Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue

06/09/2011

Publishers Gain More Flexibility in iPad & iPhone Subs


The iPad and iPhone have become popular tools among magazine and newspaper readers.

Finally! Apple iStore has realized that their dictatorial management style RE pricing of subscriptions through apps in the iStore for the iPad and iPhone was a road to nowheresville, disgruntled customers and loss revenues.

Please refer to these previous posts for more background on this issue.

The latest today is from Crain’s New York Business:

Apple eases rules on iPad, iPhone subs

“Publishers will have more flexibility with Apple’s new digital publishing rules. They will now be allowed to undercut Apple’s app prices for subscriptions on their own websites and elsewhere.”

Apple has made a change that could help newspaper and magazine publishers make more money when they sell subscriptions for the iPad and iPhone.

The looser rules make it easier for publishers to sell subscriptions on Apple Inc.’s hot-selling devices outside the company’s online store.

Apple’s original subscription policy dictated that publishers couldn’t undercut the prices offered within their iPad and iPhone applications. Apple said Thursday that rule will no longer apply.

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04/23/2011

The Hackers Quarterly…and the Apple And Amazon Continuing Subscription Debacle


 

2600 Magazine - The Hackers Quarterly

For those who have not been properly introduced to 2600, the hackers quarterly magazine…I am formally presenting this mag to you tonight.

Along with the introduction is a dissertation on how they are expanding their online publishing platforms (read that as formats)…and how they are championing the elimination of DRM (digital rights management)…which they feel is an anti-consumer restriction/regulation.

What do you think? I admit I’m still puzzling over the DRM details!

By the way, DRM is defined as the use of software or other computer technology to manage the conditions under which copyrighted material in digital form can be accessed.

From 2600.com :

2600 EXPANDS ELECTRONIC PUBLISHING PLATFORMS 

The saga of our electronic publishing endeavors continues. We’ve grown weary of waiting for Amazon and Apple to work things out between them so that subscriptions can be available on the iPad, so we’ve bypassed their stalemate and made individual issues available for those devices. We’ve also made them available for the Barnes and Noble Nook. More is on the way.

The price of the current issue is set by Amazon – we have no control over this. We’re trying to get them to make it available for less and we’ve already managed to do this for back issues. Your support at this time gives us more leverage and will help to set the standard for the entire electronic publishing world.

We’re also fighting to have any DRM restrictions removed from our publications. Please stand behind us on this as it’s our chance to show other publishers that non-DRM is the way to go and that publications can indeed prosper in this environment without implementing crippling and anti-consumer regulations. If you’re annoyed by a policy or restriction of Amazon, etc., posting a negative review actually gives us LESS leverage as it’s seen as a reflection of 2600, not Amazon. Before Amazon accidentally removed Android compatibility, we were #1 in customer service on the entire Kindle Magazine section. The complaints against Amazon that came in after their blunder pushed us way under and were likely not even seen by those in charge. So if you’re happy or unhappy with what WE’RE doing, tell the world via the feedback option. If something annoys you that we’re not directly responsible for, let us know in an email (webmaster@2600) and we’ll look into it.

We’ve made a lot of progress in a relatively short amount of time but we know there’s a great deal more that needs to be done. We find ourselves at a very historic juncture, not just for us but for the whole publishing world.

This is where we stand at the moment:

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04/06/2011

Financial Times Still Nixing Apple’s Subscription Plan


Back to the intrigue of Apple’s greedy and asinine subscription plan for magazines and newspapers offered on its iPad and through its iTunes app store.

You are cordially invited to read my previous posts on this subject (all arranged at one convenient link) on my Writers Welcome Blog for more background on this issue.

Although the New York Times and a few others have signed up for the Apple subscription plan, the Financial Times and others have stayed away…saying ‘subscriber relationships are too important to give up in return for the convenience of in-app purchases.’

That last statement refers to Apple’s refusal to give subscriber demographics to the publishers who created them in the first place! This data is crucial to publishers for follow up customer service and special deal offerings among a host of other customer relations fulfillment issues.

This from Josh Lowensohn of CNET News

Financial Times not into Apple’s publishing rules

While some publishers like News Corp. and The New York Times Co. have jumped on board the digital subscription plan Apple unveiled in mid-February, others are bucking the trend, saying that subscriber relationships are too important to give up in return for the convenience of in-app purchases.

