Digital

Go Read This | David Worlock | Paradigm Lost

Reading David’s pieces always brings a fresh perspective. This one is no different.

The sector has never seen a company like Google for using its wealth to pursue opportunity outside of its core markets . From YouTube to Android , from DoubleClick to Aardvark , from Google Earth to Google Energy , the company sometimes seems to be restlessly evading its destiny while remaining 98% tied to advertising for its revenues .

For its destiny is surely now reasonably clear . There will be a decline in search as an apps orientated world moves more fundamentally towards solutions . Already Google is feeling some of this , as well as the continuing movement of advertising markets away from the traditional way of contextualization. There will be continuing pressure within solutions created for professional and business services for search to be customized to need , and good enough for active purposes ( which may be better or more targeted or more rigorously selective or more representative of niche user groups than public search environments ) .

via David Worlock | Paradigm Lost

Link Post: Now’s The Time for Nokia To Dump MeeGo For Android

Not much to argue with here!

The Finnish handset maker can save money, reduce development costs and still play to its hardware design strengths with Android. Between unique hardware and — if Nokia felt the need — a customized interface, Android-powered Nokia handsets would rival those of HTC, a company that embraced Android early on and is enjoying more than 66 percent year-over-year revenue growth. While HTC thrives thanks to Android, Nokia is instead reducing already low sales expectations. Maybe MeeGo needs go away before it actually arrives on Smartphones.

Now’s The Time for Nokia To Dump MeeGo For Android.

iBooks For The iPod Touch Quick Review

iBooks I posted the news part of this over on Irish Publishing News but I thought I add some thoughts about it here, where I’m free to comment.

The News Bit
Apple‘s iBooks program is now available for download for the iPhone and iPod Touch, but only after users update their iPhone & iPod Touch operating systems to the new iOS4.

Irish readers do not yet have access to paid titles in Apple’s iBookstore, the iTunes for books, but they can download free Project Gutenberg ebooks to the iPod or iPhone and can also read the free Winnie The Pooh ebook that comes pre-loaded in Apple’s iBooks.

Read The Rest

The Review Bit
First things first, iBooks on my iPod Touch is terribly slow. Slow to load the bookself, slow to load a book once clicked on and slow to respond to gestures. I’m used to that though, I find pretty much all ereading software on the Touch slow. It’s one of my major issues with ereading.

Once you get over that it has some decent features, the Dictionary, Highlight, Note and Search features for instance are pretty damn good and invoked fairly easily. I like them all and find them useful. I expect much more so with books other than Winne The Pooh.

And it’s there that my biggest problem arises. Right now all I can get is free Project Gutenberg ebooks and the free Winnie The Pooh book provided by Apple. Hopefully when the iPad goes on sale we will actually see some recent or new books for sale. There is no word yet on iPad pricing in Ireland but we can assume that it will be close to the price in France and Germany, €499.

The actual reading experience is not noticeably different to Amazon’s Kindle App, certainly not good enough to make me change unless the selection and price is worth the discomfort. Overall I’d say that iBooks is adequate, no better or worse than pretty much all the other ereading software for the Touch. Maybe that will change once I actually use the iPad itself rather than iBooks on the Touch.

Waiting seems to be the theme of the day!
Eoin

Travel Book Sales: This Has To Be The Internet

Travelling Back In TimeThe Bookseller carries an absolutely terrifying story today if you are in travel publishing, on the other hand if you are, the sales are probably pretty clear to you already:

This year travel sales have fallen 10.7% to £22,386,597 (to 17th April) compared to the same period last year. This comes after sales in 2009 were down 26.8% on 2008. Turnover in 2010 is now at its lowest point since records began in 2001.

I’ve commented before that Travel Publishing is in a precarious position when it comes to physical books:

Well I’ve always thought of travel books as the kind of things that will be one of the first real signs of trade books facing change.

Although there are some interesting wrinkles in the market, like Penguin’s performance, an over 30% decline in less than two years (although surely aided by the recession) suggests to me an underlying trend that doesn’t relate specifically to economic change but more to cultural and technological change.

