Posts filed under 'Publishing Industry'

Why eReading came of age

As I assemble an eReader app for my novel, I get a great sense of deja vu. It was my final year project in college to write an eReader for the PC. The technology hasn’t changed much – got a little smaller. My latest foray into eReading has made me wonder why it is such a popular option now, whereas it never really took off in those “olden days” (15 years ago) when it was limited to just a few curious early adopters.

Oh sure, the old arguments against eReaders are still there: “nobody will read an entire book from a screen.” Those arguments haven’t changed. There are only two factors that have changed in the intervening years, combining to make eReading a viable medium in this era: portability and ubiquity.

No one was ever going to sit down to their PC to tuck into a good book. PCs were for work; the last thing you wanted to see when you felt like a recreational read. Reading was always something to take to a special place, or fit in when and where you had some down-time. Neither of those apply to a PC. But the era of personal portable computing devices has arrived. Like a book, we can take those personal devices around with us; unlike a book, we can even slip a computer into our pocket.

In the olde days, the only way to get the book bits onto an eReader was on a “floppy disk” (look it up), or the very fancy new medium of “Compact Disc”. No USB keys back then. Now we have the ultimate form of digital distribution – the wireless internet. Download any book over-the-air from anywhere. Book access is now ubiquitous, as ubiqutious as the marketing-driven popularity of Amazon’s Kindle or Apple’s iPhone/iPad – the eReading devices that have become de rigueur.

There is nothing new in software technology, only hardware. All the software tools and techniques I use every day were all invented decades ago. But what is new, is this singularity – the creeping convergence of all technical factors to make the right time and the right place for something to just … take off.

Next … eReading moves beyond the constraints of the old medium to which it is currently compared … matures in its own unique aspects … comes of age … and becomes something new.

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Add comment May 21st, 2010

Publishers’/Booksellers’ own-brand eReaders coming to iPad?

I just caught this Barnes and Noble job posting.

“Will be a primary developer of an iPhone eReading application …
May be invited to contribute to Android, Windows Mobile and other projects, time permitting”

Interesting that even the promoters of the Nook are hedging their bets on eReading platforms. They can’t afford to ignore the ubiquity of the iPhone. It’s also interesting because iPhone eReading apps port very easily to the iPad. And with a built-in link to the Barnes and Noble eBook store … that would put it in competition with iBooks and the Apple iPad Book Store, wouldn’t it?
B&N do know that the only way an app can get onto the iPhone/iPad is with Apple’s approval, don’t they?

Interesting times in publishing!

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Add comment February 15th, 2010

Apple’s iPad unveiled at last

So the Apple’s long-mooted tablet PC has been unveiled at last today.

It’s a big iPhone. It won’t fit in your pocket. Perhaps being seen wearing an iPouch to carry the thing will be the new fashion statement? But I can’t see many people buying it as a phone.

It is Kindle-esque in its proportions, but with a colour screen. Surely the screen won’t be as easy to read as the Kindle’s eInk screen?

Perhaps it’s aimed at home laptop users … who don’t want a tactile keyboard, don’t need to run more than one app at once, and who are happy to only run iPhone OS apps (not Mac OSX apps).

At first, I’m not sure where Apple intend the market for this. In effect, it’s a technology convergence, portable home-media device, but in a recession it must be hard to justify buying one – it costs more that a Kindle or a Netbook. However, no doubt, early-adopters will throng to it. We’ll just have to see where it really settles at home.

Clearly, Apple do intend it as an eBook reader. The incorporation of the new iBooks* strategy is proof of that. It also runs all existing iPhone apps, as I predicted, so existing iPhone book apps would probably command more downloads now that a larger reading surface is there to entice readers.

So it’s ready to go. Time to package up my book for iPhone/iPad after all? However many or few devices they sell, this can only mean more ebook downloads for authors. However, I would be very curious to know the terms & conditions under which Apple are giving publishers access to sell in the new iBook store. Like the success of the iPad itself … that detail will come out over time.

http://www.apple.com/ipad/

* iBooks appears to be eReader software, using the ePub format, linked to Apple’s own new iBook store.

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1 comment January 27th, 2010

What’s Amazon up to?

Dealing with corporate clients, handling their last minute rush requirements that absolutely have to be done by Christmas (happens every year!) got me thinking about the megacorps of publishing. The megacorp of publishing – Amazon. Ok, so bear with me. I’m have a suspicious mind. It comes from reading and writing all those thrillers.

