Thursday, July 31, 2008

Controlling the User's Experience and Choice

If you value your position in the market it may be a mistake to control too much. Amazon's eBook system the Kindle does not allow the user to purchase eBooks from suppliers other than Amazon. The Kindle rather tightly controls the environment in which eBooks can play. Sony has a rival eBook reader, which seems to be very similar but may have been losing ground to the Kindle. Perhaps the realisation that they cannot beat the Kindle at the game of selling a closed eBook reader has led Sony to a software upgrade that allows the user of a Sony ebook PRS-505 to upload any eBook in the PDF format. announces that it has 130,000 titles which are now available for the Sony reader. This relative open-ness may give Sony an important advantage.

I think Amazon will resist the pressure to make the Kindle a really good system for surfing the web, but the pressures to do that must be increasing. Once that happens any pure web digital edition will be usable on the Kindle. At that point they get outflanked by web editions as well as (probably) PDFs. Proprietary formats are fool's gold. For the proprietor as well as the customer. You will find out a lot more about these format wars and the limitations of proprietary formats and DRM at the TeleRead blog.

Reckoning with the iPhone

The Exact Editions platform has worked on the iPhone from the start. Here is a shot of a search on a Berkshire Publishing title, The Berkshire Encyclopedia of Extreme Sports

Notice the search terms highlighted in blue. But the iPhone has some peculiar features and the question is 'How much should a platform which addresses the universal web try to accommodate the peculiar strengths and limitations of the iPhone?' Especially since it seems quite likely that Apple will soon produce some intermediate products which might be a larger iTouch, or a MacBook that shares the wonderful touch and gesture interface of the iPhone.

We have introduced some iPhone friendly aspects to our software already, and the latest addition is going to help iPhoners who dont want to do too much hunting around for the toolpanel on our interface. The Exact Editions platform now puts up a chunkier, but cut down version of the toolpanel when it detects that the user is working from an iPhone. There will be a few more nudges like that, but we have no current plans to develop iPhone specific media. Any subscription that our customers choose to buy should work on the vast majority of web environments (OK, if you are still running Netscape Navigator 2.0 you may have a few problems).

Here is a shot of the iPhone friendly toolpanel (note the clickable phone number):

Any iPhone enthusiasts who want to try a book on the iPhone should consider one of the pocket-sized Economist books. If you are looking for a digital magazine to test readability in your cuppped hands, I would recommend PC Utilities magazine. If you just want a freebie to put the platform through its paces, the Bookseller supplements are a good place to start. Lots of clickable ISBN's, clickable phone numbers and urls there.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Profile Books and their Economist Books

We have developed an e-commerce service for Profile Books who do a series of books sponsored by The Economist. It is a great series with concise and highly informative coverage of key management and business topics. For some reason the title which particularly caught my fancy was The Economist Guide to Management Ideas and Gurus. I am a sucker for quick guides to gurus and key ideas. It is a very well written and clear book. The style is elegant and concise. Hear what Tim Hindle has to say about 'barriers to entry':

There are over 100 key ideas which are helpfully summarised in this style and 54 gurus. For each of whom we get a brief bio and some useful tips. Did you know that the great Nobel prize-winning Economist HA Simon said this:

I never realised that Simon first made that comment, which has become one of the core memes of Web 2.0. Mind you Simon was even more distinguished as a computer scientist than as an economist, so its perhaps not a surprise that he could see which way the information economy was going. At any rate, if you want to know more about 'skunkworks', or the 'Pareto Principle' this is a book for you. The books are exceptional value as institutional licenses for corporates or universities. Works fine on an iPhone.

Monday, July 28, 2008

In-Flight Magazines Grounded?

