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May 18 2012

Publishing News: No dismissal for Apple, Macmillan and Penguin

gavel.pngThis week brought a couple of important updates in the lawsuits against Apple, Macmillan and Penguin. First, the antitrust lawsuit filed by 16 States' Attorneys General saw 17 more states jump in, and several new details came to light as previously redacted content was made public in the amended complaint. Laura Hazard Owen takes a look at the highlights over at PaidContent, including how the Big Five got holdout publisher Six to get on board:

"E-mails to Barnes & Noble: Once five publishers and Apple had enacted agency pricing, the complaint says the five publishers 'worked together to force' Random House to adopt it as well. On March 4, 2010, in an exchange also identified in the DOJ's filing, Penguin CEO David Shanks sent Barnes & Noble's then-CEO Steve Riggio an e-mail reading in part, 'Random House has chosen to stay on their current model and will allow retailers to sell at whatever price they wish ... I would hope that [Barnes & Noble] would be equally brutal to Publishers who have thrown in with your competition with obvious disdain for your welfare ... I hope you make Random House hurt like Amazon is doing to people who are looking out for the overall welfare of the publishing industry.'"

Jane Litte over at Dear Author has a thorough analysis of the amended complaint as well, and also covers the second important lawsuit update of the week: U.S. District Judge Denise Cote denied Apple, Penguin, and Macmillan's motion to dismiss the civil class action lawsuit. Litte offers highlights and analysis of both the amended complaint in the states' lawsuit and from Judge Cote's opinion. She says the emphasis on "windowing" — holding back ebook versions of hardcover books in order to sell more of the higher priced editions — is "genius of the DOJ/States' Attorneys General to argue because it sets a pattern of concerted behavior regarding price controls." Litte concludes:

"I think that the defendants (Apple, Penguin and Macmillan) have two options here. Settle now or take their slim chances to jury where I am convinced they will lose and hope that the 2nd Circuit slaps down Judge Cote's per se finding on appeal."

Litte's post is a must-read this week. She also will talk more about the DOJ/States' Attorneys General lawsuits with Kat Meyer on today's Follow the Reader discussion at 4 p.m. eastern on Twitter. You can join in at #followreader.

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.

The anti-piracy holy grail?

What if piracy on the Internet could be shut down? That's what Russian-based startup Pirate Pay is aiming to accomplish. The company, which was partially funded by a $100,000 investment from the Microsoft Seed Financing Fund, is targeting its technology at file sharing on BitTorrent. TorrentFreak reports:

"[Pirate Pay] has developed a technology [that] allows them to attack existing BitTorrent swarms, making it impossible for people to share files ... The company doesn't reveal how it works, but they appear to be flooding clients with fake information, masquerading as legitimate peers."

Company CEO Andrei Klimenko talked a bit more in-depth in an interview at Russia Beyond the Headlines:

"It was not so hard to do from inside an I.S.P.'s network. But to turn the technology into global service, we had to convince all I.S.P.s to acquire our solution. This is, what someone could call, mission impossible. So to create a global service, we had to find the way to do it from the cloud. So we needed money for development."

That's where Microsoft came in. In the interview, Klimenko describes the success of the group's first project, protecting the film "Vysotsky. Thanks to God I'm Alive" after its release in December:

"We used a number of servers to make a connection to each and every p2p client that distributed this film. Then Pirate Pay sent specific traffic to confuse these clients about the real I.P. addresses of other clients and to make them disconnect from each other. Not all the goals were reached. But nearly 50,000 users did not complete their downloads."

Whether or not the technology will continue to work in the long term is questionable. The BBC reports: "[University of Cambridge security researcher Richard Clayton], who blogs about such issues, said peer-to-peer networks would eventually adapt, sharing information about 'bogus' peers such as those reportedly utilised by companies like Pirate Pay."

"News you read is different than news you say you read"

In a post at at AdAge Digital, Steve Rubel mused this week on digital media, social sharing and news consumption. Inspired after an executive briefing at Fairfax Media's headquarters in Sydney, he writes:

"'News you read is different than news you say you read,' said Darren Burden, general manager-news and digital publishing for Fairfax, one of Australia's largest companies. The former is driven by what you want or need to know, and the latter by what you want your friends to think.

"Just like that, Burden nailed the psychology that drives subconscious and routine behaviors in the digital age. The media get it. They know that as social networks become a primary pathway to content, news that's crafted to find you must indeed be different from news that's intended for you to find.

"Few companies can execute both styles equally well, however, and the result is a stylistic continental divide as newsrooms tilt toward one or the other."

Rubel's analysis of how various brands are wrestling with the issue is an interesting read. He concludes that content producers are going to need to be "adept in both styles to create the resonance required to stand out in an age with too much content and not enough time."

Related:

March 26 2012

March 09 2012

Publishing News: The threat of censorship, from a non-government entity

Here are the publishing-related stories that caught my attention this week.

Censorship disguised as a business decision

Censored.pngThe PayPal-as-content-police saga continues this week. Publishers Weekly reports that PayPal is backing off Smashwords a bit: "As it stands now, PayPal has contacted Smashwords about the possibility of relaxing the enforcement and has assured the distributor that their account will not be in immediate risk of limitation pending ongoing discussions." The post outlines the background on the situation:

"The issue began February 18, when [Smashwords founder Mark] Coker received an e-mail from PayPal notifying him that Smashwords had until February 24 to correct titles with the controversial topics or else the Smashwords account would be limited. PayPal told Coker: 'Our banking partners and credit card associations have taken a very strict stance on this subject matter. Our relationships with the banking partners are absolutely critical in order to provide the online and mobile services we do to our customers. Therefore, we have to remain in compliance with their rules, which prohibit content involving rape, bestiality or incest.'"

