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Apple iPad offers hope to print media

After months of speculation, Steve Jobs finally revealed details of his much-anticipated Apple iPad yesterday. At 9.7 inches tall, 1.27 centimeters thick and weighing 680 grams, the iPad looks like the offspring of the MacBook and iPhone. The so-called “magical” device boasts of a multi-touch screen and vivid resolution. It lets you to surf the internet, download and listen to music using iTunes, watch videos, use the 140,000 Apple apps, send emails and read and buy books from iBookstore using the app iBooks. Prices start at US$499 and will be available in March (probably closer to June for Australia).

One of the most hotly debated issues surrounding the iPad is how it may affect the publishing industry. The last decade has seen print media’s profits wane – mostly due to improvements in technology that have drawn people to read their newspapers and magazines online and their books on e-readers like the hugely popular Amazon Kindle. While Steve Jobs doesn’t hold any romantic ideas about reading (he once told the NY Times, “It doesn’t matter how good or bad the product is, the fact is that people don’t read anymore.”), he has created a product that offers some hope to publishers. Unlike Kindle, the iPad allows for a more “traditional” reading of newspapers and magazines by maintaining the typical periodical layout and including vivid pictures. See the mock demo created by Sports Illustrated Magazine:

Revenues will increase with the help of the iTunes micro-payment model and advertisers will be willing to pay more with the promise of their ads targeting specific audiences – thanks to increased viewer data. Newsfactor predicts,

Magazine and newspaper publishing will bounce back as consumers rediscover paid subscriptions…. Publishers realize they have a very narrow window to recapture the paid subscribers they lost to the Web, and they’ll do anything to grab you with the Apple gizmo. Expect to see publishers launch visually stunning versions of their magazines with swooping typography, video insets, CNN iReporter-style news uploads, social media overlays – whatever it takes to make you think you’re seeing a magazine or newspaper like never before, so much so you’ll even want to pay for it.

ClickZ asked consumer research analyst Carl Howe about the impact the device will have on magazines and newspapers. He says, “I think it is going to revive the traditional periodical ad model. The space on the front page will cost more than space on Page 23. And yes, I think there will be pages. I really think they are going to try to use the same model that’s worked so well in print and translate it to a digital device.”

The iPad promises to change e-books as well. Mashable‘s Jennifer Van Grove quotes Steve Jobs saying yesterday, “Amazon’s done a great job of pioneering this functionality with the Kindle. We’re going to stand on their shoulders and go a little further.” Apple chose to use the free and open e-book formatting platform ePub as a means of distinguishing itself from Kindle. Its iBook app allows for instant purchase and downloading of books for sale in the iBookstore. Apple describes the process:

The iBooks app is a great, new way to read and buy books. Just download the app for free from the App Store, and you’ll be able to buy everything from classics to bestsellers from the built-in iBookstore. Once you’ve bought a book, it’s displayed on your Bookshelf. To read it, all you have to do is tap on it and it opens up. The high-resolution, LED-backlit screen displays everything in sharp, rich, color, so it’s very easy to read, even in low light.

So it seems as though the newest addition to the Apple empire might offer some hope to the threatened industry of publishing, much like iPod/iTunes did for the music industry. With magazines and newspapers steadily going out of business, it couldn’t have come at a better time. This device lends itself perfectly to print media – offering a large screen capable of showcasing beautiful images and videos alongside text and advertisements. I can’t imagine the iPad completely replacing printed magazines, newspapers and books though. That is, until Apple releases the beach-friendly/waterproof/rollable version in a couple of years!



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Be your own editor and self-publish!

When you hear the term “self-publishing”, what comes to mind? For me, it’s a crazy neighbour who’s sure her life story would top the best sellers list. She’s spent the last 20 years writing the manuscript (probably by hand) and has already picked Meryl Streep to play her in the film version.

Yeah, it’s hard to see self-published writers as being respectable, editorially approved authors. But times are changing. Helen Brown, Telegraph writer of Unleash your inner novelist, says that the public has a newfound respect for self-published authors. She writes, “Commentators who once derided ‘vanity published’ writers are now beginning to acknowledge an empowered DIY culture. It’s no longer publishing for rejects, but ‘alternative publishing’; a bold stance outside the homogenised mainstream.”

The perks are obvious: complete control over the editorial, advertising, distribution, format and artwork. Then again, the publishing industry would say that it’s their decisions on such aspects that make a book successful.

