Thursday, 29 January 2009

Ebook e-distribution

Arthur Attwell

Ebook distribution and the problems of aggregation

The internet, and particularly the ebook industry, is littered with debates about aggregation and monopoly, and in many of those debates the two concepts are confused. Let’s be clear: aggregation is good, monopoly is bad.

For instance, a serious discussion is finally emerging over the Google Books settlement, a discussion that recognises the value of Google’s aggregation of book content and warns about the dangers of giving Google a monopoly over the control of that content, thereby potentially corrupting power (Tim O’Reilly gathers some of the best discussions on O’Reilly Radar, and Chris Castle is interesting in The Register). What are aggregation, monopoly and power in this context?

Google already pretty much controls Search on the internet, and Search is right now the key to power online. The usefulness of Search is a combination of massive aggregation of content and the ability to return good results to the searcher. Google runs this show not only because you and I use Searches to find what we’re looking for, but because every time we search for something, our search gets recorded, forming over time an immense dataset of people’s interests and contexts, often tied to individual users’ online identities. That dataset is then analysed and sold on in the form of contextual advertising, individualised search results, trend analysis and other kinds of analytics. By searching, we’re adding to Google’s brain, it’s knowledge of us as individuals and as a culture. As Kevin Kelly put it in his TED Talks presentation “Predicting the next 5,000 days of the web” in 2007: “who is searching who?” When everyone is using Google, our searches are microscopic components of a much greater view of the world, gathered in Google’s eye. When I search, I’m Frodo putting on the ring, Sauron suddenly alive to my whereabouts. Because of its massive ability to aggregate content and searches for it, Google has immense power. (So far, thankfully, it has no Nazgûl to unleash. I don’t think it will under its current management, but discussions like the one over the Google Books settlement aim to keep that door closed just in case.)

Google does not, however, have a monopoly. It leads Search because no one else does search as well as Google does it, but Yahoo and Microsoft and others do get a little piece of the pie, and no one’s stopping them from trying for more.
So now Google is adding books to its searchable content and therefore the usage stats from book searches to its brain. The settlement adds a new dimension to this: Google will be involved one way or another in the sale of the books listed in its searches as ebooks and perhaps eventually printed formats too. Much of the discussion around the Google Books settlement is about whether the settlement grants Google too much power by law, where till now its power has largely been earned by its ability to aggregate and filter content well. (For instance, the settlement may give Google undue influence over the book registry whose creation the settlement mandates, and in theory Google could list certain books higher in its search results, in relation to Google’s commercial stake in their sale.) Power granted by law starts looking like a monopoly. The settlement must allow for aggregation, but avoid granting any kind of monopoly.
We like aggregation, even if it leads to one company having a lot of power. In print books, Amazon is effectively the greatest aggregator of content and, as such, offers us a one-stop search for most books. iTunes offers the same for music. A one-stop search is not only useful, it’s critical, because in online retail, convenience and speed are half the value you’re selling. The value of aggregation is often worth the risk of corruptible power. But monopoly, imposed by law, is hard to break down and leads to slack business practices. Monopoly is less common in software and online than in physical goods and, when it emerges it’s often stamped out before long (the best example is perhaps the EU’s tough stance on Microsoft’s bundling Internet Explorer with Windows).

A monopoly of any sort in ebooks would be terrible, even if run by Google, the internet’s benevolent dictator. But the ebook industry desperately needs real aggregation. Ebook distribution is highly fragmented, despite the presence of large distributors like Ingram and OverDrive or distributor-retailers like As a user, I cannot go to one ebook store and know with any measure of certainty that I’ll find the book I’m looking for. This means that ebook shopping is all browsing-based shopping: browse around till something looks interesting, then maybe buy it. Online shopping, however, is about instant gratification, about search–find–buy in three clicks: no one has time to browse about any more.
Why has this happened? This are several contributing factors and I’m doubtless going to forget some in this list:

Problem: Distributors of ebooks make it expensive for retailers to list their ebooks. By expensive I mean they often charge set-up fees, in addition to a cut of sales. This (a) forces retailers to choose between distributors, at least when starting out, and (b) discourages small start-ups from entering the bookselling market. Solution: We need more automation in the distribution process, something like an open API for retailers to list and sell a distributor’s ebooks. It’s only a matter of time before a distributor drops the retailer set-up fee and provides a quick self-help facility for low-tech retailers, and in so doing encourages a surge in small ebook retailers with instant catalogues. (Interestingly, this is more or less possible already for print books, using a combination of wholesale book suppliers and Amazon’s Marketplace Sellers.)

Problem: Distributors are naively hoping they can become the Amazon or iTunes of ebooks, centralising ebook aggregation to themselves. As long as they’re battling over market share like this, they cannot allow just anyone to sell their ebooks (recently, OverDrive pulled its catalogue from retailer Fictionwise for reasons still unknown but much speculated about). Distributors end up in camps that hamper an end user’s ability to find and buy the ebooks they want. Solution: see point 1.

