Category Archives: E-Readers & Digital Editions

Guardian and Observer Digital Editions

We agree with the favorable review by Kieren McCathy in The Register of the beta versions from The Guardian and The Observer of London. A consumer doesn’t first need to download any software. Each page of the newspaper appears on the screen in its original printed colors and format. Clicking your mouse on a story opens a popup box with an enlargement of the story. As McCathy notes, “The navigation is surprisingly easy.”

Like McCathy, we’re particularly impressed that Guardian Limited on its own created the system

Trial Offer of USA TODAY Digital Editions for Travelers

USA TODAY joins The New York Times as the two newspapers whose digital editions are being offered free to travelers in more than 700 American hotels, airports, and restaurants. The airports are Dallas-Fort Worth, Seattle-Tacoma, San Jose, Austin, Oakland, and Buffalo. The Four Seasons, Loews, Wyndham, Hilton, Marriott, Sheraton, Doubletree, and Embassy Suites hotel chains are participating, as are 110 McDonald that participate in a Wi-Fi access test project with Wayport, a company which offers wireless or wired Internet access in all those places. Travelers can receive three days of the newspapers’ digital editions for free. If afterwards they purchase a 26 or 52 week digital subscription, they’ll also receive a free $25 prepaid Waypoint connection card. These offers are cross-promotional deals among Wayport, NewsStand, Inc., which produces the digital editions, and each the newspapers’ publisher. NewsStand, which last month announced the NYT deal, today announced the USA TODAY deal.

Wayport to Offer Free Digital Editions of NYT in 800 U.S. Locations

Wayport, a company that provides Wi-Fi wireless and wired Internet access in hotels, airports and McDonald’s restaurants, will offer free downloads of The New York Times‘ digital editions.

Wayport provides Wi-Fi (802.11b) wireless and broadband wired Internet access in 680 U.S. hotels (including those of the Four Seasons, Loews, Wyndham, Hilton, Marriott, Sheraton, Doubletree and Embassy Suites); Wi-Fi in the Dallas-Fort Worth, Seattle-Tacoma, San Jose, Austin, Oakland and Buffalo airports; and has a pilot program to delivery Wi-Fi access inside approximately 100 McDonald’s restaurants in the U.S. Wayport says it has recorded more than 3 million customer connections.

Wayport said that free downloads of the NYT’s digital edition will be offered at all those locations. The offer is a cross-promotional program among Wayport, the NYT, and NewsStand, Inc. (which the NYT partially owns). Consumers who like the digital edition and purchase a subscription to it via the network will receive a free $25 Wayport prepaid connection card.

Wayport says that business travelers prefer to receive news and information on the road in the same familiar format as print editions. “Full-content digital media such as major newspapers like The New York Times are a great benefit for busy, time-pressed travelers,” said Dan Lowden, vice president of marketing for Wayport.

We think this deal is progress towards high-speed wireless delivery of newspapers directly to consumers — a necessity if newspapers are to survive during this century. Although this particular deal use only the short-range WiFi technologies and the relatively huge NewsStand digital edition files, it’s certainly a step in the right direction.

True 'Convergence'

For several years, we’ve been advocating that ‘convergence’ isn’t media companies combining their print and broadcast newsrooms — that’s multimedia, not convergence.

True convergence is the convergence of print and of online into a single product. Not multiple products (newsprint, Web, broadcast, etc.), but a single product output.

This is happening. The two vector lines of convergence respectively began in 1993 and 1996.

In 1993, the Internet was opened from public and commercial use. That effectively ended the era of proprietary online services (CompuServe, Prodigy, GEnie, Delphi, and Interchange, although AOL still very popularly lingers) and so allowed any publisher directly to serve consumers without any middlemen. Since then, almost every major newspaper, magazines, and broadcaster has begun publishing Web sites.

Meanwhile in 1996, Scitex of Israel, a company that was the publishing industry’s major source of pre-press imaging technologies, spun off a subsidiary that let publishers utilize their publications’ pre-press images for other purposes. That subsidiary became PressPoint of New York City, whose technologies allowed newspapers to transmit their publications’ digital images to remote printing facilities around the world. PressPoint became a private company in 1998, lead by former New York Times Company President Lance Primus and venture funded by Warburg, Pincus. By 2000, it was delivering digital images of 55 major newspapers worldwide to printing facilities worldwide. Attracted to that market, a competitor, NewspaperDirect, also of New York City, was formed and began serving even more newspapers. Although Warburg, Pincus closed PressPoint during the Internet bust of 2000, NewspaperDirect continues to operate and now delivers same-day editions of 180 major newspapers into 66 countries worldwide.

However, PressPoint and NewspaperDirect didn’t deliver those editions directly to consumers; local newsstands, hotels, resorts, and corporations did that. Since 2000, several new companies have been formed to deliver these digital editions that last step. NewspaperDirect also is moving in direction. The first of the new companies was SatelliteNewspapers (former PEPC PressPoint) of The Hague, which has invented and is deploying newspaper vending machines that can print same-day editions of 130 newspapers on-demand. Another company is Newsstand.com of Austin, which delivers digital editions of 80 newspapers online. Another company is Olive Software of Denver, originally a digital archiving company, that now also provides newspapers with software that presents a multimedia digital edition online in lieu of a Web site.

