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12 posts from January 2009

Jon Fine on Web Video

BusinessweekI remembered just how much I missed BusinessWeek when the first issue of my new subscription arrived last weekend.  I let my print subscription lapse several months ago, but after giving up on the hope that Amazon would offer it for the Kindle, I recently gave in to an offer (one year for $30) and I read this first issue cover to cover on a recent flight.

I'm mentioning it here because I also missed Jon Fine's excellent Media Centric columns.  The one in the current issue is well worth reading as it talks about making money on web video.  He raises one particularly important point:

If video on the Internet merely meant "television," as CBS Interactive CEO Quincy Smith puts it, then that network's top show, "CSI," would be its most popular online.  (It isn't.  Reality series "Survivor" is.)

and asks an equally intriguing question:

"What is the fantasy football for entertainment?"

The two are deeply intertwined.  It's easy for us book publishers to think that our greatest hits in print should become our greatest hits online, but that logic misses the point.  You've got to rank each title's ability to drive an community online.  Some books have loads of potential while others have almost none.

Fantasy football is the perfect analogy.  Twenty years ago, who would have thought there would be an entirely new industry like this built around the NFL?  Heck, my own son is now a fantasy addict and he never cared about the NFL till a couple of years ago!

The question we have to ask ourselves is, "What sorts of titles, authors and other publishing properties most lend themselves to a fantasy football-like enthusiasm?"  The answer may have no correlation to your best-selling print products.

iPhone eBooks via Stanza

ScreenHunter_03 Jan. 25 15.37I don't know how I missed this one earlier.  I'm talking about my colleague Andrew Savikas and a TOC blog post he made last November about downloading books into the Stanza iPhone reader.

Stanza and their ebook offerings aren't exactly big news.  It's a fine app and all, but what's really cool is how Andrew and his team have shown how the service can be extended.  The blog post gives step-by-step instructions on how anyone can load an O'Reilly EPUB ebook into Stanza.  So if you've taken advantage of an O'Reilly ebook bundle you can quickly and easily load that into Stanza on your iPhone for no additional charge.

That's exactly how the system should work!  You're free to buy from Stanza but you can also buy direct from the publisher and put that content into Stanza.  Simple, yet brilliant!

If you're a publisher reading this post, is your organization taking advantage of this solution as well?  If not, you should be.

One Click Away from Abandoning My Kindle

Iphone 3G I'm not reading books on it, at least not regularly.  The two things I do most frequently with my Kindle are read The New York Times and catch up on RSS feeds via KindleFeeder.  And while those two services hardly justify the $360 price tag (let alone the $13.99/month Times subscription), it's my iPhone (once again) that's bringing me closer to the end of my Kindle infatuation.

The only thing preventing me from abandoning the Kindle entirely (and passing it down to my wife) is one very simple feature that's missing from The New York Times iPhone app: All I need it to do is pull down the entire paper so that I can read it offline, on a plane or anywhere else that I don't have a live connection.  The Kindle does that nicely but the iPhone app forces you to click and access one article at a time.

The Times iPhone app would be complete if they'd just add a simple button to let me quickly pull down today's entire edition.  I'm not even looking to store multiple's and today's alone would be just fine!  In fact, I'd gladly pay $5, $10, $20 or more for that capability (as a one-time fee, not a monthly fee).  Why?  It would enable me to dump the $13.99/month Kindle subscription.

Why isn't there a Premium version of the app that offers this functionality?  Surely they're not afraid of cannibalizing sales of the Kindle edition.  Did I recently read that more than 30 million iPhones have been sold?  Even the most ambitious sales projections for the Kindle put it well below 1 million.  Why not get a fraction of that 30 million base even if you completely lose the less than 1 million Kindle owners?  And they could include plenty of advertising (like the USA Today app does so nicely, I might add).

Would You Like Some Books with that Broadband Deal?

Books4After years of fighting the pirates it appears the music industry has decided to emulate them for a change.  This article in The New York Times talks about how you'll be able to participate in an all-you-can-eat music model with certain cell phone and broadband deals.

Can similar book content deals be far behind?  Wouldn't it be great to get access to a Safari or Books24x7 program with a new phone or DSL/cable deal, even if it's just for a limited time?  Sure, it would be a series of tiny revenue streams and although the content providers probably wouldn't "make it up in volume" the service would be discovered by countless new prospective customers, many of which are likely to sign up for a regular subscription after the introductory period expires.

Why Amazon Should Try a "Radiohead Experiment" on the Kindle

Radiohead Remember that Radiohead experiment back in 2007, the one where they allowed free downloads of their latest album and asked listeners to pay what they felt was fair?  Some say it was successful and others beg to disagree.  Assuming Amazon ever gets back to an in-stock inventory situation with the Kindle I think they should try a similar experiment with a big-name author's next book.

Why?  First of all, it would be interesting to know how much value readers place on content, particularly e-content.  Secondly, although some customers won't pay a penny for it, others will and it's that data that would be so fascinating to study.

Then there's the PR opportunity for Amazon, publisher and author.  Imagine how much free publicity this would generate.  It would probably open that author up to new customers who've never read his/her previous work.  But for Amazon it's an opportunity to generate a lot of buzz about a product they do almost zero advertising for; sure, they're out of stock, but again, I'm talking about the value of this when (if?) they ever get inventory again.  As I've also said before, I'm amazed at the number of people (including regular Amazon customers!) who've never even heard of the Kindle.

Btw, just like the Radiohead deal, this would be a limited-time offer.  Unlike the Radiohead deal though, I could also see an opportunity for Amazon (and the publisher/author) to sell sponsorship of the event.  An ad (or series of ads) would appear in (or periodically throughout) the free Kindle edition of the book.  This would help offset the lost revenue from downloaders who turn out to be freeloaders.  Then again, is that really "lost" revenue?  Those people probably wouldn't have bought the paid edition anyway.

Only a very forward thinking publisher and author would participate in something like this.  It's not without risk, of course, but it's also an experiment in a very limited space; the number of Kindles out there is tiny compared to the number of book-buyers who don't own a Kindle.  So even if it's wildly popular but nobody pays a penny for the content the other 99.999% of the book-buying public won't have been affected.

Speaking of that other 99.999%, Amazon, publisher and author could use this as a way to promote the book to that majority as well.  Think word-of-mouth and add in an affiliate discount code Kindle downloaders can pass along to their friends, creating even more buzz and giving everyone an additional incentive to buy the book.

One final thought: If a publisher really wants to do this they wouldn't even have to work with Amazon to make it happen.  They could simply offer the unprotected mobi file on their own site for a free, limited-time download.  Think about that for a moment...  That publisher would be able to establish a direct relationship with all those Kindle owners, capturing e-mail addresses and the opportunity to market directly to them in the future.  Take that a step further and if the publisher makes it clear to the customer, they could conceivably sell that list to other publishers to market to them as well.

See all the interesting directions this can go in?...