Monday, February 20, 2012

I Pub News: Book Business 2-20-12

Readium Open Source Initiative Launched to Accelerate EPUB 3 Adoption

Feb. 13, 2012, 6:45 a.m. EST
The International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF) today announced the Readium Project, a new open source initiative to develop a comprehensive reference implementation of the IDPF EPUB(R) 3 standard. This vision will be achieved by building on WebKit, the widely adopted open source HTML5 rendering engine.

EPUB, an XML and Web Standards based format developed by the IDPF, has become a key global standard in the rapidly developing digital publishing industry, enabling digital books and publications to be portable across devices and reading systems. EPUB 3, a major revision of the standard, was approved in October 2011 and is available at . The new version aligns EPUB with HTML5 and adds support for video, audio, interactivity, vertical writing and other global language capabilities, improved accessibility, MathML, and styling and layout enhancements. WebKit is an open source rendering engine for HTML5 and related Web Standards. WebKit is utilized as the underlying engine in many web browsers and applications, including Apple Safari, Google Chrome, Apple iBooks, Adobe AIR(R), Nokia MeeGo(R), HP webOS, and others. Project Readium is focusing on developing a complete reference implementation of EPUB 3 utilizing the WebKit engine. Packaged as a test application for content developers, the Readium codebase will also serve as a steppingstone for commercial reading systems. A proof-of-concept prototype is available now as a Google Chrome browser extension for Windows and Mac OS/X, and the project aims to deliver a feature-complete implementation including an Android(R) configuration by mid-2012.

"Project Readium will significantly accelerate EPUB 3 adoption and increase implementation consistency," said Bill McCoy, Executive Director of the IDPF. "A universal digital publishing format for the open web benefits the entire industry and ultimately consumers, who want the freedom to read on their choice of applications and devices."

Project Readium sponsors and other industry stakeholders welcome this IDPF-sponsored activity (see attached quote sheet). For more information about the project, including how to participate and links to downloads and source code, visit . READ more at:

Barnes & Noble profiled by NYT, reveals it's preparing new Nook for spring launch

The publishing industry is in the midst of a massive decline, with sales of physical books dropping year after year, and Borders, the second-largest bookstore chain in the US, closing its doors last summer. The rise of ebooks — and Amazon's Kindle, in particular — has been a major contributing factor, but it's the maker of a popular e-reader that publishers are now pinning their hopes on: Barnes & Noble. In a profile on the company's CEO WIlliam Lynch, the New York Times examines the dynamic currently in play between traditional publishing houses and the retailer. It all comes down to bookstores: publishers view the experience of browsing in a physical location as vital to their future success, and B&N is one of the last major US chains left. "That display space they have in the store is really one of the most valuable places that exists in this country for communicating to the consumer that a book is a big deal," Random House's Madeline McIntosh told the Times. Perhaps even more importantly, it allows publishers to maintain the perceived value of a physical book over the often dramatically discounted prices Amazon and other retailers offer on digital titles.

Lynch agrees on the importance of brick-and-mortar locations, telling the paper that "our stores are not going anywhere," although its unclear what he truly sees as the company's long-term prospects. Lynch was the driving force behind the development of the Nook in 2009, and although Barnes & Noble reported a four-percent increase in physical book sales over the recent holiday season, the CEO has also floated the idea of spinning off the Nook business into its own division. Publishers confirm the Nook currently holds around 27 percent of the ebook market, compared to the 60 percent minimum Amazon garners, and B&N anticipates Nook content sales to become a $750 million business by the end of this year — with international expansion on the horizon. Read more at:

Ebook sales are being driven by downmarket genre fiction

Publishers face secrecy over sales and an absence of industry-wide data to help them plot strategy

Kindle-owning bibliophiles are furtive beasts. Their shelves still boast classics and Booker winners. But inside that plastic case, other things lurk. Sci-fi and self-help. Even paranormal romance, where vampires seduce virgins and elves bonk trolls.

The ebook world is driven by so-called genre fiction, categories such as horror or romance. It's not future classics that push digital sales, but more downmarket fare. No cliche is left unturned, no adjective underplayed. At the time of writing, the bestselling Amazon Kindle book was Asylum Harbor, by Traci Hohenstein. Crime sells. Try a sample, I dare you. In digital, dross rises. But does this have implications for publishers' decision-making, as we increasingly migrate?

