Archive for June, 2009|Monthly archive page

Give the boy a walkman…

OK, so this is pretty tangential, but make of it what you will. The BBC gave a 13 year old boy a Sony Walkman from way back and asked for his thoughts. Pick of the comments:

It took me three days to figure out that there was another side to the tape.

Cool 🙂

And here in Australia…

Quick link to a great overview of the Australian ebook environment in The Age.

E-reader comparison

Quick link to a SF Gate summary of dedicated ebook reading devices available in the states. Kindle 2 is their pick.

(thanks to John Burt)

The Future of the Book in NZ

Just back from the Future of the Book Conference in Auckland, New Zealand, where I did a couple of panels. There were problems with the wifi network in the hotel (hence the lack of posts) and then my flight was delayed 19 hours (well, actually we got an hour out of Sydney then were turned back by Australian Air Traffic Controllers who were apparently having radar issues. Take two didn’t happen until the next morning). Here’s some impressions from a fun, and informative few days (notwithstanding the travel issues!)

  • I blogged earlier this year that 2009 felt different in the e-book space. Sure enough, it seems that everyone (publishers, authors and the MSM) are interested. We had a fair amount of media interest and lots of publishers seemed to be attending.
  • The lack of specialist e-book device in the Antipodes leaves a yawning gap. But it’s still chicken and egg – Oz/NZ publishers are really only just testing the waters – but the impression is that they *know* that change is in the air
  • That gap is partly filled by the iphone. You could have been forgiven that part of the conference was an Apple fanboy festival 🙂 Even there though, Stanza users in Oz/NZ only make up 2-3% of lexcycle’s userbase (which is still a substantial number though). Probably because the content relationships are still being forged. (Chicken/egg again)…
  • EPub is winning the hearts in the format wars. And to my eyes, kindle (and its format) looks a little like Windows 1.0 – it’s a step towards the Amazon dominance, but there’s still time for other formats/platforms to play – they just have to remember what happened when Microsoft released Windows 3.0 (and hope that epub stakes its claim before Amazon gets to an analogous release.)
  • Publishers are thinking about new workflows to incorporate ebooks (or subcontracting the digitising of backlists). And whilst xml *should* play some role, I suspect the real-life ebook workflow will be the ‘export to epub’ button.

Engadget Reviews Kindle DX

And doesn’t say very nice things:

In the end, we’re just not sure Amazon put enough thought into the Kindle DX to justify the launch hype — fundamentally, it really is just a Kindle 2 with a larger screen and more storage, and while that means the core experience of simply reading a book is somewhat more pleasant, all of the Kindle 2’s limitations are still front and center, and in some ways made worse

Read the whole thing here.

The music store is dead…

Not quite, but we saw Tower records disappear a few years back, and now Manhattan’s last Virgin megastore is closed. From the New York Times:

It was the final day of business for the Virgin Megastore chain in North America, which at its peak had 23 locations but by Sunday was down to two: the 57,000-square-foot, two-level New York outlet, and a smaller Hollywood shop that was also set to close.

Of course, the reasons for the death of the Virgin Megastore are complex. As the Times piece points out, it was not just digital downloads, not just a global financial crisis, not just changing business approaches and owners. In truth it was a combination of factors. But to deny the impact of all things digital, particularly bittorrent and itunes would be foolish. Yes, the music industry is not the book industry. But….

Responding to Bruce…

Last week, Bruce Sterling posted a list of 18 challenges in contemporary literature on the Wired website. Ken Wark responsed with some very pithy and pertinent points on his facebook, so I’ll refraining from taking them all on, but here’s a comment or two:

Bruce Sterling #1. Literature is language-based and national; contemporary society is globalizing and polyglot.

Maybe. I think the second point is right, but there’s much literature that *is* global and polyglot. Ideas and concerns resonate across traditional national boundaries – the issues which concern urban youth have similarities whether they live in Sydney, New York, Berlin or Paris – and incrasingly Shanghai, Mumbai and Mexico City. And whilst language can be a constraint, it’s clear that our literature is responding to changing realities and becoming ‘globalisaing and polyglot’. Leave me Alone springs to mind as an example.

Bruce Sterling #3. Intellectual property systems failing.

This begs the question, “failing whom?” Remember intellectual property systems are supposed to balance providing ‘incentives to create’ with ‘furthering the progress of society’. Latterly, they seem to privilege preserving the profits of publishers. Are IP systems failing publishers? – in a bitTorrent age, probably. But it’s now easier to access creative works (both as producer and consumer) than in any previous epoch so *arguably* society is doing fine out of that ‘failure’. Do we need to talk about intellectual property systems? Absolutely. Does the system have to ensure that the ‘winners’ of the last 50 years remain ‘winners’?? Maybe not…

Bruce Sterling #9. Digital public-domain transforms traditional literary heritage into a huge, cost-free, portable, searchable database, radically transforming the reader’s relationship to belle-lettres.

In my local area, there are a number of large, cost-free, searchable repositories of literary material. They’re called public libraries. I visit with my kids regularly and we leave with stacks of dead-tree books to read. The reader’s relationship is not radically transformed by all of this being in the cloud – it’s just (potentially) way more accessible.

Bruce Sterling #15. Scholars steeped within the disciplines becoming cross-linked jack-of-all-trades virtual intelligentsia.

Got me there Bruce 🙂


Quick link to a piece of mine that the ABC published. Comments seem to reflect both sides of the discussion 🙂

E-Books are front page news!!

So, the idea of e-books finally made the front page of a broadsheet newspaper in Australia. Sure, today’s a public holiday and a slow-news day but even so, it’s nice to know that the word is spreading, albeit in the normal stuttering way. Today’s Sydney Morning Herald has a piece which says in part:

Like the music industry, which has fought and partly won the battle over free music downloads from sites like Kazaa and Limewire, the publishing industry is about to face a similar struggle with piracy as electronic books become a reality.

Nothing like a single sentence to frame the entire debate. Much more interesting was a comment (about Google’s new e-publishing venture):

But it [google] now plans to set up a new store to allow authors to publish their works and set their own price, in an arrangement that will allow authors to keep 80 per cent of the revenue.

Google is offering more than 60 per cent, which will pose a real challenge to the traditional publishing industry standard of 20 per cent royalties to writers.

To me, that’s a much more interesting story, but it changes the angle from one which threatens authors (which will resonate to readers) to one which threatens publishing companies (which will cause readers to care less…)

Still, nice to see belated front page recognition on something I’ve been banging on about for ages 🙂


For those who read with their noses…

Try this:

Does your Kindle leave you feeling like there’s something missing from your reading experience?

Have you been avoiding e-books because they just don’t smell right?

If you’ve been hesitant to jump on the e-book bandwagon, you’re not alone. Book lovers everywhere have resisted digital books because they still don’t compare to the experience of reading a good old fashioned paper book….