The in-flight magazine may be on its last legs. In yesterday's Guardian Media Section Conor Purcell speculates that environmental pressures and the cost of fuel will render the in-flight magazine obsolete. Emirates will soon drop its house magazine:

According to Emirates' president Tim Clark, the decision to ban all onboard paper will lighten the aircraft by a tonne. "It's 2kg per seat and 500 seats, a worthwhile saving," he says. "We are doing it because of fuel prices and the environment. The printed matter will be replaced by content shown on the aircraft's seat-back TVs."
The Guardian, July 28 2008
Can the in-flight magazines really weigh so much? 2kg per seat sounds like far too much. Are Emirates getting rid of lots of on-board manuals at the same time they bin the magazines and entertainment guide? But the weight of on-board magazines must certainly add up in the course of the millions of miles traveled each year by every jumbo jet. In the 1980s when jet fuel was very cheap and printed advertising rates were very high, Japan Airlines apparently removed seats from some of their planes to accommodate the weight of their 300 pp on-board magazine. Even when it is very cheap, carbon has a cost.

Will airline companies replace their print magazines with digital magazines delivered through the head-rest mounted display as Emirates plan to do? I would not be confident about the stability of this market. If you can read any digital magazine or surf any website, will you really want to read the digital branded magazine that is coming to you via the poor resolution of a headrest monitor? If you cant surf every site from your headrest monitor you will be tempted to use your own web connection. 3G is making such striking progress that we will all soon be using our iPhone or our notebook computer on-board. On-board wi-fi is coming (eg branded for American or Virgin America), but it could well be disintermediated by the all pervasive mobile phone networks. I dont think walled-gardens will work too well for the airlines, even at 40,000 ft. The in-flight digital magazine that works will be one that you can tap into before and after your flight and that you really, really want to use when you are on board. That presents some interesting challenges.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Knols are moving into public Beta

Google has now opened up its developing database of Knols. See the official announcement ("a knol is an authoritative article about a specific topic"), and Danny Sullivan's helpful assessment. Danny provides a good outline of what Knol is doing and how it works. His reservation is particularly interesting:

Overall, I still lean toward not wanting Google to do this. I remain concerned that by hosting this content, it plays too much in the content owner space when its core business is supposed to be driving traffic outbound to others. Hosting content sets up inherent conflicts that over time start to erode the trust people have in Google, I feel.
Danny doesnt want Google to do it. But they are starting to do it, and it may now be tricky to pull back (they probably should). There are several hundred knols up there that you can test and evaluate, most of them are medical. You could write your own.

The knol that I looked at closely was on Breathing wine. It gave me some basic information. But it could have been written much more concisely, the take-home message is "don't bother to open bottles hours/minutes before you drink them, and if you need to decant because of the lees, then decant". In the 1,250 word article (this 'knol' terminology is a trifle tiresome) there was not a single link to anything, to any citation or to any source on the web. This is a specific weakness of the article that I selected, many of the medical entries have impressive references and citations. But there is no common format or standard for the level of annotation. This editorial uneveness suggests that the Knol project has a long way to go. Wikipedia works in part because of the tireless work of hundreds of experienced and unpaid editors who beaver away tidying things up.

Academic reference publishers will smile and recognise the challenge that the Knol project is facing. Giving a huge bunch of experts their head without detailed editorial planning and supervision is going to produce an uneven and messy mixture. Knol is a very curious enterprise for Google to be pursuing. It is a long, long way from PageRank.

The wikipedia entry on knol is impressive. There is not yet a knol entry on wikipedia.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Our Search is Getting more Boolean

A site release today, pepped up our search a smidgin. We now support 'not's' and 'or's'. So you can now search for Alistair Campbell with Blair or Brown, but not talking about Iraq. This was apparently more frequent than the recent crop of New Labour memoires would have us believe:

"alistair campbell" |brown |blair -iraq:


Six search results

a simple search string:

How to build an audience quickly.....

What is Mygazines? ..... (answer from their web site)..."Mygazines is your free place to browse, share, archive and customize unlimited magazine articles uploaded by you, the Mygazines community."