Several anti-censorship and privacy rights organizations, including the Association of American Publishers, the Authors Guild, and the Internet Archive, have signed a letter to PayPal in support of Smashwords. The letter concludes by noting exactly how dangerous PayPal's intended actions are:

"The Internet has become an international public commons, like an enormous town square, where ideas can be freely aired, exchanged, and criticized. That will change if private companies, which are under no legal obligation to respect free speech rights, are able to use their economic clout to dictate what people should read, write, and think."

Magellan Media founder Brian O'Leary also highlighted a bit of the bigger picture:

As the tools of creation and production have become increasingly democratized, efforts to control supply have shifted to the platforms that support this more open process. After all, it's a lot easier to shut down Smashwords than it is to get its thousands of authors to stop writing.

The PW post includes comments that claim PayPal's demands are not censorship, just a business decision (... a decision that just happens to prevent people from being able to buy or read something). You didn't like SOPA? Meet the bankers.

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.

This kind of consumer demand should make you drool

Inspired by the Oatmeal cartoon detailing futile attempts at legally watching the "Game of Thrones" TV show (and several subsequent responses to it), David Sleight over at Stuntbox takes a look at the current state of piracy and makes a compelling argument to corporate America that pirate consumers are an opportunity:

"The audience is telling you, in no uncertain terms, they want your stuff. And they are telling you precisely what stuff. The people you're calling 'thieves' are telling you where you need to be. They are jumping through hoops only slightly less complicated than the ones you set out for them via official channels, displaying the sort of pent-up demand that should make you drool. This is what's commonly referred to in business circles as an opportunity."

Sleight points out that behind private, closed doors, corporate America acknowledges this but can't get seem to migrate the mindset into the boardroom. He offers several proposals to help them get a move-on. A few teasers include: "Start projects by picturing what the user wants to have in their hands and build up from that." And, "... the future is about frictionless access ..." And, "Stop thumping the table with these [bogus] stats." Sleight's piece is well worth the read.

And publishers might take a page from the TED playbook: Joshua Gans at the Harvard Business Review profiles the TED publishing platform, noting not only the openness of the TED talks themselves (the videos are freely available), but also the TED name (adhering to a few rules, anyone can hold a TEDx event). Gans concludes: "TED could have done the traditional publishing thing — put up walls and sold exclusivity. Instead, it has chosen to embrace the notion that information has the most value when it is shared widely. Perhaps traditional publishers of other forms of media should take note."

And in case you missed it, here's author Neal Gaiman on the opportunities of piracy:

What we have here is a failure to visualize

A new study from The Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism shows that newspapers' digital efforts are falling short in making up for losses in print revenues and that "most newspapers continue to contract with alarming speed." Fear of rapid failure seems to be fueling the slow, steady decline. One newspaper executive told the study group, "There's no doubt we're going out of business right now." The report continues:

"The problem, he [the newspaper executive] explained, is the dilemma that faces many trying to innovate inside older industries. If you changed your company and did not succeed, that could hasten the end of the enterprise. 'There might be a 90% chance you'll accelerate the decline if you gamble and a 10% chance you might find the new model,' he said. 'No one is willing to take that chance'."

PewStudyNewsRevenues.pngThe study investigates the decline in the industry from many angles — digital advertising to mobile to cultural obstacles. The study also asked newspaper executives to look five years down the road; the results were grim and highlighted the industry's lack of vision. Response highlights include:

  • The most common scenario was that the newspaper would be printed and delivered to people's homes less frequently, perhaps as little as two to three days a week-or even just on Sunday. This has already occurred in some markets, such as Detroit.
  • One foresaw a looming era of significantly downsized newsrooms. Another suggested the papers would inevitably get "thinner and weaker."
  • One thought it would be possible for papers to "limp along," but that another recession could be catastrophic to the industry.

The study report points out what is "probably the strongest underlying finding of this study: The people who run the newspaper industry are unsure of where it is heading or what it will look like."

Got news?

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

Photo (top): Vitruvian by Mr.Enjoy, on Flickr

Related:


Piracy is not a pricing signal

The comments to yesterday's Four Short Links threw up a predictable response from "Frankster":

So why don't you put your money where your mouth is. Why don't you put torrent links next to all of your books here at oreilly.com. Put a big "free" button next to the button that let's you pay. Show us how it's done. Show us how cool you can be. Show us that it works. Don't just give us a "great takedown". Lead by doing!

This is such a well-worn canard that I am reposting my response.

@frankster: actually, you'll find all O'Reilly books in shop.oreilly.com have links to ebooks that are cheaper than the print version. The purchasing system is simple (not one-click, alas, but pretty close) and--most importantly--you can have the ebook in whatever format you want, without DRM. Oh, and there's Safari, our subscription service for ebooks. We try to make it as convenient as possible for you: all our books, all the formats, no DRM inconvenience. What kind of an idiot builds roadblocks to a sale?

Also, as an author of a technical book, I'm well aware that it is readily pirated from around the Internet. Go knock yourself out if price is that much of a barrier to you. I'd rather see you educated than bankrupt for the price of a lousy technical book.

You seem to have me painted as some kind of creator-hating anarchist. You don't understand that I want to pay for movies and TV. There's a huge pool of middle-class downloaders who would gladly buy if it were available: iTunes and Amazon's MP3 sales show this for music, and Hulu and Netflix are the signs of this for movies and TV. (I want downloads, not streams, because of the pricing structure of broadband in my part of the world)

Whatever lost sales there are from illegal downloads are lost because of convenience, not price. The inconvenience of current downloads and streams are not a technology problem, they're a business problem. And rights holders (aka existing distribution companies) perpetuate the piracy "problem" by not giving consumers the convenience that piracy does.

