Kindle in the Congo, but not in Canada

November 10, 2009

I subscribe to Amazon’s press release feed and was greeted this morning with the headline, “Kindle for PC’ Now Available — The Free Application for Reading Kindle Books Available on the PC Today for Readers Around the World.” So I went to the download page and received this message:

kindleforpc

I’d read last month when Amazon announced that the Kindle itself would be available in 100 countries, that Canada was not to be among them, although Congo would be.

So I googled “Kindle in Canada,” and the top result was an article in the Globe & Mail, Canada’s answer to the New York Times. I clicked the link and was taken to this page:

globeplus1

I learned that to be a GlobePlus subscriber would cost me $159/year, pricey for one article. But then I clicked “Tell me more about licensing this article,” figuring that would offer it for perhaps $30, but to my surprise saw that I could license it for free, printing up to 5 copies. I wonder how the GlobePlus program is succeeding?

At any rate, the article just essentially reiterated that Canadians remain Kindleless (although can easily obtain all other eReaders). According to the piece (which was actually from the Associated Press wire, not even a Globe & Mail story), “An e-mail from Amazon.com public relations confirms the device is not coming to Canada, but offers no reason why. ‘We want to ship Kindle everywhere and we’re working hard on it, but at this time we are not able to ship to Canada,’ wrote Cinthia Portugal.”

An article in Quill & Quire, Canada’s trade magazine for the book publishing community addressed the emotional issue:

kindlehatescanada

Meanwhile a blog entry by Ian Bell speculates that the issue has to do with Amazon being unable to find a wireless network service to carry the Kindle. His rationale is reasonable, but it still seems a stretch to imagine that none of Canada’s several national wireless networks would sign up to join the Kindle hype machine.

No doubt the issue will one day be resolved, and then I will be able to view this on my portable:

twilght-illustrated-companion1

Oh joy!

November 17th: Amazon finally announced that the Kindle would be made available in Canada. And now I can download the software too. Oh joy!

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The 10 Most-Pirated eBooks this Year

September 2, 2009

Courtesy of freakbits.com comes this perhaps authoritative list of the 10 most-pirated eBooks of 2009. The results are calculated from BitTorrent downloads. As FreakBits notes, “The list shows us that illicit book downloads are not yet threatening the bestselling authors you’ll find in the New York Times list…In fact, most books that are downloaded on BitTorrent fall into the nerdy niche, are porn-related – or both.”

(I write “perhaps authoritative” as the post notes neither author nor publisher. In the case of the “Kama Sutra” (the usual spelling), Amazon.com includes over 6,000 listings. Further it’s not clear whether the pirated editions are eBooks where the digital rights management (DRM) was broken, or whether they were amateur scans from printed versions.)

The post goes on to note what may be a frightening harbinger for book publishers as they flock to make their paper books available in digital form: “All eBooks in this list were downloaded between 100,000 and 250,000 times.”

The list:

1. Kamasutra (sic)
2. Adobe Photoshop Secrets
3. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Amazing Sex
4. The Lost Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci
5. Solar House – A Guide for the Solar Designer
6. Before Pornography – Erotic Writing In Early Modern England
7. Twilight – Complete Series
8. How To Get Anyone To Say YES – The Science Of Influence
9. Nude Photography – The Art And The Craft
10. Fix It – How To Do All Those Little Repair Jobs Around The Home

As music publishers have learned, DRM does not solve the problem of illegal downloads. Most book publishers still, I think naively, believe that DRM will somehow prove more effective with eBooks than it has with music. No, the truth is that the business model for eBooks, as with music, must make it easier and more beneficial for the user to pay than to steal, while at the same time accepting that there will be a great deal of theft (but, as I and others argue, mainly from those who would not pay anyway under any circumstances).

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Printing from Periodicals Can Now Add Revenue Opportunities

August 20, 2009

Printing an article this afternoon from Canada’s The Globe and Mail, I encountered an unexpected print dialog box that I thought was pretty nifty.

globeprint1

Instead of just offering the standard print dialog box from the OS, and printing a copy to paper or PDF, suddenly there are additional options which may be handy for you, and can earn the publisher a little cash in exchange for the value you receive. But it doesn’t stop there. To get to the print option you click on the “Print or License” and see the two options

printorlicense

Licensing is where the real fun begins. The main dialog box offers these options:

licenseglobe

Print we’ve already seen. I don’t think that many folks would email an article to more than five people, and regardless, most just provide a link. But posting all or (more often) parts of articles happens probably several million times a day. Here are your options if you want to post the whole thing:

postarticle

As you’ll see here…

posthtml

…the pricing plan is based on how long you want to post it (non-profits are charged half the price).

If you choose PDF, you pay a little more but have another nifty feature available…

postpdf

…you can create a proof of the page and preview that. (By the way, the last two screen shots are partials. What they don’t show is a key feature: you can continue down the page, fill in the details of your order, pay by credit card and confirm the permissions immediately. A very smooth process!

