OPLIN 4Cast #255: WiFi woes

Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

If you’ve stayed at a hotel recently – say for the Ohio Library Council Convention – you may have experienced wireless Internet service that was…well, less than outstanding. In fact, chances are good that you have experienced poor WiFi service because many hotels are struggling these days to keep up with demand. There’s not that much difference between hotel WiFi and library WiFi; are your library patrons getting good wireless Internet service, or is it time to make some improvements?

  • IPads change economics, and speed, of hotel Wi-Fi (New York Times/Joe Sharkey)  “Studies conducted for iBAHN indicate that while free Internet service remains a big factor in choosing a hotel, nearly two-thirds of business travelers say they have encountered slow Internet downloading in the last 12 months. Over two-thirds said they would ‘not return to a hotel where they had a poor technology experience,’ iBAHN said.”
  • Don’t blame the iPad for poor hotel Wi-Fi service (T-GAAP/Karl Johnson)  “One thing is for certain, this is not about the iPad, it’s about internet usage. Blaming a product that efficiently uses services hotels claim they do very well at providing is just silly. Internet use will accelerate with or without the iPad. In fact, it is easier to get on the Internet with the iPad than a laptop because of the iPad’s 3G connection. iPads with 3G may in fact be helping the hotel situation rather than hurting it.”
  • Wi-Fi to overtake wired network traffic by 2015 (GigaOM/Janko Roettgers)  “The iPad and its newer Android competitors have introduced a new class of mobile devices that make cellular connectivity optional. Studies have shown that iPad users mostly access the device within reach of their home’s Wi-Fi hotspot, and a recent poll by GigaOM’s Mobilize showed that three out of four consumers prefer a WiFi-only tablet.”
  • Why or why not WiFi? (Lodging/Kevin DiLallo, Marc Lindsey, and David Rohde)  “For example, WiFi offload increases usage of a hotel’s existing WiFi infrastructure, which in turn may increase WiFi support costs (e.g., more calls to the support desk) and impair the performance and availability of the Internet access for the hotel’s paying guests unless additional bandwidth, switches, and access points are added to handle the increased load.”

Library WiFi fact:
At last count, 654 (over 90%) of the public library buildings in Ohio offer free wireless Internet to library visitors.

OPLIN 4Cast #232: The iPad at one

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

It may be hard to believe, but the iPad is only just a little over one year old. During that brief time period, it has had a deep impact on the way many people compute, has spawned a number of competitors, and has been extensively covered by technology news outlets. It may be slightly wrong to call the iPad a computer, since it is not really designed for crunching numbers. Some call it a “media consumption platform,” since iPads are used so frequently to read/view news and information articles from the web. For that reason, the iPad has led to some interesting revelations for the news and magazine publishing industries—and libraries—in just one short year.

  • iPad usability: Year One (Alertbox/Jakob Nielsen)  “The most common uses reported by our participants were playing games, checking email and social networking sites, watching videos/movies, and reading news. People also browsed the Web and performed some shopping-related research. But most users felt that it was easier to shop on their desktop computers. Some also worried about the security of e-commerce purchases on the iPad. A common characteristic of all this iPad use is that it’s heavily dominated by media consumption, except for the small amount of production involved in responding to emails.”
  • Readers are more likely to skim over articles on an iPad than in a newspaper (Miratech white paper)  “The average time taken to read an article on each medium is very similar. A user takes an average of 1 minute 11 seconds to read an article on paper, compared with 1 minute 13 seconds on an iPad. Thus the length of time for reading an article on paper or iPad is very close. A more detailed analysis shows that the eyes linger longer on the paper version (275 ms on paper versus 231 ms on the iPad). This means that people concentrate more when reading an actual newspaper.”
  • The surprising reason publishers are finally saying Yes to Apple (Mixed Media/Jeff Bercovici)  “As things stand, if you buy a subscription to The New Yorker or Popular Science in the iTunes store, you will get a little dialogue box asking if it’s all right if Apple shares some of your personal information with the publisher. Initially, publishers were worried, reasonably enough, that users would overwhelmingly say no. But they don’t. In fact, about 50 percent opt in.”
  • The boundless library: explore the New York Public Library collections on your iPad (ReadWriteWeb/Audrey Watters)  “The app was designed in conjunction with Potion and it’s a joy to scroll through. While it does tout the ability to ‘explore the stacks,’ the app certainly recognizes the library mission here isn’t about ‘dead books.’ Rather the information is accessible and beautifully presented, taking full advantage of the touchscreen technology and the rotation of the tablet—the horizontal view lets you explore the collection visually, while the vertical view lets you read essays and thumb through imagery.”

