Twitter your Haiku on DailyLit, and then some

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DailyLit, the site that lets you read ebooks in small chunks via email or RSS, has announced some new features including daily poems, the affiliate program, and twitter feeds.  For more information on DailyLit, listen to the NSR interview with Susan Danziger, CEO/Founder.

-DailyLit collaborated with Poets & Writers to launch DailyLit’s public serialization program with daily poems.  The series, launched yesterday in celebration of National Poetry Month, is called Masters of Verse: 30 Poems by Late, Great Authors. If you check out the landing page of the Poets & Writers site, you’ll see that if you click onthe “Read More” button a lightbox appears so that you can view a different poem a day directly on their site (the poem automatically changes each day).  DailyLit supplied the widget that allows this public serialization.   This widget is a great way to build community around a site (folks can return to the site each day to read a new installment — in this case a new poem — and if a reader wants to have a private RSS feed or have the installments sent to his or her email, they can sign up for the DailyLit book via that site.)

-DailyLit also just launched an affiliate program.  If a third party affiliate site features a DailyLit title, and someone signs up for that title via that third party site, then in each installment of the featured book will be a note “You found us through [insert name of site]” with a link to that site.  For instance, if you subscribe to Masters of Verse on the pw.org site, each installment says “You found us through Poets & Writers”).  In fact, today Etsy, the huge online marketplace for buying and selling all things handmade, is announcing Thoreau’s Walden as its new selection for its book club; DailyLit is working with Etsy to provide this book to their readers via the new affiliate program.  It’s an exciting initiative particularly since Etsy has over two million community members!

-DailyLit recently launched an integration with Twitter that allows folks to link their DailyLit profile to Twitter.  Their actions on DailyLit are automatically tweeted to their followers, e.g.  starting a particular book, commenting in our forums, reviewing a book, adding a book to their “To Read” list or completing a book.

Britannica’s Overhaul

Original article in Boston Globe.  By Hiawatha Bray Boston Globe Staff / March 31, 2009

Enter Britannica
For 241 years, it’s been the gold standard of reference books, a premium-priced digest of the world’s accumulated knowledge. Now it’s being overwhelmed by an eight-year-old online upstart authored by amateurs and available at no charge. How can Encyclopaedia Britannica survive in a wiki world?

The venerable Encyclopaedia Britannica is preparing for the most radical overhaul in its 241-year history, and it’s recruiting its readers to do much of the work.

It’s a bid by Britannica to remain relevant at a time when the world’s most popular encyclopedia, the eight-year-old website Wikipedia, is written entirely by amateur experts. The new version of Britannica Online, set to debut this summer, will emulate the Wikipedia concept by letting subscribers make changes to any article, ranging from minor edits to near-total rewrites.

But Britannica president Jorge Cauz scoffs at the idea that he’s merely imitating his giant online rival. “I don’t believe it’s accurate to say that Britannica and Wikipedia are becoming more similar,” he said. While Wikipedia is written and edited by amateurs who often work anonymously, Britannica Online articles will be overseen by professional editors. In addition, there will be no anonymity: Authors and editors will be identified by name. Cauz said this will give Britannica Online articles a credibility and authority Wikipedia can’t match.

If Wikipedia’s credibility is lower than Britannica’s, users don’t seem to mind. With its 10 million articles – 2.7 million in English – and its 275 million readers per month, Wikipedia’s scale and popularity dwarf that of Britannica’s online edition, which serves just 200,000 households and offers just 112,000 articles.

Wikipedia grew so popular partly because it’s free, while Britannica Online charges $70 a year. And Wikipedia’s array of articles is so vast because anybody can write for it. Only paying subscribers will be eligible to write for Britannica Online.

Cauz concedes that Britannica will never have as many articles as Wikipedia. But he said many Wikipedia articles are about trivial topics Britannica has no interest in covering. “They can talk about porno actors and cartoon characters as well as heart attacks,” said Cauz. “That is something we will never do.”

Instead, Britannica will still focus on its core market: schools, libraries, and homes, where people need authoritative information on important topics.

Britannica still prints a traditional multivolume encyclopedia and other reference works, but about 75 percent of the company’s revenue come from online sales. Privately held Britannica won’t reveal its revenue and earnings numbers, but Cauz said the company has turned a profit for the past five years.

