Print: Dying. And The Net: No Future?

August 27, 2008

Mariotti Abruptly Quits Sun-Times
Star Sports Columnist Says He Wanted Out Before Newspapers Die Out

CHICAGO (CBS) ― In a bombshell announcement in the world of sports journalism, star columnist Jay Mariotti has abruptly resigned from the Chicago Sun-Times.

Mariotti told the Chicago Tribune he decided to quit after covering the Olympics in Beijing because newspapers are in serious trouble, and he did not want to go down with the ship.

“I’m a competitor and I get the sense this marketplace doesn’t compete,” he said in the Tribune story. “Everyone is hanging on for dear life at both papers.

“To see what has happened in this business. … I don’t want to go down with it.”

Ordinarily, I would have been pleased to see someone in that field acknowledge the truth.

However, given Apple’s banning of a comic book yesterday, I have to ask: Where does he expect the future to be?

If ISPs such as Time-Warner and Comcast have their way, everyone will be subjected to bandwidth caps: 50Gb or less per month. How willing are people going to be to “surf” the Net to look for material they don’t already know? How many links will go unclicked because people won’t know if they’ll open up a slim all-text page or a ginormous multi-megabyte page filled with Flash banners and autoplay video ads?

If companies such as Apple have their way, they will stand between everyone and those who provide what is generally given the lawyerly term “content.” Who are the gatekeepers to the iPhone and the Android OS phone and whatever other devices come tethered to a ready-made “app store?” Will those gatekeepers have political and corporate prejudices that will suppress the distribution of eBooks and articles and videos they deem unworthy? Will they set themselves up as Nannies or Critics, thinking their vision represents what’s “good” for other people?

Too many of the Comments I’ve seen over Apple’s banning of Murderdrome clearly indicate a lack of thought. The issue is dismissed as if it was a property rights case with, “Well, it’s Apple’s store and they can do what they want.”

The issue is the strangulation of distribution and the shredding of free expression.

Unlike the music at the iTunes Store, there is no other way to transmit applications to an iPhone except through Apple as Judge and Jury. (To those who cite jailbreaking, good luck with risking your device. The general public is not so brave.) We’ve already seen what Apple has done with that power when the matter is a comic book. What will it do with regular all-text eBooks? What will it do with compilations of articles from political journals it disagrees with? With albums of photographs it doesn’t like? Go into any bookstore and there will be something someone will find objectionable. That’s the price of free expression.

I’ve stated long ago that Apple should be thinking long-term and planning for the day when the iTunes Store is a widespread platform that any vendor can tap into. Apple can sell the system software, the necessary support, maybe even the server hardware. But Apple can otherwise stay out of the way of judging material that is offered for sale. I think Apple has to learn the lesson that Microsoft is bitterly learning right now: You can’t have all the money.

That goes for every major company in the tech and publishing fields.

Which still leaves us with the question: Where does he expect the future to be?

David Rothman over at Teleread has been arguing for years for a standard eBook file format that is device independent.

Looking beyond Apple, such situations are a perfect reason why the e-book world shouldn’t build itself around one particular company—not Amazon, not Google, not anyone. And it’s also a reason for e-book standards. Please. The closer you link content to particular companies, the more potential choke holds for governments and pressure groups to use.

That argument takes on a new gravity today. The entire book publishing world is reading about Apple’s actions.

Rothman’s plea is especially important as the eBook world waits to see what Amazon’s new models of Kindle will be like. Remember: Those eBooks purchased from the Kindle Store can be used only on a Kindle. (The same is true for the Sony Reader — although its eBooks can also be read on the desktop — but I have to admit that with new Kindles coming, a tipping point is approaching that could leave Sony a tech casualty. So the Kindle could wind up equaling the term “eBook.”) And Amazon, like any company sitting on a corner of a market, can change the rules at any time. The future could see the end of easy self-publishing for the Kindle, locking out writers not tied to corporate publishing contracts, further eroding free expression.

No publisher, no writer, no filmmaker should be denied access to a marketplace that has traditionally been free and open. The rules of the game should not change because electrons are being distributed instead of atoms. Free expression should not be limited to a few tech company gatekeepers who have managed to — and here’s a key word — temporarily corner a market.

We have the Internet as the standard of a free marketplace, perhaps the purest exemplification of free expression in all of human history. Everything can get on and people are free to avoid what they don’t want to see (which oftentimes includes this blog!).

