on the Dell Dock. The movie bundles will also start at $25.

We have Sony and iRex doing similar with their ebook readers and it seems that all manufacturers now want to make a consumer offer that is seductive and gets them using the device. However, like the book clubs with their wildly discounted introduction offers, they fail to see that this cheapens the value of all music, films and books and makes the consumer question the standard price. It also assumes that the choice within the bundle is correct and appealing. In light of the move from CD compilations to single tracks this is something we now understand doesn’t always follow.

These players just want to shift their ‘tin’ not the content.

London Librarys' Big Secret Dump Bin

We have written before about public libraries dumping books in skips for land fill and now The East London Advertiser informs us that Tower Hamlets are to bin its almost entire collection of 30,000 specialist foreign language books.

French, German and Portuguese collections stored at Bethnal Green Library are no longer wanted and most have never been borrowed. The books occupy some 1,000 shelves and are to be joined in the tip by some 2,750 specialist books on Americana literature. They languished in the basement of the former Limehouse Library until two years ago before being transferred to a storage room in Bethnal Green.

The books are part of a scheme started some 60 years ago ‘Metropolitan Special Reserve’ whereby, 28 former Metropolitan boroughs were given specific responsibilities to buy and maintain specialist areas of stock to meet reader reservations across London. Limehouse developed a collection of 16,500 French, 10,500 German and 1,200 Portuguese works.

The books appear unwanted by; Academic libraries who say the stock is out of date or they already have a copy, Public libraries because of the specialist nature and age and booksellers because they have little commercial value.
So across London piles of ‘unwanted’ books look to be heading for landfill or the incinerator.

We hope that this programme of destruction raises the question once again of what libraries should be buying today and their role moving forward. It would be too easy to merely fill empty shelves or just trundle along as if nothing had happened. These books cost a large sum of money and have just sat there expecting to be read. As we move towards the virtual shelf and the cavernous repositories of the likes of Google what will the libraries buy now and how will they communicate the fact that they even have it available. Library management is perhaps the biggest oxymoron.

Celebrity Culture

We have all seen the rise of the celebrity culture. Is it any different from those that went before or is it that private lives are now more accessible and the public appetite for up-to-the-second celebrity gossip. Publishers have clearly risen to the challenge and today we have celebrity books stacked high in bookstores and biographies on the lives of ‘stars’ who often are barely past their teenage years.
The instant gratification is no longer the Hello shoot or the Heat expose but the often out of focus and fizzy video captured on a mobile phone camera and posted on YouTube.

Everyone is fair game in the ‘public’ world where even the very famous will be harder going forward. The growing numbers of high-quality cameras in every smartphone everyone a potential paparazzo. Seesmic, a video blogging company based in San Francisco, is planning a service where anyone can record a video of a celebrity at dinner or in a conversation or just walking down the street, then send it to the Seesmic’s network for all to share. Stalking celebrities using GPS to spread news celebrity sightings is only a heartbeat away.

Kim Kardashian, is someone who now is famous for being famous and best known for a sex tape made with her boyfriend. Web sites like and some of the most popular destinations. started a mobile offering last April and watched traffic soar to 1.1 million visitors in July. E!, the entertainment news cable channel and Web site offers celebrity news for mobile users and has 30,000 subscribers, sending them as many as three alerts a day. Yahoo Entertainment, according to Nielsen, recently had 2.9 million visitors.

A few years ago when Gary Barlow, the lead singer with Take That , released his biography we questioned why there wasn’t a CD inside with some exclusive tracks. As we now move forward the biography with a few photos looks very one dimensional. True it’s a serious attempt to capture detailed accounts but given the size of these new audiences maybe its time to start to rethink the format and explode the spine that is straight-jacketing it today.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Under Starters Orders

James Lichtenberg yet again hits the nail on the head when he says that ,’the iPhone is not a "phone", it is a computer, a very compact computer, and telephony is a convenient but rather small percentage of its value.’

We have to wake up and realise that what we refer to as mobiles, cellphones, smartphones are computers that are permenantly connected and have signigificantly more to offer than text, calls and even email.

