Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Print: Dying. And The Net: No Future?

Mariotti Abruptly Quits Sun-Times
Star Sports Columnist Says He Wanted Out Before Newspapers Die Out
CHICAGO (CBS) ― In a bombshell announcement in the world of sports journalism, star columnist Jay Mariotti has abruptly resigned from the Chicago Sun-Times.

Mariotti told the Chicago Tribune he decided to quit after covering the Olympics in Beijing because newspapers are in serious trouble, and he did not want to go down with the ship.

"I'm a competitor and I get the sense this marketplace doesn't compete," he said in the Tribune story. "Everyone is hanging on for dear life at both papers.

"To see what has happened in this business. … I don't want to go down with it."

Ordinarily, I would have been pleased to see someone in that field acknowledge the truth.

However, given Apple's banning of a comic book yesterday, I have to ask: Where does he expect the future to be?

If ISPs such as Time-Warner and Comcast have their way, everyone will be subjected to bandwidth caps: 50Gb or less per month. How willing are people going to be to "surf" the Net to look for material they don't already know? How many links will go unclicked because people won't know if they'll open up a slim all-text page or a ginormous multi-megabyte page filled with Flash banners and autoplay video ads?

If companies such as Apple have their way, they will stand between everyone and those who provide what is generally given the lawyerly term "content." Who are the gatekeepers to the iPhone and the Android OS phone and whatever other devices come tethered to a ready-made "app store?" Will those gatekeepers have political and corporate prejudices that will suppress the distribution of eBooks and articles and videos they deem unworthy? Will they set themselves up as Nannies or Critics, thinking their vision represents what's "good" for other people?

Too many of the Comments I've seen over Apple's banning of Murderdrome clearly indicate a lack of thought. The issue is dismissed as if it was a property rights case with, "Well, it's Apple's store and they can do what they want."

The issue is the strangulation of distribution and the shredding of free expression.

Unlike the music at the iTunes Store, there is no other way to transmit applications to an iPhone except through Apple as Judge and Jury. (To those who cite jailbreaking, good luck with risking your device. The general public is not so brave.) We've already seen what Apple has done with that power when the matter is a comic book. What will it do with regular all-text eBooks? What will it do with compilations of articles from political journals it disagrees with? With albums of photographs it doesn't like? Go into any bookstore and there will be something someone will find objectionable. That's the price of free expression.

I've stated long ago that Apple should be thinking long-term and planning for the day when the iTunes Store is a widespread platform that any vendor can tap into. Apple can sell the system software, the necessary support, maybe even the server hardware. But Apple can otherwise stay out of the way of judging material that is offered for sale. I think Apple has to learn the lesson that Microsoft is bitterly learning right now: You can't have all the money.

That goes for every major company in the tech and publishing fields.

Which still leaves us with the question: Where does he expect the future to be?

David Rothman over at Teleread has been arguing for years for a standard eBook file format that is device independent.
Looking beyond Apple, such situations are a perfect reason why the e-book world shouldn’t build itself around one particular company—not Amazon, not Google, not anyone. And it’s also a reason for e-book standards. Please. The closer you link content to particular companies, the more potential choke holds for governments and pressure groups to use.

That argument takes on a new gravity today. The entire book publishing world is reading about Apple's actions.

Rothman's plea is especially important as the eBook world waits to see what Amazon's new models of Kindle will be like. Remember: Those eBooks purchased from the Kindle Store can be used only on a Kindle. (The same is true for the Sony Reader -- although its eBooks can also be read on the desktop -- but I have to admit that with new Kindles coming, a tipping point is approaching that could leave Sony a tech casualty. So the Kindle could wind up equaling the term "eBook.") And Amazon, like any company sitting on a corner of a market, can change the rules at any time. The future could see the end of easy self-publishing for the Kindle, locking out writers not tied to corporate publishing contracts, further eroding free expression.

No publisher, no writer, no filmmaker should be denied access to a marketplace that has traditionally been free and open. The rules of the game should not change because electrons are being distributed instead of atoms. Free expression should not be limited to a few tech company gatekeepers who have managed to -- and here's a key word -- temporarily corner a market.

