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Just a quick fillip… here is what WordPress tells me are the top searches that lead visitors to this blog:

iPod TouchTop Searches

itouch books,  itouch ebook reader,  itouch reader,  pdf reader for itouch,  books on itouch

Well, there you go!

Another reason for publishers to stop getting tunnel vision about the Kindle.

ReadWriteWeb reports on data from AdMob showing that Apple has a 48% market share of the mobile web in the US market. Interestingly, the iPod Touch has contributed as much to this growth as the iPhone. As RWW rightly points out, this demonstrates that Apple’s interface (largely the same for the iPhone as the Touch) makes for a happy web browsing experience for mobile users.

Given this data, it’s obviously not a coincidence that the most common search query that leads visitors to this blog is actually “ebooks ipod Touch”.

Publishers considering market channels for ebooks should note these stats and look for ways to connect their content with mobile users. At 48% of the market (or for that matter, more than one half of the population of the world) there are a hell of a lot more potential book buyers with a phone than there are owners of an ebook reader.

Author and journalist Gary Kemble made a great comment in response to my last post that I wanted to elevate to the main blog since it’s worth talking about.

I  interviewed Cory Doctorow a couple of years back. I asked him if film companies had the right to protect their multi-million dollar investment in a film by trying to stop online sharing of movies.

He said: “That’s kind of like saying the Catholic church invests three generations of labour into the construction of a cathedral, how will religion continue after this Protestant Reformation of yours, right? Well, I don’t think the important thing is cathedrals.” http://www.abc.net.au/news/arts/articulate/200604/s1616706.htm

Same goes for books. I think once someone comes up with a user-friendly, cheap, eye-friendly and nice-to-use ebook reader, it’s game over.

I like books. I like to buy Stephen King books, because I’m a fan. I think I would do this regardless of ebooks. BUT, a lot of books I read, I’m kinda *meh*.

So basically, I think a lot of people will buy most of their books in electronic format then, if they really like the book, may go out and buy the dead tree version.

Yeah it’s a good observation, Gary, and Cory Doctorow is certainly the poster child for free e-book distribution. If I was ever in a position of negotiating with a book publisher about digital rights I’d be arguing pretty hard to implement some of his strategies.

But for me, this whole topic is not really about e-books. Sure, e-books are coming and they are part of the digital transformation that is overtaking traditional publishing. But I think too many people get side-tracked by the e-book debate (will it be a format or a device? When will it tip? etc) and forget that there are other ways that technology can change or threaten your business.

Amazon is already proving it with their moves to form a vertically integrated supply chain from POD publishing to direct-to-consumer book sales. Given that POD is now cheaper than traditional print for runs under 1,200 copies I would think this is a far bigger threat to publishers NOW than e-books are likely to be even in the near-future. It should be of interest to Australian publishers especially since print runs are smaller here.

Some bricks-and-mortar booksellers, like Borders US, are moving to establish POD centres inside their bookstores, and offering author services to along with it, such as in-store events and distribution within their retail chain. They also promise new special areas of their stores which will give such titles physicla shelf-space. With retailer-supported distribution, this takes self-publishing to a whole new level and is encroaching on some pretty significant areas of publishing that used to be solely the province of trade publishers.

I also think some populous nations will jump right over the e-book device debate altogether. In fact, they already have. Phone manufacturers have already stopped shipping 2G phones to Japan. You can only buy 3G there now. And mobile phone penetration in Japan is higher than 100%. So when there are more phone subscriptions than there are people in the country, and those phones are also high-speed internet browsers, integrated media centres with increasing memory capacity, why would a device that only reads book be of any interest? This is the same country, by the way, that last year shot five novels written on mobile phones into the top ten bestselling books list. Those readers didn’t need an e-book device to become fans of the books and turn them into hits.

The thing about structural changes in markets, though, is that they always create new business models and lucrative opportunities for those who can be the first to work out how to exploit them. So the thing I don’t understand is why every publisher isn’t experimenting like crazy to to find those opportunities. (Of course, some are experimenting, and I’m very happy about that and keen to point it out wherever I can)

The biggest opportunities may not be in e-books at all, but it in cheaper, more effective ways for publishers to connect with communities of readers, to brand and market their authors and to wring more long-tail sales from their backlist.

Harlequin are once more proving how ahead of the game they are in the digital space, compared with other publishers. Dear Author reports that they will be distributing Harlequin manga titles to mobile phones in the Japanese market.