Finally you reach “Other Services”:

otherservices

The interesting one is “Excerpt Article for Print” (note that it des not say “for Print or Online”.)

licenseexcerpt

Nifty little bit of technology once again: paste in the text you want to reprint, the words are counted, a price rendered and down the page you can enter your credit information and the deal is done! (And presumably the text to be quoted is also saved as part of the transaction, so that it can later be monitored.)

But something doesn’t quite add up here (apart from paying $11.20 for 32 words). I wonder why this applies only to print excerpting and not to online. I also wonder what happened to the Doctrine of Fair Use? Like everything related to copyright the doctrine is complex. The most important issue it covers is how much of original material can you use in another publication (song, movie, etc.) before you’re considered to have infringed copyright. The original article that I quote from in the screen shot above contains 1,463 words. I’m proposing to use 2% of them. Not a large percentage, but other factors weigh in in determining fair use. Nonetheless, I’d be interested to hear in the comments section below what people think about this part of the service.

The company providing this SaaS (Software as a Service) is iCopyright. I’m a big believer that a central tenet for all Web publishers must be to seek revenue from all available sources, and this simple service would be a real boon if it became a standard practice among periodical publishers. Lots are apparently using it, but I don’t run into it often.

I’m sufficiently impressed that I’ve written to Mike O’Donnell, the president and CEO of iCopyright (who provides a personal email address on the company’s “About Us” page — a class act), and requested an interview so that I can learn more about the company and its customers. Expect the results in a later blog entry.

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Why eBooks Aren’t the Same as Printed Books

July 24, 2009

I’ve avoided commenting on the controversy this week when Amazon realized it was selling an eBook of George Orwell’s 1984 that the vendor did not own the rights to sell to Amazon and its customers. I knew that there would be lots of back and forth to fill the blogger trough. Of course the story became more inflammatory because (a) it  was Orwell’s 1984, which we all know deals with the destruction of printed books, and (b) because Amazon, in its omnipotence, removed licences to the book from many customer’s Kindles without so much as an “excuse me.”

Of course, if we translate the story into the world of traditional print book publishing the publisher would merely have withdrawn the book from sale and requested retailers to return unsold copies for credit.

And as the Wall Street Journal points out in a well-modulated post tonight: “an ordinary bookstore wouldn’t be allowed to come into a buyer’s home to retrieve a book that he or she owned.”

And there’s the rub.

Amazon, of course has been suitably shamed and says it will never remove books from customer’s Kindles this way in the future (what else would it say, particularly until legal counsel has a chance to weigh in fully?).

Anyone who reads this blog know that I’m not a big fan of the Kindle, nor of Amazon’s promotional efforts surrounding it. But surely this is a tempest in a teapot. Amazon will become more cautious in accepting uploads, and will issue recalls more gracefully in the future.

The sky is not falling.

Follow-up: An interesting post on Fiction Matters which casts the incident very much as a tale of the perils and pitfalls of DRM.

And of course the inevitable lawsuit has now been launched.

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Please Free Me from Reading More About “Free”

July 12, 2009

If, like me, you check in frequently for the “hot” topics floating around the Internet, you’ll have run into a near-nauseating avalanche of articles, reviews, blog postings, interviews and tweets about Chis Anderson’s new book “Free: The Future of a Radical Price.” (Curiously the publisher lists the title as “Free: The Past and (emphasis mine) Future of a Radical Price,” while the past has been dropped from the published title). The book was officially published on July 7th, and is #82 on Amazon’s bestseller list.

The book originated as an article in Wired magazine (where Anderson is Editor-in-Chief) in February, 2008.

The theory of “Free” has been attacked by the bestselling author Malcolm Gladwell in The New Yorker. (The link is still live today, but may not be for free tomorrow!). This has been rebutted by Anderson on ad-supported Wired.com, and defended by Seth Godin in a blog entry called “Malcolm is Wrong.”

The book itself may be read for free on Scribd.com, but only for a few more weeks. As econsultancy.com notes, Anderson:

“is offering the full text of the book online at Scribd until August 10. But if readers want to download the contents or hold it in their hands, they’ll have to shell out for the ($27) hardcover. Anderson has also recorded two audio versions of “Free.” The full-length, six-hour version is free. But listeners will have to pay for the three-hour abridged recording.

“‘If I can give you 90% of the book in half the time, I’m giving you back three hours of your life,’ says Anderson. ‘Time is money.’”

Enough! Basta! Finito!

free

The point of this blog entry was to draw you to Virgina Postrel’s excellent, concise and non-inflammatory review of the book in the July 10th New York Times.

 After all the bafflegab I’ve encountered in the last few weeks, Postrel’s review is an oasis of non-rhetorical and balanced calm, and reveals all you need to know about this small flash-in-the-pan.

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