Archive for January, 2008|Monthly archive page

One person at a time

Following on from Kate’s comment on the last post (and link) to another kindle review. Here’s one from a publishers’ weekly columnist, Sara Nelson, from just before Christmas; someone you could probably count as a convert. Interestingly, she doesn’t really mention the screen (maybe only true geeks notice the difference that e-ink makes), but seems to have embraced the frictionless purchasing.

I’m no Luddite, but I like the old-fashioned book delivery system….  

…Which is why I’m so surprised that within hours of receiving the Kindle, I had downloaded four books and one day’s edition of theNew York Times. It was just so easy and cheap.  

Mind you, those comments in the other review can’t be ignored. Kindle *is* too expensive to have mainstream appeal, and the format wars are a bit of a hurdle. But one step (or convert) at a time, I guess :-)(via teleread) 

NYT Kindle Review

Quick link to Randall Stross’ New York Times review of Amazon’s Kindle reader. In a nutshell, Stross likes it:

My wife, skeptical that a digital screen could ever approach the readability of ink on paper, was so intrigued by the Kindle when it arrived last week that she snatched it from my grasp. I haven’t been able to pry it away from her since. 

But he spends most of his article defending the book industry against Steve Jobs’ “nobody reads books” line from last week. Me thinks he protesteth too much (and forgets that Jobs is a master of misdirection.) Whilst I doubt that ebooks is a focus of Apple’s attention, I’m not alone in thinking that there will be a big brother for the ipod touch that does ebooks better than most things around. But that’s for another post. For the time being, chalk up at least one more ebook convert. 

R.I.P. The Bulletin

Just days after Walmart’s streamlining of its magazine selection comes news that Australia’s oldest current affairs magazine is shutting up shop. The Bulletin has been published for over 128 years, and during a colourful (and sometimes controversial) history, has been a staple of Australian news and current affairs. But with circulation figures down to the mid 50,000s, its publisher can no longer justify its existence.

I’m probably like many others who tend to read magazine-like articles on the web rather than in print, so the end of the print edition is not really the biggest surprise.But whilst I haven’t read the magazine regularly for ages, I  enjoyed its summer holiday edition over the break; and its online election bullring coverage was one of my bookmarks leading up to November 24th last year.

So it’s a real shame that the publishers (ACP) haven’t found a way to make a web version of The Bulletin work. I guess like many older media institutions, its readership wasn’t comfortable with the digital – and it wasn’t attracting enough of us who were.Despite the fact that I rarely read it, it’s a shame its gone.

Another new screen

The foldable screen, it would appear, is nearly upon us. It seems that numerous proof-of-concept devices have appeared on gadget blogs over the past few years – now, just maybe, the real mccoy might be shipping. The Register(amongst others) reports that Polymer Vision will be shipping its readius phone ‘later this year.’

A potential rival to Amazon’s Kindle or Sony’s eBook, the Readius’ screen rolls out like a sheet of Clingfilm and is primarily designed for displaying text, such as from e-books and RSS feeds, thanks to its 16 levels of grey. 


Notably, it’s a phone. Which lends credence to those of us who think that the killer device is going to do more than just be a book reader.    

Walmart and Magazines

A quick link to a New York Post piece on Walmart’s decision to no longer stock 1,000 magazine titles. Apart from the fact that 1,000 titles is quite a selection, it’s yet another indication that the print model for distribution has its problems. (And we know that the Walmarts and Big Ws of the world are already pretty selective about the range of book titles they stock.)

Google fingered :-)

Check this link from O’Reilly Radar. We all know that google is busy scanning the world’s books for us (!) which probably means that there’s hundreds of underpaid call-centre refugees scanning and flipping pages 24/7. Here’s a lovely photo of someone mistiming the process, just a little bit!

Hopes Dashed?

Many of us hope that Apple will enter the ebook marketplace – and mimic the itunes/ipod experience in the book space. In this thinking, the ebook capabilities of the iphone gestured towards something that would take the fight to the amazon kindle. But in a post Macworld new york times interview (courtesy c|net), Apple CEO Steve Jobs seems to dismiss the idea and…

suggested that Amazon may have trouble selling the Kindle–and not because of the product’s design.“It doesn’t matter how good or bad the product is, the fact is that people don’t read anymore,” he said. “Forty percent of the people in the U.S. read one book or less last year. The whole conception is flawed at the top because people don’t read anymore. 


Of course, Jobs could be bluffing. In early 2004, he famously said that there would be no video ipod and that no-one wants to watch video on a tiny screen. Eighteen months later, the video ipod was introduced. Now every ipod with a screen plays video and the big itunes store push is not for music but for movies. So, whilst there is no future for a dedicated ebook device, maybe the ipod touch/iphone of mid 2009 will be even more suited for reading text; and the itunes store will begin to stock a range of books.On the other hand, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar 😦 

Gatekeepers Update

Snap.Just as I published the last post, I got word that The Book is Dead  is January’s book of the month at the Avid Reader bookshop in Brisbane. I guess you gotta take the breaks when they come 🙂


A friend who publishes books at a major trade publisher once told me that she had no idea why books sell, but that the hardest thing about the process was to get them into bookshops. And I guess it’s true that if someone sees a book on the shelves of their local bookstore, they’re much more likely to buy it. After all, not everybody reads reviews. (Although I suspect word of mouth is probably a good thing – and maybe word of blog too!) Which is a round about way of leading into a story doing the rounds of the Australian press about the new unauthorised Tom Cruise biography (written by Andrew Morton and published by MacMillan). This piece in the Age is typical:

Several large book retail chains were contacted byThe Sunday Age this week and asked if they would be stocking the book.Dymock’s, when first contacted, said they saw “no reason” why they would not be selling the book.But a spokeswoman later issued a statement to the contrary. “We take all accusations of defamation very seriously and as a result we won’t be stocking the book,” she said. 


Of course, the threat of defamation is  only one reason that a book seller may not stock a book. Ultimately, booksellers need not have any reason at all; as the front end of the book publishing industry, booksellers have the ability to nurture or deny; encourage or dismiss. In a century where the control of information sources is becoming more and more democratised,  the booksellers play a gatekeeping role that newer forms of distribution might change…