OPLIN 4cast #382: Serious reading

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

reading glassesWe are inundated every day by words on the web. We are constantly reading emails, tweets, news headlines, and, of course, the OPLIN 4cast every Wednesday morning (we hope). But for the most part, what we read nowadays is pretty short. Some people are concerned that all these short chunks of text are affecting the way we read, how we judge the importance of an item, and even the availability of detailed information. As a result, there have been some efforts to effectively use the web for long, in-depth writing that is more like the professional magazine journalism of the past. But not everyone has embraced this movement.

  • Serious reading takes a hit from online scanning and skimming, researchers say (Washington Post/Michael S. Rosenwald)  “The Internet is different. With so much information, hyperlinked text, videos alongside words and interactivity everywhere, our brains form shortcuts to deal with it all — scanning, searching for key words, scrolling up and down quickly. This is nonlinear reading, and it has been documented in academic studies. Some researchers believe that for many people, this style of reading is beginning to invade when dealing with other mediums as well.”
  • A founder of Twitter goes long (New York Times/Matt Richtel)  “He’s [Evan Williams] carrying out ideas he toyed with in his first big commercial venture, which was called, simply, Blogger. He sold that to Google a decade ago, begetting his first millions. Now, he is joining the mini-movement to celebrate long-form expression at sites and apps like Longform, Longreads and the Verge. The oddity is that Mr. Williams helped found Twitter, which is to long form what snacks are to dinner: sometimes a prelude, often an appetite killer.”
  • When ‘long-form’ is bad form (New York Times/Jonathan Mahler)  “What’s behind this revival? Nostalgia, partly, for what only recently had seemed to be a dying art. And technology: High-resolution screens make it much more pleasant to read a long piece online than it was even a few years ago. Also the simple and honorable intention to preserve a particular kind of story, one that’s much different from even a long newspaper feature, with scenes and characters and a narrative arc. […] The problem is that long-form stories are too often celebrated simply because they exist. And are long.”
  • Against beautiful journalism (Reuters/Felix Salmon)  “[…] people intuitively understand that the way that their story looks implies a certain level of quality and importance. That can be a good thing: it encourages contributors to up their game. But equally, it can simply result in people giving up, on the grounds that they don’t particularly want such a grand-feeling venue for their relatively small idea. It’s time for websites to put a lot more effort into de-emphasizing less important stories, reserving the grand presentation formats only for the pieces which deserve it.”

Opposite fact:
Rather than use some long-form web venue for his 4,000-word essay on immigration, Teju Cole published the entire thing in a series of tweets.

OPLIN 4Cast #283: DRM on a diet

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

At the end of last week, there was an interesting development among ebook publishers. The International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF), which includes several major publishers, issued an invitation to talk about “Lightweight DRM.” Current ebook Digital Rights Management is anything but lightweight; the protective ebook encryption is so heavy you can’t read a Kindle ebook on a Nook, for example. But consumer unhappiness seems to be pushing a change.

  • ePub standards body proposes new ‘lightweight’ DRM for ebook platform interoperability (The Verge/Bryan Bishop)  “The new ePub DRM would offer a standardized approach, providing enough protection to deter casual file sharing without causing so much hassle as to be inconvenient to users. The proposal calls for a password-based solution that would work on a device even if no internet connection was present — or if the ebook distributor themselves no longer existed.”
  • IDPF proposes less-restrictive DRM standard (TeleRead/Chris Meadows)  “The problem I see with this idea is, who exactly is going to use it? [Bill] Rosenblatt points to vendor lock-in as one of the problems with current DRM implementations, but from the point of view of the vendors (who are the ones who actually decide what DRM they use) that’s a feature—exactly the opposite of a problem. And up to now, copyright holders have seen restrictiveness of DRM as a feature as well. Who’s going to make them move to something lighter?”
  • EPUB Lightweight Content Protection: Use cases & requirements (International Digital Publishing Forum/Bill Rosenblatt)  “Finally, heavyweight DRM has generated significant resistance from consumers and consumer advocates, particularly in paid content business models, and this resistance has increased over time. Consumers object to intrusion (…), the technical and user experience glitches that are more likely to appear with more complex technology, and restrictions on content usage that correspond to usages of physical products to which they are accustomed (or which should be allowed by law).”
  • e-Books may take a page out of digital music’s book (Ars Technica/Megan Geuss)  “It seems more people will buy e-books if they can transfer them between devices, or if DRM was easier to understand. At a recent conference held by the Digital Public Library of America, Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle answered an audience member who asked ‘what will it take for publishers to nix DRM?’ ‘Wanting to have a business at the end of the day?’ Kahle answered sarcastically.”