The real game is starting to manifest as the players all start to unlock their technology in a play to capture the potentially huge applications market. It like the Yukon gold rush as all the major players scramble for that killer application that will make theirs the must have device.

Nokia hopes giving away the Symbian technology. "Collaboration is the key. Creating a bigger pie together creates a bigger share for all of us," Nokia's Executive Vice President for Devices Kai Oistamo told a conference of Symbian partners and developers in London. Only last June Nokia bought out its partners in Sybian for $410 million. They have sold over 180 million Symbian smartphones.

Blackberry owners RIM have announced the new BlackBerry store front, planned for March next year but plan to begin accepting applications in December and and are working with PayPal to build a payment system for the store. Developers will set their own application fees and retain 80% of revenue.

Next comes the Gorilla Google who in announcing Android, its software platform for mobile devices, released a kit for developers to work with, and now with its partners in the Open Handset Alliance have release open source code for developers. The source code has been released under the Apache 2.0 license and consists of the complete codebase of Android, including all the libraries and applications. The License allows developers to distribute and modify the source code in any way they want, and developers are not required to distribute the new code under the same license and can opt to develop their own, proprietary platforms on the basis of Android.

Then we have Apple and the huge take up of their iPhone application development platform.

So the race is on an what is certain is that there will be winners and the future of the ebook reader probably emerge from somewhere in this battle.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


Ok its midnight and you have had a couple of glasses of wine or just got in after a few drinks out with the office pals. You check your email and without thought you start to type a response. You may question whether you should or should not send it but without thought you press the ‘send’ button and immediately question whether it was wise.

The answer may be at hand through Mail Goggles, a new feature on Google’s Gmail program. A Gmail engineer named Jon Perlow wrote the program after sending his own share of regretted emails.

Any user who enables Mail Goggles is asked to perform five simple maths problems in 60 seconds before sending e-mails between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. on weekends. Is it May well be the question asked if you fail to make the grade?

If the sobriety checkpoint is needed and could stop those ‘Mr Angry’ emails one has to question whether Blackberry have already found the answer – a keyboard so small that the expression ‘ all fingers and thumbs’ seems apt.

Digitising the Editorial and Production Processes

Click below to read Martyn Daniels speech to the 30th Editur International Supply Chain Forum in Frankfurt Book Fair on 14th October, 2008.

Digitising the Editorial and Production Processes

Are eBooks Wise Dot Com?

Article written by Martyn Daniels and published in Bookseller Frankfurt Show Daily 16th October,2008

A Native American shaman friend, Duke Redbird, in the late 90s wanted to create a web site for debating new ideas. When confronted by a new idea he would simply ask the question ‘Is it wise?’

When the book-trade first started its digital journey, the internet was more of a dirt track than a super highway. It made sense to migrate to digital storage off line devices such as CDs. A few years later, we have the promised super highway and this offers the second digital opportunity for the ebook. We now have devices that are capable of holding hundreds of downloaded ebooks. You can access your library of hundreds of titles, anywhere and at anytime without even having to recharge the ereader for days. However we know that the current models will be upgraded and that the file you bought today is not guaranteed still to be readable, in say 10 years time. The business model was built on the existing physical ownership model, but unless one is a minimalist, a digital copy adds little to the décor! So why have we chosen to download, store and buy digital books via this model? Is it Wise? Is downloading the right approach and the logical business model?

The two platforms that are clearly dominating the digital market are the mobile and the laptop/notebook. What is interesting about these is that they are becoming permanently connected with WiFI broadband services. They both can do more today than any ereader and are becoming cheaper, faster and application rich. Who would have thought that the Blackberry would have many reaching for their pockets to scroll their emails? Who would have foreseen the dramatic take up of the laptop WiFi dongle or the uptake in WiFi deployment in schools, campus, business, leisure locations and even urban space? 3G services now can enable users to consume unlimited data and Smartphones are common.

We must now ask the obvious, how many devices do we need and when do we need them? Are you seriously going to work with a laptop in bag, mobile in pocket for personal use and a blackberry for corporate use and now an ereader under the arm? The acid test is the plane journey or holiday where you now have to often prioritise what you take, and don’t forget each comes with its own transformer and accessories!