Problem: Publishers are too concerned about protecting their content with DRM (digital rights management), seemingly oblivious to the music industry’s hard learning experience. DRM adds to distributors’ costs and is almost always detrimental to customers. Publishers’ obsession with security (as opposed to convenience for customers) also forces distributors to gate keep (often with retail set-up fees or laborious registration processes), so that they can monitor the conduct of a manageable number of retailers. Solution: follow Pan Macmillan’s example and start dropping DRM.

Problem: In these early days of digitisation (early for book publishers at least), digitisation companies and distributors often make more money from services to publishers than from ebook sales, so their attention is not focused on competing for end-user ebook buyers. Solution: This is a teething issue and a chicken-and-egg situation: further aggregation of ebook catalogues, easier ebook-buying processes, standardised formats, and inevitable changes in reading habits will create more competition for ebook sales.
Problem: A plethora of ebook formats makes it hard to provide a one-stop shop. Solution: Thankfully the format wars look solved, with only PDF and epub left standing. The next step is solving the DRM debate (or admitting that it’s already over).

The raw power of Google, or an ebook Amazon or iTunes, would provide a useful centralised aggregator of ebooks and would go some way towards solving these problems. But the solutions would come far more easily if we could decentralise aggregation. By this I mean that publishers and distributors could make it possible for anyone to list and sell their books: if anyone could open an online retail store and instantly sell ebooks from any savvy distributor – no set-up fees or overnight processes involved – then we wouldn’t need Google for most of our ebook purchases. All retailers would carry almost all ebooks. And a retail store’s usefulness, and therefore its success, would be determined not by its catalogue but by the convenience and support it offered its customers.

Download ebooks on - See that post with different algorithms in metabole - See the journal French Metablog with today different posts -
PHONEREADER Library - - Jean-Philippe Pastor

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Mobile readers

Uing the T-Mobile G1 as an eBook reader

by Chris Gampat posted on January 27, 2009 11:39 am

Recently, a company name atrus123 started to release eBooks for the G1 via the Android App Market. I downloaded Dracula and Alice in Wonderland the other day for a test drive to see how they work and how the G1 functions as an eBook reader.

The G1 works out to be an excellent e-book reader on low power settings providing that you keep your finger on the screen and read fast (or set it to not time out.) The text looks great, even better than E-Ink. Users may set the size of the text depending on their preference. With a dimmed screen, text is still very readable.

Users can always keep their power management settings optimized for reading, but their battery may not last long enough to do other things like making a call. In this case, turning off Wifi, 3G, Bluetooth, and GPS could work to the user’s advantage.

Turning pages is as easy as flicking your finger across the arrows along the bottom of the screen. There is even a sound built in for pages being turned. This can be turned on or off. Don’t flick through pages too quickly though as the app may crash your G1 or make it force quit.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a way to turn the page without using the touchscreen although scrolling through pages can be done with the ball. Users will get a different experience opening up the keyboard and reading the books horizontally. It’s not quite as nice as reading it vertically, but it does allow a user to pause for a longer period of time without having to scroll down often.
Whenever you exit the app and restart the book, you can immediately pick back up from where you were as the app remembers where you left off. This is nice when you need to switch back and forth between IMs, email, or browsing the web if you’d like to look a word up. If not, the books have a table of contents and you can select whatever page you would like to view. Additionally, users can share their opinions about the book with other users.
It’s not all perfect though, the app can be slow to load at times and also can be laggy. Android may also force quit the app at any time for no real reason.

It is extremely pleasing to use the G1 as an eBook reader though, if it is plugged in then users can get even more power to their screen without having to worry about draining battery.
I’m not sure if this is a problem with the touchscreen or the app, but sometimes scrolling through a page can be a pain to do. The app (or the screen) doesn’t always seem to be very responsive. My guess would be that it is the app as it can be faulty at times.
The main drawback to using your G1 as an eBook reader is (as I’ve mentioned) battery drainage. It isn’t terrible, but if you’re using the power manager app you’ll steadily start to see the power level go down.

There are only three eBooks out at the time of writing this article for the G1: Dracula, Alice in Wonderland, and Call of the Wild. All of these books are public domain, so that means that more public domain titles should be coming to the G1. As far as other books go, we have yet to see if they will be available for download in the App Market as the market only allows for free downloads.

Download ebooks on - See that post with different algorithms in metabole - See the journal French Metablog with today different posts -PHONEREADER Library - - Jean-Philippe Pastor

Sunday, 25 January 2009

2009 Year of the eBook

Is 2009 finally the year that the eBook comes of age?

For too long it has been regarded as the spotty faced upstart but now with slicker software and greater distribution channels it appears to have finally grown up.