Sales fact:
In the one year following its launch in April 2010, Apple sold over 19 million iPads.

OPLIN 4Cast #212: Changes coming for tablet periodicals

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

newspaper over tablet computerThere’s a battle shaping up over the business of selling digital newspapers and magazines to users of tablet devices, like the iPad. While Apple has been selling single issues of magazines and newspapers through iTunes for some time now, those sales are beginning to decline. That leaves an opportunity for competitors (i.e., Google) to think about rival services, and how to “do it right” when it comes to selling periodicals for tablets. And that also leaves room for publishers to try to negotiate a change to the current online periodicals business model to one that is more akin to the current printed periodicals business model, namely selling subscriptions instead of issues and gathering personal information about buyers.

  • Google Digital Newsstand aims to muscle in on Apple (Wall Street Journal/Russell Adams and Jessica E. Vascellaro)  “The remaining rivalries could speed up the migration of periodicals to tablets, providing publishers with more ways to sell their titles and more control over the sales. A similar battle between Google, Amazon, Apple and Barnes & Noble has already begun to reshape the burgeoning market for digital books, helping publishers win more flexibility in pricing their titles. While many media companies have rushed to build apps for iPads and Android tablets, they say their current inability to sell standard subscriptions through iTunes, a shortage of data about app buyers and tough business terms are keeping them from investing more in the effort.”
  • What those low iPad magazine sales numbers really mean (The Next Web/Alex Wilhelm)  “Ask anyone in online sales: limiting the number of steps is the key to higher conversion rates. Therefore, to truly juice digital sales, all we need to see is an industry wide 20% price cut (from current levels), and a new method of sales. Fortunately, Apple is likely working on the second bit, with their much fabled ‘iNewsstand’ that will make it much simpler to actually pick up a magazine. It will also encourage browsing, something that will boost drive by sales.”
  • Who is more willing to trick users, Apple or Google? (TechCrunch/MG Siegler)  “So what the publishers seem to be demanding is that Apple opts users into sharing information without telling them. Or, to put it another way, ‘make it opt-out or we opt-out’. Classy. Of course few customers would opt-in to sharing such data. Because who the hell wants to be marketed to relentlessly just because they signed up for a magazine subscription? No one. Except that’s the way the magazine subscription model currently works. Not because it’s a good model, but because in the days before technology started destroying print, people were naive enough not to realize what was going on. Obviously, the publishers would like to transition that happiness in slavery to the tablet space.”
  • Rupert Murdoch’s “Daily” iPad newspaper set for January launch (All Things D/Peter Kafka)  “It will come out daily, it will sell for 99 cents a week, it will use lots of video and it will have cool multimedia bells and whistles, including some kind of 3-D effect that lots of people are very excited about. And Apple CEO Steve Jobs may or may not participate in a launch event. Most important for other media companies: The Daily is supposed to use a new “push” subscription feature from Apple, where iTunes automatically bills customers on a weekly or monthly basis, and a new edition shows up on customers’ iPads every morning.”

Revenue fact:
Apple typically keeps 30% of the sales of apps through the iTunes store, including single issues of periodicals, and passes the rest to the publisher.

OPLIN 4Cast #205: Incompatible E-reader DRMs

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

With the holiday shopping season upon us, many people will be buying e-book readers for themselves or as gifts. Some industry forecasts predict as many as 10.3 million e-readers will be in use by the end of the year, and about 10% of adults report that they plan to give an e-reader as a gift this season. Unfortunately, many people who may want to download e-books from the library onto their brand-new device are in for a big disappointment. The digital rights management (DRM) systems used by libraries and e-readers to prevent unauthorized copying of e-books are often incompatible—a situation that could make the Grinch very happy this year.

