It’s a good time to be in a geek in the UK at the moment. Over the past week there’s been a raft of announcements for predominately US-based offerings making it across the pond so here’s a quick round up of the latest news.
Barnes and Noble are bringing the Nook to Britain and if the marketing is right, it could be hit. Public libraries are still popular and they offer ebooks in the .epub format, which the Amazon Kindle doesn’t support but the Nook does. Some shrewd money-saving marketing and the Nook could give the Kindle a run for its money. I have the original Nook which I’m hoping will be supported in the UK, despite it being no longer sold. Pricing for the current Nooks to be announced but Argos and John Lewis are on-board to sell the hardware.
Amazon rolled out its Android Appstore to UK residents and parts of Europe, presumably for the as-yet-unannounced launch of the Kindle Fire. Coming with the Amazon Appstore is the App of the Day, which will have some great apps for nothing so it’s worth keeping an eye out for those. I’ve installed Appstore on my tablets already and have downloaded a few apps – all looking cool so far.
If you are looking for a small tablet, I think UK readers will be spoilt for choice with the Nexus 7, Kindle Fire and Nook Color / Tablet all likely to be available soon.
Finally, Groupon has some competition in the shape of AmazonLocal, offering similar group deals. At the moment it seems to be focussing on London with a few national offers. Presumably city or regional deals can’t be that far away. There’s a 2 hour flying lesson currently on offer for £99 which looks fun. (As an aside, I always thought Groupon was a rubbish name until someone pointed out it was like group-coupon. Duh!)
All round, it’s good news for geeks in the UK.
As I reported before Apple and various publishers have been sued by the DOJ for price-fixing and collusion in US VS Apple. Apple responded today with a brief statement saying “ it’s not true.” Apple stated that they broke Amazon’s e-book monopoly and therefore did a good thing. Others, myself included would argue that the agency model has artificially raised prices for the consumer. This is a case where clearly the market is being manipulated to the advantage of a certain segment. In Apple’s statement they pointed out that before the iBook Amazon controlled ninety percent of the e-book market two years later it is down to 60 percent. The question may become whether which is more important the percentage of the market in numbers that a business controls or is it the ability to control pricing within that market. Apple controls less than 40 percent of the eBook market but because of their agreement with the publishers they and the publishers control the prices. Many legal experts think that it maybe difficult for the DOJ to win this case, especially the collusion charge. The papers filed by the DOJ clearly show that the various publishers met in secret in an attempt to block Amazon’s ability to sell their books at a discount. However there is little evidence that Apple participated in those meetings. Apple can argue that the publishers may have colluded but they had nothing to do with that. Apple definitely has the money to fight this case, so don’t expect a quick settlement. Sit back and relax, because this fight has just begun.
Apple and several publishers including Penguin, Harper Collins, Macmillan, Pearson and Simon & Schuster and Hachette have been accused by the U.S. Department of Justice of price-fixing and collusion. According to the Bloomberg various high level officials of these companies along with a representative from Apple met several times in secret at various locations in New York city prior to the release of the iPad 1. They agreed that the prices of e-books should be set by the publishers and the retailers could not make any changes. It also appears they agreed to the price they would be set at. According to the DOJ this was clearly directed at retailers especially Amazon, who had offered discount prices on e-books.
Simon & Schuster, Hachette and Harper Collins have settled the suit with the DOJ and have agreed to cancel any contract that would allow the publishers to set prices. They also agreed that for two years all contracts must allow for discount pricing by the retailers. Apple, Penguin and Macmillan Publishing have refused to settle. They are fighting to keep what they call the agency model. Apple appears to be the one that encouraged this model. They get 30 percent of all books sold in the iBook store. The agency model means the books will cost more for the consumers but it also means more money for Apple and the publishers. “Sales of e-books rose 117 percent in 2011, generating $969.9 million, Publishers Weekly reported Feb. 27, citing estimates from the Association of American Publishers.”
The European Union is also investigating the arrangement made between Apple and the publishers. It clear that the major publisher like the agency model. The cost of creating and publishing e-books is much lower than physical books and before this agreement the prices for books was going down. With this agreement, prices were stabilized or raised to a level agreed on by all participants and competition was removed. I have to admit I am a fan of Apple products, but I have found that I am less of a fan of some of their business practices and this is one of those times.
CourseSmart is a higher education content delivery system that delivers e-textbooks to over 2.5 million students and faculty members. Sean Devine, CEO of CourseSmart talks to Jeffrey and Andy about the system.
