Archive for January, 2009|Monthly archive page

The Cost of Print

Following on from the previous post looking back at a possible future, a piece at Silicon Alley Insider speculates about the cost of printing the New York Times. Not sure about the math, but they reckon you could give every subscriber a kindle for the price of print and distribution and have enough left to do it all again:

Are we trying to say the the New York Times should force all its print subscribers onto the Kindle or else? No. That would kill ad revenues and also, not everyone loves the Kindle.

What we’re trying to say is that as a technology for delivering the news, newsprint isn’t just expensive and inefficient; it’s laughably so.

The Past Future of Newspapers

This video is from 1981 – and shows some early adopters reading newspapers on their home computers. The paper is the SF Chronicle and the computer is a Radio Shack TRS-80 (embarassingly I once lusted after one of those and would have settled for one with 4kb RAM!). There are no graphics, the screen is black and white (green and black) and the experience is to a newspaper what an original Palm Pilot is to a printed book. Of course, we *all* read newspapers online now and the somewhat skeptical tone of the news anchor on the clip is pretty funny. And in a dozen years time, we’ll probably *all* read e-books and the somewhat skeptical tone of the naysayers will be pretty funny 🙂

New Kindle?

Mad busy at the moment, so just a quick link to a NY Times piece with suggestions of a new Kindle:

Mark your calendars, e-book fans: will introduce the next generation of its popular Kindle reader in New York City on Feb. 9.

I’ve just been LiveBlogged

Just gave a keynote a the Information Online conference here in Sydney – and been liveblogged over at stilgherrian. Cool 🙂

A very specific example…

But an example nonetheless. Over at O’Reilly’s Tools Of Change blog, there’s a post which looks at ‘iphone the missing manual’, which has be released as an iphone application (purchased from Apple’s app store) as well as a print book. Obviously, this is a title that you’d probably want to have on your iphone (although it could be tricky troubleshooting a dead iphone when you manual is on the bloody thing itself!!) so it’s a *very* specific example, but the iphone version is selling pretty well. According to the TOC blog:

  • If the iPhone App by itself had been a book, it would be a top 10 seller in BookScan for Computer Books this holiday season, based on just 17 days of sales
  • The print version appears to have been unaffected, retaining a solid position in the top 3 for Computer Books in BookScan
  • A full 1/3 of those buying the app are outside the US, mostly in countries where the print book is not readily available

So there’s a couple of interesting points. It’s possible to have an iphone ebook is a top 10 bestseller in its category against print titles. Again, I’ll caveat the specific nature of this example, but that’s still pretty impressive. And the electronic distribution model provides a significant advantage in international sales.

Books as (expensive) objects

The whole e-book thing often descends into a debate over whether people love book objects enough to ignore what should be obvious advantages of the electronic form (!) Obviously, some people do. Abebooks has just published their most expensive sales for 2008 and they make for interesting reading. Can’t image re-selling my ereader file of the new Bond book for anything like these numbers. The top 3:

  1. Etudes à l’Eau-Forte by Francis Seymour Haden – £11,130
    A collection of 25 etchings by Seymour Hayden – 24 of the plates depict the landscape around London, the Thames, Ireland and Wales and the final one is a portrait of Thomas Haden.  The text reproduces an article printed in the Gazette des Beaux-Arts by Philippe Burty and contains a catalogue of the etched work of Seymour Haden.
  2. L’Abou Naddara, Journal Arabe Illustre (1878-1884) by James Sanua – £8,400
    First edition published in 1878 and signed by author.  The complete set of the first eight years of Sahifat Abou Naddara issued in Paris. Sanua was called Ya’qub Rufa’il Sanu in Arabic but was often referred to by his pseudonym, Abu Naddara (‘father of spectacles’).
  3. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling – £8,320
    Rare first edition signed by JK with the dust wrapper panels signed by the cover artist Cliff Wright. The first issue has a misaligned block of text which was corrected in the subsequent issues.


(via Crikey)

Eco-worrier? Print v Screen…

There’s been an ongoing debate over whether print is worse for the planet than using a screen – some of it covered here  earlier. Today, Techcrunch has a piece which points to a Times article, which paints google as a big scary enviro-monster. According to the Times, physicist Alex Wissner-Gross has done some math:

Wissner-Gross has also calculated the CO2 emissions caused by individual use of the internet. His research indicates that viewing a simple web page generates about 0.02g of CO2 per second. This rises tenfold to about 0.2g of CO2 a second when viewing a website with complex images, animations or videos.

The piece then goes on to explore the ramifications of a simple google search – or the maintenance of a second life avatar. TechCrunch responds to The Times’ fears:

My issue with the article isn’t that it is factually incorrect – it’s that it paints Google as a malevolent force shrouded in secrecy, and that every time you use it (or one of the other mentioned companies like Twitter), you’re adding to the problem. In a word, it’s alarmist.

And continues:

single book runs around 2,500 grams of CO2, or more than 350 times a Google search. By some estimates, a single cheeseburger has a carbon footprint of around 3,600 grams – over 500 times larger than a Google search

As Kindle, iphone’s Stanza and others become more common, I suspect this debate will become more visible…

More on Keitai

Nice piece from Dana Goodyear in the New Yorker, exploring some of keitai fiction (cellphone novels).

Shirky on the Media

Nice Guardian article today with Clay Shirky’s thoughts on Media for 2009. A short para on books:

The book world is more secure. I think the big revolution is going to be print on demand. Imagine only having one browsing copy of every book in a bookstore. You could say “Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers looks good”, and out pops a brand new copy. Why does a bookstore or a publisher have to be in the shipping and warehousing business?

That last sentence resonates 🙂

Reality Check…

Some friends came over for dinner the other night– they’re the type of people that buy lots of books, read even more books and talk about them incessantly. So, of course we started chatting about what the kids were reading. Which followed a Christmas Day discussion with some family friends about how young people don’t read complex narratives anymore. (I won’t go there now though.)

Anyhow I started going off about the length of the first sentence of Anne of Green Gables (check it out if you haven’t already) and brought out the Sony Reader which had the Project Gutenberg edition installed. Our friends hadn’t really seen the Reader before and they were *totally* unimpressed. The screen elicited no positive comments, and the feedback was more about the glacial pace of the interface (and flicking through the Gutenberg credits did take forever). What’s more, showing off the ability to increase the font size (no reading glasses at dinner parties) took so long that we all gave up and moved on to the next rant for the evening.

Of course, the Reader’s screen is brilliant and it’s a very cool device – at least to us e-book geeks. But to these folk, the Sony was a non-event and definitely not enough to provoke a switch to electronic reading. Despite the fact that they love their Macs and spend half their time in front of their computers…