Archive for March, 2010|Monthly archive page

Get London Reading

Now this is pretty cool. An augmented reality app for your iphone that provides a potted literary guide to London:

The app for the Get London Reading Campaign, run by the Booktrust, comes with augmented reality, available on just a handful of iPhone offerings.“The augmented reality application is beautifully simple, yet inspiring,” KentLyons said in announcing Get London Reading. “Hold up your iPhone on any London street and a floating book cover will appear of any novels that are based, or mention in the area you are in. For instance, if you are standing on Baker Street, any number of the iconic Arthur Conan Doyles’ Sherlock Holmes titles will appear on the street view.“

13 minds on the tablet

A Wired magazine piece collating the thoughts of a few (albeit a thoughtful few) on the notion of the iPad and its ilk. In particular, this gem from Steven Johnson:

It has been an exhilarating ride, but it is coming to an end, and that magical experience of instantly pulling Middlemarch out of the ether and onto your Kindle suggests why: Compared to other kinds of information that computers process today, text has an exceptionally small footprint. With the arrival of the tablet, we have crossed a critical threshold: Where text is concerned, we effectively have infinite computational resources, connectivity, and portability. For decades, futurists have dreamed of the “universal book”: a handheld reading device that would give you instant access to every book in the Library of Congress. In the tablet era, it’s no longer technology holding us back from realizing that vision; it’s the copyright holders.

I’ll second that…

Give the people what they want…

When you create a reasonably frictionless retail system, customers begin to expect that it be frictionless. And that includes access to the things that they want to buy. For ebook users, the biggest complaint has been the range of titles available for download from their ebook store of choice. As an Australian kindle user, the cupboard is pretty bare, but Amazon is still the best of a pretty limited bunch. The trouble is, digital consumers want to be able to access *everything* and get extremely frustrated when they can’t. You can protest that it’s an unreasonable expectation, and it may well be. But it’s real. And users will make their feelings known. Check out this techcrunch post which explains how kindle users are using the review section of a p-book to complain about its non-availability as an e-book. Dragging down the ratings of the p-book in the process:

… less than half of those one star reviews are actually reviewing the book.

Instead, most of the reviewers’ ire relates to the fact that publishers WW Norton have decided not to release a Kindle version of the book at the same time as its hardback release. Writes one (pretty representative) reviewer by the name of Ben Kaplan:

“I’d like to add my name to the list of people who are very disappointed that this book does not have a Kindle edition. No, I haven’t read the book, but I want to — on my Kindle! If all these one star reviews lead to fewer sales, I think that would be a great result and an excellent lesson for the author/publisher.”

Of course it may not be the best place to complain, but as a frustrated wannabe purchaser, it’s as good a place as any…

Kindle for iPad

Amazon has demonstrated its kindle app for iPad, which not surprisingly takes advantage of the colour screen and the ability to animate. Looks pretty good and I for one would be happy to read to add another device that can read kindle books Of course, we have no idea if Apple will approve it.

Who would have thought?

And a followup to the last post on ebook pricing wars, a Bookseller article pins down the reason why people are beginning to embrace ebooks:

Kelly Gallagher, vice-president for publishing services at Bowker, which bought Book Marketing Limited earlier this year, told delegates that price was the main factor as to why a customer would plump for an e-book rather than its physical counterpart.

No surprise here. I’ve long argued that the e-book experience has to more better than the p-book one to attract readers. Whilst convenience is one factor, cost was always the big one…

More on eBook pricing

Piece in the New York Times today suggesting that ongoing pricing negotiations between publishers and what is boiling down to the Big two – Apple and Amazon:

Amazon has agreed in principle that the major publishers would be able to set prices in itsKindle store [as well]. But it is also demanding that they lock into three-year contracts and guarantee that no other competitor will get lower prices or better terms.

Apple, for its part, is requiring that publishers not permit other retailers to sell any e-books for less than what is listed in the iBookstore. So the publishers have sought to renegotiate agreements they have with Amazon under which they sold books to it at wholesale, allowing Amazon to set the consumer price.

And this interesting snippet – for those who have wondered whether the iBookstore is going to be more like the App Store (anyone can submit an app) or iTunes (harder for individuals to get a guernsey):

A new job posting on its Web site is for an “independent publisher account manager, iBookstore.” The posting says the person would be “responsible for building and growing relationships with small- and medium-size book publishers, self-published authors and other content providers for the iBookstore.”

A msg from DK

Quick link to a Youtube video from DK in the UK. A bit glib, and I’m not sure they get it right. But it’s kind of cute…

for eBooks, ePub = mp3

And this from Apple’s updated iPad website:

And you can add free ePub titles to iTunes and sync them to the iBooks app on your iPad.

Yay 🙂

B&N on the iPad

There is yet to be anything official from Apple, so we don’t know its stance on competing ereaders for the ipad, but at least one major competitor has announced its intention in no uncertain terms. Barnes and Noble:

We’ve been getting lots of questions from customers, so we wanted to confirm that we will soon be adding a new B&N eReader for iPad – continuing to fulfill our promise of providing consumers any book, any time, any where.

Designed specifically for the iPad, our new B&N eReader will give our customers access to more than one million eBooks, magazines and newspapers in the Barnes & Noble eBookstore, as well as the existing content in their Barnes & Noble digital library. (That includes eBooks and content customers have downloaded to their nook™ eBook reader.)

I’m hoping that Apple’s reasonable about this – after all, the iBookstore will be US only for the foreseeable future. And if I can run stanza, kindle (and even the B&N reader) on my iPad, I’ll be happy 🙂

Books and the App Store

An article in the Guardian is one of many that cites Moblix data which suggests that there are more ebook apps than games on Apple’sApp Store for iphone/ipod touch:

…there are more than 27,000 books now available as apps. Games lag behind, with 25,400 published this year, followed by entertainment, education and travel.

Of course, many of those books are re-packaged public domain titles, and others strange vanity publishing titles. What the figures don’t refer to is the hundreds of thousands of titles available via the various barnes and noble, kindle and stanza applications – which either incorporate bookstores/sources of their own or in the case of the kindle app provide easy access to the Amazon library.

Which mirrors a conversation I had with a colleague – should publishers create standalone apps or epub titles which can be read by and bought from within existing apps? Ultimately it depends on the book – cookbooks seem to be working really well as standalone apps – and some even take advantage of iphone features beyond the ebook reader. But for long form text, I’d lean towards the latter. One glance at the chaos that is the book section of the app store explains why. Searching for books is a pain and browsing is impossible. And with Apple’s forthcoming iBooks, it’s unlikely that they’ll bother to provide any more granularity in the section. Indeed, some are speculating that they’re more likely to let it die.

I suspect what’ll pan out is a fairly clear division. “Traditional” books – long form texts etc – will happily live in the ibook store, the reconfigured kind will exist as apps.