Friday, June 11, 2010

Redefining Publish Or Parish In The Electric Age

The continuing quandary the publishing busness finds itself in as it struggles to adjust to new pricing and more importantly, new methods of distribution is life threatening . While the traditional paper books aren’t going anywhere very soon, it is having lots of company. The new kids on the block aren't all so new. Audio books have been around for many years, Only they were books on tape, and they weren't marketed to the general public. In the early1950's the first audio book was made, only then they were put on records. and played on a turntable. In the 1970's they advanced to the cassette. The first of the recording were made available to the blind, by the Library of Congress. I knew about them generally because I have a step-grandmother who is blind, and I had seen them, along with her brail books. In the late 1970's they advanced to CD, along with all other forms of music and audio in general.. It was then the phenomenon began to take off with the general public. Fast forward to today; Today, every form of audio recording is done digitally. The audio book has become a viable industry of its own. The largest publisher of audio books boasts approximately 75,000 titles in a wide range to topics and authors. The downloaded digital books can be played on a wide varity of devices ranging from a traditional MP3 player, to a phone such as an Iphone, and any number of smart phones, and devices such as the IPad. The portability allows one to listen to a book when and where reading a traditional paper book would not be possible. This alternative to a paper book has found a new life and is giving life to many books that would remain unread because the folks who want to read them can't or won't sit still long enough to read a paper book. The audio book has its own history which many people will never know of, and probably care even less about..

The growth of non-traditional book formats has exploded. Any format that is not paper is what I would call a non-traditional format. Another what I'd call Non-Traditional format is e-books, or e-publishing, as its called in some circles. This too, has been around for a while.
The e-book goes back to the early 1970's wen the fist ebook was produced on a IBM mainframe computer, to the Internet where specialty and hard to find books were essentially PDF of books that popped up on the screen. Even until recently the last 10 years or so they were a novelity and ralerly seen and even more rarely used by the general public. The publishing industry was terrfified of the concept of the e-book and e-ink.

In the last 10 years or so, e-books have come into their own with the development of readers such as the Kindle from Amazon and other makers of readers the idea of buying an e-book and downloading it and carrying around several large volumes of books in one small flat screen has exploded.
Traditionally, publishers had treated e-books in much the same ways as they had traditional paper books. That is until now. Amazon had made a huge market by selling their own device to read e-books, the Kindle. Once you had the Kindle it was easy to buy books from Amazon directly from the kindle, so you just used your Kindle and were happy to read.. Then along comes Apple..
Apple comes along first upsetting the status quo of the music industry and in the process reinventing it, and in many ways saving it from itself.

Now its looking to do the same for the book publishing industry. With the much hyped release of the IPad, earlier thsis spring, and as part of the Ipad scheme is the IBook store to sell ebooks . The ebook on a Ipad is a entirely different experince then on a Kindle. On the Kindle ones is limited to "black and white" ie, plain text on a white background, with no color pictures, maybe some illustrations. While very usable, it is limited in many ways. On the IPad, one is treated to a bright colorful screen that can do much more then just show e-books. The experince of reading a ebook is completly different, turning a page is much faster and eaier, The pictures are beautiful color and nore book-like then a kindle ever thought of.

One of the thing many things Apple has done is to upset the price structure that had been at Amazon. Where Amazon set the price and the percentage that the publishers and authors get, Apple came in and said they would sell their Ibooks as they call them for exactly the same as Amazon, thus eliminating whatever advantage Amazon had over Apple. It should be noted that Amazon has a Kindle app for the IPad that apparently works very well, It even lets you sync your books between the Kindle and the IPad, and go back and forth between them, picking up where you left off on one device from the other. This is good. Barnes and Noble just released a ap for the IPad for their e-book reader the nook,
There are bigger issues here then price and and who is the price leader, and even how much who gets.

What the Ipad and other tablets do is open up the possibilities of what an e-book reader could be. No longer limited to displying e-ink in basic black & white and presenting limited pictures or drawing. It can now display full color. The addition of a full color screen and native web integration between the e-magazines and the web opens up a world of possibilities for content developers . The introduction of tablets running other os, ie, android, HP's webos, and even Linux bring a whole range of choices for the consumers, that is if they are produced and consumers will use them. I suspect that for the near future, even after other tablets are on the market, there will be Apple and everyone else.