An interesting opportunity from the current download ‘buy to own’ is ‘rent to read’. As libraries of works become permanently available why would you want to own digital books, which are hard to share and offer little other than convenience? Why not rent on demand? It doesn’t stop the consumer buying perpetual access, or a physical digital bundle; we merely question why you would buy a download that could be as obsolete as an 8 track in only a short time? The file could be read online with rich functionality, reference linking, multi media materials such as podcasts, videos and even games tied in. Imagine you want a quick read and log on via the mobile, you continue your read in a café via a laptop, then at a friends house via their PC and finally to bed with the physical book itself. The digital access control is not in the device but the centre making it friendlier.

If library can offer digital books for free, why buy them anyway? Now is that wise?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Pick Any Number

The fog finally lifted over Frankfurt this morning and two hours later than expected we touched down on all too familiar territory. On our arrival we logged on to read in The Bookseller bulletin which told us that the fog had obviously still not cleared at the Messe. The difference this time was that it was that other type – digital fog.

Frankfurt Book Fair has done one of those surveys you wish they hadn’t. They interviewed 1,000 industry professionals from 30 countries and the headlines were, that digital book sales would outstrip physical ones by 2018. We remember well Nigel Newton’s 50% of sales by 2016 of a couple of years ago. Apparently 70% felt ready for the digital challenge! Well it is Frankfurt and hype is rife!

The reality is that there is a low volume of digital content in the market today and that the majority of digital content is only produced after the physical copy is finished. Few have started to change their development process which in the main remain analogue and fixed in their nature. We clearly are still in ebook evolution with readers in transition but perhaps if we pick a date far enough ahead it will not matter and will soon be forgotten.

Interestingly, only 7% expected ebooks or 2% ereaders to be the main source of revenue by 2013. So we shall see lots of action between 2013 and 2018!

Perhaps one day we may get some consumer measures on awareness, demand, requirements and their views on digital. We bet it’s foggy at the airport again tomorrow

Can You Share a Kindle?

We were pointed today to an interesting blog by Walt Shiel 'A View From the Publishing Trenches'
He raises an issue that we had not heard of and that is that the Kindle is not only one dimensional but that its also a single-user device. Imagine if everyone in the house had to share all their own files because the PC was not capable of identifying different individuals who may share files.

Due to the high cost of the ereader Walt and his wife share their device he writes, ‘The Kindle does allow me to sort the items by “Most recent first.” That’s a good thing. However, if I read those new items first, they will no longer show up as new items at the top of the list when my wife wants to read. She has to scan down through multiple pages to find the new items to read.’

Some would suggest that this is a basic design fault that failed to understand how the reader may be used by multiple users and probably assumed it would only ever have one owner.

YouTube TV Shows

It great to be able to go out knowing you can always watch that TV or radio show you missed via the Internet.

Now YouTube has started to run full-length TV shows from CBS's archive and is now talking to other networks to sign similar deals. A mix of shows, including "Star Trek," and "Beverly Hills 90210," will now be available in full-length episodes and will have a full-length badge to distinguish them from shorter clips.

Its competition will be Hulu, owned by News Corp and General Electric's NBC Universal. However the size of YouTube’s audience with its 330 million users in August compared to Hulu’s 3.3 million poses some interesting opportunities for Google to cash in on adverting revenues. Apparently CBS will sell the advertisements around the shows with both companies sharing the revenue.

The increased convergence of broadcasting and the Internet is yet another example of the broadband revolution and of the movement towards online. Music, film, games, audio and books just make more sense online and away from this ‘must own ‘ mentality from poor or no bandwidth.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Technology Award Goes To...

When it comes to design and that special factor that makes a technology device a 'must buy' Apple clearly lead the way.

At the UK’s T3 technology magazine's annual awards, Apple won four of the top prizes, including gadget of the year for its iPod Touch. The votes were cast by 54,000 readers of the magazine and clearly separate the market icons from the also runs.

