Friday, December 21, 2007

Some Good Things Predicted for 2008

  1. Apple's multi-touch interface will spread from the iPhone and enrich the way we use personal computers (Microsoft will introduce something similar).
  2. The Google phones (Android) will show, once and for all, that we do not need dedicated eBook readers, and Exact Editions' magazines will be as easily read on Android devices as on iPhones.
  3. Safari and some other browsers will offer resolution independent imaging, so that photos or digital editions can be easily resized to fit the viewing environment.
  4. Google will not tell us how many books are searchable through Google Book Search. But best estimates will conclude that there are over 4 million titles in GBS by the end of 2008.
  5. A much improved Kindle II will appear in the summer from Amazon. But it will still lack colour, and it will not be easy to get hold of one (insufficient E ink). Do not count on them reaching the UK.
  6. One of the UK's big magazine publishers will finally enter the digital magazine age and offer digital subscriptions to (nearly) all their magazines. The big 6, in our view, comprise: IPC, EMAP (we may by then have learned to call it Bauer), BBC Magazines, NatMags, Future and Conde Nast. The big American magazine companies will not be leading the way -- Hachette in France have already done that in 2007.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Growing Functionality in 2007

The Exact Editions system added some important functionality this year.

  1. In July we added The Clipper to the toolbar (its a publisher/opt-out tool, so some accounts will not have it). This allows users to make limited clippings from their magazine subscriptions, for example to include a clipping and citation in a blog. One of the heaviest users of the clipping tool is a Finnish blog about running.
  2. In September with advice and help from Le Monde Diplomatique we introduced a French Language version of our interface (tool tips in French!), and LMD was the first French language periodical on the platform.
  3. At the same time we introduced a French Shop. This may seem like a small thing, but the shop is now a 'versionable' layer of code, so there can be a shop for any service which needs to deploy the Exact Editions content engine. For different currencies and languages or specific groups of publications. There will be many shops federated within the Exact Editions platform in the coming year.
  4. For the first 18 months Exact Editions was only able to provide single user password controlled accounts. From October 2007, institutional access was introduced (another publisher-dependent option).
  5. Also in October Berkshire Publishing became the first book publisher to use the platform for promoting its reference titles.
  6. In December ISBNs became a standardly clickable feature in the Exact Editions platform. Clicking on an ISBN takes you to a page like this.
If there is a common theme to these developments it is that a web service needs to extend its capapbilities so that it can serve more users (Francophone web users or institutions), and in a more pervasive and interactive way (Clipping/citations and interactive ISBNs).

Another common feature of these enhancements is that the development cycle was quite short, no more than a few months, and in some cases a few days. A web service can build its functionality gradually and cummulatively, but it can do so much more quickly than the traditional software package. Where innovation is needed, audiences are much preferable to installed bases.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Prospects for Magazines

David Hepworth, whose day job is at Development Hell, writes a well-informed but sometimes rather jaundiced column on the magazine business for the Guardian. This week's column is typically bleak on the industry's prospects for 2008 and it includes this comment:

The chief executive of one big publisher of women's weeklies told me that he had given up pretending with investors and was prepared to confess that he could not see a way that his company would ever make money out of the internet. History will either see this as a hopeless lack of vision or admirable good sense, depending on how things work out.

The subtitle to Hepworth's column has the heading: "It is not that people have fallen out of love with mags - they just don't want to pay for them". Well that is plain wrong. Perhaps Hepworth's views are conditioned by the woes of the music industry, which has a serious format/service problem. CDs are a product that consumers no longer want to pay for, but magazines remain very popular as a format. Magazines are still attracting subscriptions from consumers, and the good news is that digital subscriptions are working.

What about advertising? One of the big challenges for Exact Editions in the next year will be to help magazine publishers to show that advertisements in digital magazines adds significantly to the value of the magazine proposition for advertisers. Magazine publishers tend to attract significant and highly targetted niche markets. These collections of consumers remain very valuable and yes -- hopeless lack of vision is more of a problem.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Are Knols the Google Kindle?

Yesterday Google announced (see Udi Manber on the Googleblog) that it was developing and supporting a Wikipedia-like network of Knols which will provide us all with authoritative, collaboratively-authored, information resources. Here are some enthusiastic responses from John Batelle and Peter Suber.

Amazon announced that it was putting SimpleDB its enterprise-scale cloud-based database into private beta. Here are some enthusiastic responses from Nitin Borwankar and Erick Schonfeld.

Google and Amazon are two terrific companies. These both look like important announcements. But we wonder if they will both appear to be significant in 12 months time? My money would go on the SimpleDB service (though I am not competent to judge its technical plausibility). A cloud-based generic database, relational/object oriented, with scaleable and low metred access charges? Sounds like the way to go.

Google becoming a content publisher with a service to rival or complement Wikipedia? Hmm......I doubt that Google is the right environment in which to grow that project. For sure Google will be more concerned about the Amazon announcement than Amazon will be by the Google announcement. Google's knol universe looks a bit like the mis-step to accompany Amazon's Kindle. Some innovations simply do not work, even when they are launched by innovative companies.

On the basis of recent developments, one should be properly sceptical with any new product or service which begins with a 'k'. Apple's smart new touchscreen laptop/tablet will appear in January and it will not be called the Klamshell or the Kaboose. I will lay you long odds on that.

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Optimal Term of Copyright

Rufus Pollock, a researcher at Cambridge University, has produced a rather brilliant but difficult, because formal and mathematical proof (whilst yet embodying many empirical propositions), that the term of copyright should be much lower than it is now, and that it should in general become shorter as technology advances. He suggests that the optimum term of copyright should be about 15 years from creation. The argument is complex, but he provides some neat informal guidance vis:

........consider the situation with respect to books, music, or film. Today, a man could spend a lifetime simply reading the greats of the nineteenth century, watching the classic movies of Hollywood’s (and Europe’s) golden age or listening to music recorded before 1965. This does not mean new work isn’t valuable but it surely means it is less valuable from a welfare point of view than it was when these media had first sprung into existence. Furthermore, if we increase protection we not only restrict access to works of the future but also to those of the past.
As a result the optimal level of protection must be lower than it was initially in fact it must fall gradually over time as our store of the creative work of past generations gradually accumulates to its long-term level. Forever Minus a Day?...