In an interview with Reuters yesterday, Rob Grimshaw, managing director of the Financial Times’ Web site, said the outlet was negotiating with Apple on a deal over its iPad subscription program. Grimshaw said that since having that user information and relationship was “at the core of our business model,” it wouldn’t make sense to give that up to Apple in return for a way to subscribe from within the app.

“If it turns out that one or another channel doesn’t mix with the way we want to do business, there’s a large number of other channels available to us,” Grimshaw told Reuters.

If a deal ends up being struck, it’s likely to send a message to other publishers that the stipulations within Apple’s new program are not set in stone.

Apple introduced its long-expected subscription program in February, offering publishers a chance to set both the price and length of subscriptions in return for Apple getting a 30 percent share. Publishers can get around the cut by bringing in existing or new subscribers from their own sites, though as part of the deal the publisher must maintain the same subscription terms and pricing elsewhere, which is problematic for publishers that want to offer special deals.

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04/04/2011

Exactly What is E-Book Distribution?


E-Book Distribution?

Many may already know the answer to this question…but, don’t realize they know the answer. So we are going to put things into focus with this post.

I was reading a piece about the coming launch of a new, and first, e-book distribution company in Brazil. Seems they are a few years behind us in this endeavor. Anyway, the news piece raised some questions in my mind as well as giving me an insight into how publishing companies think through establishing new formats and business models to keep up with the changing technology in publishing.  

Six big Brazilian publishers: Objetiva (partially owned by Santillana), Record, Sextante, Rocco, Planeta and L&PM — teamed up to launch an e-book distribution company called Distribuidora de Livros Digitais (DLD)…Which simply means Distributor of Digital Books in English.

The main question that flew into my mind while digesting this news was: ‘Hey, what the hell is involved in digital distribution?’ There’s no old- fashioned shipping and placing physical books in various, geographically separated bookstores and other outlets through contacts and contracts, etc…All that is involved is uploading your digital book for download to buyers, right?

Well, there is a little more involved, but not much. For instance, these e-book distributors must develop a platform to protect your e-book from piracy downloads, etc.

Go Publish Yourself gives a good initial definition of e-book distribution.

Now, just who are the e-book distributors in the good old U.S.A.? Anybody know off-hand? Again…many may already know the answer to this question…but, don’t realize they know the answer.

Author Wallace Wang, whose site’s mission is ‘meant to help potential authors understand how to self-publish, market, and ultimately profit from their books while avoiding traditional book publishers, stores, and distributors altogether’, has the answer…PLUS additional information and resources. 

Onward to the news article in Publishing Perspectives by Carlo Carrenho that churned all this in my mind (including an interview with Roberto Feith, Objetiva’s CEO and Chairman of DLD’s board):

Brazil’s DLD E-book Distribution Platform Opens For Business

A year after six Brazilian publishers launched the DLD e-book distribution platform, it opens for business today.
 
In March 2010, six Brazilian publishers –- Objetiva (partially owned by Santillana), Record, Sextante, Rocco, Planeta and L&PM — teamed up to launch an e-book distribution company called Distribuidora de Livros Digitais (DLD). The business model has several similarities with that of Libranda , in Spain –- though it’s a distinctly Brazilian enterprise. The company officially launched in August under the leadership of CEO Roberto Vaz Moreira. Since then the team has been working hard, albeit discretely, to launch the platform.

Still, it’s not uncommon in Brazilian publishing circles to hear the suggestion that DLD is little more than a good idea, one that is likely to remain vaporware…

In this exclusive interview, originally published in Portuguese at PublishNews, Roberto Feith, CEO of Objetiva and DLD’s chairman, openly reveals the actual plans, expectations and launch schedule of the new e-book distributor.

Please note that, at present, Brazil lags some three or four years behind the US in terms of digital development. Currently Xeriph is the only function e-book aggregator in Brazil, and Singular Digital is finding its way to becoming digital distribution hub for publishers. DLD, when it launches, will probably compete with both companies.

PublishNews Brazil: When will DLD launch its operation?

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03/21/2011

Is Amazon Becoming Too Amazonian?


Will Amazon slay writers in the future?

