Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue

10/15/2011

The Transubstantiation of the Printed Word


Physical bookshelf space was a bottleneck … really an inefficient flaw … under the old printed word publishing model. Not only bookshelf space in the bookstores, but also bookshelf space in the homes of buyers with limited space.

There is a solution, albeit one that will be resisted by some.

This by Mark O’Connell in The New Yorker:

The Book Scrappage Scheme

In a panel discussion on the continued rise of e-books at the Frankfurt Book Fair last week, Evan Schnittman of Bloomsbury Publishing made an obvious but nonetheless important point. “Print has an inherent flaw,” he said. “It needs shelf space.” It’s a truth that most readers bump up against at some point, especially those who live in small apartments and have to undertake periodic culls in order to free up space for new acquisitions. A company called 1Dollarscan, however, has come up with a somewhat radical solution to this problem. To bibliophiles, this particular cure might seem worse than the disease, but there’s no denying that it is a practical solution to a practical problem. Here’s how it works: you ship them your books, and they scan and digitize them into fully searchable PDF files before recycling the hard copies (i.e. pulping them). As the company’s name suggests, they charge a dollar for every 100 pages they digitize. The service’s appeal is obvious. You free up shelf space for new books (or for things other than books) and you get to keep the actual text itself, which you can access on a computer, tablet, e-reader, or smartphone.

1Dollarscan is the American outpost of a service called Bookscan that has been running successfully in Japan since last year. (Here’s a video of the process in action; it’s in Japanese, but you’ll get the idea.) Like most of his compatriots, the company’s founder, Yusuke Ohki, inhabits a very small living space. In 2010, he decided that his two thousand or so books were occupying more of his tiny Tokyo apartment than he was willing to put up with. He was also concerned about the prospect of his two young children being buried under an avalanche of paper and toppling shelves in the event of an earthquake. “There were lots of news in Japan that bookshelves were falling over in bookstores,” as he told Forbes, “and that people died after being stampeded by books after huge earthquakes.” He decided to scan his entire library into his iPad before getting rid of all the hard copies. Within months, he was running a company that did something similar for the paying public, and employing a staff of a hundred and twenty to do the scanning and shredding. The company took off partly on account of the Japanese e-book market lagging far behind that of the English-speaking world—murky copyright laws, higher prices, and the technical trickiness of rendering Japanese characters on e-reader screens have all been contributing factors. The fear of collapsing shelves invoked by Ohki has surely spread and intensified since the massive earthquake earlier this year; this, too, will have added to the success of his company. In a recent article on 1Dollarscan, the Economist pointed out that the reason the pages are discarded after scanning has to do with “the ambiguous borders of American copyright law.” When a book is scanned for the first time, the company does not retain a master copy; for copyright reasons, it must treat each copy as a unique item. In other words, every time they get a paperback of “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” or “The Da Vinci Code,” they have to go through the entire process anew.

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09/26/2011

Amazon Jumps From Passive E-Readers To Active Tablet Computers With ‘Kindle Fire’


 

Throw Some KINDLE on that FIRE!

Amazon has decided to do battle with Apple in the tablet computing world … “A” vs “A” so to speak 🙂

In an effort to stay more relevant in the rapidly changing tech universe, and not to fall prey to obsolescence (as did AOL), Amazon is trying to go more 3-dimensional by stretching from the digital retailing/e-reader biz into the more active and multifaceted tablet computing arena.

David Streitfeld  in The New York Times:

Amazon Has High Hopes for Its iPad Competitor 

SAN FRANCISCO — One after another, like moths to a flame, technology companies have been seduced into entering the market for tablets. Apple made it look so irresistible, with 29 million eager and sometimes fanatical consumers snapping up an iPad in the device’s first 15 months.

But neither Samsung nor Motorola nor Acer could beg or borrow any of Apple’s magic. Research in Motion, the maker of the BlackBerry, said it shipped only 200,000 of its PlayBooks in three months — about what Apple sells in three days. Hewlett-Packard, which flopped this summer with the TouchPad, was the latest to get burned.

Now comes a final competitor, the best-placed challenger of all: Amazon.com. The retailer is on the verge of introducing its own tablet, analysts predict, a souped-up color version of its Kindle e-reader that will undercut the iPad in price and aim to steal away a couple of million in unit sales by Christmas.