The service appears to be in part a YouTube for magazines, and an aspirant social network. The technology is adequate to impressive: the magazines are rendered in Flash, and the user is able to mark. 'share', comment upon, pages and magazine articles. The system is largely automated, except that some of the 'cleverer' bits are 'user generated'. So in uploading a magazine as a scanned PDF (I havent done this) the user is expected to tell the system which pages are front, covers, contents pages, and where articles begin. I am distinctly impressed that users will in fact do this (we have always assumed that publishers would not be reliable about marking this information on PDF files). Also, while the site is very new, maybe only a week old, and likely to disappear very soon (for reasons we will come to), they already have 800 titles including many of the mainstream US and Canadian titles (think Time, MacWorld, Wired, Business Week, Maclean's.

The system also does the trick of intelligently OCRing the scanned uploads (we were blogging about this last week), searching across issues works pretty well, so all in all I can see this getting a lot of usage. Except that it appears to have been done without the permission of the publishers and in apparent disregard of the laws of copyright. Mashable, Joho and gHacks comment favourably on the experiment. But we are all rather surprised at the legal presumption; in Dave Weinberger's words: "I don’t know what they think they’re going to do about the obvious copyright issues."

So I fear that the founders of mygazines are very quickly building an audience of ...... lawyers. Scores of lawyers from all the big magazine publishers. Is there some killer twist that we havent thought about? Some unrevealed aspect of the business model which will make the publishers look favourably on the development. I have my doubts....

Friday, July 18, 2008


Jazzwise is now in our magazine shop.


Scrapbook joins the shop:

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The iPhone Goes Both Ways

Much recent chatter about the promise of the iPhone for book publishers to which we have contributed. See BookSquare, Brantley, PersonaNonData, Digitalist, TeleRead, amongst others.

But there is another side to this: what if the iPhone gobbles up text as easily as it gives digital access to published works? The iPhone has a camera, is a capable computer, is well connected to the web, and a lot can happen when you put a web service at the disposal of millions of people with hand-held computerate, camera-scanners. This paragraph from Scoble caught my eye:

.....visited Evernote, which makes a great note-taking app. This is the most useful app I’ve loaded on my iPhone so far (which has more than 30 apps loaded on it). Really killer thing? Take a picture of something with text in it. Say a sign, or a business card. Or a newspaper ad. Or a bill you received. Save it. Then, search for something on that bill. Wow. It turned all the text in the picture into something you could search for. This is the coolest thing. iPhone Developers have a blockbuster weekend
That sounds a bit primitive. He does not say that it can digitize the editorial pages of Newsweek (sounds as though it can capture the ads). But you can see where it is going. Sooner, rather than later, you will be able to point your iPhone at a book/magazine, flip the pages, upload it to some web app and have a 'searchable' version of the publication and a good scanned copy at your fingertips.

The likely availability of distributed, low cost, intelligent, OCR-scanning will put print publishers in pretty much the same boat as the music industry. Digital copying of text will be as easy and as useful as digital copying of recorded music (until recently digital copying meant copying the dumb image, not capturing the textual information in the typography. Google Book Search changed that).

I point this out not out of a desire to "put the frighteners on" print publishers, but to suggest that there is still time enough for print to get out of the hole the music business has dug itself. Get licensing those digital editions! Provide legitimate low cost access to everything for which you have a PDF file and valid title! There is no point in hanging back, publishers must build those digital markets before your customers start mode-shifting your content -- its a business imperative. The iPhone creates great potential for publishers, but if they dont seize it, they will find they have lost much more than a new opportunity.

Cover Disks on the Way Out?

Music magazines and technology magazines make a lot of use of cover disks (CD's packaged up on the outside of the cover). This is quite messy, expensive and environmentally unfriendly.

We have tended to steer clear of 'cover disks', not wishing to make life more complicated than it need be for ourselves or our publishers. But our new addition PC Utilities has used our platform in a very neat way to produce a general solution.