There are a lot of signs out in publishing land that indicate Amazon is positioning itself in a pretty complete vertical business structure ( acquiring both print-on-demand Booksurge and e-book tech software company Mobipocket as well as building and selling the e-reader Kindle) to become the dominant player (read that as monopolizer) in the current materializing publishing industry.

That, in and of itself, is not threatening…and they are playing somewhat fair (so far) with the true lifeblood of the industry: the content creators (writers and authors)…

But BEWARE! Do not let Amazon go completely unfettered or unchallenged because human nature and greed, being what they are, will succumb to complete dictatorship and the abuse of the content creators…Mark my words! Remember how out of whack traditional publishing became before being brought down.

There are other online entities and booksellers such as Apple’s iPad, Smashwords, Lulu, Barnes&Noble , etc…but, none have as complete a vertical package to go from publishing to reader as Amazon.

Let’s hope, for the sake of maintaining healthy competition and remuneration for all in what can be a great industry, that some of these other online enterprises (and complete newcomers) build their own self-contained verticals to save Amazon from itself and attract, nurture and grow great writers!

At least that’s the way this humble writer sees it.

Now, this by Anna Richardson from TheBookseller.com

Amazon could phase out publishers

Forbes.com looks at “how Amazon could change publishing”.

The first major technology-enabled change in the books industry came when digital print-on-demand presses started becoming affordable, but for authors looking to gain serious readership, the big question still remains unanswered: How would they market and distribute their books?

“Enter Amazon.com,” writes entrepreneur Sramana Mitra. “Some surveys suggest that online booksellers could become the largest channel for book sales by 2009, and Amazon is certainly the 800-pound gorilla in that market–it’s the largest bookseller in the world” and “what really keeps customers coming back is the outstanding user experience”, in great part due to its recommendation system.

In addition, in 2005, Amazon acquired the print-on-demand company BookSurge and Mobipocket.com, an e-book software company, and in November, it launched the e-book reader Kindle. According to Forbes, Amazon is now poised to revolutionise the book printing business through vertical integration.

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02/22/2011

The ‘New’ Apple iPad is Late to the Dance


I’ve heard that the new, updated Apple iPad’s actual shipping date has been moved back from April to June (production problems)…This will put it behind other new tablet version debuts (the Android OS market) by a couple of months.

So what, says I. I think Apple is playing catch up (with the anticipated upgrades in their new version) with some other tablets already on the market (Motorola’s Xoom, for example).  

But, you good people will decide if Apple will continue to be the main star in the tablet computer world. Their star is already dimmer due to the bungling of the Apple’s ‘publishers subscription plan’ for newspapers and magazines. This coupled with the new talent on the block will truly shape Apple’s place in the market.

This from Stefanie Botelho of FOLIO magazine:

The new iPad may be late to its own coming out party.

Yuanta Securities Co. reports iPad manufacturer Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. is experiencing “production bottlenecks”. The shipment of the new version of the tablet might be pushed back from April to June.

Apple announced the launch of its subscription app last week, with magazines like Popular Science, Elle and Nylon signing on board.

The delay is cited to changes Apple made to the design of the second iPad in January. Vincent Chen, analyst at Yuanta, shares, “Our checks suggest new issues are being encountered with the new production and it is taking time to resolve them,” according to Bloomberg.com.

This may mean good news for the Android market. Chen observes, “As a number of Android 3.0 tablets are being launched in April and May, the delay in iPad 2 shipments may give the Android camp a brief window of opportunity.” As of last quarter, Apple’s corner 75 percent of the global tablet market, with Android tablets claiming 22 percent.

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02/18/2011

Apple Pissing on Antitrust Laws


More on Apple’s asininity RE their new subscription plan (actually a power grab plan to control setting digital publishing standards).

Apple’s new subscription plan for publishers is drawing close eyeballing from both the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) and the Justice Department, both of which investigate ‘stifling-of-competition’ cases (why do we have this kind of overlap in our government agencies, anyway?)

Apple can spin this anyway they want…AND the FTC and Justice can rationalize this to avoid enforcing this rampant violation of our antitrust laws (as this writer sees it)…but, it won’t change the inherent fact that Apple’s conduct in their subscription requirements IS against the law and stinks of the skunk of greed!