Pollock does not consider the related question: how will the efficient and optimal pricing of information services respond to changes in technology which reduce barriers to access? As more information becomes available how should a commercial information supplier i.e. a publisher, price his subscription services? How much should be given away and what to charge for that which is sold?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Clickable ISBN's

The Exact Editions system now makes ISBNs clickable and the first examples (for subscribers only, as the issue is behind the subs pay-wall) are in the current issue of Opera magazine.

This is the example that I tried first:

Which today takes you to this page. ISBNs have recently gone to 13 digits (that allows for a lot of books and publishers) but Amazon is currently using a look-up table for the 13 digit numbers, which is why you land on a results page. Currently we target the Amazon UK pages by default, but this should become a configurable option.

Clickable phone numbers and clickable ISBNs......more good things for the iPhone.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

EMAP consumer titles sold to Bauer

EMAP has sold its consumer magazines to the German media company Bauer, but was not able to realise a satisfactory price for the B2B businesses. When the company was put on the block the commentators thought that it would be the consumer magazines that would be hard to sell. Perhaps Bauer know something that the industry pundits and the EMAP management did not understand. Consumer magazines could yet become a growth business. EMAPs consumer business has been rudderless in the last few years -- certainly without a discernible digital strategy -- so perhaps all that is needed to turn them round is some pruning, some investment and some loving attention. Getting a digital strategy that boosts advertising and circulation has to be a part of the new direction for consumer magazines.

ACAP and OpenID

A year ago there was a flurry of legal action between Google and European newspaper publishers. A group of publishers (newspapers, book publishers and others) have since supported the development of a new and more complicated protocol which is intended to supplement and, to an extent, to replace the 'robots.txt' protocol that regulates the behaviour of spiders and search engines. ACAP (Autormated Content Access Protocol) is the result. This proposed standard has received sceptical notices from O'Reilly Radar and Lauren Weinstein. And a damning and derisive review from Martin Belam.

The whole ACAP initiative and the publisher gripeing about Google is misplaced. Rather than figuring out how to control and micro-manage the existing search engines, publishers need to be prepared to be as open as possible, whilst still selling what they determine they can sell by way of subscriptions. While ACAP isnt as goofy as file-based DRM, it could only be developed by a publisher mindset that is looking in the wrong direction. The evolving standard that we should really be concerned about is OpenID. This standard will be important and useful to subscription-serving publishers because there is a great case for providing subscription services which inter-operate and recognise their varying membership policies. Publishers need to spend more time on enabling communities of readers and less time devising protocols for micro-managing copyrights. See the Radar post on OpenID. See also WhatIsOpenID.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Tabs in the Kiosk

You probably noticed that we recently inserted some tabs on the home page.

Its one of the great advantages of the way the web works, hierarchical (page oriented -- but forking), that makes it possible for such a tabbed system to accommodate 100's of magazines. We will need something else when we have 1,000s of titles. I guess the 'kiosk' will feel more like a library at that point.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Magazine Subscriptions as Christmas Presents

Exact Editions now has a very straightforward process through which you can give a subscription to a digital magazine for Christmas (or as a present on any other occasion). I can think of two people who will be getting Opera from me this year and one who should receive Le Monde Diplomatique. We should give this present-giving feature more publicity, and two possible angles of interest spring to mind.

  1. We could emphasize the ecological benefits of giving a digital magazine subscription. The digital edition must have a very small carbon footprint in comparison to the carbon costs associated with conventional print magazines. But it is not an easy matter to say how much less the carbon footprint of the digital offering is than the print magazine. Some back of the envelope calculations suggest that a digital magazine must be at least 90% lower in its carbon footprint than the printed equivalent. It would be good if someone could confirm or qualify this guesstimate.
  2. But the second angle of attack -- through which we might spark interest in the digital gift idea is the very convenience attached to giving a digital subscription. You only need to know the email address of the recipient (which is a slight problem for me since I know the email addresses of only about half of my nephews and nieces -- the ideal target for quick and troublefree Christmas shopping). But once you have the email address you can even leave the selection and ordering of the present to the very last minute. In fact we will surely get some Christmas presents ordered on the 25th for delivery on the 25th -- can you think of a better way of covering the embarassing fact that you spilt/broke/lost/forgot Brother-in-law's present and only realised this late on 24th when all the shops are shut. Digital magazines are perfectly convenient in this regard, and so should appeal to a wide audience of late and/or forgetful givers.
Any ideas for how we can develop some viral marketing along these lines will be received with gratitude and the best third-party suggestion submitted to or in comments to this posting will be rewarded with a free digital subscription.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Digital Books in 2008?

The London-based Bookseller's Association has just released a report, Embracing the Digital Age, on the coming tide of digital books. It is short, non-technical, pithy, well-researched and free. It is possibly too sanguine about the potential for traditional bookseller involvement in the developing digital market. But the text points towards challenging opportunities for booksellers who can re-invent and re-position their business. The main authors (Francis Bennett and Michael Holdsworth, both experienced publishers rather than booksellers) clearly believe that the book trade is entering a transforming phase. Right now. But they acknowledge that it is not easy to produce firm evidence for the immediacy of change and opportunity:

We have been asked on a number of occasions to define the size of the digital market. How large will it be in two or five years’ time? Without such a figure, we know that some larger organisations may find it difficult to justify investment in digital processes. We have asked this question of experts in the UK and the USA, and no one has come up with a satisfactory answer. We are not surprised by this. (Embracing the Digital Age p 11.)

Another recent report, MarketIntelNow's: ANWO eBooks survey suggests that the coming change may be closer and more radical than most publishers or booksellers suppose. This report costs $995, so I will probably not read it, but we can glean some of its findings from the excellent interview with Marie Campbell at the TeleRead blog. She thinks that the publishing market will boom with digital. The right environment will materialise soon, like almost now (her interview was just before the Kindle release). Demand is highly elastic, publishers will soon find this out and then prices will rapidly drop. (Digital prices) "may start around $10.00 each, but come down in the 2008-09 timeframe and approach $5.00." As she puts it the publishing industry is "blessed with ELASTICITY". She reckons that the $5.00 price is approaching the point of pain for publishers and at that stage advertising and sponsored books will take over. They will be big, but the gains in advertising will accrue to the biggest players -- because only the biggest networks can monetise the clickstream (the free, but copyright, digital book market is where Google, Apple and Amazon will have the big literary fight -- my guess).

