Tag Archives | ebooks

Consumer Electronics Show 2012 – Notes and Takeaways

The theme of the 2012 International Consumer Electronics Show was all things connected all the time anywhere and everywhere. According to Parks Associates, more than 920 million connected devices will be sold worldwide in 2012, and revenues from operator-provided cloud-based value-added services will exceed $8.5 billion by 2015. CES product displays did not diminish any of these estimates.

The ability to perform similar functions on various sized screens is increasing. Whether you have a smartphone, tablet, notebook, or large screen OLED Television, internet access to sites, search and social connections will expand in 2012. Below are a few highlights.

Mobile Redefined

Mobility and mobile devices are no longer optional or an add-on to our business and personal lives. The connected home and connected offices have been described for many years as a home network or office network. Today, connectivity makes every device linkable. Not just devices we call computers, but appliances, remote controls, video cameras and the automobile. The car Henry Ford started with now has its own computer based internet connection so you can get traffic reports, weather updates and be connected to the National Public Radio broadcast archives to listen to most NPR programs from any date at any time. This is internet radio on wheels.

More Books

The old term was computer or personal computer. Then the personal devices became a single unit that one could carry anywhere. The books evolved – Notebook, Netbook eBook and now Ultrabook. Ultrabooks come from the folks at Intel and have screen sizes from 11 to 13 inches, weigh less than 3 pounds and are priced less than $1,000. 

Digital medical
Doctors’ offices have been mandated to go digital. Tablets and other mobile devices are being used everywhere from the operating room to admitting. More than the hospitals and doctors, devices, apps and cloud based services are providing DIY medical control for the individual. Companies like Withings have scales, blood pressure cuffs and monitors for both babies and adults. These devices are digitally accurate and when used transmit the readings to a smartphone app for storage and uploading to your account on their website. 

These highlights may not be enough for you. Just fire up your favorite search engine and search other articles about any of the more than 3,700 vendors that were on display. Change on the technology front is constant. Whatever device you see today, feature updates will occur in less than one year. So if today you need 3D television, Digital Maps, More Games, et al, the time to buy is right after the super bowl. If you can wait, go ahead, knowing that the device you have with an internet connection links you to the world of a lot information (sometimes called stuff).

One announcement of note – Microsoft said they will no longer exhibit at CES. This action is worth watch as the big electronics companies – LG, Sony, Panasonic and Pioneer are expanding their product lines with televisions, streaming players, DVRs, Portable everything. This includes managed content that will be exclusive a period of time. For example, “Angry Birds” will have its own channel on LG.

Imagine relaxing on a quiet, sun drenched beach listening to surf roll in over the sand. You reach into your beach bag and pull out a portable device that enables connection with Unlimited Priorities Site so you can read this blog, check on upcoming U-P events. You then close the device and return to your relaxation knowing more than when your feet first touched sand.

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2011 in Review and Trends to Watch in 2012

Year in ReviewPaula J. Hane, Information Today’s NewsBreaks Editor, recently published a year in review article focused on the upheavals in the publishing and library worlds:

Severe weather, natural disasters, the killing of Osama bin Laden, political uprisings, budget crises, celebrity scandals, hot high-tech toys, the death of Steve Jobs, and the U.S. troops leaving Iraq—what will you remember from 2011? Techies will no doubt focus on the iPad 2, iPhone 4S, the Kindle Fire, and the rest of the new Kindle family, and all the new apps for smartphones. Folks in the information industry will likely remember 2011 as one of adapting new technologies and testing viable business models for the new emerging information landscape. Librarians will likely remember it as a year of intense pressure to squeeze more e-resources and services from their (shrinking) budgets.

She continues with a recounting of the topics that were the in the forefront for 2011 including Mobile and tablet computing, cloud computing, Etextbooks, Geolocation, Discovery layers (Summon, EBSCO EDS, OCLC WorldCat Local, Ex Libris Primo), and Semantic search.

In 2012, Paula expects focus to be on even more privacy issues, more growth of tablet usage with a showdown between iPad 3 and Kindle Fire 2, the wider adoption of Touch interfaces, more widespread adoption of cloud computing technologies, and further adoption of EPUB 3.

She also shared some reviews and projections from Bing, Google, PaidContent, ReadWriteWeb, IDC, and Stephen Abram.

Read the full article at Review of 2011 and
Trends Watch 2012
by Paula J. Hane
(Posted On January 5, 2012)

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Discovery and Monetization: Two Important Challenges Facing eBook Publishers

Written by Dan Tonkery for
Unlimited Priorities and DCLnews Blog

The publishing industry’s shift from print to e-formats has been growing rapidly. eBooks are the fastest growing segment of the publishing industry. In 2010 eBooks represented over 8% of the trade book sales in the United States. The growing number of devices further fuels the growth rate. By the end of 2011 there will be an estimated 21 million eReaders installed with a double digit growth in eReaders expected in 2012. Sales are forecast to exceed $1 billion dollars.

The growth of eBooks is welcome news to the publishing industry that has been experiencing a decline in book sales and shrinking shelf space as more brick and mortar stores are closing. The big Six publishers are taking full advantage of the eBook opportunity as is Amazon with a range of eBook services.

Given that most publishers are not technology driven organizations, most publishers will have to turn to technology based companies for their digital publishing solutions. Publishers are looking for companies that offer a full range of editorial, composition, and conversion services. In the eBook support area, publishers are looking for high quality, cost effective delivery to eReader devices, smart phones, and tablets. The technology company not only has to help prepare the content for the appropriate eReader format, they must also assist with the distribution to Apple’s iBookstore, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Sony, and others.

