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Archive for July, 2010|Monthly archive page

Welcome to Wylie World: An Agent's Bold Move Makes Sense

In Entertainment, Media, Technology, Uncategorized on July 27, 2010 at 2:50 pm
Image representing Amazon Kindle as depicted i...

Image via CrunchBase

When I originally heard about Andrew Wylie’s announcement last week that he was partnering with Amazon to create “Odyssey Editions” — 20 special e-book versions of modern classics by writers whom he represents that will only be available for Kindle and devices that support Kindle software such as the iPad, I thought:

This is bad news.

After all, at its face it seems to be exclusive deal with one retail outlet.

Here’s the thing, though.

As I like to point out, Kindle’s not just a device, it’s software that works on many devices.

What Wylie has done is take 20 great books that have not been available electronically and made them available to a pretty large audience.

Sure there are some people who are upset.

For instance, I suspect Wylie won’t be getting any holiday cards from Random House this year. And there’s a book store in Mississippi that’s making a big deal of this.

The only ones who seem to be taking a balanced, sensical approach to the whole kerfuffle is The Author’s Guild.

Is there any real difference between what Wylie has done and say, special editions for The Franklin Library or the Library of America?

Well, yes.

Wylie has created a series of affordable editions for a very wide audience.

Good for him.

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Amazon Says Print is Dead, Long Live the Kindle (Not so fast…)

In Entertainment, Media, Technology, Uncategorized on July 21, 2010 at 9:27 am
IMG_0096.JPG

Image by Yoshimasa Niwa via Flickr

So, earlier this week Amazon put out a press release singing the glories of the Kindle.

It has been a tough few weeks for the Kindle as things have looked up for the iPad while they’ve been caught in a bit of an e-reader price war.

So, you really can’t blame Amazon for putting out a release that trumpets their device.

“Kindle Device Unit Accelerate Each Month in Second Quarter; New $189 Price Results in Tipping Point for Growth” says the release’s headline.

Well, geez. Wow. That’s great, huh? They must be selling gazillions of Kindles by now. How many? Well, let’s look at the release again. Hmm. It’s not there.

How about in The New York Times story about Amazon’s announcement?

Wait. It’s not there either though the Times does repeat Amazon’s claim that “the growth rate of Kindle sales tripled after Amazon lowered the price of the device in late June.”

The problem is that unlike Apple — which regularly touts how many iPads it’s selling — Amazon has never released exact sales figures for the device. paidContent.org has quoted Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos saying they may never release those figures.

So, when they say that growth has tripled… from one to three? Seven to 21? One million to three million? Who knows?

Now, let’s look at the rest of the release: “Amazon.com Now Selling More Kindle Books Than Hardcover Books.”

Again, wow. The previously mentioned New York Times story refers to this news “as a day for the history books — if those will even exit in the future.”

And reading the release, you can’t blame them.

Amazon claims that “over the past three months, for every 100 hardcover books Amazon.com has sold, it has sold 143 Kindle books. Over the past month, for every 100 hardcover books Amazon.com has sold, it has sold 180 Kindle books.”

Again, wow.

But…

Since they don’t give us actual sales figures (other than the fact that James Patterson has sold 867,881 Kindle books, one of five writers to sell more than 500,000 KIndle books; the others being: Charlaine Harris, Stieg Larsson, Stephanie Meyer and Nora Roberts), we really don’t know what that means.

Yes, it’s a lot — based on those five writers alone — but how much? And what does it really mean?

Is it that — as Bezos claims — “the Kindle format has now overtaken the hardcover format.”

Is it that e-readers, whether they be Kindles or iPads, are the way things are going?

The second is more likely.

At the same time, as great as the devices are, as I’ve pointed out, e-readers will only really be the future when we figure out how to get them to everyone. Otherwise we need to keep helping libraries and schools make sure they have regular, old, printed books for kids.

Print may not be quite as robust as it used to be but it’s far from dead.

The New York Times, The Washington Post and Irony

In Media, Politics, Technology, Uncategorized on July 20, 2010 at 8:56 am

Where would we be without Mondays?

Today’s life lesson in irony comes from The New York Times and The Washington Post. Actually it’s from Politico but it’s thanks to a New York Times story.

(maybe you should buckle up)

The New York Times had a story yesterday, In a World of Online News, Burnout Starts Younger.

The focus is websites like the hyperactive political website Politico and gossip site Gawker and the conclusion:

“Such is the state of the media business these days: frantic and fatigued. Young journalists who once dreamed of trotting the globe in pursuit of a story are instead shackled to their computers, where they try to eke out a fresh thought or be first to report even the smallest nugget of news — anything that will impress Google algorithms and draw readers their way.”

There’s talk of high turnover rates and frantic obsession with page views and that we live “in a media environment crowded with virtual content farms where no detail is too small to report as long as it was reported there first.”

