Exact Editions

Go Read This | Magazines and Twitter | Exact Editions | Blog

Great post from Adam Hodgkin about how magazines and twitter are likely to cooperate much more in the years ahead! I was struck by his second paragraph for some reason:

After five years of scraping around with Flash, and then two years of figuring out how to do good stuff on the iPad, the digital magazine business has reached a stage where it seems clear that the ‘next step’ will be heavily ‘social’, in which magazines recapture their strong position as guardians and builders of specialist interest groups. So digital magazines are already beginning to embrace the importance of tweeting, sharing, emailing and linking to favourite stuff in magazine contents.

via Magazines and Twitter | Exact Editions | Blog.

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Links Of Interest (At Least To Me) 11/03/2010

Most of the links I send out these days, go via Twitter but I think it’s a good idea to restart these Links!

Amazon has rolled out Author Central to the UK. A nice feature for an author, a worry for the publisher.
Here

Several independent Publishers have joined the Bloomsbury Library service which is run by the wonderful people at Exact Editions. I think this is a very interesting move. one that promises to undercut nearly any announcement about devices and seems both sensible and strategic in a way that much of what passes for decision making within this industry simply is not.
Here

Collins have launched an internet based community for Birdwatchers, in retrospect this was so obvious it is incredible they didn’t do this before!
Here

Google’s ebook program

Eoin Purcell

Google to launch an ebook service in late 2009
Or Motoko Rich writing in the so the NYT’s would have us believe that Google are:

now committed the company to going live with the project by the end of 2009. In a presentation at BookExpo, Tom Turvey, director of strategic partnerships at Google, added the phrase: “This time we mean it.”

The Bookseller has a brief piece on this story here. The Kindle 2 Review blog has some thoughts on this, basically saying that letting book publishers set prices (as Google seem to be proposing) is a bad call.

My thinking on this is that letting publishers set the price is a goo way to steal a march back from Kindle and Amazon. For one thing it will give them a greater sense of control and allow them to do the experimenting with price, a very valuable tool considering how tight Amazon is being with info and data about Kindle sales. Michael Cairns has a short but chilling post on this.

Secondly if one platform allows pricing and another doesn’t and the publishers can make sales through the Google platform anyway, then the Kindle might well wither and die as publishers pull their titles. last but not least, if Google look to retain a lower percentage of revenue (Say 30-40%) than Amazon currently do, the prices may well shift lower naturally as publishers seek to attract sales.

Right now I can only think of this as a positive move for the industry, the more competition to provide a solid e-book platform the better.

Other benefits
As a reader there are some really attractive features to Google as a platform that I don’t think have been considered. If as the NYT make clear the service will be cross device:

Mr. Turvey said Google’s program would allow consumers to read books on any device with Internet access, including mobile phones, rather than being limited to dedicated reading devices like the Amazon Kindle. “We don’t believe that having a silo or a proprietary system is the way that e-books will go,” he said.

Then the offering would seem to be going hand in hand with the rather useful discovery tools that Google offers for books through Google Books already.

I wonder is there room for a link to the Google Reader which I use for my RSS feeds? Perhaps a tab for purchased ebooks, allowing me to read them on screen on or offline at my leisure? Seems a sensible way forward.

Enjoying the bank holiday!
Eoin

Links of Interest (At Least To Me) 21/05/2009

Eoin Purcell

Eucalyptus is a NICE looking forthcoming iphone book reading app. At least it was forthcoming until it was banned by Apple’s approval system for indecent content. It’s a frustrating and odd story but well worth reading.

Ivan O’Brien offers a glimpse of the hectic season that is presentation time. I find this just about the worst time of the year for a commissioning editor, you need to know everything about your forthcoming Christmas books, worry about sales for your currently released books and plan for the first and second half of next years books, damn awkward really. Still, Ivan gives a nice sense of what it is like in this post.

Wouldn’t it be funny if in creating a proprietary platform that locked content into their blocks of ugliness (ie the kindle) Amazon also smashed the one almost universally useful tool for making objective decisions in book publishing, Nielsen Bookscan. It wouldn’t and I’m also not entirely certain that the side effect was accidental if it came to pass. Amazon’s advantage in data on consumer behavior and actions would become even more pronounced if Nielsen perish. Still, read this post by Steve Weber for some more thoughts on this.

Michael Cairns offered some very useful and thought provoking notes on the future role for publishers in the tweeting age: The Digital Concierge. Mike Shatzkin expanded on them some more and Adam Hodgkin has some thoughts on the subject too. All told Twitter is high in my mind the last few days!

