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November 18 2011

Publishing News: Tech patent wars spill into the book world

Here are a few stories that caught my eye this week in the publishing space.

Patent wars heat up as B&N's position against Microsoft goes public

Barnes & Noble's presentation and accompanying exhibits outlining its position against Microsoft's patent licensing fees for Android devices were made public this week (see the lawsuit here and some background here). Groklaw summed up the situation succinctly, saying, "In effect, Barnes & Noble says Microsoft is doing what's it's done in the past against Netscape and Java, only now the target is Android and the weapon of choice is patents." A later Groklaw post excerpted one of the letters Barnes & Noble gave to the Justice Department:

Simply put, Microsoft is attempting to monopolize the mobile operating systems market and suppress competition by Android and other open source operating systems by, inter alia, demanding oppressive licensing terms directed to the entirety of Android, asserting this dominant position over Android on the basis of patents covering only trivial design choices and entering into a horizontal offensive patent agreement with Nokia ...

Instead of focusing on innovation and the development of new products for consumers, Microsoft has decided to invest its efforts into driving open source developers from the mobile operating systems market. Through the use of offensive licensing agreements and the demand for unreasonable licensing fees, Microsoft is hindering creativity in the mobile operating systems market ... Through the use of oppressive licensing terms that amount to a veto power over a wide variety of innovative features in Android devices of all kinds, as well as its prohibitively expensive licensing fees, Microsoft is attempting to push open source software developers out of the market altogether.

The summary slide from the presentation highlights B&N's main assertions of Microsoft's anti-competitive offenses:

Slide from Barnes & Noble presentation for the Justice Department

Geekwire posted the entire presentation, and Groklaw has a nice presentation and analysis of the other five exhibits Barnes & Noble presented with the slides.

Anti-SOPA equals pro-pirate?

Congress was busy this week with the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) hearing, in which Google boldly stood against, well, pretty much everyone else at the hearing. A post at Ars Technica reported that "Google's lawyer was the only one of the six to object to the bill in a meaningful way," and that "[t]his wasn't a hearing designed to elicit complex thoughts about complex issues of free speech, censorship, and online piracy ... the hearing was designed to shove the legislation forward and to brand companies who object as siding with 'the pirates'."

The controversial act (nicely explained here) looks to establish legislation to punish companies and websites that allow pirated content. Opponents of the act, including Google, Yahoo and Facebook, say it goes too far and would give the government too much power (Ars Technica outlines the major issues here). The Washington Post explains:

SOPA protects artists' intellectual property, enabling them to pursue a profit — which, in the case of record labels and movie companies, cuts off consumers' paths to free downloads and pushes them toward purchasing the work. But the types of content that would be prohibited under SOPA would also include amateur remix works, like YouTube covers of songs or mash-ups of movies. These works would be considered copyright violations, and not only could the creator of the work be legally vulnerable, but also could the host of the content.

The Washington Post also quoted Michael O'Leary, who represents the Motion Picture Association of America (which supports the Act), as saying, "Fundamentally, this is about jobs." In a tongue-in-cheek post, Edward J. Black at HuffPo agreed the Act will create jobs ... for lawyers, judicial employees, cyber security engineers, government, Internet monitors/censors, and pornographers. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) — who, as Ars Technica points out, "helped author the key Internet safe harbors that keep sites like Google, Yahoo, and eBay from being sued into oblivion for the actions of others" had a succinct, level-headed comment on the situation:

We took the opportunity to pass a law that said that neutral parties on the net are not liable for the actions of bad actors. So now, as we again debate web censorship, let's ask ourselves: what next generation of innovations won't be realized if we backtrack on that principal now? Yes, the Internet needs reasonable laws and bad actors need to be pursued, but the freedoms of billions of individual Internet users should not be sacrificed in the interest of easing that pursuit.

Authors now cry foul on Amazon's Kindle Owner's Lending Library

The Kindle Owner's Lending Library took a hit this week from the Authors Guild. When Amazon launched its new lending service a couple weeks ago, publishers — including O'Reilly's GM Joe Wikert — were the first to voice concerns. Now, the Authors Guild is arguing the program is a breach of contract. A post on the Guild's site asks, "Are any of the books in Amazon's new e-book subscription/lending program properly there?" The post purports that the Big Six refused to participate in Amazon's program, but "[n]o matter. Amazon simply disregarded these publishers' wishes, and enrolled many of their titles in the program anyway."

KindleLibrary.PNG

The Authors Guild post also points out that the smaller publishing houses that agreed to participate in the Lending Library program might not have the right to:

While these publishers generally have the right to license e-book uses for many of their authors' titles (just as most trade publishers do), our reading of the standard terms of these contracts is that they do not have the right to do so without the prior approval of the books' authors.

The Guild concludes with instructions on how authors can get their books removed from the program and says:

Under most (perhaps all) publishing contracts, a license to Amazon's Lending Library is outside the bounds of the publisher's licensing authority. This isn't a minor matter — in order to protect the author's interests, all publishers should be asking permission before entering into such a bulk licensing agreement, and most would need to seek a contract amendment to do so.

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November 11 2011

Publishing News: The standards of aggregation

Here are a few stories that caught my eye in the publishing space this week.

Jim Romenesko and the standards of aggregation

Quote.pngIn a bizarre turn of events, Jim Romenesko, the renowned blogger at Poynter who was on the brink of retirement, quit his post after Poynter ran a story about attribution inconsistencies in his writing — 12 years into his blog.

The Poynter post states:

Though information sources have always been displayed prominently in Jim's posts and are always linked at least once (often multiple times), too many of those posts also included the original author's verbatim language without containing his or her words in quotation marks, as they should have.

Calling Romenesko out raised eyebrows and ire. No one ever thought Romenesko was trying to take credit for others' work, but then again, some argue that aggregation should be held to journalistic standards. This is a much larger question than it may appear on the surface. Felix Salmon over at Reuters has a nice analysis on the issue and points out, "[Poynter's Julie] Moos is using the standards of original journalism, here, to judge a blogger who was never about original journalism." (He's referring to Moos' original post about the offending attribution errors and Poynter's guidelines.)

So, does aggregation require a new set of rules and standards, or should the traditional journalism guidelines apply? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Kobo gets new owners — and perhaps a larger playing field

Kobo.pngProbably the biggest industry news this week was the sale of Kobo to Japanese e-retailer Rakuten. The deal was summed up nicely in an All Things Digital headline: "The Amazon of Japan Buys the Kindle of Canada."

For Indigo, the majority shareholder in Kobo, the sale was about refocusing its core business. Brand strategist Anthony Campbell told the Globe and Mail:

Taking on Apple and Amazon and Google isn't just a distraction, it puts Indigo in a position where the brand would completely lose focus. By maintaining its focus, Indigo's better prepared to take on the likes of Target and other retailers who are trying to corner the lifestyle space.

For Kobo and Rakuten, the acquisition means expansion — for Kobo, geographic expansion; for Rakuten, market expansion. Michael Serbinis, Kobo's CEO, told the Wall Street Journal: "This is not a one-country game. Two-thirds of the book market is outside North America. We're going into countries where we will be No. 1." And according to All Things Digital, "[Rakuten] said the acquisition of Kobo will assist the company in its move to provide downloadable media to consumers, starting with e-books." Perhaps it won't be long before the "Japanese Amazon" is making a major play against the U.S. Amazon.

For more on the situation, there's a nice Q&A over at Canadian Business with Serbinis and Indigo CEO Heather Reisman about the sale and what comes next for both companies.

BISG study highlights the growth of ereading

BISGStudyCover.jpgThe Book Industry Study Group (BISG) is getting ready to release results from a new study that show the rapid growth of ereading. Highlights from the final survey in volume two of the "Consumer Attitudes Toward E-Book Reading" report include:

  • "... 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."
  • "Amazon.com continues to be the preferred source for ebook acquisition (holding steady at 70%) and ebook information (44%). Barnes & Noble comes in second at 26%, with Apple in third."
  • "... although the cost of e-reading devices remains a reported concern, the single most popular answer to the question of what hinders respondents from reading more e-books was "nothing" at 33% (up from 17.6% a year ago)"

The full report is available for pre-order now. It will be published on November 21.

