Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Hey, my mate didn't just get Clooney, he got Stephen King too

It's not always easy when your friends get famous - there was that Morrisey song, wasn't there? - but in Olen Steinhauer's case it is very easy indeed. His novel The Tourist, mentioned before, has now received the Stephen King nod and hat tip:

Here's the best spy novel I've ever read that wasn't written by John le Carré. Milo Weaver is a CIA floater agent — a Tourist. His mission is to track down a brilliant hired killer code-named the Tiger. Milo succeeds, but's that's just the beginning of his problems. It's a complex story of betrayal anchored by a protagonist who's as winning as he is wily.

From King's top seven books for summer.

Thanks to my fellow contemporary nomad for this (Olen is far too modest), John Nadler. And guys...I will be back on the ole CN. Been writing a report on downloading culture, which will soon be published - and shared, I assume.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Heat Map of Greed

From MSN. Great stuff.

Publishers? Writers? What's in a name?

The Scribd Web site is the most popular of several document-sharing sites that take a YouTube-like approach to text, letting people upload sample chapters of books, research reports, homework, recipes and the like. Users can read documents on the site, embed them in other sites and share links over social networks and e-mail.

In the new Scribd store, authors or publishers will be able to set their own price for their work and keep 80 percent of the revenue. They can also decide whether to encode their documents with security software that will prevent their texts from being downloaded or freely copied.

From the NYT.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Online post of the print published introduction to the new Newsweek responding to the new-ish world

Complicated? You bet.
There will, for the most part, be two kinds of stories in the new NEWSWEEK. The first is the reported narrative—a piece, grounded in original observation and freshly discovered fact, that illuminates the important and the interesting. The second is the argued essay—a piece, grounded in reason and supported by evidence, that makes the case for something.

What is displaced by these categories? The chief casualty is the straightforward news piece and news written with a few (hard-won, to be sure) new details that does not move us significantly past what we already know. Will we cover breaking news? Yes, we will, but with a rigorous standard in mind: Are we truly adding to the conversation?

More conversation here.

The Grateful Dead and IP and the CEO

From the CEO of Thomson Reuters...

I believe that The Grateful Dead discovered the new economic model for the music industry 40 years ago

Inside every CEO there's a deadhead waiting to be released, no?
What the Dead figured out a long time ago is that artists should give away recorded music, and make their money from touring, building brand and merchandising. Most of the band’s 5000+ live shows are available for download or at least stream on the internet (see or Rather than suing fans to prohibit bootleg recordings, the Dead allowed its devotees to set up microphones at their concerts and also provided high quality tapes of every show right off the mixing board. Thus, the recordings themselves become viral advertisements for the group and build brand and demand for concert tickets and merchandise which are harder to copy.

From Tom Glocer's blog.

There are, of course, other arguments.

Whoever said copyright was dull?

It is unrealistic to demand new business models from the press without giving it the legal tools to succeed. Here are a few things Congress can do:

- Bring copyright laws into the age of the search engine. Taking a portion of a copyrighted work can be protected under the "fair use" doctrine. But the kind of fair use in news reports, academics and the arts -- republishing a quote to comment on it, for example -- is not what search engines practice when they crawl the Web and ingest everything in their path.

Publishers should not have to choose between protecting their copyrights and shunning the search-engine databases that map the Internet. Journalism therefore needs a bright line imposed by statute: that the taking of entire Web pages by search engines, which is what powers their search functions, is not fair use but infringement.

Such a rule would be no more bold a step than the one Congress took in 1996 rewriting centuries of traditional libel law for the benefit of tech start-ups. It would take away from search engines the "just opt out" mantra -- repeated by Google's witness during the Kerry hearings -- and force them to negotiate with copyright holders over the value of their content.

From the Washington Post. Lots here to read, copy and share...

New Business model, same lack of names

CNN: You plan to launch next fall - who is signed up so far?

Crovitz: I won't mention any companies but it's fair to say we've spoken to the largest news publishers in the world and every one of them has expressed an interest in moving toward a paid model.

The current recession has reminded publishers that advertising is a very cyclical business. That's proven today not only for traditional media companies, but even online-only organizations. There is pressure on online advertising to make a go of it, which really hasn't happened yet.

For many news publishers, a high percentage of readers come from outside the country .... British Web sites get a lot of traffic from the U.S., and so forth. Typically, capturing that audience been a very hard sell to advertisers, because most advertisers are not organized that way. (Micropayments for news articles) are a way to generate revenue from an international audience.

From the CNN interview with Gordon Krovitz.