More details in this report from the Wall Street Journal By Thomas Catan And Nathan Koppel :

U.S. antitrust enforcers have begun looking at the terms Apple Inc. set this week for media companies who want to sell their content on its popular iPad and other devices, according to people familiar with the matter.

The Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission’s interest in Apple’s new subscription service is at a preliminary stage, and might not develop into either a formal investigation or any action against the company. But it comes as Apple has attracted growing antitrust scrutiny in the U.S. and Europe.

A spokeswoman for the European Commission, the European Union’s executive arm, said Thursday that the commission was aware of the new subscription service and was “carefully monitoring the situation.”

The Justice Department and the FTC are both interested in examining whether Apple is running afoul of U.S. antitrust laws by funneling media companies’ customers into the payment system for its iTunes store—and taking a 30% cut, the people familiar with the situation said. The agencies both enforce federal antitrust laws and would have to decide which one of them would take the lead in the matter.

Representatives of the Justice Department, the FTC and Apple all declined to comment.

Apple’s rules don’t stop media companies from selling digital subscriptions on their own. But the company imposed restrictions that could make that option less attractive to customers, and steer more sales through its own system.

Apple keeps a tight grip over almost every aspect of its iPad tablet, iPhone and iPod music and video player. It decides which applications can run on them, and the devices work only with content delivered through its iTunes store.

That level of control has drawn complaints from publishers unhappy with the company’s subscription-sales terms.

Under Apple’s terms for the new service, companies that sell digital subscriptions to content on Apple devices would be required to make it available for sale through apps at the company’s iTunes App Store at the best available price.

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02/12/2011

Time, Inc. Tells Apple iPad: ‘Screw You!’


SI - Just one of Time, Inc.'s stable of mags

Did you realize that Time magazine, Inc. is the world’s largest mag company? I didn’t. But it does mean that they have some horsepower to go to war with Apple over iPad access mis-management (outrageous fees, controlling subscribers info, etc) for their own products as well as on behalf of  other magazine publishers.

Apple iPad might soon find their only mag & newspaper client is Rupert Murdoch’s new Daily…and readers can only read that on the iPad to the exclusion of all other eReaders…and there are MANY with more to come…what a trashing of customer base!

Please read my other posts RE Apple iPad access and apps on Writers Welcome Blog for more background on this sticky publishing intrigue. I have conveniently listed them consecutively here.

Jeff Bercovici of Forbes.com has the latest on Time magazine’s blow-by-blow with Apple:

Time, Inc. Strikes Blows for Publishers in Standoff with Apple

For Time Inc., the world’s biggest magazine company, the quickest way to get it titles onto iPad screens may be getting them onto other tablets first.

While other publishers wrangle with Apple over the ins and outs of subscription sales in the iTunes store — How big a cut does Apple get to keep? Who gets control of the consumer’s information? Should the customer get to choose? — Time Inc. is moving ahead diagonally, making deals with the makers of other devices in hopes of gaining leverage in its negotiations with Apple.

Today, Sports Illustrated introduced an “All Access” subscription plan that will allow readers to pay one price to read the magazine in print, online, on Samsung Galaxy tablets and on Android phones. Although newspapers including The Wall Street Journal already offer such an option, SI is the first magazine to do so, according to managing editor Terry McDonell. The news comes just in time for the magazine’s swimsuit issue, its biggest annual seller.

“This is an important and fulfilling day because it marks the end of a very long march for us,” he said at a press conference. A combined print/digital subscription will cost $48 for one year or $4.99 a month; existing print subscribers will have free digital access for the remainder of their terms.

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01/31/2011

Amazon (Kindle store) Trumping Apple (iPad store) in eBook AND Print Sales


Amazon is still king of the book-sales world, both e-books AND printed books…and shows no sign of slowing down!

Amazon had a respectable market share of printed-book sales in the pre-Kindle era. In the post-Kindle era, sales of e-books went ballistic, as expected…but, strangely enough, Amazon held on to the same per centage of printed-book sales also, despite the supposed decline of print!