Why should we have to settle for anything less because telephones have become portable computers and books are becoming electronic?

The battle for the future is being fought. And like the first shot fired at Lexington and Concord, it just might have actually begun for real yesterday: with a comic book!


Apple And A Tale Of Two Bannings

August 27, 2008

How ironic this is, just twenty-four hours later!

Apple has had a TV ad for the iPhone banned in England for making claims that are unsubstantiated by end-user real-life experience.

Just yesterday, it was Apple who was doing the banning:

While the English Advertising Standards Authority adjudicated a technical issue and could render a black-or-white decision, Apple’s stance in banning a comic book has yet to be merited.

For those who need the details of Apple’s banning, see yesterday’s post: Apple Forfeits eBooks By Banning A Comic Book!

Apple’s woes are not yet over, when it comes to advertising claims. As I’ve posted earlier, there is a huge discrepancy over what is advertised and displayed in TV ads as an example of YouTube playback and the reality of that experience under 3G reception. As I wrote earlier:

If this is the new shape of YouTube on iPhone, Apple has just opened itself up to getting sued by Attorneys General all across this country. You can’t go around showing crystal clear video in TV ads as an example of YouTube and then substitute it with that crap! That’s clear bait and switch as well as misrepresentation and outright fraud.

Apple, our troops in Iraq have an expression for the tsunami that’s heading your way: Embrace the Suck.


Apple Forfeits eBooks By Banning A Comic Book!

August 26, 2008

eBook Breakthrough For iPhone Comics!

August 23, 2008

I first saw this over at mj’s blog.

Then I went to the source post.

Take a look at this video. It is staggering. It is Apple Insanely-Great staggering. It is an absolute breakthrough in the field of electronic comic books. I can’t say enough about how radical and breakthrough this is. Look!!!

Murderdrome iPhone Comic

Absolutely staggering. I’d been after Warren Ellis to jump in and pioneer eComics (here and here). They’ve gone beyond anything I could have imagined. I salute you! You have taken my breath away! You will change the world!

Update: I was so excited by this, I didn’t do much research. The underlying app is called Comic Reader from Blue Pilot Software. My skin is all tingly. This is something that Changes Everything!

— originally published August 22, 2008 at the WordPress blog


October: The iPod Touchbook

August 15, 2008

Note: This is half what I suspect and half what I know. Beyond that, I say nothing!

Bravo To Rex Hammock:

What I’d rather have than an eBook reader: the iPod Touchbook


iPod Touchbook mockup filched from Rex Hammock’s blog

I’ve been calling it the iPod Air.

But I think he actually got the name Apple will be using.

September: New MacBooks.

Shortly after that, I expect press invites: “Apple Turns A New Page …”

October: iPod Touchbook

* Five-inch “better than VGA” screen

* eBook reading software in ROM

* eBooks are compiled and compressed to thwart piracy (they might be ePub in a wrapper; but can’t be opened by current tools)

* Yes, Cover Flow!

* iTunes update to enable desktop/notebook e-reading

* Library Shelf in MobileMe (avoids pesky iTunes Store redownloads)

* No iWorks built-in (probably separate buy in 2009)

* Exclusive eBook relationships with:
Hyperion
Miramax Books
Disney Worldwide Publishing (note this author)
– – which includes Disney Books (Hannah Montana!)
Gemstone Publishing (comic books, but not immediately)

To understand the incredible scope of Disney, read these details. Of note:

* The largest publisher of children’s books and magazines in the world
* Sold 160 million children’s books in 2005
* The largest publisher of children’s comics (excluding magna)
* Published 441 children’s magazine titles, and 222 million magazine copies in 2005
* Annual retail business just under $2 billion
* Product printed in more than 85 languages across 75 countries1
* Through books and magazines, DPW reaches an average of more than 100 million readers monthly

This explains why there hasn’t been any leakage from the usually chatty New York City houses.

Why does Apple need them to launch into eBooks?

Apple doesn’t need them.

Apple has Disney. Disney knows how to shut up.

Everyone else will want to pile on ASAP. The way the eBooks are created — compiled and compressed — will convince the New York City houses that It’s On, baby.

Steve Jobs will have conquered eBooks.

Rex’s mockup makes it look ginormous. Here’s the ECTACO jetBook in my hand.