The experience of piracy is actually pretty good compared to that of existing TV and movies online. And, once you get outside the USA, it's pretty much the ONLY way to get digital media--iTunes and Amazon and Google don't carry much digital media for us; they offer a dismal few items to international customers versus the munificent excess of their domestic catalogue.

Downloading isn't a sign of the rise of technoanarchist capitalist-hating communist punks. It's not even a pricing signal. It's a market signal to the distributors that convenience matters. While they ignore that signal, piracy will win. It's that simple.

Related:

February 17 2012

Publishing News: Let's remember why we got into this business

TOC 2012In this special edition of the Publishing Week in Review, I'm taking a look at highlights from the 2012 Tools of Change for Publishing Conference held in New York City earlier this week.

Publishing isn't about print vs digital or incompatible ereading formats — it's about storytelling

As far as inspiration goes, it doesn't get much better than LeVar Burton's TOC keynote address. Burton first talked about how he came to literature and publishing. Going back to his childhood, he reminisced that you were either reading a book or getting hit by one — his mother didn't care how, but "in her house, you were going to have an encounter with the written word."

His experiences with storytelling became more profound when he landed a major role on the miniseries "Roots," which taught him about the transformative nature of literature when combined with a visual medium. That experience was so profound for Burton that he left his priesthood studies, deciding storytelling was more effective at reaching people. This decision also later led to 25 years of "Reading Rainbow," the series that used TV to get kids interested in books.

Burton said that "stories are bridges to real-world experiences" and that he's a "firm believer between that which we imagine and that which we create."

"The stories that we tell each other and have told each other throughout the history of the development of civilization are integrally important, are inextricably linked, to how we continue to invent the world in which we live."

Burton said reading and storytelling go far beyond discussions of print versus digital or which digital format should prevail:

"We are going to be absolutely fine, so long as we do not fail ourselves in the one fundamental aspect of who it is we are and what we bring to the table. Remember, human beings are manifesting machines. We are just like that child watching the episodes of 'Star Trek,' seeing those images, using our imaginations, coming up with a piece of technology that actually serves humanity going forward.

"Our imaginations always have been, always will be, our continuing link into ourselves in order to make contact with ourselves so that then we might share the beauty of ourselves through culture with the rest of the world ... I encourage you to remember the nature of what it is you signed on for. You've come here to make a difference. You've come here to use your imaginations in the service of storytelling. Doing the same things we have done for years with a new opportunity, with new tools, a few more bells and whistles — it's still, and always will be, about storytelling."

Burton's full keynote is available in the following video:

The Publishing Panic of 2015 is coming. Can we stop it?

Joe Karaganis, vice president of The American Assembly at Columbia University, addressed issues of piracy and enforcement in a keynote address. Using his work with the Media Piracy in Emerging Economies project as a backdrop, Karaganis said the opposition to SOPA/PIPA and ACTA has moved the conversation beyond online piracy to the convergence of citizenship, democratic accountability and different rights.

The main ingredients of piracy, Karaganis said, are "high prices, low incomes and cheap digital technologies" and that "enforcement has been irrelevant — it's what happens around the edges of these underlying economic drivers." He argued that the current system doesn't scale well and that prosecution rarely occurs:

"When you look at how enforcement works in middle- and low-income countries, you find a pretty simple, consistent pattern: You find raid-based enforcement, characterized by the ramping up of police actions and little to no follow through. There's little likelihood that these cases will make it to trial, and in fact, little expectation that they will."

There's a simple explanation for the discrepancy: "It's cheaper to buy cops than lawyers — raids are cheap, but due process is expensive and slow." He argued that the new enforcement measures (SOPA/PIPA/ACTA) realize this futility and so they instead focus on abridging due process: "The only way to scale up enforcement is to take it out of the courts, to make it an administrative function, and whenever possible, and automated one."

Karaganis said his research showed there's a lot of casual infringement, but very little large-scale or hard-core infringement — 1-3% are hard-core pirates, according to his data.

Bringing the discussion around to publishing, specifically the education market, Karaganis asked, "What happens when the access problem is solved without any corresponding solution to the crisis of the library or the commercial markets — there will be access; the question is, who will make it convenient and affordable?" Using open-education research as an example, he said the problem is that they're not competing with the commercial market, they're competing with the pirate market:

"They're competing with a 'copy culture' that hasn't waited for approved institutional solutions to emerge. As digital readers get very, very cheap in the next few years, that copy culture is going to grow exponentially and produce a huge democratization in educational opportunity and access to knowledge. That will be a hugely disruptive challenge to all parties involved and produce its own cause for enforcement and control."

Karaganis referred to this impending phenomenon as "The Publishing Panic of 2015," and to address it we'll need more than just opposition to legislation like SOPA and PIPA:

"It's not enough to simply say SOPA is bad or enforcement doesn't work, even among people who agree. We need to develop a positive set of proposals for what we want, collectively, for what the public interest is in and around intellectual property. 'What's the positive agenda?' is a very fair question."

More background on Karaganis' research can be found at The American Assembly website. The "Media Piracy in Emerging Economies" report can be downloaded here.

Karaganis' full keynote can be viewed in the following video:

Bookstores: It's about monetizing relationships and experiences, not about selling books

The "Kepler's 2020: Building the Community Bookstore of the 21st Century" session created quite a buzz at the show. For a bit of background, The Kepler's 2020 Project release described it:

"The project aims to create an innovative hybrid business model that includes a for-profit, community-owned-and-operated bookstore, and a nonprofit organization that will feature on-stage author interviews, lectures by leading intellectuals, educational workshops and other literary and cultural events."

