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19 posts from October 2012

The dangers of platform lock-in

One reason some consumers haven’t jumped on the ebook bandwagon is because they’re concerned the format they select might become obsolete in a few years. Others dismiss that as unfounded pessimism but I have an example of how it can happen, and not with some fly-by-night platform. This problem happened on Apple’s extremely popular iOS platform.

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Penguin Random House: Parsing the messages

Word clouds offer a different way of viewing a document. Sometimes they shed more light on what the author is really emphasizing. You’ve probably already read the merger messages sent by Random House’s Markus Dohle and Penguin’s John Makinson. I’m sure each of those letters were edited by quite a few people before they were sent. They’ve been scoured and polished till just the right message was communicated.

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Penguin Random House: How big is big enough?

Call me skeptical but I feel the merger between Penguin and Random House is less about creating “greater scale” and more about simple consolidation in a shrinking industry. Which organization is more likely to create the truly innovative, disruptive products of tomorrow’s publishing industry: a behemoth like Penguin Random House or some start-up working out of the proverbial garage? My money’s on the latter.

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Three questions for…Kevin Franco of Enthrill

1. Enthrill has a distribution program that puts ebooks into brick-and-mortar outlets. Doesn’t this seem counter-intuitive?

We’re in the business of selling books, brick & mortar stores are still the number one seller of books, so being there is completely intuitive.

No doubt, the easiest way to purchase an ebook is by using the ‘shop’ button on your ereading device. We’re not intending to change that at all. But the online model is flawed in some respects as it diminishes discoverability. Although being addressed through many metadata solutions, online discovery will never be as good as the tactile, visual discovery that physical retail stores can provide through merchandising and product placement in high traffic retail outlets.

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The complex world of copyright, licensing, and piracy

Our TOC theme this month is “legal” and I thought it would be interesting to have a conversation with Bill Rosenblatt covering a variety of topics in the legal realm. Bill is a recognized authority on intellectual property in the online world. He’s also an author of the Copyright and Technology blog as well as the founder of GiantSteps Media Technology Strategies.

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The future is bright for ebook prices and formats

I typically get a sympathetic look when I tell people I work in the book publishing industry. They see what’s happened with newspapers, they realize many of their local bookstores have disappeared, and most of them have heard about the self-publishing revolution. The standard question I’m asked is, “wow, isn’t this a terrible time to be a book publisher?” My answer: “We’re in the midst of a reinvention of the industry, and I can’t think of a better time to be a book publisher!”

Sure, there’s plenty of volatility in our business but we have an opportunity to not only witness change, but embrace it, as well.

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The horrors of renting vs. owning ebooks

Here’s a story that ought to raise your blood pressure. It brings to life the worst fears of anyone who’s amassed a large collection of ebooks.

Linn, an Amazon Kindle customer, suddenly discovered her entire collection has been wiped clean. When she inquires about the situation Amazon gives her vague answers like:

We have found your account is directly related to another which has been previously closed for abuse of our policies.

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Three questions for…Christophe Maire of txtr

1. Ebook adoption in Europe is lagging what we’ve seen in the U.S. What do you feel should be done to increase demand in Europe: Better reading devices, lower prices, something else?

There is no doubt that the demand is here. European consumers are just as keen on ebooks as the rest of the world! The primary driver is the distribution of attractive devices and competitive services. We have not seen a consistent push, like for B&N’s Nook, in Europe yet – so there is a lot of room for growth and new players have a chance too (i.e. mobile operators, etc.).

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Amazon’s Kindle Whispercast service

Earlier today Amazon announced an interesting and important enhancement to the Kindle platform. It’s called Kindle Whispercast and on the surface it might seem pretty ho-hum. But when you think about the long-term possibilities it’s clear Whispercast could help establish the Kindle platform as the content distribution pipeline for schools and businesses.

Consider the typical business, for example. Today they have content all over the board. Employee handbooks are in print or maybe Microsoft Word format. Sales and marketing docs are in a variety of formats including spreadsheets, slides, PDFs and more. Formats are one thing but distribution capabilities are another. Some docs are emailed, others are on servers awaiting download and still others are just hard-copies sitting on someone’s desk.

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