If Marie Campbell has got her reasearch and her analysis right, the Christmas book market in 2009 will be disrupted by digital books. Digital books will be really happening then. So what do we do in 2008?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Kindle Reviewed

There was an amusing, very watchable, but unkind review of the Amazon eBook reader by Robert Scoble

The review is rude and harsh to unfair (and Scoble admits as much), partly because he doesn't dwell on the good/interesting points. He does however say that he read two books on the device, serious books (at least one of them was since it was by Greenspan). That seems to me an important plus for the Kindle. He had lots to complain about but he read two books.

A more thoughtful review comes from Ars Technica. John Timmer gives a convincing account of what it is like to use the Kindle and he introduces the fruitful concept of a 'Reading Model' (different media influence how the text they contain gets read in different ways). You should read the whole piece but you will get the flavour of the discussion from this:

I'll leave it to you to ponder the reading models of newspapers and magazines in order to focus on the Kindle's reading model, which is largely enforced by a combination of the E Ink screen and the underlying operating system. Like a book, the Kindle enforces arbitrary page contents based on what can be rendered in a single screen, and is read left-to-right.
There are only a couple of cases where books probably won't work well. One is with books that feature heavy use of illustrations or pictures, as not all images display well on the E Ink screen. The delays involved in flipping long distances forward or backwards page-by-page means that books without a good chapter structure or readers that constantly shuffle around their book will have problems with the Kindle's reading model. Otherwise, Amazon clearly has the book thing down. [Ars Technica]
This review gives insight into what its like to read with the Kindle. Its very helpful that John Timmer has tried to define the style of reading to which this machine lends itself (he guesses that commuters will like it). We have the impression that the pagination of a book on the Amazon Kindle is not the same as the pagination in print (clearly the newspapers and magazines are 'repurposed' and lose their print pagination). That is a pity. But the Kindle may have a more promising second coming when the engineers have absorbed Scoble's usability strictures. In mid 2008 it will probably look and feel a bit more like the iTouch/iPhone!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Magazines for Christmas

From today you can buy subscriptions to Exact Editions magazines as gifts.

Suppose that you want to give your best friend a sub to AnOther Man. You go shopping for the magazine.

Now you have a choice, so you click on the link 'Buy as a gift'. You will need your friend's email address and you have the opportunity to sent a suitable message, and you should tell us when to dispatch the email alert which will open his/her subscription. You could also buy him a subscription to AnOther Magazine or any other magazine and then he will have two magazines in his account. Choices, choices.....

Only 30 digital-shopping days to Christmas!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Reading Books or the Web

The USA's National Endowment for the Arts has produced a report based on a survey of american reading habits. Respectable blogs, Resource Shelf and Print is Dead included, have been giving its conclusions more weight than the report deserves. The surveys on which the report is based, do not attempt to measure the massive growth in consumer and educational use of the web, and employ a definition of 'reading' which seems to presuppose that the only form of reading worth measuring is the reading of (printed) books. No serious consideration is given to a contemporary understanding of 'literacy', which now includes using the web as a reading and information-giving resource. The researchers were continuing a questionaire-based survey which was probably poorly formulated when it was first conducted in 2004. Too much attention is given to TV, not nearly enough to the web, and to the extent to which web interactions are literary.

If we want to understand the reading habits of today we have to do so in the context of the reading teens do on the web (not just email and blogs, but eBay, Facebook, Google and even YouTube, where comments and tags are crucial to navigation). Most web interaction is heavily reading-impregnated.

The pedestrian quality of the report is rather betrayed by this excerpt:

Opinions aside, there is a shortage of scientific research on the effects of
screen reading—not only on long-term patterns of news consumption, but more
importantly, on the development of young minds and young readers. (A good
research question is whether the hyperlinks, pop-up windows, and other extra-
textual features of screen reading can sharpen a child’s ability to perform sus-
tained reading, or whether they impose unhelpful distractions.) Some of the
difficulty stems from the constantly evolving nature of information technology...
(To Read or Not to Read p53)
Perhaps the person who wrote this sentence had a premonition that their report had missed the key issues. [It is news to me that a hyperlink is an 'extra-textual' feature. Nothing about the web is more deeply textual than the links of which it is composed]. Reading has been moving to the web since 1994 and more research needs to be done on what cultural and educational issues that poses. But not by the team that have produced the NEA report.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Amazon versus Google for eBooks?

If Amazon have made a false move with the Kindle, who benefits? One beneficiary is surely going to be Apple. The iPhone and the iTouch are already very text capable and they will only get more so as Apple extends the touchscreen interface to larger systems. But the other big gainer, in the long-term perhaps the biggest beneficiary, is going to be Google. Google with its Book Search program and its alliances with publishers and libraries is going to occupy the place that would otherwise appear to be Amazon's of becoming our preferred source of access to published literature. Amazon seems to have taken a wrong turn in supposing that distribution, rather than access and search, is the key challenge for digital print.

The TeleRead blog has been giving the most thorough all-round coverage of the Kindle and Sony eBook readers. David Rothman who blogs many of the TeleRead pieces admits to being close to being a Kindle supporter; he probably would be, if only it eschewed DRM and embraced the .epub Open eBook standard. But what would Google say to the .epub format? Google will ignore .epub, which is inimical to their advertising business model. The Google Book Search approach makes downloads irrelevant (the downloads GBS provides are very clunky, much less usable than the online GBS), in fact, for Google, downloads are just as outmoded and uneccessary as DRM.

Google and Apple, between them already have the solution for eBooks (and its not a download solution). Read and search on your iPhone and access via a web browser, anything in print can be handled that way. More to the point: everything in print can be handled that way. Everything will be searched via the web, everything will be accessed via the web. Downloads are pretty much of an irrelevance. The question is: what do authors and publishers plan to do about that?

Answer: "Maybe the publishers should themselves try selling/granting access direct". Aside from Google with its Book Search, the publishers are the other variable in the market-place which has a promising opportunity if the Amazon Kindle download system bombs. Evan Schnittman at the OUP blog nearly gets there. After all, scientific and technical publishers have made a reasonable fist of creating a digital market for their STM periodicals. Book publishers need to create access opportunities and figure out how to sell digitally direct.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Content Serving and Guanxi

The Exact Editions content management service is being used by a good number of publications and organizations to showcase their literature. These applications may have nothing at all to do with the consumer magazines service which is hosted at

But our servers, our scripts and our databases are doing the work and we have a capacity to deliver these third party services so that the content served is branded for the publisher. This is an interesting set of features.