While it’s a risky enterprise, self-published books can be successful. Take the best-selling cookbook series 4 Ingredients, which was started by Australian entrepreneurs Rachael Bermingham and Kim McCosker who, after being repeatedly rejected by mainstream publishers, decided to self-publish. Their three books have sold over 2.5 million copies in three years. The secret to their success? Determination, self-belief and self-promotion. As soon as they had published their first cookbook and printed 2000 copies, they went straight to the newspapers with their unique story. In an interview with ABC, Bermingham says:

We rang every publisher in Australia and nobody wanted to know us…They said the cookbook market was saturated and our little book came out with no pictures in it; it wasn’t particularly fantastic to look at…It was easy, simple and cheap and everyone said, ‘the green cover won’t work and what’s this ugly number four on the front’…blah blah. In the industry’s eyes we did everything wrong from the get-go. But in hindsight we did everything right!

Before taking out a loan to fund your literary project, would-be authors should think the decision through carefully. Home Biz Notes offers some words of warning for anyone interested in self publishing.


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Why buy when you can borrow?

As if publishers weren’t nervous enough about the growing popularity of e-books (and the trend’s subsequent business challenges), they’ve got an unlikely new nemesis: public libraries. For the last year, libraries across the globe have been adding e-books to their catalogs. The reader downloads the book onto their computer, cell phone or e-reader – where it stays for two weeks before automatically expiring from the user’s account. Borrowers have access to just one e-book at a time and are put in a waiting list if their desired title is not available – just like with physical books.

The company responsible is OverDrive, a digital media service providing libraries with the necessary infrastructure to lend e-books. To date, OverDrive partners with 8,500 libraries in the US, Canada, Australia, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, Singapore, Taiwan, Turkey and the UK. The New York Public Library, for example, has about 18,300 e-book titles. Watch a short interview with OverDrive CEO Steve Potash:

Scholastic have their own personal platform: a subscription-based e-book collection called bookflix. Available in 500 libraries worldwide, it offers children their favourite titles in digital form – all supplemented with educational videos and interactive games.

While the increasing popularity of borrowing e-books bodes well for the health of literacy and reading worldwide (otherwise shown to be in decline), an article by the New York Times highlights the discontent expressed by publishers.

Publishers, inevitably, are nervous about allowing too much of their intellectual property to be offered free. Brian Murray, the chief executive of HarperCollins Publishers Worldwide, said [the library e-book] was “not a sustainable model for publishers or authors.”

Within the publishing world there’s a fear that consumers are becoming increasingly accustomed to receiving content for free. Macmillan chief executive John Sargent says this is the reason Macmillan’s books aren’t available in electronic form in public libraries. Publishers Simon & Schuster feel the same.

The wariness is understandable. Why would a reader pay for an e-book when they can get it for free through their local library? Borrowable e-books threaten an already burdened publishing industry and further undermine the value placed on books and authors. It becomes a question of what society values more: reading or publishing.


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Giving credit when it’s due: attribution in blogs

Andrew Keen, author of the controversial “The cult of the amateur: how today’s internet is killing our culture“, dishes some pretty harsh criticism on non-professional content producers. To his mind, the current “cut-and-paste culture” undermines the hard work of artists, authors, musicians, filmmakers, editors and journalists. He argues:

“The problem is not just pirated movies and music. It’s become a broader quandary over who-owns-what in an age when anyone, with the click of a mouse, can cut and paste content and make it their own. Web 2.0 technology is confusing the very concept of ownership, creating a generation of plagiarists and copyright thieves with little respect for intellectual property.”

Ok, so this is a bit harsh (but nothing compared to the rest of the book throughout which he kindly likens internet uploaders to “exuberant monkeys”). However, he does have a point. If bloggers want their medium to be taken seriously, there are certain standards that need to be adhered to regarding accuracy, linking and attribution. The latter is the topic I’m most interested in.

While The Blog Herald wrote an excellent post on this subject that I’d recommend you read, I want to focus mainly on photo attribution, since it’s an issue that bloggers tend to ignore. Naturally, including images in a blog post jazzes it up. It’s understandably tempting to insert images from the web from sources like Google Images, Flickr or Yahoo Images. While many bloggers do do this, it’s actually illegal if the image is protected by copyright – and most are. The choice then is to buy the rights to the image or find an image that isn’t protected by copyright, but instead protected by something very cool: a creative commons license.