Library lending fact:
The second use case in the IDPF statement of requirements outlines a process for borrowing an ebook with lightweight DRM from a library, reading it on one device, transferring it to another device, and sharing it with a friend.

OPLIN 4Cast #278: Magazine news

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

Magazines certainly aren’t what they used to be. Publishers of print magazines have been rapidly developing new apps for putting their content on mobile devices, they’re providing content in video format through apps, they’re using augmented reality apps to build intersections between print and online content, and they’re redesigning their print magazines so they’ll look better on tablets and e-readers. And of course, there are increasing numbers of magazines that simply do not exist in print. Here are a few recent developments in the world of online magazines:

  • Magazine apps show encouraging take-up, but more disruption ahead (The Guardian/Stuart Dredge)  “One thing about all this innovation: it’s still based around magazines as standalone entities sold a la carte or for single-publication subscriptions. The print model, in other words. Yet there is disruption of this too, with the likes of Next Issue – a joint venture between Condé Nast, Hearst, Meredith, News Corp. and Time Inc in the US.”
  • Next Issue Media launches with all-you-can-read pricing model (VentureBeat/Julie Klein)  “Today, Next Issue has tens of thousands of customers who read an average of two magazine titles through the app. The company does allow customers to access content for free if they already have a print subscription. Though [CEO Morgan] Guenther declined to say what percentage of customers are authenticating their print subscriptions, he did say that this option is a ‘big hit, people love it.’”
  • Farewell, app store? Netizine turns magazines into social networks, runs on HTML5 (TechCrunch/Sarah Perez)  “Instead of trying to reproduce the print magazine in digital format, with Netizine, the solution is to use social metrics as a way to present a magazine’s articles. For example, readers can dive into the ‘most commented,’ section first, or the ‘most bookmarked,’ ‘most shared,’ or ‘highest rated.’”
  • Fewer new magazines, fewer closures this year (Crain’s New York Business/Matthew Flamm)  “Not surprisingly, the numbers also showed more magazines launching as digital-only titles. MediaFinder counted 43 new print titles and nine new online magazines for the quarter. A year ago, the number of launches came to 50 print and four digital.”

Digital subscribers fact:
Hearst Magazines (Cosmopolitan, Esquire, Good Housekeeping, Seventeen, etc.) hopes to have one million subscribers to the digital issues of its magazines by the end of this year.

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 #211: Paying for online content

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

dollar sign with download symbolJust at the end of the year, the Pew Internet & American Life Project released a report indicating that “65% of Internet users have paid for online content.” In fact, you probably saw some variation of that phrase repeated several times in the media (as evidenced by the titles of the articles listed below). It’s worth going beyond the headlines and paying a little closer attention to the details of this report because it could indicate future trends that affect the borrowing practices of library users. For example, how many people are willing to pay for movies and e-books delivered directly to them over the Internet, rather than borrowing them from a library? What differences are there between age groups and income brackets? What factors determine what types of online content people are likely to buy? And what does all this tell us about the best future use of library funds for purchasing content?

