Thursday, July 30, 2009

Impulse Buying For The Win

I now pronounce you monetized: a YouTube video case study

First, if you haven't seen the video, watch:

Now ... the rest of the story:
Last week the world watched in wonder as Jill Peterson and Kevin Heinz's wedding party transformed a familiar and predictable tradition into something spontaneous and just flat-out fun. The video, set to R&B star Chris Brown's hypnotic dance jam "Forever," became an overnight sensation, accumulating more than 10 million views on YouTube in less than one week. But as with all great YouTube videos, there's more to this story than simple view counts.

At YouTube, we have sophisticated content management tools in place to help rights holders control their content on our site. The rights holders for "Forever" used these tools to claim and monetize the song, as well as to start running Click-to-Buy links over the video, giving viewers the opportunity to purchase the music track on Amazon and iTunes. As a result, the rights holders were able to capitalize on the massive wave of popularity generated by "JK Wedding Entrance Dance" — in the last week, searches for "Chris Brown Forever" on YouTube have skyrocketed, making it one of the most popular queries on the site:

It continues from there.

Basically the bottom line is:

1) Give people a fast, affordable, and easy way to buy something now now now and they'll do so.

2) Don't be stupid and run to issue a DMCA Takedown notice!

New Sony Reader Models: PRS-300 And PRS-600

PRS-300: 5" screen, no audio, no card slots.

PRS-600: 6" touchscreen, audio, two card slots (SD/MS), touchscreen, stylus, no sidelighting.

Two PDF service documents for these models were leaked. Since this is the Internet, I was able to track them down to view even though Sony killed the URLs that had been posted.

The configuration of the 300 is a repudiation of all the careful thought that went into the design of the original 500, with that thinking refined for the 505. Apparently Sony caved in to the inability of people to figure out how to hold the unit by its lower left corner with the thumb over the page control. In this case, utter stupidity has been victorious in the marketplace once again.

The 600 is the 700 downgraded. The sidelighting has been removed. Perhaps this will increase the contrast of the screen, a point many people raised about the original 700. Everything else about the 700 is most likely otherwise retained, including things such as Search and taking Notes.

Both models will be for sale in the United States, Canada, UK, Germany, France, and the Netherlands. Colors will be the usual Silver, Black, and Red for both models.

Neither model has any kind of wireless capability built-in.

Both models also reject the classic book-like fold-over cover in favor of shipping with protective sleeves. It's unknown if covers will be available as options. The left-side straight-edge design of both units seems to indicate that possibility -- as do embedded magnets in both. I guess not including a lush cover helps to lower the retail price.

Rumors are the 300 will hit the $199.00 price point. The 600 is rumored to be $300 or maybe even $349 (don't be surprised if it's $399, however; these are rumors!).

Both models will have Macintosh OS X compatibility. How this is accomplished is unknown. Perhaps through the Sony eLibrary software or firmware that allows simple drag-and-drop using Adobe Digital Editions. Or perhaps both: one for Sony's BBeB format, one for ePub format. Sony does not have an Apple-like record for uncomplexification.

I'm trying to get excited over these, but I can't. Static ePub is dead. eInk displays are dead.

If the mythical Apple Tablet does indeed materialize in September, both of these new Readers are dead too.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Another Memo Print Publishing Will Ignore

Yahoo committed seppuku today
Nintendo didn’t give up when Microsoft came into the video game space–they innovated. Now the Wii outsells the mighty XBOX 50 million to 30 million. That is how you fight Microsoft: you innovate. Steve Jobs knows this, Nintendo knows this, and Oracle knows this. Yahoo, apparently, did not get the 40-year-old memo.

Aggression and innovation wins. Period.

Emphasis added by me.

The lesson for all startups–and BDC’s (big dumb companies)–is that innovation is all you have. Once you stop innovating you lose your talent and you lose the race. Never. Stop. Innovating. Never. Never. Never.

Emphasis added by me.

ePub is not an innovation.

Smart eBook Metadata Notes #1

No time for an exegesis. Just some rough notes to further tease out some details first presented in Dumb eBooks Must Die, Smart eBooks Must Live

Static ePub is dead. Accept it or embrace the death of current print publishing. There is no other choice other than smart eBooks.