Publishers are rushing to convert their current publications to eBooks and there is also a resurgence of interest in back lists. Several major publishers in the romance field are finding new sales life in their back-lists many of which have been out of print for years. So for companies offering digital publishing solutions there is significant work available in converting back-list or other legacy content into flexible digital formats for republishing in eBook formats.

The silver lining in the rapidly growing eBook market is the opportunity for digital publishing companies to support the publishing community by converting books, journals, catalogs, newspapers, microform, and newsletters to e-content. The entire publishing community from trade publishers, university presses, associations, government organizations, and even the STM presses all need a level of technical support during this exciting time. The traditional players in this market need to market their services and be aggressive in selling their services. With any new opportunity, the marketplace will see new host of players offering services. Such is the case with eBook services. The traditional technology partner companies in this marketplace need to insure that they bring their A game as the new companies entering the publishing market are often venture backed run by seasoned Silicon Valley trained entrepreneurs. Supporting eBook projects is becoming a very competitive market.

Given a steady supply of good content, a stable growing eReader market in place and a market that is rapidly expanding, what is missing in the eBook world? What was worrying publishers at the recent Book Expo in New York City? One of the themes I heard over and over was the issue of “discovery”. Publishers are worried that consumers are not going to be able to find newly published book as the traditional marketing and sales channels are not as useful in the digital age. While the Big 6 Publishers still have large marketing campaigns to promote a few of their best sellers, many other publishers as well as the self-publishing authors are left without an easy solution.

To solve this problem there is an effort underway to develop the next best book discovery tool which allows publishers to suggest unfamiliar content to consumers. There are over 20 start-up companies including BookTour funded by Amazon that are developing software solutions and tools to help authors with book promotion. Three books publishers Hachette, Penguin, Simon & Schuster have teamed up to start the Bookish Reading Group as an editorially independent platform to help with discovery and sales.

The New York Times recently added an eBook best seller list. Sales of eBooks are predicated to hit $1 billion dollars this year. There is a race to build a better discovery tool. Discoverreads (recently purchased by Goodreads and What Should I Read Next? are relying on engineering. Other services such as BookGlutton and Copia are creating a social experience.

aNobii is another new electronic book discovery and retail service owned by publishers and a retailer. The service is a socially-driven retail platform that aims to give publishers more consumer data than provided by digital sellers. The one thing that Amazon and Apple don’t do is help you decide what to read next. Although I would have to say that Amazon does a reasonable job of telling you what people have bought similar to the book you just purchased. So there is an algorithm that looks and compares purchases and brings other suitable candidates for the consumer to consider. Also Amazon offers book reviews which are helpful even if you don’t know the reviewer.

Readers buy books based on four reasons according to Kevin Smoker, the co-founder of BookTour; familiarity with the author; interest in the subject; a recommendation from a trusted source; or hearing about it in the media. Just take a look at the influence of Oprah and her Book Club. A recommendation of any book on her show sent book sales into the millions.

Interest in a subject or familiarity with an author certainly can help sell books on the web. For example, Amanda Hocking, a 26 year old new paranormal romance author is now selling 10,000 books a day and has just signed a four book deal with St. Martin’s Press. Less than two years ago she was a totally unknown self-published author who created a fan base with her paranormal romance genre.

The publishing industry is looking for the next app that will offer a sophisticated tool which will know the reader’s tastes and can make recommendations for your next reading pleasure much like Pandora does with music.

The digital publishing technology companies can help with discovery by helping to engineer and provide book tagging data for search engines to find and utilize. Already most companies are working to capture metadata including titles, chapter titles, authors, editors, volume, issues, page numbers, abstracts, and keywords. Capturing full and complete metadata is an important step in facilitating discovery.

The other challenge facing publishers and authors is finding the proper monetizing strategy. There are continuing debates and corporate fights over setting the price for eBooks. From the beginning, Amazon demanded and received a $9.99 price on all eBooks and forced publishers to accept a much lower list price for their eBooks than print. This pricing strategy went a long way to seed the eBook market and set the consumers expectation for low pricing for eBooks. Then along came Apple with their iBookstore and they set the publishing market on their ear with an agency model which in the end all the Big 6 publishers have endorsed. So eBook prices have increased. Under the agency model the publisher sets the price and Apple takes their 30% cut. Publishers have been more realistic in setting their eBook prices. Amazon has followed suit and now eBooks are priced higher and while publishers are happier with the arrangement, consumers are still smarting about the pricing models.

Self-publishing authors now have a number of viable choices. One of the more popular sites for self-publishing authors is Smashwords where they work with authors to produce eBooks and handle much of the background work and the author keeps about 80% of the retail price. Many self-publishing authors sell their eBooks at a much lower price than the traditional publishers. Smashwords titles are often sold at $2.99 or less. The 10 bestselling Amanda Hocking’s titles are all at $2.99 or less with many at .99 cents. It is amazing that even at that price she was able to sell over $2 million dollars’ worth of books on Amazon.

What is clear is we are in the early days of finding a proper monetizing strategy for trade books. The pressure is on publishers to price eBooks at a level that consumers will support. There is significant revenue in the eBook sales channel but much of the traditional costs will have to be reduced. The Big 6 publishers are facing a tough time ahead with the high overheads.

