Monthly Archives: April 2012

I don’t try

26 April 2012

I don’t try to describe the future. I try to prevent it.

Ray Bradbury

U.S. Tablet Sales to Grow 200% Over Next Two Years

26 April 2012

From eWeek:

A new report from Futuresource Consulting says tablet sales are expected to increase by 200 percent over the next two years and tablet apps will account for 20 percent of mobile apps by 2016.

Global tablet sales exceeded 64 million units in 2011 and are on track to soar to 232 million units in 2016, according to the latest Tablet Technology and Markets report from Futuresource Consulting.

Futuresource said tablet ownership in the consumer market will increase by 200 percent across the U.S. and Western Europe over the next two years. The two regions reached an installed base of nearly 52 million tablets in 2011, with the market on track to exceed 153 million units in 2013. Ownership will be highest in the USA, with Western European markets showing significant opportunities for growth.

. . . .

In addition, tablets are a significant force in the growth of the app market, accounting for 10 percent of total mobile app downloads in 2011, Futuresource said. And as the tablet continues to become a more attractive platform for developers, Futuresource said it expects tablet apps to account for nearly 20 percent of total mobile app downloads in 2016.

Link to the rest at

Protecting competition, not competitors

26 April 2012

From a speech by retiring Department of Justice antitrust chief, Sharis A. Pozen:

Most recently, we announced our challenge to an illegal agreement between Apple and five of the largest book publishers in the United States—Hachette, HarperCollins, MacMillan, Penguin and Simon & Schuster.  As outlined in our complaint, these companies conspired to end e-book retailers’ freedom to compete on price.  As a result of this agreement, we allege consumers paid millions of dollars more for their e-books.

At the same time we filed our complaint, we reached a settlement that, if approved by the court, would resolve our challenge against Hachette, HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster, and would require those companies to grant retailers—such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble—the freedom to reduce prices on their e-book titles.  At its heart, this case is about protecting competition, not competitors.  And most importantly, it is about lower eBook prices for consumers.  As I stated when we announced this action, our proposed remedy demonstrates that the antitrust laws are flexible and can keep pace with technology and a rapidly changing industry.  Indeed, our settlements with the three publishers have a five-year term with a two-year “cooling off” period, representing a  desire to balance the need to ensure competition is restored in this important and evolving market, while not inhibiting its growth and innovation.  Our case against Apple, MacMillan and Penguin remains ongoing so as to ensure an open and competitive marketplace while we are in the early stages of emerging electronic book technology.

Link to the rest at United States Department of Justice.

Are robots and content farms the future of the news?

26 April 2012

From GigaOm:

There was some consternation in the media industry this week when the Chicago Tribune announced that it was letting more than 20 of its journalists go and handing over its local coverage to an outfit called Journatic, which looked to some like a “content farm” not unlike AOL’s hyper-local Patch unit. Meanwhile, Wired magazine wrote about another emerging competitor for the traditional news business — namely, the news-writing robots or algorithms employed by startup Narrative Science, which automatically generate sports and business stories. Is this what the future of the media industry looks like? Robots and content farms?

. . . .

Journatic pays writers $2 to $4 for each story

For journalists at the Tribune and elsewhere, however, the big news was probably the fact that about half of the 40 journalists who worked for TribLocal — reporters, editors, designers and web developers — were going to lose their jobs.

. . . .

Are robot writers freeing us up, or putting us out of work?

And that brings us inevitably to Narrative Science, a company that also happens to be based in Chicago. Founded by a couple of data scientists in 2010, it now produces sports and business coverage for a range of outlets, including Forbes magazine — where it provided this auto-generated article about the expected earnings from the New York Times Co. The Wired magazine piece makes much of the fact that Narrative Science pieces are almost indistinguishable from traditional sports or business coverage.

Rebecca Greenfield of The Atlantic, however, says that we shouldn’t be scared of “robot journalism” because much of it is barely even journalism at all — a point that she has made before. Instead, she says, most of what the company does is the meaningless data-driven drudgery that regular journalists usually hate doing to begin with, because it doesn’t add much value.

Link to the rest at GigaOm

E-book Price-Fixing: Finding the Best Model for Publishers — and Readers

26 April 2012

From Knowledge@Wharton

In a case that has attracted worldwide attention, Apple and five book publishers were sued this spring by the U.S. Department of Justice on the grounds that they colluded to fix prices for e-books sold on Apple’s iBookstore website. The government suit charged that by adopting a sales strategy known as “the agency model,” Apple and the book publishers (HarperCollins, Hachette, Macmillan, Penguin and Simon & Schuster) reduced competition in the e-books industry, raising prices and harming consumers. Although three of the five book publishers have since signed settlements with the DOJ, Apple, Macmillan and Penguin are still preparing to defend their cases in court.