Levels of metadata

- Level 1: Can be incorporated quickly into an eBook
-- general standardization
- Level 2: Requires copyeditor-like specialty to extract from manuscript
-- manual, helps to create metadata categories
--- at some point semi-automated, "drag & drop"-like
- Level 3: Queries to writer(s)
-- manual, extract enhanced meaning from author(s)
- Level 4: Deeper metadata via metadata specialists
-- manual, with some automation (query of metadata databases)
- Level 5: Coarse connections to outside metadata
-- automated with manual refinement; semantic web meshing
- Level 6: wikimetadata, incorporation of metadata from readers/outside specialists
-- manual, creates an additional and participatory experience (WikiPedia)

At least 3 levels of metadata can be included in published books at the start.

Levels 5 and 6 transform the static object of "book" into a ticket to further experience. This fundamental point would justify higher eBook pricing.

Since not all metadata is included -- and really can't all be included, ever -- the book remains open-ended, living, and a portal to further, growing, and dynamic information. The value of the book actually increases over the course of its ownership.

People would understand they are not buying a "thing" any longer. Instead of regarding the thickness or thinness of a paper object to judge its monetary value/price, people will judge the amount of intelligence in the book.

An illustration of some of the connectedness that's possible between books will be shown when I finally get around to doing a series of posts about several books I've read recently.

Final thought: Which would people prefer to pay for today? A printed map? Or a live, connected Google Map with dynamic/customized points of interest overlaid as well as intelligence?
Each contingency branched at several places; she learned them all until she could close her eyes and see the entire great structure, decision tree after decision tree branching and rebranching, dozens of them. As new data came to her from hard-copies or from Sandaleros, she mentally redrew every affected branch. For each decision point she assigned a text from the Quran or, if there were conflicting possible applications, more than one text. When she could see the enormous balanced whole spread out behind her closed lids, she opened her eyes and taught herself to see it in three dimensions within the cell, filing the space, palpable growing branches like the tree of life itself.

-- Beggars from Spain by Nancy Kress


Metadata will Rule the World
Rushdie’s Stream library & Borges’ Print library
The Book of Sand
Experimental DML over digital repositories in Japan

Monday, July 27, 2009

Editis eBook Hearts Apple!

Snowbag, in an excellent Comment, pointed out something I saw but didn't see in the Editis video:
Oh, did you note the apple postmark on the iCard/ecard?

I saw it ... but didn't see it.

Now that he's pointed it out -- wow!

Closer and bigger;

Apple's Absolutely Brilliant eBook Strategy

Apple joins forces with record labels
Apple is working with the four largest record labels to stimulate digital sales of albums by bundling a new interactive booklet, sleeve notes and other interactive features with music downloads, in a move it hopes will change buying trends on its online iTunes store.

Emphasis added by me.

And some details about that:
Apple wants to make bigger purchases more compelling by creating a new type of interactive album material, including photos, lyric sheets and liner notes that allow users to click through to items that they find most interesting. Consumers would be able to play songs directly from the interactive book without clicking back into Apple’s iTunes software, executives said.

Emphasis added by me.

That's Apple entering eBooks. Right there.

Some history to lay the groundwork for this.

In my seminal post, Steve Jobs Is Up To Something. Probably Big., I quoted Jobs. The key sentence in his dissing of the Amazon Kindle is this:
The whole conception is flawed at the top because people don’t read anymore.”

Emphasis added by me. Those words are the important bit.

You're Steve Jobs at Apple. You know that doing eBooks is inevitable. It's part of the ding in the universe that you know you still have to make.

But how to do it?

Saying "book" is like saying "PBS" for "TV" or "NPR" for "radio." "Book" does not say fun, exciting, engaging -- to those who do not buy books. (That's exactly how the current eBook conception is "flawed at the top.")

And those people -- those who aren't book buyers -- are a huge percentage of the customers at the iTunes Store, who are daily downloading millions and millions of fun, exciting, engaging songs and videos.

To win the eBook battle, he has to get those people to buy them.

The cliche way would be do to limp eBooks about bands and musicians. But what good would that do? They'd be instantly recognized as books.

So to grab those people, to show them what an Apple eBook will be like, Apple will use the Trojan Horse method.

Which is brilliant!