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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.


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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:


October 28 2011

Publishing News: Amazon's Kindle Format 8 dashes hopes for EPUB3 compatibility

The Books in Browsers conference continues today — and it's being livestreamed. Speakers today include Wired's Kevin Kelly, BookOven's Hugh McGuire (@hughmcguire), Kassia Krozser (@booksquare) of Booksquare and Brian O'Leary (@brianoleary) from Magellan Media Partners.

Now, onto a few highlights from this week's publishing news.

Amazon thumbs its nose at EPUB3, releases Kindle Format 8

AmazonIDPFart.jpgOn the heels of EPUB3 being signed off on, any hopes that Amazon might participate in an EPUB3-united publishing format were dashed when it announced its new Kindle Format 8 — or to keep with the acronym standard, KF8 — ebook format. Martin Taylor has a nice analysis of the format battle over at eReport. Much like EPUB3, the new Kindle format is fancy and shiny, accommodating all the latest web standards (including HML5 and CSS3), but as Taylor points out, the continued incompatible formats keeps things complicated:

But for publishers, it [KF8] could add challenges as the new features these formats offer mean ebook production requirements and costs will scale up. And for the newly-minted EPUB3, it poses a challenge to stay relevant as Amazon';s importance as the number one sales channel might tempt some publishers to bypass it.

This is to say nothing of device and app support issues for continued incompatible formats — and how the confusion might ultimately affect (nay, I say annoy) consumers.

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The Guardian, rising above the fray ... again

n0tice from The GuardianAs newspapers continue to struggle to find their way and experiment with out-of-the box ideas, one newspaper continually rises above the fray: The Guardian. With its Open Platform and strong commitment to data journalism, I guess it should be no surprise the newspaper would stride ahead of the pack in crowdsourcing and reader engagement as well.

Along those lines, this week The Guardian launched n0tice, a new social news gathering platform, and @GuardianTagBot, a Twitter-based bot that will search The Guardian's tags to find the information a user needs.

Megan Garber over at Nieman Lab was all over both stories and provides great analysis — her piece on n0tice is here and her examination of @GuardianTagBot is here.

The new social platform, n0tice, goes way beyond engaging readers with comments or links to send in news tips. It offers readers an entirely separate section of their own. From Garber's post:

'It's a place where you can share news, post details about forthcoming events or let people know you have something to sell or share,' the project's FAQ puts it. Just like IRL message boards, 'everyone else in your locality will be able to see what you've posted and also take part."

This gives readers yet another entry point into the newspaper and another reason to interact with its brand in a much more personal, communal setting than simple comment areas or reader blog setups — not to mention giving The Guardian an additional line into hyperlocal news coverage.

The Twitter bot achieves a similar goal, and then some. Many newspapers signed up for Twitter and/or Facebook accounts and called it a day, but creating the search bot was a stroke of ingenuity: It allows readers to interact with the brand in real time, and the newspaper is using the search results to make improvements to its tagging system.

With both products The Guardian is not only extending its brand to engage readers, but using that engagement to also enhance its brand. Struggling newspapers, take note.

Tablet users are reading books — both digital and print

Fig-24_-Book-Reading-01_1.pngThe Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism released results from a new study this week that took a look at tablet usage in terms of news and book consumption across several categories. Some highlights from the study include:

  • About 4 in 10 people (41%) in the select web-based survey group had read a book on their tablet over the last seven days, but more had read a printed book, 55%. A closer look into these respondents reveals that about half of those who had read books on tablets, 46%, had also read a book in print; while 54% had not.
  • When asked broadly to choose whether they liked print or digital better as a reading platform, 41% said the two were equal.
  • News apps have not become the primary interface for news on tablets — 40% of tablet news users rely primarily on their browser for news. A little less than a third, 31%, say they use both their browser and apps equally, while just 21% rely mainly on apps.
  • When asked specifically about paying for news on their tablets, 14% said they have done so, while 85% have not. Also, 21% said they would be willing to pay $5 and half as many, 10%, said they would pay $10 dollars per month for their favorite source on their tablet if it were the only way to access this content.

The full report is available here.

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October 21 2011

Publishing News: The news is free but the API will cost you

Here are a few stories that caught my eye in the publishing space this week.

News orgs turn to data and shopping for new revenue streams

USATodayDeveloper.PNGTwo news organizations recently took out-of-the-box steps in the relentless pursuit of that illusive digital-era revenue. First, USA Today decided to dip its toe into the business of big data: the newspaper will now offer commercial licensing for its information. As noted in a Nieman Lab post this week, access to USA Today's APIs isn't new — but selling the access for commercial purposes is. In an interview, USA Today's Stephen Kurtz said the newspaper is feeling it out at this point to assess the demand and to hone a working model. Perhaps Kurtz should look to an example highlighted in the Nieman post: The Guardian's Open Platform.

Another news organization stepped into a more uncharted sales area this week: Politico is now in the bookstore business. Politico recently teamed with Random House to publish instant ebooks, and now the duo will sell the ebooks from a new online store dubbed Politico Bookshelf. Initially, this venture looked like a first step for one of the Big Six to delve into direct book sales, but the release on Politico's site indicates that it's really more of a browsing platform than a store: "Shoppers can browse or search for titles, and then purchase them through a selection of online retailers like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Politics and Prose and Apple's iBookstore."

Amazon's foray into publishing continues to jolt the industry

The New York Times reported this week on Amazon's rapidly increasing reach into publishing: first it edged out bookstores, then it started launching imprints, and now it's wooing writers and "gnawing away at the services that publishers, critics and agents used to provide." Examples of Amazon's gnawing were summed up in the post:

Amazon has started giving all authors, whether it publishes them or not, direct access to highly coveted Nielsen BookScan sales data, which records how many physical books they are selling in individual markets like Milwaukee or New Orleans. It is introducing the sort of one-on-one communication between authors and their fans that used to happen only on book tours. It made an obscure German historical novel a runaway best seller without a single professional reviewer weighing in.

And this doesn't even take the Kindle Fire and the ecosystem it's creating into account. The Atlantic took a look at the dangers of where this kind of one-stop-shop might lead, and over at GigaOm, Mathew Ingram looked at Amazon's disruption and why its working. He also offered some sage advice for publishers: "Take a lesson from the music industry and don't spend all your time suing people for misusing what you believe is your content — think instead about why they are doing this, and what it says about how your business is changing, and then try to adapt to that."

Kobo's Vox takes on Amazon's Fire

Kobo stepped out ahead of Amazon this week and announced its new tablet, Vox, will start shipping Oct. 28 — a couple of weeks ahead of the Nov. 15 shipment date for Kindle Fire. Some argue that the Fire (and presumably similar low-priced tablets like Vox and Nook — there's a nice comparison of the three over at Dear Author) will lead to the demise of the iPad. What seems more likely is the impending obscurity of the dedicated ereading device. In a recent TOC Podcast interview, Max Franke of epubli talked about the German ebook market and pointed out that tablets were preferred over ereaders in that part of the world. Perhaps that trend will spread to this side of the pond as well.

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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October 14 2011

Publishing News: Amazon fires up B&N and BAM

Here are the stories that caught my eye in the publishing space this week.

Amazon and DC Comics forge exclusive deal, B&N and BAM lash out

NeilTweet.PNGI first got wind of this story on Bleeding Cool when Neil Gaiman tweeted it. Basically, Amazon landed an exclusive deal with DC Comics to carry 100 of its best-selling graphic novels on the Kindle. B&N was first to take issue with the digital exclusivity and pulled the print versions of all 100 graphic novels from its shelves. This week, Books-A-Million, now the second largest chain bookstore in the US after the closing of Borders, joined the fray.

