Archive for February, 2008|Monthly archive page

P or E for free? (well donation)

Another one of my research interests is the future of music so when there’s a little bit of crossover, it’s probably worth a post. Gern Leonard has a new book (and made the first claim to Music 2.0 as a book title) available as either print or ebook forms. The interesting thing is that whilst the p-book is forty euros, the e-book is donationware (pay what you like). 

Community pricing

O’Reilly’s Tools of Change conference came and went, and there’s an interesting snippet that I forgot to blog. Tim O’Reilly describes how Logos Bible software is leveraging the web to make viable publishing decisions. Firstly, they build a business model, then email their 500,000 strong mailing list, inviting registrations of interest and pre-orders. Only when there is enough commitment from potential readers does the company proceed with the project. Real market research then I guess. The other interesting thing they do is what they call community pricing. O’Reilly describes it like this:

Here, they expose the price curve to their users, letting users choose the price they are willing to pay. Once the price crosses the line that allows them to cover their costs, they give that “best price” to their pre-order customers (regardless of which price they actually chose when voting.) They then raise the price to the point on the curve that shows best profit for Logos, for customers who weren’t part of the original subscription.  


It’s a novel (sorry) way of thinking about how to use an existing community of users to make business decisions.

Iliad Review on Ars

Here in Oz, Dymocks is selling the iliad reader for the very scary price of $900 (well, $899 but a buck doesn’t get you much these days. Whilst I’m waiting for research funds to come through so I can try one for myself, the good folk over at Ars Technica have a fairly in-depth review. They seem to like it, especially the annotation possibilities. But the price is the big stumbling block:

But the iLiad has a lot to like. Despite losing in the looks department to Sony, the iLiad is one of those products that make you realize just how incredible an entire category could become once the price is right. 


Books by the Chapter

Another one from the O’Reilly conference. Whilst a model that has been in play in the textbook market for a while, selling books by the chapter hasn’t really hit the trade press. Until now – Random House has announced that it will sell individual chapters of the book “Made to Stick.” I’m not convinced that chapter sales are a panacea for books – what works for singles/albums in the music realm doesn’t necessarily cut it for chapters/books. For education it makes sense, but I’m the first to make a passionate defence for the ‘complete book’. It’s hard to think of a single book that is done justice by reading a mere chapter.Making sample chapters available for free as a marketing teaser might make some sense – but unlike most music albums which are padded with filler, a good book needs every chapter it has to make its case. My five cents 🙂

Harper Collins and (fre)ebooks

A follow up from Neil Gaiman’s free ebook item – a New York Times post today suggests that Gaiman’s publisher is getting a bit serious about the fre(e) model to stimulate p-sales:

Starting Monday, readers who log on to will be able to see the entire contents of “The Witch of Portobello” by Mr. Coelho; “Mission: Cook! My Life, My Recipes and Making the Impossible Easy” by Mr. Irvine; “I Dream in Blue: Life, Death and the New York Giants” by Roger Director; “The Undecided Voter’s Guide to the Next President: Who the Candidates Are, Where They Come from and How You Can Choose” by Mark Halperin; and “Warriors: Into the Wild” the first volume in a children’s series by Erin Hunter. 


But it’s not all roses for fre(e) book lovers. It looks like readers will be limited to reading the Books online:


Brian Murray, president of HarperCollins, said that the free electronic editions would be available only for one month, and readers would not be able to download them to laptops or to an electronic reader like Kindle from The print function will also be disabled, but readers will be able to link to retailers like to buy copies of the books. 

Choose a free ebook

Subscribing to the idea that giving away an e-book is the best way to sell a p-book, Neil Gaiman is asking fans to decide which of his books they would like him to make available online for free.

What I want you to do is think — not about which of the books below is your favourite, but if you were giving one away to a friend who had never read anything of mine, what would it be? Where would you want them to start? 


