Reading

Go Read This | Google Nexus 7: ebooks’ sleeping giant finally has its own reader | The Verge

Nice piece from Tim Carmody over at The Verge. I think he’s asking the right questions and saying the right things. I’d note one small thing though, which is that ALL the tech giants have been using reading to sell tablets, its obviously feeding back to them that users may THINK they want tablets for reading books until they actually get them and use them for almost everything else:

In other words, books and magazines are important not for their own sake, but for Google’s long-term strategy. For years, Google Books has been a store with no physical storefront, even as Apple and Amazon convinced millions of us to walk around with networked shops in our bags and pockets. Add in the rejected settlement and ongoing lawsuits with the Authors’ Guild over out-of-print books, and Google’s attention wandered elsewhere. Meanwhile, book retailers like Amazon and Barnes & Noble carved huge chunks out of the Android tablet market. The booksellers’ customer base helped them branch out, forking the platform and substituting their app stores for Google’s.

via Google Nexus 7: ebooks’ sleeping giant finally has its own reader | The Verge.

Go read This | Binaries Aren’t Going to Work « Wordisms

It’s a day of good posts on publishing and books and how they are going to work:

I often get annoyed at people ruing that the Internet has destroyed book culture, because this tends to clump blogs, online magazine and journals, and independent or DIY presses alongside content farms, auto-aggregated “reviews” and recommendations, and corporations intent on selling your data to other corporations. But that’s not to say that there isn’t a threat from the Internet, it’s just that the threat to book culture is not from digital, per se. It’s from corporate entities really, really interested in finding ways of exploiting book culture, sucking it dry and leaving its bloated corpse behind when it’s finished.

via Binaries Aren’t Going to Work « Wordisms.

Author, Niche & Power Shifts: What Pottermore MIGHT Point To

Mike Shatzkin has a fine post about the implications of the Pottermore move in terms of publishers and DRM:

Without DRM, as Berlucchi explained, anybody can sell ebooks that can be read on a Kindle. Once Pottermore decided they could live without DRM, they faced Amazon with a very difficult choice. The ebooks were going to go on Kindle devices whether Amazon wanted them there or not. Either they could ignore them or they could play along. I am sure the “play along” deal includes compensation to Amazon for the sales they refer (as it does B&N and, according to a quote from Redmayne, other distribution relations and affiliations will be enabled going forward.)

In other words, in a refreshing change from recent history, the content owner was able to present Amazon with a “take it or leave it” proposition. They decided to “take it”. They were wise. The game was changing either way.

I’ve long felt that the power balance between authors and publishers has shifted and will shift further as digital change drives home a point I made most clearly in my essay No New Normal: The Value Web (and reiterated here on Futurebook):

All of this will happen despite, or perhaps because of the fact that, the actual slice of value captured by each player changes in size and shape. Publishers will be forced to cede more revenue to authors, the idea that 25% Net is a defensible long-term ebook royalty rate is a farce best forgotten about quickly.

And even earlier (2006) when I wrote about Authors Driving Change:

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?

I think Mike is right to say that Pottermore marks a decisive point of change. It is the point at which owning the brand becomes essential, the point at which the 25% slice for the author stops being enough and the changed power balance between author and publisher begins to bite really hard.

If publishers hope to use author brand and scale to attract readers direct then they need to persuade the authors to work with them. That’s gonna take money and a whole new approach to working with the author. I expect we’ll see more of that.

The other change I believe it will drive even further is that of Niche or community driven content publishing. If selling without DRM enables big  publishers to flourish as retailers (or for that matter niche publishers with scale in a single niche), then there is even more incentive for them to pull readers together in communities of interest (or rather to build stores that appeal to those existing communities of interest) and sell content to them directly rather than spending all their marketing on pulling them to a mass appeal site that only offers them content that works for that reader by chance event or a well placed cookie!