The touch-screen music and video iPod touch beat the Asus Eee Pc budget laptop, TomTom's GO 920 car navigation system, Sony's HDR-TG3 compact camcorder and six other devices for the prestigious award.

The lack of an ebook reader device or award may say something about the devices, the market, the fact that the Kindle is yet to reach these shores, or that the readers of this technology magazine are not ebook people, but their absence clearly shows that ebooks are off these consumers’ radars.

Full list of winners:
mGadget of the year: Apple iPod Touch
Best music gadget: Apple iPod Touch 32GB
Best imaging gadget: Nikon D60
Drop dead gorgeous: Audi R8
Best new media: BBC iPlayer
Gaming gadget: Nintendo's Wii Fit
Toy of the year: Guitar Hero, music video game
Commuter gadget: Apple iPhone
Gadget Candy: Apple MacBook Air
Retailer of the year:
Innovation of the year: Sony XEL-1 OLED television
Green gadget: Honda Civic Hybrid
Hi Def award: Sony PlayStation 3
Home gadget: Sky+ HD, digital television
Gadget you can't live without: TomTom GO 930

Friday, October 10, 2008

Who's Going to Kiss the Frog Now?

A good friend publishing consultant and thinker James Lichtenberg once related that publishing was similar to two frogs mating. They produce thousands of spawn, which turns into hundreds of tadpoles, who eventually become tens of baby frogs swimming around avoiding their many predators. Finally, a mere handful made it to the bank and came ashore. One is kissed by Ophra and is turned into a ‘Prince’. The moral being that you needed the thousands to get to the best seller and predicting them is often very difficult.

We could help reminding ourselves of the story when we read that Richard and Judy's new show on digital channel Watch attracted an average audience of 100,000 viewers, even with the repat figures rising to 143,000. This is a far cry from the 1.5 million viewers who watched their last show on primetime Channel 4 and it begs the question whether the UK has lost its ‘Ophra’.

Walmart Listen and DRM

We told you about WalMart’s announcement 'WalMart Call Time on DRM' 29th September to close down its DRM music servers and the potential issues that it raised with having to back up files and future proofing your ability to play them.

Well today its ‘about turn day’. eGatget reports that the retailer, unlike the technology companies we quoted, has listened to its customers and reversed the decision. This doesn’t mean it was the wrong decision to move away from the draconian DRM mindset, but more an admission that it can’t do it and leave the customer high and dry.
This is an interesting issue as it sets a precedent that could give many a heart attack and clearly shows that there is a long term potential problem with DRM. It’s a bit like plastic water bottles, they seemed a good idea at the time but environmentally getting rid of them and the damage they cause may be more of an issue.
Well done Walmart for listening!

What Role Do Libraries Play in the Digital Age?

Many have asked what the role of the library will be in the new digital age? For some it’s about funding, for others information access and other preservation. The relationship between private enterprise and public funding is ever changing and this introduces further new challenges in this digital age.

Richard K Johnson has written a paper ‘Free Our Libraries’ which was commissioned by the Boston Library Consortium with support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation for last month’s Universal Access Digital Library Summit in Boston. The paper raises the thorny issues of ownership, investment and the current land of the public domain works by the omnivores who are scanning for ownership.

Public domain is that public domain and we must think hard before we open the vaults and let the scanners in on their terms. Some would argue its too late the doors are wide open, the treasures taken and the libraries stand like giant warehouses full of books and cost whilst the traffic moves onto the virtual world.

The other issue not touch in this excellent paper is that of the ‘grey area that sits between public domain and in print. Who decides what book sits where, what can go and what is still in copyright?

The final issue is defining the role of the library in terms of its digital marketplace and relationship with commercial retail. If a library can give free access to digital content why would you buy it elsewhere? In the physical world you had to go there, the book you wanted could be out or unavailable and you had to take it back. Today you just need to register, log on and download. Perhaps we could stagger the release dates such that libraries only can issue new titles after 6 months but that hardly addresses the issue which isn’t going away.