Here are a few examples of our silent third party work. The Scientist magazine is now providing open access to its current issue, and supplying an alert service to its 'controlled circulation' audience. You can sample the current issue here:

In fact, I particularly recommend the current issue which has an intriguing article on 'Open Access' by Joe Esposito. He offers this arresting thought

Note that this particular issue will only be on open access till the December issue appears. After which time clicking on the clipping above will take you to a log-in page.

Another service which shows how the content can be delivered with a completely different look and feel is available from the international charity, INEE (the Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies:
Note from the Table of Contents that the icons, the surrounding 'furniture' of the page, and the highlights for page numbers, have been adapted to the colour scheme of the sponsor.

For well over a year we have been powering an open access version of The Publican magazine. The substantial archive is available at The current issue has a fascinating piece about a brand extension of which I was completely unaware 'Pimms Winter'.

'Pimms in Winter' its pretty much an oxymoron. Do you think they had to go to Henley or Ascot to shoot the teapot with its snowy field?

The last example of Exact Editions providing a content service for a third party that I want to mention is for Guanxi, business and culture newsletters for the Chinese market.
I have absolutely no idea what the ideograms that accompany the title mean. Presumably they mean 'Guanxi', whatever that means! ('Savoir faire' may be one of the closer European approximations.)But it is very reassuring that our system picks up the ideograms from the PDF file and uses them appropriately in the title legend, and in the crawler bar. We none of us speak a word of Chinese but its encouraging to see our software doing the right things by, with, and from, Unicode in the PDF.

An ideogram in a JPEG is just a collection of bits, but the right ideogram in the metadata, now there is a small but significant step on the way to the universal digital library that all publishers are building. If we treat print right, respect it, use it and enhance it, Gutenberg-stuff will work better in the digital sphere -- really its a matter of guanxi.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Reading a URL

One of the Exact Editions foundation stones is that in this digital platform each print page has its equivalent web page. Our platform systematically turns magazines, books etc into collections of ordinary web pages. If you had nothing better to do you could learn to read these urls. For example, here are pages from trial issues for Le Monde Diplomatique :


In these urls '373' refers to the publisher/owner Le Monde the company, '409' to the French language edition of Le Monde Diplomatique, '2,657' refers to the July number and '1' at the end to the page number. If you replace the '2' by a '3' you jump to the larger page size whereas you will land up in the 16-pp view if you replace the '2' by a '1'.

Queries also have a quasi-readable syntax. Here is a search for 'Paris' in the trial issue of the English LMD:

Reading urls is not an exciting business, but it is important that all of the pages and all searches in the Exact Editions system have distinct urls. This way readers can bookmark articles of special interest and they can share search results, citations or references with anybody who may have access to the same material. Any respectable digital publishing system, whether for books or magazines, should produce determinate and shareable references. A lot of the current offerings fail this simple requirement.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Being kind to the Kindle

The Kindle came, it was seen and it has not yet conquered. Being kind: the jury is out. Eoin Purcell has a representative sample of the mixed, but mostly negative, early reactions. The prompt Wikipedia entry will probably become definitive.

We havent tried it yet and look forward to doing so when it comes to the UK. There is no way it can really work for consumer magazines until it supports colour. Maybe Amazon think that also. On launch there were 91,390 books available for download, 306 blogs and only 8 magazines. Only 8 magazines? Somehow the Kindle reeks of compromise and committee work.

Everyone seems to be surprised by the blogs, especially the blogosphere. I will go against the crowd on that: selling blogs may be a dumb business proposition (yet Amazon is picking up the connection charges so probably doesn't want to absolutely give away too much stuff for which it is paying the download costs), but the idea of books, blogs, magazines and web pages in the same reading device seems to me just fine. That is why we have the web, and the iPhone does the web very well. Books, blogs and digital magazines included.

That is another reason why digital books have to be on the web and of the web, so that they can be close to blogs and linked any which way, to and from web pages. Why bother with downloads?

Pure Living


Resurgence has been described as the artistic and spiritual voice of the green movement in Great Britain (by Wikipedia). Satish Kumar is its leading light. From the free trial issue:

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Kindle Cometh?

The Kindle is the name given to the eBook reader that Amazon have been developing (we still dont know how its pronounced). But we should soon find out. CNET's gadget reviewer Crave has been

[invited] to an Amazon event here in New York on the 19th [November]. When I asked whether the product was the e-book reader, he wouldn't say (he gave me the usual "you'll have to show up to find out"). But since the Kindle was due to be announced back in October, it seems safe to assume, this is finally it.
The recently re-released Sony Reader gets a devastating review from 43 Folders, and the Ars Technica review is more polite, more thorough, but really damning with the faintest of praise.

The Amazon project sounds interesting and we look forward to the real world reactions. There is a hint that it will carry magazines. Some of the issues are discussed by Peter Brantley and Booksquare. If Crave is right about the E-ink platform, we have reservations about its chances. No colour? (E-ink doesnt yet do that). Magazines?

Booksquare hits the nail on the head. The iPhone is the way to go.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Touching Print and Digital Reading

The iPhone/iTouch interface is very appealing. Apple have implemented this technology with their legendary and reliable obsession with the details of user interaction.

Touchscreens are not new. ATMs have had touch screens for 15+ years and the first touch screen computers were introduced more than 20 years ago. But Apple have grabbed a really creative and deep application for the touch screen.The touch screen functionality is used for all the interface aspects of the iPhone/Touch, since it replaces the mouse and the keyboard, but the killer is the way that images are held, panned and manipulated on such a small device by your fingers. The gestures with which the user can slide an image on the iTouch, or pinch (to shrink), or spread (to enlarge) the image are totally intuitive and compelling.