The STM and professional community is not under as much price pressure as trade books but it is clear that a different monetizing strategy is also needed here. The traditional monograph book is no longer only going to be sold as a unit. Publishers need to work out a pricing strategy that will enable a user to buy the full book, a chapter, a paragraph, a chart, a photograph or any other unit that can be supported. The same technical support is required for a journal or magazine subscription. There is an important role for the digital publishing solutions companies to fulfill.

The technology needs to be in place to support the acquisition of an issue, article, table of contents, or subunit of the journal. An annual subscription to the journal may not continue to be a unit of choice for libraries. I expect the user community to begin buying information in subunits and the technology needs to be in place to support it. Already the major hosting services allow organizations to buy information by the download via a token or some other mechanism. I expect that this trend will be expanded. We need the systems in place to allow users to acquire information in any number of units or subunits.

Publishing is a changing industry and the industry will need the best technical support that they can afford. Companies offering digital publishing solutions are well placed to assist with the changes and take a leadership role in supporting the new user world.

About the Author

Dan Tonkery is president of Content Strategies as well as a contributor to Unlimited Priorities. He has served as founder and president of a number of library services companies and has worked nearly forty years building information products.

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Conference Buzz: Re-inventing Content, Discovery, and Delivery for Today’s Academic Environment

Written for Unlimited Priorities and DCLnews Blog.

NFAIS 2011

Expectations of today’s academic information users have changed as technology has advanced and new technologies have appeared, so many information providers have re-invented their content accordingly. The processes of accessing and delivering information are considerably different than they were even a few years ago. This NFAIS symposium on May 25, 2011 in Philadelphia, PA examined some of the trends and issues that content providers have faced and the changes they have made to their products to accommodate today’s digital and multimedia technologies. The symposium had sessions on re-inventing content from traditional sources, effects of eBooks and eTextbooks on the learning process, and discovery and delivery platforms. It closed with a fascinating systems analysis look at book publishing.

Integration of Video

One of today’s major trends is the integration of video into all types of content. With the appearance of video hosting sites like YouTube, students have come to expect video content to play a prominent part in their education. In response to this demand, Alexander Street Press (ASP) modified its business strategy in order to concentrate on video-enhanced products. Stephen Rhind-Tutt, president of ASP, reported that the company has translated over 20,000 CD-ROMs into streaming media and has also developed a system to transcribe video into text and synchronize the text with the video images, thus allowing users to quickly and easily scan through the text and view only the portions of the video of interest to them. Other examples of video initiatives by publishers include the American Chemical Society, which developed a very successful video course, “Publishing Your Research 101” that was viewed over 24,000 times in one week and Pearson, a leading educational publisher, which is adding video and podcasts to its eBook products.

Re-Invention of Content From Traditional Sources

The Retrospective Index to Music Periodicals (RIPM) is one of the few content providers dealing with very old content—in this case, music periodicals from the 1800s up to about 1950. Because of the age of the source material, RIPM has several unique problems not generally faced by today’s information companies, such as the poor condition of the pages, handwritten notes on them, etc. RIPM has overcome these problems, producing a database of over 1.2 million pages that has become a major tool for teaching music. The user interface offers several advanced features, such as spelling suggestions, and even the ability to reconfigure one’s keyboard to accommodate non-Roman character sets.

Search vs. Discovery

Search, long a feature of information systems, has several well-known problems, as Bruce Kiesel, Director of Knowledge Base Management at Thomson Reuters, pointed out. It works best when you know what you are looking for, but it only retrieves documents. It cannot find answers to questions, knowledge, new information, or information spread across multiple documents. Discovery systems are making content increasingly intelligent, and they allow users to find unknown information by serendipity, create document maps, and find entities, concepts, relationships, or opinions. Semantic content enrichment can annotate knowledge, link to similar documents, and use metadata as a springboard to other documents, thus enabling information visualization and more proactive delivery. Thomson has greatly enhanced some of its databases using these techniques.

Re-inventing the Learning Experience

A new generation of electronic book products is changing the learning experience. It is no longer sufficient to simply repurpose printed books into a series of PDF documents. Pearson is using Flash technology in its eBooks, and Wiley has redesigned its WileyPlus product, organizing it by time instead of subject so that students can easily determine where they are in a course and can budget their time effectively. It also includes an “early warning system” that uses time and learning objectives to help students find their weak areas and study more effectively. M&C Life Sciences has overcome some of the well known problems of publication delays by selling its content as 50 to 100 page eBooks that include animations and video. Because of their small size and rapid publication schedules, these eBooks can be updated quickly and easily as necessary.

What is a Book?

Eric Hellman, founder of Gluejar, closed the day with a fascinating look at the future of book publishing from a systems analysis viewpoint, examining questions such as:

  • Is the future of publishing related to paper and ink, or bits?
  • Will we be working with documents or objects (like software)?
  • What are the objects in our environment and what are the relationships between them?
  • What will users do with the objects?

Systems analysis involves objects and the actions taken on them. In the publishing world, objects are textual data, articles, or photos, and the actions are navigation, sharing, and searching. Hellman compared a newspaper website such as the New York Times and a general news website such as CNN. The analysis shows that both sites have similar objects and actions (with the exception that CNN emphasizes videos), so they are very much alike. In contrast, single articles and videos are not as similar. An article has text, metadata, photos, and some context and can stand on its own; actions on it include searching and scanning through it. A video is usually focused on a single object with only some context; actions on it include play, pause, change the volume, etc. Applying this analysis to eBooks, Hellman suggested that an eBook is more like a video than an article, although some of them work well as websites. He went on to assert that selling objects has many advantages; the best model is to aggregate them and sell subscriptions because is a good fit with existing book businesses.