The case has cast a bright spotlight on the agency model — otherwise known as the “platform model” — of e-commerce, in which an increasing range of manufacturers are selling their products directly to consumers over the web, while setting their own prices for those products. The agency model differs from the more traditional “wholesale model” of e-commerce in which “e-tailers,” such as, purchase goods from manufacturers and then resell those goods to consumers at prices that the e-tailers themselves set.

. . . .

On balance, though, has the agreement between Apple and these publishers really hurt consumers? Or does the agency model have hidden benefits that the Department of Justice has overlooked or disregarded? To address such issues, [Wharton marketing professor Z. John] Zhang and his collaborators have done extensive economic analyses, some published and some not, on the impact of the agency model on competition. A starting point in their research, notes Zhang, was their realization that the wholesale price model used by traditional e-tailers “is not very efficient” to start with because both the wholesaler and the retailer want to maximize their own profits, leading to a big markup in the prices paid by customers. “Economists agree that the huge markup doesn’t help consumers or manufacturers or even retailers [including e-tailers],” he says. “Lots of economists identify this problem with the wholesale model as the ‘double marginalization problem.'” When this model is used, “end prices are too high to maximize channel profitability. The interests of the manufacturer and retailer are not aligned in a way that maximizes social welfare, either.”

For years, people have been trying to find a way to align those conflicting interests. One obvious solution is for a manufacturer to integrate forward — that is, opening its own stores and selling its own products directly to consumers. Apple does just that, thus eliminating retail price markups.

. . . .

Despite the negative image of the agency model generated by the headline-grabbing lawsuit, the Internet has been a boon for this approach, notes Zhang. Apple’s “platform” (or agency) model for apps allows software developers to run their own stores and sell their own products directly to consumers. “In theory, the agency model is a very good way to solve this double marginalization problem because there is only one layer,” he points out. When, for example, a book publisher pays a constant 30% fee to Apple, “this doesn’t distort the price at which the publisher sells to the end user.”

. . . .

Why then, in the case of e-books, does the Department of Justice want to stand in the way of the agency model? For many, the most objectionable outcome of the alleged collusion between Apple and the publishers is that prices for Amazon’s e-books — and, in fact, e-books in general — increased, thereby harming consumers. However, Zhang questions whether this argument examines all of the ways the agency model has had an economic impact on the market for e-books. For example, although prices of Amazon e-books have risen, prices of Kindle readers also went down over the same period. “You can’t say that the consumer only gets the short end of the stick as a result of the agency model. You have to balance all of the interests of consumers.”

Moreover, he suggests, the first wave of people who purchased Kindle readers were often more affluent consumers who were less sensitive to price and possibly more willing and able to pay somewhat higher prices for e-books. “For those people, there was very little impact when Amazon raised its e-book prices.” Society as a whole also gained when consumers who could finally afford a now-cheaper Kindle gained access to the thousands of e-books still available at little or no cost on Amazon’s website. Indeed, with the agency model taking hold in the publishing industry, “you will see that iPad, Kindle and Nook will all come down in price, competing even harder for new readers,” notes Zhang.

. . . .

Initially, the agency model “may lead to higher prices for e-books, as we have observed,” Zhang concedes. This is because Amazon has been using loss-leader pricing to achieve its market share objectives. In addition, the agency model does have a tendency to reduce inter-store competition: If a publisher sells a book through both Apple and Amazon, “you can bet the publisher will not try to lower its price at Amazon to cut into its sales of the same book at Apple.” However, in that case, Zhang and his collaborators have shown that all bets are not off on price competition, as the agency model opens up inter-publisher price competition. “To sell a book, [one publisher] will have to compete much harder with other publishers with similar titles for readers.”

In their most recent paper, Zhang and his coauthors address a key question that e-tailers are now facing: When should they use a platform — or agency — model instead of the more conventional reselling format? In developing a theoretical model for their study, the researchers focused “on the effects of two main factors on the resulting selling format in electronic retailing: competition among e-tailers, and reaction by the manufacturer due to the impact of the electronic channel on sales in the traditional channel (brick-and-mortar retailing).” The results of their work suggest that “whenever sales in the electronic channel lead to a negative effect on demand in the traditional channel, e-tailers prefer to set up platforms, whereas when sales in the electronic channel lead to a substantial stimulation of demand in the traditional channel, e-tailers prefer reselling contracts with manufacturers.” Furthermore, “this preference is moderated by competition among e-tailers — as competition between them increases, e-tailers prefer to set up platforms.”