The upgraded encyclopedia is set to debut this summer, but a test version is already up and running. Users who open an article are given an editing option that turns the Web browser into a mini word processor, where they can make small or large revisions. These changes are submitted to a Britannica editor, and perhaps to the article’s author.

“We have full responsibility,” said Cauz. “Every article will have to go through the rigorous editorial review of Britannica.” If the changes pass muster, they’re added to the official Britannica article, and the name of the user who made the changes is published on the website.

Cauz noted Britannica Online will allow edits of all its articles. Ironically, this will give Britannica a more open editing policy than Wikipedia’s. Despite its reputation for openness, Wikipedia permanently “locks” some articles on controversial people and subjects to prevent changes. “We want to stop . . . what we call drive-by vandalism,” said Wikipedia cofounder Jimmy Wales.

Indeed, since its founding in 2001, Wikipedia has gradually tightened its standards, according to Andrew Lih, a Wikipedia editor and author of a new book, “The Wikipedia Revolution.”

“When it was first started, it was completely open editing,” Lih said. “Over the years, they’ve started to put more restrictions on it, simply because as you have a larger and larger crowd, it attracts more vandals.”

For example, about 3,000 articles are “semiprotected,” meaning that they can only be modified by Wikipedia users who have been members of the site for more than four days. Wales said he’s not entirely happy with this limitation. “One of the problems with semiprotection,” he said, “is that it’s difficult for newcomers to get involved.”

The German edition of Wikipedia addressed this problem by using “flagged revisions” of sensitive articles. These can be freely modified by anybody, even Wikipedia newcomers. But the modifications are flagged for review by a trusted editor before being published.

Now Wales plans to introduce flagged revisions to the English-language version of Wikipedia. He called it “an effort to open up pages to public editing that we have not had open to public editing for several years.”

If flagged editing works, it will make Wikipedia more open to public revision. But since some articles will remain locked, Wikipedia still won’t be quite as open to revision as Britannica Online.

Another addition to Britannica Online will come even closer to the original Wikipedia model. Cauz said Britannica subscribers and authors of articles for the encyclopedia will be given access to a separate area, where they can write articles on any topic they choose. When a Britannica Online user searches for information on a topic, links to these independent articles will appear alongside the official Britannica article. Each article will carry the names of its author and anyone who’s edited it, but there will be no review by Britannica editors, and the company won’t vouch for its accuracy.

Its critics say Wikipedia’s good name has been damaged by poorly written or libelous articles posted on the site. Britannica’s new feature could put its own reputation on the line. But determined to reinvent itself, Britannica is taking the risk.

Hiawatha Bray can be reached at bray@globe.com.

E-books continue to grow significantly, sales reached $113 million in 2008, up 68.4%

Forwarding a post from teleread.org

By Paul Biba

That is according to the Association of American Publishers. Here is their press release (emphasis added by the Editor):

The Association of American Publishers (AAP) today released its annual estimate of total book sales in the United States. The report, which uses data from the Bureau of the Census as well as sales data from eighty-one publishers inclusive of all major book publishing media market holders, estimates that U.S. publishers had net sales of $24.3 billion in 2008, down from $25.0 billion in 2007, representing a 2.8% decrease. In the last six years the industry had a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 1.6%.

Trade sales of adult and juvenile books fell 5.2 percent from 2007 to $8.1 billion, CAGR fell to 2.1 percent. Growth was found in paperbound books for children and adults, with growth rates of 6.4% and 3.6% respectively. Sales in the hardcover fell 12.4% in children’s hardcover and 13% in adult hardcover.

Over the period covered by the estimated data, the CAGR for hardbound books was 0.4% for adult books and 1.5% for juvenile. Paperbound books grew 3.9% and 2.8% over the 6 years.

Educational titles had a mixed year. Sales in the Elementary (El-Hi) category, those books produced for K-12 education, fell 4.4% to $6.1 billion in 2008, CAGR for this category was 0.8%. The Higher Education category, which includes sales of college textbooks, fared better. Total sales reached $3.8 billion this year up 2.7% on 2007. This brought the CAGR for college textbooks to 3.8%

Mass Market paperbacks decreased 3.0% and brought the category CAGR to -1.9%. Total sales were $1.1 billion in 2008. Book clubs and mail-order fell for the sixth year to $600 million, a fall of 3.4%.

Audio book sales for 2008 totaled $172 million, down 21% on the prior year, CAGR for this category is still healthy at 3.1%. E-books continue to grow significantly, sales reached $113 million in 2008, up 68.4%.

