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September 28 2011

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.

miniTOC Portland — Being held on Wednesday, July 27, 2011, miniTOC Portland will bring together art, business, craft and technology leaders for a day of collaboration in Portland, Ore.

Register to attend

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


April 01 2011

March 28 2011

March 23 2011

December 20 2010

Four short links: 20 December 2010

  1. Gawker Tech Team Didn't Adequately Secure Our Platform -- internal memo from CTO to staff after the break-in. Notable for two things: the preventative steps, which include things like two-factor authentication and not collecting commenter details; and the lack of defensiveness. When your executives taunt 4chan and your systems get pwned as a result, it must be mighty hard not to point the finger at those executives. I hope I can be as adult as Tom Plunkett when shit next happens to me. (via Andy Baio)
  2. Mechanical Turk Spam -- 40% of the HITs from new requesters are spam. The list of tasks is the online fraud hitlist: faking votes/comments/etc on social sites, making fake accounts, submitting fake leads through lead gen sites, fake clicks on ads, posting fake ads to Craigslist, requesting personal info of the MTurk worker. (via Andy Baio who is on fire)
  3. 2010 The Year Open Source Went Invisible (Matt Asay) -- All of which is a long way of saying that while open source has become integral to so much software development, it hasn't remotely ended the reign of proprietary software. Indeed, much (most?) open-source software is paid for out of proprietary profits. This might have been shocking news in, say, 2004, but it's common knowledge in 2010. Open source is how we do business 10 years into this new millennium.
  4. Quantitative Analysis of Culture Using Millions of Digitized Books (Science) -- We constructed a corpus of digitized texts containing about 4% of all books ever printed. Analysis of this corpus enables us to investigate cultural trends quantitatively. This is related to Google Labs' latest toy, the n-gram viewer whose correct name should be Google Pottymouth if the things people are graphing are anything to go by.

November 19 2010

Bookish Techy Week in Review

In bookish-techy news this week:

Tim Berners-Lee defends the web

From Scientific American:

A neutral communications medium is the basis of a fair, competitive market economy, of democracy, and of science. Debate has risen again in the past year about whether government legislation is needed to protect net neutrality. It is. Although the Internet and Web generally thrive on lack of regulation, some basic values have to be legally preserved.

Amazon continues quest to dominate the world by innovating and making customers happy

  • Amazon Kindle tops Consumer Reports ratings.
  • Amazon acquires Toby Press literary fiction list.
  • Amazon gives the gift of gifting Kindle books.
  • Copyright-challenged Cooks Source calls it a day

    From Techland:

    Whether or not the intentions of the angry Internet mob was to tear down a local publication or not, the Cooks Source Magazine controversy has forced the magazine to fold. In an interview with the Daily Hampshire Gazette, Griggs tells the reporter that the free magazine is done for. The November 2010 issue will be the last publication. "The name is compromised, big time," Griggs said.

    paidContent urges media industries to create their own disruption

    From paidContent:

    It is now clear that the same digitization process will eventually transform all industries, that companies lose control of their customers when new technology enables them to interact with products...You may well have heard it before, but to respond to disruption you really need to become your own disruption. To do this you need to identify the disruption that needs harnessing (like banks did with telephone banking) not just fight it (like the music industry did with file sharing).

    Hachette Livre moves forward with Google

    From The Bookseller:

    Hachette Livre has come to an agreement with Google that will see the giant search engine digitise the publisher's out of print books in France, bringing to an end a long-running dispute stemming from Google's vast book digitisation project. The deal will now be subject to six months 'fine-tuning', and will also be made available to other French publishers.

    Indie press Gaspereau partners with D+M to deliver "The Sentimentalists" to the masses.

    From Quill and Quire:

    When asked if he is afraid of letting down Gaspereau partisans, who championed the company's right to release the now much in-demand title at their own slow-and-steady pace, Steeves doesn't miss a beat. "We have stuck to our guns," he says. "We've picked partners that fit our philosophy, [who do] creative and original works. The most important principle here is to serve the text and to serve the author, and that's what we've done. [D&M] is going to take good care of Johanna and get a quality edition out there. That's all that matters."

    Agent Ari Emanuel ready to disintermediate publishing

    From paidContent:

    "I definitely don't think i have to go to Knopf. I don't think I have to go to Simon & Schuster for the book business. So I think that's going to be a very contentious conversation," he said. "They might just get hardcover (rights), but I don't know yet."

    Got news?