We have the Internet as the standard of a free marketplace, perhaps the purest exemplification of free expression in all of human history. Everything can get on and people are free to avoid what they don't want to see (which oftentimes includes this blog!).

Why should we have to settle for anything less because telephones have become portable computers and books are becoming electronic?

The battle for the future is being fought. And like the first shot fired at Lexington and Concord, it just might have actually begun for real yesterday: with a comic book!

Apple And A Tale Of Two Bannings

How ironic this is, just twenty-four hours later!

Apple has had a TV ad for the iPhone banned in England for making claims that are unsubstantiated by end-user real-life experience.

Just yesterday, it was Apple who was doing the banning:

While the English Advertising Standards Authority adjudicated a technical issue and could render a black-or-white decision, Apple's stance in banning a comic book has yet to be merited.

For those who need the details of Apple's banning, see yesterday's post: Apple Forfeits eBooks By Banning A Comic Book!

Apple's woes are not yet over, when it comes to advertising claims. As I've posted earlier, there is a huge discrepancy over what is advertised and displayed in TV ads as an example of YouTube playback and the reality of that experience under 3G reception. As I wrote earlier:
If this is the new shape of YouTube on iPhone, Apple has just opened itself up to getting sued by Attorneys General all across this country. You can’t go around showing crystal clear video in TV ads as an example of YouTube and then substitute it with that crap! That’s clear bait and switch as well as misrepresentation and outright fraud.

Apple, our troops in Iraq have an expression for the tsunami that's heading your way: Embrace the Suck.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Apple Forfeits eBooks By Banning A Comic Book!

Apple, please do not do eBooks.

Because you've just shown that you can't handle comic books!

Recently I raved about a revolutionary new program called Comic Reader. This program was to be used to premiere a comic book called Murderdrome.

From the title alone, you expect it not to be all bunnies and unicorns and rainbows.

But this is a comic book. A work of drawing and word balloons. It is imaginary. It is fiction.

It was submitted to the Apple App Store and the publishers received notice that it was being rejected for violating terms of the Software Developer Kit which states:
Applications must not contain any obscene, pornographic, offensive or defamatory content or materials of any kind (text, graphics, images, photographs, etc.), or other content or materials that in Apple's reasonable judgement may be found objectionable by iPhone or iPod touch users.

Well now wait a minute here.

Murderdrome is not an "application," Comic Reader is. Murderdrome is content that can be read via the Comic Reader application.

Murderdrome is a book.

Apple has just banned a book.

I've been one of the earliest and loudest advocates for Apple to enter eBooks (see For The Record: Apple and eBooks). I believed that Apple would legitimize them in a way the Sony Reader hasn't and go beyond the minor ripple Amazon's Kindle has managed to create. With a base of millions and millions of potential reading devices out there -- iPhone and iPod Touch -- Apple would have an advantage no other company has yet enjoyed.

But now Apple has acted in a manner that is absolutely toxic to the process of publishing.

Infurious Comics, to plead its case, has eschewed the income they would have derived from selling the first issue of Murderdrome by placing the entire collection of panels on their site for everyone to read for free. Go look at it. Right now. Then come back.

Several issues and questions here.

1) mj just this week pointed out an entire list of movies that Apple currently offers without any ratings attached to them. One of these movies I think most people will be familiar with: Reservoir Dogs. Remember that shocking scene with the cop tied to a chair being worked over by one of the criminals with a straight razor? Apple offers that with no rating advisory.

Here, look. This is the American iTunes Store listing for Reservoir Dogs:

Click = big

There is no rating.

And oh yes, I'm going to stick it right in your face, that scene. Because you need it for comparison purposes later on. So watch it right now.

2) Here is the listing for one of the other movies people who bought Reservoir Dogs also got, Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels:

Click = big

Notice the rating?

Someone could argue, "Well, it's an oversight." But how long has this alleged "oversight" been going on? I don't know if the iTunes Store can restrict purchases based on age, but if they can, hey, this -- and the entire list mj has posted -- has somehow slipped through. That's a pretty big slip-through!

3) Back to Reservoir Dogs again. I'm certain 99.9% of the people reading this blog are familiar with The Simpsons. And with the cartoon-within-the-cartoon Itchy & Scratchy. But how many will recall that Itchy & Scratchy did Reservoir Dogs? Yep, here it is:

That went out as general-audience entertainment here in America. I don't think it got anything other than a TV-G (General Audiences) rating. Yet it illustrates a dismembering and a beheading!