Religious book sales dropped 7.6% to $724m in 2008. However over the period of the estimate it has still performed well with CAGR of 4.5%.

A complete list of the preliminary estimated book publishing industry net sales for 2008 prepared by Management Practice, Inc. is available here.

E-book Usage Data Article

The April 1, 2009 “Off The Shelf” column features an article on E-book usage data.  The article surveyed 10 e-book vendors and aggregators for information on their usage data.  A comparative chart accompanies the article, which is only available online, on the NSR articles page.

7 vendors replied to the survey, 1 couldn’t participate due to usage data restructuring, and 2 did not reply.  The 2 no replies serve primarily the public and school library markets, so this usage chart is heavy on academic providers.

EBL titles on iPhone, iTouch

From the EBL blog:

We’ve recently announced that EBL titles can be downloaded to the Sony Reader, but did you know that EBL’s new reader is already accessible on an iPhone and iPod Touch?

Patrons can access EBL  titles on their iPhone or iPod Touch through the normal webpages.  The image view in the reader will render the full book.  Scrolling works by using two fingers. We’re planning to offer a scaled down view more suitable for mobile access later this year.

And news just in… downloading EBL ebooks to the iPhone/iPod Touch is soon to follow.  Adobe have just announced a partnership with Stanza Reader, the reader application designed for the iPhone. Read more here.

FTC Digital Rights Management town hall meeting: summing up

From Teleread, author not listed:

FTC Digital Rights Management town hall meeting: summing up

Posted: 26 Mar 2009 09:39 AM PDT

I have had a day to think about what I saw at the FTC’s town hall meeting on Digital Rights Management yesterday, and what it might mean for the future of DRM. The conference fell into the classic “good news, bad news” scenario.

Unrealistic Expectations

The good news is that the FTC is now more aware than ever of the difficulties to consumers implicit in Digital Rights Management (especially since they received over 800 public comments, which they admitted during the meeting they had not managed to work all the way through yet). The bad news is that it is not the FTC’s brief to adjudicate matters relating to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and fair use, or even anti-trust concerns relating to non-interoperable DRM.

The FTC is chiefly concerned with unfair and deceptive business practices. (For example, in the other big FTC story of the day, the FTC announced yesterday it was suing Dish Network for making telemarketing calls to people listed on the national Do Not Call Registry.)

If companies make deceptive statements in advertising about the limitations of their DRM, the FTC will look into it. If companies release DRM that harms the consumer (as in the infamous Sony rootkit debacle), they will investigate and possibly sanction. But they can’t do anything to let you copy DVDs to your video iPod when the DMCA forbids it. Talk to Congress about that.

That being said, the meeting was of great interest just for the open discussion of DRM among big guns from both consumer-advocacy and commercial trade groups. Anyone who did not realize DRM was a contentious issue before would certainly have gotten an earful.

Potential Remedies

Though some speakers were not terribly exciting (one read a ten-minute prepared statement in a sleep-inducing monotone; another rambled on at length about a “thought experiment” involving taking a bus full of developing-country representatives to a shopping mall that made no sense either during or after the speech), most of them had good points to make, pro or con.

Several potential DRM remedies were discussed, including

  • a logo-based disclosure system like ESRB or MPAA ratings so consumers would be able to see at a glance what DRM was on a product
  • making DRM systems more interoperable, or adding “exception handling” so DRM would permit more fair uses
  • DRM-using companies depositing keys and source code in escrow so that if they went bankrupt consumers would be able to crack the DRM and have access to the media they paid for afterward.

These took on a character of “pie in the sky,” however, given that imposing such solutions is generally outside the FTC’s brief. For example, making DRM more interoperable would be difficult given that companies generally have a vested interest in making sure their DRM works for them alone. (Apple’s stranglehold on the digital music industry due to its Fairplay DRM was brought up more than once.)

The FTC Takes Questions

One of the more interesting panels to me was the very last, in which representatives of the FTC got in the hot seat to field questions and comments as to what they might actually do about DRM. The answer: as stated above, not a whole lot.

Nonetheless, the first question fielded was one that I emailed, and I was even mentioned by both real name and moniker. (I had asked that TeleRead be mentioned as the source, but they forgot.) I pointed out that Amazon owned the Mobipocket e-book format, currently used by many of its e-book competitors, and asked what the FTC would be willing to do if they decided to stop licensing that format.