We may not agree with all its thinking and conclusions but it is a paper we recommend you to read.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Magazines On Demand

So you want to print a glossy magazine and do it on demand?

A start-up called Magcloud is bringing vanity self publishing to the magazine world. Even the smallest organisation or group can their own, professional, full-colour magazine at a cost normally associated with traditional publishing. HP Labs started with BookPrep, a print on Demand service for books and now have created MagCloud for anyone to publish digitized magazines as well as print them, in full colour, on 80 lb paper, with saddle-stitched covers, on demand using HP's Indigo technology. MagCloud accepts PDFs that are 8.5" x 11", and trims them down to 8.25" x 10.75".

It costs you nothing to publish a magazine and 20¢ per page, plus shipping to buy it. For example, a 20-page magazine would be $4 plus shipping which is a flat $1.40/copy (USPS first class mail) for quantities 1-9, or a flat $13 for quantities from 10-100 (per box of 10-100). This may appear steep but it’s not steep for those seeking small niche audiences. Magcloud take the money and even manage the subscriptions!

All you need is to create a high-resolution PDF of the magazine and a PayPal account and you can create, market and sell it at a price of your choosing. The service is currently is in beta and restricted to US shipping addresses, but if it takes off, and given HP’s reach, who knows.

Today it focus is vanity and long tail but when we think of societies, or creating your own wedding and anniversary 'Hello' special. It must have appeal and like POD prices should fall with growth.

Groundhog Day

Remember the CDRom debacle of the mid 90s and the dotcom crash of 2000? We may believe today is Grounhog Day.

The market has a canny way of bringing us back to reality, making us face the facts and of exposing false dawns.

Many believed that CDRoms where going to replace paper and offer a smart innovative consumer interface to all information needs. We all know the excessive monies that were lavished on what know look very questionable projects. Fingers were burnt and publishing confidence took a knock. As a result when the Internet started to take hold and grow, publishing initially held back and were overly cautious.

In the late 90s Amazon’s demise was wildly predicted by the publishing sooth sayers. However, by then it was established and those who held back were playing catch up. The dotcom crash was less about the Internet and services but about valuations and predicted returns. Some believed their own words and thought that all that was needed was a web site and money would pour in and company values would soar. It took the impact of dotcom to bring home reality. Today we all understand the Internet better and have returned, adopted it and are moving forward.

Then came the second dawn of the ebook, web 2.0 and mobile explosion and although many sensible paths were being taken in publishing, some were once again caught in the hype and in danger of once again handing over the keys of the chocolate factory to the kids.

Today we face a wake up call. We are not going to build a ebook sector on a small number of titles, it’s like trying to create a market in a vacuum. The ereaders as presented today are clearly transient technology and are certainly not a ‘must have’ accessory unless you work in publishing or are a journalist! However, the market will right itself, confidence will return, consumer demand will change.

We believe that today is about preparing for change not change itself. Anyone who thinks they are going to make a fortune for an ebook today is either smoking or knows something we don’t and that well may be true, but is unlikely. Therefore we all have to look internally and make the changes to enable us all to respond with agility it the future whilst protecting and making what we do today, work smarter.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Another Day Another Blackberry

Reuters have reported that RIM (Research In Motion)will roll out yet another mobile later this year! This touch-screen BlackBerry smartphone will go head to head with Apple's popular iPhone. The touch screen depresses slightly when it is pressed, giving users a soft click as the screen is released.

The BlackBerry Storm will be available exclusively to Verizon Wireless subscribers in the U.S. and Vodafone subscribers in Europe, India, Australia and New Zealand.
The Storm comes preloaded with e-mail and document handling software, a media player for music, movies and photos and has a 3.2 megapixel camera.

It appears that RIM are serious about their move into the consumer space and are certainly releasing models that have a wide market appeal and in a short period of time have dropped that business corporate only tag. The question in these times is whether consumers can maintain their confidence and churn rates or whether RIM has overextended its range too quickly.

Opportunity Knocks

The world’s banks are crashing all around us, shares are in freefall, pensions and savings are in the air, financial figures quoted appear to be fantasy to us all and we appear to be walking blindfold into a black hole.