Here is that brilliance:
“It’s all about re-creating the heyday of the album when you would sit around with your friends looking at the artwork, while you listened to the music,” said one executive familiar with the plans.

If you don't understand the importance of that, let me introduce you to writer Martin Millar, who blogged about this very thing back in February: The Modern World Continues to Disappoint:
No longer having a record deck, I have records I haven't heard for many years. One of these being Hawkwind's Space Ritual, their live magnum opus from the 70s. As a young teenager, I spent a lot of time in my bedroom listening to this, nodding my head to the endless repetitive riffs, and marvelling at the mighty record sleeve. This folded out into six sheets, full of entertaining words and images. Well, they were entertaining if you were a teenage boy and sort of imagined it would be fun to fly around the universe in a space ship with Hawkwind. (I didn't have a lot of girlfriends in those days. OK I had no girlfriends.)

After considering buying this for some years I was finally overwhelmed with nostalgia, so I bought the CD. I knew it wouldn't be the same but I wanted it anyway.

It wasn't till this CD arrived that I realised what a tremendous disappointment the packaging would be. Gone is the mighty album sleeve which folded out into such a huge item, replaced by a puny little booklet, which isn't the same at all. The whole thing is a great disappointment.

Here's a picture of me holding the original sleeve, and the modern equivalent. You can see why I'm not happy.

Anyone who has ever bought an LP with an extensive sleeve immediately understands this. It's a huge part of the fun that Compact Discs took away.

But there are people who have never bought an LP. There might even be iTunes Store customers who have never even bought a CD!

So the way to grab them, to introduce them to the dimension of music they've been missing -- and to introduce them to eBooks The Apple Way -- Apple will do this to woo them into the fold.

This has the additional added benefit of making everyone STFU about the question, "What could Apple do with eBooks?"

This "interactive booklet" will be Apple eBook 1.0.

Mark the 1.0 bit. Because I want all of you to consider how much more iPhone OS 3.0 towers over the original 1.0.

Apple will be bringing a 1.0 eBook to market. But unlike crappy ePub and all the crappy eInk devices, Apple will be able to go on to bring an eBook 2.0, an eBook 3.0, and beyond.

Starting today, everyone can ignore these things: Amazon Kindle, Sony Reader, all eBook hardware devices, ePub, and all the ways so-called "eBooks" have been done.

The Age of the eBook has not even begun.

It will now that Apple is doing it.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

How Steve Jobs Wins, Part Two

Originally published at Mike Cane’s No Flickr Blog:

Jobs illustrates just how "complex" a program should be. Apple wins, thinking like that.

See Roughly Drafted: iDVD hung out to dry as Apple pushes movies online

-- originally published on Flickr January 30, 2009

I repeat this because people seeing the Editis post are probably scoffing at how "difficult" it would be to create Intelligent eBooks such as those.

Yet look at how Apple managed to bring movie creation and DVD authoring to the masses:

It's all been made drag-and-drop simple.

But what does this have to do with eBooks? It's what I've mentioned before: Pages.

Hop to 3:22 in this video to see a demo of Pages:

If you've watched that, and you're a writer who has struggled with HTML, XML, ePub or any other eBook format, you must be drooling at the mouth over the utter simplicity and obviousness of that approach.

No coding, no dicking around with screwy CSS, no "Let me try this and then go into Preview Mode to see if that works" nonsense.

As the opening quote stated, people drag and drop their stuff and hit Burn.

Apple could easily extend Pages so after everything has been assembled, the final button to hit is Make eBook.

I don't know a single writer -- including Moriah Jovan -- who would choose manual labor for building an eBook over an automated approach.

Plus, Apple lists resources for commercial and community-created Pages templates. When Pages has been extended to handle eBooks, sites such as ePub Zen Garden will be a quaint (though still nightmarish) memory.

That day cannot arrive soon enough.

For writers as well as readers.

Previously here:

What REALLY Delayed The Apple Tablet
Part Of The eBook Vision
What One Big Change Would An Apple iTablet Bring?
Dumb eBooks Must Die, Smart eBooks Must Live
ALL eInk Devices: BAD For eBooks!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

What REALLY Delayed The Apple Tablet

... all the electronic reading gadgets on the market are subpar, if you ask me, making the reading of books, newspapers, magazines, and even cereal boxes painful. The resolution is poor. The fonts are crap. The navigation is chunky. Not since the eight-track player has modern technology produced such a heap of garbage. If you're looking for the reason e-books constitute just 1 percent or 2 percent of all book sales, stop the search.