    Feel free to send along any news items, blog posts, or things of note from the publishing world.

    November 05 2010

    Bookish Techy Week in Review

    Another bookish-techy week has come and gone. Along the way, much coolness -- and some not-so-coolness. Read on ...

    Cool new ways to write and publish

    The government hires DRM basher Ed Felten

    Ars Technica sums up the news:

    Princeton computer science professor Ed Felten today was tapped for a one-year stint at the FTC in a decision so shockingly sane it's still a bit hard to believe.

    The Lost Book Sales site launches

    • Authors and publishers lose sales every day. Here's why

    James Bond goes e-bookishly rogue

    Alexis Madrigal asks "How does Google Books work?"

    The system they've come up with has become increasingly sophisticated, as highlighted by their latest tweak, Rich Results ... When you search for a book, Google Books doesn't just look at word frequency or how closely your query matches the title of a book. They now take into account web search frequency, recent book sales, the number of libraries that hold the title, and how often an older book has been reprinted.

    Diesel ebookstore assesses the Agency Model

    In other words, the A5 performed an impressive near-checkmate on the eBook chessboard. And everyone, except for Amazon and perhaps a few authors, is as pleased as punch. Or are they?

    Not so cool

    Got news?

    Feel free to send along any news items, blog posts, or things of note from the publishing world.

    July 15 2010

    Four short links: 15 July 2010

    1. How Will You Measure Your Life? (HBR) -- Clayton Christenson's advice to the Harvard Business School's graduating class, every section a gem. If you study the root causes of business disasters, over and over you’ll find this predisposition toward endeavors that offer immediate gratification. If you look at personal lives through that lens, you’ll see the same stunning and sobering pattern: people allocating fewer and fewer resources to the things they would have once said mattered most. (via mjasay on Twitter)
    2. Lyle Lovett Yet To Make a Penny From Record Sales (TechDirt) -- read with Virgin Sues Platinum-Selling Band and Zoe Keating's ongoing exploration of life outside a label. Big record companies take the album profits but give you visibility so you can tour. This sucks if you're a good musician but can't tour (e.g., just had a #cellobaby). (via danjite on Twitter)
    3. Google's Commitment to Digital Humanities (Google) -- giving grants to universities to work with digital works. Will also be releasing more corpora like the collection of ancient Greek and Latin texts.
    4. Open Source Hardware Definition -- up to v0.3, there's momentum building. There's an open hardware summit in September. The big issue in the wild is how much of the complex multi-layered hardware game must be free-as-in-speech for the whole deal to be free-as-in-speech. See, for example, Bunnie Huang's take.

    June 22 2010

    Does the world need another programming language?

    Rob Pike has certainly been places and done things. In the early 1980s, he worked with Brian Kernighan and Ken Thompson at Bell Labs, where he co-wrote "The Unix Programming Environment" with Kernighan and co-developed the UTF-8 character encoding standard with Thompson. Pike is now a principal engineer at Google, where he's co-developed Go, a new programming language. Pike, who will discuss Go at next month's OSCON convention, talks about Go's development and the current state of programming languages in the following interview.

    What were the motivations for creating Go?

    Rob Pike

    Rob Pike: A couple of years ago, several of us at Google became a little frustrated with the software development process, and particularly using C++ to write large server software. We found that the binaries tended to be much too big. They took too long to compile. And the language itself, which is pretty much the main system software language in the world right now, is a very old language. A lot of the ideas and changes in hardware that have come about in the last couple of decades haven't had a chance to influence C++. So we sat down with a clean sheet of paper and tried to design a language that would solve the problems that we have: we need to build software quickly, have it run well on modern multi-core hardware and in a network environment, and be a pleasure to use.

    Although we targeted Go for a particular kind of problem, it turned out to be a much more general and adaptable programming language than we had thought. So we're using it for a lot of different things now. I think it might have an interesting future in any number of directions.

    What's it like to program in Go?

    RP: Go has the feel of a dynamic language like Python or Ruby or JavaScript, but it has the performance and safety of a language like Java or C or C++. So you get the lightweight feel of a modern scripting dynamic language but the robustness and performance of a more old-fashioned language.

    Does Go have a robust development environment?

    OSCON Conference 2010RP: We have an interesting set of tools now that play with the language. One of the standard libraries that comes with the distribution is a complete parser. So depending on how difficult the problem is, you can write your own tool and maybe a page of code with the existing libraries.

