Newer posts are loading.
You are at the newest post.
Click here to check if anything new just came in.

August 12 2013

Four short links: 14 August 2013

  1. bookcision — bookmarklet to download your Kindle highlights. (via Nelson Minar)
  2. Algorithm for a Perfectly Balanced Photo Gallery — remember this when it comes time to lay out your 2013 “Happy Holidays!” card.
  3. Long Stories (Fast Company Labs) — Our strategy was to still produce feature stories as discrete articles, but then to tie them back to the stub article with lots of prominent links, again taking advantage of the storyline and context we had built up there, making our feature stories sharper and less full of catch-up material.
  4. Massachusetts Software Tax (Fast Company Labs) — breakdown of why this crappily-written law is bad news for online companies. Laws are the IEDs of the Internet: it’s easy to make massively value-destroying regulation and hard to get it fixed.

May 31 2013

Leser sind eingeschlossen in E-Book-Ökosystemen

Wenn es Amazon oder Apple wollten, könnten E-Books zwischen Plattformen wie Kindle und iBooks austauschbar sein. Doch die Firmen verhindern das und schaden damit der europäischen Buchkultur. Zu diesen Ergebnissen kommt eine Studie der Europäischen und Internationalen Buchhändlervereinigung. iRights.info sprach mit den Autoren.

blaesi_rothlauf_3

Christoph Bläsi (l.) und Franz Rothlauf: „Der Nutzer sollte darauf achten, möglichst offene Endgeräte zu kaufen, und nicht solche, die für eine bestimmte Plattform geschlossen sind.“ Foto: Matthias Spielkamp

iRights.info: Herr Bläsi, Herr Rothlauf, Sie haben im Auftrag der Europäischen und Internationalen Buchhändlervereinigung (EIBF) in einer Studie untersucht, wie es um die Interoperabilität bei E-Books bestellt ist. Was ist mit Interoperabilität gemeint?

Christoph Bläsi: Vollständige Interoperabilität wäre erreicht, wenn man eine Buchdatei von einer Plattform, also etwa Amazons Kindle, nehmen könnte und mit allen Funktionalitäten in einem anderen System, zum Beispiel Apples iBooks, damit weiterarbeiten könnte. Mit Funktionalitäten ist alles gemeint, was sich um diese Datei herum rankt, zum Beispiel Metadaten, Kommentare, „social reading“-Spuren, Anmerkungen, Heraushebungen.

iRights.info: Und im Moment sind die E-Book-Formate nicht kompatibel?

Christoph Bläsi: Jedenfalls nicht vollständig. Man kann zum Beispiel auf einem iPhone von Apple eine Kindle-App haben, mit der man Amazon-Bücher kaufen und lesen kann. Aber diese Bücher sind dann woanders als die Bücher, die man bei Apple gekauft hat. Man kann sie nicht miteinander in Verbindung bringen, nicht in einer Liste sehen und so weiter.

iRights.info: Welche Formate gibt es derzeit und wie passen sie zusammen?

Christoph Bläsi: Es gibt einen Vorschlag für ein Standardformat, das heißt Epub3. Dann gibt es das Format KF8 von Amazon, und zwei Formate von Apple. Die sind zueinander nicht kompatibel. Eines der Apple-Formate ist mit Epub3 relativ gut kompatibel, und innerhalb der Apple-Welt kann man Epub3-Formate auch lesen. Man kann aber trotzdem nicht sagen, dass Apple ein offenes System ist; die Firma schützt ihre Dinge dann anders.

iRights.info: Warum machen die Hersteller das überhaupt – Formate anbieten, die miteinander nicht kompatibel sind –, statt einfach ein Standardformat zu nutzen?

Christoph Bläsi: Das hat mit dem Geschäftsmodell der Unternehmen zu tun. Denen geht es darum, voneinander abgeschlossene so genannte Ökosysteme für Inhalte aufzubauen. Das sind um ein E-Book oder ein bestimmtes Produkt herum aufgebaute Welten, in denen sich der Nutzer bewegt. Und sie sind aus Sicht des Unternehmens am sinnvollsten so aufgebaut, dass der Nutzer auf dieser Plattform bleibt, dort einkauft, dort Nutzungsspuren hinterlässt. Nicht kompatible Datenformate sind ein effektives Instrument, solche Ökosysteme aufzubauen.

iRights.info: Wäre denn Epub3 in seiner Funktionalität mit den anderen Formaten gleichwertig?

Christoph Bläsi: Das ist ein wichtiger Punkt, denn Apple und Amazon könnten ja behaupten, Interoperabilität ist nicht möglich, weil ihre eigenen Formate Funktionen erlauben, die mit Epub3 nicht möglich sind. Zum Beispiel Ausschnitte zu vergrößern oder eine Vorlesefunktionen. Wir haben herausgefunden, dass das nicht der Fall ist. Das ist ein ganz essentieller Teil unserer Studie. Alles, was man sich für so genannte „enhanced E-Books“, also E-Books mit erweiterten Funktionen, wünschen kann, ist mit Epub3 möglich. Es ist sogar so, dass Epub3 Eigenschaften möglich macht, die sonst mit keinem anderen Format möglich sind. Die Verbände von Verlagen und Buchhändlern hätten hier also die Möglichkeit, Amazon und Apple argumentativ den Rückweg zu versperren.

iRights.info: In Ihrer Studie sind Sie auch zu dem Schluss gekommen, dass der Mangel an Interoperabilität eine Gefahr darstellt für die Vielfalt der Buchkultur in Europa. Wie kommen Sie zu dem Ergebnis?

Christoph Bläsi: Die Menge aller angebotenen Bücher ist bei den verschiedenen Shops in den verschiedenen Welten nicht identisch. Die haben zwar eine große Überschneidung – die Bestseller gibt es überall –, aber wenn ich mich einmal für eine Plattform entschieden habe, und ich will ein Buch kaufen, das nicht gerade ein Bestseller ist, kann es sein, dass es diesen Titel in dem Ökosystem, in dem ich mich bewege, nicht gibt, sondern nur in einem anderen. Da ich die Bücher von dort aber nicht lesen kann, ist mir zwar nicht endgültig der Zugang zu diesem Buch verwehrt, aber mir ist eine extreme Hürde errichtet worden.

iRights.info: Sie haben in der Studie auch festgestellt, dass Interoperabilität aber möglich wäre.

Franz Rothlauf: Ja, auf der Formatebene ist das relativ leicht, denn die Formate lassen sich leicht ineinander umwandeln. Aber eine der Haupterkenntnisse der Studie war, dass dies für echte Interoperabilität nicht ausreicht. Interoperabilität in dem Sinne, dass der Nutzer Wahlfreiheit hat, welche Bücher er mit welchen Lesegeräten lesen möchte, die erreichen Sie nur dann, wenn die vorher beschriebenen Ökosysteme kompatibel sind.

iRights.info: Warum ist das so schwierig?

Franz Rothlauf: Weil es eben oft dem Geschäftsmodell der Unternehmen widerspricht. Die sind daran interessiert, den Nutzer an diese eine Plattform zu binden. Und es gibt noch eine Schwierigkeit: Wenn Sie ein Buch bei Anbieter A gekauft haben, dann kommt das mit bestimmten Rechten und Restriktionen, die durch eine digitale Rechteverwaltung gesichert sind. Zum Beispiel dürfen Sie das Buch nur zwanzig Mal anschauen. Wenn Sie dieses Buch in ein anderes Ökosystem B übertragen, muss der Anbieter dieses Ökosystems dann eigentlich diese Rechte und Restriktionen garantieren, die Ihnen von B auferlegt oder gewährt wurden. Sie müssen also die Rechte, die Sie an dem Buch haben, übertragen können vom einen zum anderen. Das ist zwar technisch möglich, aber ich muss es als Anbieter auch wollen.

iRights.info: Wer könnte Ihrer Ansicht nach auf welche Weise dafür sorgen, dass Interoperabilität Wirklichkeit wird?

Franz Rothlauf: Der Nutzer sollte darauf achten, möglichst offene Endgeräte zu kaufen, und nicht solche, die für eine bestimmte Plattform geschlossen sind. Das gilt vor allem auch für Anschaffungen durch öffentliche Einrichtungen, Regierungen zum Beispiel. Den großen Playern auf dem Markt, also hauptsächlich Amazon und Apple, würden wir nahelegen, dass sie ihre Systeme öffnen.

Und als letztes würden wir auch den kleinen Buchläden empfehlen, die Herausforderung E-Book anzunehmen. Dass sie aktiv auf E-Books zugehen und ihren Kunden das auch ermöglichen. Denn wir beobachten, dass der Buchhändler um die Ecke zwar sehr gerne Bücher mag, aber mit den ganzen technischen Details, die es erfordert, um E-Books auf dem Markt anzubieten, überfordert ist. Wir glauben deshalb, dass das nur im Zusammenschluss mit anderen Händlern oder Verbänden möglich sein wird.

Christoph Bläsi: Das ist natürlich ein klein wenig eine Wunschvorstellung, der wir da anhängen. Denn die Latte hängt schon sehr hoch – was die Ökosysteme jetzt schon an Funktionen bieten, das ist gigantisch. Da geht es nicht nur darum, die Kräfte zu bündeln und gegensätzliche Interessen zu überwinden. Sondern man muss auch einen Weg finden, wie man das finanziert. Denn wenn man über die Technologie spricht, dann geht es um viel Geld. Und derjenige, der dahinter steht, wäre ja kein Unternehmen, sondern ein Zusammenschluss von Unternehmen, bei dem einige der Mitglieder dann selber Interessen haben – eine schwierige Sache.

Dr. Christoph Bläsi ist Professor am Institut für Buchwissenschaft der Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz, Dr. Franz Rothlauf ist Professor für Wirtschaftsinformatik und BWL der Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz.

May 29 2012

Amazon, ebooks and advertising

This post originally appeared on Joe Wikert's Publishing 2020 Blog ("Why Advertising Could Become Amazon's Knockout Punch"). This version has been lightly edited.

Your Ad Here by KarenLizzie, on FlickrIt all started harmlessly enough with Amazon's Kindle with Special Offers. That's the cheaper Kindle that displays ads when the device is in sleep mode or at the bottom of the screen when paging through the owner's catalog of books. It is very unobtrusive and, since it lowered the price of the device, has made that Kindle an extremely popular device.

Now there are rumors that Amazon is selling ad space on the Kindle Fire's welcome screen. That sounds pretty reasonable, too, as it's a simple way for Amazon to drive a bit of additional income that's pure profit for them.