So I see Niche coming back with a vengeance, and community at its side, perhaps even a third horseman in the shape of an industry newly engaged in open standards, weak DRM and a willingness to innovate. That’s rather exciting if you ask me.

This Scares Me >> Amazon plans to launch 2 tablet PCs in 2H12

It’s a slightly unsettling and sinking feeling I get whenever I hear discussion about booksellers and others moving away from E-Ink based ereaders towards tablets. It’s not a hatred of backlit screens and the like, in fact I like them quite a bit.

Rather it’s that such a move is an implicit acceptance that the stand-alone ereader device is moving from a top priority to a secondary one. The concern for me is that as apps, movies, tv shows, music and games become bigger and better businesses for these players, books become less and less important. With such a shift, books become simply PART of a larger media mix as opposed to being the MAJOR element.

This is not a spurious concern either. B&N indicated that their Tablet device was proving a more successful product for them than their E-Ink device was. Especially because it opened up more opportunities and markets. I’ve written a bit about this previously, particularly around the launch of the Kindle Fire:

There is only so much audience attention to go around and as mobile gaming, tv and film watching and web browsing become possible for everyone, it is just possible that digital books will lose out*. Of course maybe the audience that moves digital will be big enough for this to not be an issue, but even so book publishers and authors will need to compete with movies, games and music much more directly and immediately than they have in the past.

The possibility then that the Kindle Fire presents is one where the dedicated device that has done so much to build the digital book market is, however distantly, headed for a quiet retirement and the publishers who think they have it all so sorted now are going to faced a changed game yet again.

So perhaps you understand why the brace of DigiTimes reports on the topic read this morning left me cold:
ONE

Amazon shipped 3.98 million Kindle Fire tablet PCs in the fourth quarter of 2011, taking up a 14% share of the global tablet PC market as well as the second position in the vendor rankings, according to market data.

Due to strong sales of Kindle Fire, Amazon has shifted its focus from e-book readers to tablet PCs, and so plans to launch a 10-inch model in the second half, instead of an 8.9-inch model projected previously, the sources revealed.

via Amazon plans to launch 2 tablet PCs in 2H12, say sources.

TWO

Global shipments of e-book readers are expected to reach only two million units in the first quarter of 2012, down from nine million shipped the fourth quarter of 2011, according to Digitimes Research.

Via Digitimes Research: Global shipments of e-book readers to slip to 2 million units in 1Q12

Go Read This | Print or Pixels? Publishers Strive to Advance Both – NYTimes.com

There is so much else here, but this stat just astounds me!

By the end of this year, 10.3 million people are expected to own e-readers in the United States, buying about 100 million e-books, the market research company Forrester predicts. This is up from 3.7 million e-readers and 30 million e-books sold last year.

via Print or Pixels? Publishers Strive to Advance Both – NYTimes.com.

Go Read This | Christopher Moore’s History News: HIstory of Technology

Smart AND simple!

But some of us write and read on computer screens. For that, it still makes sense to have text lines that are not too long for comprehension and to have screens that can show us quite a few lines of text at once. That is, our ideal screen would be something more like the shape of an 8×11 sheet of paper, taller than it is wide.

via Christopher Moore’s History News: HIstory of Technology.

Go Read This | Let’s Talk About Books, Bay-bee | Bait ‘n’ Beer

Don Linn reminds us that it’s ALL ABOUT THE BOOKS:

Those of you who know me are aware that I seldom gush over anything, but allow me to gush over this fine literary novel. I hesitate to use that term since (a) for some, it implies the preciousness or elitism along the lines of the current Franzen-Stein masturbatory frenzy and (b) this book has all the adventure and excitement of a Jack London story, which I’d hardly characterize as exclusively literary. But the writing and the stories are masterful, the characters (and I include the Lake as a character) are as fully drawn as in the most literary of novels. It’s a stunning debut from a Minneapolis native.

via Let’s Talk About Books, Bay-bee | Bait ‘n’ Beer.