The FTC panel replied that they could not address specific what-if scenarios, but they could talk about similar investigations they had done in the past. They talked about their investigation into Microsoft when Microsoft wanted to get out of the music business and shut down its DRM servers—meaning that consumers would no longer be able to play the music they had bought from Microsoft. They closed the investigation after Microsoft agreed to keep its servers turned on.

All in all, the FTC town hall meeting was an interesting event, and worthwhile in that it fostered public discussion and debate about DRM that might end up educating more people about its disadvantages. But those who expected any solid commitments will be left disappointed.

Other Coverage

Here is a roundup of other articles I have found covering the town hall meeting.

Oren’s Weblog has excellent panel-by-panel summaries of the event (though Oren did not chronicle the sixth panel, in which the FTC answered questions about what measures it might take):

Content Agenda looks at the meeting here; the Copyright and Technology blog has coverage here. Brad’s Reader looks at some implications for e-books here. Here is a PDF article laying out a system of logo-based disclosure of DRM on download products of the sort that was proposed at the meeting.

Ars Technica also has an article summing up the first few panels that came before the lunch break.

npr Story on DRM in eBooks

npr’s All Things Considered program had a really nice piece on ebooks and DRM – the good and the bad.  You can listen or read it here.

In the story, authors are presented as anti-DRM, no restrictions, they want people to read their material not be locked out by restrictions.  In contrast, the Amazon Kindle VP states that they have very little complaints about DRM restrictions and a publisher is portrayed as a DRM supporter.  The author, Laura Sydell, says “But DRM could become a problem if the Kindle goes bust — then all those people who bought Kindle eBooks with DRM will have no way to read them because no other device can open the files.”  I think that VP of Kindle will start getting the complaints then!  Guess this shouldn’t surprise me, the companies who will make the most profit from publishing a title want restrictions and the authors, who probably only get 10%, want it open!

Thoughts on the UM Press Digital Move

You’ve probably read the news about the University of Michigan Press going digital only with most of their titles.  They’ve decided to jump to the future business model ahead of many publishers, by going digital now, rather than later.  I like their reasoning for the move.  Phil Pochoda, Director of the UM Press was quoted in the Inside Higher Ed article to say “Why try to fight your way through this? Why try to remain in territory you know is doomed? Scholarly presses will be primarily digital in a decade. Why not seize the opportunity to do it now?”

Another reason for the decision was to increase the number of titles that UM Press could publish.  With the cost of printing and distribution, only titles that would sell, sell, sell were printed.  Publishing digital only means more titles from more scholars on more topics, not just those that fit the mainstream.  I think that’s good for everyone.

UM Press can also utilize the new Espresso Book Machine acquired by the UM in 2008 (see NSR post).  The print on demand (pod) machine has the ability to offer print versions of the digital titles for those who aren’t quite ready for the ebook world.

Sony Adds Half a Million Public Domain Google Books to Reader

From the wired.com blog
Sony Adds Half a Million Public Domain Google Books to Reader

By Charlie Sorrel EmailMarch 19, 2009 | 5:36:39 AMCategories: Books

Sony has inked (e-inked?) a deal with Google to bring half a million public domain books to its Reader e-book device, but surprise! Being a Sony service it looks to be awkward to use and no better than just grabbing the texts from Project Gutenberg.

Google has been scanning and textifying public domain texts in its attempt to organize the world’s information, and now they’ll be available for Sony’s e-book reader. This initiative, while certainly laudable as a way to get free books properly formatted for the device, really shows up the Sony Reader and its lack of a wireless internet connection.

First, you need to go to the Sony eBook Store and grab the PC software. Then you can search from the comfort of your own computer the half million books Sony has grabbed from Google. Then you need to sideload the content onto your Reader.

Worse, try going to the eBook site to find the Google link. You’ll have to scroll around. Sony’s web designers have decided to make the word “Google” appear only in jpeg form, so no quick page-search to find it.

Oh, Sony. It’s a nice try, but we think you already lost this one. The Kindle is currently the iPod of e-book readers, and while it doesn’t do everything, what it does do it does right. Plus, you can download any of Project Gutenberg’s free books, or even Google’s, directly, even on the beach. If you really want to read  Jane Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility”, that is.

Product page [Sony]

Press release[PR Newswire via Reuters]

A blog discussing the news and issues surrounding eBooks, for librarians and publishers.