Sunday, May 31, 2009

Draft fiction - Talabont on Usk In Your Time

Title needs changing but starts with the words that fit at the moment. So far the Hay Festival take on the sony Reader has been a big disappointment. No reporting at all of what happened. As in what was said and if anyone changed their view. All I can find online is bookish views about the dangers.

So maybe fiction is a way to think about this. Imagine two visiting citizens of the USA, loosely based on David Weinberger and Jeff Jarvis. They are staying at Talabont on Usk because Hay is full and because all my fiction has to be near a canal to fit in with another project. Jarvis is worried that his change agent role at the Guardian may damage his reputation as the print culture is fighting back and the brand is damaged. He thinks the Hay Festival could help him to understand. Weinberger is in the UK on a secret BBC project of which more later.

They spend some time near the Sony Screen, try to promote their own digital work, and most days escape to Talabont On Usk to compare notes in amazement.

Later back in London Melvyn Bragg has been asked to host a new BBC radio show called "In Your Time", extending studio discussion through audience feedback during the day. Also the topics are more recent, starting with the ClueTrain Manifesto from late in the previous century. Bragg is rather unhappy with this. The starting design is that what took three quarters of an hour as daytime radio will be edited down to half an hour in the evening but include text and voice contributions from the listeners. "I have to get up at three in the morning to appear to have read the books. Now they want me to answer the phone."

The studio guests are UK academics and the format seems to be as usual. The morning gets more difficult when it turns out that the BBC have arranged for Weinberger and Jarvis to be among the first callers. Several other people text in who claim to know something about the Cluetrain Manifesto. Bragg decides it is time to slip away to the House of Lords for some tea and a cake. Explaining his problems to some friends they come up with a solution. Why not use the red button? Editing down to half an hour was never going to work so later that day it was arranged that around 9.55 the discussion continued on Freeview. Bragg joined in for a while but later realised that the show was called "In Your Time" because the audience was doing the work.

Sorry for 2009 read 2008

It turns out the Robert McCrum feature mentioned in the previous post was actually from 2008 not 2009. No wonder I could not find it in my print versions.

So it only confirms my impression that print journalists are getting more resistant to digital as the evidence mounts up that something is changing.

Peter Preston is now writing about complexity as if everything is in flux. This may not make much sense as a story but is an advance on just being rude about bloggers.

He mentions a website where there is translation of European news. So there are still possibilities.

Sony Reader at Hay, what happened?

I just found a feature from last week by Robert McCrum. I have been doing some checking online trying to find a report on the debate at Hay about the sony Reader and digital literature. Strangely I failed to find this review of ten years of the book scene in print. Apparently it was on page 6 of the Features Section. Maybe this was the main bit maybe the Review. The Sunday Newspaper is too big to find what might be interesting. Second lot of vouchers has arrived since I took the deal for Observer as well as Guardian. Maybe I will find my way around sometime soon.

Anyway it turns out McCrum has got a view on the Sony Reader or rather the Amazon Kindle because of the wireless connectivity. He takes it as a genuine development and suggests that
The 'iPod moment' in the book world, so often postponed, is expected to happen this year, probably in the autumn.

There is even a paragraph more friendly towards the bloggers than recent remarks by Preston and Porter

Readers and writers may now experience the liberation of literature in ways that Caxton never dreamed of. The word, written and spoken, remains at the heart of our culture, but it's no longer watched by a Praetorian Guard of elite gatekeepers. It has been handed back whence it came, from the few to the many.

However there still seems to be no reporting on what was said at Hay. Sony paid some sponsorship and provided a big screen and free use of some kit. So then what happened? Was there a conclusion? I have found a blog from Mike Wood but he seems to be a book fan to start with and has yet to say wht the meeting was about.

Henry Porter writes in print about the reassuring nature of the English countryside and then wonders why the UK tends to be rather conservative. So he was at Hay also. News reporting may not be his thing at this time though presumably views on the Sony Reader will become clearer sometime later.

Here is something for bloggers and print journalists to develop together. What is being said about digital publishing? When will it seem to be sensible?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Journalism students and mobile devices

This turns up through Google Search though the G2 print report from Hay has nothing on Sony so far that I can find. Jemima Kiss reports that editor Alan Rusbridger believes that the tech journalists show the future. And the students are expected to have an iPhone or similar. But the reporting on Stanza is yet to appear and Hay seems to be still a bookish event only. So rather than get upset I think I shall just be confident about the future and hope the Guardian makes it though the current confusion. Confiding in the readers would do no harm, unless slowing things down is hoped for.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Media Guardian catches up with Sony

Today the printed Media Guardian is more or less sensible in looking at devices for reading. Mostly about the Amazon Kindle but the difference seems to be that Sony has sponsored aspects of the Hay Festival, a literary event with celebs such as Clive James.