The reactions seem short sighted and knee-jerkish, especially in light of reports that the exclusive deal was for a limited period of four months. Giving Amazon additional (large platform retail sale) carte blanche to the print sales over that period seems a risky and questionable business strategy at best. CNN sums up the big-picture damage this fracas is causing: "Everyone is battling, and consumers are caught in the crossfire ..."

Content consumption increases threefold with Nook, Kindle

ShelfAwareness took a look at some of the digital publishing highlights from the conferences that took place this week ahead of the Frankfurt Book Fair. The increase in ereading is no surprise — Amazon announced in May that its sales of Kindle books surpassed print sales — but the speed of the transition and the accelerated ubiquity are notable. Some key points from the ShelfAwareness piece include:

  • Both Nook and Kindle users consume three times more content than they did before buying the device.
  • "Stephen Page, publisher and CEO of Faber & Faber, said that because of ebooks, the 85-year-old publishing house this year sold books in 20 countries where it had never sold a single book in the past."
  • The importance of digitizing backlists is becoming clear: Spanish publisher Santillana reports a substantial increase in sales after putting its backlist on the Kindle. "Before doing so, the ratio of sales of Santillana backlist titles in the U.S. to its other markets was 1:15; since the Kindle move, the ratio is 2:1."

What newspapers can learn from Wikipedia's success

Nieman Lab's Megan Garber took a look this week at Benjamin Mako Hill's research on the worldwide success of Wikipedia. Hill's analysis is interesting, but what really caught my eye was the application of that analysis to the newspaper industry, as suggested by Garber:

If you want user contributions, build platforms that are familiar and easy. Lower the barriers to participation; focus on helping users to understand what you want from them rather than on dazzling them. Though gamification — with incentives that encourage certain user behaviors, complete with individual rewards (badges! titles! mayors!) — certainly has a role to play in the new news ecosystem, Hill's findings suggest that the inverse of game dynamics can be a powerful force, as well. His research highlights the value of platforms that invite rather than challenge — and the validity of contributions made for the collective good rather than the individual.

These insights also can add to the discussion on the viability of paywalls, which saw some interesting activity this week as well. Press+ and the Knight Foundation teamed up to help college newspapers install metered paywalls — not so much to make broke college students pay to read their school's news, but to provide a way to charge for subscriptions or pander for donations from parents and alumni outside the college community. In a similar vein, The Independent newspaper in the UK is going the paywall route as well — but only for readers outside the UK.

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October 07 2011

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.

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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

  • September 30 2011

    Publishing News: Amazon vs barrier to entry

    Here are a few stories that caught my eye this week in publishing news.

    Let the ecosystem wars begin

    KindleTrilogy.PNGAmazon's new Kindle Fire has the potential to disrupt the tablet space, but what Amazon did this week may actually be a much bigger deal with much broader implications: it lowered the ereader barrier to entry. And it lowered it on a mass-market level — at $79, the low-end Kindle arguably becomes an impulse buy.

    Alex Knapp does a nice job over at Forbes outlining how these shiny new affordable Kindles will affect ebook sales and publishers (and a more in-depth look from a traditional publishing perspective can be found at CNN Money). But Amazon's long game isn't to sell hardware, it's to wrangle customers. Jeff Bezos said as much during the launch announcement: "We don't think of the Kindle Fire as a tablet. We think of it as a service." Once a customer has the device, shopping for nearly anything becomes an easy, seamless experience. As pointed out on Digitopoly, "the battle of the tablets is not a battle of devices, but a battle of ecosystems."

    As excitingly disruptive as this is, there was one point that so far has gone largely overlooked in the media: the privacy issues of Amazon's Silk browser, which will run on the Kindle Fire. Chris Espinosa describes the situation on his Posterous blog (hat tip to ShelfAwareness):

    The "split browser" notion is that Amazon will use its EC2 back end to pre-cache user web browsing, using its fat back-end pipes to grab all the web content at once so the lightweight Fire-based browser has to only download one simple stream from Amazon's servers. But what this means is that Amazon will capture and control every Web transaction performed by Fire users. Every page they see, every link they follow, every click they make, every ad they see is going to be intermediated by one of the largest server farms on the planet.

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    A map in need of a website

    BookshopMap.pngOn the opposite end of the disruptive digital spectrum, an extensive map of London's independent bookstores was published ... on paper. As described at The Bookseller:

    The London Bookshop Map features 87 indies from across the city including ones selling new, antiquarian, specialist and second-hand titles. The map is free and is available in bookshops and galleries. It features a text work from the artist David Batchelor. The map will be updated every six months and rereleased with a new text artwork.

    This is a fun idea for consumers and treasure hunters, and a great way to market indie booksellers. But to garner a larger audience it seems this project would lend itself well to digitization, and maybe even interactivity — perhaps something along the lines of Lonely Planet's city guides (on a smaller scale, of course). At the very least, this map deserves a website.

    The sky might really be falling

    The latest survey from the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism and Internet & American Life Project this week spelled out some dismal news for newspapers. Most notably:

    Most Americans (69%) say that if their local newspaper no longer existed, it would not have a major impact on their ability to keep up with information and news about their community.



    PewInfographic.PNG

    Click here for interactive version.

    That percentage increased to 75% when looking only at 18-29 year-olds. Newspapers aren't out the door quite yet, however. Though those percentages point to an impending irrelevance, "[a]mong all adults, newspapers were cited as the most relied-upon source or tied for most relied upon for crime, taxes, local government activities, schools, local politics, local jobs, community/neighborhood events, arts events, zoning information, local social services, and real estate/housing."

    You can view the entire report here.


    Related:


  • How many imprints does Amazon run?
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  • September 23 2011

    Publishing News: Survey says publishers continue to miss out on digital opportunities

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

    Digital publishing opportunities continue to elude publishers

    Aptara's Third Annual eBook Survey of Publishers was released this week. Overall, the study showed that publishers aren't yet making the most of digital opportunities. The survey revealed that "one out of five ebook publishers generates more than 10% of their sales from ebooks" — a pretty good number for this stage of the game — but that there are far more market opportunities yet untapped, "particularly for the majority of publishers that are still eluded by production efficiencies and meaningful revenues."

    Some interesting highlights from the report include:

    • Publishers' awareness of EPUB 3 and pursuit of enhanced ebooks is limited. EPUB 3 is the next edition of the EPUB ebook format standard and includes significant support for enhancements. There is a general lack of awareness of it and its benefits across all publisher types. While there has been a sizeable increase in enhanced ebook production in the past year, 60% of publishers are either still investigating or have no plans to produce enhanced ebooks.
    • pubwirGraphic.PNG
      Results for survey question 16: Do you have a strategy for moving to the EPUB3 standard once it is finalized?

    • Two out of three ebook publishers have not converted the majority of their backlist (legacy) titles to ebooks. With higher profit margins than frontlist titles, these digital assets hold significant untapped revenue potential.
    • The question of "digital or print?" has been answered. The answer is both: "digital and print." The vast majority of book publishers (85%), across all market segments, are producing print and ebook versions of their titles. For the time being, print publishing's legacy cost structure and business and production models are living alongside newer ebook-inspired practices.
    • Most ebook production still follows outdated print production models at the expense of significant operational efficiencies. Though publishers are pursuing multiple-output production (print and ebooks), they are slow to transition from a traditional print-based production to more flexible and scalable digital workflows that produce output for mobile devices, PCs, and print-all from a single content source.

    The full report can be downloaded here.

    News organizations continue to venture into ebook publishing

    ArsTechnicaEbookReview.pngThe idea of newspapers, magazines and other news organizations publishing ebooks isn't new, but as newspapers and magazines continue to struggle to find their way (and their revenue) in the new digital landscape, the practice is becoming a lot more common. A post this week in the New York Times took a look at this burgeoning market and how it's affecting ebook publishing:

    Swiftly and at little cost, newspapers, magazines and sites like The Huffington Post are hunting for revenue by publishing their own version of ebooks, either using brand-new content or repurposing material that they may have given away free in the past.

    And by making e-books that are usually shorter, cheaper to buy and more quickly produced than the typical book, they are redefining what an ebook is — and who gets to publish it.