Thad McIlroy, owner of TheFutureofPublishing.com, opened the conference session with thoughts on reinventing "the notion of the bookstore in the midst of this crazy time of change." McIlroy said that the Kepler's 2020 project, being led by literary entrepreneur Praveen Madan, is blazing a trail.

Madan's subsequent presentation focused on debunking industry myths. Specifically, printed books are not going to survive and we don't need bookstores in the age of instantly downloadable ebooks.

Madan shared a survey finding that revealed overwhelming support (95%) for using bookstores as "a place for browsing and discovering new ideas" and (72%) as "a place to buy books." He pointed out that more than half of the responders had ereading devices.

Madan also offered two trends that explain why bookstores need to be reinvented and why they still have a future:

  1. Technology is having an isolating impact — "People are more and more disconnected from each other." We are working from home, shopping from home, and community gathering places (churches, schools, community centers) aren't as effective. So, what places are going to bring people together? "We think that can be bookstores," Madan said. "Bookstores need to be re-imagined as those places."
  2. Browsing — We still need showrooms for books. "The reality is that 18 years after Amazon started tweaking its algorithms for recommending books, a well-curated, physical, in-store experience is still better at helping readers discover books," Madan said.

"What we really need is for someone in the technology world to step up and say, "I think there is an opportunity here," he said. Madan also insisted it needs to be open: "We'll pay for the services and we'll pay for the development, but the platform needs to be open source."

The buzz was heightened at the end of the Q&A session when Madan said he was looking to partner with Amazon to sell ebooks through his store:

"[Ebooks are] something we want to provide; we want to be part of the overall experience. But the solution and the technology has to come from somebody else. I'm very serious about looking at [partnering with] Amazon and just giving away Kindles and telling people it's okay — you have our permission. Walk into the bookstore, browse the books and download the books on your Kindle."

When people ask Madan how he'll make money, he answers that that isn't the point — he doesn't need to make money on every downloaded book; he'll make money on the relationships in other ways.

You can learn more about The Kepler's 2020 Project in the following short video:


If you couldn't make it to TOC, or you missed a session you wanted to see, sign up for the TOC 2012 Complete Video Compilation and check out our archive of free keynotes and interviews.


Related:

February 02 2012

Strata Week: The Megaupload seizure and user data

Here are a few of the data stories that caught my attention this week.

Megaupload's seizure and questions about controlling user data

When the file-storage and sharing site Megaupload had its domain name seized, assets frozen and website shut down in mid-January, the U.S. Justice Department contended that the owners were operating a site dedicated to copyright infringement. But that posed a huge problem for those who were using Megaupload for the legitimate and legal storage of their files. As the EFF noted, these users weren't given any notice of the seizure, nor were they given an opportunity to retrieve their data.

Moreover, it seemed this week that those users would have all their data deleted, as Megaupload would no longer be able to pay its server fees.

While it appears that users have won a two-week reprieve before any deletion actually occurs, the incident does raise a number of questions about users' data rights and control in the cloud. Specifically: What happens to user data when a file hosting / cloud provider goes under? And how much time and notice should users have to reclaim their data?

Megaupload seizure notice
This is what you see when you visit Megaupload.com.

Bloomberg opens its market data distribution technology

The financial news and information company Bloomberg opened its market data distribution interface this week. The BLPAPI is available under a free-use license at open.bloomberg.com. According to the press release, some 100,000 people already use the BLPAPI, but with this week's announcement, the interface will be more broadly available.

The company introduced its Bloomberg Open Symbology back in 2009, a move to provide an alternative to some of the proprietary systems for identifying securities (particularly those services offered by Bloomberg's competitor Thomson Reuters). This week's opening of the BLPAPI is a similar gesture, one that the company says is part of its "Open Market Data Initiative, an ongoing effort to embrace and promote open solutions for the financial services industry."

The BLPAPI works with a range of programming languages, including Java, C, C++, .NET, COM and Perl. But while the interface itself is free to use, the content is not.

Strata 2012 — The 2012 Strata Conference, being held Feb. 28-March 1 in Santa Clara, Calif., will offer three full days of hands-on data training and information-rich sessions. Strata brings together the people, tools, and technologies you need to make data work.

Save 20% on registration with the code RADAR20


Pentaho moves Kettle to the Apache 2.0 license

Pentaho's extract-transform-load technology Pentaho Kettle is being moved to the Apache License, Version 2.0. Kettle was previously available under the GNU Lesser General Public License (LGPL).

By moving to the Apache license, Pentaho says it will be more in line with the licensing of Hadoop, Hbase, and a number of NoSQL projects.

Kettle downloads and documentation are available at the Pentaho Big Data Community Home.

Oscar screeners and movie piracy data

Andy Baio took a look at some of the data surrounding piracy and the Oscar screening process. There has long been concern that the review copies of movies distributed to members of the Academy of Motion Arts and Sciences were making their way online. Baio observed that while a record number of films have been nominated for Oscars this year (37), just eight of the "screeners" have been leaked online, "a record low that continues the downward trend from last year."

However, while the number of screeners available online has diminished, almost all of the nominated films (34) had already been leaked online. "If the goal of blocking leaks is to keep the films off the Internet, then the MPAA [Motion Picture Association of America] still has a long way to go," Baio wrote.

Baio has a number of additional observations about these leaks (and he also made the full data dump available for others to examine). But as the MPAA and others are making arguments (and helping pen related legislation) to crack down on Internet privacy, a good look at piracy trends seems particularly important.

Got data news?

Feel free to email me.