This article bt Jim Milliot of Publisher’s Weekly offers a clear (with graphics) analysis of the Amazon and Apple book sales market share… with explanations by Peter Hildick-Smith, president of the Codex Group, an industry study and analytical group:    

Amazon Ups Its Edge
Apple notwithstanding, trends point toward more market power for the e-tailer

Apple caused a stir last week when it announced that it sold 7.3 million iPads in the quarter ended December 25, bringing the number of devices it has sold since it released the iPad last April to nearly 15 million. But even as the iPad gains traction among book buyers, the clear winner in the first stages of the book industry’s digital transition is Amazon. A survey of 6,250 frequent book buyers conducted by the Codex Group in early November found more book buyers acquiring their e-books for the iPad from Amazon’s Kindle store rather than through Apple’s iBookstore, with the Kindle store accounting for 40% of e-book sales for the iPad and the iBookstore 29% (one factor limiting sales through the iBookstore is that Random House e-books are not directly available there because RH is not using the agency model). John’s Note: I have posted on this and other issues with Random House on my Writers Welcome Blog (WWB)  

While Apple has already sold over three times more iPads in just nine months than Amazon is estimated to have sold Kindles in three years, the sale of Kindles has had a huge impact in increasing Amazon’s “share of wallet” among book buyers, the Codex survey found. Before acquiring a Kindle, book buyers made about 14% of their unit purchases at Amazon, a figure that tripled to just over 37% after they bought a Kindle. “It’s the most amazing retail share growth strategy I’ve ever seen,” said Codex president Peter Hildick-Smith, who has also worked extensively in developing retail growth strategies for stores ranging from Wal-Mart to Harrods. The increase in market share came entirely from book buyers’ added purchase of e-books, with 28.1% of all unit buys of frequent book buyers coming from the Kindle store. But Hildick-Smith said it was equally impressive that Amazon was able to hang on to almost the same market share of book buyers’ print purchases even as buyers were substantially increasing their e-book purchases.

While e-book purchases do not appear to be cannibalizing print sales at Amazon, the Kindle store has to be taking sales away from somewhere, and Hildick-Smith believes it is from bricks-and-mortar stores. With the decline in the number of bookstores, publishers are losing not only the top sales channel but the most important showcase for their new titles. According to the Codex survey, bookstores remain, by far, the most important way book buyers learn about new books: 28% of all book buyers said they learned about the last book they bought by browsing in a bookstore or through a bookstore display, while 14.5% were discovered through a friend’s recommendation. Even among iPad users, 32% of device owners learned about their last book purchased through digital sources (an e-bookstore, author Web site, and other sources), but 23% discovered the book they bought at a bookstore.

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12/05/2010

iPad Falling Behind in the “Savior of Publishing” Race – And Rightfully So!


Holy shitswowski! What’s going on with Apple and it’s stupid approach to putting up roadblocks to potential magazine and newspaper publishing clients in it’s iTunes Store RE handling of subscriptions?

Many popular magazine and newspaper iPad apps have already been developed to allow selling digital versions through Apple…AND the so-called Apple visionaries (idiots is more like it) are not allowing the personal information of subscribers to be accessed and managed by the content providers themselves!

Why? What is the purpose of this greedy hoarding? This should be a win-win situation for all parties to be more monetarily successful. The more direct use of personal demographic info will result in more targeted success for the newspaper and mag clients AND should result in more volume biz for the Apple iTunes Store.

Can someone with more insight than I explain this to me?

If Apple stays on this dumb course I think the popular mags and newspapers will take their business elsewhere. And where is that, you might ask? To the upcoming and surging Google and Android platforms, of course!

Also, Apple is demanding too damn much of a cut (30%) to allow the apps! Remember that great line from the New York gubernatorial campaign: The rent is too damn high!

Read these previous posts of mine for more background on this issue:

From this blog, Time Magazine is Unhappy with iPad Publishing

From Writers Thought for Today Blog, Publishers Becoming Wary of Apple

Here is a current little ditty on iPad News: Apple, Publishers Clash on Subscriptions from iPad.net :

The iPad has been looked upon as the “savior” of the publishing industry, but relations between Apple and major publishers have hit an impasse that may be insurmountable. If the two cannot agree on key issues, the publishers may be taking their business elsewhere.

We’ve been hearing rumors for months that iPad apps for numerous popular magazine and newspaper titles will become available for subscriptions at the iTunes Store. Now the reasons for the delay have surfaced. According to Peter Kafka at MediaMemo, Apple and the publishers are “still miles apart” when it comes to the terms for how to sell subscriptions.

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