Emphasis added by me.

I agree with that quote.

It's from Does the Book Industry Want To Get Napstered? at Slate.

Not only do I agree with that quote, I'm here to say he is absolutely correct.

Who have been the majority of eBook hardware buyers? Not the young!
the total number of Kindle owners [are] between the ages of 40 and 69[,] an incredible 58.6%. Owners above 70 make up an additional 8.1% -- Kindle Demographics

What generally characterizes those age groups? It's usually this sentiment: I know what I want and that's all I want.

That is the perfect profile of the oldster buying an eBook device: I know I want to read and that's all I want to do.

Well, good luck! Because, with crappy eInk, that's about all you'll be able to do -- and that's after first undergoing a screen-refresh initiation period. And then undergoing a beating so you'll know never to expect any sort of fast, randomized access to text.

You are, ultimately, taught to lower your expectations to those below that of print.

And what's the gain? Sure, fewer boxes to pack. Less clutter. In some cases, lower than print prices.

But in all cases, you're locked into a dumber-than-paper format that's also handcuffed with pernicious DRM.

But hey, at your age, does that matter? You'll be dead soon!

Fortunately for the fate of the world, not everyone in those age groups surrenders their repugnance for lower standards. Some people will not accept anything less than the best.

Such a person is Steve Jobs.

You just know at some point he had to have handled a Sony Reader or a Kindle.

And found them far less than Insanely Great.

He's discounted reading and eBooks before. And I was the first to call BS on that.

What I think has gone through Steve Jobs' mind is this: We have a lot of work to do to get the iPhone to its next Insanely Great phase. In Getting It Done, there are many little things we've had to leave out. And we're All Hands On Deck with just the submissions to the App Store. Plus, I don't think an iPhone-sized screen is the best eBook experience.

But now that the iTablet has been in development, now that the chip fab has done its job, and the device is in the active pipeline for a real introduction, Steve Jobs can begin to turn his attention to eBooks.

Because there will finally be a device that will be superior to the paper reading experience: a wireless iTablet.

October has been touted twice as its date of introduction. Now the latest date is first quarter 2010. Dissatisfaction with the capacity of the AT&T network has to account for part of this delay, but I really think another part of the delay is Apple developing eBook reading software that will be worthy of the Apple logo.

In the past, Cringely has called for Apple to buy Adobe. That would have given Apple the high ground in eBooks.

But what high ground would that have been?

ePub. Which is basically a created-by-committee method for lightly tarting-up text files! Serial, linear, and a godawful PITA for writers to really deal with if they want to do direct publishing (Atlantis notwithstanding).

ePub is a format unworthy of the Apple logo.

Why would Apple want to do what everyone else has been doing?

That would have been akin to the joke iPhone:

Where does any part of ePub bring to mind these words:

Not any part of it.

There are other precedents for Apple dismissing the herd and going its own way, but the standout one has to be QuickTime. Apple was faced with fierce competition from Microsoft (and also Real) for the dominance of Internet video. Apple didn't knuckle under. Adobe ultimately managed to slip in to dominate Internet video with Flash -- but many times when you see a movie trailer on a Flash site, that video has been ripped from Apple's own site offering MP4 trailers! Today, really, who aside from malicious porn sites uses Windows Media Video? (And does anyone even bother with Real?)

Apple has the courage to say All Other Solutions Are Wrong -- no matter how many people have adopted something, no matter how pervasive another method currently is.

When Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone, he said Apple was out to:

ePub in no way "reinvents the book."

But next year, Apple will.

And maybe a little bit of it will resemble this.

But you can expect it to be even better. Expect to "Read Different."

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Part Of The eBook Vision

I think it was @bshermcincy who made me aware of this video. It was in his own backlog and he finally got around to seeing it, then tweeted it. Since the Copyright date is 2007, he must have a backlog like mine.