Related:

January 27 2012

Top stories: January 23-27, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

January 23 2012

January 17 2012

Putting money where our mouths are

As Tim O'Reilly has pointed out, one of the major problems with SOPA and PIPA is that they regulate in favor of an "old economy," and against the new. It's sort of like the stage coach companies lobbying for regulations against the upstart railroads, and the railroads lobbying for regulation against the roads and airlines.

The problem isn't "piracy" or "theft." In fact, one of the big problems I have is the way the old media companies have been able to drive the language here. As Tim points out, piracy is "primarily the result of market failure" and ceases to be an issue when it's possible for customers to get what they want on terms that they can accept. It's about access, it's about people being able to get the media they want and do what they want with it.

In "
Scarcity is a Shitty Business Model
," Fred Wilson tells about being unable
to find a good movie to watch at home on a weekend night: nothing good
on Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, or the cable company. The end
result is predictable: if the established means of
distribution make it difficult for customers to get what they want,
you can't blame the customers. If we've learned anything from the
Internet, it's the business that can't deliver the goods doesn't deserve
to survive.



Which begs a big question: If the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and their bedfellows are 20th century dinosaurs, when will we see the 21st century mammals that will
replace them? We're starting to see them now, particularly in music.
Musicians have already been screwed badly by the music industry, and
there are no small number of reasonably successful small musicians
working on a "pay what you like" DRM-free basis.
Businesses like Bandcamp
allow artists to sell directly to their
audiences, on a "name your price" basis. Bandcamp isn't Sony Music, but
it's one of the new breed, one of the small mammals that will
survive when the dinosaurs go extinct.



When will we see the same for the movie industry? Granted, making a
movie requires a much bigger upfront investment. But it's Hollywood's
lie that a move needs a multi-million-dollar budget. "The Blair Witch
Project" was produced for around $60,000 but grossed $249 million.
Wikipedia
lists
successful films with production budgets down to
$7,000. But what we don't have for low-budget films are studios
willing to take the risk of dealing directly with customers, or
companies like Bandcamp that aggregate independents' offerings and
distribute them directly to customers, cutting the obsolete 20th
century distribution channels out of the loop.



In short, SOPA and PIPA are attempts by the MPAA to preserve an
industry that has been fundamentally unchanged since the 1950s, if not
the 40s. Who's going to re-think video, in short (YouTube),
medium (TV) and long (film) form, and other forms that we haven't even
conceived? The Internet has created more new
industries than I can count. It's time for the Internet to create the
new industry that puts the old-time studios out of business. Who's
going to do that? It's a huge opportunity.

Related:

January 16 2012

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.

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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?
  • November 04 2011

    Publishing News: Early response to the Kindle Lending Library

    Big personal publishing news: I started reading books on my iPad this week (staunch holdout on the ereader no more, I suppose) — it seemed the most honorable way to read Steve Jobs' biography.

    On to a few of the bigger publishing stories that caught my eye ...

    Amazon extends its Prime tentacles into lending

    KindleLending.pngAmazon launched its Kindle Lending Library this week, with, according to the Wall Street Journal, a relatively small list of 5,000 titles to start. Amazon's release claims more than 100 NYT bestsellers are included, but the WSJ article notes that "none of the six largest publishers in the U.S. is participating." Mathew Ingram has a nice analysis of this particular Big Six point over at GigaOM: "Much like newspapers are doing with paywalls, book publishers seem to be trying desperately to maintain the control they used to have so they can prop up their traditional business model."

    The publishers who are participating are being compensated under a couple different payment models. From the WSJ article:

    Russell Grandinetti, vice president for Kindle content, said "the vast majority" of participating publishers were receiving a flat fee for their titles, while a more limited group is being paid the wholesale price for each title that is borrowed. "For those publishers, we're treating each book borrowed as a sale," he said.

    Some publishers are looking at the lending program as an exposure opportunity. Arthur Klebanoff, chief executive of RosettaBooks LLC, said to the WSJ: "I'm attracted to the incremental promotion/visibility for participating titles ... All site promotion, especially of backlist titles, drives sales in the Kindle Store."

    Other publishers see issues with the program. O'Reilly's Joe Wikert posted a piece here on Radar that questions the flat rate associated with the Kindle Lending Library:

    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.

    There's no question about the significant effect the Kindle has had on ereading and e-lending — the WSJ post points out that "[a]t the Seattle public-library system, e-book borrowing rose 32% in the month after Kindle books became available." The bigger picture here, though, speaks to Amazon's unrelenting journey to create an all-encompassing platform — the lending library only is available to owners of Kindle devices (driving device sales) and to members of Amazon Prime, a program Amazon has been increasingly pushing into all sectors of its business. As my editor points out, "[Amazon Prime] is not a 'pivot'; it's more like a tornado that's sucking up everything in its path." Indeed, I think Prime may be a key part of the support structure for Amazon's growing ecosystem.

    For more on the lending library and how it works, there's a nice overview at PCWorld.


    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


    Publishing gets litigious on piracy

    This week, the publishing industry joined an elite club that, according to TorrentFreak, had previously only included independent and adult film studios as members. Global academic publishing company John Wiley and Sons has filed suit against 27 BitTorrent users who allegedly downloaded illegal copies of several "For Dummies" titles on October 18 and 19 of this year. TorrentFreak quoted an attorney for the plaintiff:

    "Defendants are contributing to a problem that threatens the profitability of Wiley. Although Wiley cannot determine at this time the precise amount of revenue that it has lost as a result of peer-to-peer file sharing of its copyrighted works though BitTorrent software, the amount of revenue that is lost is enormous," Wiley's attorney writes.