    The practice extends to technology manuals as well — take a look at the Ars Technica Mac OS X Lion review that the company turned into an ebook (here's its page on Goodreads).

    Taking into consideration the nimble nature of ebook publishing and the high ROI for news organizations, this blossoming new rivalry for traditional publishers is likely to continue.


    Finally, a recipe organization site that really gets it

    Recipe sites and apps are popping up all over the place, but for recipe hunter/gatherers like myself, the modus operandi of emailing recipe links and storing them in inbox folders continued to be a better (though messy) solution. Until now. KeepRecipes — reviewed this week in Mashable — provides a solution that really works.

    As Sarah Kessler explains in the Mashable post, the site works like Instapaper — users install a bookmarklet they can click while on a recipe page they want to save. Kessler's rundown of how it works is great, but she gives one important tip that ultimately makes a big difference:

    Due to copyright issues, the bookmarklet can only auto-populate the ingredient list of the recipe. But if the user highlights instructions before clicking the bookmarklet, those are also saved with the ingredient list.

    While playing with the app, I found a couple instances where the ingredient list didn't auto-populate as well, but the highlighting trick worked for that, too. Other useful features include an auto-population of the recipe source link, and the site coordinates with an iPhone app, so you can easily access ingredient lists while at the grocery store.

    One of the more exciting aspects of this site is that it's looking to partner with publishers to sell digital editions of cookbooks that users can buy and download directly into their KeepRecipes folders. Kessler noted that the "Not Your Mother's" series, A. J. Rathbun's cocktail book "Dark Sprits" and cookbooks from the "A Baker's Field Guide" series are on deck for a Thanksgiving release. This not only offers potential revenue for publishers, it's very useful for consumers. It also could set the stage for selling individual recipes from cookbooks as one-offs.

    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.

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  • September 09 2011

    Publishing News: Google gets local with Zagat

    Here are some highlights from this week's publishing news.

    Google looks to corner local content market with Zagat acquisition

    GoogleLogoGoogle officially entered the business of distributing content written by real, live human beings this week with its acquisition of Zagat. This opens up a whole new world of competition for Google — some think to the extent of possibly raising conflict-of-interest questions. Regardless of the possible dangers of the acquisition and arguments that it should be "blocked, reversed, annulled, undone, or whatever the right word is, to protect consumers, to protect restaurant owners, and to protect competitors," this is big news on the local content and mobile search fronts.

    Tim Carmody points out at Wired that "much like Yahoo or Microsoft, Google increasingly owns outright some of the media content it serves up for searches, rather than simply indexing and influencing it" (this is probably among the "dangers" of the acquisition, but a very smart move on Google's part). The best part for me was highlighted in a Business Insider look at the ins and outs of the deal: "Imagine pulling out your Android phone, looking up local restaurants on Google Maps, seeing Zagat reviews for restaurants around you, and perhaps a coupon for some of them." Now, that is a service I would use.

    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.

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    Publish an ebook without writing a word

    InstebooksIcon.pngIt seems content publishing platforms are popping up everywhere, allowing anyone with Internet access to publish, well, whatever they want. Just in the past two weeks, Dymocks announced a new "end-to-end" self-publishing service for authors, and Uncram launched a publishing platform that allows people to publish status updates, tweets and other social media fodder to a "diary" page. But the one that really caught my eye was Instebooks, which launched 50 mobile phone apps that will allow users to publish ebooks from their phones.

    The mobile part isn't the most interesting bit, however. As explained on Good E-Reader:

    The basic format of creating a mobile phone ebook is to allow users [to]click on an image in Instebooks' gallery then simply speak their stories. The file is then automatically converted to a text file from the speech and uploaded as an ebook ...

    OK. Wait. Anyone can speak his or her story into a smartphone, then publish for the world to read? (We'll leave whole the speech-to-text accuracy problem alone for now.) Yes, I can see the actual value in this — writers brainstorming, lecturers planning class sessions, etc. — but seriously, this will add a ton of potential to the 2 a.m. post-bar philosopher discussions, and it could well put the whole drunk-dialing of the '80s and '90s to shame. The press release notes that upon publication, if the user opts to make the ebook public (yes, there thankfully is a choice), Instebooks not only will publish it to a web page , but will also "update a user's Facebook wall with a summary and a link to keep a user's fan base informed."

    Reuters percolates new aggregation site

    CounterpartiesLogo.PNGSome might argue that we need another content aggregation site like we need a hole in the head, but Reuters might actually be onto something with its launch of Counterparties.com this week. Reuters teamed up with Percolate to launch a site that focuses on usability and content value. Felix Salmon, a major force behind the site's creation, explained how Percolate works on his Reuters blog:

    Percolate is a fantastic engine for this kind of thing — a pared-down, ultra-simple website which just tries to link to the best and most relevant information we can find. You show it your RSS feeds and the people you follow on Twitter; it will generate a dynamic list of stories generated by your own personal tastes.

    Using the Percolate engine, Reuters pulls the top 30 or so financial stories each day and links to them directly, only rewriting the headlines — as Jason Del Rey pointed out on AdAge, it's a bit like Drudge Report. In that same post, Del Rey also noted that monetization wasn't the first and foremost concern, quoting Chrystia Freeland, digital editor at Reuters: "We want to see who's using it, and how they're using it, before figuring that out." This is an interesting take on aggregation — instead of aggregating content based on my preferences — thus ultimately limiting discovery and my exposure to interesting content I might not otherwise find — it's aggregated based on a news service's tastes.

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    September 02 2011

    Publishing News: Amazon and the sub-$300 tablet

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

    Can Amazon's tablet crack the $300 barrier?

    Editor's note: Shortly after we posted "Publishing News," TechCrunch published an exclusive about the Amazon tablet. The big news: it's called "Amazon Kindle," it's 7-inches wide, it's scheduled for release in late November, and — most notable — it will sell for $250.


    amazon-logo-300.pngA couple interesting things happened on the ereader/tablet front this week. Sony announced its Sony Reader Wi-Fi, weighing in at a consumer-friendly $149. Forrester also released a report that explains "exactly how, and why, Amazon will disrupt the tablet market."

    In a blog post, Forrester declares that "[if] Amazon launches a tablet at a sub-$300 price point — assuming it has enough supply to meet demand — we see Amazon selling 3-5 million tablets in Q4 alone." Perhaps spurred by HP's repeated "last runs" and $99 fire sale, "unnamed sources" at Amazon told the NY Post "[the] device will sell for hundreds less than the entry-point $499 iPad."

    PC World notes: "[it] seems as if Amazon wants to sell more hardware first, and then hope to make up the difference in the sales of content later." It wouldn't be the first time Amazon bit the bullet to gain market share.

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    The "EMAIL" copyright turns 29

    The copyright associated with "EMAIL" turned 29 this week (the copyright holder, V.A. Shiva, was 14 when he submitted the paperwork, which might explain the use of all caps.). As you might expect, Shiva takes issue with declarations and predictions about email's demise:

    Shiva writes on his blog:

    Ironically, even as Zuckerburg declares as some trade journals said, "EMAIL IS DEAD," he is launching @Facebook as a direct challenge to GMail. He says it will have EMAIL in it, along with other types of "messaging." Facebook produces billions of EMAIL messages everyday.

    vashiva_infographic.jpg
    A screenshot of the History of EMAIL infographic created by V.A. Shiva.

    Even with IM and texting on the rise, email won't be delegated to a retirement home anytime soon. We are, after all, in the Information Age and the Age of Social Media — and so far, email has been the tie that binds it all together.

    Stephen King turns to Klout for pre-release marketing

    Mile81Cover2.JPGIn the wake of an author going apoplectic about a few books slipping out ahead of the scheduled release date, it's refreshing to see another big-name author purposefully using a similar technique as a marketing ploy. Stephen King's book "Mile 81" was published this week, but readers didn't necessarily have to wait for the official pub date to get their digital hands on the thing. King released early copies of the digital-only book to a few lucky people deemed influential (social-media-wise) by Klout.