What isn’t there is a lot of talk of long-term projects and in-depth reporting. Not to say that there isn’t in-depth online reporting, it’s just that the emphasis is fast fast fast. It’s as if suddenly everybody’s a wire service reporter.

Except Dana Priest of The Washington Post.

Bless her and her ability to report the hell out of a story.

In the past five years, Priest has won two Pulitzers — for her exposure of the CIA’s secret prisons and for her series on the lousy treatment Americans veterans were receiving at Walter Reed.

Now she’s back with a hell of a story running in installments in her paper.

Top Secret America is the result of more than two years of reporting, breathtaking in its scope and an amazing example of not only why newspapers are important but how effective they can be when embracing changes in technology.

At its heart, the series explores how “the government has built a national security and intelligence system so big, so complex and so hard to manage, no one really knows if it’s fulfilling its most important purpose: keeping its citizens safe.”

Priest, her colleague William Arkin and nearly a dozen other Post staffers have put together what appears to be an astoundingly well-reported, well-written series. And not only have they written some great articles (part two is live today), they’ve created an interactive website with a searchable database, a Facebook page, a Twitter account. There’s going to be a special on Frontline (won’t be airing until the fall, watch the seven-minute teaser video here).

So, on a day that The New York Times reports on how the world of online journalism is leading to burnout, The Washington Post comes out with a great series that reminds people of why newspapers are important — essential — and shows the potential of in-depth reporting on the web.

Brilliant.

Hey, Janet Evanovich! Spread the Wealth!

In Entertainment, Media on July 16, 2010 at 9:42 am
Cover of "One for the Money (Stephanie Pl...

Cover via Amazon

It’s summer, which is usually a very good time for Janet Evanovich, whose Stephanie Plum mysteries can be seen at beaches and on airplanes around the country as people devour books they know they can toss when they’re done with them.

I’m not knocking Evanovich’s books — One for the Money, Two for the Dough, Hot Six and so forth — they’re fun and quickly forgettable so there’s no issue with leaving the book wherever you finish them.

This, though, is turning into a Summer of Discontent, to some degree for her.

Deadline New York’s Mike Fleming reported earlier this week that Evanovich — St. Martin’s Press’s “biggest fiction author” — is moving on after 15 years because the publisher refused to pay her request for $50 million for her next four books.

That’s right. $50 million.

Now I’m not saying that Evanovich doesn’t make a lot of money for St. Martin’s — her books regularly sell hundreds of thousands of copies as they camp out on best-seller lists. And it’s not like there’s not a bunch of authors who make even more (let’s not forget JK Rowling, who leaves all others in her wake).

When The New York Times profiled James Patterson earlier this year, they titled the piece: “James Patterson, Inc.

I have no doubt that Evanovich’s agent, her son Peter, will be able to get someone to pay her what she wants. And I certainly am not saying that St. Martin’s should get rich off of her work…

My issue is that when you read stories about small-press publishers that manage to find the occasional Pulitzer-winner or another one getting shut down from lack of funds or a charity working to make sure school kids have enough books (any books!) to read and then you read about someone balking because she can’t $50 million?

Please.

Here’s an idea.

Find a new publisher who is going to give you, say $30 million for the four books and make them use the other $20 million to discover new talent or to help keep a literary magazine afloat or something.

So many people are struggling, so many great artists toil for nothing.

Make your money, Evanovich but spread the wealth.

If it's Good Enough for Oprah…

In Entertainment, Media, Technology on July 15, 2010 at 4:06 pm
According to Keirsey, Oprah Winfrey may be a T...

Image via Wikipedia

So, now that Oprah’s given every member of her magazine’s staff an iPad, publisher Hearst is going to make sure they can read their work on the device.

AdAge reports that Hearst is readying iPad app versions of O, Esquire, Food Network Magazine and its other popular titles, following in the footsteps of its Popular Mechanics app, which has sold more than 12,000 downloads.

“Capitalizing on Oprah Winfrey’s huge role recommending books to her fans, the iPad edition of O, The Oprah Magazine, that’s expected in the fourth quarter will let users buy e-books and read them within the app itself,” the magazine reports. “The app preserve the basic magazine experience but include visual tags that let users know they can see a video message from Ms. Winfrey or interact in some other way. A module on articles will let users make comments and see other readers’ remarks.”

And they’re far from alone.

Peter Kaplan, the former editor of The New York Observer who has just been hired as editorial director of Fairchild Fashion Group (publishers of Women’s Wear Daily, among other publications) tells his old colleagues: “There’s a new generation of readers coming up and they’ll be readingWomen’s Wear and these other publications, and they want a first-rate web site, and they’re gonna want something for the iPad. They want apps!”

And who can blame them?

Sports Illustrated has truly capitalized on the new technology.