The license works like copyright in the sense that it protects the rights of the artist – but leaves it up to them to name the terms. Creative Commons’s site says they “provide free licenses and other legal tools to mark creative work with the freedom the creator wants it to carry, so others can share, remix, use commercially, or any combination thereof.” To get a better understanding, watch Creative Common’s video below:

Convinced? So, now you need to actually find those creative commons-protected images, right? There are lots of options. In Yahoo Images, click on options>advanced search>creative common license. Another good option is searching with FlickrStorm. Follow advanced>search creative commons photos. 

So now that you’ve found your safe image, how do you attribute it? Scribd offers a very helpful, thorough description. In a nutshell, correct creative commons attribution requires bloggers to:

  • credit the creator
  • provide the title of the work
  • provide the URL where the work is hosted
  • indicate the type of creative commons license
  • include any copyright notice associated with the work

There are lots of different ways for you to do this in your blog – the important thing is that all your bases are covered – to save your ass and show your appreciation to the person whose work is actually making yours better.

One more thing: if you’d rather skip all of this but still do things by the book, then your other option is to use Picapp – a copyright-free database of stock photos you can use in your blog. It’s a totally free service that is compatible with blog hosting sites like blogger, wordpress and others. There’s no need to attribute them per se. Here’s an example of one of the images:

[picapp src=”d/f/8/f/Beach_huts_1ea4.jpg?adImageId=5227761&imageId=5079197″ width=”500″ height=”333″ /]


Here’s their super-cute tutorial video:


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Digital discussions at the 2009 Frankfurt Book Fair

The biggest book fair in the world, Frankfurt Book Fair, is just days away. This year marks the fair’s 60th anniversary and runs 14-18 October. The fair is one of the most important publishing events of the year as it attracts 7,000 exhibitors from 100 nations who come to negotiate international publishing rights and licensing fees, market new titles, network and, naturally, drink beer.

Watch this short video from the 2008 Frankfurt Book Fair to get a sense of what it’s like:

The convention is the industry’s chance to debate pressing publishing issues and the hot topic this year is e-book prices. E-readers like the Amazon Kindle and Sony Reader are becoming increasingly popular, as I mentioned in a previous post. Estimates predict that 3 million e-readers will be sold in the US this year and 10 million sold by the end of 2010. And now, with the Kindle just a week away from being available in 100 countries, e-reading will spread even more. Watch the video below which describes the new international version of Kindle.

Blog Future Perfect Publishing has compiled a helpful list of the factors publishers should consider when pricing a book:

  • Type of book – Non-fiction seems to command different price points than fiction.
  • Goals of the consumer in purchasing it – If the content of the book promises to deliver special value – e.g. increases productivity or convey a new skill – the consumer might be willing to pay more.
  • Quality of presentation – The more professional the design and marketing of the e-book, the better the odds are that a consumer might pay a higher price.
  • Perceived value relative to a print version (if a print version exists) – If the title or author is well known, and the book is available in print at a substantially higher price, a prospective buyer might pay more for the e-book version because the perception of getting good value is heightened.

Readers, too have jumped into the debate, with many refusing to pay more than $10 per book. Wired spoke with Connecticut librarian Crystal O’Brien. “You are not getting something you can lend out to other people, you are not getting a physical item,” says O’Brien. “So you shouldn’t have to pay so much for a digital copy.”

However, publishers have a different idea. The Frankfurt Book Fair conducted a survey of 840 book industry experts on the e-book debate. Their results were surprising: 39 per cent cited online bookselling as the most important development in publishing in the past 60 years. Twenty-five per cent predict that the retail bookseller will be obsolete in 60 years. Concerning pricing, 16 per cent said an e-book should cost at least 30 per cent less than a print book, 19 per cent thought it should cost the same or even more.

Earth Times reports editor of Buchreport Thomas Wilking saying, “The sector is still looking for strategies to make money out of digital content. They need business models that can complement and later replace the well-tried model of selling packages of printed paper for money.”

So what do you think? Do you believe that e-books should adopt the iTunes strategy ($.99 per song) of imposing a consistent price for all books, independent of their genre, quality, author and value of printed version?