    King is no stranger to experimentation, but this latest promotion may have left something on the table. The early release copies, for instance, were made available just a few days before the actual release date. That's not all that impressive when compared to something like Pottermore, which is granting two months' worth of advanced access to early members. That said, "Mile 81" is a step in the right direction, and it'll be something to watch if King embraces a similar marketing strategy for his next full-price bestseller.

    Related:

    August 26 2011

    Publishing News: Publishing startups bet on curation and apps

    Here's what caught my eye this week in publishing news. (Note: Some of these stories were previously published on Radar.)

    A look at three publishing startups: BookRiff, MagAppZine, and LiquidText

    TOC Sneak Peek series: BookRiff, MagAppZine, LiquidTextThe second round of TOC Sneak Peeks highlighted three new publishing startups. Their market areas included content curation, app creation for non-geeks, and multitouch content control.

    BookRiff: Ever want to compile your own cookbook, travel guide or textbook? Has your publisher edited out sections of your book you'd like to share with interested readers? Publishing startup BookRiff aims to solve these problems by creating new ways to access and compile content. In an interview, company CEO Rochelle Grayson (@RochelleGrayson) talked about how BookRiff works and how it can benefit publishers and consumers. She said her company is based on an open market concept, allowing publishers to sell the content they want at prices they set and consumers to buy and customize that content as they see fit.

    Read the BookRiff interview here.

    MagAppZine: This startup is a platform that allows publishers to create custom apps without a lot of overhead. In an interview, company founder Paul Canetti (@paulcanetti), who worked at Apple during the birth of the iPhone and the subsequent app revolution, talks about how MagAppZine works and the benefits he sees for publishers.

    Read the MagAppZine interview here.

    LiquidText: In an interview, company founder and CEO Craig Tashman (@CraigTashman) said his annotation and document manipulation software began as an academic project, but commercial applications quickly became clear. The software allows users to annotate, highlight and manipulate PDF content with multitouch gestures. LiquidText may be the next major step toward making etextbooks more practical for students — and it's another nail in the coffin for the "death of marginalia" debate.

    Read the LiquidText interview here.

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    Jim Romenesko's semi-retirement

    Romenesko.pngAfter spending the past 12 years at Poynter blogging and aggregating news (which he started doing before anyone even knew what those words meant), Jim Romenesko announced his retirement this week. Well, semi-retirement. Julie Moos, director of Poynter Online and Poynter Publications, explained in an announcement that Romenesko will continue posting part-time at Poynter. The Romenesko blog will live on, but under its new name, "Romenesko+" — the "+" designates an expanded staff that will include Romenesko and co-posters Julie Moos, Steve Myers and Jeff Sonderman.

    Romenesko also will launch a new personal blog. In an interview with the New York Times, he explained he was ready to go back to his roots and start reporting again. His new blog "would still cover media but would also touch on other topics he's interested in, like food, finance and real estate."

    So, though an end of an era might have been reached with Romensko's semi-retirement, being Romenesko'd might still be in the cards.

    New York Times data artist Jer Thorp on the intersection of data, art, science and publishing

    This segment was written by Audrey Watters

    Jer Thorp (@blprnt), data artist in residence at The New York Times, was tasked a few years ago with designing an algorithm for the placement of the names on the 9/11 memorial. If an algorithm sounds unnecessarily complex for what seems like a basic bit of organization, consider this: Designer Michael Arad envisioned names being arranged according to "meaningful adjacencies," rather than by age or alphabetical order.

    The project, says Thorp, is a reminder that data is connected to people, to real lives, and to the real world. I recently spoke with Thorp about the challenges that come with this type of work and the relationship between data, art and science. Thorp will expand on many of these ideas in his session at next month's Strata Conference in New York City.

    Our interview follows.

    How do aesthetics change our understanding of data?

    Jer ThorpJer Thorp: I'm certainly interested in the aesthetic of data, but I rarely think when I start a project "let's make something beautiful." What we see as beauty in a data visualization is typically pattern and symmetry — something that often emerges when you find the "right" way, or one of the right ways, to represent a particular dataset. I don't really set out for beauty, but if the result is beautiful, I've probably done something right.

    My work ranges from practical to conceptual. In the utilitarian projects I try not to add aesthetic elements unless they are necessary for communication. In the more conceptual projects, I'll often push the acceptable limits of complexity and disorder to make the piece more effective. Of course, often these more abstract pieces get mistaken for infographics, and I've had my fair share Internet comment bashing as a result. Which I kind of like, in some sort of masochistic way.

    What's it like working as a data artist at the New York Times? What are the biggest challenges you face?

    Jer Thorp: I work in the R&D Group at the New York Times, which is tasked to think about what media production and consumption will look like in the next three years or so. So we're kind of a near-futurist department. I've spent the last year working on Project Cascade, which is a really novel system for visualizing large-scale sharing systems in real time. We're using it to analyze how New York Times content gets shared through Twitter, but it could be used to look at any sharing system — meme dispersal, STD spread, etc. The system runs live on a five-screen video wall outside the lab, and it gives us a dynamic, exploratory look at the vast conversation that is occurring at any time around New York Times articles, blog posts, etc.

    It's frankly amazing to be able to work in a group where we're encouraged to take the novel path. Too many "R&D" departments, particularly in advertising agencies, are really production departments that happen to do work with augmented reality, or big data, or whatever else is trendy at the moment. There's an "R" in R&D for a reason, and I'm lucky to be in a place where we're given a lot of room to roam. Most of the credit for this goes to Michael Zimbalist, who is a great thinker and has an uncanny sense of the future. Add to that a soundly brilliant design and development team and you get a perfect creative storm.

    This story continues here.



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  • August 19 2011

    Publishing News: Amazon lands "4-Hour" author Timothy Ferriss

    Here's a few highlights from this week's publishing news. (Note: Some of these stories were previously published on Radar.)

    Timothy Ferriss signs with Amazon Publishing to "redefine what is possible"

    AmazonLarry Kirshbaum is not sitting on his hands. Amazon hired Kirshbaum in May to head its New York operations and this week he signed his first best-selling author, Timothy Ferriss, and acquired rights to Ferriss' new book "The 4-Hour Chef."

    In Amazon's press release, Ferriss made it clear that he feels Amazon, as a publisher, has a better hold on digital publishing than its competitors:

    My decision to collaborate with Amazon Publishing wasn't just a question of which publisher to work with. It was a question of what future of publishing I want to embrace. My readers are migrating irreversibly into digital, and it made perfect sense to work with Amazon to try and redefine what is possible.

    A few feathers were ruffled by the announcement. As noted by The Guardian, Victoria Barnsley, chief executive at HarperCollins UK, voiced concerns over Amazon's aggressive moves into the publishing sector:

    Amazon's foray into book publishing ... is obviously a concern. They have very deep pockets and they are now a very, very powerful global competitor of ours ... They are very, very powerful now — in fact they are getting close to being in a sort of a monopolistic situation. They control over 90% of physical online market in UK and over 70% of the ebook market so that's a very, very powerful position to be in. So yes, it is a concern.

    Amazon will publish "The 4-Hour Chef" in April 2012.

    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.

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    RR Donnelley's latest acquisitions position it for digital success

    This week, publisher RR Donnelley acquired both LibreDigital and Sequence Personal. With these moves, RR Donnelley is doing something about the digital situation that so many bemoan — it's repositioning to give its customers what they want, how they want it. That's the root of what the publishing business is all about, after all.

    In a post at The Bookseller, novelist Kate Pullinger said, "I think the big publishers have got themselves into a difficult situation with the stranglehold that Amazon, Apple and Google have on bookselling currently." One could argue the situation is more disruptive than difficult. Instead of fighting against the stranglehold, perhaps it's better to focus on the unlimited potential the disruption brings. Embracing change might be more work than staying the course on a sinking ship, but the publishers who do — like RR Donnelley — will be the ones who remain in a position to succeed.