CourseSmart brings together content producers and content consumers, typically publishers, lecturers and students in over 7,000 universities and colleges. The organisation is owned by a group of publishers but it distributes content from a wider range of content producers. Over 30,000 original textbooks and other products are on-line at their website and the publications can be integrated into the college’s electronic learning environment.
As with most things digital it’s not possible to buy or sell e-textbooks secondhand and the book is really just rented. The CourseSmart books are typically 60% cheaper than a new paper book and naturally they’re always in stock. For today’s mobile student the books are delivered through multiple devices – web browser, web app, iPad, iPhone and Android apps.
Interview by Jeffrey Powers of Geekazine and Andy Smith of Geocaching World.
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I’m possibly a bit slow on the uptake here, but Starbucks in the UK are offering a free “Pick of the Week” iTunes download. Some weeks it will be a music track, other weeks it will be an e-book, some will be well-known, some will be up-and-coming.
I came across this freebie last week while frequenting my local coffee house but after checking on-line, it looks like the promotion has already been running for a few weeks.
You’ll find little credit card-sized vouchers with a download code on the back close to the tills. I picked up The Damned United by David Peace. Enter the code into iTunes / iBooks and it’s added to your collection. Easy.
More time is spent reading with children but parents are finding modern life tiring and stressful, according to research commissioned by Booktime. The average time spent by parents reading with their child (4 & 5 year olds) is now one hour 26 mins per week, an increase of 10% over 2009. 60% of parents read with children for pleasure on a daily basis.
Tiredness was cited as the main reason for shared reading not being fun, but it was the tiredness of the parents (18%) rather than the child (6%) that was the problem. Getting home from work in time was also a problem, with 30% of dads getting stuck at work.
Regardless, 71% of parents and carers said that reading with their child was always or usually the highlight of the day. 80% of the parents said that reading was associated with fun with 86% of children laughing out loud.
The book is still the main reading device (86%) but other devices such as smartphones, tablets and e-readers are becoming more prevalent. By the time a child is six, nearly a quarter of parents use technology in addition to paper-based books.
In a time of economic doom-and-gloom, this relatively minor story made my day. It costs so little to read to children especially when books are available from libraries or the Booktime programme, yet the benefits to both parents and children are immense. As a father of a 4 year old daughter, I love reading with her, especially at bedtime. It’s just us, with no distractions and we read the story together. If she grows up with a love of reading and learning, I will have done my job as a parent.
Booktime is a national (UK) free books programme for pre-school children that aims to promote the pleasure of reading by encouraging families to have fun reading together. This year, nearly 1.4 million books will be given away in partnership with Pearson.
Admittedly I’m coming in late to the party. I had all sorts of excuses – I already have a MacBook Pro, as well as the latest generation of iPod Touch. Why would I need an iPod with a giant screen to run mostly the same apps I can already run on my iPod?
After buying an iPad 2, I understand what all the fuss is about. It has also become immediately clear to me why there is a booming iPad market but currently not much of a tablet market. The reason is staring everyone in the face, yet few seem to see it, particularly large tech companies that are struggling to compete in the wrong arena.
The iPad is admittedly an incredibly nice piece of hardware – however, that’s not why it is so successful. The reason for the iPad’s overwhelming appeal and success is very simple – it revolves in large part around being able to run well-written targeted iOS iPad-specific apps that take advantage of the iPad’s screen size and svelte form factor. At about the size of a traditional magazine, it takes the best elements of the multimedia computer and puts them into a highly-readable, touch-interactive color screen that will easily fit into places and situations where even laptop computers don’t work so well.
In short, it’s all about the content and being able to easily consume it anywhere. The content isn’t just about browsing, listening to music or watching videos. The content in large part is the iPad-specific apps themselves, some of which are incredible, such as the 100% free Flipbook RSS reader app.
Amazon has a chance at success with the 7” Kindle Fire, not so much because of the $200 price point, but because Amazon has a lot of ready-made content hanging out in its cloud. Many people pooh-poohed the original Amazon Kindle, only to witness it quickly morph into a success. The Kindle was not and has never been a success because of the Kindle hardware – the plethora of Amazon ebook content is what caused the original Kindle rise to stardom. The availability of the content finally got the ebook ball rolling in a huge way, and the mass market finally realized the incredible convenience and advantage of having a cloud-connected ereader.
Would-be iPad competitors will never effectively compete with hardware alone, no matter how sexy or inexpensive they are able to make it. To borrow part of a phrase from an early 1990’s presidential campaign, we would all do well to paste this sign on our wall:
“It’s the content, stupid.”