    "Photoshop for Dummies" appears to be the central title. The suit states the book has been downloaded 74,000 times since the summer of 2010. Copyright expert Susan Kohlmann told PaidContent: "The problem affects book publishers as it affects all content owners, and with the growing popularity of ebooks, various strategies to address illegal file-sharing, including litigation, will necessarily grow as well." The piracy issue is controversial at best — and some say ill-informed — but how this case proceeds and whether it achieves its desired effect (or any effect) will make this an interesting test.

    Let's put our heads together

    The Books in Browsers conference wrapped up last Friday, and this week, the keynote videos started rolling out — you can peruse the playlist here. Brian O'Leary (@brianoleary) had a particularly inspirational talk that topped off the conference. He talked about content abundance and how it affects the publishing industry as a whole. O'Leary said he's increasingly come to think that "we all have to hang together, or, surely, we will hang separately."

    O'Leary's presentation is available in the following video:

    Related:


    April 26 2011

    April 15 2011

    Getting your book in front of 160 million users is usually a good thing

    Last week, Megan Lisa Jones launched a promotion for her new book "Captive" in a (seemingly) unlikely forum: BitTorrent, a space commonly associated with "piracy." At about a week into her two-week promotion, I checked in with BitTorrent to see how it was going. In an email interview, BitTorrent spokesperson Allison Wagda said that as of 10 am Tuesday, "Captive" had been downloaded 342,242 times.

    Though the environment may feel like a strange bedfellow for publishing, the impressive level of exposure for a new book release can't be denied. The marketing appeal of BitTorrent, Wagda said, is two-fold:

    The technology and the audience. For larger downloads, BitTorrent is the fastest, easiest way to distribute and download a file to lots of people. And there's no infrastructure cost. Since we have a built-in massive audience, publishers and creators gain a unique ability to engage with users.

    For more on how a platform like BitTorrent could be used by publishers, I turned to Matt Mason, director of innovation at Syrup and author of The Pirate's Dilemma. Our interview follows.

    What advantages can be gained by staging a promotion through a platform like BitTorrent?

    Matt Mason: The real problem for most authors, to quote Tim O'Reilly, isn't piracy, but obscurity. There are millions of books on Amazon, and the average book in the US sells around 500 copies a year. A lot of authors, including Cory Doctorow, Seth Godin, Paulo Coelho and myself have had success by giving away electronic copies of our books as a way to promote the books. It can spread the message of the book further, boost sales of physical copies, boost ebook sales, and stimulate other opportunities like speaking and consulting engagements.

    The great thing about BitTorrent is you are talking to a massive audience — more than 160 million people use it. Research has shown that people who use file-sharing sites are more likely to spend money on content. Whatever you're trying to promote, 160 million people who are big consumers of all kinds of media is a huge opportunity.

    Do you think this is a viable promotion/distribution model?

    Matt Mason: Absolutely, and it will become more widely used as content creators and distributors wake up to the benefits of BitTorrent. It is quite simply the cheapest and most efficient way to share digital information, because the audience is the server farm. It's way to create a giant repository of content with no servers. It has a huge user base and it is growing every day. It's not about giving something away for free, but about distributing it in the smartest possible way. In the next five years, I think we'll see all kinds of publishers waking up to this.

    What are some of the obstacles environments like BitTorrent face as promotion platforms?

    Matt Mason: One of the biggest problems peer-to-peer technologies like BitTorrent have is the stigma of piracy, but P2P is actually a new and better way of distributing information. Piracy has been at the birth of every major new innovation in media, from the printing press to the recording industry to the film industry — all were birthed out of people doing disruptive, innovative things with content that earned them the label "pirate" (including Thomas Edison).

    I think of piracy as a market signal — it signifies a change in consumer behavior that the market hasn't caught up with. If an ecosystem like BitTorrent grows to 160 million users, it's not a piracy environment, it's just a new environment. Media is an industry where the customer really is always right. If people are trying to get your content in a new way, the only smart thing to do is to find a sensible way to offer it to them there.



    Related:


    April 08 2011

    Publishing News: Week in Review

    Here are a few publishing highlights that caught my attention this week. (Note: Some of these stories were published here on Radar throughout the week.)

    A public "bookcasting" system

    gluejarglue.jpgIn a recent blog post, Eric Hellman, announced the launch of a new publishing model with his company Gluejar, Inc. The system, he said, would work a bit like a public-supported radio station, wherein some listeners contribute money and others don't (and he's quick to point out that the ones who don't contribute aren't considered pirates or thieves). He argues that though print books are laden with costly material and distribution expenses, ebooks are much more like radio programs:

    EBOOKS ARE NOT BOOKS. They're just bits, and typically not so many, compared to a radio show. The cost of making a copy is negligible. It needn't cost anything to distribute the ebook. eBook distribution is even cheaper than radio, because you don't have to pay for transmitter power, and you don't have to own a frequency license. It's the monetization machinery that costs money: the ecommerce systems and the DRM. If the producers of ebooks had some way of covering their fixed costs (with profit to make it worth their while), ebooks could work just like free radio. Three million people contributing a dime would do quite nicely. 30,000 contributing $10 would work, too.

    The books would be available to everyone and paid for by those who want to support them. And, clearly, there will be no DRM:

    The business will bring together people to pay for the fixed costs of producing ebooks, reward the best producers with profits, and to make these ebooks public, free to read, free to copy, to everyone, everywhere in the world, using Creative Commons Licensing.

    This is an interesting, truly innovative idea. The concept will require enough author buy-in to create the quality of inventory necessary to engage readers to the point of being willing to pay. If that's achieved, I see no reason why I wouldn't contribute just like I do to NPR. This is definitely an out-of-the box model to keep an eye on.