Always touched by your book, dear

So again, I ask, what has the EBM got that the digital formats haven't? And again the answer is Presence. If people are going to continue to purchase paper books, publishers have got to do for books what the music industry failed to do for CDs. While the CD-stand or -case was almost de rigeur in 1990s interior decor, people soon realized that a tower of transparent plastic was not the personality statement piece they imagined it could be. Yet vinyl records, despite their obsolescence, retain their appeal for many, from nostalgic Baby Boomers to cool-hunting teens. Perhaps it is, after all, the sound quality, but I'm willing to bet that the labor put into sleeves and liner notes is what has guaranteed their enduring appeal. Records are fetishized objects, while CDs are shiny detritus disks. At this moment in time, books seem poised to go either way.

From the ever-wonderful if:Book, one of the projects of the Future of the Book Institute.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

E-books, the flight of the legal free

This March, Google and Sony announced a deal to make 500,000 of the seven million out-of-copyright books that have so far been scanned into the internet giant's Book Search available for free as e-book downloads.

While all publishers are having to contend with the likelihood of titles being pirated, classics publishers are facing a more serious challenge of their own: free, legal competitors. Yet e-books still polarise classics publishers. While some are progressing through converting their lists, others are rejecting the push towards digitisation and inevitable competition with free editions—both legal and pirated.

From the Bookseller.

Follow Me, Follow You

From the New York Times - out the door service:
A new Web service, called Abandonment Tracker Pro, is in beta testing and scheduled for formal release next month. Developed by SeeWhy in Andover, Mass., the service will alert a subscribing Web store when a visitor places an item in a shopping cart or begins an application and does not complete the final step.

What distinguishes Abandonment Tracker Pro from other services is its enabling of remarketing “in real time,” SeeWhy says.

The idea that a visitor isn’t entitled to leave an online store empty-handed without being pestered sounds distasteful enough. But having that contact start immediately seems a new form of marketing brazenness

Hang on, didn't Sony just post some figures?

“I’m a guy who doesn’t see anything good having come from the Internet,” said Sony Pictures Entertainment chief executive officer Michael Lynton. “Period.”

At a breakfast cohosted by the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University and The New Yorker Thursday, Lynton wasn’t just trying for a laugh: He complained the Internet has “created this notion that anyone can have whatever they want at any given time. It’s as if the stores on Madison Avenue were open 24 hours a day. They feel entitled. They say, ‘Give it to me now,’ and if you don’t give it to them for free, they’ll steal it.”


Legacy Thinkers, the Bryan and Clive Show, foxes go hedgehog

Your essay today: Is the digital different?

Even if you don’t indulge, your life has been changed. At every turn you are told to get online and buy. Increasingly, shops are being seen as mere adjuncts to websites. Lots of things out there in cyberspace — this newspaper, for example — are just plain free, and most things are a lot cheaper. Web 2.0 is in your head and your pocket whether you like it or not. It will change everything.

What is wrong with this picture? Well, to start with, it is historically ignorant.

“The internet”, says David Edgerton, professor of the history of technology at Imperial College London and author of The Shock of the Old: Technology and Global History since 1900, “is rather passé . . . It’s just a means of communication, like television, radio or newspapers.”

Edgerton is the world expert in tech dead ends. Fifty years ago, he points out, nuclear power was about to change the world; then there was supersonic passenger flight, then space travel. The wheel, he concedes, did change the world, as did steam power. The web is not in that league.

Good grief: not as powerful as the wheel? Hasn't perhaps changed the way we search, think, write, conceptualize, trust? Web 2.0:
...destroys institutions and structures that can do so much more than the individual. Clive James is no web-sceptic. He runs a superb website — — and he regards the internet as “more of a blessing than a threat”. But he is wary of this focus on the individual.

Nothing to do with no such thing as society; or the past 25 years of Business School Dominated Politics? Then, at last, some self-understanding:
I know that this article — it always happens — will be sneered at all over the web by people who cannot think for themselves because they are blindly faithful to the idea that the web is the future, all of it. I will be called a Luddite.

It is the cultists who threaten the web. They are the ones encouraging dreams of a utopia of the self. They fail to see that the web is just one more product of the biology, culture and history that make us what we are. In the real world, it is wonderful, certainly, but it is also porn, online brothels, privacy invasions, hucksterism, mindless babble and the vacant gaze that always accompanies the mindless pursuit of the new. The web is human and fallen; it is bestial as much as it is angelic. There are no new worlds. There is only this one.

Wonder if the Wellcome Trust, with its commitment to open source research is cultist? Wonder if the BBC's digitization of its entire archive is cultist? The Internet Archive? Obama's use of the Interent, before, during and after his Presidential victgory? Sneering because we can't think? The Internet at its best is about thinking so that we don't have to sneer at old ideas. Or men.

C- could do better. Try reading Isaiah Berlin on Two Concepts of Liberty. It might help your thinking. Available online, I believe.