One of the tricky complications is that the 'cover disk' carries premium info that the magazine publisher does not want to give away for free, otherwise it would be possible to post the data/programs/music on the magazine web site and let all and sundry come in for it. Simple, but it undermines the premium quality of the cover disk. The PC Utilities publisher saw that they could use the fact that we provide real time data on new subscriptions, to provide a check list, on those who would be entitled to download the cover disk contents. Provided that your email address matches with the list of subscribers to the digital edition you get into the FTP area to harvest your goodies.

This publisher's solution is a very good example of the way digital editions can be used to complement the work of the magazine's web site. Once the cover disk becomes merely virtual the publisher saves money, and also has the possibility of creating a much more valuable archival resource for his subscribers.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Gmail is Superb

But did you realise that it is still in Beta?

Perhaps it is Google's modesty that keeps such a wonderful and functional service in perpetual beta (or, dreadful thought, perhaps they will turn it into a paid for subscription service when it comes out of Beta).

Google has lots of services, many of them fabulous. But some of them deserve the 'beta' classification more than others. Google Book Search is still very definitely beta. The mooted Google Knol appears to have gone into an invisible beta phase, and I would not be surprised if it stayed there indefinitely. In spite of (and perhaps because of) the hype with which it was launched last year. Google's Knols were meant to be a challenger to Wikipedia -- or an authoritative complement. Wikipedia may have the last laugh on this, its entry on Knols is perhaps more authoritative than Google's Knol on Wikipedia will ever be. A'knol' is meant to be a unit of knowledge -- Google has many outstanding computer scientists, but it may be leaden when it comes to epistemology.

Merging and Emerging

Lulu, the pioneering self-publishing site, has entered into an alliance with Scribd (news from ReadWriteWeb via Brantley's Read20 list). This is interesting because they are two of the coolest companies experimenting with user-generated publishing, and their collaboration covers potential weaknesses on each side (Lulu has a better distribution model with a successful track record in actually selling content, Scribd has the more innovative and interesting content platform: Scribd, in case you havent seen it, is aiming to be a YouTube for PDF documents). They both have a strong user-generated content focus and I wonder if they will potentially exhaust the space which lies beneath the attention-span of conventional publishers. I suspect that something quite promising could emerge from this alliance.

Whether or not anything important does emerge depends really on the initiative and the ambitions of the many users who are already dabbling with Scribd and Lulu. That potential to unlock new audience-generated innovation is the attractive and unpredictable part of the 'alliance'.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Dozing at the Wheel

Kassia Kroszer thinks that book publishers are missing a great opportunity. The new iPhone has appeared and there appear to be hardly any books available for it. Surely there should be lots of best sellers and front list in the App Store?

Call me crazy, but I’d expect an industry that salivates over moving 150,000 units to be all over the potential for reaching seven million “mobile is the future” customers. Are you not out there, listening to readers, gauging their interest? They want, you have, and you’re still hiding the goods. I get this isn’t the largest market you have, but is that an excuse to sit on the sidelines? Sittin' Here Watching the Market Go By
Kassia is right to expostulate. The iPhone is great for publishers (whether of books or magazines) because it facilitates subscriptions and sales (the system is comparable to iTunes) but it is also great for advertising backed publishing -- because the Geo-location adds significant potential to the rate card. I dont know why publishers are being so slow, but I do not think that Kassia's explanation is right. She says:
If I were to hazard a guess, I’d say most publishers are waiting for someone to offer them a pre-packaged solution that somehow fulfills the crazy DRM requirements that publishers use to keep legitimate customers from easily accessing content while doing so very little to stop genuine piracy...
DRM is not the issue, most publishers have got over the DRM hangup. I think a more probable explanation is simple eBook fatigue. The promised golden age of eBooks has proven to be a false dawn so many times, that most publishers are taking a very 'wait and see' attitude. They will need convincing market feedback before they rustle up those PDF files and sign up to the distributor deals. Not so much dozing at the wheel, as whistling in the breeze with barely one hand on the tiller.