One of the problems publishers face in setting strategy is the absence of industry-wide data on ebook sales. Amazon, the dominant player, is secretive with its numbers. As the company revealed its mixed results for 2011 last week, all its UK division would say was that ebook sales over the past three months were up five-fold on the equivalent period last year. No actual data.

Amazon has started supplying data to Nielsen BookData in the US for the Wall Street Journal's bestseller lists, but the information is limited. UK publishers know their own genre titles do best as Amazon tells them this privately; across the industry there is nothing to go on.

A study in the US last year by Publishers Weekly and Bowker found that literary fiction outsold all forms of genre fiction, winning 20% of market share. But this figure includes classics. Most new Kindle owners buy an avalanche of classics in their initial excitement. All of Trollope for £1.99! All of Dickens for £3! But are they actually read? The genre of sci-fi came in at 19% and Christian fiction, God help us, third, at 16%. Continue reading at:

Two more giant retailers join boycott of books published by Amazon

Maybe it’s an instance of live by the sword, die by the sword: After years of ruthlessly battering retailers with relentless and drastic predatory pricing,Amazon finds its foray into book publishing being greeted by a wide-scale and growing retailer boycott.

Late Friday, just days after the country’s biggest brick-and-mortar chain,Barnes & Noble, announced it would not sell books published by Amazon because its “actions have undermined the industry as a whole” (see our earlier report), two more giant chains announced they were joining the boycott: the 200+ stores of the country’s second biggest bookseller chain,Books-A-Million (BAM), and Canada’s number one book retailer, Chapters Indigo.

BAM seems not to have released a statement but rather made the announcement via a phone call to Publishers Weekly, which in turn broke the news with a one-sentence report that notes only that the boycott includes books published by Amazon’s “beard” imprint at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New Harvest. (See our earlier report.) There’s no indication the company made any further statement about its action. Read more at:

Friday, January 27, 2012

At ALA Midwinter, Librarians Show Some Fight

They say everything is bigger in Texas, and that certainly held true for the issues facing librarians at the American Library Association’s 2012 Midwinter Meeting, held January 20–24 in Dallas. In a climate of stretched budgets, ever-more-complex technology, copyright and legislative issues, and a lingering question over library lending of e-books, the issues facing libraries have never been more serious. And after a 2011 that saw little progress—and, in fact, regression on some fronts, such as e-books—in Dallas librarians signaled that they are determined to take more control of their future in 2012.

The show’s theme—“The Conversation Starts Here”—carried a message of what ALA president Molly Raphael characterized as empowerment, and it was a theme that resonated throughout the conference. The centerpiece of the program was a session called “Empowering Voices, Transforming Communities.” Conducted over two afternoons, it involved hours of “deep conversation” among librarians about the evolving roles of libraries and the communities they serve, led by Syracuse University professor R. David Lankes, author of The Atlas of New Librarianship.

The ALA Washington Office legislative session urged librarians not to wait for potential legislative solutions, but to more boldly assert their already existing—and legally sturdy—fair use rights in pursuing digitization projects. An afternoon session featured Kansas state librarian Jo Budler, who successfully fought vendor OverDrive for the right to move the state library’s e-book collection to a new 3M platform. The SPARC forum urged the scholarly community to get the “rights question” right—from promoting open access to the benefit of using Creative Commons licenses, and encouraging innovation on the Web—as well as fighting back against efforts like the recently introduced Research Works Act, a controversial bill that would forbid federal agencies from making publicly funded research freely available to taxpayers.

One of the more inspiring panels was presented by the librarians who assembled the now famous library at the Occupy Wall Street encampment in New York City’s Zuccotti Park, who spoke eloquently about the central role of sharing information in our democracy.

The E-book Question

Perhaps no issue at ALA loomed larger than the question of library lending of e-books. And at the January 21 meeting of ALA’s Working Group on Digital Content and Libraries, officials announced they had arranged meetings from January 30 to February 1 in New York with publishers currently restricting e-book lending, including Macmillan, Simon & Schuster, and Penguin. In his remarks, ALA executive director Keith Fiels sounded determined to come away from those meetings with progress. “At this point we need to be very persistent and insistent,” Fiels told PW.