    The roles of advertising and sponsorship in the future of book publishing

    This segment was written by Joe Wikert

    Felix Salmon recently wrote an article talking about how the New York Times paywall is working because it's porous. He contrasts that to other paywalled sites that haven't enjoyed the same success as the Times. As I read Salmon's article I was thinking less about porous vs. rigid paywalls and more about DRM'd vs. DRM-free books.

    There are definitely some similarities here. At O'Reilly we believe in a DRM-free world because we trust our customers and we believe they value our content enough to pay for it rather than steal it. It would be naive of us to think this philosophy totally eliminates the illegal sharing of content though. We just happen to believe those situations shouldn't cause you to penalize all your customers. Shoplifting happens from time to time at your local grocery store but that doesn't mean the store manager should put everything under lock and key.

    But it was only when I read Fred Wilson's follow-up post to Salmon's article that I realized what other connection this has to book publishing: advertising, sponsorship and other revenue streams. As Fred points out, the Times doesn't necessarily have to charge for each online page view since they run ads on every page served.

    I'm not suggesting we can suddenly give away book content and make the exact same amount of revenue with advertisements. But what I am saying is that advertising and its close cousin, sponsorship (e.g., "This book brought to you in part by..."), can and will play a role in the future of book publishing. Every publisher won't necessarily experiment with that model, but many will.

    This story continues here.



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  • July 29 2011

    Publishing News: Apple's new in-app rules cause a minor dustup

    Here's a few highlights from this week's publishing news. (Note: Some of these stories were previously published on Radar.)

    In-app drama: All's well that ends well

    AppStoreLogo.jpgThis week Apple began enforcing its ban of in-app outside retail links — those "Buy" buttons that take users to web-based retail storefronts. Minor chaos ensued following the change, with the Google Books app and the Barnes & Noble app temporarily being removed from the App Store. Both reappeared once they were updated to adhere to the new rules.

    Some were hoping that because the rules weren't enforced on the June 30 deadline, that perhaps Apple had further softened its position on the in-app subscription rules. Not so, but once the dust settled, everything worked out fine. Even Amazon decided to play nice.

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    The U.S. joins World Book Night 2012

    WBNlogo.jpgWorld Book Night (WBN) founder Jamie Byng moved a step closer to his goal of making WBN a global event when the United States hopped on board for WBN 2012. Additionally, the organization announced that Carl Lennertz, VP of retail marketing for HarperCollins, will be the chief executive for the U.S. arm of WBN starting in September.

    At the inaugural WBN event in the UK last year, 25 titles were selected and one million books were given away. The U.S. has adopted the same one-million-book goal for the 2012 event, which will take place on April 23.

    Book nominations for the 2012 event are underway, with "To Kill a Mockingbird," "Pride and Prejudice," and "The Book Thief" leading the polls. Readers can nominate their 10 favorite titles to help the committee choose the final 25 titles for the April event. Nominations will continue through August 31.

    The publishing world can learn a thing or two from tech startups

    Todd Sattersten (@toddsattersten), founder of BizBookLab, argues in his new book "Every Book Is a Startup" that authors and publishers need to be more entrepreneurial and treat each book like a startup business. His conviction on this point is so strong that he's using the startup model itself to publish his new title. In the interview below, I talk with Todd about the specifics of the model and how he's applying it.

    What parts of the traditional publishing model are limiting opportunities?

    ToddSattersten.jpgTodd Sattersten: There are several things that limit opportunities. Most traditional books take two years to write, publish, and distribute, and risk increases with time. Editors ask themselves more often today, “Will the point of view presented still be applicable and relevant?”

    Additionally, product marketing as a business practice has evolved, while books continue to be published as a singular product without regard for alternate use cases and price points. For example, only the biggest of bestsellers warrants a premium edition. Enormous opportunity lies in versioning.

    Your personal definition for a "book" can limit your opportunities as well. If you limit that definition to, say, 224 pages of paper in a 6-inch-by-9-inch trim size, you just made your world a pretty small one.

    How does your book map out the new publishing model?

    Todd Sattersten: My argument starts with the idea that entrepreneurship needs to be brought back to book publishing. As an industry, we introduced over 3 million new products to the marketplace in 2010. Each one of those books start in the same place: in search of an audience. Startups face the same problem.

    The core set of ideas I plan to present will look familiar to people who work in publishing. The way I approach them will be very different. I dispel some myths and identify some trends that are important to understand as we search for new business models.

    This story continues here.



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  • 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).

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    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.



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  • July 15 2011

    Publishing News: Newspapers finally test tablet-content bundle

    Here's a few highlights from this week's publishing news. (Note: Some of these stories were previously published on Radar.)

    Philly newspapers jump on tablet bandwagon

    PhillydotcomlogoTwo newspapers announced plans this week to take a bold step into the digital era. Sister newspapers the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News announced they'll be selling discounted Android tablets, complete with built-in content, to subscribers in late August. (Note: models and pricing are yet to be determined — we'll update as more information becomes available.)

    In an interview with AdWeek, CEO and publisher of the Philadelphia Media Network Greg Osberg said the move will help the papers leverage digital content as well as give them data on how readers consume that content:

    No one in the U.S. has bundled the device with content. We want to gain significant market share in this area, and we want to learn about consumer behavior. Our goal is to be the most innovative media company in the United States.

    Implementing this type of project certainly will put them in the lead in terms of digital innovation in newspapers. The underlying idea isn't completely new, however — Business Insider estimated in 2009 that the New York Times could buy a Kindle for all its subscribers and save money if it ceased print production. The Business Insider post pointed out, "that as a technology for delivering the news, newsprint isn't just expensive and inefficient; it's laughably so."

    As newsprint costs become increasingly laughable and inefficient, the Philadelphia test might just be a solid step toward the new "print" model for newspapers that they so badly need to survive.

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    The Google eBookstore gets its first ereader platform

    PhillydotcomlogoGoogle and Iriver had a big week in publishing, too. Iriver launched its Story HD ereader, the first ereading platform to tap into the Google eBookstore. In a post for Google, Pratip Banerji, product manager at Google Books, said the Story HD launch is a milestone, but there's more to come:

    We built the Google eBooks platform to be open to all publishers, retailers and manufacturers. Manufacturers like iriver can use Google Books APIs and services to connect their devices to the full Google eBooks catalog for out-of-the-box access to a complete ebookstore. You can also store your personal ebooks library in the cloud — picking up where you left off in any ebook you're reading as you move from laptop to smartphone to e-reader to tablet.

    The $139.99 device will be available on July 17 at U.S.-based Target stores.

    The digital page eliminates footnote frustration

    This is part of an ongoing series related to Peter Meyers' project "Breaking the Page, Saving the Reader: A Buyer & Builder's Guide to Digital Books." 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.)


    Footnotes have got to be one of the more frustrating aspects of ebooks today. For starters, woe to the fat fingered among us who read on a touchscreen device. Even simply tapping the asterisk takes a couple jabs. Once you hit the tiny target, off you go to Footnote Land, the return from which depends on how well you understand your e-reader's "Back" button system.

    Even in print, getting readers to shift their attention from body text to note is a tough sell. Schlepping to the bottom of the page — or worse, the end of the book — takes time, disrupts focus, and offers rewards that appeal mainly to the PhD set.

    Now, of course, dedicated readers are perfectly capable of taking these kinds of excursions and preserving their attention. Heck, nursing mothers plow through War and Peace amidst interruptions. But the point is: in an age of ever increasing distractions and info temptations, we need to minimize obstacles to good reading flow — especially those that occur within the document itself.

    The flexibility of the digital page offers promise.

    The Shakespeare Pro iPad app offers one nice approach:

    Embedded glossary in the Shakespeare Pro iPad app
    Click to enlarge

    The dotted underlines signal which words have available definitions. It's noticeable but unobtrusive; nice. (The same couldn't be said if instead we saw the classic blue web page link; the implicit message there is "I am a path to another document"). Having a touchscreen device is, of course, a key part of this design's success. Assistance is provided, at a tap, at the point of need. Clearing the note requires as little conscious thought as blinking; tap anywhere outside the box and it goes away. And a one-touch icon (the slightly open paged book in the upper-right corner) lets readers toggle the links on and off.