A competition between Amazon and Apple tablets will be a battle that pits the company that created the first popular e-reader (and set off a still-unfolding revolution in how books are consumed) against the company that created the first popular tablet (and set off a revolution in progress about how entertainment and other media are consumed).

Both companies are riding high, racking up record revenues and seeing their stock market valuations cruise to new peaks. Each has ample resources to enjoy a pitched struggle for people’s attention and their wallets.

Whichever company triumphs, said the Barclays analyst Anthony DiClemente, “the consumer is going to be the winner.”

“The fact that Amazon is making such a huge investment might make Apple come back into the market at a lower price point,” he suggested. “What’s to prevent them from slimming down the iPad?”

Most tech companies like to keep their cards close to their vests, but Amazon, like Apple, strives to render the whole deck invisible. It has, though, scheduled a news conference in Manhattan on Wednesday, and the speculation on technology blogs and among analysts is that the tablet will be unveiled.

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02/14/2011

Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Sales Tax


Question: Should e-book retailers have to charge sales tax in the state where their books are sold?

Hummm, interesting point; and all readers are encouraged to chime in…

Amazon is doing everything in their power to avoid collecting sales tax…even to the point of  threatening to terminate its affiliate program in certain states that may enact e-fairness legislation that requires Amazon to collect sales tax due on purchases by residents in those states and thereby putting their online affiliates out of business. Fair or unfair?

This Amazon conundrum has caused B&N to try and recruit the probably-pissed-off Amazon affiliates.

Sure, why not?

This blurb from Publishers Weekly: 

Barnes & Noble Courts Amazon Affiliates 

With Amazon determined to avoid collecting sales tax in as many states as possible for as long as possible, Barnes & Noble issued an open letter to Amazon affiliates urging them to sign on to its affiliate program, which it says has over 13,000 members. As part of its strategy to limit the states where it collects sales tax, Amazon has ended affiliate programs in a few states that have passed legislation calling for all online retailers to collect sales tax from out-of-state e-tailers. 
 
“We understand that Amazon.com has threatened to terminate its affiliate program in certain states that may enact e-fairness legislation that requires Amazon to collect sales tax due on purchases by residents in those states.” the letter begins.”Barnes & Noble is disappointed to hear that Amazon would threaten small businesses’ livelihood rather than comply with state law.” In large part because its stores gives it “nexus” in all states, B&N already collects sales tax for both its bricks-and-mortar stores as well as its online business. “Barnes & Noble wants Amazon.com affiliates who have been terminated to know that you are welcome to join the Barnes & Noble affiliate family. If Amazon doesn’t want you, we do! And, we will take care of collecting and remitting all sales taxes due on BN.com sales to its customers so you and our customers don’t have to worry about being hassled or prosecuted by state tax auditors,” the letter, signed by John Foley, president of BN.com, said.
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12/06/2010

Google Bookstore Snuffs E-Book Market Monopolies


In my post yesterday I ranted about the dumb Apple mis-management of their clients’ subscribers’ data; and mentioned that they would lose clients to Google and others if they didn’t change their hoarding of actual content provider subscription info…gained through docking on and selling through their iPad store.

Well Google opened their eBook store today! This should change the competitive landscape a little more than just a tad, my friends.

This account of the Google eBook store opening by Matthew Flamm of Crain’e New York Business:

Google shakes up e-book market

The long awaited Google e-bookstore opened for business Monday, heralding a possible sea change in the business of selling digital books.

Describing itself as the world’s largest e-books collection, Google eBooks has an inventory of more than 3 million titles, which includes millions of public domain books that are available for free, and several hundred thousand titles that are for sale.

Though some analysts have noted that Google is untested at e-commerce, the search giant’s digital bookstore has enough distinctive features to make it attractive for users, publishers and bookselling partners. Most significantly, Google is using a device-agnostic open e-publishing format, which makes its e-books compatible with computers and e-readers from Barnes & Noble, Sony and Kobo, which also use the open format.

A Google eBooks application can be downloaded for the Apple iPad and iPhone.

In addition, since Google has placed the titles in what is known as an “open cloud” platform, they can be accessed by the same user from a range of devices, each one picking up on the same page where the user left off.

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