The images look so cool because the Apple system holds them independently of their inherent resolution. So reading a magazine in such a small window is feasible, because the user can 'blow the text up' to a scale which suits reading and then slide the image around. No need for scroll bars. This magic works on the Safari which runs in the iPhone/iTouch, it does not yet work on the Safari that runs in your desktop Mac. The new version of the Apple operating system Leopard, supports 'resolution independence'. So it should not be too long before we will be able to seamlessly shrink or expand JPEGS or other images in the browser - Safari may innovate on this; but Internet Explorer will not be far behind. Microsoft have Seadragon, their own intriguing resolution independent environment.

In a world of touchscreens and resolution independence, fingers are going to be very important to us in the way that we interact with digital editions. We are going to be poking screens to link to referenced documents, stabbing phone numbers or emails to connect to advertisers, squeezing and spreading our digits on digital texts which we do not strictly touch, but which we caress and coast over our virtual workspace. Could it be that this regular use of our fingers ("let your fingers do the reading") will in fact endear us to e-reading? Its a good possibility. Each time your fingers move over and interact with a digital edition your body is engaging with digital print in ways which will confirm and consolidate intellectual involvement with the text.

Friday, November 09, 2007

iPhone Exuberance

Today is the day the iPhone launches in the UK. From PersonaNonData and the Bookseller we learn that HarperCollins UK is celebrating with a customised service which allows iPhone users to sample digital books on the iPhone.

The iPhone is going to be really big. But the form factor is bound to evolve sooner than you can say "Steve Jobs at MacWorld Expo". We would lay long odds that Apple are right now toying with designs for a larger format iPhone which will be great for watching films and reading whole pages from newspapers and books. And there are going to be lots of competitive variants and some of them are going to be really successful. So I am perplexed by the business logic of creating a special version of a digital book platform to cope with the iPhone, or the next big consumer device. If an application runs on the web it should run on any web-enabled device. No further development is required. End of story.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Blockbusters and Brands

Eoin Purcell draws our attention to an insightful blog triptych on book publishing and its digital future by the thriller writer Barry Eisler. Read parts one, two and three and you will be better informed on the risks and opportunities for book publishers who are about to launch into the digital future.

Its a very good series, but surely Barry Eisler underestimates the extent to which publishers can reclaim and secure their audience, and their markets, by selling digital editions direct. Publishers will sell digital editions direct because that is going to be the most efficient way to do it. Further they will do it because this is going to be a very profitable development for most book publishers, especially those that cater to niches (and most book publishers DO cater to niches). They will outsource the tricky parts (eg customer service or technological innovation), to operations like Exact Editions, but they will be better placed than the record labels to provide this kind of service to the creators. Eisler notes that book publishers by and large do not have great brands:

First, we need to talk briefly about brands. Simply put, a brand is the emotional connection a consumer feels to a product or service. It's what the product or service stands for in the consumer's mind. What does Apple stand for? Virgin? Marlboro? Harley Davidson? Generally speaking, if you can easily and simply answer that question, you're talking about a strong brand. If you can't, the brand is weak.

Let's perform the test on publishers: Doubleday? Putnam? Random House?

Needless to say, with a couple possible exceptions (Knopf still stands for a certain kind of literary fiction and physical quality; Harlequin, for romance), publishing houses are weak consumer brands. [Buzz, Balls and Hype]
We could do the same exercise with London publishers. Again with a few exceptions: Penguin, DK perhaps, and Faber for poetry, it would be hard to maintain that publishers have strong brands or put a strong emotional connection through to the consumer. But its an interesting point of contrast that magazines have very strong brands. Private Eye, Country Life, and Wallpaper* these brands pack a big punch. It is also astonishing that none of these magazines yet has a digital edition. Which would suggest that many major magazines are failing to establish an emotional connection with their loyal audience through the web.

Since a large part of their audience is now on the web at this precise moment, this is a glaring missed opportunity.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Institutions can now come shopping

Today Exact Editions opens a shop for Institutions. Some of our magazines may now be licensed by institutions (universities and colleges, and businesses with a service through their intranet). Any librarian will be able to purchase access to any of the magazines offered with an institution-wide, IP address based, service.

As with our individual licenses, the prices are set by the publishers. The publishers have set prices at very affordable levels, and since our pricing system is one price for all/any institutions (single campus/site), the largest universities are getting a good deal. Currently our big-ticket item is the wonderful magazine Selvedge, £360 per annum. This is considerably more than the single user price of £25 per annum, but it is for an unlimited number of users and looks like good value in comparison to Elsevier's Tetrahedron Letters for which a European university could be paying €12,058 for a five user license in 2008.

But price is only one factor in the equation. Many institutions will be able to afford and budget for these subscriptions and we look forward to serving many institutional users, with digital editions of consumer magazines.


Thursday, November 01, 2007

iPhone Fever

Next week the iPhone is launched in the UK. It is tremendously appealing. The touch interface is easy and seductive and I have been playing around with the new iPods, which since they have WiFi connectivity and the Safari browser are also a great way to read the Exact Editions magazines. Here is an ad from Dazed & Confused:

The sharpness of the Apple screens makes the text very crisp and readable.

These devices are soon going to become a very popular reading platform, and the Exact Editions system, being a pure-web representation of print, works straight out of the box. Its hard to believe that the web can work so well on such a small device.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Large Double Page Spreads

We have added a new function to our interface. The Large Double Page Spread icon on the toolbar:

This richer double-page view comes in to its own when you are reading an article spread across a double page, Le Monde Diplomatique on the Basque problem. Where it may be a trifle awkward to read one page, and then the facing page.

Mind you it is also sumptious for rich double page pictures or advertisements.

I dont think I can see the joins in those JPEGS, and that is how things should be if the Trim Boxes are set.

Will we still be seeing snow on the top of Kilimanjaro in 2015? Maybe not, but I think magazines will still like to make a feature of good legs.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Libraries working with Google Book Search, Or Not

At the weekend there was an interesting article in the NYTimes about the increasingly wary reaction of libraries to the Google Book Search proposition. Major research libraries are looking for a more open distribution model, without Google proprietary restrictions, and supporting the OCA (Open Content Alliance); and more are realising that they can do their own thing.

Interesting comments on this article from Michael Cairns at PersonaNonData, and from Peter Brantley at O'Reilly. Interestingly different, but they both highlight the idea of Digital Interlibrary Loan.