The video is from Editis, which is described in this Google-translated French as:
Activity and strategy

2,600 employees, nearly 44 brands Edition occupies leading positions in three editorials universe: Literature (large format paperback), Education (school, extracurricular activities, college, college, university, legal and medical) , Reference (dictionaries and encyclopedias) and in the field of publishing services (promotion and distribution). Prestigious homes, services are performing cutting Editis the second french publishing group and a major player in publishing in Europe. The ambition of Editis is to strengthen its positions on the french market, continue to grow and expand its influence in the francophone world.

In other words, this is a major print publisher.

And yet, though mired in print, they had the vision to commission the follow video. (Has any American or British print publisher done this? No!)

Watch this, then see the screensnap commentary afterwards. You'll want to read the commentary. There are things not apparent simply by watching the video.

If that was too chunky for your liking, go directly to this Editis page and select from two non-chunky versions.

And now the screensnaps and commentary.

First, I'm hobbled here. I don't understand spoken French, so my comments are based on trying to derive meaning from the context. Expect some errors.

A woman returns home from work. Her man is busy typing. (I can't say husband -- there are no wedding rings.)

Notice his touchscreen monitor!

He can scroll the screen.

And it's somehow set to zoom the current page too.

The woman pulls a leather-bound thin book out of her shoulder bag.

It's an eBook device with dual color touchscreens!

In the video, you can see the page-turning animation, which is captured here a bit in the skewed text on the left side of the first snap. A bit of a UI inconsistency with what's presented later, as I'll point out.

The guy scrolls through his document using his fingertips. If you haven't caught on by now, they are making a larger point about handling information.

The woman continues to read.

What's interesting at first glance is that the notion of a "page" is preserved.

And when she pinches out to enlarge the text, you can see someone gave this some real thought. This isn't just a Gee Whiz video. The margins go away. See? The margins were there all along not simply for aesthetic value, but to provide space for type enlargement while still preserving the page!

The guy scrolls through his document ...

... types a title page ...

... and when he touches the first page, all the other pages go away, seemingly to indicate it is now a document (an excellent UI touch!) ...

... which he drags to the upper right corner of the screen. What is not evident here but becomes clear later, is that there's a Mail icon up there and he is sending this manuscript file to ... someone. To his publisher, Editis?

He visits a ... bookstore?

He buys eBook editions by running his black-leather eBook device ...

... over the bar code (RFID?) on a paper book's back cover.

An in-progress list of his purchases ...

... with the last purchase added.

This screensnap is for @HarlanCoben -- his work really gets around!

I'm going to repeat these two screensnaps because you might have missed it in the video:

... highlighted in red, that's a ginormous flatscreen pimping books. (Something Moriah Jovan left out of her bookless bookstore scheme.)

The tab for the eBook purchases and the merchant's touchscreen system. Notice the prices! They seem to be the same as ones for print books.

This is a nice UI touch ...

... the covers ...

... "fill up" as they are transfered to the customer's eBook hardware.

His eBook hardware is interesting because it folds down like a steno pad. More thought put into this, showing a variety of form factors.

Now dig this ...

... when she opens the book, she gets a CoverFlow-like auto-animation of the book covers. This happened the first time she used the book earlier, but it was too brief a shot to be seen clearly. Notice this is the first time we see pages scrolling across the dual screens like that. Also notice the book she chooses: it's the one her guy just bought in the bookstore!

Now look carefully here:

... two points. First, the pages scroll from one screen to the next. This is unlike the opening behavior we saw with an all-text book at the beginning, with conventional page-turn animation. Second, not shown in the snaps, she is able to drag an item off the screen to save later. (Why she does that instead of simply bookmarking isn't clear.)

Aside from him reading poetry, it's unclear if that is from his manuscript or an eBook he is reading.

Apparently the eBook hardware envisioned here has GPS but cannot take pictures. During their walk, the guy is receiving audio from the hardware via a wireless (Bluetooth?) earpiece. What's not clear is whether it's the eBook he just bought that's leading him around. Has the content been geotagged? (Something I will have to add to the smart eBook metadata!)

They visit a museum ...

... and purchase an eBook and guided tour.

With the graphic filling up as the data is transfered to the eBook hardware.

Look at the size of that paper book! He buys it ...

... in eBook form ...

... with a swipe.

Later he's apparently sent the cover to the book he wrote ...