It’s just another day, you can forget the TV News and curl up with a good book.
Last week it was ‘Super Thursday’ and 800 new books hit the streets for Christmas. The list contained the usual celebrity big hitters, a cookbook for ever taste and of course Christmas predictions from every pundit. This week is the lull before the storm that is Frankfurt the travel plans are made, appointment diarised, clothes ironed and shoes polished.

Publishing is a mid to long term investment cycle with this years advances materialising next year and therefore shifting gears quickly is often difficult.
The question is what the impact of tighter money and credit is going to have on investment programmes such as digitisation? Let’s be real, the market is still in its infancy and therefore when it’s at most vulnerable. Books are where the money is today and therefore where everyone’s focus will be. Why focus on the digital product today, when the return is questionable and the devices are still not a ‘must have?’

The logical switch is for publishers to now start to address their publishing processes. It is about increasing publishing productivity, taking control of assets, removing waste and cost. Digitising the process and in doing make the output format neutral. It’s about building a platform from which publishers can output both physical and digital, without today’s duplication and inefficiencies. Publishers have started to move this way.

Perhaps now is the time to sort the house out and get ready and prepared for the future whilst doing today’s business cheaper.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

New Sony PRS700, Kindle 2, iRex but Little Change

So leading up to Frankfurt we have the new Sony PRS 700 ereader making an appearance along with a new marketing US promotion. We have the new iRex we covered earlier this week. We have thanks to Boy Genius Report sight of the much talked about and expected Kindle2 and we have the usual hype and opinion from all those standing on iPhones, ereaders, laptops and everything and anything between.

So what is news and what is noise?

Sony launches a US Reader Revolution campaign to promote their eBook reader using a world record speed reader, Dave Farrow. Farrow will be reading using the Reader around the clock for 30 days in a Manhattan storefront. For each page Farrow reads, Sony will provide an eBook library of 100 classic titles to a school or learning institution. The goal is to give 15 million eBook titles by the end of the program. The questions are whether these are mere public domain titles and what they will be read on?

At the same time they announce the Sony PRS-700. This their third version or model and will be available for $400. We doubt whether it be the last model of the Reader, and can only confuse consumers who await the ‘killer device’ or are weary of purchasing transient devices. Imagine you had been one of those who committed to the Waterstones’ launch to find that in less than two months it had be overtaken by another? Would you feel a little cheated – I think so? The 10-ounce device comes with a stylus, which can be used to highlight text or make notes and can hold 350 books in its memory.

It does not have wireless and remains tethered to the Adobe DRM and digital editions route and a PC. They are already intimating a wireless version is coming. Again why buy today when they haven’t even got it right yet.

Today we have the first sight via the Boy Genius Report of the new Kindle.
Is it significantly different? Well they have changed the shape and squared it off adding smaller buttons for Home, Next Page, Menu, a joystick, which replaces the scroll wheel and Undo and Previous, Page, and Next Page controls. The keyboard has also been redesigned and apparently they have replaced their own charger with a more sensible mini USB cable. It also comes with a leather pouch.

It is still uncertain when it will make it launch but given the activity in the market it should be soon.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Flat meets Round World Head On

Yesterday we spent some quality time becoming acquainted with Flat World Knowledge and through Eric Frank, its co founder, we learned much about the mysterious world of creative commons attribution licence (CCAL). We may be late in grappling with this new model but now recognise its potential for change. Our first question was one we often ask when confronted with something that challenges the existing business model – Where’s the money?

Flat World Knowledge is a new venture coming on-stream in January 2009 and was founder by two very reputable publishers Jeff Shelstad and Eric Frank. Their site is well worth a visit if just to see their smart videos.

CCAL aims to encourage creativity and innovation by establishing a middle ground between "All rights reserved" and open anarchy. It is best described as "Some rights reserved".

