Archive for January 2008

Contents: January 2008, Month One

January 31, 2008

Everything that was posted this month, from first to last: On this page.

The Three Big As: Apple, Amazon, Adobe

January 31, 2008

I was as surprised as everyone else this morning to learn that Amazon has reached out to purchase digital audiobook pioneer Audible.

It was just yesterday that I finally peeked into Amazon’s vaunted DRM-less MP3 site and learned that it sucketh. But that doesn’t mean it will always be that bad. Amazon is not about to give up on it. That it even offers it tells me Amazon intends to become surprisingly aggressive in the “content” (I hate that damned term!) area. It’s already offered video with Unbox (the less said about which, the better; it redefineth suck!).

Now Amazon is again making a push into audio with Audible.

Some people are wondering why Apple didn’t buy Audible.

At first, I wondered the same thing.

But then I thought, Apple hasn’t created a record label even though it’s been the largest distributor of music for several years. Why would Apple want to jump into publishing? (I am trying very hard not use that filthy term, “content creation.”)

I really can’t find a reason.

Publishing is a very difficult business. For complexity, variability — and downright ineffability — it makes hardware manufacturing and software creation look simple. I also have to imagine the margins for both hardware and software are much higher too.

Also, Apple has the leading container for media: the iPod. Apple has already acknowledged that it really doesn’t care how media gets into an iPod. It can be ripped (ideally legally) CD or DVD. It can be via the iTunes Store. It can even be DRM-less tracks from Amazon. What’s important to Apple is that the media resides on its iPod, its hardware.

Apple got into media distribution because it had to, to provide its media hardware with software. Had Jobs never gone the extra mile to create the iTunes Store and to remove friction from loading iPods, the accusations from the RIAA of the iPod being solely a theft facilitator would have been loud and long. We might have seen special taxes placed upon iPods, just as Canada has repeatedly tried.

Apple might be happy, in fact, to eventually get out of the media distribution business. Apple has already seen how certain media executives haven’t appreciated the convenience the iTunes Store offers.

I’ve argued that the iTunes Store should be made into a platform. Let every media publisher set up its own store that would be compatible with an iTunes software front-end on Macs and PCs. Such software is what Apple specializes in. With every publisher making “iPod feeding” so easy, claims of the iPod being a “piracy pod” would be de-legitimized.

As for Amazon purchasing Audible, I doubt it would eventually drop the iTunes Store as a method of distribution. What does Bezos care if an Audible file resides on an iPod, a (pardon the expression) Zune, or even a Kindle?

The company that Apple should acquire is one Cringely has made a case for: Adobe.

As far as I know, Adobe isn’t a publisher. It provides the tools publishers need. And what Cringely didn’t think of, is that purchasing Adobe would make Apple King of eBooks. Apple would suddenly have incredible leverage in the world of textual publishing.

This is an area that Amazon believes it has a lock on with its Kindle. In fact, Amazon went out of its way to create that lock by fiddling with the file format the Kindle uses, abandoning all customers of the underlying MobiPocket ebook format. (Amazon owns MobiPocket.) But that lock is vulnerable.

PDF is a widely used file format in publishing. So much so that the Sony Reader continues to enjoy an advantage over the Kindle with PDF. And Sony has been developing new software to enhance the PDF capabilities of its Reader.

Jobs has positioned himself as unethusiastic about ebooks. I maintain that is a bluff to mask his true intentions. Apple needn’t create a dedicated ebook device like the Sony Reader. Apple already has two such devices already suited for ebooks: the iPod Touch and the iPhone (and maybe a third one too). People have already used them for ebooks.

What awaits their legitimacy is the “iSDK” and Apple’s decision to create its own ebook file format for distribution of texts via the iTunes Store. (Note that the creation of such a file format would not prevent even Amazon’s MobiPocket division from creating reading software for the Touch and iPhone; the irony of an Apple device reading MobiPocket when the Kindle won’t!)

Perhaps acquiring Adobe is the key for Apple to enter ebooks in a major way. It would certainly blunt the advance of the Kindle. And even though many people consider PDF to be an unwieldy format, there’s Adobe Digital Editions and its .epub-format ability.

Some might argue that Adobe’s PDF file format is best used on desktop-class machines. That’s shortsighted. Here I have to use Microsoft as an example of vision: Despite the pig Windows CE was, Bill Gates realized that handheld processors would eventually become powerful enough to take advantage of its features. He was right. (Note I am not arguing that the software is any good; only that its reach exceeded the grasp of technology when it was first created.) The same thing will happen with processors in the iPod Touch and iPhone.

The questions to be answered:

1) Would Apple acquire Adobe to immediately ascend to the top of e-publishing?

2) Does Apple already have software of its own that it believes is superior?

It will be interesting to see what happens.