When I first considered self-publication a year ago, BookSurge was the candidate. In the meantime, it has been subsumed into the great belly of the Amazon beast. Not long after, Amazon stated that the only vanity press they would list on their site was … BookSurge (CreateSpace as it has recently been renamed).

There’s the rub. And a portent of the future. That was a clear case of Amazon leveraging it’s online market dominance to push out other vanity presses, and so maximize its profits from that sector of the market. It is a common strategy of all megacorps, like Tesco and Walmart. Suppliers are so glad to get into chainstores like those, that they will take a financial hit for the sake of wide exposure. And the megacorp will squeeze them financially, because they know they will take it.

In the Internet age, if we are not vigilant, we will live in an age of monopolization of the distribution channels. The companies who control the distribution channels set the rules of the game, and can squeeze suppliers.

So who are Amazon’s book suppliers? The publishers? Yes and no. Mostly no. Because it is the authors who actually make the product. Amazon knows this. This is why CreateSpace makes such sense for them, especially in the long term, as I will explain shortly. If they capture the huge volume of vanity published authors, it doesn’t matter if they sell only a few books on each. Amazon aren’t fussy, because one person’s buck is as good as any other. Multiply a few book sales out by the volume of vanity authors they can capture (remember, they control the main distribution channel). And they can charge the author for the privilege of using their vanity services too (the willing supplier will be squeezed gladly for access to the distribution channel).

Publishers aren’t really the suppliers. They are the middle men in Amazon’s paradigm. Amazon need publishers for now, of course, because Dan Brown’s latest will drive browsers to Amazon in droves. But in the future … who knows. Apart from squeezing supplier’s profit margins, the other strategy megacorps use to maximise profits is shortening the supply chain. On the Internet, this is known as disintermediation. The middle men are kicked out, because the distribution costs are kept low, and the Internet company can connect supplier directly to customer. Authors linked directly to customer, by Amazon alone. Internet companies will use and tolerate any intermediary only so long as it makes financial sense for them. With Borders bookstores closing daily, will Amazon grab some high street pick-up points for their consignments on the cheap in a recession? If Amazon become the distribution channel for books, what’s to stop them signing contracts with Dan Brown once his contract with his publisher expires? What’s to stop them from setting up an X-Factor book site to crowd-source the next Dan Brown from the ranks of all the CreateSpace authors?

Publishers beware. And watch what Amazon is up to. Gradually, Amazon’s interests may be to push the publishers out of the chain and deal with authors directly. Small shifts, inexhorably, over time. Too suspicious for you? It’s not just me: Publishers need Amazon – but do Amazon need publishers?

The big worry, in such a doomsday scenario for publishing, is who would be left to fight back against the megacorp in the author’s interest?

But, for now, we’ll all happily use them. They’ve got the biggest, best distribution on the Internet. Right?

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Add comment December 14th, 2009

Why wait for an Apple eReader when the iPhone is already here?

iPhone
Image by William Hook

The iPhone has been grabbing my attention. As if to reinforce the now undoubtable shift in the publishing paradigm, it seems that the number of books being published as apps on the iPhone is growing … fast. Book apps releases in the appstore overtook game apps for the first time ever. 20% of the apps released in September were books. It seems publishers and indie authors are not waiting for the mooted Apple eReader, the one that’s easy on the eyes and the batteries (… yada, yada …), but rather are willing to take advantage of another distribution channel for eBooks here are now. And why not? There are, no doubt, more iPhones than eReaders out there. There’s a huge user base who scan the appstore everyday. Sure, there is eReader software like Stanza on the iPhone, but I can see the attraction of a custom app in terms of its attention, customization, regular updates, linked interactive content, options for free/purchase content, etc. I’m not the only one.

There’s early adopter advantage to be had here. After all, where is an Apple eReader likely to get its content? Are they likely to do a content distribution deal with a competitor like Amazon who have their own eReader to shift? I don’t think so. Maybe Google? Or Stanza. Or will they open up a bookstore of their own, just like they’ve done for every device they’ve made recently. Perhaps. The answer might be simpler than that. It wouldn’t surprise me that many of the books will just come from the appstore anyway, and run on the eReader as they would on the iPhone.

Perhaps its time to dust of my programming skills and write my first iPhone app. As I know from writing software for other handhelds, its not trivial — beyond the ken of most authors. Maybe I should make the fruits of that effort available to other authors and publishers too? Well, let’s see where it goes – that’s pretty much the mantra for the whole publishing business right now.

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3 comments November 3rd, 2009

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