Good on Harper Collins, Gaiman’s publisher for coming to the party on this one. (via Boing Boing

Reality Check

Latest idpf figures on wholesale sales of ebooks in the USA make for sobering reading. Whilst there is some growth (sony and kindle anybody), sales for the last quarter top out at around 8 million dollars. That’s million with a ‘m’. Barely a rounding error on a rounding error for the multi-billion (that’s billion with a ‘b’) printed book publishing industry.Teleread has its take on this and places much of the responsibility on print publishers, who don’t (as well as being paranoid about copyright infringements) appear to have embraced an e-culture:

Many traditional book people are uncomfortable with tech and the mechanics of transferring books from machine to machine and among different brands. Perhaps they think all consumers are the same. Not so. Young people, especially, plan to trade up to new machines and move books around on their existing ones–overwhelmingly without piracy in mind.  


Like I say in the book, cultural change is *much* harder than technological change. But it does happen – and those who drive the change are often the ones who benefit the most. 

EeePC First Impressions

I got my hands on an Asus EeePC last night – the little subnotebook computer that has some geeks salivating. It’s smaller than a trade paperback (although it’s pretty heavy) so I’ll be having a closer look at it to see if it hits the mark as that ideal “multi-purpose computing device that makes a good ebook reader.”First impressions were positive – the whole family thought it was really cute – and the five year old wanted one for himself right away. But after spending a couple of hours playing, my instinct is that it’s not the one. It’s cheap (around $500 here in Oz) and it feels like it – the trackpad and mouse button don’t scream ‘quality’ and the seven-inch screen means you have to scroll around to see entire web pages. I kept wanting to touch and slide the screen like on my iphone, but couldn’t :-)That said, it browsed the web happily (Playhouse Disney flash animations worked fine!) and its Linux OS was stable, if not the snappiest thing in the world. What I missed was attention to detail – the typography in the pdf reader was not hugely impressive, and after an hour or so of playing, the thing just felt ‘clunky’. And by then the battery was flat and I had to stop and recharge. (To be fair, it wasndidn’t have a full charge when I started.)I kept comparing it to my seven year old Psion Series 7,  which (still) goes all day on a charge, and has a bigger screen (albeit not as bright and with a lower resolution); and my iphone – which is infinitely more usable and made much better use of its much smaller screen (see the Edward Tufte video here.)But that’s first impressions. I’ll spend some time with it and get back to you. If I can tear it away from the kids 🙂 

nintendo joins the party?

When it comes to handheld devices, the Nintendo DS is probably one of the most popular around – riding the trains in HK last year, I was staggered by the number of people toting DS lites and playing games whilst hanging on to the MTR railings. All the more so because many of them were female (unusually for a gaming device). Now comes word that the big N may be exploring the ebook market. Well, dipping a very tiny toe in. In Japan, there’s a title called DS Novel which consists of a hundred classics of Japanese literature on a DS cartridge. And maybe there are plans for a similar title in Europe. Given the DS Lite’s widespread appeal (the whole family loves the machine that is notionally *mine*), it may be interesting to see if the act of ‘reading’ can replicate the success of ‘brain training’! Not sure that the screen resolution will cut it for serious e-bookery, but if it does happen, it might be another example of a ‘good-enough’ multi-purpose device (rather than the dedicated ebook reader).

Amazon buys Audible

In what appears to be a move to dominate in the provision of book content in all its ‘e’ forms, Amazon has purchased Audible, the audio book company:

More digital ambitions from Amazon: The company is buying audio book pioneer Audible for $300 million. The $11.50 per share price is a 24% premium above yesterday’s close; it gets Jeff Bezos a company that lost $192,000 on sales of $27 million in its last quarter. 

As many have commented, much of audible’s revenue seems to come from itunes sales so it remains to be seen what this means for audiobooks in that channel. There is some suggestion that the Amazon takeover will mean that the Apple deal will not be renewed. I’m not so sure. Whilst the kindle does have rudimentary mp3 playing software, it would seem kind of shortsighted to ignore the biggest pmp market on the planet. After all, the Amazon music store sells non-DRM protected files that will play on ipods. Whatever happens, I suspect the names Apple and Amazon will continue to pop up in this space…