I don't think books are going anywhere any time soon, but their relevealance to today’s generation is not the same as it ws to ours and our parents; they don't hold them in the respect that they were once held,, The same could be said for other physical media, LP, tapes. now, cd. and dvds. We have a whole generation of people who only think of content as bits and bytes they can store on a hard drive and watch on whatever they can plug it into. The idea of having a room filled with books is disappearing fast. This is one of the problems that the publishing industry need to address.
One way to encourage book sales is to give the buyer a incentive to buy a hard cover book instead of going and just buying a digital copy, be it either e-book, or audio. That is to allow him to have the book and listen to it at the same time. Towards the end of proping up book sales I have the following idea;

My idea is that of a cross promotion of media types; mainly books to e-books and audio books. Include a special code for a audio book from to allow the buyer of the HB book to download the audio version free.

In limited runs of paper books, to start with; probably hard cover books; Include a special code for a audio book from to allow the buyer of the HB book to download the audio version free.
The code would be specific to that run of books and would let them know that it come from the book. There would be extra content along with the book, specific to the code. In other words if one used another code they would get the regualr audio version of the book, without the extras, thus justifiy the extra cost of the hard cover book, and give the consumer a value ad for buying a hard cover book. instead of just the ebook, or audio book. The same deal cold also be arranged for ebooks from Amamzon, they could get either the ebook with extras, or the audio book with extras.
Also none of the books would have the same number or code so the same code couldn't be resused several times, it would be checked against a datase to tell where the book was sold and when, allowing tracking of how many codes where used, and on what, ebook or audio etc.. and what part of country the promo code tv shows use to tell how many people respond to their ads..
As for Amazon and Audio, they would be paid a fee by the publishers for every code redeemed like coupons are now, and Authors would get royalties from the original book sales, with a bonus from the publisher for every code redeemed, granted not as much as if the electronic book had been bought, but some... The idea that the publishers and others would make up money on volume and not per unit,, and the the addition of having the electronic version out where people are going to see and talk about it and how they got are essentially free advertising, promotion for the books, they would never get if they just sold the paper book and it just sat on a shelve at home..

This a idea to help get the publishing industry to rethink how they look at books and content in general. They are not just publishing a book to publish a book, they are publishing intellectual material, and not just paper books and magazines.
They are publishing ideas and which more important the how much they make in the traditional way, Hard Cover Books, and paperbacks, which will always sell, or getting the ideas out where it can be seen and talked about, the way to do that is to make the same material available in all formats. and make it easy to use the content on any platform, and move between the platforms.

Theses are just some ideas for bridging the gap between traditional publishing and the new forms of publishing and medias,,
All of the media industries are wrestling with the same issues, how to get their media out and still keep control. and make money. As for control, If one looks at the music industry, they find that DRM dose not work. It only makes it hard for honest consumers to use the media, and and only slows the serious pirarites down, slightly, so its not worth it. The movie indusrty also has yet to learn this. The best thing the publishing indursty can do is open it up so any ebook will play on any ereader, and be transfereable, the same with audio books, Publicity is their best friend. seing people reading and listing to books out and about is the best advertisement there is. People talking about what their reading is what they need, not people talking about how they can't read something because its locked down.
Well, there are probably many aspects that I didn't discuss . If you jave any thoughts on this please feel free to email or leave a comment.

Ken La

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Summer Of Apple..?

Christmas-Like excitement abounds with the the imitate release of Apples IPad. Scheduled to hit stores April 3rd.
Never has there been so much written and talked about, about a product that only announced, and not yet released.
The Apple IPad will either be a huge success and a huge flop. My feeling is that once its out and people can touch it and use it, and word get around how amazing it is to use, it will find more believers. Over the last month I have read numerous articles touting its future uses in a variety of business applications, both corporate and small business. The major ap developers are rushing to get new versions of their aps out in time for the release on April 3rd. So far, all of this is being done with the SDK that Apple put out when the announced the IPad. So they are developing for a product they haven't even touched yet.. Once its out and the aps can be tried on a real product the real fun begins.

The idea of a tablet pc has been tried before several times. Each time it died a slow painful death, and generally faded off the market into tech history. Theres has been some limited success with tablet pc, in specialized situations, it has not done well with the general public.
The recent success of the Apple Iphone, Ipod Touch, and more recently the Google Android series of Phones has shown that there is a market for tablet devices, if done well. The major lesson being you can't just stick a regular PC desktop OS into a tablet and add touch, and handwriting recognition and call it done. It won't work, its not intuitively and easily, its clunky and a pain to use in a hurry to take notes, or other uses where one would want quick access to information, or to add information quickly. This is where the Iphone and its little brother the Ipod Touch come in, They are easy to use, and get information from, and in many cases easy to get it into.