Oh, you argue, it's just a cartoon!

So is Murderdrome! These are two of the worst panels in it:

The difference between Murderdrome and The Simpsons: Murderdrome is not presenting anything as comedy. Its explicitness is to drive home a point: the brutality of the system in which the prisoners have been placed to compete. It is a futuristic gladiator competition. (I'm not privy to the entire story; all I've seen is what everyone has seen, but I'd bet real money that ensuing chapters will be making points about punishment, justice, and character that you won't find in Itchy & Scratchy!)

4) If Apple's move is designed to "protect the children," then Apple doesn't know what "the children" are up to these days. Look at this:

Hello. The kid has a gun. And how is it he's imitating a scene from a movie he is prohibited from seeing by its rating? Apple, could he have seen it via the iTunes Store?

5) How cognizant is Apple of the general-audience pop culture out there? Here is a compilation of Itchy & Scratchy:

Just how much brutality has been shown on The Simpsons? I go to the authority: South Park.

Click = big

Here's a description of an episode carried on the iTunes Store:

Apple banning the Murderdrome comic book does not bode well for Apple possibly handling eBooks in the future.

6) What would it do when presented with crime fiction? What would it do when presented with the four books of Derek Raymond's Factory series? Apple doesn't know what it's in for. Here's writer James Sallis to give them a peek in a Boston Globe column he wrote: Derek Raymond: A writer who went down into darkness.

7) Who at Apple has been set up to vet material? Specifically, why was Murderdrome vetted as an application and not as a publication? Apple has a Books category in the App Store. That's where Murderdrome should have been placed.

8) Does this Appointed Guardian at Apple have any idea how comic books have progressed? They're no longer this:

Even that Appointed Guardian at Apple must have heard there's a big movie coming out next year called Watchmen. It's based on a comic book. What would Apple have done if Watchmen had been submitted to it today, with it being a brand-new thing without the history and status it now enjoys? Would the Appointed Guardian have objected to the violence? Like this scene:

Oh, but wait. Apple actually offers a version of the comic book Watchmen!

Click = big

It's under TV Shows! How does that happen?

It's evident that Apple has yet to sort out what its stance is on several issues. Properly rating movies, for one thing. How to handle publications that are wrapped in applications. The left hand of one part of the iTunes Store knowing what the right hand is being asked to approve for the App Store.

These are issues that have to be sorted out right now. Aside from Murderdrome, there is another publisher about to offer comic books on the App Store: iVerse. They have to be wondering what Apple's standards precisely are. I have to wonder now if Apple's banning of Murderdrome has a sent chilling shot across their bow.

Every single writer in the world is watching you right now, Apple.

Your problems with MobileMe and iPhone 3G reception issues are minor compared to this.

eBooks are the future. You are at the nexus of downloadable content and millions of consumers. Are you telling all of us that you intend to stand between us and every possible publication, permitting only your vision of the future to be offered for sale?

If that's going to be the case, you've just handed the eBook ball to Google and Android.

And Jeff Bezos over at Amazon must be breathing a great sigh of relief right now too -- when he isn't busy laughing at you.

As for me and every other writer who's been waiting for you to jump into eBooks and free us from an industry frozen in the 19th-century, let's just say we are not pleased.

And you absolutely do not want to displease writers, Apple. No, you do not.

Related coverage elsewhere:

Murderdrome BANNED by Apple
They Ban Comics, Don’t They?
Lying in the Gutters Volume 2 Column 172 (scroll down)

Saturday, August 23, 2008

eBook Breakthrough For iPhone Comics!

I first saw this over at mj's blog.

Then I went to the source post.

Take a look at this video. It is staggering. It is Apple Insanely-Great staggering. It is an absolute breakthrough in the field of electronic comic books. I can't say enough about how radical and breakthrough this is. Look!!!

Murderdrome iPhone Comic

Absolutely staggering. I'd been after Warren Ellis to jump in and pioneer eComics (here and here). They've gone beyond anything I could have imagined. I salute you! You have taken my breath away! You will change the world!