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The printed book’s new enemy: the “vook”

Just as the world is just starting to warm up to the idea of e-books, it appears there’s a new nemesis of the old-fashioned book: the “vook“. It’s a digital hybrid of book and video, offering supplemental videos alongside the book’s text, which can be accessed through the internet or on hand-held mobile devices. It’s the brainchild of US-based Vook, a start-up who believes that its product is the future of reading. Take a look at Vook’s promotional video:

The new medium has been adopted by Atria, an imprint of Simon and Schuster. Judith Curr, Executive VP and Publisher for Atria says in an interview that she thinks vooks represent an aspect of publishing for the 21st century. She says that “this is a wonderful way to be able to tell a new story without the huge expense of making a major movie.” Vooks offer the possibility to add atmospheric qualities, tell a back story, show photographs. They  The publishers already have four vooks ready for purchase: romance novel “Promises“, fitness book “The 90 Second Fitness Solution“, thriller “Embassy” and health book “Return to Beauty“. Here’s the trailer for “Embassy”:

The Week asked “Will anyone read vooks?” and quoted Dave Rosenthal from The Baltimore Sun as saying that Simon & Schuster “is moving in the right direction… Just as the Internet opened up sound and video for newspapers, vooks (or whatever else they get called) can broaden the dimensions of the printed page… [and] this is just the start of the book’s evolution, so let’s see where the technology can take us.”

Not convinced? You’re not alone. Last week, the New York Times ran a story entitled “Curling Up With Hybrid Books, Videos Included” which offered some insight into vooks. They quote Tufts University professor and author Maryanne Wolf:

“There is no question that these new media are going to be superb at engaging and interesting the reader, [but] can you any longer read Henry James or George Eliot? Do you have the patience?”

I agree with Wolf. Vooks cater to – and perhaps even encourage – attention-short reading. Whatever happened to using your imagination to envision characters in a book?  And those who prefer visual media would sooner watch a DVD than super-cheesy, low-budget video clips. Adding videos to books cheapens the whole experience of reading a novel.

On the other hand, I could see this medium extending itself well to fitness books, cookbooks and other instructional texts where accompanying video would help to communicate the books’ advice. But please, let’s draw the line there!

Attention all non-US e-book lovers: Amazon‘s Kindle is releasing an international version, available 19 October for $279.

International users of the new Kindle will have a slightly smaller collection of around 200,000 English-language books to choose from, and their catalogs will be tailored to the country they purchased the device in. Amazon said it would sell books from a range of publishers including Bloomsbury, Hachette, HarperCollins, Lonely Planet and Simon & Schuster.

Planning on jumping on the e-book/vook bandwagon?


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Is the Apple Tablet the future of magazines?

apple tabletRumours have been circulating about Apple‘s soon-to-be-released product, tentatively called the Apple Tablet. A recent report claims the device will measure 10 inches diagonally – putting it somewhere between the pocket-sized iPhone and desktop iMac. There will be no mouse or external keyboard, and everything will be controlled through a touch screen. Apple is expected to release the Tablet by Jan. 19, 2010. 

The image above is an artist’s rendering of the fabled Tablet, provided by Gizmodo.

So what is unique about it? Ars Technica reports that the device could serve as a digital replacement for printed books and magazines. But from the sounds of it, the latter has the most potential, especially considering Steve Job‘s opinion on e-readers. The NY Times, in “The Passion of Steve Jobs“, records the CEO saying, “It doesn’t matter how good or bad the product is, the fact is that people don’t read anymore.” 

Apple is interested in collaborating with magazines, offering a standardised platform for magazine purchase and consumption, with multi-media content like iTunes LP and iTunes ExtraGizmodo reports that:

The eventual goal is to have publishers create hybridised content that draws from audio, video, interactive graphics in books, magazines and newspapers, where paper layouts would be static. And with release dates for Microsoft’s Courier set to be quite far away and Kindle stuck with relatively static e-ink, it appears that Apple is moving towards a pole position in distribution of this next-generation print content.

TabletThe magazine industry, much like of the printed book and newspaper, knows that it must go digital in order to survive. However, they’re being very careful not to let Apple call all of the shots, like it did with the music industry. Magazines are seeking to maintain control over pricing and customer information (valuable for advertising sales). Advertising Age, in “Magazine Industry Looks to Create ITunes for Print“, writes:

Music executives didn’t see much choice when Steve Jobs signed them up to sell songs and albums through iTunes, a newspaper executive recalled. “People put their hands out and let him put the handcuffs on them,” he said. “The same thing now is happening with the publishing industry. They are afraid to do anything, to say anything. At the same time, they’re saying, ‘Let’s see what other options we have.'” 

Would you use this product? Do you think its a viable replacement for magazines? If the beauty of the iPhone is its convenient size, and the beauty of the iMac is its huge screen…what perks would the Tablet actually offer? No one is 100% sure that Apple will actually release this product…I guess they must be asking themselves these same questions.


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