Apple has taken on a new venue with the IPad, that of the ebook reader. For many years the ebook market has been limited to Amazons Kindle product line, and more recently Barnes & Nobles offering the Noook ebook reader. Both of which use a plain text format limiting it to pretty much just text and no pictures. While it works well, its not breaking any new ground. Then Apple comes along with the IPad, and introduces the IBook store and wakes up the publishing industry and upsetting the price structure that Amazon had set up for the ebooks they sold. That's not even discussing the whole color and multimedia formats that the Ipad is able to bring into play.The idea of publishers and writers being able to produce not only a written book, but a multi media experience to complement it is huge. magazines being able to play videos of subjects of the articles, or related to the articles Nativity in the player, and adding links to supporting content and other ways to enhance the ebook experience are astounding. Again Apple has possibility changed a entire market, as it did with music, and video and Itunes. At this point its only guessing, but given Apple past track record for redefining markets, and in some cases creating markets, its a pretty safe bet.
As I asked in the last article ; "Is the Apple IPad a game changer?" Very soon we will begin to know the answer.. This will be the summer of Apple. Possibly Apple's biggest summer in recent years.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Apple's IPad: The Shape of Things To Come?

Wednesday was a big day in the tech world, particularly, if you’re into Apple. After months of speculation, guessing posturing, and predicting by pundits and everyone else the Questions were finely answered.

Its called the Apple IPad. What it is essentially is a scaled up version of the hugely popular Apple Ipod Touch media player. Which means it syncs with your apple I-Tunes and can play music, videos and run all of the applications that you can run on a I-touch or I Phone now. This gives it a huge leg up on most new products. Using it is the same as using the I touch.

While Apple did not invent the MP3 player, and the Smart Phone, they did set the standard by which all others are judged in those lines. The same goes for Portable Media Players. While Apple didn't invent the Portable Media player they just may have set the stranded.. again..

Obliviously, its way too early to tell for sure. as they have just announced it today, and they won't ship for 60 days . But the bigger questions will take a while to answer. They have been critiquing something that very few of them have really seen, much less actually held yet. So essentially what they are doing is guessing. Until it ships and get out to the public and they use it no one will completely know what the impact it will have.

With the ability to get models with 3G and a no contract option for buying 3G from AT&T it becomes a platfrom for use in situations where one probably wouldn't do Internet and letting you do things you couldn't do on your IPhone because the screen is too small.

But the bigger question is will the public buy into it? Will they use it like they do the IPhone, and Ipod models, particularly the I touch ?

The IPad has already been called the Kindle Killer. The ablilty to buy and download e-books and audio books and play them on here as well as music and video, and aps defiantly even the playing field. Will aps makers buy into it? How soon will aps written specify for the IPad, and how many aps will be ported up to the IPad, so they can work natively on the larger 9 inch screen, and other features of the IPad?

Theses are many of the questions that will be answered over the course of this spring and summer.

I followed the news of the Apple announcement not on the TV so much as it was covered and commented on on the big new stations, But on my laptop, watching live streaming coverage by a number of websites, and web news venues, cheifly My favorite, Leo Leporte and his gang at TWIT.TV. Leo was actually in the convention center and saw the Steve Jobs presentation and afterwards was able to go and see and play with the demo units they had set up for the press. They then did live discussions with many of the people who were there for quite a while before Leo headed home. All of this was streamed and shown live . I don't remember the exact number they had watching at one time but it was huge, 2-3 times more then they had figured on. This not the first time they have done live remote streaming of events. In fact they were at CES in Los Vegas earlier this month, for 4 days straight and streamed and did live overage, and did several of the regular TWIT network shows live from the CES floor. What he had done on a relatively small budget is bring as good in some cases better coverage of events like CES and The Apple doings today to an audience who care what is happening, and given them the news they wanted when they wanted it.

So this was a news day in several ways, while Leo was covering Apple, He was interviewed by a reporter from I believe it was Fox , which was streamed to us right along with everything else.

So now all of the pundits can stop guessing and betting on whats it got,, they can now guess about the future of the Apple IPad.

Ken Lawson

Sunday, January 3, 2010

2010;... The Year of Living Dangerously

As the year and decade come to a close it is time to consider how far technology has evolved over the last ten years. It’s hard to remember where we were back then.

In the last ten years, I've had probably four different computers and on the third laptop, each one more powerful and more capable , and cheaper than the last one. Other technology has evolved over the last ten years. To go into the many changes would be redundant: as many other places are comparing then and now, better than I ever could.