  • Adobe DRM library eBooks on your Apple iPad (Splintered Mind/Douglas Cootey)  “The problem is that the most popular library ebook lending system is Overdrive. They deliver a double-fisted DRM smack down by wrapping Adobe DRM in a server side authorization mechanism. Basically, Overdrive files point to the DRMed book on Overdrive servers which an Overdrive authorized reader must be given permission to access. Since there are no authorized Overdrive readers for the iPad, and Overdrive has stated their first mobile ebook support will be for Android devices, this means that almost 7.5 million iPad owners will have to wait. “
  • Kindle cannot support library books (Salt Lake Tribune/Vince Horiuchi)  “But if I read the fine print on the library’s website, I would have realized that the PDF books rented out by the library use DRM, or digital rights management, to protect the files from being copied. Unfortunately, the Kindle does not support that kind of DRM.”
  • The shattered ebook DRM landscape (Gear Diary/Carly Z)  “When Steve Jobs announced the iPad, he also mentioned that iBooks would be using ePUB. There was a brief ray of hope among the eBook world…maybe, just maybe, the majority of ebooksellers would rally around a single format. Unfortunately, it looks like that was a false hope. …Apple will be using their Fairplay DRM for iBooks. This will be the 3rd variant of ePUB DRM: Adobe, Fairplay, and Barnes and Noble. And of course, Amazon has their own DRM and ebook format.”
  • Second Adobe DRM ebook reader arrives on iPad (ebookmagazine/Martin Hoscik)  “Books sold via Apple’s iBooks and Amazon’s Kindle apps are limited by the seller’s use of closed DRM and although rival Kobo offers Adobe protected ePub books, their app does not currently allow the ‘side loading’ of titles bought elsewhere.”

Shopping list fact:
So what should you tell patrons who think ahead and ask the library what e-reader to buy? Well, if your library uses Overdrive for e-books, there’s an online list of compatible devices. Adobe also publishes a more extensive listing of e-readers that support Adobe Digital Editions DRM.

OPLIN 4Cast #203: Can magazines and the iPad make it work?

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

broken heartWhat looked like a perfect relationship a couple of months ago may have hit a rough patch. The iPad seemed then to be the device that was going to save the newspaper and magazine publishing industry and go hand-in-hand with it into a bright digital future. Now the partnership is starting to show some strain. That doesn’t mean the relationship is over, but some folks are pointing out things the publishing industry and Apple will have to do differently if there’s going to be a happy marriage.

  • Pop goes the iPad bubble? (Brandweek/Brian Morrissey) “The iPad dreams of magazine publishers could be the latest death by irrational exuberance. Despite the optimism that greeted the new device, there is a danger that publishers are squandering an opportunity with clunky apps, bad pricing strategies and unsustainable ad tactics.”
  • My iPad magazine stand (Subtraction/Khoi Vinh) “In my personal opinion, Adobe is doing a tremendous disservice to the publishing industry by encouraging these ineptly literal translations of print publications into iPad apps. They’ve fostered a preoccupation with the sort of monolithic, overbearing apps represented by The New Yorker, Wired and Popular Science. Meanwhile, what publishers should really be focusing on is clever, nimble, entertaining apps like EW’s Must List or Gourmet Live.”
  • iPad subscriptions made easy (ReadWriteWeb/Marshall Kirkpatrick) “For all their dreams of success in a medium that privileges big pictures, multi-media and a touch interface, publishers of periodical content have been frustrated by the lack of subscription sales options on Apple’s iPad. Urban Airship is a small startup that has begun to power iPad subscription to content for publishers including NewsWeek, the Atlantic and the National Basketball Association.”
  • Newsweek offers iPad app (New York Times/Joshua Brustein) “But publishers soon butted heads with Apple over the issue of subscriptions. Subscribers represent a steady revenue stream for publishers. But magazines also see their subscription rolls as a valuable source of information about their readership, which they use to attract advertisers and new readers. They would also like to be able to bundle print and digital subscriptions. Apple has been unwilling to provide publishers with information about who is buying their apps.”