    Author uses BitTorrent to promote new book

    CaptiveCover.png Amazon has the ebook version of Megan Lisa Jones' new book "Captive" listed for $9.99, but Jones has decided to use BitTorrent's vast audience to give away the book for free for two weeks. Jones commented for a post on ZeroPaid:

    The message belongs to the street, not the elite. I'm very excited to be partnering with BitTorrent to reach an audience that's both active and engaged with content creators and publishers. Hopefully we can demonstrate a new media model that benefits all.

    I'm not totally convinced you can stop a promotion in a "pirate" environment after two weeks, but regardless, the exposure to BitTorrent's more than 100 million users is tough to beat on a publicity level. In a brief email exchange, novelist Paulo Coelho supported Jones' strategy: "That's quite a good idea to promote it there! In fact, I use 'piracy' to promote my books myself." Discussions on Coelho's techniques can be found here and here.

    Using book trailers to seduce new readers

    In a recent post on Mashable, author Rye Barcott talked about the experience of making a trailer for his book "It Happened on the Way to War: A Marine's Path to Peace." Though literary curmudgeons may cry "sacrilege!" at video promotions for books, Barcott said a book trailer can act as a bridge to new readers:

    We live in an age where fewer people are reading, and more people are watching. That reality has driven the rise of book trailers. My skeptical friends argue that these trailers simply contribute to our increasingly short attention spans. Having just gone through the process, I have a different view. My hope is that book trailers like ours help bridge the divide and draw more people to the beauty, substance, and transformative power of books.

    You can view Barcott's book trailer here.

    For a more detailed look into the business behind the book trailer, I turned to Brett Cohen, vice president of Quirk Books. This is the company behind "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" and a publisher that's produced a fair number of book trailers.

    Our interview follows.

    What is the target market of book trailers?

    Brett Cohen: It varies depending on the book's audience. Certainly, it appeals to an online demographic. And, the viral nature of a YouTube video is working at its best when others share it with their friends via Facebook or Twitter, or post it on their blogs. Some of our viewers watch the trailers embedded onto other sites, like the Huffington Post, Techland and io9. That type of syndication expands the audience for the trailer and the book. Our most-viewed trailers have definitely appealed to a younger, pop-culture-driven audience.

    What makes for a good book trailer?

    Brett Cohen: For us, a good book trailer speaks "the language" of our target audience. Our Quirk Classics book trailers mimic the production value of big-budget movies, with exceptional special effects. We've created other trailers for humor books that are more irreverent. For non-fiction titles, we've taken a more author-driven, information-based approach. Overall, we feel that it's very important to be true to the book so that it can translate into sales.

    For the rest of the interview and a look at Quirk Books' new trailer for "Jane Austen Pride & Prejudice & Zombies: Dreadfully Ever After," click 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.

    March 18 2011

    Publishing News: Week in Review

    Here are some highlights of what grabbed my attention in publishing news this week. (Note: These stories were published here on Radar throughout the week.)

    Margaret Atwood said "No!" to merchandising

    As traditional publishing revenue is diluted by digital content sales, new revenue models are being bandied about. One example: merchandising. Authors and publishers can use online tools like Zazzle and CafePress to quickly create promotional merchandise to accompany book releases. These items (theoretically) could help authors own their brands, connect with fans, and bring in much-needed money.

    slide2Deadauthor.jpg
    Click to see full Dead Author slide

    One author, Margaret Atwood, has already employed the merchandising model — not in connection to a book release, but in connection to a keynote speech she gave at TOC 2011. Her vivid imagery involved the "Dead Author" (pictured above) and the danger of solar flares.

    So what does Atwood think of this merchandise model? Is it a boon to authors? Does it hint at a bright future for publishing?

    Don't get your hopes up.

    "No, I don't think it's a good model!" she said via email.

    This story continues here.

    Does the Facebook comment plugin increase the quality or just reduce the number of comments?

    Alistair Croll and Sean Power recently reviewed how embedded Facebook comments affect the number of comments on posts. They used TechCrunch as a test case, comparing comment totals, Facebook likes, Google Buzz and Twitter activity one week before and one week after TechCrunch implemented the FB comment plugin.

    FBPlugin.png

    On first blush, the numbers might be surprising, and even a bit disconcerting. Croll and Power's analysis showed:

    • For all posts, implementing FB Comments caused a 42% reduction in the total amount of comments, and a 38% reduction in comments per post.
    • For the average post, implementing FB Comments caused a 58% reduction in the total amount of comments and a 56% reduction in the average amount of comments per post.

    The story continues here.

    Piracy manifesto indicates price isn't the only factor

    Manifesto.pngLast week, the Social Science Research Council published the results of a three-year study on piracy in the "Media Piracy in Emerging Economies" report. The report concluded that price was the overwhelming issue contributing to piracy around the world. In a post for thinq_ summing up the study results, James Nixon described an example from the report:

    They cite the example of Russia, where legal versions of the film "The Dark Knight" sold for $15 — roughly the same price that consumers would pay in the US. But with wages much lower in Russia, that price represents a much higher percentage of consumers' income — the equivalent of a US buyer shelling out something like $75 on the film. Pirate versions, says the report, can be obtained for less than a third of the price.

    In February, a group of contributors got together at a workshop and came up with piracy guidelines. Of the five points outlined in the "Don't Make Me Steal" manifesto, only one addresses the price issue.

    The story, with comments from Brian O'Leary, continues here.