But somebody will soon leap into action and show the crowd how it is done. The iPhone is going to knock the Kindle for six.

PC Utilities

Monday, July 14, 2008

Classifying Books which from a long way off look like flies

Tim Spalding of the Library Thing has announced an ambitious project to develop "the Open Shelves Classification (OSC), a free, "humble," modern, open-source, crowd-sourced replacement for the Dewey Decimal System." The comments on his posting show that this is a topic which can arouse an emotional response ..... bad temper, hurt feelings, wounded pride.

Tim is a shrewd and industrious character, but I wonder whether his project is not somewhat Quixotic. Dewey, with all its limitations, was meeting a challenge which no longer arises. Namely: a reasonable and extensible way of ordering any book, and any forthcoming stream of books on to a set of bookshelves, so that two libraries would agree on the order in which the books were placed. Dewey is linear (and arguably impoverished) through and through, to its decimal core. Libraries will not want such linear systems in the future. Books when they are digital will go on as many shelves as their users or librarians can countenance.

The best classification systems of the future library will embrace as many coherent classification systems as can be found. Everything from arbitrary user tagging, to the Dewey decimal system and back, via the Human Genome, the Appellation d’origine contrôlée, copyright status, Linnaeus, Wikipedia, Mozart's Koechel numbers and of course FIFA World Rankings.

Borges quoting his (fictional) Chinese Encyclopedia the 'Celestial Empire of benevolent Knowledge' should have the last and completely permissive word on this subject:

In its remote pages it is written that the animals are divided into: (a) belonging to the emperor, (b) embalmed, (c) tame, (d) sucking pigs, (e) sirens, (f) fabulous, (g) stray dogs, (h) included in the present classification, (i) frenzied, (j) innumerable, (k) drawn with a very fine camelhair brush, (l) et cetera, (m) having just broken the water pitcher, (n) that from a long way off look like flies.

Friday, July 11, 2008

The iPhone and is it tilting the table?

The iPhone is great and I will probably soon go and get one (distinctly envious of our Technical Director who has one, but one of the old models. So now is my moment!). But it looks as though I may be too slow off the mark for this month....

There is an interesting post at SiliconAlleyInsider about what will not be coming into the AppStore. There will not be an Amazon MP3 Store, a Skype, an Adobe Flash plug-in, or another browser (no Firefox), so Apple are tilting the table. They have created a great way of accessing the web, but they want to keep some competitors out. It will be an Apple-shaped web. Lots of talk about there being a market for an eBook reader on the iPhone, but I don't yet see it. Surely somebody will come through soon with one, but I doubt that it will be Amazon. They are trying to tilt the table with their own Kindle, and a Kindle emulator on the iPhone would be a monstrous thought.

If you want an eBook reader (or a digital magazine reader) on the iPhone, all you need to do is to subscribe to one of the publications on Exact Editions. The Exact Editions platform works fine on the iPhone. Clicking on a live phone number in one of our magazines will initiate a call. That could be quite important.....

Philosophically, I am resistant to the idea that one should 'tweak' a web application for some specific hardware solution. It surely is a mistake to create an eBook reader that only works on the iPhone. But there are ways in which the Exact Editions experience on an iPhone could be enhanced, so maybe we should be doing a bit of table tilting on our own account. Apple are very much at the cutting edge....

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

On Getting Organised

Very frequently when we talk to publishers they show little interest in selling digital subscriptions. In the case of magazine publishers this is truly weird, because their business has always been about selling subscriptions. The apparent reluctance to sell subscriptions among book publishers is in one way more understandable. Book publishers are not really used to selling subscriptions. They are mostly versed in the practice of outright sale of the book.

Mind you, book publishers, if they keep their eyes open, should realise that selling subscriptions has been hugely profitable for the publishers of academic and scientific journals. Publishers of academic books really ought to be cognisant of the fact that their books would be much more useful, and much more used by universities if they were available digitally.