But I am not sure that the concept of Digital Interlibrary Loan really holds up. Well it works fine if digital libraries are composed of Books-as-files, since you can of course loan and track a PDF file; but if digital libraries are databases of searchable books and manuscript collections, where the book lives by virtue of being searched with and linked to other books, the concept of an interlibrary loan is redundant. Consider this question: how are you going to find this rare out of print book which might be available to you through digital interlibrary loan? Before you can borrow a book you need to know that it exists. So you are going to search for it in the complete library catalogue which provides full text searching as part of the catalogue, and then offers you Google-style snippets of the content. That is roughly the way things are going to work in state of the art libraries in 2010. The catalogue you are searching is in a library on another continent. And yet the book looks really good so you want to have it on interlibrary loan.....

But, but hold on a minute, you have been searching it and snippeting it and its already 'on' the server where you are searching the catalogue, so having it available to read digitally is just a matter of being able to access, search and read every page. Its just a matter of access and of lifting up the snippeted grid that stands between you and the book in all its veridical, full text, scanned image, glory. There is nothing to be loaned, its just a matter of providing access. Once books are searchable through the web, the idea that they need to be loaned is otiose. Before we get to digital interlibrary loans we are going to have campus to campus digital walk-in access......

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

PayPal Coverage

Our payments for subscriptions runs through an automated e-commerce system which relies heavily on PayPal. PayPal handles the major credit cards for us and subscribers in the developed world can join in with little difficulty. PayPal does a good job for us. The list of countries where PayPal works looks impressive, but note that for many of them one can only send money.

There is a problem for many readers in countries where PayPal purchasing is not supported. We have been selling Le Monde Diplomatique like hot cakes in the last two weeks, and we would be selling many more hot-cakes if PayPal had complete African coverage.

We would be very interested to hear about alternatives. But I suspect that there are no easy answers to this question and a large part of the problem is that many of the countries where the PayPal writ does not run are under restrictive foreign exchange controls; government control is the underlying issue. Getting a decent global infrastructure for web-based e-commerce is not a shoe-in.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


We have always taken the view that the publishers who use Exact Editions to provide access to the magazines on our platform, own the subscription lists that accrue through the process of selling subs. As far as we are concerned they also own the aggregate usage date which we carefully collect and supply for them through a stats account. In our production process we enhance the PDFs which are our source documents, and so far as ownership goes they also own these improved PDFs. [The PDFs are only enhanced by us so that we can build a better database, we do not of course use the PDFs in a delivery mode].

These are valuable assets, and I sometimes wonder whether our policy in not claiming any ownership over these intangibles is altogether prudent. Its possible, that if our company was part-owned by a VC we would have been required to take a more aggressive view of our own contribution. Would there be a case for asserting part ownership? Maybe, but on the whole, and with the benefit of reflection, emphatically NO.

Our position is right on this. Quixotic perhaps, naive I concede, but right and strong. Exact Editions does have some important intellectual assets, but claiming any proprietary stake in the copyrights of the publications or the subscriber lists which attach to publications sold on susbcription, is not one of them. Our position is stronger precisely because our process enhances the value of what the publishers are doing, and that is the way we intend to keep things.

Call this a hostage to fortune if you will. But we think of it as a basis for collaboration.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Importance of Magazines?

Mark Chillingworth at Information World Review reports that Google are unlikely to extend their book search program to magazines.....

Google has damped down speculation that it will extend its Google Book Search platform to include magazines with an ISSN number. Technical difficulties with digitising magazines and a lack of existing archives were cited as the main reasons.
Chillingworth quotes Jens Redmar (Director Google Book Search in Europe) as saying:
"Magazines describe a trend at the time. A historic book has more valuable information than a historic magazine." Periodical publishers have also failed to create archives of their content, which Redmar sees as essential to a successful search tool.
We can agree that consumer magazine publishers have by and large failed to create archives of their content (amazingly many still do not archive PDFs of their current issues), but this has nothing to do with the value of these archives. It is really very odd to say that a historic book is more valuable than a historic magazine. What on earth can he have meant? Historians find contemporary magazine archives an invaluable tool.

IWR is a reliable magazine, indeed a valuable magazine, but I am not sure that this report really stands up. Google Book Search after all already includes a great number of issues of historic magazines. Here is one from the Bodleian and here is a typical page [Though the Google meta-data gives me a shudder: "blackwoods magazune By william blackwood sons" where did the magazune come from, and has the apostrophe gone awol?]

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Google and Copyright

Google have just announced a new set of Content ID tools which will help copyright owners protect their content on the YouTube platform. More detail is given here. These new policies and the copyright ID platform may enable Google to shrug off or negotiate a way out of the onerous suits it faces from Viacom and the UK's Premier League. But it also seems to back away from the idea of establishing a 'fair use' of video clippings or quotations -- a contentious issue which is at the heart of the YouTube success. The new Google approach appears to give copyright owners total control over the distribution of their video content.

Google will have to make similar proposals to the owners and custodians of literary copyrights. We can expect a comparable "highly complicated technology platform -- [with] content identification tools" to be in preparation for the Google Book Search platform (they already have much of it in place already) . It would be hard to go before a judge saying that literary copyrights are going to be treated differently from video copyrights. I predict this is going to lead Google to handing a lot more power to its Publisher partners and less leeway to its Library partners in the construction of the Google Book Search 'library'.

Some of the Google statements are quite striking and humble:

No matter how accurate the tools get, it is important to remember that no technology can tell legal from infringing material without the cooperation of the content owners themselves.....The best we can do is cooperate with copyright holders to identify videos that include their content and offer them choices about sharing that content. As copyright holders make their preferences clear to us up front, we'll do our best to automate that choice while balancing the rights of users, other copyright holders, and our community as a whole. [See videoID-about]
It is especially tricky to see how one can automate the choices of copyright holders whilst balancing the rights of users....As John Batelle wonders its not at all clear what happens to fair use. But book publishers will certainly welcome the idea that they might be given more control 'up front'. Its what they have been asking for all along.

Trouble is that literary copyrights can be a lot more confused and complicated even than video copyrights. All serious literary publishing requires that scope be given to 'fair use'.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Radiohead Strategy and the publisher's variation

Radiohead's new disk, In Rainbows, is going to be, is already a smash hit, a commercial coup for the band and a pathbreaker when it comes to music distribution. A VC, Fred Wilson, estimates that it may have grossed them $6.5 million in four days. Not bad.