    Lonely Planet threw the print book out the window to make its first all-digital product

    LPTour.png In a recent interview, Gus Balbontin, director of transformation at Lonely Planet, talked about some of the the development challenges facing publishers in the digital age:

    What we face is breaking down the barriers of a very long-standing way of operating and working. For Lonely Planet, for almost 40 years, we've been creating books, in a particular way, with a particular process and tools and workflows. That's been all thrown up in the air as new mediums and platforms come out. The lucky thing for Lonely Planet is that we've been in the mobile guides business for a long time. Although they were manifested as books, they were still mobile guides.

    Balbontin discussed the challenges of content origination as well, suggesting that when developing digital content, it may not always be best to begin with the printed book, as is the tendency in traditional publishing:

    The mechanics of getting [mobile digital products] out are very tricky — all the way from where we originate our content, which is originated primarily for a book, which then needs to be repurposed. The things that you create or generate for a book don't apply for an app or an ebook. Stripping those things out or changing or morphing or massaging that content to fit the different mediums is a serious challenge.

    Balbontin and the team at Lonely Planet recently addressed this challenge with a completely new product: walking audio tours. The Audio Walking Tours iPhone app is Lonely Planet's first digital-only product with material that did not originate from a print book. The app takes users on city tours, much like the walking tours available in many museums. According to a press release:

    The apps provide detailed information to let people explore at their own pace, with an easy to navigate location aware map that allows the user to stop and start their journey or skip ahead to any of the selected stops. The tours also work offline so roaming charges for international users can be avoided.

    For more on how the Audio Walking Tours app came about, the importance of handling content in nimble ways, and why authors need to be more flexible as well, check out the entire interview with Balbontin in the following video:

    March 17 2011

    March 16 2011

    Piracy isn't just about price

    Manifesto.pngLast week, the Social Science Research Council published the results of a three-year study on piracy in the "Media Piracy in Emerging Economies" report. The report concluded that price was the overwhelming issue contributing to piracy around the world. In a post for thinq_ summing up the study results, James Nixon described an example from the report:

    They cite the example of Russia, where legal versions of the film "The Dark Knight" sold for $15 — roughly the same price that consumers would pay in the US. But with wages much lower in Russia, that price represents a much higher percentage of consumers' income — the equivalent of a US buyer shelling out something like $75 on the film. Pirate versions, says the report, can be obtained for less than a third of the price.

    In February, a group of contributors got together at a workshop and came up with piracy guidelines. Of the five points outlined in the "Don't Make Me Steal" manifesto, only one addresses the price issue.

    At my request, Magellan Media founder Brian O'Leary, who has done extensive research on piracy and P2P file sharing, reviewed the report summary and the manifesto website. He offered his take, and his preference, in an email response:

    I strongly prefer the approach taken in the "Don't Make Me Steal" manifesto. Although higher prices can encourage more people to pirate content, the debate is about more than just prices. Concerns about convenience, availability and usability (the absence of onerous rights restrictions) factor into individual decisions about what and whether to pirate media products.

    This doesn't refute the Social Science Research Council's claim that higher prices in lower-wealth countries can lead to piracy. It does suggest that it may not be enough to just lower prices. I do agree fully with the SSRC's conclusion that enforcement has limited impact. Content producers are better off looking at a mixture of localized prices as well as widespread efforts to make their products convenient, widely available and interoperable.

    Related:


    January 25 2011

    Open question: How is your publishing organization addressing DRM?

    questionmarkLast week in an interview with Brian O'Leary about the current state of piracy in the book industry, the subject of digital rights management (DRM) and its relationship to piracy came up. Brian said:

    I'm pretty adamant on DRM: It has no impact whatsoever on piracy. Any good pirate can strip DRM in a matter of seconds to minutes ... DRM is really only useful for keeping people who otherwise might have shared a copy of a book from doing so.

    To be clear, Brian wasn't saying he's against DRM — he actually didn't state his opinion about it at all, other than to note that DRM is a useless tool against piracy.

    Mike Shatzkin responded to Brian's interview, agreeing that DRM isn't an effective tool to prevent piracy, but that it is important because it prevents casual sharing. He wrote:

    I do think DRM prevents "casual sharing" (it sure stops me; and I think most people are more like me than they are like my friends who break DRM for sport) and I believe — based on faith, not on data — that enabling casual sharing would do real damage to ebook sales with the greatest damage to the biggest books.

    A piece from Wired further muddied the DRM waters by showing how almost anyone can strip book DRM in a few short steps.

    All of this leads me to a couple questions:

    • What fears, concerns, and issues do publishers hope DRM can address? Piracy? Sharing? Something else?
    • Is DRM is a long-term solution?
    • If you work for a publisher, how is your organization using DRM?

    Please share your thoughts in the comments area.

    TOC: 2011, being held Feb. 14-16, 2011 in New York City, will explore "publishing without boundaries" through a variety of workshops, keynotes and panel sessions.

    Save 15% on registration with the code TOC11RAD

    January 18 2011

    With tools like these, DRM won't stop pirates or anyone else

    Calibre screenshot
    A screenshot of the Calibre ebook management system. Plug-ins can be added to the system to remove various forms of DRM.


    Last week, Brian O'Leary, founder of Magellan Media, spoke out against DRM: "Any good pirate can strip DRM in a matter of seconds to minutes." Now, Wired magazine proves it with a brief how-to on stripping DRM from Kindle books, borrowed from Apprentice Alf.

    Remember DVD Jon? He set the DVD free and created Double Twist to strip DRM from music with a single click. He's still around, and his company does much more today. And that's just one organization championing the open source format. My mom still won't be stripping DRM from her ebooks, but it certainly looks like easy-to-use tools are on the horizon.

    TOC: 2011, being held Feb. 14-16, 2011 in New York City, will explore "publishing without boundaries" through a variety of workshops, keynotes and panel sessions.

    Save 15% off registration with the code TOC11RAD


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