Caffeine Nights Publishing is pleased to announce the publication of its first eBook. Tripping is now available in electronic format and available to download from and a number of Internet bookstores. Caffeine Nights Publishing have used the latest page turning software for their eBooks to give the reader as real an experience as they can have while reading from a screen.
The publication in this format follows the Kent based company's announcement last year that their books will be available later this year to download direct to mobile phones. Darren E Laws, author of Tripping, is excited with the prospect of these digital editions. 'I am pleased that we are being innovative with our books and looking at new delivery platforms. It does seem that 2009 might well be the year eBooks finally come of age and be accepted in the mainstream. More and more people know of devices such as the Kindle from Amazon and Sony's eReader, and the technology available now to make eBooks is definitely bringing another level of experience to readers everywhere. Multimedia aspects such as video and audio/mp3 files will broaden the whole book reading experience.

'One of the key benefits eBooks brings is also an environmental bonus with trees being spared the axe and thousands of road miles of transportation being removed from the equation. eBooks also bring a price benefit and in these times of economic worry readers can still subscribe to their favourite authors at a fraction of the price as many eBook are up to 50% cheaper than their paper equivalent. Many publishers are also offering parts of the books for free as tasters.Tripping is now available for only £3.99 with the first 30 pages free-ENDS-Caffeine Nights PublishingBased in Kent and publishing contemporary and crime fiction. We aim to make you laugh, thrill you, scare you, have you on the edge of your seat with your fingers gripping the pages tightly, but most of all, we want to entertain you with fiction aimed at the heart and the head-

Editorial Enquiries for Caffeine Nights Publishing & Darren

Download ebooks on - See that post with different algorithms in metabole - See the journal French Metablog with today different posts -

PHONEREADER Library - - Jean-Philippe Pastor

Sunday, 11 January 2009

iPhone once again

Shortcovers to make an ebook reader out of iPhone

Shortcovers is a division of the Indigo Books & Music based in Canada.

The company has announced that they are soon going to launch their application on the Apple App Store which would enable the iPhone users to read books on their mobile devices.
The application would provide access to content such as books, short stories and other written works.

The app would be free. The company aims to generate by charging 99 cents a chapter. The first chapter of these books would be free to let the user device which ones are worth reading.
The company said: “People aren’t reading less, they are reading differently. Their attention spans are shorter.”

Download ebooks on - See that post with different algorithms in metabole - See the journal French Metablog with today different posts -
PHONEREADER Library - - Jean-Philippe Pastor

Saturday, 10 January 2009

I curse DRM

DRM Screws Users Again: eBooks About To Disappear Due To DRM Provider Shut Down
from the don't-buy-anything-with-DRM dept.

Around here, it's basically preaching to the choir, so most of you probably recognize this already, but buying anything with DRM on it is basically asking for trouble down the road. The latest example? An eBook seller named Fictionwise has realized that one of the companies that provides DRM for some of its books has announced that its shutting down at the end of the month. Because that DRM has to check in with an authentication server that's no longer going to be there, everyone who "bought" (really: incorrectly thought they bought) eBooks that used this DRM will discover that the books they paid for no longer work (Update: as noted in the comments, this DRM doesn't authenticate every time -- just any time you try to move the content to a new device. Also, Fictionwise is working to get replacements and has done so for many of the eBooks impacted already).

It's as if a publisher could retroactively erase the text from within a physical book that you bought. Since Fictionwise is just passing on the eBooks from third party aggregators, it has no means of replacing the "disappeared" eBooks. Has anyone found any thing that DRM is actually good for yet?

Download ebooks on - See that post with different algorithms in metabole - See the journal French Metablog with today different posts
-PHONEREADER Library - - Jean-Philippe Pastor

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Wi-Fi eBook Reader

E-Book connectivity should be free within existing plans unless some high usage metric is exceeded.

It should support Wi-Fi gracefully. Most people use these things in their own homes, in coffee joints and in other places where Wi-Fi is available. And it appears that is working on a Wi-Fi Kindle.

Download ebooks on - See that post with different algorithms in metabole - See the journal French Metablog with today different posts -PHONEREADER Library - - Jean-Philippe Pastor

Saturday, 3 January 2009

What is MiBook?

TECH TEST: MiBook is cheap, colorful e-book reader

Electronic books are the persistent wallflowers of the gadget world.

Consumers have snubbed them again and again in favor of a 500-year-old technology: ink printed on paper.Mindful of the dominance of paper, devices for reading electronic books so far have focused on providing an experience that's as close to traditional books as possible. But there is one that takes a completely different tack, so different that it brings into question the definition of "book."This is the MiBook (pronounced "my book"), a book-sized white slab with a 7-inch color screen. Its "books" are memory chips with instructional videos.