... and it's animated! This has been an on-and-off debate I've had with others. Do we really want animated covers? Currently, such animation would suck battery life. They'd also suck up CPU cycles. And what if somehow the cover managed to crash, preventing access to the eBook? What if an animated cover from a sample eBook contained malware? Also, would it be possible to dismiss the cover before it has completed its little jig? And where exactly would these dancing covers stop? Would we also have covers with video, with the writer pimping the book? It'd also be possible to have a cover that's several times the filesize of the text alone! This is not a debate that will end anytime soon, I think.

Look carefully at these next two sequences. The first:

She's doing a vertical scroll! Does she actually have two eBooks open? That's a real possibility, because look at this second sequence:

She simply drags items from the left page to drop onto the right page. I'm guessing what she's doing is creating an on-the-spot scrapbook of places they intend to visit. But what if it's a scrapbook of places they've already visited? That brings up the questions of Why? and What for? Would she refer to it if they visited again, to see any changes? Is the scrapbook something she could share with others, to recommend those places to see? That seems like a lot of work for sharing. Importable bookmarks would be lighter-weight and easier.

Another interesting sequence:

I'm guessing he's received an eGalley from his publisher and is making last minute changes. I cringe at the idea of using a stylus on that screen, but let's pretend these future screens are truly scratch-resistant or scratch-healing.

And then he scrolls vertically...

This change in UI makes sense here, in that it would distinguish the file from an eBook.

And then he drags it to the corner of the screen ...

... which, since no icon is shown, perhaps we can assume is a default behavior for emailing something?

I like this shot:

That's an In Your Face to all the people who've said, "But I'd never take eBook hardware to the beach like a cheap paperback book!"

Some more thinking that went into this video:

He's using his steno pad hardware in single-screen mode. The text crawls to the next page. Look closely at the upper right corner. He's listening to music while reading and a crawl of the music's title is appearing in the banner there.

Now watch this and weep, you owners of that pathetic Kindle:

She's reading a book review and clicks on a link for more information ...

This causes a block of text to slide aside ...

... revealing the book being reviewed ...

... and brings up a transaction page ...

... where she buys the eBook ...

... and it's right there.

Here again we see the un-booklike behavior of the pages crawling across the screens.

Notice again the margins around the text, for pinch-out text enlargement that preserves the page.

Time is greatly compressed for this next sequence. At a cafe, the writer meets someone ...

... apparently his eBook has now been published ...

... the other fellow pulls out his eBook device ...

... it's steno pad-like too. And look at the icons!

The writer touches his eBook ...

... and drags it to one of the icons ...

... and this time ...

... it's a book icon. Does that initiate a transfer to a nearby eBook device set to receive?

Later on, the woman is in that neighborhood bookstore ...

... and she sees ...

... the cover of the eBook written by her guy!

In this sequence, don't look at the man, look behind him:

Yet another flatscreen advertising eBooks/books!

Final sequence. The writer is outside and his eBook device rings!

... he pulls it out ...

... and he has received ...

... an ePostcard of congratulations from the woman. The graphic has animated fireworks in it too.

There's lots to consider here. What kind of eBook framework, for example, would allow a block of text to move? I don't see that being possible with the current ePub spec. Does anyone?

I also don't believe there will be any place for a physical store that displays books. That's what a library is for. Besides, who would really want to venture outdoors to buy something that can be purchased in your own home? That's just screwy. That's a make-work method a Soviet-like regime would design!

At the beginning, where the writer is moving things around on his desktop monitor -- that highlights what a huge FAIL Windows 7 already is. hp, Asus, MSI, and others are already shipping all-in-one desktops and nettops with touchscreens. That's the future. But what is Windows 7 really designed as? A facelift of the same old stuff Microsoft has been flogging during the 20th century! With the news that 91% of computer purchases over $1,000 are going to Macintoshes, Apple is going to bury Microsoft by devising the touch-friendly desktop interface Microsoft ignored in Windows 7.

Finally, what I love about this video is the absolute frictionlessness of the eBook experience. No one has to dick around with stupid hardware buttons. No one is looking at a dumb vertical list of all-text titles. The idiotic file format wars have been solved and people can just go ahead and buy and read!

The only thing missing is the justification for print-like prices for eBooks. Ah, but this was made in 2007, not this week.

Well done, Editis!