It seems to me that internet research is easily replacing much of what travel books did well. This goes to the heart of the challenged posed by both the internet and Google’s Book Search as I discussed here. Simply put, the internet reduces the demand for new titles especially in areas of non-fiction where information can be found online.

Responding to that challenge is not easy, especially as many of the useful features of books are now already dominated by branded websites offering much more efficient versions of those services, like Tripadvisor. It seems to me that travel publishers need to change their focus away from books with a rapidity that I am sure they themselves understand.

It is a fascinating test case for the rest of the industry!
Eoin

Image Credit
Image Location: Travelling Back In Time
Flickr User ExtremearQ
Used Under A Creative Commons License

A Quick Note On Media 2020

qrcode Others have written decent summaries on what happened at Media 2020, a conference on the future of media in Ireland that was run by Media Contact in Croke Park Conference Centre yesterday. Blathnaid Healy has a blog summary using Twitter hastags [clever methinks] and Fin O’Reilly has an interesting round-up too. I wanted to add some thoughts on three things, one that struck me while I was listening to speakers and the others that became obvious as I digested the event.

we are behind our competitors
The first thought is that we are quite a ways behind our competitors. This became obvious when BBC Backstage producer Ian Forrester (@cubicgarden) spoke. He had tried just about everything Irish media companies were thinking of or had just launched.

This came to a comical head when one of the mythic future techs mentioned, QR Codes, came up for discussion on a panel. He mentioned an experiment that the BBC had done in a zoo using, QR Codes, and almost casually mentioned that it was three years ago. I had a good laugh at that. Matt Locke (@mattlock) from Channel Four hit some similar notes too as did Jonathon Moore (@moorej) from Guardian Media.

The import of this was obvious to me. Ireland is behind other countries in digital change. As the world becomes more digital, our competitors become more global. Irish media companies need to start experimenting quickly and following the lessons learned elsewhere. They have an opportunity to jump ahead but I’d caution them to wait just a moment before they do.

no-one seems to have a coherent strategy
It was something of a relief coming from a seemingly rudderless publishing industry, to see that pretty much all content and media firms are as clueless about the future as publishers are. They are all distracted by the shiny toys, all entranced by the lure of easy profits in apps and downloads and all besotted with copyright protection and forcing the reader or the advertiser to adapt to their advantage.

The BBC, if I read their thinking correctly, at least seemed content to let innovation find a way forward but were not pushing for that to happen any time soon, The Guardian’s vaunted digital plan is at least clear, but I’m not certain it offers much more than a hope that their gamble on openness will be rewarded. They at least have not flip-flopped from tactic to tactics in the hope of stumbling upon a strategy by accident as others have.

It seems to me that following the trend is not the way forward. So experimentation is definitely a good idea, but with clear purpose and forceful reasoning.

where was book publishing?
There was not one speaker from book publishing and looking down the list of attendees, the closest one gets to a book publisher was me, Eason who had a representative and one or two PR Agencies that have been known to handle book publicity.

On the one hand it is a shame that the book publishers did not see the need to attend and on the other it says a lot about the perception of book publishing in Ireland that the organisers felt no need to include someone to speak to that market.

While much of the day did not specifically mention or reference books, there was so much potential on display for creators of quality content and new ways of thinking about content that not attending seems to me to have been a poor choice for book publishers.

final thoughts
I enjoyed the conference enormously and came away feeling refreshed and happy that there were people thinking deeply about digital change in Ireland, surprised that so many people hadn’t read The Cluetrain Manifesto and impressed by the openness to social media at the Abbey Theatre (@abbeytheatre) as traditional an icon of Ireland as they come.


Disclosure: I was given a free ticket for the conference by Media Contact after I retweeted a promotional tweet.


Authors Really Are Driving Change

In 2006 when I was only starting to think clearly about digital change (and had only been writing a blog for some 4 months) I wrote a post called Authors Will Drive Change, it was part of a short series of articles on what was changing the publishing industry.

The point is that publishing is no longer just about books and even more it is no longer about waiting for a publisher to decide your work is good enough for print. Options abound and as more and more writers realise that they will take advantage of it.