Given that Amazon's goal is to offer customers the lowest prices on everything, what's the next logical step? How about even lower prices on ebooks where Amazon starts making money on in-book ads? Think Google AdWords, built right into the book. Of course, Amazon won't want to use Google's platform. They'll use their own so they keep 100% of the revenue.

The changes the DOJ is requiring for the agency model means a retailer can't sell ebooks at a loss, but they can still sell them for no profit, or break even. In other words, the 30% the retailer would keep on an agency ebook sale can be passed along to the customer as a 30% discount on the list price, but that's as deep a discount as that retailer can offer.

The rules are different with the wholesale model. Amazon already loses money on sales of many wholesale-model ebooks. Let's talk about a hypothetical wholesale model title with a digital list price of $25. Amazon is required to pay the publisher roughly half that price, or about $12.50 for every copy sold, but that ebook might be one of the many that are listed at $9.99 for the Kindle. So every time Amazon sells a copy, they lose $2.51 ($12.50 minus $9.99). Amazon has deep enough pockets to continue doing this, though, so they're quite comfortable losing money and building market share.

So, what's preventing Amazon from taking an even bigger loss and selling that ebook for $4.99 or $0.99 instead? In the wholesale model world, the answer to that question is: "nothing is preventing them from doing that." And if selling ebooks at a loss for $9.99 makes sense, especially when it comes to building market share, why doesn't it also make sense to sell them at $4.99, $0.99 or even free for some period of time? It probably depends on how much pain Amazon wants to inflict on other retailers and how much attention they're willing to call to themselves for predatory pricing.

Make no mistake about the fact that Amazon would love to see ebook pricing approach zero. That's right. Zero. That might seem outlandish, but isn't that exactly what they're doing with their Kindle Owner's Lending Library program? Now you can read ebooks for free as part of your Prime membership. The cost of Prime didn't go up, so they've essentially made the consumer price of those ebooks zero.

Why wouldn't they take the same approach with in-book advertising?

At some point in the not-too-distant future, I believe we'll see ebooks on Amazon at fire-sale prices. I'm not just talking about self-published titles or books nobody wants. I'll bet this happens with some bestsellers and midlist titles. Amazon will make a big deal out of it and note how these cheaper prices are only available through Amazon's in-book advertising program. Maybe they'll still offer the ad-free editions at the higher prices, but you can bet they'll make the ad-subsidized editions irresistible.

Remember that they can only do this for books in the wholesale model. But quite a few publishers use the wholesale model, so the list opportunities are enormous. And as Amazon builds momentum with this, they'll also build a very strong advertising platform. One that could conceivably compete with Google AdWords outside of ebooks, too.

Publishers and authors won't suffer as long as Amazon still has to pay the full wholesale discount price. Other ebook retailers will, though. Imagine B&N trying to compete if a large portion of Amazon's ebook list drops from $9.99 to $4.99 or less. Even with Microsoft's cash injection, B&N simply doesn't have deep enough pockets to compete on losses like this, at least not for very long.

At the same time, Amazon will likely tell publishers the only way they can compete is by significantly lowering their ebook list prices. They'll have the data to show how sales went up dramatically when consumer prices dropped to $4.99 or less. I wouldn't be surprised if Amazon would give preferential treatment to publishers who agree to lower their list prices (e.g., more promotions, better visibility, etc.).

By the time all that happens, Amazon will probably have more than 90% of the ebook market and a nice chunk of their ebook list that no longer has to be sold at a loss. And oh, let's not forget about the wonderful in-book advertising platform they'll have built buy then. That's an advertising revenue stream that Amazon would not have to share with publishers or authors. That might be the most important point of all.

What do you think? Why wouldn't Amazon follow this strategy, especially since it helps eliminate competitors, leads to market dominance and fixes the loss-leader problem they currently have with many ebook sales?

Photo: Your Ad Here by KarenLizzie, on Flickr

Related:

May 18 2012

Why I haven't caught ereader fever

iPad 2 illustrationO'Reilly GM and publisher Joe Wikert (@jwikert) wrote recently about how he can't shake his ereader. I read his story with interest, as I can't seem to justify buying one. I was gifted a second-generation Kindle a while back, and it lived down to all my low expectations. The limitations were primarily the clumsy navigation and single-purpose functionality. I loaned it to a friend; she fell in love, so my Kindle found a new home.

At this point, I do all my ereading on my iPad 2: books, textbooks, magazines, news, short form, long form ... all of it. I will admit, I found the new Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight that Wikert acquired somewhat tempting. The technology is much improved over the second generation Kindle, and though I haven't yet played with one in the store, I bet the execution is much more enjoyable. Still, my original hang-ups prevail.

First, I don't want to be locked in to one retailer. On my iPad, I have apps that allow me to read books bought from anywhere I choose. I can buy books from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple and other smaller retailers, and they will all work on my iPad. True, this spreads my library around in a less-than-ideal organization, but the ability to buy books from anywhere is more important to me.

Also, I'm not so sure ebooks and ereaders will have a place down the road, making the value proposition of the investment that much less appealing. Much like the music journey from records to MP3s, digital reading technology is advancing, and perhaps at a much faster pace than its music counterpart. Jani Patokallio, publishing platform architect at Lonely Planet, recently predicted the obsolescence of ebooks and ereaders within five years, suggesting the web and HTML5 will become the global format for content delivery and consumption. And publications such as the Financial Times and MIT's Technology Review already are dropping their iOS and Android apps in favor of the web and HTML5.

I doubt my iPad will become obsolete any time soon. I look forward to the day books are URLs (or something similar) and we can read them anywhere on any device — and that day may not be too far off. I think I'm so attached to the iPad experience because it simulates this freedom to the best of its ability.

Ereader shortcomings also are likely to present a rich content hindrance, even before a shift to a web/HTML5 format gets underway. In a separate blog post, Wikert talked about a baseball book that missed its opportunity by not curating video links. He wrote: "The video links I'm talking about would have been useless on either device [his Kindle or Nook], but if they were integrated with the ebook I would have gladly read it with the Kindle app on my tablet." As publishers start realizing content opportunities afforded by digital, I think my iPad will serve me better than a single-purpose ereader.

Another hang-up I have, and this is likely to do with my general aversion to change, is the form factor. Most ereaders are somewhere around mass-market-paperback size, and the Nook Simple Touch and Simple Touch with GlowLight are nearly square. I prefer hardcover or trade paperback size — about the size and shape of my iPad. I might be able to get past this particular issue, but given the others I've mentioned, I just can't justify trying.

I will have to surrender to Wikert on the battery life and weight points — the one thing I really liked about the Kindle was its feather-light weight and the fact that during its short stay with me, I never had to charge the battery. I expect the surrender to be temporary, however. I have faith in our engineering friends — two years ago, a research team at MIT was using carbon nanotubes to improve the battery-power-to-weight ratio ... I can't imagine it will be too much longer before life catches up to research. In the meantime, I expect to remain happily connected at the hip to my iPad.

The future of publishing has a busy schedule.
Stay up to date with Tools of Change for Publishing events, publications, research and resources. Visit us at oreilly.com/toc.

Related:


January 20 2012

Kindle Fire: Three pros, five cons

This post originally appeared on Joe Wikert's Publishing 2020 Blog ("Kindle Fire Lessons Learned"). It's republished with permission.

I don't regret spending the $200 I paid Amazon for my Kindle Fire. I tried it out and decided it wasn't for me, so I gave it to my daughter instead. Even though I no longer use the Fire I wanted to share the things I learned about the device and myself over the past several weeks. Let's start off with the good side of things.

Kindle Fire pros

Kindle FireForm factor — I prefer the Fire's size to the iPad's. It's nice being able to wrap your hand around the entire device and the lighter weight is a big plus for the Fire. Of course, it's the same form factor as RIM's PlayBook, and given how poorly that device has performed it's clear you need more than just a great form factor.

Meets the needs of typical consumer — The Fire wasn't for me but my daughter really likes it. That's why you see so many good and bad reviews of it. Consumers who want a cheap tablet are OK without all the bells and whistles of the iPad, for example. Early adopters, or those who want to push the technology to the limit, are disappointed though. More on the early adopter in a moment ...

Connection to Amazon content — There's no question Amazon is using the razors and blades economic model here and the Fire is clearly the razor they're willing to sell at little to no profit. Connectivity to Amazon's ebooks, video and audio content is second to none with the Fire. And tying in the Prime membership program will only lead to more Amazon products being sold.

That's it as far as pluses go. Now let's talk about the minuses.

Kindle Fire cons

Connection to Amazon content — As easy as it is for Fire users to access Amazon content it's just that difficult to access anyone else's. If there's one thing I've learned from the Fire it's that my next tablet will not be locked in to one provider's content. That probably means I won't be buying from the typical content providers, of course. I don't mind paying more for that capability, by the way. So if Samsung comes up with a terrific tablet that meets all my needs, and it's $100 or so more than the Fire, I'm in.

Awful for the early adopter/tinkerer — As noted above, the Fire is pretty good for the typical consumer. But if you're buying it to root and open it up you'll be disappointed. Even if you go through the rooting process you'll quickly find some of the apps in the Android Market simply won't run on it (e.g., NHL Gamecenter App, the swipe keyboard, etc.) And if you do root it, watch out for those unsolicited auto-updates.

Auto updates — This one's ridiculous. How in the world can Amazon think that forcing OS updates on every Fire owner is the right thing to do? Amazon, take a page out of the Apple book and let your customers decide when and if they want the update. I couldn't help but feel the auto update was intended more to penalize rooters than to fix problems and offer more functionality. It also reminded me of the unfortunate "1984" debacle Amazon brought upon themselves a few years ago. Really stupid.

"Silk" browser — This has to be the biggest embarrassment of all for Amazon. Remember how excited Bezos was when he demo'd the Fire's lightning-fast browser at the press event last year? It turns out the browser isn't that fast after all. In fact, in my totally unscientific side-by-side testing, the Fire almost always loaded pages slower than both my iPad and my RIM PlayBook. Even with all these other issues I figured the Fire would offer a browsing experience that's second to none. The results were considerably weaker than promised. I'm disappointed that Amazon hasn't come out and admitted their failure here. It's remarkable that they still prominently feature the Silk browser on the Fire's product page. They seem to be in denial about it as they haven't even hinted it will be fixed in a future software update. As much as I criticize Apple, this is something Steve Jobs never would have let happen.