Update: I was so excited by this, I didn't do much research. The underlying app is called Comic Reader from Blue Pilot Software. My skin is all tingly. This is something that Changes Everything!

-- originally published August 22, 2008 at the WordPress blog

Friday, August 15, 2008

October: The iPod Touchbook

Note: This is half what I suspect and half what I know. Beyond that, I say nothing!

Bravo To Rex Hammock:

What I’d rather have than an eBook reader: the iPod Touchbook

iPod Touchbook mockup filched from Rex Hammock's blog

I've been calling it the iPod Air.

But I think he actually got the name Apple will be using.

September: New MacBooks.

Shortly after that, I expect press invites: "Apple Turns A New Page ..."

October: iPod Touchbook

* Five-inch "better than VGA" screen

* eBook reading software in ROM

* eBooks are compiled and compressed to thwart piracy (they might be ePub in a wrapper; but can't be opened by current tools)

* Yes, Cover Flow!

* iTunes update to enable desktop/notebook e-reading

* Library Shelf in MobileMe (avoids pesky iTunes Store redownloads)

* No iWorks built-in (probably separate buy in 2009)

* Exclusive eBook relationships with:
- Hyperion
- Miramax Books
- Disney Worldwide Publishing (note this author)
- - which includes Disney Books (Hannah Montana!)
- Gemstone Publishing (comic books, but not immediately)

To understand the incredible scope of Disney, read these details. Of note:
* The largest publisher of children's books and magazines in the world
* Sold 160 million children's books in 2005
* The largest publisher of children's comics (excluding magna)
* Published 441 children's magazine titles, and 222 million magazine copies in 2005
* Annual retail business just under $2 billion
* Product printed in more than 85 languages across 75 countries1
* Through books and magazines, DPW reaches an average of more than 100 million readers monthly

This explains why there hasn't been any leakage from the usually chatty New York City houses.

Why does Apple need them to launch into eBooks?

Apple doesn't need them.

Apple has Disney. Disney knows how to shut up.

Everyone else will want to pile on ASAP. The way the eBooks are created -- compiled and compressed -- will convince the New York City houses that It's On, baby.

Steve Jobs will have conquered eBooks.

Rex's mockup makes it look ginormous. Here's the ECTACO jetBook in my hand.

I expect it to be about that size, which is quite nice and can be put in a large inside jacket pocket easily. (Compare it to the Sony Reader at the link.)

What I don't yet know: What happens to individual authors who want to sell eBooks; writers not under current contract obligations to publishing houses? Will there be an "EDK" (eBook Developer Kit) for them?

What I also don't know: SIM slot? I don't know if this is why Apple and AT&T recently extended their agreement. I am a cellphone illiterate so I can't comment on the ramifications of a SIM slot that would accommodate non-AT&T SIM cards. Nor do I know anything about how this would be handled under existing iPhone subscription contracts.

Lastly, the October date is, like all official not-announced dates, slippery. There are three factors: Fixing the iPhone 3G call-dropping issue (that's if the iPod Touchbook has a SIM slot); getting MobileMe running smoothly; setting up a proper eBooks section at the iTunes Store.

And yes, expect an iPhone/iPod Touch OS update to include eBooks too.

Still thinking about a Kindle?

This will be the needed Big Bang for eBooks: millions and millions of portable reading devices out there (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPod Touchbook), an easy and already-established and used by millions and millions of people way to buy eBooks, the ability to read at the desktop (or notebook) as well as on-the-go (and on TV via Apple TV?), and a window for big sales before any attempts at piracy can succeed.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


The truth is, I just have plain forgotten to get back to this.

Will make a memo.

Meantime, these might be of interest:

Kindle, Schmindle

The Non-Evolving View Of Print Publishers

Monday, August 11, 2008

Two Posts Together: A Scam?


First-Time Writer Winner (And Loser!)

First time author, 93, saves friends from care homes with book advance
Lorna Page has bought a five bedroom house for £310,000 after securing a significant advance for her thriller.

Now she plans to move in a number of friends, but faces the dilemma of deciding which ones to accept, after receiving "dozens" of offers.

The independent nonagenarian widow said she simply wanted to help her friends enjoy the last few years of their lives in a sociable environment.