If the use of such devices was accepted as normal there could be a new meaning for "reading", something young people no longer do according to some critics of the bloggers and twitterers etc. etc. I am trying to be constructive here and look for some common ground.

Publishing executives are watching developments carefully - sales of ebooks are growing fast, albeit from a small base. "I don't think we are approaching a tipping point quite yet," says Gail Rebuck, the chairman and chief executive of Random House. "If you look at ebook sales, they're less than 1% of turnover." There is, however, long-term potential: "Can I conceive of a world where digital reading takes up 20% or 25% of people's available reading time? Yes I can. Could it be as much as 50%? I don't know."

So let us imagine a time, a future Hay perhaps, when the legitimate publishing execs think of digital as 10% of business as usual. They would be reasonably polite about this presumably, not like Preston and Porter on a Sunday. My guess is that screen reading is already significant. Serious books and literary fiction (SBLF) have already lost display space in UK bookshops to what the Bookseller calls R&J (Richard and Judy promoted on TV). The 1% or turnover would not include the stuff found on the web for free.

By the way, USA publishers seem a bit ahead on adjusting to digital. Random House is in the UK but also in New York. Not sure where to find quotes from London publishers that make as much sense.

The Guardian story makes no mention of the EPUB format, a central feature of the Sony Reader. EPUB is based on open standards such as XHTML so in theory most web content could be packaged as EPUB. So far the promotion in Waterstones has featured some free classics as a bargain bundle but not really promoted the amount of free stuff. Feedbooks for example can deliver EPUB from a blog RSS or news feed such as the BBC or New York Times.

Also there is no mention of Stanza, recently bought by Amazon, capable of displaying EPUB on iPhone etc. Numbers are uncertain but it seems likely that software downloads are about two or three times the number for devices. Thinking about it, free is more likely than spending on another thing to carry.

No mention either for Scribd option to charge. This has an interest for writers, but maybe not for publishers who like blockbuster titles or newspapers who like one editorial printed several million times.

But this is only Monday. Thursday could bring some detail on file formats, how to load up a memory card and place in a Sony Reader. If the details of the EPUB format are a problem, text and PDF do work but maybe not with all the menu functions.

The actual big debate is not until Friday, as reported in the Bookseller

A panel discussion hosted by Sony entitled "Brave New World—Rights and Wrongs in the Digital Future" will take place on 29th May as part of the collaboration. The debate will focus on the power and management of online content and digital reading devices.

Those taking part include Steve Haber, president of digital reading business division of Sony electronics, Jamie Byng, m.d. of Canongate and PFD agent Caroline Michel. Jessica Powell of Google and Tom Berwick of Creative & Cultural Skills are also taking part.

Sony is also sponsoring a venue, the "Sony Screen", which will host events.

Gail Rebuck, chair and c.e.o. of Random House UK said: "I am terrifically excited about the impact of digital advances on the future landscape of publishing and I am already a convert to reading all our manuscripts on my Sony Reader."

You know what? This is sounding more exciting already. This imagined future where digital is part of the landscape may be closer than we think.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Still nothing in Guardian about Scribd and paid content

I still cannot find anything about Scribd and charging for content. Search on Guardian website shows nothing new, just old stuff about piracy and the strong views of Henry Porter. I am not sure how this will turn out but there could be two scenarios to keep it simple. The Buzzmachine Guardian Scenario would follow the views of consultant Jeff Jarvis, a smooth transition to a new form for a news organisation, essentially based in the Web though still with a print aspect. The audience to contribute and interact. This might work. Then there is the Preston-Porter scenario seeking subsidies for the existing model though the words business and model are not really to be used that often. Regular knocking copy for bloggers and most of the writing on the Web will presumably drive away any contribution from readers. My guess is that this scenario will just result in continuing print decline with not much happening online. Nothing is clear at the time, maybe only in versions of history. So the two scenarios are possible. The print version of the Guardian however seems to be tending towards Preston-Porter. Victor Keegan is looking at the facts but when he points out that the new wave of music companies are doing things that older companies missed out on he might then look at print publishing also.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The end of five centuries of print

Peter Preston is facing the facts, print is over. He chooses to mention the "bilious bloggers" as part of the dreadful consequences but this recent writing at least describes the actual situation for print journalists.

Can't see any responses to the comments but then this is not really expected.

The Guardian continues the Observer support for the Murdoch suggestion that content should stop being free. News organisations will change this soon.