Missing a "killer" app — This is the reason why I had to keep my iPad handy throughout my Fire use and am stuck (for the time being) on iOS. Zite is my go-to app. I use it every single day. It's outstanding. It's a free app but I'd gladly pay as much as $10 or $15 for it, especially now that I'm totally addicted to it. There's no Android version of Zite ... yet. I can't even consider another Android tablet until Zite is available. Flipboard is a close second and it too doesn't exist in the Android world. Amazon should have invested some money with the developers of apps like Zite and Flipboard to make sure they were available when the Fire launched. Better yet, wouldn't it be nice if a Fire-specific app or two came out that made the device irresistible? I'd love to be talking about a Fire or Android app that's unbeatable but not available on iOS. I can't think of a single one.


I realize I'm a fairly unique user and that plenty of Fire owners are perfectly happy with their purchase. That's great, but I'd also love to see Amazon step up, act like the market leader they're trying to be and address these shortcomings.

I'm convinced that my next tablet will be an Android-based one. The only Android tablet I'll consider though is one that gives me access to all types of content, not just content from the company who sells the hardware. Heck, as closed as they are, even Apple lets you install e-reader apps from Amazon, B&N, etc. One of the reasons they can do that is they're confident they've got a terrific piece of hardware and you'll want to buy it over the competition. They also charge a premium for it. I've learned it's worth paying a premium, as long as it's not ridiculously high, for the ability to choose from multiple content providers.

So while my next tablet won't be the cheapest on the market, I won't make the same mistake twice and limit myself to one source of content for it.

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

Related:

December 28 2011

Five things we learned about publishing in 2011

Many of publishing's big developments from 2011 will continue to shape the industry in 2012. So with that in mind, here's a look at five of the most important lessons from last 12 months.

Amazon is, indeed, a disruptive publishing competitor

If it wasn't apparent before, Amazon's publishing intentions became plainly obvious this year. The wave started out small, with a host of expanding self-publishing tools for authors, but it grew to tsunami proportions as Amazon launched imprint after imprint, from romance to science fiction. Amazon also hired industry heavy-hitter Larry Kirshbaum, who "is charged with building something that will look like a general trade publisher.'"

Amazon imprints
Some of Amazon's publishing projects.

Amazon further extended its reach into publishing when it launched the Kindle Owner's Lending Library. The ebook lending waters already were murky and contentious for publishers — HarperCollins instigated a memorable dustup, as did Penguin — but Amazon's move into the space caused a full-fledged uproar among publishers as well as authors, and may have damaged the publisher-library relationship further.

O'Reilly's Joe Wikert highlighted one of the main problems from the publisher perspective:

As Amazon stated in its press release, "For the vast majority of titles, Amazon has reached agreement with publishers to include titles for a fixed fee." So no matter how popular (or unpopular) the publisher's titles are, they get one flat fee for participation in the library. I strongly believe this type of program needs to compensate publishers and authors on a usage level, not a flat fee. The more a title is borrowed, the higher the fee to the publisher and author. Period.

And Amazon may be encroaching on feature magazines like the Atlantic and the New Yorker as well. In a sign of possible things to come, freelance journalist Marc Herman took his long-form story, "The Shores of Tripoli," and expanded it into a $1.99 Kindle Single. According to his blog, he has plans to expand on the model, which would further sideline traditional publishing avenues.

Publishers aren't necessary to publishing

Authors have figured out they don't need publishers to publish books. The self-publishing book market saw quite a boom this year as the publishing format started becoming more mainstream and the services offered by self-publishing companies became more comprehensive — providing authors with platforms, sales, marketing, editing, etc.

Amazon has a role in this boom as well. The Wall Street Journal reported that "Amazon.com Inc. fueled the growth [in self-publishing] by offering self-published writers as much as 70% of revenue on digital books, depending on the retail price. By comparison, traditional publishers typically pay their authors 25% of net digital sales and even less on print books."

Another trend emerged this year to further sideline the publisher's role: the rise of the agent-publisher. This controversial and contentious business model allows agents to step in to provide expanded publishing services to authors. In an interview, Booksquare's Kassia Krozser explained that the new agent-publisher role emerged because of failings on the part of traditional publishers: "Traditional publishers need to not only rethink how they sell their value to authors and agents, but they also need to rethink the economic structure of their deals." Krozser also expressed concerns that the agent-publisher role carries a conflict of interest — see her interview here.

Readers sure do like ebooks

There good news is that people are still reading and they're embracing the digital transformation. The Book Industry Study Group (BISG) released a report in November that showed that readers are solidly committing to digital books. A couple highlights from the report:

  • Power buyers are spending more. More than 46% of those who say they acquire e-books at least weekly ... report that they have increased their dollars spent for books in all formats, compared with 30.4% of all survey respondents.
  • "... nearly 50% of print book consumers who have also acquired an e-book in the past 18 months would wait up to three months for the e-version of a book from a favorite author, rather than immediately read it in print."

The number of devices sold is telling as well. A Pew report found that "ereader ownership growth in the U.S. doubled in six months, from 6% to 12% of adults owning an ebook reader."

PewReportGraphic.PNG

Though the new Kindle Fire is selling at a loss, Amazon reported that it is selling Kindles at a clip of "well over one million Kindle devices per week" — at least for the three weeks following Black Friday. Amazon hasn't disclosed the total number of devices it has sold, but one analyst estimates the sales to be 8% of total revenues in 2011 and predicts that amount will rise to 9.9% in 2012. So ... a lot of Kindles. Combine those numbers (vague as they might be) with the 40 million iPads sold, and the conclusion is clear: ereading is now mainstream.

HTML5 is an important publishing technology

HTML5 entered the publishing space in a big way this year — some calling it the "future of digital publishing." From storage to multimedia to content behavior (think shaking the iPhone or automatically sizing for different screen sizes) to geolocation to a host of other interactive features, HTML5 has squared itself up to become an important player in the industry. Amazon (mostly) embraced it in its Kindle Format 8, and HTML5 is supported in EPUB3.

HTML5 is platform agnostic and may even be able to save — or make — publishers money. In an interview early in the year, Google's Marcin Wichary explained:

It's very important to recognize that HTML5 fits all the devices you can think of, from the iPhone in your pocket to Google TV to the tablets to small screens and big screens. It's very easy to take the content you already have and through the "magic" of HTML5, refine it so it works very well within a given context. You don't have to do your work over and over again. Of course, all of these different means come with different monetization opportunities, like ads on the web or on mobile devices.

You can view Wichary's full interview below.

DRM is full of unintended consequences

It turns out DRM does more than provide publishers with a false sense of security — locking the content of books also locks those books into a platform (ahem, Kindle). This point was highlighted by author Charlie Stross in a November blog post in which he argued that DRM had become a strategic tool for Amazon:

... the big six's pig-headed insistence on DRM on ebooks is handing Amazon a stick with which to beat them harder. DRM on ebooks gives Amazon a great tool for locking ebook customers into the Kindle platform. If you buy a book that you can only read on the Kindle, you're naturally going to be reluctant to move to other ebook platforms that can't read those locked Kindle ebooks — and even more reluctant to buy ebooks from rival stores that use incompatible DRM ... If the big six began selling ebooks without DRM, readers would at least be able to buy from other retailers and read their ebooks on whatever platform they wanted, thus eroding Amazon's monopoly position.

So, to recap, we've learned that DRM doesn't stop anyone from pirating, nor does it come with the necessary data to support its impact. But it does give publishers one thing: a longer length of rope with which to hang themselves.

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


Related:


  • Do agent-publishers carry a conflict of interest?
  • Publishers: What are they good for?
  • Book piracy: Less DRM, more data
  • What if a book is just a URL?
  • December 20 2011

    O'Reilly Radar Script & Links: December 20, 2011

    Below you'll find the script and associated links from the December 20, 2011 edition of O'Reilly Radar. An archive of past shows is available through O'Reilly Media's YouTube channel. You can find scripts and links for other episodes here.


    In this episode of O’Reilly Radar, find out why Joe Wikert thinks Amazon’s Kindle Lending Library is a bad deal for publishers.

    We’ll also take a look at top stories published recently across O’Reilly’s platforms.

    And LinkedIn’s Reid Hoffman discusses technology’s role in job creation.

    Now we’ll get to all that in just a moment, but up first we’re going to take a look at some of the news that’s on our radar.


    Radar news & analysis

    Many of us rely on mapping services like Google Maps to get from point A to point B. But the utility of these tools abruptly cuts off when we reach the front doors of our destinations.

    Indoor navigation has, until recently, been defined by posted signs and the kindness of strangers.

    But what if you could pull out your mobile device and easily navigate unfamiliar indoor locations?

    Meridian, Nokia and other companies have been working to make indoor navigation useful. Now, Google is jumping into the indoor fray as well.

    A new release of Google Maps for Android includes floor plans for a number of airports, malls and retailers in the U.S. and Japan.

    Google’s indoor maps can guide you from spot to spot, and they even know which floor you're on.

    For now, Google's indoor navigation is available in a limited roll-out. The feature is only compatible with Android devices and the list of participating outlets is pretty slim.

    Nonetheless, this is one of those “we’ve always needed this” sorts of tools. So watch for indoor nav from the likes of Google and others to quickly transition from novelty to an established -- and expected -- part of future mapping apps.

    We’ll be keeping an eye on the evolution of these geo tools and nav applications through continuing coverage on O’Reilly Radar, and at O’Reilly’s upcoming Where Conference.

    The Radar interview: Joe Wikert

    Coming up next I find out why O’Reilly’s Joe Wikert thinks Amazon’s Kindle Lending Library is a bad deal for publishers. Joe also weighs in on Amazon Prime, and he reveals some of the trends he’s spotting as he preps for February’s Tools of Change for Publishing conference.


    Radar posts of note

    Here’s a look at some of the top stories recently published across O’Reilly’s platforms.

    Clay Johnson, author of the forthcoming book “The Information Diet,” has a problem with the term “information overload.” Johnson believes that information consumption is what really needs to be addressed. Read the post.

    In a short and informative case study, discover how Omnivore Books, a small cookbook store in San Francisco, uses Twitter to solidify relationships with customers and break through the publisher blockade. The store has distilled its Twitter process into a dead simple rule: be ⅓ personal and ⅔ professional. Read the post.

    Finally, what happens when everyone has access to your Starbucks card? Author Jonathan Stark found out this past summer when he conducted a unique social experiment. He shares what he learned in this interview. Read the post.

    You can find links to these posts and other resources mentioned during this episode at radar.oreilly.com/show.

    Radar video spotlight

    In this episode’s Video Spotlight, we’re featuring Alex Howard’s recent interview with LinedIn founder Reid Hoffman.

    Hoffman explains how technology, often perceived as a threat to jobs, can actually help create them.


    Just a reminder that you can always catch episodes of O’Reilly Radar at youtube.com/oreillymedia. And links mentioned in each episode are posted at radar.oreilly.com/show.