She has pledged to use all of her money from the proceeds of A Dangerous Weakness to assist her friends.

Mrs Page wrote the book in her one bedroom Surrey flat but has since swapped it for the spacious house in the pretty village of Weare Giffard, near her birthplace of Bideford, north Devon.

And get this:
Released by AuthorHouse publishers last month, A Dangerous Weakness follows a woman who becomes involved in a bitter power struggle after receiving an apparently innocent invitation by an old school friend to spend Christmas at her Swiss lodge.

Mrs Page wrote the book three years ago but made no attempt to get it published until her daughter-in-law found the manuscript and convinced her to send it to a publishing house.

She said: "I should have done it before but it got put away in a suitcase and forgotten about until my daughter-in-law found it and said it should be published."

Mrs Page said she had written throughout her life, but that A Dangerous Weakness was her first published novel.

"I've always written. I started as soon as I could hold a pencil - fairy stories, poetry, short stories, magazine articles. It seems I've been writing for a hundred years."

Emphasis added by me.

Sharp woman with a sharp wit too.

But really, what an enormous lost opportunity this is!

This is getting huge international play yet all I can think of are all the lost sales!

I immediately went to the Amazon Kindle Store, eReader, and the eBook Store from Sony -- and the book is not there!

How many people reading that item immediately thought, "I've got to read that?" How many of them will even remember the book tomorrow?

What could have easily generated six-figure impulse buys for an ebook ... has been wasted!

Now do you see why I say the future of writers must be in their own hands?


First-Time Author Article Is Suspect

I've just sent this email to

I noted this article yesterday --

First time author, 93, saves friends from care homes with book advance

and posted about it in my blog --

First-Time Writer Winner (And Loser!)

A Commenter wondered how this was possible. Because, you see, AuthorHouse is a *self-publishing* company. Self-publishers do *not* offer book advances.

As far as my research tells me, there is only *one* AuthorHouse, and it is indeed self-publishing.

AuthorHouse press release

AuthorHouse UK

I would appreciate it if you could provide clarification of this article.

I should have known all of it was too damned good to be true.

I have a suspicion we've been had by some slick PR agency.

The last laugh is ours, however: We were unable to buy the book on an impulse!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Print Is Dead. So Is Print Culture.

That's something that really needs to be discussed too. It's not just the very idea of inked pressed onto the sliced corpses of dead trees. It's the entire notion of a print culture. There are things on the Internet that would never, ever find investors for print versions. Yet they thrive online -- with advertising!

I've read hand-wringing by the pearl-clutchers and future-fearers, who try to hang onto their slim spot on the melting melting melting iceberg of print by positing the future will see the rise of "curators," who will sift through and separate the Worthy from the Unworthy.

Guess what, you retarded eejits? There is no longer a notion of Unworthy! Everything gets on the Net. There is finally Something For Everybody. Your insipid snooty-nosed idea of what's Worthy is dead.

Your mindset of gatekeeping is gone. The Berlin Wall fell. The Berlin Wall in your minds needs to fall too.

I should do a kind of formal post about all of this, but no time right now. All this prelude was ignited by the news that Playgirl is ceasing print publication and will now live only on the Net.

Personally, I think it will quickly drop dead on the Net. It belongs to the obsolete world of dead print culture.

Previously here:

Print IS Dead (Well, To Some Of Us. OK: Me!)

This Blog Is NOT Dead

Microsoft Updates have rendered my PC down to Model T functionality.

I must put aside everything else to have the number of tabs open that I need to do this blog.

Right now, that's just not possible because I have a BitTorrent download going on that I must have ASAP for research purposes.

I plan to return to this blog next week with the usual "Is It In E?" postings.

Print IS Dead (Well, To Some Of Us. OK: Me!)

Warren Ellis makes a case that he's making a fine living from ink pressed onto paper. He also cites others doing the same.

This is true.

But only because The Thing has not yet appeared that will wipe all of that away.

The Thing could be the mythical iPod Air I've been bleating about for months now.

The Thing could be something no one has any idea is being developed right now.

The Thing could be a tree plague that makes paper prices tower over oil prices, thus forcing everything to move into eSpace.