Link to the rest at Knowledge@Wharton

PG will point out that technology such as ereaders always goes down in price and/or up in power over time. This is a function of improved designs and the tremendous economies of scale that kick in with higher manufacturing volumes. He doubts the price drops were related to increased margins due to agency pricing of ebooks.

Supporting copyright is not the same as opposing freedom of speech

25 April 2012

From songwriter and musician Helienne Lindvall via the Guardian:

Recently I was asked to speak at a debate on the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (Acta) in the European parliament, organised by the socialist group. I was invited as a representative of what they call “content creators”, and I went hoping for an open, fact-based, productive debate. I was sadly disappointed. Early on it was clear that agreement would be voted down. I left feeling thoroughly depressed.

. . . .

I’d heard from the Pirate party as well as some other action groups that it would impede freedom of speech so naturally I was concerned – after all, musicians rely on freedom of expression, as do journalists. I was surprised to find that Acta would do nothing of the sort. In fact, it wouldn’t change any existent laws in the EU.

. . . .

The vast number of multimillion-dollar businesses trading in creative content without in any way compensating artists, while rewarding uploaders, has shocked musicians around the world. There are plenty of legitimate and legal ways to share music today – my own music is available on pretty much all of them – many are of no cost to the user, with Spotify and China’s Baidu being just two of many. But legal businesses, that compensate artists, cannot survive and thrive in competition with illegal ones that don’t.

I understand why many people would sign an online petition against Acta if they’ve been told it’s a threat to freedom of speech and privacy. I would have done the same if I hadn’t read through the actual agreement. And if I didn’t think counterfeit trade in any way impacted on me, it would be even easier to for me to say no without bothering to read it. Maybe that is why so many of the opponents of Acta have never seen a proposal for copyright enforcement that they wouldn’t say no to.

Link to the rest at the Guardian

If we listened to our intellect

25 April 2012

If we listened to our intellect, we’d never have a love affair. We’d never have a friendship. We’d never go into business, because we’d be cynical. Well, that’s nonsense. You’ve got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down.

Ray Bradbury

The Duke’s Undoing

25 April 2012

There are lots of book blogs. The Passive Voice is not one of them.

For one thing, Passive Guy doesn’t have time to read a lot of books for his blog. So PG doesn’t do book promos or reviews. Once in awhile, he receives requests to do this, but he politely says no.

There is one exception to PG’s rule – Mrs. PG’s books.

Mrs. PG has just indie-pubbed a traditional Regency romance (informing PG that this is a term of art). Her beta readers loved it and the first couple of days of sales are going very well.

Although PG’s experience with the Regency is limited to watching BBC versions of Jane Austen’s novels, Mrs. PG asked him to do a cover and he politely said yes.

So, here is The Duke’s Undoing.



It is available in ebook and print form on Amazon and as an ebook at the Nook Store. PG will put it up on Smashwords when he’s feeling especially patient.

The story?

A duke. Falls in love. Eventually.


Have a Career Plan as a Writer

25 April 2012

From author Bob Mayer:

A while ago I asked Susan Wiggs for some career advice.

. . . .

First, Susan said she studied successful authors in her genre.  She looked for the patterns.

Second, what she came up with was a plan to write three books. Since they were romances, she couldn’t use the same protagonist in every book; so she looked at a unifying concept. She decided on a fictional town.

. . . .

Third, you need a unifying theme.

. . . .

[I]f you approach agents and publishers with a plan, you have a much better success of the plan working than not having a plan.

Link to the rest at Genreality

I can make three-times as much money selling my own work

25 April 2012

From the Mail:

He is a multimillionaire best-selling children’s author whose books are being turned into Hollywood films to the tune of £50 million.

But GP Taylor is turning his back on traditional publishing after becoming frustrated by bureaucratic procedures and rigid and safe commissioning.

Mr Taylor, whose work as a children’s author lead critics to hail him as a rival to JK Rowling, is one of first high profile writers to turn his back on traditional publishing.

He said: ‘Self-publishing is quite satisfying as you can really choose what to write and are not held back by the whims of your editors.

‘I keep more money from selling my work myself or through things like Amazon’s own editions, than I would if it went through a publisher.

. . . .

Figures for the second half of 2011 show that 26 per cent of adult fiction sold was self-published, or own editions, where retailers such as Amazon bypass traditional routes and publish work directly.

Link to the rest at the Mail

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