    That’s all we have for this episode. Thanks for joining us and we’ll see you again soon.

    December 08 2011

    Tools of Change for Publishing Newsletter: December 7, 2011


    TOC 2011 Speaker


    While we're eagerly preparing for our large Tools of Change for Publishing (TOC) conference coming up in New York City this February, we're also focused on smaller things. To wit: Our mini TOCs. Mini TOCs are one-day conferences that examine modern-day publishing from a variety of aspects. In the U.S., we've firmed up dates for miniTOC conferences in Austin, Texas (March 9), and Chicago, Illinois (April 9). And the not-so-mini TOC Bologna is slated for Italy on March 18 in conjunction with the Children's Book Fair, which theme will inform that day's discussion. We'll be certain to keep you updated as we are.




    As always, we welcome your suggestions and feedback. We also promise to write less about Amazon in future issues. Way less. Promise. We'll return in the New Year with new content and new fun. Please email us with kudos or dissent at toc-newsletter@oreilly.com (no reason to give that address to Jeff Bezos, OK?).


    O'Reilly TOC newsletter header
    Kat Meyer

    Joe Wikert



    Cheers,

    Kat Meyer and Joe Wikert


    Chairs, Tools of Change









    TOC New York 2012


    Seeking Startups for Startup Showcase

    Want to get your early-stage company in front of some of the most savvy and connected publishing professionals in the industry? We're looking for publishing (and publishing-related) startups to participate in the Startup Showcase, happening Tuesday, Feb. 14, during TOC New York. Read more about the showcase and see if your company is qualified to participate.


    Photos from TOC


    See the Full Schedule



    Hot Type

    Kat & Joe's Must–Reads




    Ball of Confusion

    In pointing to this piece, Joe says, "I love the points Todd Sattersten makes in this article on the 'Paperless Book'. It's an important read for everyone in the publishing industry." We'll cut to the chase: Our customers don't know what a book is anymore. That's all.

    The Twitter Book Dept. of Gosh Darn Sweet
    Twitter expert (and recent coauthor with Tim O'Reilly of the second edition of The Twitter Book) Sarah Milstein posted a very sweet human interest story on our Radar platform last week profiling one small bookstore owner who is using social media to drive business. Ominvore Books owner Celia Sack is bawdy, she's opinionated, and she's making a niche shop thrive—140 characters at a time.



    ALL Amazon

    From the Windy Halls of Amazonia





    Monopoly/Strangehold/The Usual

    In considering the library e-lending system OverDrive and its relationship to Amazon, Kat scans a new Publishers Weekly piece, titled in part Libraries Caught in the Crossfire, by Andrew Albanese and Jim Milliot. She writes: "The library e-lending issue could use a more comprehensive examination—Jim and Andrew's piece here hints at the complexity, but it's ripe for further exploration. Where Overdrive has locked in many libraries, and Amazon has locked in Overdrive, and publishers have become slightly myopic where the big picture/long term results of ebook library lending are concerned, it's definitely one of those opportunities that feels more like a problem right now." Monopolizing stuff, indeed.

    Digital Duchy
    This item wasn't tough to find, being as it's the cover story of the current issue of Wired Magazine, but if you missed it you'll probably be forever indebted to us for tepidly serving it up right here. Wired contributor Steven Levy sat down with Amazon founder Jeff Bezos to discuss the Kindle Fire and all things Amazonian. "Bezos doesn't consider the Fire a mere device, preferring to call it a 'media service,'" Levy writes. "While he takes pride in the Fire, he really sees it as an advanced mobile portal to Amazon's cloud universe. . . . When you pay $199 for Fire, you' re not buying a gadget—you're filing citizen papers for the digital duchy of Amazonia."

    Amazon Infographic

    Pretty: Scary
    For those who like pretty pictures, and we are heartily among that group, Frugal Dad offers this groovy (read: terrifying) infographic delineating Amazon's monster reach.

    Petard, Hoisted
    Call us smug, but call us right: All of O'Reilly's ebooks are DRM-free. We have many lofty philosophies for this stance but our bottom line is that it's good for business. Writing on his antipope.org blog, Charlie Stross might be thought to agree. In a piece mildly titled Cutting Their Own Throats, he argues that by locking their texts, Big Six publishers are not only losing significant sales, their "pig-headed insistence . . . is handing Amazon a stick with which to beat them harder." Yow.

    Project Publishing
    The domino finally drops as Seth Godin announced the last book in his year-long adventure with Amazon Publishing. He writes, "By most of the measures I set out at the beginning, the project has been a success. So why stop? Mostly because it was a project, not a lifelong commitment to being a publisher of books. Projects are fun to start, but part of the deal is that they don't last forever." Prompted by Godin's announcement, Paid Content's always-excellent Laura Hazard Owen turns a jaundiced eye towards Seattle with The Truth About Amazon Publishing which, while crunching numbers, managed to elucidate quite a few nasty feuds, making this one of the more entertaining number-crunching pieces we've read in a while.

    Tim Ferriss App4-Hour Fame
    We take nearly four hours to turn to Tim Ferris, the "4-Hour" everything dude, whose new deal with Amazon is marketing genius. According to Laura Hazard Owen, Ferris is the first author signed to a new Amazon imprint and, though his new title, 4-Hour Chef, won't be out until next September, he's already marketing the book by offering fans a chance to win one of 50 pre-loaded Kindle Fires. There's more about drinking wine and eating fruit cake while the pounds magically melt away, but you have to do some of the work and read it yourself.



    Publisher's Corner

    The occasional rant from our benevolent dictator




    Joe Wikert
    Joe pulls himself briefly away from any number of Pittsburgh Penguin hockey games to brush some bitter froth from his lips and pour it instead onto the page. We thought the Penguins were doing better; he's a bit testy.



    Kindle device license limits are stupid. There, I said it. I'm betting most consumers and quite a few publishers don't realize that Amazon has limits in place to prevent you from loading one Kindle ebook on more than six devices within the same account. You're probably wondering why I have so many devices connected to the same account. The answer is simple: I like to test new devices and the old ones become hand-me-down's to family members. They all remain on the same account though.



    Amazon has a default maximum of six devices for any given Kindle ebook. Once you try to get it onto the seventh device you're greeted with an error message saying, "License Limit Reached," and they nudge you to buy another copy of the product. No way. I already bought it once and I'm not buying it again.
    This is yet another example of why DRM is such a poor choice for publishers. Someone decided six was a magical number and so no title can be read across more than six devices. Sure, I could de-register or maybe even just delete the book from one or two of my older devices—but why should I have to?
    Limitations like this, including DRM in general, are evil and should be done away with. Amazon and publishers, please start trusting your customers and eliminate barriers like this. You're not protecting your revenue stream this way, but you are doing a terrific job of irritating your customers and reminding them that you don't trust them.



    This Month's Free TOC Webcasts


    The Challenging Business of Kids' Apps

    The Challenging Business of Kids' Apps

    December 8, 10am PTM

    Learn how to navigate the mobile software ecosystem, produce the best possible product, and make it stand out in a crowded marketplace.



    HTML5 for Publishers

    HTML5 for Publishers

    December 14, 10am PT

    Get an overview of some of the most exciting features HTML5 provides to ebook content creators—audio⁄video, geolocation, and the Canvas—and learn how to put them in action.




    Register Now for Free




    Audible Knowledge


    The Latest from our TOC Podcast Series


    You can also subscribe to the free TOC podcast through iTunes. Not an iTunes fan? No worries. All podcasts live safely here.





    APIs and Content
    In which Joe talks with FluidInfo CEO Terry Jones about how APIs can enable developers to work with content like a box of LEGO bricks, building solutions you may never have dreamed of.




    Final Note

    Worst. Book. Ever.


    Microwave for One

    Publishers Weekly's Gabe Habash's loving poke at Microwave for One has gone deliciously viral, which is perhaps the only delicious thing about Microwave for One. Bon appétit!



    PSSST: Want to just read these newsletters again and again for ever and ever like the sacred texts they are? They all live happily together now online.







    Share this deal:  

    Facebook   Tweet  Forward to Friend






    In this Issue:

    • TOC Startup Showcase
    • Hot Type

    • Amazonian Madness
    • Publisher's Corner: DRM SUX
    • Free Live TOC Webcasts
    • Audible Knowledge
    • Podcasts
    • Worst Book Ever
    • New Books & Free Reports



    Follow us:  Twitter YouTube

    Slideshare

    Facebook

    LinkedIn


    New Books & Reports
    for Publishers


    Kindle Fire: Out of the Box
    Kindle Fire: Out of the Box

    Ebook: $2.99

    First to market, this is the book that should have come with the device.

    Free



    Book: A Futurist's Manifesto
    Book: A Futurist's Manifesto
    a Startup

    Ebook: $7.99

    Pre-Order Print: $24.99

    Free



    Every Book Is a Startup
    Every Book Is

    a Startup

    Ebook: $7.99

    Pre-Order Print: $24.99

    Free







    The Global eBook Market: Current Conditions & Future Projections

    The Global eBook Market: Current Conditions & Future Projections

    Free



    What Is EPUB 3?

    What Is EPUB 3?

    Free



    HTML5 for Publishers

    HTML5 for Publishers

    Free








    Upcoming Events

    TOC New York

    TOC New York
    Feb. 13-15, 2012
    New York City




    TOC BolognaTOC Bologna
    March 18, 2012

    Bologna, Italy



    Thank You to

    Our Sponsors

    TOC Event Partner

    Publishers Weekly

    Diamond Sponsor

    Ingram

    Platinum Sponsors

    Code Mantra

    iPublish Central

     SPI Global






    Related:

    November 04 2011

    The problem with Amazon's Kindle Owners' Lending Library

    Amazon Kindle logoIt's no secret that I'm a big Amazon fan. In fact, I recently took the Amazon side in a debate about platform superiority. (I won that debate, by the way ...) That's why a lot of people are surprised that I'm such an outspoken critic of Amazon's new Kindle Owners' Lending Library. The program is great for Amazon and maybe even for consumers, assuming they're willing to live with the many restrictions, but it's awful for publishers and authors.

    Why? As Amazon stated in its press release, "For the vast majority of titles, Amazon has reached agreement with publishers to include titles for a fixed fee." So no matter how popular (or unpopular) the publisher's titles are, they get one flat fee for participation in the library. I strongly believe this type of program needs to compensate publishers and authors on a usage level, not a flat fee. The more a title is borrowed, the higher the fee to the publisher and author. Period.