In case you feel there is not enough publishing information out there for you, there is a new newsletter, Publishing Perspectives, offering a clear view on international publisher. I think it’s worth giveing it some time to find its feet! No?

Finishing The Last Argument of Kings this evening!
Eoin

Google Settlement & the author’s responsibility

Eoin Purcell

Samantha Holman of the ICLA addresses the Mercier Author Meeting

Samantha Holman of the ICLA addresses the Mercier Author Meeting

Head wrecking
Mercier has spent the last few weeks in an intense period of trying to figure out our response to the Google Books Settlement. I have to hand it our our MD, Clodagh Feehan who has gone at this with gusto and pushed for answers to questions none of us even realised we had!

The result was an author meeting last Tuesday evening in the Rochestown Park Hotel which brought out about 30 authors but generated a good few more calls and letters from people who couldn’t attend. We were fortunate to have Samantha Holamn of the Irish Copyright Licensing Agency on hand to give us a very thorough review of the deal and while I don’t think anyone was happy (at least not with the deal as it has been agreed that is) we all at least understood the concept much more.

Authors need to act
By far the biggest single thought that emerged for me was not that Publishers need to take action, because surely by now most of them have realised that, one way or the other, they must. Nor was it the unsettling feeling that something in a relatively minor court in a foreign jurisdiction was changing copyrights (and the not too often mention suggestion that Moral Rights might be affected by such things as advertising) for what many see as the worse.

No, the biggest thing was that authors need to take responsibility for their own works and make decisions AS WELL AS PUBLISHERS. Many authors felt that their publisher would take care of matters but the truth is that both parties need to claim their works. Especially as sometime in the future a book may go out of print with a publisher and at that stage, an author or their heirs need to have assert control over usage.

So, if you are an author and you have a reasonable belief that Google have scanned your works, which seems likely as they have scanned about 7 Million books, you should head to the Google Settlement site and claim your books.

Read some more opinions, there are many voices out there offering their thoughts. A good few of them disagree with my perspective which is that despite the fact that this is not an ideal settlement, it’s not a terrible one and that the way it operates at a practical level may well determine its level of success. In terms of thoughts Mike Shatzkin & Michael Cairns offers interesting considerations but there are many others. I’d also recommend Adam Hodgkin at Exact Editions and Martyn Daniels at Brave New World not forgetting the wonderful Booksquare which is always full of great discussion.

Authors, take action! Read, think, claim and decide your stance. In some ways your choice is limited by the very fact that you have to decided but, as I am pretty sure you are not armed with enough cash to sue Google, that is where we are!
Eoin

Bloomsbury’s Online Library

Eoin Purcell

Bloomsbury’s launched a new e-lending service
The details are interesting:

How will it work?
• The Bloomsbury Library Online will be sold on subscription – libraries will subscribe to a bookshelf for a year at a time and will pay according to the size of population served.
• New titles will be added on a continuous basis – free of charge within the subscription year.
• Users will click through from the Library terminals or through an online portal accessible via any web browser (including those found on iPhone and Blackberry) anytime, anywhere in the UK.
• Text accessible through screen readers and therefore available to blind and partially-sighted users.

The system is being run in association with the wonderful exact editions. Bloomsbury claim that it will:

transform the relationship between publishers and libraries, and between libraries and readers

PaidContent have pointed out one possible problem:

If there’s a problem, it’s that the ebook platform market is fragmented – Bloomsbury’s library includes only Bloomsbury’s titles while Exact Editions rival Overdrive carries Penguin, Random House, Hachette Livre and HarperCollins – and, though text can be printed, the experience of reading a book in a web browser is pretty unsatisfying if it’s a novel you’re reading.

I’m not sure that the fragmentation matters all that much. What does matter is that Bloomsbury are there first with a clever system that works well and is based on a tried and tested platform.

In fact
I think the existing notes miss three angles on this launch. One, if Bloomsbury can lock in a good number of libraries to their platform, they will have an advantage over their competitor publishers, how many e-platforms will libraries want to use after all?

Two, the installed base of libraries will help Bloomsbury research how readers use e-platforms, the quirks of reading online.

Three, given that Richard Charkin has had extensive experience of building e-platforms or at least of overseeing divisions of a publisher that were building them (I thinking of Nature specifically here but he was a strong proponent of blogging aswell!) I’d bet on this succeeding. It also fits well into the strategy I’ve considered for Bloomsbury previously

Google Books & The Orphan Works Problem

Eoin Purcell

Some People Who Are Smarter Than Me
Have been doing a great deal of thinking about the Orphan Works part of the Google Book Search Settlement.