    • This story continues here



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    July 08 2011

    Publishing News: Fantasy author is out for blood

    Here are a few highlights from this week's publishing news. (Note: Some of these stories were previously published on Radar.)

    George RR Martin wants a "head on a spike"

    RRMartinBookCover.pngAn unfortunate Amazon employee in Germany might want to get a body guard. The fifth book in George RR Martin's "Song of Fire and Ice" series, "A Dance With Dragons," was embargoed until July 12, but about 180 copies were accidentally released by Amazon Germany. Martin responded to the situation with an impressive level of rage, writing in his blog:

    Yes, I know, Amazon Germany screwed up big time and started shipping A DANCE WITH DRAGONS before they were supposed to. I am told that about 180 copies got out before they were made aware of their mistake and shut down shipping ... I am not happy about this. My publishers are furious ... If we find out who is responsible, we will mount his head on a spike.

    Really? A head on a spike? Perhaps that angry energy could be channeled into something more productive — use the error to launch a guerrilla marketing campaign and make it work for you, for instance. Then you could spare the spike for the poor person who screwed up — and maybe sell more books.

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    Amazon moves to expand its increasingly dominant position in publishing

    In more Amazon news this week, the retail giant announced its purchase of The Book Depository, an independent online bookseller in the U.K. In the press release, Amazon's VP of European Retail Greg Greeley said:

    Customers in more than 100 countries enjoy The Book Depository's vast selection, convenient delivery and free shipping. The Book Depository is very focused on serving its customers around the world, and we look forward to welcoming them to the Amazon family.

    Not everything is sunshine and rainbows, however. In a post for The Bookseller, Lisa Campbell reported that the Booksellers Association (BA) is formally opposing the sale and that the Publisher's Association (PA) is expected to follow suit. The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) is investigating as well. The BA's CEO Tim Godfray said in the post:

    Amazon's current position could be perceived by booksellers already as that of a de facto monopoly that doesn't take into account this new proposed development and its recent positioning as an e-book publisher. It is good news that this matter is being referred to the OFT.

    The matter is expected to be decided by the end of August.

    Layering text over images would make reading flow less of a drag

    This is part of an ongoing series related to Peter Meyers' project "Breaking the Page, Saving the Reader: A Buyer & Builder's Guide to Digital Books." 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.)


    Don't you find it annoying when you have to flip back and forth between a page of text and a picture it describes a few pages away? Consider, for example, this passage from an art history book on how Michelangelo combined doodles, text, and drawings:

    At the top [of the illustration, a few pages away] ... is the horizontal sketch of a leg universally credited to Michelangelo and apparently belonging to a woman or a boy. At the left of the open top of the leg, the artist has written Am and fig, the latter actually appearing inside the outline of the upper part of the limb.

    The text is on page 37 (of "Michelangelo: A Life on Paper"); the figure that the author, Leonard Barkan, refers to, meanwhile, is over on page 39, looking like so:

    Michelangelo drawing in art history book with brief, uninformative caption
    Michelangelo drawing in art history book with brief, uninformative caption. Click to enlarge

    So you traipse back and forth between explanation and image, first trying to identify the items in question, and then trying to register why those things are worthy of commentary.

    What a pain. What a drag on the reading flow you've established, thanks to Professor Barkan's otherwise incisive writing. What a pain for him, having to describe in text what would be trivially easy to point to were he standing next to you and the illustration. And how ironic, finally, that in a book devoted to the interplay between words and image so much of the author's commentary is segregated in body copy away from the actual figures. How much more useful and easy-to-follow would his comments be if they were bolted onto the figure, like so:

    • This story continues here.



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  • July 01 2011

    Publishing News: Survey finds ereader ownership doubled in six months

    Here are a few of this week's publishing highlights. (Note: Some of these stories were previously published here on Radar.)

    More people are ereading

    A report released this week from the Pew Internet Project said ereader ownership growth in the U.S. doubled in six months, from 6% to 12% of adults owning an ebook reader. The report, which was compiled from a month-long telephone survey between April and May this year, also showed that ereader growth is far outpacing tablet growth:

    Tablet computers have not seen the same level of growth among U.S. adults in recent months. In May 2011, 8% of adults report owning a tablet computer such as an iPad, Samsung Galaxy or Motorola Xoom. This is roughly the same percentage of adults who reported owning this kind of device in January 2011 (7%), and represents just a 3 percentage-point increase in ownership since November 2010.



    PewReportGraphic.PNG

    In a post for PC World, Ed Oswald noted that the timing of the survey might have missed a growth spurt:

    What will be interesting to watch over the next few months is whether this trend continues, and whether the release of the iPad 2 results in a jump in tablet ownership. It probably isn't foolish to assume many who did buy the iPad 2 were new to tablets overall, which would result in a jump in ownership.

    And as PC Mag pointed out, although the growth rate for ereaders is impressive, the statistics for market penetration leave ereaders and tablets in the dust compared to other electronic devices:

    By way of comparison, some 83 percent of respondents to Pew's most recent survey said they owned a cellphone (Pew doesn't appear to have broken out smartphones in its findings). Desktop PC ownership (57 percent) still trumps laptop ownership (56 percent), but just by a whisker, and well within the margin of error.

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    Book publishing goes realtime for 2012 election

    PoliticoLogo.PNGPolitico and Random House have forged a partnership to produce instant ebooks for the 2012 election. According to a post on Politico's website, the book series, which will be produced exclusively in digital format, won't be lacking in expertise:

    The series of four books will be written by Mike Allen, Politico's chief White House correspondent, and former Newsweek editor-at-large Evan Thomas, and edited by former Newsweek editor-in-chief Jon Meacham, who became executive editor and executive vice president at Random House last autumn after Newsweek was sold to Sidney Harman.

    The idea of covering events by writing books in realtime isn't new. As the Politico post points out, the 2012 election books will "represent another step forward for the model of instant book publishing exemplified by the 'Beyond Bin Laden' book of essays that Meacham edited and published a week after the Al Qaeda leader was killed."

    Commenting for a New York Times post, Meacham said the project might also be an opportunity for publishers to change consumer perception: "An impetus here is to encourage people to think of book publishers in a more periodical way."

    At the very least, it's another step forward for traditional book publishers into the instant-oriented digital age.

    Lessons learned from Pottermore

    This post originally appeared on Joe Wikert's Publishing 2020 Blog ("Harry Potter and the Direct, DRM-Free Sale"). It's republished with permission.


    PottermoreIt took her a while, but J.K. Rowling now apparently believes in the future of ebooks. Last week's Pottermore announcement featured two important publishing elements: a direct sales model and a lack of DRM.

    Harry Potter is one of those unique brands that dwarfs everything associated with it. Most Potter fans can name the author but few could tell you the publisher without looking at the book's spine. Although that's often true with other novels, Harry Potter is much more than a series of books or movies. It's an experience, or so I'm told. (I'm not a fan, have never read any of the books or seen any of the movies, but my house is filled with plenty of diehards who have told me everything I need to know.)

    Rowling realizes the strength of her brand and knows she can use it to establish direct relationships with her fans. And so via Pottermore, the author doesn't need any of the big names in ebook retailing. Why settle for a 20% royalty or a 70% cut of the top-line sale when you can keep 100% of it? And why only offer one format when some portion of your audience wants MOBI for the Kindle, others want EPUB for their Apple/Sony devices, and maybe a few more would prefer a simple PDF?

    It's not surprising that J.K. Rowing is forging ahead with a well thought-out direct sales plan. What blows my mind is that more publishers aren't doing the same. Sure, you'll find publisher websites selling PDFs. Some even offer other formats. But rarely do you find a publisher's website with all the popular ebook formats. Regardless of what type of device you have, it sounds like you'll be able to purchase a Harry Potter ebook for it on Pottermore. I hope they take the extra step and include all the formats in one transaction like we do on oreilly.com.