    Even if a flat fee made sense, how can a publisher try to estimate a fair amount? One key factor is the number of Amazon Prime subscribers. There are a variety of estimates on this figure, but those estimates only apply to this specific point in time. How can you possibly know the number of Prime subscribers Amazon will have in six months? In 12 months? Don't assume you can simply extrapolate this number from historical trends. When the Kindle Fire comes out later this month it will include a 30-day Prime trial, and I expect the Fire's availability and the upcoming holidays to create an enormous surge in Prime subscribers. When will Prime double today's levels? It's impossible to say, which means there's no way to estimate how many times a book might get loaned out. That also means it's impossible to come up with a reasonable estimate on a flat fee for a publisher's list.

    I hope Amazon reconsiders and switches this program to a pay-for-performance model. That's the only way I'll ever support it as a publisher.

    What's your take? Please weigh in through the comments.

    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

    Related:

    October 07 2011

    Top Stories: October 3-7, 2011

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

    Oracle's Big Data Appliance: what it means
    Oracle's new Big Data Appliance couldn't be a plainer validation of what's important in big data right now, or where the battle for technology dominance lies.

    PhoneGap basics: What it is and what it can do for mobile developers
    Joe Bowser, the developer of the Android version of PhoneGap, on the pros and cons of developing with the PhoneGap cross-platform application framework.


    How data and open government are transforming NYC
    New York City has become the epicenter for experiments in data-driven governance. Here, NYC officials Rachel Sterne and Carole Post discuss the city's data initiatives.

    The making of a "minimum awesome product"
    In this podcast, Evan Doll, the co-founder of Flipboard sat down with Joe Wikert to discuss Flipboard's focus on design and social integration.

    iPad vs. Kindle Fire: Early impressions and a few predictions
    Few have actually held the Kindle Fire, let alone put it through its paces, so Pete Meyers chose a novel analytical approach: Examine his own iPad habits and look for spots where the Fire can find a foothold.


    Android Open, being held October 9-11 in San Francisco, is a big-tent meeting ground for app and game developers, carriers, chip manufacturers, content creators, OEMs, researchers, entrepreneurs, VCs, and business leaders. Save 20% on registration with the code AN11RAD.

    Publishing News: Betting on the Nobel Prize

    Here's what caught my attention in this week's publishing news.

    Insults aside, the Nobel Prize for Literature kept the bookies busy

    Alfred_Nobel_Icon.pngThere was much ado running up to the announcement of who would win the Nobel Prize for Literature this week. The American literature community lost a bit of hope that an American author would win the prize — which hasn't happened since 1993 — when Horace Engdahl, the Nobel Academy permanent secretary, said "[t]he US is too isolated, too insular. They don't translate enough and don't really participate in the big dialogue of literature. That ignorance is restraining."

    Engdahl's comment didn't seem to affect the betting line, though. On Wednesday, Time reported Philip Roth's odds at 16/1 and Bob Dylan at "the astounding odds of 5/1." Bob Dylan? In an interview for the Time report, Alex Donohue of Ladbrokes, a British-based gambling company, explained the Dylan phenomenon:

    So we introduced Bob Dylan at 100/1. We put him in because we thought that maybe he'd have a chance and a few dedicated Bob Dylan fans might want to bet, but [we assumed] that no one would take him seriously. But now, obviously there's been a massive gamble and we've taken bets from all over the world — Sweden, Japan, Canada, all of Europe — on Bob Dylan. People out there betting just can't get enough and they keep backing him.

    How did gamblers make out on the winner, Tomas Tranströmer? The 80-year-old Swedish poet came in on Wednesday with 7-to-1 odds.

    TOC Frankfurt 2011 — Being held on Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2011, TOC Frankfurt will feature a full day of cutting-edge keynotes and panel discussions by key figures in the worlds of publishing and technology.

    Save 100€ off the regular admission price with code TOC2011OR

    Steve Jobs bio to hit shelves ahead of schedule

    The biggest news in any industry this week was the death of Steve Jobs. In response, Simon & Schuster moved up the release date of Jobs' authorized biography to October 24. Pre-sales of the book increased 42,000% upon his death. The biography's author Walter Isaacson said Jobs, during the final interview for the book, told him he authorized the book because of his kids:

    I wanted my kids to know me. I wasn't always there for them and I wanted them to know why and to understand what I did.

    Additionally, ShelfAwareness pulled together a nice list of recent titles on Jobs and noted the upcoming "I, Steve: Steve Jobs in His Own Words," due out November 15.

    The potential power of free Kindles

    Amazon lit up the digital publishing world last week with its launch of a $79 Kindle. Breaking the two-digit entry barrier is a big deal and will arguably be the turning point for the ereader. Mathew Ingram over at GigaOM took it a step further and asked what will happen when the Kindle is free. He said a free ereader might open the door much wider for content like the Kindle Singles, and it will be lucrative for authors:

    These not-quite-books can be written and uploaded by anyone, and offered at whatever price point an author decides: as little as 99 cents, or even free. Offering a free — or ad-supported — Kindle would presumably just provide even more of an avenue for these kinds of books to reach readers, and that in turn could (theoretically at least) make it possible for more writers to make a living from their writing.

    Ingram followed with a nice argument in favor of the less-expensive-book model and made some interesting suggestions, such as "[offering] a subscription to an author, so I can automatically get whatever he or she writes." That's one of those ideas that seems so obvious, you wonder why it hasn't happened yet.

    Photo: Alfred Nobel by Zero grey, on Wikimedia Commons


    Related:


  • Let's imagine Steve Jobs is President of the United States
  • Commerce Weekly: How Steve Jobs changed the way we buy
  • Publishing News: Amazon vs barrier to entry
  • More Publishing Week in Review coverage

  • October 04 2011

    iPad vs. Kindle Fire: Early impressions and a few predictions

    This is part of an ongoing series related to Peter Meyers' project "Breaking the Page: Transforming Books and the Reading Experience." We'll be featuring additional material in the weeks ahead. (Note: This post originally appeared on A New Kind of Book. It's republished with permission.)

    Who knows for sure how the Kindle Fire will do? It's crazy how confident some folks are about who it will kill, maim — or catapult to corporate dominance. The dang thing hasn't even been touched yet by more than its birth parents and a close relative or two. (Me, I got a finger or two on it at last Wednesday's press conference. I can't add anything concrete to what you've probably already read.)

    But what I can do is offer one man's report, a year and a half in, on how I use my iPad. My goal? Compare and contrast the iPad's talents with what we know the Fire will deliver. From there, maybe there's a conclusion or two to be drawn about how this new tablet matches up against its two main competitors: the Color Nook and the iPad.

    So, to begin with, here's a rough tally of my iPad usage:

    Most Frequent Tasks (~ 1 hour/day)

    • Email (Mail app)
    • Zite
    • Twitter (Twitter app)
    • Safari (general surfing)
    • Facebook (via Safari)
    • New York Times app

    All together these six activities consume the majority of my iPad time. I list them roughly according to how frequently I use them, but the difference between the first and the last isn't much, I'd bet.

    Next Most Frequent (~ 15 minutes/day)

    • Various newly released apps (or ones I've just learned about). I wrote a book last year recommending the "Best iPad Apps." This year I'm working on another book about designing digital books. So I need to keep up with what's new.

    Periodic (~ 1/2 hour/day, every couple of days)

    • Kids book apps with my two young daughters
    • Flipboard
    • iTunes (for podcasts while stretching or cooking)

    As I mentioned, for professional reasons I'm always playing with new apps. When apps like Our Choice or The Wasteland launch, I get them &mda and probably play with them a dozen or so times to get a feel for how they work. The only three I've ever added to my regular rotation are Twitter, the New York Times, and Zite. But I wonder, really, how unique that makes me. Don't most smartphone and tablet owners hear about new apps from friends and others online and then spend a little bit of scattered time trying new ones out?

    Probably worth mentioning: the vast majority of my computing time gets spent on the laptop (a MacBook Pro) I'm typing on right now. Second place: my iPhone, which I use mainly for email, Twitter, ebook reading, web surfing, and phone calls. Let me wrap up this iPad audit with a few general observations:

    • I rarely use 3G (I've probably paid for three month's worth of service in the one and a half years I've owned both 3G models‚ the original and the iPad 2).
    • I don't read ebooks on the iPad very often. I find it bulky and too big, and prefer my iPhone (for plain text narrative) and print (for everything else).
    • I only pull it out on the subway (I live in NYC) when I can get a seat. Holding it in two hands requires more balance than my genes are ready to deliver.
    • I don't really like typing on it. It's okay for a few sentences (a quick email reply, for instance); anything longer and I wait till I'm at my laptop.
    • I'm not very conscious of missing out on Flash-enabled websites. I'm aware, of course, that many sites still use Flash, but I guess I just don't visit those sites.
    • I rarely sync my iPad to my laptop (maybe once a month, or maybe even longer). Feels like every time I remember that I'd like to sync (to get some new photos on it or refresh my music) I decide I don't have enough time. With the coming release of Apple's iCloud service, this will all likely improve, but it remains to be seen how completely, and how well executed, Apple's wire-free efforts go.

    Now, what does all this mean when it comes to the Kindle Fire? I am of course getting one (and may have some big writing-related news on that front in the coming days … stay tuned!). But if I wasn't Pete the Gadget Geek, and I didn't yet own any tablet, knowing what I know now about how I use the iPad, which one would I get? Here are the big factors I'd consider:

    • $200 seems incredibly appealing. Like many other working professionals (a little bit of disposable income, worried about paying for two kids' educations, second homeless), I worry about spending $500-plus each time Apple releases a new "must-have" device.
    • The only item on my iPad use-case list that feels hard to match is all that new app reviewing I do. The key question: will "long tail" apps show up in Amazon's Appstore for Android? I'd bet, in many cases, yeah.
    • The Fire's smaller screen size seems as much a plus as a minus. Won't know for sure, of course, till I've had a chance to play with it, but at a minimum it will be easier to operate one handed.
    • Given my current subscription to Amazon Prime (which I will likely never give up), I suspect I'll watch more TV and movies on the Fire than I do on the iPad.

    So, what's my prediction about the Fire's fate? Way too soon to say, of course. But if I were a betting man, here's where I'd put my money:

    • Nook Color will be the big loser in all this. There's just not enough compelling content there to win a showdown with the Fire (if it performs as well as it did in last Wednesday's demos).
    • iPad's growth will slow from hockey stick-like to something still enviable and profit-worthy. But a year from now, we'll no longer be forced to say what we must right now: there really is no tablet market; there is only an iPad market.
    • Amazon will sell, as Mr. Bezos predicts, "many millions" of these Fires.

    Webcast: Digital Bookmaking Tools Roundup #2 — Back by popular demand, in a second look at Digital Bookmaking Tools, author and book futurist Pete Meyers explores the existing options for creating digital books.