E-books will push this change even more. There is no reason why authors’ royalties should be the same on e-books as they are for paper books and in many ways there is no reason why the authors cannot sell e-books themselves rather than through a publisher. Why should you sell a paper publisher your digital rights when there is no need?

What I didn’t address back then and what has become clearer now, is how established authors will also drive change and in doing so, make a much bigger impact.

The most recent example of this is JA Konrath who writes The Newbies Guide To Publishing blog. He has been posting for some time now about his rather impressive success in selling books via Amazon’s Kindle device:

In short, this market is perfect for a one-person operation.

I’d certainly entertain an offer from a large publisher, if they wanted to buy rights for one of my books. But I’m not going to go out looking for the opportunity. Especially since I’ll make more money in the long run if I keep my rights.

I could even make more money in the short run.

According to my recent royalty statement, my horror novel AFRAID sold about 54,000 copies in all formats, earning me around $27k.

If I released a Jack Kilborn ebook on my own, and it sold like my current ebooks are selling, I’d make $20k in a year.

It’s doubtful I’ll make $17K next year on AFRAID, since it’s no longer getting coop on bookstore shelves. But I’m sure I’d make $20k, or more, on a self-pubbed ebook.

So in two years I can make more money on my own on a self-pubbed ebook than a book released by a major publisher in hardcover, trade paper, paperback, and ebook formats, supported by a tour and advertising.

Unless it’s a big offer, I can’t imagine selling rights to my work ever again…

And There Is More
The IDPF released the figures for February ebook sales. They are pretty stunning. I’ve written elsewhere about my skepticism regarding ebooks and the industry’s obsession with price and a single format, but when one sees figures like this, it is almost understandable that they get excited and distracted by them.

Mike Shatzkin writes about what this seemingly rapid shift towards digital means for the print side of the business and it is an interesting perspective:

If by the end of 2012, 25% of sales for a new book are digital, then about half of new book sales will be made through online purchases if we count the print book sales made through online retailers (mostly Amazon.)

Online print sales can be served through inventory generated on demand. So, if these estimates are right, we are less than three years away from a publisher (or author) being able to reach half the market for a book without inventory risk!

Having half the market reachable without print-run risk or inventory storage; having half the customers connecting with their reading through online paths that make them at least theoretically identifiable; and having a quarter of those customers reading through a medium that enables interactivity will make all the changes we’ve seen so far in trade publishing appear trivial. And if the very perspicacious Carolyn Reidy, her unnamed counterpart, and I are right, that disruption is going to take place before many books now under contract reach their publication date.

Personally I caution about moving from current trends towards future results. I’m unsure if the sales will continue at their current level never mind continue to explode in such an impressive fashion. However, even if we allow that Mike and the trends are half right and we see say 33% or 40% of the market reachable via no-risk required methods by 2012, then the savvy authors like JA Konrath will see little reason to work with a publisher at all. Why, if they don’t require the finance that is one of a publishers strongest assets, would they?

This is not to say that publishers don’t offer more than finance, they do and in abundance, but for some authors, the skillset that publishers offer is affordable and at a more reasonable cut than they currently allow publishers to keep.

In my view, as the market becomes more digitally biased, the greater the risk that lead and mid-list authors see first the advantage of retaining their own digital rights, then later the advantage of retaining all rights and exploiting them for themselves.

The future, for all that it offers great promise to authors and thus they WILL drive change, may not offer such great promise for publishers and certainly not as they currently exist.

Much to get done today!
Eoin

New Post On EoinPurcell.com

Things Publishers Fear: No. 1 ~ Amazon


No 1 ~ AMAZON

Despite the seeming victory of Macmillan in its battle to force Amazon to accept the new “agency model” publishers have a sensible fear of Amazon. Like all businesses that sell their goods to consumers through intermediaries, publishers are forced to subject themselves and their products to the requests and “suggestions” of the retailer.

Amazon controls a large portion of the online consumer connection to books. They may not be the best at this, but they are surely the biggest. They have been on top of pretty much every trend in publishing for some time: