Sunday, May 17, 2009

Blog Roundup: Week 20 - iPhone, DRM, Disintermediation, Platforms

Adam Hodgkin tells us why Apple has enabled the best of eBook readers: (Exact Editions)
Necessity is the mother of invention, in the case of the iPhone, as elsewhere. There is not enough room on the device to support a mouse-device or a touchpad, other than the screen. So the screen had to be touchable. But there is no doubt that the Apple engineers have crafted an extraordinarily effective solution. As more books are piled into the iPhone's eco-system, I think we will see that there is a growing realisation that the digital text of a book or a magazine should be seen as the starting point for network based interaction with it. The text itself is the starting point, within it are located the points, the referrers, codes and symbols which engender user interaction. The digital version of a text, having many explicit or implicit resources for linkage and reference becomes a hypertext in its own right and one which engages the reader in more than mere reading. Much of this interaction will be initiated by finger gestures. For sure, reading is part of the point of a digital edition, but equally, it has to be said that, pointing is fully a part of the reading of a book on the iPhone.
Evan Schnittman (Black Plastic Glasses) looks at disintermediation (Post):

While Michael’s efforts over time will lead to a cleaner and clearer understanding of who owns what, it won’t fix the inherent problem. The works in question will have competing rights holders for a variety of versions. Few will have clear electronic rights ownership, and few if none will have a single entity that controls all versions. This is the key to enabling the kind of content access that is needed for Generation On-Demand, and this is what is missing across the board. This problem is beyond enormous – it is basically one that cannot be fixed. There is no short term or mid term gain for any parties involved with IP contracts to fix this problem and you cannot fix something if the parties involved don’t see their goals as being aligned.

The result – we will become irrelevant as an industry (not just publishers, but publishing in every facet) over time and have no place in the content economy. But lets face it, this doomsday scenario has been sounded for years – who doesn’t think that book publishers will be obsolete in the future?

Michael Hyatt on how to build a "platform" as he points out most of the heavy lifting has been done for you. (Post):

By “platform” most publishers mean the ability to influence an audience that is large enough to make publishing a book less of a risk. Just a few years ago, this meant you had to have a television or radio show or write a regular magazine or newspaper column. This typically required a lot of money or important contacts.

But today, by starting a blog and making use of tools social networking tools like Twitter and Facebook, you can build a big platform with little more that the investment of your creativity and time. I’m not saying it is easy, but I am saying it is within reach. (By the way, I consider my blog to be my “homebase” and Twitter, Facebook, Plaxo, LinkedIn, etc., to be “outposts.”)

Kassia Krozser at Booksquare reacts to the Mokoto Rich (NYT) article about book digital piracy:

You’ll discover total frustration surrounding purchases. Anger over DRM. You want to hear screams and curses? Listen to the reader who can’t read the book she purchased because the Adobe Digital Editions authentication server is down. Spend some time with a reader who, due to extreme confusion, bought the wrong format of a book and has to deal with the bureaucracy of rectifying an error that shouldn’t have to happen. Piracy is and has been a fact of our lives for as long as we’ve created marketplaces. Books are as subject to thievery as any other product. Same thing, different realm. How you deal with piracy is changing, even as it stays the same (physical piracy still exists). It’s going to be an ongoing battle for the entertainment industries, but unlike your predecessors, book publishers have the chance to get so much right while the market is young.

And in reaction to the same Rich (NYT) article, Mike Shatzkin had a longer piece challenging the widely accepted negative perception of online and free content (IdealogBlog):

The other study was done by my colleague Brian O’Leary in conjunction with O’Reilly Media and Random House. The methodology was similar to what Hilton employed and was reported by O’Leary and Mac Slocum of O’Reilly at Tools of Change last February. Now they have published a Research Paper with O’Leary’s findings which is available from O’Reilly. What O’Leary found, using Random House data on ebook giveaways and O’Reilly Media data on books found on pirate sites, was that there was a correlation between free distribution and a sales lift for the books in question. But O’Leary cautions, “correlation is not causality”; the fact that sales rose after piracy and giveaway doesn’t mean sales rose because of piracy and giveaway. Both O’Leary and Hilton say more data is needed to come to any definitive conclusions.

Richard Curtis notes that 'quickies' are less prevalent in publishing than the average conference goer might assume. (E-Reads):

Though the New York Times's Andrew Adam Newman describes the process as "just a blink of a book editor’s bespectacled eye," it looks pretty glacial to a YouTube generation that knew everything it needed to know within hours of the astounding event. Sure, some of those ten months from splashdown to publication date were taken up by writing the book - something that quickie-watchers tend to overlook. Still, it plays up the immense disparity between pre- and post-digital quickies. “In the old days," says the book's editor Jonathan Galassi, "it would be ideally a year from delivery of the manuscript to publication, but now I’m hoping we can do books in four months.”

Alas, four months is about 119 days too long by 21st century standards, and so no matter what Farrar does to goose (awful pun intended) the Flight 1549 book along, a quickie will always be a slowie unless the publisher goes out with it as an original e-book. And some of us have real problems with traditional publishers releasing e-book originals. Farrar, Straus & Giroux being the quintessentially traditional publisher, it's hard to know what they're going to do if they have to publish a true quickie. But Galassi says help is on the way in the form of "measures that include editing copy electronically and streamlining design."

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