What strikes me is how subdued is the news about the Amazon Kindle launched last week with support from the New York Times and other papers. The Guardian writes about the BBC problem as if their websites would suddenly be in profit if the BBC was closed down. The thing is, the Web is global. It would not make much difference except to lower the profile of the UK.

For detail on the Amazon Kindle, turn to the LA Times and a report from last week. Not sure if the LA Times had this in print but I can't find anything till today in the print Guardian or Observer. Today the mention was almost at the end of the story on Murdoch's views.

Some newspaper groups are believed to have had discussions with Amazon about getting their product on to the Kindle reader, a new version of which was launched in the US last week by Jeff Bezos (pictured left). But few believe these first-generation digital readers represent an iPod moment.

As the timescale of print is over five centuries the actual digital book moment may be hard to spot. But the people who pay money for the print versions of newspapers are reasonably expecting accurate reporting of news events. Whatever the opinions of the print journalists.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Still can't find Kindle news on print Guardian

Today Thursday can't find news on Kindle in print. Should be a techie day as well but all about Windows. Apparently there will still be XP but as a virtual system in something else. Can't I just stay using this current Time Machine?

Anyway, back on topic, there is a blog from Roy Greenslade but not much detail. US papers make deal with Kindle. Surely this is news?

Meanwhile BBC quotes -

Alan Rusbridger, the editor of UK newspaper The Guardian, for one, has predicted there might be an "iPod moment" for the industry with the coming of a handheld device on which reading a newspaper will become commonplace.

So there is awareness somewhere in the Guardian building, just not in the bit that writes for a print audience currently taking out subscriptions.

Thank goodness for the BBC.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Guardian blog reports Kindle

The Guardain website version includes a blog post from Bobbie Johnson about a new larger Kindle to be announced tomorrow. Apparently it may have "a larger screen that can more easily display newspaper and magazine pages... potentially giving the struggling print industry a chance to find some light at the end of the tunnel." Surely he means the news industry will have light at the end of the tunnel. Not sure how print continues as such.

Still, welcome news and good it is being reported. What will turn up in print later this week? Will it wait till Thursday?

Meanwhile Boston Globe story makes no mention of the Web. What resource is available for a switch online? When was this decided on?

Monday, May 04, 2009

Control Freaks and Local News

I am finding the Guardian and Observer harder to follow. They still come up with conflicting messages. I no longer think this is a cunning plan of some kind, just various people at different times. The result is still to make me think that bloggers and comment posters are not really that welcome.

Still, the John Naughton space on Sunday (Control freaks don't get it) had links to talks by James Boyle at the RSA and Cambridge so some cred for the idea that control can be too tight. The Wikipedia is fairly treated in this approach. There is recognition for the contribution of large numbers of people on the Web. However, discussion about local news seems to make no provision at all for the way that new forms of networking could contribute. It is all about subsidies for existing models.

Today an editorial includes another welcome for the idea of BBC funds heading towards newspapers.

For the first time since the Enlightenment, large communities - towns, cities, even small nations - face the prospect of muddling through without any verifiable source of news.

Maybe it is just me, but I guess this means that the bloggers etc are just not verifiable. Then there is another swipe at the BBC - "Who is to say that BBC3 (budget £80m) is more deserving of public funds than local news?" - that reminds me of the previous campaign that wrecked the BBC plans for local video. My own concern is to find some way of getting resource for local video. Some can be done quite easily but there is another level required. More on this in blog about wifi in Exeter.

Recently Peter Preston suggested a new set of deals for regional groups.

Give Trinity the West Midlands, north-east and Lancashire hinterland. Leave the East Midlands and south-west to Northcliffe. Let Archant keep East Anglia safe and Johnston look after Yorkshire.

Presumably Manchester is still seen as Guardian territory, not Lancashire hinterland. As a Guardian reader in Exeter I find this readiness to carve up the UK with the Daily Mail just slightly shocking but not very surprising given the way the Guardian line seems to be moving.

It is welcome that the Web offers an alternative. And of course the BBC continues not only local, but the only global UK media brand.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Education reporting

Surprised to find the Daily Telegraph is more interested than the Guardian in the Google aspects of the Jim Rose report. Starting with Google and aiming at creating a web page by age 11 is something like news I would think. Quite hidden away in the Guardian and not mentioned at all in the editorial.

Yesterday I went into rave mode on the Guardian Talk. No reporting I can find about the Amazon purchase of Stanza, actually nothing on Stanza ever. Not a lot of primary age iPhone users I don't suppose but sometimes I think print journalists are in a world of their own from some time ago when print journalism was safer.

However, the Education Editor answers the comments sometimes. Very welcome. Maybe the Guardian staff will turn up on Guardian Talk.