It ought to be a bit of a 'no brainer'. If the books are offered as digital resources they will be bought, they will be used. Nor is it at all likely that digital sales will impact print sales in the short term. Since many libraries will wish to have a printed volume as well as digital access.

But we do find it odd that publishers of books and magazines are still often surprisingly reluctant to move to offering a digital edition. They really are, most of them, being very slow. One of the most common 'explanations' of why the publisher does not want to try offering a digital edition at the moment is that the web site is currently being, or is just about to be, redesigned/improved/rethought/re-engineered.

Whenever a publisher says this, I have to restrain myself from saying that they will always be redesigning and improving the web site and that this will never be a reason for not seeking a new sale. "You really dont need to improve your web site in order to offer digital editions", but I dont usually say that, since it is possibly impertinent and one should never contradict one's potential client. In fact 'offering' digital editions can happen with any significant changes on a web site and no more impacts on the design of the web site than building a new warehouse. Come to think of it offering a digital editions is more like building a new warehouse or opening a new sales channel, but of course it costs practically nothing to do so (unlike most new warehouse, or web redesign, projects) .......

Yesterday I had an interesting variant on this 'explanation' from a publisher (I will leave it vague whether of magazines or of books) who said that she would really rather not consider this topic of digital editions until they were better organised. "'Better organised'? So perhaps we should talk again in two months?" I cheekily ventured. To which she replied: "Yes call me again in two months when we are better organised." I think I prefer that to the "I am waiting for my web site to improve" explanation, but it made me smile. I like the idea that we will be better organised in two months. But in my experience it usually takes a little longer. Which of course is a reason for starting to sell digital editions now. We are selling more than ever. It isnt yet an avalanche but it is building up very nicely.

Charkin Blog in book form

The Charkin Blog went silent 8 months ago, and there have been rumours that it will soon appear in print. The rumour was confirmed when we received a request for permission to include a snapshot, originally taken from our web site, so that the thumbnail (of a Berkshire Publishing reference work) could appear in the book publication. The email requesting permission was very polite and of course we promptly granted permission. This is how the project was described.

"In September 2008 Pan Macmillan will publish Charkin Blog: the Archive, by Richard Charkin, an edited print-on-demand version of the blog he published at while chairman of the company."
and they asked for blanket permission in all territories. But there was no mention of digital rights, so does this mean that there will not be a digital edition? I hope not, since I am a great believer that anything that is worth printing is worth having in digital format. On the other hand I am more of a believer of exact editions where the digital editon exactly matches the print edition: can an exact edition go in the other direction? How can one compensate for all the missing links, the immediacy of navigation etc? We intend to buy the book to find out.

The Charkin blog was a very good read while it lasted, it will be interesting to see if it can work in volume form. Of course, Macmillan as a large publisher would take the permissions issue very seriously, but can you imagine how many permissions emails they will have had to generate? It is a reminder that blogs just could not exist if every blog re-usage required permission. Publishing and blogging on the web thrives because the reins are a little bit looser. Publishers who insist that copyright issues must all remain 'opt in' (ask before you use) rather than 'opt out' (if you object I will take down) are living without the web.

VAT on books and magazines

At present printed books and magazines sold within the EU are VAT exempt (in most countries). It is odd that digital versions of those same books are taxed for VAT as though they were cars or carpets. According to the Bookseller, reporting on a proposed EU directive, audiobooks will soon also be VAT-exempt. Fedrico Motta Chairman of the Federation of European Publishers expresses the hope that this will soon mean that digital books (and presumably magazines) will also soon be exempt.

It would be very strange if they were to continue to be treated differently. Especially since digital editions have a much smaller carbon footprint than the printed alternative. It really is very odd that they are taxed when the eco-heavy versions are tax exempt. It is also bizarre because it places EU digital publishers at a disadvantage compared to their American or Mexican competitors.

Bush on Berlusconi --- OK so what would you say?