The state of Media has been in flux for the several year as the big media companies struggle to find a balance between traditional broadcast style programming and distribution, and new venues and uses of their content.

They are finding that a mix of new and old content seems to be a draw. Sites like have done surprisingly well, combining a mix of both new and classic TV content. To many, they have set the bar for on-line streaming of video content. Various other network site have offered streaming media with mixed results. The media/content producers are desperately trying not to repeat the mistakes the record industry made with DRM on music and MP3s. Yet they want to continue to control how "their" media is used and how the consumer, their customers who put them in business, in the first place. Something they seemed to have forgotten.

In the way of physical media, VHS tapes have come and gone, DVDs are still here, although they compete with High Definition disc ,which we went through another "war' over deciding which format was to be the default format. Blu-ray won. The price of Blu-ray HD DVD players has come down, however it has to come down to DVD player levels to help it really take over.

However, delivery methods have evolved over the last several years. No longer is going to the DVD rental store and then having to remember to return the movie needed. Physical movie rental has all but disappeared in many areas.

With the mass adaptation of broadband, online means of delivery have taken over as more and more products that connect to the consumers local wireless network and allow for streaming of movies and other content either from the consumers local networked media, or from other online sources such as Netfliks, or Amazon and other Video on Demand sources.

For many years the line between traditional production media and web produced content has been a barrier for the growth of user-created content, which is what the vast majority of on line content is. Everything from YouTube video of silly people being silly, to semi-presesionall podcasts produced with a minimum of production standards. To original creative story productions. All of this content was confined to the computer. Getting to watch this content on any other screen was a challenge for even serious geeks. That was then; This is now; Now more and more machines are come through with options to hook directly to a new HD TVs either through a regular monitor connection that is on almost all new TVs, and some new laptops have HDMI out ports on them allowing them to plug into a free HDMI input on any HD TV. Web content is also being made available on a variety of platforms, ranging from "web Enabled" TVs to Blu-ray player that connect to your local wireless network, many will allow to use your Netflick on demand to stream movies directly over your network and through the player to your TV. What is meant by Web enabled is that the TV has what are called widgets built into the TV software that allow for a limited access of the net through your TV.

Other platforms have also emerged ranging from game consoles both the Sony PS3, and the Microsoft X-Box 360 both allow for access to the web in different foms, The Wii also allows for general web browsing through its Opera browser, which works good, but doesn't support the newest versions of flash, thus making it useless for watching anything other than YouTube which is built into it natively, Hopefully this will change soon, However it does work good for checking web based e-mail and the like.

Over the last several years, a number of company's both hardware, and content produces has come out with various set-top boxes the bridge the gap between the traditional TV screen and the computer screen along with several programs to turn a computer into a TV tuner and DVR. Also many cable and satellite companies now offer DVRs built into their set-top boxes. A product that I am particularly excited about is a box from Roku. They have a small set-top box the hooks up to your TV, and connects to your local network either wirelessly or wired. What this allows you to do is to tie your Netflicks account to the box, and then stream any of the movies in your queue to your TV via their box. Also Amazon on Demand has their content available though their box. Amazon offers both rental and movies to by as well as shows. Also as a side note MLB is also on there to. If you want to subscribe to their content. If you don't use Amazon, Netflicks, or MLB. the box cost you nothing. But it was pretty useless with at least a Netflicks account tied to it. Now there is more content available. Many web only services are now offering their content on the Ruku Box. They have offer what they call the channel store which offer a variety of free content. All streamed directly from the web. The list includes, Pandora, music streaming, FaceBook, Mediafly, Frame Channel, Flicker, MotionBox,, Revision3, and my favorite, Suddenly this become a really interesting box to connect to the TV, and bring in content that had been stuck on the computer.

Speaking of getting content off the web and into other venues; Mediafly is a big player in that regard. They make their content available to most portable platforms, iphone/ipod, and many smartphones such as the Blackberry, and any platform that can at least either download or stream audio, most will do audio and video content.

All of this merging of different types of content and media may leave one wondering what’s next. That is a interesting question. It’s impossible to say for sure who going to do what and in what format they will do it. I know of several different approaches to bring different media to platforms to which it has not been traditionally available . The mixing of platforms has traditional media content producers and distributors looking for ways to monetize their content.. without giving up control.. and still keep the consumer happy,,,

2009, and the decade before it brought about many changes. Many of these changes are still being felt now. The changes in 2009 will be helping to shape the digital future. Apple and I-tunes changed the look of music, and how and where it is played and how and where one can get it. TV and other media are going through the evolution as the music industry did during the last decade. Watching how this plays out will be interesting.