Fiels praised the cooperation of the Association of American Publishers for openness and for facilitating ALA conversations with individual publishers. “AAP has been very good about providing us with contact information and suggestions, and, for example, in each of the upcoming meetings with Simon & Schuster and Macmillan, we’re told we will be talking with their CEOs,” he said. Fiels noted, however, that after a year in which library e-book lending took a step backwards, progress on the issue in 2012 was crucial. “When we talk about having a dialogue, it is, ‘Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, you need to start making e-books available to libraries,’ ” Fiels said. “Now, let’s have a dialogue.”

The Stakes

Not everything was bigger in Texas, however—attendance at the 2012 ALA Midwinter dipped to its lowest level in years. Total attendees, including registrants and exhibitors, numbered 9,929, down from 10,110 in San Diego last year, and 11,095 in Boston in 2010. However, the dip was not unexpected—and the number actually looks pretty strong considering the ongoing budget crisis pinching library travel budgets and the upcoming Public Library Association Meeting, March 12–17, in Philadelphia.

For more coverage of ALA Midwinter, check out PW's library landing page. And look for our preview of the 2012 PLA meeting, coming in the February 27 issue.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Why Some Book Buyers Are Increasingly Resistant To E-Readers

Book marketing firm Verso Advertising recently found that over half of book buyers say they are “not at all likely” to purchase an e-reader in the next 12 months—up from 40 percent in 2009. Why?

I asked Verso’s Jack McKeown and Denise Berthiaume why they think avid book buyers—those who buy at least ten books a year—are increasingly resistant to e-readers. McKeown and Berthiaume are also the co-owners of Books & Books, an independent bookstore on Long Island. Here’s what they think:

1. E-readers and tablets do not yet provide sufficient “relative advantage” over physical books to convince this hard core group of book readers to switch to these devices. In other words, the convenience of e-readers is not enough of a factor to offset the abandonment of the codex—with its stereoscopic (two-page) effect, tactile and aesthetic appeal, and more immersive impact—for many hardcore book readers.

2. Screen fatigue: Book readers, and in particular avid readers, enjoy the escape that physical books provide from the array of screen technologies that absorb so much of their working day.

3. Avid book readers enjoy the discoverability experience of shopping in a physical bookstore where contact with the physical product, and interaction with knowledgeable staff, convey an added benefit.
READ the rest at:

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Study finds piracy withering against legal alternatives

Study finds piracy withering against legal alternatives
People just aren’t prepared to be screwed
By Iain Thomson in San Francisco • Get more from this author

A study has found that people are perfectly prepared to pay for online content, provided that the alternatives aren’t too harsh.

The data, from respected think-tank American Assembly, shows that illegal file sharing among family and friends is relatively common – but that people would prefer to use a legal alternative if one was available at the right price and usage point. So far the data suggests that streaming music services are getting this right, but users are still unwilling to accept the current range of video streaming offerings at the current price and convenience points.

“There is ethics at work in these decisions,” Joe Karaganis, vice president of the American Assembly told The Register. “However, it’s overridden by price and convenience. All other things being equal, people prefer to obey the law.”

The survey found that 46 per cent of the over 2,000 people surveyed had engaged in piracy, with this rising to seven of ten among people aged 19 to 27. Over two thirds of those questioned would share music within family or friends, and over half would share video content in the same group. But when it comes to uploading material, however, support drops off radically.

No more than four per cent of the age groups surveyed would countenance uploading, and that dropped to zero for those over 65. Barely ten per cent said that the majority of their media collection came from pirated material. While all survey data is subject to legal bias, this does suggest that people like being on the right side of the law.

When it comes to music streaming, over half of the under-29s surveyed were happy to use legal means to get their beats per minute fix, but barely a third felt the same for video. Legal film streaming was much more welcomed by the older generation, who were raised on thinking $15.99 is a good price for a film.

When it comes to games piracy the situation is much starker. Modifying a game console to play pirated games is hard, and less than three per cent of those surveyed said they had a console with the capability. Of those, 55 per cent had bought them premodded, suggesting a very limited market for such systems.

When it comes to the penalties for piracy the American public is a lot more forgiving than the courts. Three quarters of those surveyed felt that fines of less than $100 per song were acceptable and only 16 per cent felt that cutting off internet access was justified to stop piracy. Only a quarter who approved of disconnection felt that more than a one month ban was warranted.

All in all the survey data makes depressing reading for those looking to push SOPA legislation through Congress. While the public maintain a nuanced view of piracy, it seems legislators - using media company legal suggestions - are not.