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January 27 2012

Top stories: January 23-27, 2012

Here's a look at the top stories published across O'Reilly sites this week.

On pirates and piracy
Mike Loukides: "I'm not willing to have the next Bach, Beethoven, or Shakespeare post their work online, only to have it taken down because they haven't paid off a bunch of executives who think they own creativity."

Microsoft's plan for Hadoop and big data
Strata conference chair Edd Dumbill takes a look at Microsoft's plans for big data. By embracing Hadoop, the company aims to keep Windows and Azure as a standards-friendly option for data developers.

Coming soon to a location near you: The Amazon Store?
Jason Calacanis says an Amazon retail presence isn't out of the question and that AmazonBasics is a preview of what's to come.

Survey results: How businesses are adopting and dealing with data
Feedback from a recent Strata Online Conference suggests there's a large demand for clear information on what big data is and how it will change business.

Why the fuss about iBooks Author?
Apple doesn't have an objective to move the publishing industry forward. With iBooks Author, the company sees an opportunity to reinvent this industry within its own closed ecosystem.


Strata 2012, Feb. 28-March 1 in Santa Clara, Calif., will offer three full days of hands-on data training and information-rich sessions. Strata brings together the people, tools, and technologies you need to make data work. Save 20% on Strata registration with the code RADAR20.

January 26 2012

Why the fuss about iBooks Author?

This post originally appeared on Joe Wikert's Publishing 2020 Blog ("iBooks Author: Appreciating Apple's Intent"). It's republished with permission.

iBooks AuthorApple's recent announcement and release of its iBooks Author tool was met with plenty of controversy. This HuffPost article pretty well sums things up.

My question is simply this: Why all the fuss? Apple's intent has never been to improve the book publishing industry. Just like Amazon and any other ebook vendor, Apple's goal is to capture share of this rapidly growing segment. In Apple's case, it simply decided to offer an authoring tool that's capable of creating some pretty darned cool products. If Amazon were to do the same thing and create a terrific authoring tool for mobi or KF8 format, would the industry be as upset? I don't think so.

How is this any different from the App Store model itself? Developers are creating apps for the App Store, and they know they'll only run on an iOS device. They also realize they'll have to go through Apple's approval process before getting into the App Store.

Prior to the release of iBooks Author, the content creation and distribution model looked like this:

  1. Author writes material in favorite word processor.
  2. Author/publisher edit and convert that content into mobi format for distribution on Amazon, EPUB format for distribution through iBookstore and others, etc.

The exact same model still exists today, even with the introduction of iBooks Author. That's right. Apple's EULA doesn't really lock you into its distribution channel for your content. That restriction only applies to a "book or other work you generate using [the iBooks Author] software." All Apple's really trying to do is prevent you from tweaking the output of its tool to create content for other distribution channels. OK, that's kind of annoying, but far from the lock-in nightmare so many people are describing it as. Based on my interpretation, you're able to use the same content as input to the iBooks Author tool as you'd use for a mobi-formatted product you want to sell on Amazon.

(I should also point out that I'm far from an Apple fanboy. Anyone who knows me realizes I dumped my iPhone last year for an Android-based Samsung Galaxy S II (and yes, I love it). I also tried to dump my iPad for a Kindle Fire but found the Fire user experience to be very disappointing. I'll probably make the jump to another Android tablet later this year, once key apps like Zite are available. In the meantime though, I want to make it clear I'm not here to shill for Apple. If anything, I'm currently in a stage where I'd prefer to buy devices that aren't made by the content providers. Samsung is high on my list, for example.)

Apple doesn't have an objective to move the publishing industry forward. It sees an opportunity to reinvent this industry, and it feels it can do so within its own, closed ecosystem. It's as simple as that, and it's consistent with everything it has done in the App Store up to now.

Let's also not forget that the iBooks Author tool is free. It's not like we paid Apple $50, $100 or more for some authoring tool that we thought could work for all content formats and distribution channels. If the tool's feature set is compelling enough, I'd like to think the other ebook vendors (e.g., Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Kobo, etc.) will have to come up with something at least as powerful for their own platforms. If not, they get left in the dust and Apple gains share. Seems pretty fair to me.

In the meantime, I plan to do some hands-on testing with iBooks Author. At first, I was discouraged because you can't download iBooks Author unless you're running Lion. I'm still on Snow Leopard, but an O'Reilly colleague sent me this link that shows you how to tweak a couple of settings so you can download and run iBooks Author on a Snow Leopard system. I just tried it, and it works fine. (You just have to carefully read and interpret the steps since it's a translation from French to English.)

TOC NY 2012 — O'Reilly's TOC Conference, being held Feb. 13-15, 2012, in New York City, is where the publishing and tech industries converge. Practitioners and executives from both camps will share what they've learned and join together to navigate publishing's ongoing transformation.

Register to attend TOC 2012

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January 20 2012

Top stories: January 16-20, 2012

Here's a look at the top stories published across O'Reilly sites this week.

SOPA and PIPA are bad industrial policy
Tim O'Reilly: SOPA and PIPA not only harm the Internet, they support existing content companies in their attempts to hold back innovative business models that will actually grow the market and deliver new value to consumers. (See also: Why O'Reilly went dark on 1/18/12 and The President's challenge.)

Big data market survey: Hadoop solutions
Edd Dumbill explores the Hadoop-based big data solutions available on the market, contrasts the approaches of EMC Greenplum, IBM, Microsoft and Oracle and provides an overview of Hadoop distributions.

Mobile interfaces: Mistakes to avoid and trends to watch
"Designing Mobile Interfaces" co-author Steven Hoober discusses common mobile interface mistakes, and he offers his thoughts on the latest mobile device trends — including why the addition of gestures and sensors isn't wholly positive.

From SOPA to speech: Seven tech trends to monitor
Mike Loukides weighs in on the tech trends — good and bad — that will exert considerable influence in 2012.

Early thoughts on iBooks Author and Apple's textbook move
James Turner considers Apple's new authoring platform and its restrictive policies. Will those restrictions limit the program's potential?


Strata 2012, Feb. 28-March 1 in Santa Clara, Calif., will offer three full days of hands-on data training and information-rich sessions. Strata brings together the people, tools, and technologies you need to make data work. Save 20% on Strata registration with the code RADAR20.

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