More details on this useful and interesting symposium are available on The Conference Circuit blog, and presenters’ slides have been posted on the NFAIS website.

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The Changing Content Landscape in Publishing

Written for Unlimited Priorities and DCLnews Blog.

On May 23-24 many of us in the publishing industry will be attending the BookExpo America 2011 in New York City at the Javits Center for another annual coming together of who’s who in publishing. The exhibit halls will be filled with thousands of industry professionals and people who are there just because they love books. Depending on the hall you visit and the booths you stop by, you will come away with a few different feelings about the book publishing industry. Last year I spent two full days at the exhibits and the air was filled with the love of printed books. Publisher after publisher showed no indication that the world was changing or if it was, no one was admitting that the traditional book is under any pressure from technology.

Electronic content is one of the most used applications; the growth rate is compounding each month.

Yet there was a small group of Digital Book exhibitors all banded together in a small area of the Javits Center, which were showing the tools of the future. And if this group is successful in bringing new technology and opportunities to publishing, then the future of the printed book will certainly take on a very different look. Some are even questioning the future of the printed book!

In a very short period of time, the technology companies led by Apple are flooding the market with tools to feed users with eBooks. Apple has sold over 15 million iPads and the iPad 2 sold over 500,000 units the first weekend it was available. Samsung has the Galaxy Tab, Motorola the Xoom, Blackberry the Playbook, Toshiba has a Honeycomb-based tablet in the works, and don’t forget the mainstay eReaders from Amazon or Barnes and Noble. The consumer market is almost replacing the laptop with the tablet computer and consumers around the world are finding all sorts of applications for their new equipment. Electronic content is one of the most used applications and the growth rate is compounding each month.

How is the landscape of traditional publishing changing? The North American Big Six publishers…are all experiencing a continuing decline in sales of trade books at the brick and mortar stores.

The Kindles from Amazon have been accepted by users as their eBook reader of choice. Amazon sold over 7 million Kindles in 2010 and is on track to sell over 35 million by 2012. Amazon reports that its eBook sales are outpacing print sales in the hardcover area at 180 to 100 and in the paperback area 115 to 100. Apple has over 2500 publishers in their iBookstore and has delivered over 100 million eBook downloads. If the eBook readers were not enough to make an impact on print book sales, consider that smartphones can also be used to read content; the iPhone with its 100 million handsets is a major player in the e-content market as well. Other smartphone manufacturers are also enjoying commanding sales growth.

With this type of infrastructure in place it is not so surprising to find a major impact on traditional book publishing. So what is happening out in the market place? How is the landscape of traditional publishing changing? The North American Big Six publishers including Random House, Penguin, Harper Collins, Simon & Schuster, Hachette Book Group, and Macmillan are all experiencing a continuing decline in sales of trade books at the brick and mortar stores. Everyone knows about the loss of Borders stores and the continuing trend of the loss of shelf-space. The NA Big Six had a significant advantage over everyone else in that they were able to put books on shelves. They have been distribution experts followed by strong marketing and editing. Their power is now on the wane as the distribution function in the eBook age is of less value.

Another important function up in the air since the market is now a global is the negotiation of territorial and language rights. Selling rights to publish best sellers in other countries has been a big part of the annual Frankfurt Bookfair. Imagine the impact to the traditional way of doing business when an eBook can be delivered around the globe with the push of a key on a keyboard. No inventory issues, no freight, no customs clearance, and no delay. You want the item, you buy it, and it is immediately available on your tablet.

No inventory issues, no freight, no customs clearance, and no delay. You want the item, you buy it, and it is immediately available on your tablet.

If the NA Big Six don’t look out they are soon going to find a new Big Six taking over their role. Amazon, Apple, Google, Kobo, Ingram and Overdrive could just as easily perform all or most of the functions that the NA Big Six offer. Each of the companies above can deliver an eBook to a user anywhere in the world. They have eBookstores from direct relationships with publishers and have the customer services and maintain help desks that connect the users to their platforms.

Already Amazon, Apple, and Google have demonstrated their power in the marketplace. These three companies have changed the publishing landscape with their impact on pricing and setting terms and conditions. Apple with their introduction of the Agency sales model tore down years of book selling with the destruction of the wholesale model. Amazon exercised their strength on setting the prices for the original eBooks. All of these changes in the marketplace are being watched by a growing number of companies that are looking to take advantage of the new opportunities in publishing.

The timing is right for companies outside of our industry to come in and shake up what has been an old boys’ club.

The timing is right for companies outside of our industry to come in and shake up what has been an old boys’ club. Venture backed companies are betting that using modern tools and techniques, they can have an impact on the future of book publishing. There has been a host of high-quality self-publishing companies that have sprouted up offering a full range of publishing services. One company in particular has caught my attention: Smashwords, the brain child of Mark Coker a successful entrepreneur. They offer a full service operation that can get your eBook published in any platform and the author keeps 85% of the price instead of standard 25% royalty. Other self-publishing companies are Scribd, Author Solutions, and Amazon’s CreatSpace or Kindle Direct Publishing group that is offering potential authors a full publishing solution. These are just the first of many companies that are going to be supporting authors bypassing the traditional mainstream publishers.