Books are different from music (especially in that 'downloads' are not the way forward; since digital editions are much more promising); but there is a lot that book publishers could learn from the Radiohead example. Precisely because books can be exposed through the web, without being usefully or viably downloaded, the web is a great medium for promoting new or topical books. But publishers really arent doing this.

Here are some topical books which their publishers should be promoting through the web by either offering a significant chunk for free open access, or providing open access to the complete edition for a limited period. All these books would sell in much greater numbers this Christmas if they were promoted in this way. In one or two cases we may find something from them on Amazon, Search Inside. but there is very little from the books themselves on the publisher's own web sites. Why arent these titles being promoted through the web with substantial extracts? Or the whole edition a la Radiohead?

Pears Cyclopaedia 2007-2008, Penguin £20. This is a title which absolutely should be exposed in full from the Penguin website for at least a month.

My Manchester United Years, Bobby Charlton, Headline, £20. Surely at least a chapter should be shown from the Headline web site -- where it is hard to find the book -- and why is there no Search Inside from Amazon?.

Exit Music, Ian Rankin, Orion, £10.99. The publisher offers us an interview and an audio extract, but no facsimile of the print to whet our appetites. Nothing would be lost, no twist at the end revealed, and many buyers would be won over if the publisher hosted a 32 or 64pp sample.

The Wild Places, Robert Macfarlane, Granta, £18.99. This author writes so beautifully and is still relatively unknown. Arguably his book should be open access for a few months since very few readers will be satisfied with just a web-read or a web-browse. There is some limited exposure on Amazon Search Inside.

An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore, Bloomsbury, £14.99. The author has just won the Nobel Peace Prize. The book sold well last Christmas, but with vigorous promotion this title might sell even better this year. Given the environmental message of the author it is strange that Gore has not insisted that his publishers promote with open access versions of his book. The book is so beautifully produced that more copies would surely be sold.

An Inconvenient Truth
is a very Radiohead proposition. And the message of the book is important for us all. Book publishers have a huge advantage (contrast with the music industry); since temporary open access through the web does not diminish the appetite for a book. With all good books the demand will be stimulated. So why are not new titles made available on publication through the web at least for a few months, AS A MATTER OF COURSE?

.... it really is a no brainer as Radiohead are showing us. (OK, yes there is another view on the Radiohead caper -- see Eoin Purcell).

Friday, October 12, 2007

The Wire

The Wire "...seeks out the best current musics in, and between, all genres; and is committed to investigating music's past as well as its present and future..." (from their FAQ). The latest magazine in the Exact Editions shop.

From the editorial:

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Large or Small?

We had some interesting feedback from a new subscriber the other day:

This is my first adventure into a web magazine, and I am amazed at the size I can get by zooming into a page, showing the images so clearly that you can almost see the structure of the cloth. I am sure that in the months ahead, I am going to enjoy having a subscription magazine on line.
"The structure of the cloth" suggests that this subscriber was commenting on Selvedge which does have some wonderful fabrics in its pages:

When you really want to study a cloth closely, a very large image (that may require a good deal of scrolling) is not going to be a problem. In fact the Selvedge images are not so large, but I can see what our subscriber means by enjoying the structure of the cloth.

These thoughts were neatly counterbalanced with some testing I did with the Apple iTouch earlier in the week. Apple's London store had run out of them but I was able to spend half an hour playing around with one of the demo models and confirmed that its a perfectly feasible way of reading our magazines. To read the text you need to use the built in 'magnification' system on the iTouch's version of Safari, but, in spite of their small scale, the screens are amazingly sharp and bright; the devices are very compelling. I can see reading/browsing magazines on the iTouch or the iPhone will become addictive. I reckon that we are inevitably going to look for bigger and better screens and smaller and more portable devices. The question of the appropriate scale for viewing a web page remains moot. More, in all dimensions is the way things will work. Nano and Peta together, please!

Sunday, October 07, 2007

The Catholic Herald

The UK has a postal strike and The Catholic Herald has made this week's issue temporarily available as a free trial issue. This is your chance to sample their tricky crossword before it withdraws behind the pay-wall next Saturday.

Just to get you started, 14 down, Africa's oldest republic (1847), has to be 'Liberia'?

Friday, October 05, 2007

Radiohead and the Future of Print

OK, I know that is a mildly ridiculous headline. But hear me out. The Oxford-based band Radiohead have made a move which is giving the music industry the jitters. Radiohead are launching a new album without the help of the majors and they are asking their fans to pay what they want to pay for it ("its up to you") if they download the music digitally. They are also selling an expensive package of physical goods CD/DVD vinyl disks etc. for £40/$80. Michael Arrington thinks this marks a turning point in the inevitable march of music towards free. Jeff Gomez (at the Print is Dead blog) notes the control with which Radiohead have managed this publication process themselves:

So with one fell swoop Radiohead shatters half-a-dozen rock-star rituals, and further makes the existence of record labels a questionable thing in a digital age.
Jeff does not ask whether print publishers are similarly vulnerable. But the question hangs in the air (it is a Print is Dead blog, right?). On the other hand, maybe print publishers are in a better position. After all, in a curious way the Radiohead exercise is lavishing particular attention on the packaging and the physical product. There is even a book in the package as well as the CDs and the vinyl. One can see that £40 package becoming a collectors item. It is possible that as we embrace the digital, the quality and the value of print magazines and books will actually increase (though as a luxury item) whilst the digital versions become the most popular and evanescent form in which the works are enjoyed.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Pdfs, downloads and reading a magazine on the plane

"Exact Editions is great, but why not offer a downloadable version of the magazine, like a PDF?" This seems like a very reasonable request and its one of our more frequent themes in customer support. Here are some of the reasons we do not offer a PDF or issue-download solution:

  1. If we were to offer this our publishers would reasonably insist on some sort of DRM solution. We do not think DRM (so called 'Digital Rights Management' software) is a solution to anything. The publishers would require a DRM system because without it piracy would be rife. Think about it: if it were to be as easy to download issues of magazines from Exact Editions as it is to search issues of magazines we would become a type of Napster service for magazines. Publishers who care about their subscription revenues (most consumer magazine publishers do so care) would hate this.
  2. Issue download systems appear to be attractive to users who do not consider the difficulties and inefficiencies involved in storing, managing, saving and searching across issues. By providing a convenient and shared access service, Exact Editions is able to solve all these maintenance issues at a stroke. Downloads may appear to be a reader convenience but they can rapidly become a maintenance nightmare.
  3. The most frequently offered reason for wanting a download is that web access is unpredictable (eg only available through a modem), or we have often heard that users like to read their magazine on the plane, the train etc. There is, of course, reason and force in these requests. But it should be recognised that there are countervailing advantages in a system like the Exact Editions access system which means that you can log in to your subscription from any web-enabled device. There are advantages in not needing to download. Planes and trains are rapidly acquiring in flight web access, and as they do so it will be possible to log in to your Exact Editions subscription whether or not you have (a) remembered to carry your laptop on board (you will use your iPhone or the headrest-mounted web monitor); or (b) remembered to download an issue of a magazine to your laptop.
  4. In short: the web will soon be everywhere and when it is everywhere and omnipresent, having access to all or any magazine issues will be much, much more important than being able to download individual issues.
PDFs are a brilliant file format for printing and they were at one time the only option for reading magazines and printed books. No longer. Same arguments apply to Flash and all the other file-download solutions out on the market. Database service to which the consumer will have access are generally to be preferred.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Le Monde Diplomatique

Is the first title in our French Shop/Kiosque Francaise. And here is the opening of the first article in the free trial issue:

Monday, October 01, 2007

A very big step for Exact Editions

You may not notice our big change of today, when you go to our home page its pretty much as usual:

The new feature is a tiny link at the top right to French shop.

Pas grand chose, you may say. But its a big step for us. Maybe several big steps. We now have a generalisable shopping system and can cope with shopping in different currencies. We have an interface and tooltips that can be spun into other languages. I am sure that there would be some work for us to do Japanese and Arabic, but the European languages should be OK.

So we need more French magazines.......BTW I love the concept of a 'Kiosque anglophone'. The French language is so precise and elegant. Much, much better than an 'English shop'.

Widgets and Namespaces

Having just had four days holiday without web-access, one realises that things move too quickly right now. Here is some stuff that I hope to catch up with:

Tim O'Reilly posts about Adobe opening up Share, a generalisable document widget system. A kind of YouTube for documents. Looks interesting and one more copyright challenge for publishers and authors to think about. Yet another reason for keeping close control of those PDF files before they get shared in ways that were not possible a few years ago! But, I wonder whether Adobe have positioned this quite right: {I only raise the question} - perhaps the 'Share' concept is missing the revolutionary point about the YouTube analogy. YouTube was viral because it was very easy to share videos that way, but I reckon that the key step forward with YouTube (and similar services) is that they have shown how it is possible, useful, viral and creative to QUOTE videos. Quoting is much more productive and creative than another potentially abusive sharing technology......The problem of standards, of 'fair use' and techniques of digital quotation through the web (which is one step beyond citation and mere linking) has not yet been solved.

The Exact Editions/Berkshire announcement drew an insightful and appreciative response from Outsell:

There are services which offer similar opportunities, Amazon’s Search Inside! being a prime example. However, the functionality is limited when compared to Exact Editions, both for the publisher and the end user - through Amazon, users can only search inside one book at a time, for instance, and can never look at every page of a single title. This move from Berkshire may indicate that book publishers are becoming less cautious about exposing their content on the web, and more likely to start experimenting in earnest with ways in which the networked environment can not only help to boost sales, but can also deliver valuable new functionality around existing content.
I suppose Kate Worlock's way of putting this point makes it clear that the Exact Editions service is also doing what the new Adobe system is doing, but our system makes it easy for the publisher to control and brand the content in the network environment, and with our clipper the quotation carries the attribution/citation with the quotation. Her conclusion is the essence: "Not only boost sales but deliver new functionality....." I will remember to reuse that phrase (with proper attribution to Kate Worlock of course).

This looked interesting on harmonising meta-data: Lorcan Dempsey blog, on why we need a Strunk and White for namespaces.

Finally, just before I took my break, Richard Charkin said goodbye to Macmillan and set sail for Bloomsbury. The trade press reports it here. Richard is such a talented academic and STM publisher that I will lay long odds that Bloomsbury will now make some forays in that direction. STM publishing has become way too congested, predictable and costive. Time for a shakeup and some innovation. Bloomsbury could do that.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Garden Rail and Narrow Gauge World

Garden Rail and Narrow Gauge World come from Atlantic Publishers. They are the quickest titles into the system, since it took 3 weeks from the preliminary inquiry email we had from their publisher, for the contracts to be exchanged, the archive of back issues to be processed and the titles now to be in the shop.

How beautiful is a Garratt and how evocative the Baldwin?

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Exact Editions for Book Publishers

The patter of references to Google Book Search in these blogs since August may have betrayed our interest in offering a service to book publishers. We have for some weeks been testing how Exact Editions works as a promotional service to book publishers and the first customisation is now in the open for Berkshire Publishing at

Berkshire Publishing is a young and highly innovative publisher of academic and general reference titles (Berkshire MA not UK). They have produced a list of outstanding and ambitious multi-volume reference works in the last decade. We are pleased to be helping promote these great resources in a web environment. The entire books are available and searchable for a limited period through this promotional service. A typically bold move from Berkshire's CEO, Karen Christensen. Her decision makes me wonder why publishers do not as a matter of course make their new titles available for free for a limited period through the web? Surely there is no better way of promoting a title? Opening access for a limited period makes complete sense. Complete commercial sense if the aim is to sell more books.

The Berkshire Encylcopedia of World History runs to well over 2,000 large format, double column, pages. It employs three different page numbering schemes over five volumes. So it was quite a challenge for our automated clickable-indexing system. Here is a typical index entry (hint: the clipping is a link to the index page. You will need to click on the clipping, which is just a fragment of JPEG to see the live index pages):

With such a large book, in several volumes, instant searchability encourages a different sort of browsing. Here are the results of three searches on three african geo terms: Khartoum, Tanzania, and Durban. For the Tanzania search its very handy the way that the search term is highlighted in the thumbnail images on the search results; and then again on the page when you click through. Here is the first result on a search for 'China' + 'Buddhism'.

Which (if you click on the clipping) takes you to the very map which tells the story of the spread of Buddhism. These books are hugely informative and for a month or two available to all and to everywhere.....