In summary, under this type of licence, readers are free to share, copy, distribute and transmit and also adapt the work under the conditions (attribution) specified by the author or licenser. The attribution is often non-commercial meaning that users cannot re-purpose the material for commercial transaction and gain and that they may often ‘share alike’ meaning if they alter, transform or build upon the work, they may distribute this work only under the same or similar licence, so long as the original authors and source are cited. Other may choose ‘NoDervis’ which does not permit remixing the book and then releasing it with ‘share a like ‘ attribute. No permission is required from the authors or the publishers.
When we started this digital journey the immediate reaction was to lock up rights so tight that DRM became somewhat counter productive. The digital copy had less rights than anything that had gone before. The backlash was seen in other media where consumers did not want to be restricted by technology which was effectively being used against them. When we couple this to the general concerns expressed by many in the research and higher education markets to the cost of works in all formats and the restrictions applied to them and the CCAL approach was inevitable.

So where’s the money? How do authors get rewarded? When does customised publishing become publishing?

CCAL demands a different publishing model. Many such as Flat World Knowledge and the new Bloomsbury Academic offer online for free and charge for the ‘convenience’ of a personal print on demand. The logic being that if the POD copy is cheaper that today’s printed copy and you get the online for free the value is clear. In some respects it again works on yesterday’s scarcity principle in that users can’t print a bound book and so if you gave them one a small relative cost they will take the option over printing loose leafs. Personally we think the cat is half out the bag and certainly not going back in.

The other take is that by specialising in ‘high ticket’ and focused subject areas such as engineering, science, mathematics, business, architecture, then the model will work, but Humanities may be a bit harder to deliver. The question is whether colleges, universities, lecturers, researchers and students will appreciate that difference?

We see inevitable change and challenging times ahead as the tectonic plates from two worlds collide.

Some Good News From Washington This Week

The Credit crunch and bail out of the US banking system is bad news but it has given us some good news. Due to the emergency rush to pass the $700 billion bailout legislation the Shawn Bentley Orphan Works Act of 2008 has had to be dropped.

Last week the Senate passed the bill but the rescheduling of the House of Representatives means that it will not be take up until after the election.

The act changes the rules by which works whose owners can’t be located can effectively be ‘land grabbed’ with a ‘we tried to contact them’ post it note. We believe as others that this quick adoption encourages infringement. It could be viewed as a licence to ‘scan first and ask later’ and as more people look to republish older works it makes that ‘grey’ area between public domain and in print even more inviting.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Richard Charkin Author

Today Richard Charkin became an author. It wasn’t a novel, or travel and best restaurant guide, or even a book on 21st dress code, but a print on demand version of his infamous blog.

So blogs can become books!Well done Richard.

Pan Macmillan has published their former chief executive’s blog on his travels to every corner of the Macmillan empire, many views and observations on life and of course publishing.

It was a pity that the Charkin blog splash page didn't have a link to buy it, but it did have two Google place ads on it. One from iUniverse ‘Get Your Book Published’ and the other from, ‘Get your book published for £299’.

We only wonder if it has been published under a creative commons licence.

Always Online?

We first had WiFi hot spot and networks in hotels, cafes and city centres. We then had the dongle, a USB stick with a WiFi modem that enable everyone to connect to their laptops to broadband services on the move. We had the take up of Smartphones and 3G services.

We now have mobile and IT companies working together to creating laptop devices that would be able to connect to WiFi broadband without even a dongle. The companies include Dell, Toshiba, Microsoft, Vodafone, T-Mobile and Ericsson. It means that any devices that has the service mark will be able to access the mobile broadband immediately after purchase.

The first notebook computers with mobile broadband inside will be ready in 91 countries across the world before the end of the year. Now that may be an attractive Xmas present!

The move may conflict with others such as Google backed Wimax, but WiFi out of the box has a real appeal and enables mass adoption by its very presence.
So we come back to what we have asked many times and will continue to ask. Why download files that may only have a limited life support system to devices that in the case of ebooks are clearly transient when you can be connected to anywhere at anytime? Online content is surely the ultimate goal. You log on with whatever device you choose, read, bookmark, annotate and the security and control is no longer in the device but at the center. No more clunky and restrictive DRM!

We wonder if the Kindle will have a new service mark and even whether Amazon will eventually sell online services.