While trade eBooks are perhaps the best selling segment of the marketplace, it is interesting to note the changing landscape in textbook publishing. Textbook publishing is on its way to having an extreme makeover. Some industry experts that are predicting that within 5-7 years the digital textbook will reach its tipping point and that eTextbooks will become the dominant format. The popularity of the iPad and the other tablets as well as the adoption of EPUB3, OER, and Open textbooks will help drive this shift to eTextbooks. Unlike trade books where the traditional publishers are losing market share, it is the major textbook publishers such as McGraw-Hill, Pearson, Wiley and others that are driving this market. The textbook companies have invested in new companies such as Inkling to support their business objectives. Another group supported by the publishers is CourseSmart.

For years, traditional textbook publishers have lost revenue to the sale of used textbooks. Textbooks have been difficult to update as the process of editing and reprinting anything less than five years old has been expensive. Electronic textbooks can be updated every year with new data added. There is hope by many students that the e-textbook can be priced at a lower price, offer a range of new features such as online editing, cut and paste, and note-taking support. Publishers will be able to produce eTextbooks at a lower unit cost and be able to tailor-make editions for different markets.

No discussion about the changing landscape in publishing is complete without the mention of the opportunity to truly create new works. Publishers are going to begin creating highly-accessible interactive content. There are a wide range of devices such as the iPad and the smartphone where enhanced content can be viewed and consumed. There is a need for software companies to support the publishing industry in the conversion and creation of multimedia e-products. Books, journals, newspapers, and magazines all are fertile ground for technology companies to assist publishers in the production of their electronic products. There is an active and growing market out there for companies to assist in building new products or converting old content to the appropriate format. Make sure your technical staff is ready for HTML5 and EPUB3.

Nearly every publisher that I visit or work with is faced with the same predicament. Most publishers have plenty of content sitting around in large backlists, an active publishing program that they want to convert over to eBooks, or new ideas for interactive products. What I don’t see is a level of technical expertise within the publishing houses. Every publisher from Random House, to the New York Times, to the University Presses needs help in achieving their digital potential. This missing skill is a fact that the venture community has recognized and we are seeing many start-up companies getting into the market to support this critical need.

If your company is offering technical support to the publishing community be sure that you are offering the latest and greatest software solution. Be on the lookout for new startups that are hitting the market such as Vook, a new media company that is working on video integration with eBooks. The publishing industry is moving rapidly to transition to the new market opportunity provided by the devices supporting e-reading. No one is standing still. The market, the technology, and the opportunities are moving rapidly.

See you at BEA 2011. Have a good show!

About the Author

Dan Tonkery is president of Content Strategies as well as a contributor to Unlimited Priorities. He has served as founder and president of a number of library services companies and has worked nearly forty years building information products.

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Conference Buzz: Record Attendance at O’Reilly’s Tools of Change for Publishing

Written for Unlimited Priorities and DCLnews Blog.

Tools of Change (TOC) for Publishing

Tools of ChangeAbout 1,400 attendees attended O’Reilly Media’s Tools of Change (TOC) for Publishing Conference in New York, February 14-16. From its inception five years ago, when attendance was 400, TOC has grown every year, and the 2011 conference was the largest ever. It’s easy to see why; TOC continues to focus on the rapid changes occurring in the publishing industry, attracts leading speakers, and provides a forum for vendors to exhibit their latest products. It has become one of the industry’s leading events.

Is the world ready for e-books?

Author and Wolfram Research co-founder Theodore Gray wondered if the world was finally ready for e-books. He noted that it is unsatisfying to him to need to resort to print to make any money on a book and predicted that in the future, simple static textbooks will be produced as open source projects because nobody will want to pay for them, either in print or electronic form. Users will, however, pay for enrichment and interactivity, and now that technology to add such capabilities to e-books is available, the world is ready for them.

The pace of change is accelerating.

David “Skip” Pritchard, President and CEO of Ingram Content Group, followed Gray’s theme and emphasized that we are in a time of rapid change in the publishing industry, and the pace of change is accelerating–a point made by several additional speakers as well. Pritchard urged attendees not to allow company history to get in the way of adapting their organizations to today’s environment. Change is not always obvious to us; skill sets and talent are often hidden in an organization. He also noted that everything will not change; authors will continue to have status, and curation will still be needed.

If all information is free, who will pay authors?

Margaret Atwood, author of numerous poems and books, struck a note for authors, asking if the future is on the Internet, and all information is free, who will pay authors? Have we stopped to think about whether today’s changes are really good or not? She advised the publishing industry to never forget its primary source. Authors are a primary source because everything in the industry depends on them. And in an age of “remote” and “virtual”, there is still a craving for “real” and “authentic”.

We must not speak of digital content as a secondary use.

Brian O’Leary, founder and principal of Magellan Media, gave an impressive talk on the damage that containers (i.e. books, magazines, and newspapers) used to transmit information have done to the present-day industry. Containers are an option, not a starting point. They limit how we think about our audiences and how they will find our content. Our world today is one of content and browsers, and a new breed of born-digital competitors is starting with context and thus meeting the challenge of being relevant to audiences who instinctively turn to digital content. We must not speak of digital content as a secondary use. Publishers are increasingly in the content solution business, where the future is in giving readers access to content-rich products. Starting with context requires publishers to make a fundamental change in their work-flow, and if they make the leap, remarkable opportunities are available.