    Join us on Thursday, November 10, 2011, at 10 am PT
    Register for this free webcast

    Related:


    September 29 2011

    ePayments Week: Will NFC add value?

    Here's what caught my eye in the payments space this week.

    Square's COO questions NFC

    SquareSquare's chief operating officer Keith Rabois went against the grain this week and questioned whether there was any value to be had by implementing near-field communications (NFC) for mobile payments. To be fair, he was at the GigaOM Mobile Conference responding to Om Malik's question of whether the short-range wireless function on mobiles would make Square's card reader redundant. Rabois called NFC "a technology in search of a value proposition," saying it's not clear who it helps. The process of swiping a credit card, he continued, is "very etched in the American consciousness ... and the Square card reader allows us to take advantage of that, to allow people to sell things more successfully without changing people's behavior."

    He may have a point that the particular technology matters less than the mobile wallet itself. We could do pretty much the same thing by using through-the-cloud technologies (as Bump does) or direct billing (like Boku or Zong). But I think he's overlooked the clear value that seems likely to come to merchants as consumers ditch plastic for mobile wallets.

    To name just three:

    • Merchants can administer reward and loyalty programs more efficiently if they're managed through phones rather than on rubber-stamped cards.
    • Merchants can deliver location- and time-specific coupons if they are acquainted with a customer's phone. Placecast is showing how you can deliver offers within a geofenced area. Merchants will also have the opportunity to move discounts quickly if they need to clear inventory. All of that is theoretically possible today with Twitter, but first you have to get them to follow you. Once someone has paid with their phone, presumably it's a lower barrier to get them to agree to receive offers via that phone.
    • Merchants can dynamically steer customers to their best payment option. If PayPal offers a lower percentage for a period than the merchant's credit card service, the merchant can offer products or services at a discount and let the customers choose on their devices.

    The benefits for consumers may be a bit less clear and are likely to be a tradeoff: it's our data that we'll be giving up in exchange for being on the receiving end of those benefits listed above. In other words, your digital trail in exchange for daily coupons and every 10th cup of coffee free.

    Android Open, being held October 9-11 in San Francisco, is a big-tent meeting ground for app and game developers, carriers, chip manufacturers, content creators, OEMs, researchers, entrepreneurs, VCs, and business leaders.

    Save 20% on registration with the code AN11RAD

    Amazon's Kindle Fire doesn't have to be as good as iPad to steal market share

    Amazon FireShould Apple worry about competition from Amazon's Kindle Fire? The quick consensus seems to be "no" since these are different devices for different functions. Still, I couldn't help myself from making the comparison between this contest and the dramatic rise of Android handsets against the near leveling of the iPhone market. Most reports on the Android versus iOS competition seem to pit the two evenly, as if it were in bad taste to mention that many Android phones cost hundreds of dollars less. Geeks might choose their smartphones based on their affection for Google or Apple. But you only need to visit the AT&T kiosk in your local mall and watch the purchasing decisions to get a truer picture of what's driving this race: cost. Apple's iPhone may be an object of beauty, inside and out, but when you're on a tight budget, you'll put up with the carrier's user interface.

    The same thing could happen with Fire and iPad. Fire may not offer anywhere near the same capabilities as the iPad — though with its ability to access web services via its Silk browser, it may not lag far behind. But there are many millions of customers who won't have to think long and hard to save $300 if they can still have movies, TV, books, games, and the web, all on a color touchscreen.

    Steven Levy in Wired noted that even if Fire isn't a threat to Apple's iPad, it will certainly be one to Barnes & Noble's Nook and to Netflix. At a time when half of Netflix's membership seems to be furious with the company, many are sure to notice they can get a whole new world of streaming for $79 a year from Amazon Prime.

    Mobile broadband is less popular as an add-on

    Customers use more mobile broadband services, and they use mobile broadband more frequently, when the capability is built into their devices and not used as an add-on (for example, a USB dongle or stick). This not-too-surprising finding comes from YouGov UK's recent survey of 2,552 British mobile broadband users. It reinforces the suspicion that the easier you make it to get to online services, the more likely they are to get used. Certainly, there's some allowance built into those results for the dongle or stick getting lost or just stuck at the bottom of the backpack. But it also seems likely that those who buy a device that's capable of reaching the web are more likely to use it than those for whom it was an afterthought.

    Got news?

    News tips and suggestions are always welcome, so please send them along.


    If you're interested in learning more about the payment development space, check out PayPal X DevZone, a collaboration between O'Reilly and PayPal.

    Related:

    September 26 2011

    Amazon's "Prime" challenger to the iPad

    Amazon Kindle logoIf you haven't noticed, creating and executing mobile platform plays is really hard. Just ask HP, RIM, Nokia and Microsoft.

    Even Google's Android, which made it look easy to grab dominant market share in the smartphone market, is finding it much harder to secure a footprint in the tablet market, where, let's face it, there's iPad ... and iPad.

    Enter Amazon, whose forthcoming Kindle Tablet represents the clearest alternative to Apple's iPad.

    Securing the design win

    I once co-founded a device management platform company in the embedded systems space (Rapid Logic) where we came to define three core precepts for succeeding in a platform-oriented business:

    1. Secure the design win.
    2. Grow the dollars associated with the runtime (via royalties or new product add-ons).
    3. Get the customer to want to embed themselves more deeply.

    Flash forward to the present and we see a post-PC device market emerging that has revealed some interesting attributes.

    For one, we see how the carrier-dependent mobile phone segment logically bifurcates between the Apple approach (vertical integration) and the Android approach (horizontal, loose coupling).

    Why is this so? For the simple reason that for a large portion of the market, carrier "push" via phone pricing — plus a subsidy combined with a retail presence — dictates buying patterns every bit as much as product positioning and differentiation.

    Most fundamentally, this is because regardless of whether the end phone is an iPhone or an Android phone, A) the buyer is already a mobile phone subscriber, and B) either phone represents a step up from traditional feature phones.

    However, when we move into tablet-style devices, ebook and media device players, where the alternative is non-consumption (i.e., buying no device), it becomes clear that the breadth and depth of ecosystem orchestration that is required goes up materially.

    This is why Android has not yet found a foothold in the tablet market (see also: Android's Missing Leg).

    Cloud Street meets Main Street

    Now, consider Amazon, the ecommerce company that many have officially anointed as this generation's Walmart (see chart below: Walmart, Amazon, Google and Apple head-to-head over the past 10 years).

    Comparison of Apple, Amazon, Google, and Wal-Mart over a 10-year period
    A comparison of Walmart, Amazon, Google and Apple from October, 2001 to August, 2011. See a larger version and read related analysis.

    Amazon, in fact, just experienced its fastest revenue growth quarter in over a decade (up 51% versus the same period in 2010). It is unquestionably on a roll.

    To establish the scale and market presence that Amazon has on "Cloud Street" in about one-third of the time it took for Walmart to dominate "Main Street" is nothing short of amazing.

    Simply put, it's emblematic of a company whose ability to marry a clear, disciplined strategy with a pragmatic focus on tactical execution knows few bounds.

    Kindle as an entry point for a new tablet design

    Amazon's Kindle reading device has catapulted the company into a position where it's now selling more digital books than print books, all at a time when the physical bookstore is on its last legs (Borders is gone, Barnes & Noble is for sale).

    Now, having proven that it can execute a hardware-software-service play vis-à-vis the Kindle, Amazon is expected to announce its first iPad competitor in a matter of days.

    Such a device will build upon several "unfair advantages" that Amazon has established in the marketplace:

    • Ecommerce and marketplace logistics.
    • Digital media content acquisition, publishing and distribution.
    • Cloud computing platform know-how and a nascent ecosystem.

    Just as Apple has leveraged its iTunes as the wedge upon which it established a billing relationship with 160 million users, Amazon has built a differentiated position of its own called Amazon Prime.

    Amazon's "Prime Directive"

    Amazon Prime illustrationReturning to the start of the article, remember the success mantra that I told you about for my company? You can apply the same logic when looking at how Amazon matches up to Apple.

    Apple's initial innovation with iTunes was that it afforded consumers the ability to purchase music à la carte — one single at a time — when up until that point it could only be purchased in record or CD form. Coupled with a $0.99 per song pricing model and the unparalleled convenience of click-buy-play, this was a recipe to change the way that customers bought and experienced music.

    Similarly, Amazon's initial innovation with Amazon.com was that it enabled people to discover, purchase and transparently receive a seemingly bottomless wellspring of books, where formerly you pretty much only got what was on the shelves in the bookstore.

    Like Apple, Amazon used a disruptive pricing and logistics model to entice customers to change their buying behavior.

    That Apple has expanded iTunes into an App Store (and iBooks) and a family of devices bound by a common software platform, and Amazon has expanded its catalog to products and services of all stripes (analog and digital), makes perfect sense in this context.

    From the initial "design win" of music buying and book buying, both companies have grown the categories and aggregate dollars of their bases in ways that have made consumers want to be more deeply embedded in their relationships with Apple and Amazon.

    The Amazon Prime product has cultivated a base of an estimated five million subscribers (from the company's aggregate base of 120 million customers) that, in exchange for an annual $79 fee, provides expedited shipping on many products.

    Why is this a big deal? The friction-free model is enticing some customers to use Amazon for product purchases (e.g., bulk goods, toiletries) that historically have been the parlance of the local Walgreens or Costco.

    So, if MG Siegler of TechCrunch is correct in his excellent scoop on Amazon's Kindle Tablet, then Amazon will be bundling Amazon Prime with its forthcoming 7-inch tablet device and pricing the device at a disruptively low price point of $250 — about half the cost of an entry-level iPad.

    If you create a superset between Kindle buyers and Prime subscribers, a logical early-adopter user base emerges for Amazon to target for its iPad alternative (in terms of price, footprint and aggregate value proposition).

    Plus, from a strategic leverage perspective, it makes total sense. Amazon, after all, is first and foremost a great retailer.

    Add on to this value proposition the fact that Amazon has surrounded its Prime offering with an ever-growing free library of bundled video content (i.e., a poor man's Netflix streaming service), and the Kindle Tablet starts to feel like a lifestyle device that can succeed over the long haul.

    After all, media is a big differentiator on this type of device. And in terms of sheer economics, there are a lot of people these days for whom a bundled video service with a pay-as-you-go library of premium music, books, video and app offerings feels right at $250.

    No less, if we know anything about Amazon, it is that it, like Apple, has the fortitude, focus and sense of purpose to see big ideas through to long-term success.

    Amazon, after all, wants to be the only shopping cart you'll ever need, and this becomes another channel back to the consumer.