George W Bush has to apologise because his team produce a background briefing note which says some very rude things about the Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi:

[Berlusconi is] "one of the most controversial leaders" of a country "known for governmental corruption and vice"........ It refers to the Italian prime minister as a man "hated by many but respected by all at least for his bella figura (personal style) and the sheer force of his will"........ It says Mr Berlusconi was said to be "regarded by many as a political dilettante (amateur) who gained his high office only through use of his considerable influence on the national media". (from BBC report, Bush sorry over Berlusconi insult)
Apparently the briefing note reproduced in full 4 pages from Gale's Encyclopedia of World Biography.
The briefing given to White House press corps was lifted, administration officials said, from the Encyclopedia of World Biography, and put in a briefing pack as though it represented the views of the administration. (Guardian)
I guess that the White House would have made several hundred copies of this set of briefing notes and I wonder whether they would have paid any necessary reproduction fees to Gale (part of Cengage).

If the White House press staff have to produce background briefing notes on every rascal that the President might meet they have got a real problem. Perhaps a link to wikipedia would suffice. Mind you the wikipedia entry on Silvio Berlusconi is pretty devastating, though the language is perhaps more neutral. What can an honest briefing note say about Sr Berlusconi? I think the Gale encyclopedist may have the last laugh.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Copyrights and Back Issues

An important decision on a dispute that has been rumbling for years in the US

Back-to-back rulings by federal appellate courts in Atlanta and New York favoring the National Geographic Society will allow magazine and newspaper publishers to transfer their published archives to computer discs and sell them commercially without infringing on freelance contributors' copyrights. ....... the 11th Circuit majority determined that because National Geographic's digital library reproduced complete magazine issues "exactly as they are presented in the print version," publishers retained the privilege of reproducing them under federal copyright laws without renegotiating contracts with their writers and photographers. (see report at

The British courts may not follow the American courts in this decision, but we have always felt that it is common sense that a magazine which is an exact and faithful replica of a print edition should be treated in the same way as the print issue from the point of view of licensing and copyrights (we especially like the phrasing of the court "exactly as they are presented in the print version," could the judge have taken out a subscription to Exact Editions before he coined his phrase?).

Photographers and picture agencies will feel that profitable exploitation of digital editions should have some beneficial consequences for photographers and illustrators. That should happen, provided publishers are able to develop effective digital publishing strategies. Not being able to include photographs or illustrations for rights reasons is not a practical way of developing a digital service. Without an effective digital publication publishers will be less able to afford fees for photos and illustrations. Lets hope that the British courts and the British picture agencies take notice of these specifically american rulings. Movement along these lines is in the interests of all the rights holders.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Sampling Magazines as they are Published

We have put up a service which is a promotional exercise for the Catholic Herald. Its a browseable, searchable but not properly readable digital sample of the weekly magazine/newspaper which we sell for them as a subscription service. You can try it out from their web pages or from this link:

If a viewer of this sample tries to click through to the full page size, they are politely informed that the 'thumbnail' two page view is the maximum that they get for free. They are then encouraged to subscribe to a print edition or the digital version. We will be tracking the usage of this service and its effect on subscriptions. I predict that the print subscriptions will benefit more than the digital. Its also interesting to note that the classified advertisements are more useful than one might imagine, because the clickable links in the ads are all clearly clickable and usable as navigation aids (the tool tip gives you the address of each link).

Pages entirely composed of classified ads should ideally be available in 'full scale'. Actually, it is not super easy for our system to deliver this. But it should come -- at that point classified ads with all the interaction that they carry in our platform should come into their own as web resources.

Beyond the Papyrus?

I noticed yesterday that there had been a spate of sales in the last month for our magazine Ancient Egypt. I wondered whether this was a matter of Cleopatra finally acquiring a taste for Dazed & Confused or Ptolemy getting the hang of digital magazines; but a colleague pointed out that in all likelihood its a matter of pyramid selling.......