Sony Has Big eBook News Today

January 31, 2008

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The eBook Store From Sony(R) Launches Short Story Program with Entire Collection of Philip K. Dick

NEW YORK, Jan. 31 /PRNewswire/ — Sony today launched eStories, its short stories initiative involving over 1,000 stories from America’s leading authors, including all 120 stories by Philip K. Dick, whose stories and novels have inspired numerous Hollywood films including “Minority Report” and “Blade Runner”.

eStories will be available at The eBook Store from Sony (http://ebookstore.sony.com) and Borders(R)’ Online eBook Store (http://ebooks.bordersstores.com). Effective immediately, short stories are available from selected authors including Kevin J. Anderson, Lawrence Block, Lois McMaster Bujold, Orson Scott Card, Ed Gorman, Joe Haldeman, Wendy Hornsby, Margo Lanagan, Tanith Lee, Mike Resnick, Robert Silverberg, Susan Sizemore, R.L. Stine, Donald E. Westlake, and many others, with more authors being added every month. These stories can be purchased online and read on a PC or on Sony’s Reader digital book.

Complete release at the above link.

Here are two Very Important Bits:

Individual short stories will be priced from $0.99-$1.99.

iTunes Store-like pricing! Interesting idea. Treat short stories like a song and complete books like an album. I think that’s clever.

This is Very Big for published writers:

Authors interested in participating in this program with their previously published stories should contact Larry Segriff, Tekno Books’ vice president and director of Digital Publishing, at teknobooks@new.rr.com.

I’m going to tell writers whose work I love.

I’m glad to see Sony doing something!

And: If you’ve never read Philip K. Dick, I recommend two stories to begin with: The Electric Ant and I Hope I Shall Arrive Soon.

I Have No Title For This One

January 31, 2008

Young millionaire from East Cobb hands out cheap advice

More than 100 people — former teachers and Walton High classmates and neighbors — showed up Saturday to welcome the east Cobb author home at the Borders Book Store. He made $1 million by age 28 after moving to New York City. And he made it sound as if anyone could do it.

He even wrote a book about it: “A Million Bucks by 30: How to Overcome a Crap Job, Stingy Parents, and a Useless Degree to Become a Millionaire Before (or After) Turning 30.”

Corey began his monologue like a young Johnny Carson: “Hello. My name is Alan Corey, and I’m a millionaire.”

His big smile got the crowd laughing, and the snickering didn’t stop.

“I did it by mostly positive thinking,” he said, grinning.

But also by crashing parties, going to cocktail parties and scarfing up, and down, whatever he could.

The subhead labels him a “writer.”

My gag reflex kicked in.

He works in a windowless office in a house he bought in Brooklyn — big enough to accommodate a handful of renters. He figures he comes out $2,000 ahead a month.

“I make $2,000 a month profit just for living in my own house,” he told the crowd.

He’s no writer. He’s a writer’s mortal enemy: a landlord.

I know what a park bench is, and the landlord’s knock. There are only two things wrong with money: too much or too little.

— Charles Bukowski; The Captain is Out to Lunch and the Sailors Have Taken Over the Ship

Robot Toy? Now THIS Is A Robot Toy!

January 31, 2008

Judie Lipsett over at Gear Diary has a review of the robot pet, Pleo.

That set me off on a nostalgic binge and I finally remembered the name of one of the best toys of the 1960s.

Big Loo — wikipedia entry.

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I Eated Yur Pleo!

And before that was the Great Garloo!

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I Kilt And Eated Yur Pleo!

Back in the 1960s, they made toys that kids could rule the world with!

Where’s That UFO To Take Me Away?

January 31, 2008

There are rocks that should not be turned over. Things the intelligent huiman mind just should not behold.

Unfortunately, all of it wends its way straight to me!

I can sum it all up in three words: Evolution is a lie.

Even more and even worse over here.

It’s all true.

And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire.

Matthew 18:9, KJV

But what of those who commit the offense that causes my eye to offend me?

The MySpace Factor

January 31, 2008

‘Facebook fatigue’ kicks in as people tire of social networks

Shhh! Can you hear a hiss? That’s the sound of naughty facts deflating the social networking balloon a tad.

Whisper it, but numbers from web analytics outfit comScore have confirmed what the chatter in bars and cafes has been saying for months – people are, just, well, bored of social networks.

I have perhaps signed onto MySpace just twice in the past six weeks. This used to be a daily thing for me. But then the band Girls Don’t Cry broke up and it lost its pull on me. It quickly felt like an obligation. I don’t like obligations.

Every day would bring 30-100 Bulletins. Since I haven’t been online for weeks now, I shudder.

It’s something I’m going to have to do — probably today — because most of the people I know there I know only there.

I dropped some Friends my last sign-in. Maybe I should do another trim.

One other thing. You know that MySpace-exclusive video mini-series that got some huge Net coverage, from the guys who did thirtysomething (among others)? It debuted and ran on MySpace and I never even saw any huge promotion for its premiere on MySpace. So much for when the TV guys hop onto the Net video ride.