Numbers Fact:
According to a survey of 5,000 tablet users released October 22 by Nielsen, 41% of iPad owners who download paid apps have downloaded magazines.

OPLIN 4Cast #196: Tablet periodicals

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

iPad frakturOnce again, we’re hearing news about how tablet computers, specifically Apple’s iPad, are going to change the way newspapers and magazines are published, except this time it looks serious. It’s possible that any successful deal that gets more people to buy (e)magazine and (e)newspaper subscriptions may affect the collections that libraries keep for their browsing patrons. Nobody seems to be suggesting anything at this point, however, that would provide tablet users with searchable archives of newspapers and magazines, so libraries will still be the resource for patrons doing research.

  • Apple Coaxes Publishers to Join It on iPad Subscriptions (Wall Street Journal, 9/20/2010) “The subscription push appears to be a sign that newspapers and magazines will be Apple’s next front in its sale of media like music, television shows, movies and books. A hub for buying newspapers and magazines—similar to Apple’s iBooks storefront—also could help the iPad stand out from a coming wave of rival tablet computers backed by Google Inc.’s software.”
  • Apple Said to Negotiate With Publishers Over Digital Newsstand (Bloomberg, 9/17/2010) “Apple’s effort is aimed at luring more consumers to the iPad and helping publishers sell subscriptions, rather than single issues. The main hang-ups between Apple and publishers including Time Warner Inc., Conde Nast, Hearst Corp. and News Corp. are who controls data about users and how to split subscription revenue, the people said. Pricing for subscriptions also hasn’t been worked out.”
  • Magazines, newspapers still in talks over iPad newsstand (Ars Technica/Jacqui Cheng) “Publishers are also not so keen on giving Apple its typical 30 percent cut of sales as part of the subscription process. Some companies currently sell magazine issues as apps through the App Store, though, meaning that they already fork over 30 percent of the app purchase price (as well as any in-app purchases) to Apple. Still, this detail lines up with reports from earlier this year, which said that newspaper and magazine companies were less keen on giving such a cut to Apple than book publishers have been through iBooks.”
  • iNewspaper: The Next iPad Service? (PCWorld/Paul Suarez) “As someone who works at a daily newspaper and has dabbled in online journalism, I can see true potential in Apple’s reported app. The iPad has been a huge success for Apple. Forecasts say it will sell 11 million units by the end of the year. Making a newspaper or magazine available to those 11 million users couldn’t hurt—even if you only capture a fraction of that audience.”

Christmas Fact?:
It’s reported that Apple could wrap up this deal as early as the next month or two, though they may prefer to announce this periodical service early next year, along with the likely introduction of a new iPad.

OPLIN 4Cast #188: Flipboard

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

Last week, Flipboard, “your personalized social magazine,” made a big splash in the Internet world, generating so much interest that their servers crashed on the day Robert Scoble first wrote about it on his popular blog. But beyond being an intriguing app for the iPad, Flipboard raises some questions about its potential effect on the future of the publishing business.

  • Why Flipboard is one of the best iPad apps (ReadWriteWeb/Marshall Kirkpatrick) “…the promises of syndicated content, social news and a touch interface for real-time information are more real today than they were yesterday.”
  • Making Twitter and Facebook updates seem more important than they are (ComputerWorld/Jared Newman) “The seams only come apart when the social feeds are vapid. Flipboard may be the iPad’s most powerful content aggregator, but it’ll take a skilled user to filter what’s really important.”
  • Who owns the user experience? (Stowe Boyd) “But the presentation in Flipboard poses some real business problems. Where’s the ads? Publishers make their money on ads (and pay walls), and so they are going to start to howl if people are viewing their stories with all the ads parsed out.”
  • Is Flipboard legal? (Gizmodo/Joel Johnson) “The company hopes that content companies like Condé Nast will be so pleased at the way Flipboard presents their [copyrighted] content that they’ll work with the company—subscriptions and revenue sharing were mentioned specifically—instead of suing the pants off of them.”

Cool (but ultimately insignificant) fact:
Flipboard is currently free, backed by $10.5 million in funding from some high-profile people like Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, Facebook co-founder Dustin Moscovitz, and actor Ashton Kutcher.