    Plus, from an average revenue per user perspective (ARPU), you can probably subsidize the device a bit more with the Prime subscriber, knowing that Prime customers are already paying $79 a year and are faithful, dedicated, recurrent commerce customers.

    Some final thoughts:

    Just because Amazon has a logical path to finding a "wedge" in the tablet computing market doesn't mean that it will. There are hard strategic decisions about how to fork Android and how that ties in with Amazon's Appstore strategy, including approaches to competing services (e.g., will Amazon allow Nook or iBooks to be installed?).

    Moreover, is Amazon prepared to develop and support a software developer's kit (SDK) and get sucked into a developer tools arms race with Apple?

    Similarly, how does Amazon Web Services and Amazon's cloud platform fold into the equation?

    Like I said at the start, mobile platforms are really hard to create and execute, but if anyone is in a position to do just that, it's Amazon.

    Android Open, being held October 9-11 in San Francisco, is a big-tent meeting ground for app and game developers, carriers, chip manufacturers, content creators, OEMs, researchers, entrepreneurs, VCs, and business leaders.

    Save 20% on registration with the code AN11RAD


    Related:

    July 22 2011

    Publishing News: Scribd flirting with ebook subscriptions?

    Here's a few highlights from this week's publishing news.

    Scribd takes baby steps toward ebook subscriptions

    FloatLogo2.jpgScribd's new long-form reading and reformatting platform Float was in the news this week. On the surface it seems to be very much like other content aggregator-reformatting platforms — such as Instapaper and Flipboard — that let users read and share content from the web in easy-to-read formats.

    The major difference between Float and its competitors is Scribd's agreement with 150 publishers to reformat their content. This is what will make Scribd's plan to become the "Netflix of reading" a reality. Liz Gannes talked to Trip Adler, Scribd's CEO, for a post for All Things Digital. Adler said the ultimate goal is to "be a Netflix for written content, where users can sign up for subscriptions to get access to a broad swath of premium articles."

    Premium articles? You mean articles from behind paywalls? Sure sounds like it, and if so, this is where those 150 established relationships will come in handy (just ask Netflix). In a post for Wired, Steven Levy said a subscription fee hasn't been established, but he touches on an idea that would make Float the holder of the Holy Grail of digital distribution — ebook subscriptions:

    Scribd hasn't decided what the monthly fee for that should be, but Adler says that the $8 to $10 range of services like Netflix and Spotify sounds about right. If the service included books — a concept that certainly has crossed Adler's mind — the fees might be higher.

    Now, that is a service I'd pay for, and it just might make me buy an ereading device.

    TapIn Bay Area app empowers citizen journalists

    The mobile photojournalism company behind the Tackable app teamed up with the Bay Area Newspaper Group to launch TapIn Bay Area, a location-aware news app for the Bay Area. The app allows journalists at the San Jose Mercury News to make use of citizen journalism in a very direct way. In a post for GigaOm, Mathew Ingram described how it works:

    The "citizen journalism" portion of the app is based around what are called "gigs," which are requests for information about specific topics or news events. Journalists from the newspapers working with TapIn or Tackable (which offers a similar system in its app) can post these requests if they need photos or other info about something, but other users can also create and post a "gig" through the service.

    TapInBayArea.jpg

    Citizen journalism isn't new, but this mobile platform makes it a bit more slick, integrating Google Maps to create a friendly user experience. From a business standpoint, though, this isn't the most important part of this app. As Ingram points out, it's bringing a much needed digital revenue source to newspapers:

    ... it also allows the newspaper to offer readers Groupon-style "daily deals" based on their location as well ... An app like TapIn, if it can manage to get enough traction with users, could give the San Jose Mercury News and other Media News outlets a bit of a leg up (the media company says it plans to roll TapIn out in other cities where it owns newspapers).

    TOC Frankfurt 2011 — Being held on Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2011, TOC Frankfurt will feature a full day of cutting-edge keynotes and panel discussions by key figures in the worlds of publishing and technology.

    Save 100€ off the regular admission price with code TOC2011OR


    Amazon gets into e-textbook rentals

    This week Amazon launched an e-textbook rental program on the Kindle. Broke college students might not be rejoicing just yet, however. Several companies, including CourseSmart and BookRenter, already have delved into the e-textbook rental market without overwhelming success.

    KindleTextbookRental.png

    A study recently conducted at the University of Washington suggests ereading devices themselves might be the problem. In a release, first author and doctoral student Alex Theyer said:

    There is no e-reader that supports what we found these students doing. It remains to be seen how to design one. It's a great space to get into, there's a lot of opportunity.

    In the case of Amazon, selection also might be a barrier to success, as one report found the search results "discouraging." E-textbooks, rental or otherwise, are not quite there, but increased experimentation and advancements in digital device capabilities may hold promise for those strapped college students.



    Related:


  • On
    a small screen, user experience is everything
  • Aggregation
    apps respond to consumer personalization demands
  • What
    publishers can and should learn from "The Elements"
  • More
    Publishing Week in Review coverage



  • May 27 2011

    Publishing News: Curation for the Kindle

    Here are some of this week's highlights from the publishing world. (Note: These stories were published here on Radar throughout the week.)

    Web content curation welcomed a new platform — your Kindle

    DelivereadsA new project called Delivereads curates interesting content from around the web and delivers it to your Kindle, via your Kindle email address. At the time of this writing, Delivereads was sending out selections like GQ's "Out on the Ice," The Atlantic's "The Lazarus File," Washington Monthly's "The Information Sage," and Time's "Zach Galifianakis Hates to Be Loved."

    In an email interview, Delivereads founder Dave Pell (@davepell) talked about the project's origin:

    Everyone who worked on the product, including designer Brian Moco and developer Alex King of Crowd Favorite, did so for free because they were excited about the idea and are subscribing to it themselves.

    • This story continues here.

    Pete Meyers on how "Welcome to Pine Point" creates a truly digital reading experience not mired in nor based on print

    I've been writing about and helping create digital books for about 15 years now and I don't think I've seen anything as innovative, as well executed, and as plain lovely to look at as "Welcome to Pine Point." No disrespect to the great work done by teams at Push Pop (Our Choice), Touch Press (The Elements), or Potion (NYPL Biblion), but all those projects take the print page as the starting point and ask: how can we best recreate that reading experience onscreen?

    "Pine Point," instead, is an example of something that couldn't exist in any other medium. Its creators describe it as "part book, part film, part website," which sounds about right; it mixes audio, video, still photos, prose, and movable images to tell the story of a Canadian town that was abandoned, and then demolished, in the late 1980s. But as most people reading this blog know: that multimedia stew's been cooked before.

    PinePoint
    Title page for Welcome to Pine Point. Click to enlarge.

    So why is "Pine Point" such a success?

    Quality, for starters. The team behind this project — Paul Shoebridge and Michael Simons, aka The Goggles — have sweated the details on how to integrate all those various media elements in a viewer-friendly way, one that immerses the audience in the story. A story that, not incidentally, touches on themes (abandonment, aging, environmentalism) moving enough to reward the time it takes — about 30 minutes — to watch it.

    • This story continues here.



    George Oates on how a minimum viable record could improve library catalogs and information systems


    MVRAt first blush, bibliographic data seems like it would be a fairly straightforward thing: author, title, publisher, publication date. But that's really just the beginning of the sorts of data tracked in library catalogs. There's also a variety of metadata standards and information classification systems that need to be addressed.

    The Open Library has run into these complexities and challenges as it seeks to create "one web page for every book ever published."

    George Oates, Open Library lead, recently gave a presentation in which she surveyed audience members, asking them to list the five fields they thought necessary to adequately describe a book. In other words, what constitutes a "minimum viable record"? Akin to the idea of the "minimum viable product" for getting a web project coded and deployed quickly, the minimum viable record (MVR) could be a way to facilitate an easier exchange of information between library catalogs and information systems.

    In the interview below, Oates explains the issues and opportunities attached to categorization and MVRs.

    What are some of the challenges that libraries and archives face when compiling and comparing records?

    George Oates: I think the challenges for compilation and comparison of records rest in different styles, and the innate human need to collect, organize, and describe the things around us. As Barbara Tillett noted in a 2004 paper: "Once you have a collection of over say 2,000 items, a human being can no longer remember every item and needs a system to help find things."

    I was struck by an article I saw on a site called Apartment Therapy, about "10 Tiny Gardens," where the author surveyed extremely different decorations and outputs within remarkable constraints. That same concept can be dropped into cataloging, where even in the old days, when librarians described books within the boundaries of a physical index card, great variation still occurred. Trying to describe a book on a 3x5 card is oddly reductionist.

    It's precisely this practice that's produced this "diabolical rationality" of library metadata that Karen Coyle describes [slide No. 38]. We're not designed to be rational like this, all marching to the same descriptive drum, even though these mythical levels of control and uniformity are still claimed. It seems to be a human imperative to stretch ontological boundaries and strive for greater levels of detail.

    Some specific categorization challenges are found in the way people's names are cataloged. There's the very simple difference between "Lastname, Firstname" and "Firstname Lastname" or the myriad "disambiguators" that can help tell two authors with the same name apart — like a middle initial, a birthdate, title, common name, etc.

    There are also challenges attached to the normal evolution of language, and a particular classification's ability to keep up. An example is the recent introduction of the word "cooking" as an official Library of Congress Subject Heading. "Cooking" supersedes "Cookery," so now you have to make sure all the records you have in your catalog that previously referred to "Cookery" now know about this newfangled "Cooking" word. This process is something of a ouroboros, although it's certainly made easier now that mass updates are possible with software.

    A useful contrast to all this is the way tagging on Flickr was never controlled (even though several Flickr members crusaded for various patterns). Now, even from this chaos, order emerges. On Flickr it's now possible to find photos of red graffiti on walls in Brooklyn, all through tags. Using metadata "native" to a digital photograph, like the date it was taken, and various camera details, you can focus even deeper, to find photos taken with a Nikon in the winter of 2008. Even though that's awesome, I'm sure it rankles professionals since Flickr also has a bunch of photos that have no tags at all.

    • This story continues here.
    Webcast: SneakPeek at Publishing Startups — SneakPeeks are a TOC webcast series featuring a behind-the-scenes look at publishing startups and their products. The inaugural SneakPeek webcast includes presentations from 24symbols, Valobox, Appitude, Active Reader and OnSwipe.

    Join us on Tuesday, May 31, 2011, at 10 am PT
    Register for this free webcast



    Related:


    May 26 2011

    Delivereads curates content for your Kindle

    DelivereadsA new project called Delivereads curates interesting content from around the web and delivers it to your Kindle, via your Kindle email address. At the time of this writing, Delivereads was sending out selections like GQ's "Out on the Ice," The Atlantic's "The Lazarus File," Washington Monthly's "The Information Sage," and Time's "Zach Galifianakis Hates to Be Loved."

