The Wall Street Journal Gets it Wrong on Mobile vs Desktop

May 27, 2015

A May 26 Wall Street Journal article is headlined “Mobile Isn’t Killing the Desktop Internet.” With such an inflammatory title it’s of course one of the top trending stories.

The article’s author, Jack Marshall, boldly states that “the share of overall consumption coming from mobile devices is growing, but desktop web usage isn’t dropping. In fact, it might be increasing” (emphasis mine). A chart is included from comScore, which I reproduce below:









It’s not that Mr. Marshall is flat-out wrong. It’s that the title and tone of his article are, I think, misleading.

I’ve got another chart, also from comScore, from its August 2014 study, “The U.S. Mobile App Report.” This one looks just at the “Digital Media” category.








According to the report the chart illustrates that “the strong growth in mobile app usage has propelled it to take over the majority of digital media time spent at 52 percent. Total mobile activity including mobile browser usage recently eclipsed 60 percent, as desktop now accounts for the remaining 40 percent.”

Separately the report states that “desktop computer usage…still managed to grow by 1 percent,” a figure not inconsistent with the Wall Street Journal article. But this encompasses all desktop computer usage, the majority of which relates to the Microsoft and Adobe application suites as well as email.

Indeed, in another comScore report, “The U.S. Digital Future in Focus 2015,” we get a look at the different ways that desktop and mobile devices are used.









If we were just to considered the top five categories above then the desktop would still the dominant computing platform.

Perhaps the most revealing chart from that report is platform usage.








The real story is not that the PC usage is up, but that simultaneous device use — usually called “multi-platform” — has changed the device landscape. As you can see in this chart desktop PC-only use is declining sharply in all age groups, while the use of multiple devices continues to grow sharply, notably (surprisingly?) in the 55+ age group. Mobile-only use is growing in all age groups, but again, by the largest percentage in the 55+ group. In the closely-watched 18-34 segment mobile-only use grew by 17%  in the year to December 2014. Assuming the same rate of growth, by December 2015 nearly a quarter of this segment will be mobile-only users.

Now that’s a story!

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Why is Ebook Formatting Still a Disaster?

The book publishing industry adheres to more than a dozen standards. Among them are:

Barcoding Best Practices for the US Book Industry (incl. Bookland EAN)
BISAC (U.S.) & BIC (U.K.)
XBITS (papiNet)

There are also unofficial specifications, such as book trim sizes (different for the U.S. and the U.K.), that are so well entrenched in the practice of publishing that they might as well be standards.

And then there are ebook “standards”. The principal ones are:

EPUB 2.1
Mobi (aka Mobipocket, and also its AZW variant)

We could easily add to that fixed format EPUBs and PDF (still extremely popular for online reading). Keep in mind that PDF has variants as well, such as PDF/X and PDF/A (and PDF/A, PDF/A-1a, PDF/A-1b, PDF/A-2 and PDF/A-2).

In my book, Mobile ReadingSystemSupportStrategies for Digital Publishing, I ran this chart, sourced from eBook Architects. It doesn’t consider all of the pain points of creating files in various digital formats. Instead it reveals something perhaps more painful: even when you painstakingly create digital files according to their published specs, different ereaders fail to support many of the essential file features. (This chart is more than a year old, and so the specifics have changed. But not the overall problem).

As the IDPF (International Digital Publishing Forum) gathers today in New York City for its annual Digital Book Program we can only hope that the smart people in attendance will be working hard to reduce some of these roadblocks.



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Is Publishing a Complex Industry?

March 15, 2015

I’m thinking about complex industries. I’m thinking of…

  • Pharmaceuticals (you might check out 23andMe, “a personalized DNA service”)
  • The design and launch of high-tech products (the intriguing Apple Watch)
  • Aerospace (think Airbus A350 XWB)
  • Launching a new car company (think Tesla)
  • Telecommunications (“rewiring” the Internet to reconfigure performance)


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The Smartphone is Ubiquitous, Addictive and Transformative

March 6, 2015

PlanetofthePhonesI didn’t write the headline for this entry. It’s in the February 28th edition of The Economist magazine. Smartphones are the cover story in the issue, headlined on the cover as “Planet of the Phones.” (more…)

Reengineering the Book Publishing Supply Chain

March 4, 2015

The subject of the book publishing supply chain has been with us since IT enabled the recording of supply chain metrics. This allowed managers to plan process improvements based on solid data, not just seat-of-the-pant suppositions. (more…)

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