Mike Shatzkin has a few posts on the issue. A slightly different take on the Google settlement hits onto the idea that exploiting the few titles (in percentage terms but still quite large group of titles) that could warrant a full scale print run would be very lucrative:

My hunch is that the biggest revenue generator across the entire load of copyrights that the settlement will liberate for at least the next ten years will be books printed in press-run quantities. Who ever thought that the biggest beneficiaries of the Google settlement in the medium term could be agents and packagers? If somebody has previously mentioned the possibility, I hadn’t noticed. It only occurred to me day before yesterday.

Cairns reminds me that our friend (and fellow Michael) Cader thinks that the chances of any real “gems” being found in this orphan pile are remote. Of course, things that are remote possibilities happen from time to time over enough occurrences, and there will be a lot of books liberated. Surely there are many, in the categories mentioned above and others, that will warrant a first printing of 3,000 or 5,000 or 10,000, or with the right packaging and promotion, even more than that. Even in these troubled times, there might be some additions to staff at packagers or publishers to sift through these opportunities. Assuming these deals are to be made by the Book Rights Registry, let’s hope they have an agent on the staff along with the database sales manager.

But then in his second post, More on the Google settlement, he realised he was in error:

Why was that element left out of the settlement? Did the negotiating parties even contemplate it? And exactly how useful is the “orphan” relief if this huge portion of the potential revenue (and public value) is omitted? Were the parties so fixated on electronic exploitation that they just didn’t notice this?

It looks like the need for Congress to act is about as urgent as it was before. The Copyright Office has long noted the need for Orphan Works legislation in a host of contexts and has been unable to goad our legislators to take the necessary steps. It had been my hope that the Google settlement cut the Gordian knot, but it would appear that the problem of true public access is a long way from being solved.

There’s more of course
It’s quite a pickle this settlement. Adam Hodgkins recently offered his thoughts on where he saw the ebook/digital book market and they are certainly worth reading. Most importantly he points to Apple’s role:

The position that Apple have announced for themselves is stylish, decisive and agnostic. Apple doesn’t mind whether books are based in the cloud as web resources, or shipped around the internet as book-specific file formats. Web-based books, digital editions and ebook file formats can all run easily on the iPhone if that is what is needed: “Open house, come over here and play”. That is the message from Cupertino. But Apple is also saying that if you want to trade these new booky gizmos on the Apple platform and sell them through the Apple e-commerce system, you will be expected to pay 30% of the gross to Apple. While you are at it you might as well call them Apps. In consideration for this courteous invitation, Apple will handle the transaction and any strictly necessary hosting fees.

Adam has also made some interesting points about which platform will won out pne where you use a device to download an ebook or one where you use and online service like GBS (Or Exact Editions).

In many ways though his post, Google Book Search and the Tragedy of the Anti-Commons, hit on what Mike stumbled on too though he didn’t quite raise it explicitly, discussing instead the foreign territory issue, which is for me and mst people outside of the US a bit issue:

There is a good chance that the Google Books Settlement is going to show us all how this tragedy of the anti-commons works out in the world of books. The Google project, which is backed by the American publishers and American Authors’s representatives should be (in my view will be) a wonderful resource for American universities, schools, public libraries and through them for American consumers. By 2011, if the Settlement is approved, at least 5 million out of print but not yet out of copyright [OOPnotYOOC] titles will be available to readers in the US market. This resource will have little opportunity to work so well for authors, readers and consumers in the rest of the world. The books will by and large not be available in the rest of the world (perhaps in American embassies?).

Where does all this leave us?
I suspect that there will be quite a lot of activity around the out of print but not yet out of copyright books that Mike Identified as the most lucrative. For one thing, there is money to be made and a good chance that no backflow will result. It would be wonderful if an agreement could be reached to cover what would happen if a rights holder cam out of the wood work many years later or even after a reasonable period of research was undertaken in an attempt to secure permission.

For another the technology to allow one off one copy printing will be spread much more widely over the next few years and that will put pressure on digital warehouses to serve these titles, especially if discovery of these titles gets easier.

So, all in all I think there are many questions to be answered here and no-one to really answer them. One thing is becoming clear though, Google are winning whatever happens, despite the settlement!

Watch this space, I don’t think the fat lady has begun to sing just yet!
Eoin

PS: And, if you are Irish, The Irish Times has a decent summary of what the deal will mean for Irish Authors.