OPLIN 4cast #342: Fan fiction gets real

Wednesday, July 10th, 2013

fanLast month, Amazon decided to try to make some money by legitimizing “fan fiction,” the growing trend for fans of a story or book series to write their own stories based on characters or settings of the original work. While there was some fan fiction written in the 1960s based on science fiction “worlds,” particularly Star Trek, the growth of fan fiction has been most closely tied to the growth of the World Wide Web, which makes it easier for fan fiction authors to gather together and distribute their work. If you’re wondering if Amazon’s monetized fan fiction will have much impact on libraries, just remember that Fifty Shades of Grey started as Twilight fan fiction.

  • Amazon wants to sell your fan fiction through Kindle Worlds (Bloomberg Businessweek/Olga Kharif “The company’s Kindle Worlds e-book venture […] is inviting amateur writers to develop novels and short stories inspired by the characters and back stories of the original works. Amazon is trying to tap into one of publishing’s hottest trends. Fanfic websites, as they’re known, include millions of aficionado-penned stories, many dating back well over a decade. One site, FanFiction.net, offers nearly 650,000 stories about Harry Potter alone.”
  • Amazon steps into the cloistered world of super-fandom (Time/Lily Rothman) “Although a few famous authors (Anne Rice, for example) have been vocal in their disapproval of what they see as appropriation of their work, most rights-holders turn a blind eye or even encourage fan fiction, so long as it’s an act of love rather than a commercial venture. The legal questions behind fan fiction, or fanfic, are a gray area with no case law, but most fan writers believe it falls under the doctrine of ‘fair use,’ particularly when there’s no money involved.”
  • Amazon sets up system to trade on fan fiction (Ars Technica/Casey Johnston) “There do exist cases where fan-fiction is legal, such as when it is sufficiently transformative or a parody. Even so, those arguments do little to settle the temper of authors who feel their creations are being tread upon. Amazon plans to circumvent this issue by having a cadre of ‘World Licensors,’ rights-holders who effectively give permission to Amazon and other writers to create and profit from fanfic.”
  • Amazon launches Kindle Worlds store, its self service platform for fan fiction authors (ReadWrite/Dan Rowinski) “If you are a fan of the original ‘worlds’ that Amazon has made partnerships with, this type of authorized fan fiction could be of great entertainment. Otherwise, Kindle Worlds may be a little bit too far afield for most people. At the same time, it is an interesting concept in the world of publishing and something that has not really been done en masse before.”

Royalty Fact:
Amazon will pay Kindle Worlds fan fiction authors a 35% royalty if their work is at least 10,000 words; 20% if it’s shorter. The authors of the original works also get royalties.

OPLIN 4Cast #281: eReaders as business collateral

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

In the past 10 days or so, all kinds of interesting things have been happening with big companies and ereaders. You’ve surely heard about Microsoft buying the Nook from Barnes & Noble, which seems to be a punch thrown at either Apple or Amazon (or Google?), depending on your point of view. You may also have seen that Target has decided to play hardball with Amazon over the Kindle. There’s probably much more than meets the eye in these developments, but one thing is certain: when major corporations start tussling over ereaders, it’s a sure sign that ereading is here to stay.

  • Target will yank Kindles–why? (GigaOM/Laura Hazard Owen)  “Target may simply not want to carry a product from a major competitor. After all, this reasoning could go, why should Target serve as a store showroom for Amazon products? Somewhat similarly, Barnes & Noble has refused to carry Amazon Publishing titles in its stores.”
  • B&N and Microsoft: Why it’s not about ebooks (Joe Wikert’s Publishing 2020 Blog)  “It remains to be seen whether Microsoft can create the same sort of buzz or ROI in their stores that Apple has managed to achieve, but why go to the trouble and expense of creating a larger standalone presence when a store-within-a-store might be even more effective? What if B&N stores added mini Microsoft Stores in each of their locations? The foot traffic is already there and what a great place to showcase and sell that new Windows 8-based nook they’ll undoubtedly create.”
  • Microsoft + Nook: It just got (more) interesting… (Wired/Felix Salmon)  “Barnes & Noble no longer needs to sell Nooks, or persuade people to download the Nook app on their iPad: everybody with a Windows 8 device will have the Nook reader built-in. The e-book market is still young; if Amazon continues to be seen as the enemy, there’s no reason in theory why the Nook shouldn’t become just as popular, if not more so.”
  • Barnes & Noble marries Microsoft (The Future of Publishing/Thad McIlroy)  “Skip to the end of the official announcement and you find out what $300 million really means to Microsoft. Barnes & Noble gave Microsoft something it desperately needed: an agreement to honor (and pay fees on) Microsoft’s key anti-Android patents.”