Six trends currently affecting the publishing industry.

Kevin Kelly’s presentation opened the concluding day of the conference, and he noted that his latest book, What Technology Wants (Viking/Penguin, 2010), is the last printed book he will write. All his future works will be in digital form. Kelly, the former Executive Editor of Wired magazine, discussed six trends currently affecting the publishing industry:

  • Screening. We are moving from being people of the book to people of the screen, and we have not yet begun to see the extent that screens will permeate our culture. Every flat surface is a potential screen site.
  • Interacting. We interact with not only our fingertips, but also with gestures (as with smart phones, for example) and even our whole body. Reading will be affected by this trend and will expand to a bodily conversation and also to a nonlinear process; for example, we now have alternate endings for some books.
  • Sharing. Reading is becoming much more social. We read socially and must learn to write socially. Everything increases in value by being shared.
  • Accessing. We gain much more value by accessing information rather than owning it.
  • Flowing. Files flow into pages which flow into streams. Streams go everywhere, are never finished, and are constantly in flux. Books will operate in the same environment.
  • Generating (not copying). The Internet is the world’s largest copying machine, but future value will be in products which must be generated in context and cannot be copied. There is no better time for readers than now, but publishers are not ready for the idea that books will sell for 99 cents.

The largest platform in the world is the mobile handset.

Finally, mobile content were not forgotten at TOC. Cheryl Goodman, Director of Publisher Relations at Qualcomm, noted that the largest platform in the world is the mobile handset, but unfortunately most publishers have neither engaged this market nor changed their digital strategies to accommodate it. As a result, advertisers and marketers, not publishers, will determine the future course of the industry. This is an opportunity for publishers to function as a conduit to highly curated content.

There was an enormous lot to assimilate at TOC. Most of the speakers’ presentations, as well as the live streams of the keynote sessions are available on the TOC website, and further summaries appear on my blog. The dates and venue for TOC 2012 will be announced shortly.

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The Importance of Standards in Our Lives

Written for Unlimited Priorities and DCLnews Blog.

Ebook Readers

Photo Credit: Cloned Milkmen

Everywhere you look, travel, and shop, our world is driven by standards which have been developed by organizations that are responsible for their sphere of influence. In our homes, the lighting, air-conditioning, heating, plumbing, and appliances are all built to industry standards. Years of professional contributions by engineers, users and manufacturers has made our lives more safe and comfortable.

In the information world, standards are just as important. I take for granted that when I turn on my computer, my system will boot up and take me to the location I have requested or follow my instructions. I access the world wide web and follow a URL to my favorite web site without ever considering all the standards that were developed to make this process work.

So much of my work is facilitated by the standards that have come before me, operating in the background without any effort on my part. So, given that we have all been pampered by our information world, consider the shock to the system when our world is turned upside down by either the lack of standards or lack of agreement on the future direction. Let’s take a look at the e-content world as an example. The shift from print formats to the electronic book, journal or magazine has taken the public by storm. Sales of e-books are skyrocketing, e-readers are hitting the market, and publishers are moving to publish the print and e-book at the same time.

In the scientific, technical, and medical professional education markets, the shift from the printed journal to electronic formats has been rapid and highly successful. In less than five years, the STM market publishers have developed site license agreements for their total journal output, which now represents over 60% of publishers’ revenue. The STM market is now supplying over 85% of their journal content in electronic form. Printed journal subscriptions have radically declined and many publishers are considering giving up print or shifting to print on demand.

The e-book world is following a similar pattern. Amazon’s introduction of the Kindle served as a wake-up call for the entire publishing industry. Amazon stands to generate over $1 billion from e-books sales by the end of their fiscal year. Amazon hit the market with the first e-reader and a large catalog of digital books at a price that was much cheaper than print. Other book retailers such as Barnes & Noble, with their Nook e-book reader, and Borders, which supports a group of e-readers, have joined in the digital revolution with e-book services. In April 2010, Apple hit the market with the release of their iPad with iBookstore and sold over 3,000,000 iPads in three months along with over 5,000,000 e-books downloaded in the same short time period.

The fact that the market has responded so well to the introduction of this new technology should make everyone happy. Publishers, book retailers, and readers all have something to celebrate. Sales of printed books at Wal-Mart, Barnes & Noble, and Borders stores have been in serious decline for several years. The old brick and mortar retailing outlet stores are losing printed books sales. The e-book is the first bright light in a declining market. Publishers are looking to the mobile market as a possible salvation for book, magazine, and newspaper sales. Mobile internet access now exceeds desktop access. Mobile computing is here to stay and developers are making sure that all their applications work in the mobile environment.

With all of this positive news, why are some still unhappy about where we are going? From my perspective as a user, publishers are not providing the market with the best choices in their e-book products. While we have the ePub standard for books, we also have Mobipocket books, PDFsupport, and a host of DRM software including Amazon’s proprietary DRM (AZW). What I want is a universal e-book format where every book bought at an e-book store could be read on every e-book reader. In simple terms, I want to take any book that I have downloaded to my iPad and share it with my wife, who is reading her books on her Kindle. It is a common practice for members of the same household to share books. Why not build the e-book market on a universal e-book format that offers interoperability between e-readers and e-book stores?

Amazon has developed apps for the iPad and a host of smartphones, so they are making progress in the right direction. Sadly though, e-books bought on the iBookstore with Apple’s Fairplay DRM cannot be read on the Kindle. Perhaps it is not the lack of standards that is at the heart of this issue. We have a range of standards, but the industry lacks the will to cooperate and select one universal standard.