    In an email interview, Delivereads founder Dave Pell (@davepell) talked about the project's origin:

    Everyone who worked on the product, including designer Brian Moco and developer Alex King of Crowd Favorite, did so for free because they were excited about the idea and are subscribing to it themselves.

    The rest of our interview follows.


    How are Deliveread articles curated, and who curates them?

    Dave Pell: I do all the curation. I've been finding and sharing web content for more than a decade on blogs, in newsletters, and via Twitter. I've also started to get a lot of user submissions, which makes the process easier and a lot more interesting.

    How does the web app work?

    Dave Pell: The app is really only something that I use to tie the articles together into one delivery and give folks a simple table of contents so they can read articles in the order they choose. From a subscriber's perspective, you're just getting document emails sent to your Kindle address.

    Should users be concerned about providing their Kindle email addresses — how is that data stored and how will it be used or shared?

    Dave Pell: Users should not be concerned about sharing their Kindle email addresses for a couple key reasons. First, in order for anyone to send an email to one's Kindle, the sending address first needs to be added to that person's Kindle Approved Email Address list. In other words, if a sender is not whitelisted, they can't send an email to your Kindle address, period. This makes signing up for Delivereads a two-step process (submit Kindle email address, whitelist my sending address), but it's nice and secure for the subscriber. Second, I've been sending out newsletters, etc., for years, and I never share anyone's address or use it for anything other than what they signed up for.

    Have you run into any publisher concerns about reformatting articles?

    Dave Pell: I haven't heard any concerns. There are quite a few ways to read articles where you want and how you want these days. I'm not sure Delivereads is breaking any new ground there. It's really about curation. Also, it's a passion project. I don't have a revenue model. It's all about getting great writing in front of people who appreciate it.


    Webcast: SneakPeek at Publishing Startups — SneakPeeks are a TOC webcast series featuring a behind-the-scenes look at publishing startups and their products. The inaugural SneakPeek webcast includes presentations from 24symbols, Valobox, Appitude, Active Reader and OnSwipe.


    Join us on Tuesday, May 31, 2011, at 10 am PT


    Register for this free webcast



    Related:


    May 20 2011

    Publishing News: BAFTA nomination hints at app crossover appeal

    Here are a few highlights from the publishing world. (Note: These stories were published here on Radar throughout the week.)

    An app is up for a TV BAFTA for the first time

    MalcomTucker.pngFor the first time ever, an app has been nominated for a TV British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) award. The Malcolm Tucker: The Missing Phone app, which has a story line based on a character of a popular BBC series called "The Thick of It" and a subsequent book "The Thick of It: The Missing DoSAC Files," was launched in December. In a post for The Bookseller, Charlotte Williams talked to Henry Volans (@FaberDigital), head of the digital arm of UK publisher Faber & Faber and part of the team responsible for the app. In the interview, Volans responded to the nomination:

    It's really thrilling. When we made this app we wanted to do more than translate a book to an app, but made something that made sense of the platform and I think this nomination shows we've gone some way to doing that.

    I reached out to Volans via an email interview to find out more about the app and the nomination. (The BAFTA awards will be announced May 22.) Our interview follows.


    How did the app get started?

    Henry Volans: It started with a question that's quite common but to which the answer is usually "no." We looked at the book and said "can we make an app from this?" Because the material is so rich, and I had the freedom at Faber Digital to develop something new — and on a schedule independent of the book — it got off the ground quickly. The project also worked because we went straight back to the creative team — Armando Iannucci and his four co-writers — rather than shoehorn the book into an app template.

    • This story continues here

    Kindle book sales officially outpace print — are we at the ebook tipping point?

    questionmarkIn a news release today, Amazon announced that Kindle book sales are outpacing sales of hardcover and paperback book sales combined. The release included several interesting statistics:

    • Since April 1, for every 100 print books Amazon.com has sold, it has sold 105 Kindle books. This includes sales of hardcover and paperback books by Amazon where there is no Kindle edition. Free Kindle books are excluded and if included would make the number even higher.
    • Amazon sold more than 3x as many Kindle books so far in 2011 as it did during the same period in 2010.
    • Less than one year after introducing the UK Kindle Store, Amazon.co.uk is now selling more Kindle books than hardcover books, even as hardcover sales continue to grow. Since April 1, Amazon.co.uk customers are purchasing Kindle books over hardcover books at a rate of more than 2 to 1.

    These stats beg the question: Are we at the ebook tipping point?

    • Please share your thoughts in the comments here

    How to revolutionize the Kindle

    KindleAmazon is well positioned to advance the Kindle platform much faster and further than they have in any 6-12 month period up to now. Here's where I hope they end up between now and the middle of next year:

    An insanely inexpensive entry-level device. Picture the current Kindle, but for $99 or less. How about $49? Better yet, how about free with a customer commitment to buy a minimum of X books in each of the next two years? Sounds a lot like a cell phone plan, doesn't it?

    Of course, if you're instead looking for something a bit more powerful and extendable, how about...

    An Android tablet device with an LCD screen. This one is the worst kept secrets since the iPhone 4. Amazon didn't launch that Appstore for Android because they want to push more cell phone sales. The only questions here are (1) when?, (2) how much?, and (3) how open? If they're smart the answers will be (1) any day, (2) $300 max, and (3) wide open.

    But if you can't stand the thought of reading long-form content on an LCD screen, then how about...

    That same Android tablet with a hybrid E Ink/LCD screen. That's right. A single device offering both the bright-light comfort of E Ink with the backlit option of LCD. Unfortunately for Amazon, it seems Apple is the one who's taking the lead on this front. Just search for the phrase "hybrid E Ink LCD display" and you get nothing but Apple news. That's a bummer since the first company to offer this solution could own the high end (and my loyalty). A fully open Android tablet with hybrid E Ink/LCD could easily command a $500 price or higher.

    • This story continues here.

    Got news?

    Suggestions are always welcome, so feel free to send along your news scoops and ideas.


    Keep up with Radar's latest publishing news and interviews with our publishing RSS feed.



    Related:


    Kindle 2012: Wish-list features for the next model

    This post originally appeared on Joe Wikert's Publishing 2020 Blog ("What Will the Kindle Platform Look Like in 2012?"). It's republished with permission.


    KindleAmazon is well positioned to advance the Kindle platform much faster and further than they have in any 6-12 month period up to now. Here's where I hope they end up between now and the middle of next year:

    An insanely inexpensive entry-level device. Picture the current Kindle, but for $99 or less. How about $49? Better yet, how about free with a customer commitment to buy a minimum of X books in each of the next two years? Sounds a lot like a cell phone plan, doesn't it?

    Of course, if you're instead looking for something a bit more powerful and extendable, how about...

    An Android tablet device with an LCD screen. This one is the worst kept secrets since the iPhone 4. Amazon didn't launch that Appstore for Android because they want to push more cell phone sales. The only questions here are (1) when?, (2) how much?, and (3) how open? If they're smart the answers will be (1) any day, (2) $300 max, and (3) wide open.

    But if you can't stand the thought of reading long-form content on an LCD screen, then how about...

    That same Android tablet with a hybrid E Ink/LCD screen. That's right. A single device offering both the bright-light comfort of E Ink with the backlit option of LCD. Unfortunately for Amazon, it seems Apple is the one who's taking the lead on this front. Just search for the phrase "hybrid E Ink LCD display" and you get nothing but Apple news. That's a bummer since the first company to offer this solution could own the high end (and my loyalty). A fully open Android tablet with hybrid E Ink/LCD could easily command a $500 price or higher.

    Android Open, being held October 9-11 in San Francisco, is a big-tent meeting ground for app and game developers, carriers, chip manufacturers, content creators, OEMs, researchers, entrepreneurs, VCs, and business leaders.

    Save 20% on registration with the code AN11RAD


    That's all great for the hardware side, but what about the rest of the platform? Will Amazon really stick with the proprietary AZW file format that's based on mobi, even as the rest of the world embraces EPUB? For backwards compatibility reasons they probably have to stick with mobi. What a shame though. EPUB is where the action is and EPUB3 adds a great deal of functionality to enable much richer content than the Kindle supports.

    Expanding into a tablet with LCD display means the Kindle will no longer be hamstrung by the limits of E Ink. What a terrific opportunity Amazon has to offer (and encourage the development of) richer content than just words on the screen. But will they? I've been critical of the glacial pace at which Amazon implements Kindle enhancements, but I hope they take advantage of this opportunity early on.

    Regarding formats and flexibility, I'd love to see Amazon support mobi and EPUB. Better yet, if they have the confidence to provide an open device, how about letting it run any reader app from the competition? Let me put the Nook app on my Kindle device and may the best content provider win. Now that would be a bold move! After all, if I could own an Amazon device that lets me buy content from any store, why woud I ever consider buying a device from anyone else?



    Related:


    February 09 2011

    Four short links: 9 February 2011

    1. isotope -- dazzling Javascript library.
    2. Designs, Lessons, and Advice from Building Large Distributed Systems (Slideshare) -- in the words of Matt Webb, through whom I found it, There's a lovely collection of numbers from Jeff Dean at Google, about how long common computer processor and network operations take. [...] What makes this more human is this comparison, which reveals a little bit about computer time: your equivalent to a computer looking up data from a chip is remembering a fact from your own brain. Your equivalent to a computer looking up data from a disk is fetching that fact from Pluto. Computers live in a world of commonplace interactions not the size of a house, like us, but the Solar System. On their own terms, they are long, long lived, and vast.. (via Matt Webb)
    3. Amazon Selling More Kindle Books Than Paperbacks (New Scientist) -- Since the beginning of the year, for every 100 paperback books Amazon has sold, the Company has sold 115 Kindle books. Additionally, during this same time period the company has sold three times as many Kindle books as hardcover books. (via Brad DeLong)
    4. The AOL Way -- the leaked business plan for AOL's content farms. I was fascinated by how big companies plan, but this is yet more sausage best made unseen. Most sausagey for me was Slide 33 showing the fantasy: a story suggested by high searches and advertising possibilities, with heavily "SEO optimized" text. (via Chris Heathcote on Delicious)

    Older posts are this way If this message doesn't go away, click anywhere on the page to continue loading posts.
    Could not load more posts
    Maybe Soup is currently being updated? I'll try again automatically in a few seconds...
    Just a second, loading more posts...
    You've reached the end.

    Don't be the product, buy the product!

    Schweinderl