    The other smart move by Rowling is the exclusion of DRM from Pottermore ebooks. Here's an important question for authors and publishers everywhere: If Harry Potter doesn't need DRM, why does your book?! If you ditch DRM you'll be able to offer all the formats. You'll show your customers you trust them and you'll also make it far easier for them to actually use your content.



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  • June 24 2011

    Publishing News: Direct "Potter" ebook sales fire up the book world

    Here are a few publishing highlights from the past week. (Note: Some of these stories were previously published here on Radar.)

    Harry Potter ebooks coming via new Pottermore site

    JK Rowling's announcement of her Pottermore website — and the long-awaited arrival of "Harry Potter" ebooks — was the most talked about story this week in publishing circles.

    Pottermore will offer extra Harry Potter content for fans (Wired has a nice breakdown on the content speculation), and in the fall the site will exclusively sell the ebook versions of the popular series. Thanks to a partnership with Overdrive, the ebooks will be available across multiple ereading platforms, including the Kindle.

    Rowling introduces Pottermore in this short video:

    In a post by Philip Jones and Charlotte Williams for Bookseller.com, Rowling commented on why she's choosing to sell directly to her readers:

    It was quite straightforward for me ... It means we can guarantee people everywhere are getting the same experience and at the same time.

    Some see the move as the big game changer in publishing, and it definitely has ruffled some feathers. In a post on Beattie's Book Blog, a spokesperson for UK book retail giant Waterstone commented:

    We always sought to add value for the fans when a new Harry Potter book was released and their launch days have become the stuff of legend at Waterstone's and other booksellers. We're therefore disappointed that, having been a key factor in the growth of the Harry Potter phenomenon since the first book was published, the book trade is effectively banned from selling the long-awaited e-book editions of the series.

    The site will go live in October, but Rowling will hold a contest that will give one million fans early access to Pottermore in July.

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    Amazon tablet rumors leak


    KindleTabletArt.pngThe rumor mill lit up this week with leaks of a possible Amazon tablet coming to market in August or September. Digitimes says Amazon is aiming to sell 4 million units, globally, this year.

    Additionally, Ed Sutherland notes in a Cult of Mac post:

    Earlier leaks indicate the Kindle-maker will offer two tablet versions: a 7-inch device codenamed "Coyote" for $349 and a 10-inch model for $449.

    A PC World post points out that Amazon hasn't officially commented, but that same post also links to a story where Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos told Consumer Reports to "stay tuned."

    A faster horse isn't the answer: How content should be conceived in a mobile world

    As the mobile space increasingly connects the real and virtual worlds, changing the way people communicate, shop, read, and (very soon) pay for things, some argue that amidst all these shifts the space really needs a creative spark. Taking the analog experience and simply making it digital isn't cutting the mustard.

    In the spirit of disruption, I've reached out to several people across the tech and publishing industries to answer one question: If you were going to build an app that fully harnessed mobile's capabilities, what would it do and how would it work?

    Up first is Joe Wikert (@jwikert), general manager and publisher at O'Reilly Media. Wikert recently posted a piece bemoaning the state of digital content, specifically in relation to magazines. He summed up the issue succinctly in his post:

    The bottom line is that I had higher hopes for the shorter-form content model by now. I'm hard-pressed to point to any one magazine app and say, "yeah, they've really created something special here." Instead, the Wired's of the world came in and offered the print content in e-format and thought they could charge a lot for it. I'm glad they've learned that won't work, but now I'm hoping they'll start experimenting more, either on their own or jointly with some of their competitors.

    Joe's response to my question follows:

    If you were going to build an app that fully harnessed mobile's capabilities, what would it do and how would it work?

    JoeWikert.jpgJoe Wikert: That's the million-dollar question ... or maybe the billion-dollar one! I have a few thoughts on the capabilities required to capture my attention, but I also realize that there are probably many features I haven't even thought of. It reminds me (once again) of a Henry Ford quote I like to toss out from time to time: "If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have told me a faster horse." In other words, if customers aren't already used to a particular platform or its potential capabilities, it's easy for them to limit their thinking to what they already know, not what they haven't yet experienced.

    One of the key things I'd like to see happen with content is for us to stop looking at it through the lens of a book. We tend to get hung up with animating page-turns and we think less about how the content should be conceived in a digital-first (or digital-only) world.

    • This story continues here.

    Photo: Kindle vs. iPad by kodomut, on Flickr



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  • June 17 2011

    Publishing News: Blogging and the law

    Here are a few publishing highlights from the past week. (Note: Some of these stories were previously published here on Radar.)

    Legal ins and outs of blogging

    In a recent post for Mashable, CorpNet.com CEO Nellie Akalp noted the blogging industry has grown to include more than 160 million blogs and that there are more than 69,000 blogs created every 24 hours. Along with that growth, the number of lawsuits against bloggers is chugging along at a steady clip.

    We recently covered the libel angle of blogging, tweeting, online publishing here on Radar. Akalp's post offers three more general tips to help bloggers stay out of trouble, and she points out why every blogger needs to wrap his or her head around the legal aspects of blogging:

    Most bloggers are probably aware that back in December 2009, the FTC revised their guidelines to bring social media and Internet advertisers into the mix. At the heart of this revision was a concern that it was becoming increasingly difficult to recognize an "advertisement" in social media. In 2010 the ruling reverberated throughout the marketing world and the blogosphere. Controversy surrounded Twitter, high profile celebrities, and improperly disclosed sponsor relationships. As a result, every blogger needs to be aware of the guidelines and take some simple steps to minimize their liability.



    Magazine publishers don't quite get digital yet


    SIscreenshot.jpgMore and more magazines are embracing digital publishing and developing apps for digital editions. But are their efforts thus far succeeding in creating new consumer experiences, or are they simply regurgitating print content onto a screen?

    In a recent post for PaidContent, Laura Hazard Owen noted that consumer response to magazine apps has been lukewarm and profitability is questionable:

    Publishers continue to take some heat for producing apps that are clunky, not social enough, and overpriced. And at least one magazine entrepreneur/executive argues that his peers are deluding themselves about the likelihood that apps are going to generate profits anytime soon.

    Joe Wikert, GM and publisher at O'Reilly Media, recently agreed that magazines aren't properly using digital technology. He implored publishers to think "beyond the quick-and-dirty conversion of print to digital and take advantage of the e-reader capabilities."

    Brian Morrissey in a post for Adweek also said that apps are missing the mark. He highlighted design flaws (or perhaps a disconnect between publishers and consumers):

    Publishers [are trying] to cram every tech gizmo possible into their apps. Everyone oohed and ahhed at the demo video of the Wired app. Then it arrived in the App Store weighing in at a monstrous 527 megabytes. Want the latest issue? It's hardly an impulse buy when the file is close to the size of full movie download.

    This disconnect also is apparent in a chart Owen put together for her post. A close look shows that "popular apps" do not include the magazine apps themselves.

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    Open Road's aggressive marketing techniques


    Last month, Jane Friedman landed $8 million in equity financing for her digital publishing company Open Road Integrated Media. In a recent NPR interview, Friedman talked about the company's business model, with 50/50 profit splits for authors and a focus on digitally publishing backlist titles. Friedman noted that "aggressive marketing" is the key to the company's success.

    What does aggressive marketing involve? The NPR piece hinted at a few elements:

    Open Road backs its titles with aggressive multi-platform marketing campaigns, making creative use of the Web, social media and video. The company produces short documentaries to promote its authors.

    For more on what aggressive marketing entails and how the campaigns are handled, I turned to Open Road's chief marketing officer Rachel Chou. Our short email interview follows.

    What does "aggressive marketing" mean?

    Rachel Chou: Aggressive marketing means marketing throughout the term of contract and not just at the book's launch. It also means balancing real-time marketing vs planned marketing. We build quarterly marketing plans for every author or publishing partner and continue to think of new themes, topics or pitches.

    • This story continues here.



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