Japanese audiences have already shown that they are interested in consuming narrative in text form on their phones. For those who missed the wide reporting of it, 5 of the 10 bestselling novels in Japan in 2007 were originally written and distributed on phones. Furthermore, this is an audience that are strong consumers of romance or content with strong romantic themes, and a lot of manga targeted at women has succeeded on this basis. Finally, the demand for mobile content in the Japanese phone market (like some other Asian markets) has boomed because of flexible phone plans which enable unlimited texts and access to a large menu of content.

This is bold and smart and I think it will pay off in spades for Harlequin.

Penguin UK have launched their much-anticipated We Tell Stories project.

We Tell Stories (Penguin) 

This is a new locative storytelling project produced in collaboration with alternative reality gamers Six to Start. Six Penguin authors will publish new digital stories, inspired by six Penguin classics, over six weeks. The first, launched on Wednesday, is 21 Steps by Charles Cumming, inspired by the famous 39 Steps and set in Google maps. It’s interactive, fun and, as I’m discovering, a little addictive. Plus rumour has it there’s a mystery seventh story for users to discover somewhere on the site. Mmmmm… sticky content.

I love this project. It’s not a boring PDF of an out-of-print book. It’s a switched-on publisher genuinely embracing new forms of storytelling in a native digital context, but supported by a platform that enables them to promote their authors and books. I look forward to seeing how successful it is but I’m also a little chuffed since this is not far distant from two of the regional writing projects for new media we’re working on at QWC with the support of Arts Queensland.

My husband loves his iPod Touch. He’s entirely smug about how much more advanced it is than my modest little 2nd generation Nano. And while the blogosphere is musing about whether Steve Jobs was just misdirecting us all when he said Apple had no plans to develop an e-book reader, the iPod Touch may well have been quietly prepping the market right under our noses.

In this article, BusinessWeek ponders whether the iTouch is really the vanguard in a new breed of consumer media devices that blend computing and productivity functions with entertainment – in other words, convergence.

Yet even if Apple does actually have one in the pipeline, I’d say that a reading device alone would be thinking too small. If the iPod Touch is indeed the vanguard of a new family of media devices, any larger-screened descendant would have to do much more than simply add the ability to read digital versions of the printed page.

Currently, the iPod Touch doesn’t stack up next to the Kindle in terms of screen size, but it does bring a host of features that make new versions easily adaptable. Its multitouch screen gives it a natural advantage over the Kindle in terms of manipulating documents, not just reading them. While it has wireless internet, the addition of Bluetooth (which the iPhone has but Touch currently does not) would make the use of wireless keyboards a cinch too.

The conjecture and speculation about what devices the iPod Touch may spawn will certainly be interesting to watch in the coming months. Given the signals it’s sending, Apple is just starting down what looks to be a fascinating path.

Link to article.

Cory Doctorow has an excellent column at Locus Online about the economic conundrum of e-book readers.

Frankly, book reading just isn’t important enough to qualify for priority treatment in that marketplace. E-book readers to date have been either badly made, expensive, out-of-stock or some combination of all three. No one’s making dedicated e-book readers in such quantity that the price drops to the cost of a paperback — the cost at which the average occasional reader may be tempted to take a flutter on one. Certainly, these things aren’t being made in such quantity that they’re being folded in as freebies with the Sunday paper or given away at the turnstiles at a ballgame to the majority of people who are non-book-readers.

Meanwhile, handheld game consoles, phones, and other multipurpose devices have found their way into the hands of people from every walk of life. In some countries, mobile phone penetration is above 100 percent — that is, a significant proportion of the population maintain more than one phone, for example, a work cellular and a home cellular.

This dovetails with what I was saying about convergence the other day, and my firm belief that it’s not going to be a device that tips e-books. When next generation mobile phones are ubiquitous, and can play my music, videos, games, deliver my emails and texts, display my photos, store my documents and provide internet searches (oh, and make phone calls), why would I want to pay US$300 for something that only reads books? In Australia, it’s even more daunting than that – Dymocks wants me to pay a whopping AUD$900 for an iLiad. I both understand and applaud their push into the e-book space, and let’s face it, without publisher and retailer support, it’s hard to see consumer take-up of e-books at all. But to me, convenient, affordable and easy access to content (masses of content) will attract me faster if I don’t also have to purchase, configure and get comfortable with yet another gadget.

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