I expect it to be about that size, which is quite nice and can be put in a large inside jacket pocket easily. (Compare it to the Sony Reader at the link.)

What I don’t yet know: What happens to individual authors who want to sell eBooks; writers not under current contract obligations to publishing houses? Will there be an “EDK” (eBook Developer Kit) for them?

What I also don’t know: SIM slot? I don’t know if this is why Apple and AT&T recently extended their agreement. I am a cellphone illiterate so I can’t comment on the ramifications of a SIM slot that would accommodate non-AT&T SIM cards. Nor do I know anything about how this would be handled under existing iPhone subscription contracts.

Lastly, the October date is, like all official not-announced dates, slippery. There are three factors: Fixing the iPhone 3G call-dropping issue (that’s if the iPod Touchbook has a SIM slot); getting MobileMe running smoothly; setting up a proper eBooks section at the iTunes Store.

And yes, expect an iPhone/iPod Touch OS update to include eBooks too.

Still thinking about a Kindle?

This will be the needed Big Bang for eBooks: millions and millions of portable reading devices out there (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPod Touchbook), an easy and already-established and used by millions and millions of people way to buy eBooks, the ability to read at the desktop (or notebook) as well as on-the-go (and on TV via Apple TV?), and a window for big sales before any attempts at piracy can succeed.


Argh

August 14, 2008

The truth is, I just have plain forgotten to get back to this.

Will make a memo.

Meantime, these might be of interest:

Kindle, Schmindle

The Non-Evolving View Of Print Publishers


Two Posts Together: A Scam?

August 11, 2008

POST ONE:

First-Time Writer Winner (And Loser!)

First time author, 93, saves friends from care homes with book advance

Lorna Page has bought a five bedroom house for £310,000 after securing a significant advance for her thriller.

Now she plans to move in a number of friends, but faces the dilemma of deciding which ones to accept, after receiving “dozens” of offers.

The independent nonagenarian widow said she simply wanted to help her friends enjoy the last few years of their lives in a sociable environment.

She has pledged to use all of her money from the proceeds of A Dangerous Weakness to assist her friends.

Mrs Page wrote the book in her one bedroom Surrey flat but has since swapped it for the spacious house in the pretty village of Weare Giffard, near her birthplace of Bideford, north Devon.

And get this:

Released by AuthorHouse publishers last month, A Dangerous Weakness follows a woman who becomes involved in a bitter power struggle after receiving an apparently innocent invitation by an old school friend to spend Christmas at her Swiss lodge.

Mrs Page wrote the book three years ago but made no attempt to get it published until her daughter-in-law found the manuscript and convinced her to send it to a publishing house.

She said: “I should have done it before but it got put away in a suitcase and forgotten about until my daughter-in-law found it and said it should be published.”

Mrs Page said she had written throughout her life, but that A Dangerous Weakness was her first published novel.

“I’ve always written. I started as soon as I could hold a pencil – fairy stories, poetry, short stories, magazine articles. It seems I’ve been writing for a hundred years.”

Emphasis added by me.

Sharp woman with a sharp wit too.

But really, what an enormous lost opportunity this is!

This is getting huge international play yet all I can think of are all the lost sales!

I immediately went to the Amazon Kindle Store, eReader, and the eBook Store from Sony — and the book is not there!

How many people reading that item immediately thought, “I’ve got to read that?” How many of them will even remember the book tomorrow?

What could have easily generated six-figure impulse buys for an ebook … has been wasted!

Now do you see why I say the future of writers must be in their own hands?

POST TWO:

First-Time Author Article Is Suspect

I’ve just sent this email to Telegraph.co.uk:

I noted this article yesterday —

First time author, 93, saves friends from care homes with book advance

and posted about it in my blog —

First-Time Writer Winner (And Loser!)

A Commenter wondered how this was possible. Because, you see, AuthorHouse is a *self-publishing* company. Self-publishers do *not* offer book advances.

As far as my research tells me, there is only *one* AuthorHouse, and it is indeed self-publishing.

AuthorHouse press release

AuthorHouse UK

I would appreciate it if you could provide clarification of this article.

I should have known all of it was too damned good to be true.

I have a suspicion we’ve been had by some slick PR agency.

The last laugh is ours, however: We were unable to buy the book on an impulse!