  • Parsing Pew: What the latest online content buying numbers really say (paidContent/Staci D. Kramer)  “…Pew has a very broad definition of content ranging from music, software and gaming ‘cheats’ to newspapers, magazines, e-books, adult content and dating services. The distinctions were often blurred between kinds of content and containers. For instance, one category was ‘a digital newspaper, magazine, journal article, or special report’ but other options included apps and premium or members-only content. That makes it difficult to hone in on what people are willing to pay for—the actual content or the way content is delivered.”
  • 65 percent of Internet users have bought content online (Ars Technica/Casey Johnston)  “Of the people who use the Internet but don’t buy content, those ages 30-49 were the least likely to abstain from digital purchases—29 percent haven’t bought anything, compared to 33 percent of 18-29 year olds and 39 percent of 50-64 year olds. This indicates the 30-49 age bracket makes a good target for companies that are looking to sell online content, as it has the largest overlap between technological literacy and financial security.”
  • Pew shows 65% of people pay for digital content (TechCrunch/Erick Schonfeld)  “What about digital newspapers or magazines behind paywalls or for sale for tablets like the iPad? A respectable 18 percent of respondents say they have paid for news or other reports online. That even beats out the 16 percent who have paid for movies or TV shows. Media companies will love that stat. And ebooks? Only 10 percent have bothered to pay for those.”
  • 65% of Web users buy digital content: More music, fewer e-books (GigaOM/Kevin C. Tofel)  “Digital books for most platforms can be read on a wide array of devices: smartphones, computers, tablets and of course, dedicated e-reader devices. Even though it won’t share sales numbers, Amazon recently pointed out that its newest Kindle is the best selling product on Amazon. Between that news and the cross-platform support for e-book content, I would have expected more spending on e-books from the Pew Internet survey.”

Money fact
The amount of money spent for online content by the respondents to the Pew survey averaged $47 per month; however, Pew noted that a few high-end users skewed this average, and the typical buyer of online content only spent about $10 per month.

OPLIN 4Cast #190: Digital Romance?

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

printing pressAs of Monday, Dorchester Publishing, which claims to be the oldest independent mass market publisher in America and is known as a romance publisher, switched away from traditional print publishing to only e-books or print-on-demand. Is this a harbinger of things to come?

  • Dorchester drops mass market publishing for E-Book/POD model (Publishers Weekly, August 6) “President John Prebich said after retail sales fell by 25% in 2009, the company knew that 2010 ‘would be a defining year,’ but rather than show improvement, ‘sales have been worse.’ While returns are down, the company has had a difficult time getting its titles into stores as shelf space for mass market has been reduced.”
  • Paperback publisher goes all digital (Wall Street Journal, August 6) “Romance fans in particular have already embraced e-books, in part because customers can read them in public without having to display the covers. In addition, type size is easily adjusted on e-readers, making titles published in the mass paperback format easier to read for older customers.”
  • The ‘vanity’ press goes digital (Wall Street Journal, June 3) “Much as blogs have bitten into the news business and YouTube has challenged television, digital self-publishing is creating a powerful new niche in books that’s threatening the traditional industry. Once derided as ‘vanity’ titles by the publishing establishment, self-published books suddenly are able to thrive by circumventing the establishment.”
  • Authors do what? (Smart Bitches Trashy Books/SB Sarah) “But the real matter at hand, aside from placing bets in the death pool as to whether Dorchester is circling the drain or has bought itself some time, is what do you think authors with print books formerly scheduled to come out this fall should do to shift their marketing and promotional plans as new digital-only authors?”

Libraries do what?
If you’re wondering how to add Dorchester titles to your library print collection now, they have signed a deal with Ingram Publisher Service to do print-on-demand copies for selected titles.

OPLIN 4Cast #132 : Recent tech studies, Diigo, Online publishing, StoryTlr

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009

1. Recent library-relevant tech studies

2. Diigo

3. Online self-publishing tools

4. StoryTlr – A lifestreaming service