This interoperability problem is perhaps more a political issue than a technical one. Kindle owns Mobipocket and the Kindle AZW file format which is used as their DRM. Both Amazon and Apple have built products on a set of their preferred standards. Each company works with the same group of publishers and offers a software developer kit. In the end, software developers do follow standards to build the various products. So what we have is not a lack of standards; it is more a lack of agreement on which standard to use. In the end the market will shake out and one universal e-book format will prevail, but not before consumers waste significant money.

While we are waiting for this confusion to clear up, the standards organizations are continuing to refine and improve the existing standards in the e-publishing world.

Many developers working on iPad book applications are working with EPUB. The EPUB standard is undergoing a major revision. The EPUB 2.1 working group has identified fourteen main problems that they intend to fix in their next release. High on the list to be implemented are enhanced global language support for Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Middle Eastern languages. Support for right-to-left reading is a must if EPUB is to become the universal e-book format. In addition, other functions to be supported included rich media, interactivity, post publication annotation support, and advertising. Interactive digital textbooks and rich media magazines are going to be commonplace, and EPUB 2.1 must support these functions.

At the same time as EPUB 2.1 is undergoing development, other groups are working on HTML5. HTML5 is a standard for structuring and presenting content on the Web and incorporates features like video playback, drag-and-drop, and other features which have been dependent on third-party browser plugins. Many of the iPad applications released are supporting HTML5 features, as many parts of the standard are completed even though the standard has not been finalized. Amazon’s Kindle has also embraced the next generation of web programming, and Amazon has an upcoming release, the Kindle Previewer for HTML 5. Industry sources say that the Previewer offers complex layouts, embedded audio and video, and enhanced user interactivity.

Another related standard that impacts the user interface is CSS3. The Cascading Style Sheets style sheet language is used to describe the look and formatting of a document written in a markup language. CSS can allow the same markup page to be presented in different styles for different rendering methods, such as on screen, in print, in voice, and on Braille-based tactile devices. Developers need to pay attention to CSS for any products that are built for the US government and the college and university market where Section 508 compliance is required.

Amazon is currently being sued by various universities because the Kindle does not support Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act passed by Congress. This Federal law protects people with disabilities and requires all products bought at the Federal level to be compliant. Colleges and universities have a mandate to follow Section 508. Both the e-Readers and mobile devices such as the iPad must support Section 508. Disabled employees and users must have the same public access to information that is comparable to the access available to others. The bottom line is simple and straightforward: all applications sold to colleges and universities as well as the Federal government must be accessible to people with disabilities.

What is clear to me is the unique urgency at this time for our industry to create, endorse and implement standards to take advantage of the advances in technology. The sales of our products and services are dependent on standards. Standards groups are in nearly every aspect of our daily lives. In the publishing world, industry standards for e-readers, our platforms, software tools and even the web are often produced by groups outside of our markets. Publishers and libraries also have standards groups working on their behalf. In the United States, it is ANSI that accredits some 400 organizations as national standards developers. NISO (see links below) is one of the 400 groups working on standards for libraries, publishers and information services provides.

There are two efforts underway which impact our community, and developers should be aware of these efforts. The first is the treatment of supplemental journal article materials.

How do publishers and editors deal with supplemental material in the e-journal world? That is a question that needs answering and a standard resolution. There are questions about readability, usability, preservation and reuse. Authors follow guidelines in the manuscript submission systems of publishers for the primary text of the article.

But in today’s technologically rich research community, the text is often insufficient to describe or facilitate a researcher’s result. There are data sets, background information, methodological details, and additional content that just do not fit into the printed journal. NISO is working for a number of publishers and community leaders to sort out this important problem. We need a recommended practice or best practice guideline for how to handle supplemental materials.

Another problem for the publishers and end users is journal article version control. When you find a scientific article on the web, how do you know which version you are reading? Certainly in medical research the version is a crucial factor. Authors often keep their original submitted manuscript; if Google or some other search engine can locate it on the web, one might find the page proof version, or the published version, corrected version of record, or enhanced version of record. What is important is to have a way to identify which version of an author’s work you are reading so that there is no confusion. This is another area where standards are important, and NISO is working on this problem as well.

Standards are an important part of the quality of our products and services. Standards are evolving as technology changes. Without standards, new markets would be limited and opportunity reduced. Standards are influenced by the corporations that often have the most to gain, but we should try to insure that standards are developed for the common good and not benefit one group. The e-book world sales growth has just begun to gain traction. We still have a number of hurdles to overcome, including interoperability, making sense out of DRMs, and developing rich formats, but we have come a long way in a very short period of time, even with the limitations that we see in the standards field.

We are entering a transformational time as the shift from print to e-formats is impacting all aspects of our society and our educational systems. I can not help but imagine what type of world my grandchildren will find when they begin college. Much of the print format book and journals will have been replaced. One thing is for sure: that the implementation of standards will make this new world possible.

Some related references:

About the Author

Dan Tonkery is president of Content Strategies as well as a contributor to Unlimited Priorities. He has served as founder and president of a number of library services companies and has worked nearly forty years building information products.

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Dan Tonkery on the iPad and the Future of Technical Publications

Written for Unlimited Priorities and DCLnews Blog.

Dan Tonkery

Dan Tonkery

The much-anticipated iPad has arrived! Consumers, publishers, and video game developers are on cloud nine. What can the technical publications industry expect?