Windows 8 fact:
A couple of these articles mention Windows 8 devices, which are generally expected to become available in the fourth quarter of this year, just in time for Christmas.

OPLIN 4Cast #244: HTML5

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

We usually try not to get too geeky on this blog, but sometimes it seems like we have no choice. The recent stories about the Kindle Cloud Reader indicate that perhaps the time has come to talk about the facts of HTML5. Most people know what HTML is — the venerable HyperText Markup Language that has long been the fundamental building block of web pages — but we generally don’t pay a lot of attention to HTML versions. We should pay attention to the new HTML5, however, since it will make it possible to do some interesting, interactive things with websites. If you’re thinking about creating a smartphone app for your library, for instance, read on.

  • Top trends of 2011: HTML5 (ReadWriteWeb/Richard MacManus)  “One of the most interesting debates around HTML5 is how it enables companies to create a single, browser-based version of a web service. The ‘write once, run anywhere’ dream of developers. In other words, developers don’t need to create separate apps for iPhone, Android, Windows Phone 7 and all manner of other smartphone (and tablet) platforms. Instead, they simply write one mobile browser site.”
  • Amazon sidesteps Apple with HTML5 ‘Kindle Cloud Reader’ (GeekWire/Todd Bishop)  “Kindle Cloud Reader takes advantage of the expanding capabilities of web browsers — using HTML5, the latest generation of the underlying language of the web — to make the experience more like an app downloaded and installed from a mobile marketplace.”
  • Amazon’s Cloud Reader still doesn’t take the Web seriously (Wired/Tim Carmody)  “You can’t read EPUB3, the emerging — but still incomplete — e-book standard that is HTML5 but isn’t used by the Kindle. Or Nook. Or iBooks. Even for the enhanced books that sometimes use HTML5 audio and video. In fact, just about the only people experimenting with EPUB3 are HTML5- and cloud-based e-reading companies like ThreePress, who have an HTML5 webapp with local storage very similar to Amazon’s Cloud Reader called Ibis Reader.”
  • Adobe ‘Edge’ tool could replace Flash with HTML5 (PCMag/Michael Muchmore)  “The work on Edge, which is available for developers to download from the company’s Adobe Labs site, is something of an acknowledgement by the premier design software house that the Web is moving away from Flash. It is instead focusing on open-standard HTML5 and its many sub-standards, which are capable of creating the same effects in a non-proprietary manner via compliant Web browsers, without a plug-in.”

Timeline fact:
Even though it is already widely used, HTML5 is technically not “finished” yet and exists as a draft web standard. The target date for official recommendation as a web standard is currently 2014.

OPLIN 4Cast #219: E-book lending (personal)

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

It’s a safe assumption that most of our readers have heard of the recent move by Harper Collins to restrict the lending of their e-books by libraries; the news lit up Twitter and other news channels at the end of last week. If you need a reminder of what’s going on, we recommend the article from the New York Times and/or Joe Atzberger’s blog post. In our blog post, we thought it might be interesting to look at the current state of person-to-person e-book lending. After all, many of the earliest public libraries in this country had their beginnings as interpersonal book-lending groups before they became more formally organized. (Of course, these days the groups are likely to be Internet “friends,” rather than neighbors.) Perhaps we can find some clues to successful e-book lending models by looking at e-book clubs. Or perhaps they’re just having the same problems that are plaguing libraries.