The Thing could simply be the new way things are now working because of the Internet. I'd ask Ellis: Do you buy a daily printed newspaper? If not, why not? And don't you see a trend inherent there?

For me, print is dead. Because I am old and cranky and sick of boxing, moving, and then unboxing books and books and books and books.

I have no emotional attachment to a printed object. At least not to any book object. It's the words I want, not the stuff they're being carried in.

Speaking of book objects, not one of them is even sacred. The Torah, the Bible, the Quran are all available in e versions. And once you've gone e with those, you never, ever want to go back to their p incarnations.

Ellis, at least, is working in a medium that is generally printed on X-sized paper. But what if it had always been done on Japanese Manga-sized paper? And in shades of gray instead of color? I suspect Sony Reader sales would have gone through the roof because it would have become the thing to read comics on. (There is some business in Manga on the Reader right now, though more needs to be done to develop that. As Paul Biba and Eleanor Randolph and I have pointed out, the entire Reader process is not painless.) This X-sized paper standard is also in effect in Ellis's free webcomic, the wonderful FreakAngels. I'm certain that's to accommodate a printed collection.

But what if Ellis had convinced his publisher (or himself) to do it differently, as a true e comic? In fact, with iPhone 3G sales still being a sales phenomenon, what if Ellis decided to pioneer a comics form for that device? (Right now FreakAngels is not amenable to tap-and-zoom per panel on an iPhone.) I think if he had done so, the sales might have convinced him that print is dead.

Previously here:

eBook Signings: The Postcard Solution?
Reference: Creating ePub Files For eBooks
Writer John Scalzi Gives An E Vs. P Lesson
Quote: Seth Godin
The Kindle Revolution Ain’t Happening
Sony Reader Gets Some Love
Suit Bastard Print Publishers NAILED!
Reference: 100 Book/eBook Sites
What A Major FAIL In eBooks Looks Like
Reading Books Plummets In Japan Too
Apple iTunes (Store) Trademark Evolution
The Reasons Why eBooks Are Next For Apple
And So The iPod Air Is Coming After All!
eBook On An iPhone: One Example
iPhone Wireless Printing?
Reference: iPhone/iPod Touch Screen Size
More Of That Non-Existent iPhone Effect
When An Expert Uses An iPhone
iPhone eBook Reader Stanza Available
Memo To Steve Jobs: iPhone Owners READ!
iDay 2008 + 1 = LONG Lines!!!
eReader On iPhone: What It Looks Like
Southern NYC iDay 2007 In 56 Photos!
Flashback: iPhone 2007
MSI Wind = Ten-Inch Screen MacBook?
Video: eBooks On iPhone/iPod Touch
What Apple Better Not Miss About eBooks
For God’s Sake, Get eBooks Going, Steve Jobs!
iPod Air: See You In September?
A Gadget Too Far
No iPod Air Next Week
American Tech Companies: Wake Up!
It’s Now All Down To Apple Vs. Google
Apple: You’ll Get It When You Can Sync It?
What eChanges Will High Oil Prices Bring?
Reference: iPhone/iPod Touch Backup/Sync
An Example Of iPhone/iPod Touch Keyboard Lag
The iPod Air Will Be Better …
I Said Apple Sync Was Important: Here’s Proof
eInk eBook Readers: They’re All Dead, Jim!
What’s This? iPod Air Next Month?
iPhone Continues To Swallow The Internet
Apple’s Sync Strategy Finally Arriving?
Now We Know Why Apple Bought A Chipmaker
Amazon: Already Toast
Future iPods: Piper Jaffray’s Blind Spot
Writers Don’t Fear The Future: Publishers Do!
The Lesson Of Apple Isn’t New, But It Works
The Three Companies Apple Should Acquire
Apple Has Magic The Others Don’t
Apple And eBooks: Why The Delay
For The Record: Apple and eBooks
Memo To Steve Jobs: People DO Still Read!
The Three Big As: Apple, Amazon, Adobe
Peak iPod: Has Apple Reached Its End?
One More Time: Apple And Ebooks
Is Apple’s Tablet The iPod Air?
Why Apple’s Design Is Excellent
Steve Jobs Is Up To Something. Probably Big.
Does Apple Want To Be King Of Ebooks?