The iPad has finally arrived. This magical and revolutionary next-gen tablet computer with its online library of books and magazines, music store, and theater from Apple is now available. Industry pundits claim this device will change the future in publishing and may be the transformational product for our society, equivalent to the introduction of the television or print itself.

The iPad is a very hot looking product that can be used in multiple fields such as entertainment, business, and education. The device is a 9.7-inch touch-screen tablet computer that features a multimedia e-reader and mobile Web surfer. Since Apple’s release of the iPhone in 2007 they have become the leader in mobile devices and the release of the iPad will continue that leadership position.

Pre-orders for the iPad are over 200,000 units and sales for this first year are expected to be over 5 million for 2010. Apple insiders are projecting sales from eight to ten million. While the initial sales are in the United States, sales in the UK and Canada are projected to start by the end of April.

The iPhone app business created in 2007 is already a billion-dollar business as application developers have produced over 150,000 applications for the iPhone. The app business has created an entire industry. Apps have been downloaded some two million times, and most of those applications will work on the iPad. There is currently a gold rush by developers to create applications for this new platform. Apple has been secretive about the iPad and has been offering developers emulation software.

So who are the early adopters and developers of the iPad? A large group of publishers are working on new apps as they see a golden opportunity to reinvent the newspaper, magazine and e-book with a multimedia touch screen offering video mixed media, 360-degree product walk through and new products with embedded audio, video, and streaming. Now is the perfect time for publishers of books, magazines, and newspapers such as the New York Times, Macmillan, and Penguin to develop exciting new products that offer an opportunity to monetize their web applications and reverse the trend that everything on the web is free.

Publishers are not the only community excited about the new platform. Video game developers, retailers, and educators are building apps for this new platform. What is for sure is that the multimedia products will offer a combination of text, audio, still images, animation, video and interactivity content forms. The range of tools available now will give developers the most creative landscape ever and an opportunity to push the edge of technology forward.

The first version of the iPad will not be perfect as many users want features like a camera, multitasking, a GPS, and support for Adobe’s Flash software, but there are sufficient features to make consumers buy the iPad. The early adopters and market leaders have their orders placed. Many corporations that wanted to buy in bulk were turned away. Expect major corporations to spend millions on this new device as product catalogs, documentation, training and other enterprise-wide applications are developed.

Apple is a big winner with the iPad. The applications from publishers, video game developers, and major corporations marketing their favorite food, car, and beverage are going to provide users with sufficient content to justify buying an iPad. Already Seton Hill University has announced that they will supply all incoming freshman this fall with an iPad and other universities are considering similar action.

So what will the iPad add to the technical publishing and documentation industry? What will the introduction of the iPad have on the community that produces and develops the technical documentation for business and industry, including military applications? First and foremost, the introduction of the iPad will raise the bar on the look and feel of technical documentation. No longer are users going to accept the status quo. The tools that are now available to modernize, upgrade, and reinvent technical documentation are abundant, powerful, and ready to be implemented.

Most of the technical documentation applications build on some variation of XML, and most data conversion shops are experts in building applications and products working in the XML world. If your organization is working with DocBook, then the path to EPUB is straightforward. Hopefully your organization is working in a presentation-neutral form that contains the logical structure of the content, and then it is available to be published in a variety of formats.

What is clear for the technical documentation industry is that future applications are going to demand embedded audio, video, streaming and such features as 360-degree product walkthroughs with video-mixed media. Think for a moment about the documentation for a tank repair manual: how much more educational would it be to offer video and audio embedded in various pages? There is an exciting new world opening up and I think that many of the future technical documentation projects are going to utilize a range of the multi-media features.

The iPad and software tools provide an exciting opportunity to open up the power of art and creativity. The introduction of multimedia eBooks is an example where we have multiple formats, hardware, and software. Developers have many choices now to build exciting products.

Even Amazon with their best-selling Kindle is working on an iPad app. Kindle users will be able to read their eBooks on the iPad. Kindle is the best selling e-Book reader to date but the iPad may make the Kindle obsolete. It was a great tool in its day, but Apple may have leapfrogged it.

The benchmark for the look and feel of technical publications has been raised, and users will be looking and expecting to find image and sound support, interactivity, embedded annotation support and affordability of both the device and the product. Publishers are seeking a new platform that offers Digital Rights Management and an opportunity to shift the user from a free Internet mentality to a paid environment, and it is my belief that users will pay for bells and whistles.

The iPad is the first in a new field of tablet computers. The market is going to explode with new apps. Look for a flood of creativity. The convergence of technology that has brought us to this point has been a long time in coming. With the introduction of the iPad, we have crossed over to a new world that has great opportunity for users, developers, and corporations. The biggest impact on society is going to come from the millions of creative and artistic individuals that are going to build applications for all of these new tablet computers.

The new tablet computers will radically impact technical documentation and the data conversion industry. Since the community is already XML-savvy, working with the standards organizations like the International Digital Publishing Forum to build new expanded standards is a must. Whatever markup language you are using will be modified to include multimedia tools and features. Just think of all the potential upgrades to the various technical documentation projects that have already been completed. There should be work for many, many years. You have an opportunity to bring life into your works. Let the fun begin…


About the Author

Dan Tonkery is president of Content Strategies as well as a contributor to Unlimited Priorities. He has served as founder and president of a number of library services companies and has worked nearly forty years building information products.

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