    There's tools that let you link in existing libraries. With large packages like OpenGL or something like that, you're much better off just linking against existing ones. We can do that with our wrapper tool, and there's SWIG support so we can link against C++. But the fundamental libraries are all written in Go.

    There's plug-ins for Eclipse and a couple of other environments. There needs to be more. We don't have an IDE yet, although we have some ideas about ways to do them.

    Does the world need another programming language?

    RP: It's an interesting time for languages because there are many new languages coming about. There was a burst of language development in the late '60s and early '70s and then things died down. That's not to say there weren't any new languages coming along, but language design didn't seem to be a very profitable enterprise. But then in the last five to ten years, there's been a renaissance. One of the reasons for that phenomenon, which is what I'm going to talk about at OSCON, is that the languages in common use today don't seem to be answering the questions that people want answered. There are niches for new languages in areas that are not well-served by Java, C, C++, JavaScript, or even Python.

    How does Google compare to Bell Labs?

    RP: A lot has changed in both worlds. When I worked at Bell Labs, we were doing much more research-driven, publication-oriented stuff. To a large extent, the company did not understand open source. When I came to Google, it was a very different orientation. We were definitely a company trying to make things happen. And at least a little later, open source became a fundamental part of the corporate culture. So they're very different in that regard.

    As far as day-to-day work goes, I think they have a lot in common. They're both exciting places to work and they have a lot of smart people. But culturally, there's a difference between a telecommunications company and an Internet company. They're fundamentally different things.

    This interview was edited and condensed.

    Rob Pike will discuss Go's development at the OSCON conference (July 19-23 in Portland, Ore.) OSCON will also be the site of the first Emerging Languages Camp.

    June 03 2010

    Four short links: 3 June 2010

    1. How to Get Customers Who Love You Even When You Screw Up -- a fantastic reminder of the power of Kathy Sierra's "I Rock" moments. In that moment I understood Tom's motivation: Tom was a hero. (via Hacker News)
    2. Yahoo! Mail is Open for Development -- you can write apps that sit in Yahoo! Mail, using and extending the UI as well as taking advantage of APIs that access and alter the email.
    3. Canon Hack Development Kit -- hack a PowerShot to be controlled by scripts. (via Jon Udell)
    4. 10TB of US PTO Data (Google Books) -- the PTO has entered into a two year deal with Google to distribute patent and trademark data for free. At the moment it's 10TB of images and full text of grants, applications, classifications, and more, but it will grow over time: in the future we will be making more data available including file histories and related data. (via Google Public Policy blog post)

    March 30 2010

    Four short links: 30 March 2010

    1. PublicACTA -- New Zealand is hosting the final round of ACTA negotiations, and InternetNZ and other concerned technology-aware citizens will also host a PublicACTA conference. The goal is to produce a statement from the citizens, one which can be given to the negotiators ahead of the final round. If you can't make it to NZ for April 10, the site has an interesting blog and the conference itself will be live streamed.
    2. Submission on Copying in the Digital Environment -- ahead of the ACTA round, New Zealand negotiators invited submissions around certain questions. This fantastic response from an artist and author reminds me why the fight is so important. 2. The idea that all copying must be authorised (or else be illegal) makes no sense in the digital environment. The internet works through copying - that’s how the technology of it functions, and it’s also how its power to promote and market ideas and art is unleashed. For example, when my work “goes viral” - i.e. is copied from website to blog to aggregation site to tweet to email (and so on) - I benefit enormously from that exposure. This is not something I can engineer or control, and when it has happened it has always come as a pleasant surprise. I have benefited from these frenzies of “unauthorised” copying in a number of ways, from international commissions to increased sales. I have learned that such copying is in my interests; in fact, it is essential to my success in the digital environment. (via starrjulie on Twitter)
    3. Jon Orwant of Google Books -- Jon's an O'Reilly alum, and engineering manager for Google Books. David Weinberger liveblogged a talk Jon gave to Harvard librarians. Google Books want to scan all books. Has done 12M out of the 120 works (which have 174 manifestations — different versions and editions, etc.). About 4B pages, 40+ libraries, 400 languages (“Three in Klingon”). Google Books is in the first stage: Scanning. Second: Scaling. Third: What do we do with all this? 20% are public domain.
    4. We Have an API -- Nat Friedman asks for a "download all the data" link instead of an API that dribbles out data like a pensioner with a prostate problem (my words, not his). I loved Francis Irving's observation, buried in the comments, that A "download data" item is just an API call that can return all the data..
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