When word of the death of Yankee owner George Steinbrenner broke earlier this week, Sports Illustrated quickly swapped out the cover on the iPad version of their magazine from LeBron James to Steinbrenner.

Apparently, take that antiquated print and hello new technology (though, of course, i write this on a table strewn with newspapers and magazines, the way it should be)>

But, like I said yesterday, the writing does appear to be on the tablet.

iPads vs. E-Readers: Things Looking Good for Apple

In Entertainment, Media, Technology on July 14, 2010 at 12:22 pm
Image representing iPad as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

It’s not a new theme — in fact, earlier this month, I touched upon it — but the evidence seems to be building that e-readers face a tough road ahead.

According to Mashable, a new report by Resolve Media seems to indicate that anyone selling e-readers better do whatever it takes to keep iPads out of the hands of consumers.

The report states that after buying an iPad, 49 percent of people said they would not be buying another e-reader.

There’s also bad news for other devices — 38 percent said they wouldn’t buy a portable gaming device, 32 percent said they wouldn’t buy a netbook or laptop — but it paints a very stark picture for the e-reader industry.

“E-readers should be worried,” Mashable writes. “Even before the Kindle and Nook price cuts, we were already seeing some movement with lower-priced e-readers. We think that reading-only devices will ultimately find a new market at the sub $100 price point. Even at $200, the value proposition for an e-reader versus an iPad is tough to overcome.”

So, while Amazon is shipping its newest iteration of the Kindle and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos keeps talking about how the iPad and Kindle aren’t really competitors, it seems the more people discover the iPad, the more hurt is in store for the Kindle and similar devices.

Fortunately for Amazon, the Kindle isn’t just a device, it’s a software platform, an app that works on the iPad and, I have to say, on the iPad, it’s wonderful, well-built software that makes reading on the iPad a really nice experience.

And the same’s true for Barnes and Noble. They have the Nook but they also have software that works on the iPad.

I’m the thinking that for e-reader companies, the writing’s on the wall, er, tablet.

Read This: A Middle School is Still Trying to Recover from Katrina

In Media, Politics, Uncategorized on July 8, 2010 at 9:15 am

Now that I’ve written the headline, I’m thinking it’s a little misleading because it really wasn’t Hurricane Katrina that devastated New Orleans, it was the failure of the levees after the fact that caused so much destruction.

Anyway, that’s another argument for another time.

Today we’re talking about one of the most fabulous organizations on the planet — Read This. I’ve written about them before and feel I could never really write enough about them. They solicit books for school libraries and other places that need them. They make sure that kids have something to read.

They’ve helped kids in the Bronx and Brooklyn and the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It is truly noble work.

Among their current projects is helping collect books for the library in the soon-to-reopen Andrew Jackson Middle School in St. Bernard Parish. (for those of you who don’t know, Jackson is huge down there because it was in New Orleans that he defeated the British during the War of 1812).

Their goal is 1,400 books by September. As of July 1, they had collected 605 and had 795 to go. They are not the only ones helping the schools down there, which really need some assistance.

So, take a minute, head to either Read This or the website of the Garden District Book Shop, an independent store down there helping in the effort and buy a book.

A kid will be thankful.

I guarantee it.

Amazon's New Kindle: Still Too Close to the iPad?

In Entertainment, Technology on July 1, 2010 at 1:11 pm
Kindle DX and Kindle 2

Image via Wikipedia

Starting today Amazon is taking orders for its new Kindle DX and while I have no doubt that people will buy it, I really have to wonder just how many.

First off, the device — which ships July 7 — is priced at $379, which is really too expensive to be considered an impulse buy.

And it’s only $120 away from an iPad and it seems to me that’s a little too close.

What makes it a little more confusing is that just last week, Amazon seemed to recognize the importance of lowering the price, which they did with their slightly smaller version.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has frequently claimed that the iPad and the Kindle aren’t really competitors; they’re different devices intended for different people. The Kindle, he says, is for readers unlike tablets, which are for, I guess, everyone else. He said it again just the other day.

Don’t get me wrong. There’s plenty of great things about the Kindle particularly, as cnet points out, that the thing is incredibly readable in sunlight, unlike the iPad.

Still, the thing is if you have a choice between the $189 Kindle and the $379 Kindle, why get the more expensive one? I guess if you really want a device that is really just a reader, it is your answer. But if you’re going to spend the money, why not just bump it up a little and get a device that does so much more?

I think Amazon’s great but I sort of sense this is a stumble for them.

On the plus side, one bit of really good news is that Amazon has finally released Kindle for Android devices.

As I’ve pointed out, Kindle isn’t just a device — it’s software that runs on many devices. I use Kindle on my iPad on a regular basis — and Android has pretty much been the final frontier for them.

Kindle’s great software. The device — at $189 — is great. At $379 — overpriced, I suspect.