There are books available on cooking, home projects, gardening and child care.For instance, the "Amazing Party Food" book shows the steps to making 150 different dishes, including a raspberry souffle, accompanied by voiceover from the MiBook's speakers. After each step, the video pauses, waiting for you to hit a button and go on to the next one.

Is it still a book if it's a chip with videos on it? That depends on your viewpoint. But it's quite possible to consider it a book if it does what a book used to do.The MiBook, from Ohio-based startup Photoco Inc., is also considerably cheaper than Inc.'s Kindle or Sony Inc.'s Reader, which start at $300. The list price for the MiBook is $120, but it's available for as little as $75 online, including two books. Extra books are $20 each.The MiBook lacks the single greatest feature of the Kindle, which is wireless access to Amazon's e-book store, for near instant buying gratification. But both the Kindle and the Reader are limited by their "electronic ink" screen technology. It consumes very little power, but it can't show colors, and doesn't even do a good job of showing photos in shades of gray. Video is out of the question, because the display is very slow to update.The MiBook uses a very conventional liquid-crystal display. Since it uses much more power than electronic ink, the MiBook is designed to be used at home, connected to a power supply. It has a fold-out stand, so it can be placed upright on a kitchen counter, and comes with a small remote.But it also has a rechargeable battery, so it can be used untethered. Curiously, though, there's no indicator to tell you how much juice is left in the battery, or when it's fully charged. The manufacturer says the MiBook can show video for two hours on a charge, and cursory tests support that.The books are Secure Digital memory cards, used in digital cameras and other gadgets. The slot on the MiBook will accept SD cards with pictures, music, text and homemade videos on them, meaning it can double as a digital picture frame and music player, or even, yes, as a regular e-book reader.Sadly, the MiBook fails to fulfill its potential here, because its screen is of poor quality. Nothing looks really sharp, and it flickers.

This doesn't matter so much when showing video -- the screen is certainly no worse than an old tube TV set -- but the idea of reading a novel or even a short story on it is unappealing. Family pictures don't look very good either.Still, we can't dismiss the MiBook, particularly at $75. Despite its lack of buzz, it's certainly the most interesting e-book reader to come out since the Kindle, which is harder to get thanks to an endorsement by Oprah. The MiBook could be a good gift for someone who wants easy-to-follow directions for cooking or home projects.With a better screen and some attention to the battery issue, the MiBook could have a better shot. With a color screen, it will never have the battery life of the "serious" e-book readers, but it would last for some hours of reading around the house or on the commute. And is it too much to ask for Wi-Fi? That would open it up to book downloads from the Internet, and let it work as an Internet radio player. Oh, and keep the price under $100. Please, Santa. I'll expect it in your bag next year.

Download ebooks on - See that post with different algorithms in metabole - See the journal French Metablog with today different posts -PHONEREADER Library - - Jean-Philippe Pastor

Thursday, 1 January 2009

Perfect eBook reading

Another eBook reader- BeBook: phones work better

The race to produce the favorite dedicated eBook reader is going strong with word of the release of the BeBook Reader. This reader has the standard fare with some corner cutting to keep the price down. It is going up against a gaggle of readers, not the least of which are the two major ones, the Sony Reader and the Amazon Kindle.

We have long been ebook lovers and have tried nearly every dedicated reader to come along but don’t use any of them in the real world. We still find our phone to be the perfect eBook reading platform simply because it’s already with us everywhere we go. We have long used Windows Mobile phones, Blackberries and currently the iPhone to consume massive amounts of the written word.

BusinessWeek is becoming aware of this phenomenon given a recent article they published on the same subject. The author points out the same thing we’ve been saying for years:
Adam Parks is an avid reader of digital books. But you won’t find him downloading the 20 or so titles he reads each year onto an electronic book device like Amazon’s Kindle. Instead, Parks flips through pages—Web-site design manuals and Sun Tzu’s The Art of War are recent favorites—on his trusted iPhone.
Parks is one of a growing number of people getting their book fix via mobile phone, a method he considers more convenient than using a dedicated e-book reader like the Kindle or Sony’s Reader Digital Book. “I travel a lot in Asia and in the U.S.,” says Parks, a marketing executive who resides in Palm Beach, Fla. “If you are running from airport to airport and from city to city, bringing an extra piece of equipment loses some of its value.”

We couldn’t agree more and every new dedicated reader we try gets put up on the shelf in short order. Devices like the Kindle or Sony Reader provide a better reading experience with the bigger screen no doubt, but the phone is always in the pocket when reading time presents itself. Plus you don’t have a major disappointment when you travel and discover you left the Kindle at home. The phone is always available to sit down and relax with a good book.

Download ebooks on - See that post with different algorithms in metabole - See the journal French Metablog with today different posts -

PHONEREADER Library - - Jean-Philippe Pastor

Ima High Yellow

Ima High Yellow - What colour are you ?

Tips on how to get to know me better