Sunday, September 20, 2009

Media Week 37: Google, Newspapers, Open Access, Australia, Kindle

On Friday the Justice department submitted a "statement of interest" to the NY District Court - Southern District which under Judge Denny Chin is adjudicating the Google Book Settlement agreement. ResourceShelf may well have the most comprehensive list of commentary on the Justice opinion but I found Danny Sullivan's reading of the opinion to be most useful. In short, Justice said there are areas of specific concern and we (Justice) want Judge Chin to instruct the parties to revisit these issues and amend the agreement. In some cases, Justice made specific suggestions as to the changes they sought but in other cases they raised the issue of concern and effectively have left it to the parties to resolve the concerns. From Danny's post:

Finally, the Department Of Justice had two additional thoughts on the settlement.

First, that there be full access to those visually impaired:

In the Proposed Settlement, Google has committed to providing accessible formats and comparable user experience to individuals with print disabilities – and if these goals are not realized within five years of the agreement, Google will be required to locate an alternative provider who can accomplish these accommodations. Along with many in the disability community, the United States strongly supports such provisions.

Second, that the data be “open” for use in a variety of ways:

Second, given the nature of the digital library the Proposed Settlement seeks to create, the United States believes that, if the settlement is ultimately approved, data provided should be available in multiple, standard, open formats supported by a wide variety of different applications, devices, and screens. Once these books are digitized, the format in which they are made available should not be a bottleneck for innovation.

And the conclusion:

This Court should reject the Proposed Settlement in its current form and encourage the parties to continue negotiations to modify it so as to comply with Rule 23 and the copyright and antitrust laws.

Lastly, there is some speculation that Judge Chin will indeed defer his decision because of the manner in which he is handling the significant amount to submissions to the court. Since Judge Chin is to be promoted, the speculation is that we wants to leave as clean a case as possible for the next presiding Judge; which means he is keeping his trap shut.


The Obama administration (FCC) is expected to make a potentially far reaching statement on net neutrality next week (NYTimes):

In 2005, the commission adopted four broad principles relating to the idea of network neutrality as part of a move to deregulate the Internet services provided by telephone companies. Those principles declared that consumers had the right to use the content, applications, services and devices of their choice using the Internet. They also promoted competition between Internet providers.

In a speech Monday at the Brookings Institution, Mr. Genachowski is expected to outline a proposal to add a fifth principle that will prevent Internet providers from discriminating against certain services or applications. Consumer advocates are concerned that Internet providers might ban or degrade services that compete with their own offerings, like television shows delivered over the Web.

He is also expected to propose that the rules explicitly apply to any Internet service, even if delivered over wireless networks — something that has been unclear until now.
Five major American universities commit to support open access journals (Press Release):
Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the University of California at Berkeley—today announced their joint commitment to a compact for open-access publication.

Open-access scholarly journals have arisen as an alternative to traditional publications that are founded on subscription and/or licensing fees. Open-access journals make their articles available freely to anyone, while providing the same services common to all scholarly journals, such as management of the peer-review process, filtering, production, and distribution.

According to Thomas C. Leonard, University Librarian at UC/Berkeley, "Publishers and researchers know that it has never been easier to share the best work they produce with the world. But they also know that their traditional business model is creating new walls around discoveries. Universities can really help take down these walls and the open-access compact is a highly significant tool for the job."

The economic downturn underscores the significance of open-access publications. With library resources strained by budget cuts, subscription and licensing fees for journals have come under increasing scrutiny, and alternative means for providing access to vital intellectual content are identified. Open-access journals provide a natural alternative.

Google launched a new newsreader named 'flip' and Adam Hodgkin added his thoughts (Exact Ed):
The newspaper and the magazine as a digital experience have to offer sufficient value that a readers is prepared to become a subscriber to the magazine or newspaper. Subscription services -- especially of the digital edition and its archive will generate much more for most publishers, than a Fast Flip of streamed content which will catch a trickle of Ad-sense revenues. Of course, there are changes and more will be needed. Search within a publication is very important. Internal navigation is very important. The possibility of citation and book-marking is essential. External navigation is especially important when it is relevant to the reading experience. But, Fast Flipping? That may be about as much use as Shuffling the news.
In the course of discussions about this new effort from Google, I was made aware of a prototype 'viewer' from the NYTimes which I like. (Prototype). (In true 'this is a demo' fashion it refuses to load at the moment).

A pissing match has developed in Australia over the economics behind the Productivity Commissions findings that lower prices would result if importation rules were lifted on the sale of Books in Australia. Arguments in support of maintaining these rules had focused on the effective 'subsidization' of the local publishing community by publishers who benefit from the (partially) closed Australian book market. (The Australian):

The commission's defence of its findings comes as federal cabinet prepares to make a decision on the issue, with Competition Policy Minister Craig Emerson supporting the commission recommendation, but many of his colleagues, including Industry Minister Kim Carr, Arts Minister Peter Garrett, Attorney-General Robert McClelland, Regional Development Minister Anthony Albanese and Immigration Minister Chris Evans strongly opposed to it.

Some government sources suggested a compromise could be considered, along the lines of the commission's draft report, which recommended the import restrictions apply for 12 months after the release of a book.

In The Atlantic, Kevin Maney addresses "The Kindle Problem": How long can the Kindle survive when it can't match the functionality of print, "the book disappears" nor can it compete with technical functionality from increasing convergence:

All in all, the Kindle ended up caught in a no-man’s land: it has a number of nifty features and convenient aspects – but also significant drawbacks and a high price tag. All of which leaves many consumers unconvinced that they really need to buy the thing.

Meanwhile, competitors have spotted an opening and are taking the opportunity to try to elbow the Kindle aside. As of this year, Google has made 1 million public domain books available for free on the Sony Reader, which is priced at $100 less than the Kindle. By thus joining forces, Google and Sony just might out-convenience Kindle. And in September, Asus, maker of the bargain-basement EeePc netbooks, said it, too, will make a super-cheap e-book reader.

What should Amazon do? Given the device’s inherent limitations, which make it impossible for the Kindle to ever outdo the appeal of the traditional book in every way, Amazon would probably do best to concentrate on the convenience angle. Bezos already has the right approach, with his goal of making every last book available to readers within 60 seconds. If he can achieve that goal, the Kindle will surely be the most convenient bookstore ever. But cost is a facet of convenience, too. And that suggests that the Kindle needs to dramatically drop in price.

Humor with several grains of salt on publishing and self-publishing from Joe Quirk at SFGate (SFGate):
Your publisher has no clothes: Exclusive print-on-demand publishers are knocking traditional books off the bestsellers list and paying authors three times as much money per sale. Robber baron publishing is toppling, and the only things propping it up are myths-- misconceptions that authors themselves cling to. Let's kick out each of these myths in short order, and watch the robber barons fall.

Big New York publishers will give me an advance! Your advance is a LOAN with your career as collateral. If borrowing money from your credit card at 8% interest to support your writing is a bad idea, than borrowing money from a big New York publisher against books you haven't sold yet is a catastrophic idea. Bankruptcy ends after 7 years. The Red Mark next to your name is forever.

Big New York publishers will get me publicity! If you can't pay for your own publicity, why would you let your publisher borrow profits from books you haven't sold yet to make spending decisions over which you have no control? It works for the robber barons to pay extravagantly for ten long-shots if one book pays off extravagantly. It is catastrophic for you to be one of the nine long-shots they waste money on.
In Sports, another humiliation for the England cricket team (ABC)

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