  • New Kindle lending club matches e-book borrowers and lenders (ReadWriteWeb/Audrey Watters)  “The Kindle Lending Club is the brainchild of Catherine MacDonald, who said that when she heard Amazon announce on December 30 that it was finally adding a lending option for Kindle,  she decided to set up a Facebook group—a way to help people find others who were willing to share their e-books. But as interest in the group exploded, MacDonald realized that Facebook just didn’t offer the scalability needed for such an undertaking. ‘I had no idea how viral the idea was,’ she says.”
  • E-book lending clubs (ALA TechSource/Tom Peters)  “What I find fascinating about these eBook lending clubs is that they realized that, once Barnes & Noble and Amazon enabled the lending of etexts, a nascent market had been born. However, it was an inefficient, disorganized market because, if I own a lendable Kindle edition, I have no efficient way to lend that etext to someone else who wants to read it, unless I just happen to know a family member, friend, or colleague who might be interested in reading one of my Kindle editions.”
  • Friends, Romans, countrymen lend me your ebooks (Librarian by Day/Bobbi L. Newman)  “First let me state that I think the lending rules on the Kindle and Nook are complete rubbish. I mean really the selection is very limited and you can only lend an item one time and for only 14 days.”
  • Kindle & Nook book lending (pafa.net/pollyalida)  “While I love the idea of being able to loan the few books I’ve purchased, the restriction on loaning a title only once will turn me into more of a hoarder than a lender. If I’m going to loan a title that I really enjoyed, I want to loan it to a friend, a good friend. And not just any good friend, but that one very good friend who will love the book the most. And the one who can get through it in the limited 14 days. Don’t bother loaning me anything, I’m a slow reader.”

Club fact (kinda):
Several people have posted lists of e-book lending groups, but the Tom Peters blog post cited above is the most current and (if you include the comments) most complete that we found.

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 #200: E-book Developments

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

open book with digitsWe’ve done three OPLIN 4cast posts about e-books in the last six months, and this one makes four. We try to mix our topics and avoid repeating ourselves, but last week there was just too much e-book news to ignore. This time the news items that caught our eye were not necessarily the stories about e-book sales or marketing, but the stories about significant changes to e-book content. These changes are certainly food for thought; for example, will libraries have any way to offer patrons new types of “books” designed from the ground up for digital distribution? (While you’re thinking about that, you might enjoy Eli Neiburger’s presentation—part 1 and part 2—from the September 29 LJ/SLJ “ebooks: Libraries at the Tipping Point” virtual summit.)

  • Amazon to publish “Kindle Singles” (Ars Technica/Jacqui Cheng) “Amazon is rolling out a separate section of its Kindle store meant for shorter content—meatier than long-form journalism, but shorter than a typical book. Called ‘Kindle Singles,’ the content will be distributed like other Kindle books but will likely fall between 10,000 and 30,000 words, or the equivalent of a few chapters from a novel.”
  • Amazon introduces a format for shorter e-books (New York Times/Nick Bilton) “This medium-length format has traditionally been difficult for writers to sell to publishers as it doesn’t fit into the mold of a printing-press distribution model. In a digital distribution system, those pricing structures no longer exist, and a digital price can be adjusted accordingly.”
  • Borders partners with BookBrewer to turn blogs into eBooks (ReadWriteWeb/Audrey Watters) “While there is a lot of competition in the eBook and self-publishing space, one of the key features of BookBrewer is the ability to turn an RSS feed into a book. This will have appeal not simply for independent authors, but for bloggers and for educators.”
  • Feds give $1.1 million for e-textbooks for vision-impaired students (Chronicle of Higher Education/Travis Kaya) “Typically, college students who have trouble with standard book formats could only turn to their disabled student-services offices to have textbooks translated into braille or scanned with rudimentary text-to-speech computer software. […] With more advanced technology, […] developers are digitally reformatting hundreds of books that can be rented online at a much lower cost to the students and the institutions.”

Young Reader Fact:
A study conducted this summer by Scholastic Corporation found that a third of children age 9-17 say they would read more books for fun if they had access to e-books on an electronic device; however, two-thirds of the children also agreed with the statement, “I’ll always want to read books printed on paper even though there are ebooks available.”

OPLIN 4Cast #187: E-books vs. print

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

Amazon announced yesterday that it sold more Kindle books than hardback books over the last three months.  While the format of the book may be changing, people are continuing to read more and more.  Digital and print books will coexist for quite a while.

Bonus link:
How many e-books does your library have? Librarians and patrons in the US and Canada weighed in with their stats.

OPLIN 4Cast #118: Amazon, Book logs, More from Google, Drupal

Wednesday, September 17th, 2008

1. In addition to marketing the Kindle, Amazon has been trying some new things, too.

2. How do YOU keep track of what you’re reading or have read?  This list of possibilities is only the tip of the iceberg.

3. Google is up to stuff (again).

4. OPLIN.org is a Drupal-based website.  If you would like to know more about how this open-source CSS is being used, try these links.