Web sites and digital editions each many complementary advantages & disadvantages. Web sites offer hyperlinks, multimedia, and unlimited content space but without the graphical layout capabilities and convenience of paper and without the economic ability to sell advertising space as a valuable scarcity. Digital editions offer superior graphical layout capabilities, scarce (and therefore valuable) ad sales space, but didn’t have capabilities for multimedia and hyperlinks and suffered weighty files sizes.

However, these two electronic modes of publishing content are beginning to converge. Most digital editions are built using Adobe Acrobat Portable Document Files (PDF) and the last two versions of Acrobat allow hyperlinking and embedded multimedia. Olive Software in particular has pioneered these capabilities in digital editions that integrate Web site content.

Much development still needs to be done with digital editions:

  • Reducing digital edition PDF file sizes (most publishers still distribute 300 dpi digital editions when they should be lowering that resolution and increasing the bi-cubic compression in their files.
  • Digital editions need to utilize more the tagged file formatting capabilities in Acrobat, which would allow digital editions layouts to reflow to fit whatever device screen size a consumer uses.
  • Print publishers need to format their printed and digital editions in ‘tabloid’, rather than ‘broadsheet’ layout (newspaper designer Mario Garcia has predicted they will).
  • And wireless content delivery and electronic paper technologies need to advance into commercial stages. These are agenda for the second half of this decade and will occur.

    Many Web site developers disparage digital editions as just glorified screenshots of print newspapers. Some feel threatened that publishers are beginning to spend money developing digital editions, monies those developers think should be spend on further development of the Web sites. During the past decade, however, Web editions of newspapers have markedly failed to replace and succeed printed editions, to profit, or to attract frequent readership. Publishers are beginning to look for viable electronic publishing alternatives. Web site developers fail to realize that their own skills are vital towards launching truly multimedia digital editions and that they should see digital editions as simply a traditional graphical overlay of their own work, not as a threat. They should become involved in digital edition development, taking over that work and integrating it with their own Web work.

    By 2010, newspapers, magazines, and broadcasters (will that term become redundant?) will be able to publish a single digital edition that can be used on the Web, in print, and one portable devices and e-paper, and that will feature the advantages of both Web sites and newsprint. This convergence has already begun.

    By the way, the latest newspapers to begin testing digital editions are The Guardian and The Observer in London.

  • How The ABC Counts Weekly Online as Daily in Print

    Should a newspaper be allowed to include its Web site’s paying subscribers among its count of print circulation?

    In a remarkably wimpy decision earlier this week, the U.S. Audit Bureau of Circulation has allowed The Wall Street Journal to do exactly that. The ABC let the WSJ add 290,412 paying subscribers of WSJ.com to its count of 1,800,650 print subscribers. This auditing sleight of hand boosts the WSJ’s ABC circulation to 2,091,062 ‘daily‘.

    The Problem: Most of those 290,412 WSJ.com subscribers don’t actually get it daily. For example, the average WSJ.com subscriber visited that site only 5.41 times during July, according to Nielsen/Netratings. That’s equal to a visit once every six days. By contrast, the 1,800,650 print edition subscribers get it daily.

    When a reader purchases a single printed copy only once per week at a newsstand, the ABC doesn’t count that weekly reader as a daily reader. So, why is the ABC trying to count weekly online readers as daily print subscribers?

    Because the ABC for the past five years has been bending over backwards to please newspapers that increasingly want to bend its auditing rules. Ironically, a WSJ spokesman stated the following only four years ago:

      “No one is disputing the accuracy of the counts or of ABC’s audits.

      “It’s just that the lines keep shifting at ABC about what’s being counted as paid circulation, and how what’s being counted gets presented.

      “The rules have gotten more and more complicated, and made intentionally more subject to manipulation by those papers that have a high percentage of free or highly discounted issues.”

    Yes, or newspapers that want to boost their circulation figures. Without those 290,412 WSJ.com subcribers, the WSJ‘s ABC circulation would have shown no growth during the past year. But by including them, the WSJ now is the fastest-growing newspaper in America, up 16.1 percent.

    There is some specious logic to counting paying online users as paying print users no matter how infrequently they access content online: After all, not every print subscribers reads his print edition daily. However, the Readership Institute at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism last year found that 65 percent of the average newspaper’s subscribers read their print editions daily. In a 31-day month (such as July), that’s equal to 20.15 usages per month — nearly quadruple WSJ.com’s usage.

    The ABC has now allowed those 290,412 approximately weekly online reader to be counted as daily subscribers. Why didn’t it include all 686,000 paying subscribers of WSJ.com? Because 395,588 of them already subscribe to the WSJ in print and the ABC didn’t want to count those folks twice as subscribers. So, it counted only the remaining 290,412 WSJ.com subscribers who don’t subcribe to the WSJ in print.

    The ABC this week bent a rule to do so. Five years ago, it instituted a rule that digital edition subscribers who pay at least 25 percent of the print edition’s price could be counted as print circulation. This was known as the ‘Presspoint Rule’ and was meant to count paying subcribers of PDF-based digital editions (which the now-defunct Presspoint pioneered). Digital editions are electronically delivered daily to their subscribers, unlike Web site editions, which rely upon subscribers remembering to visit the newspaper’s site and electronically retrieve a copy — which they do in this case only 5.41 times per month.

    So, the ABC once again has bent its rules to please a major newspaper.

    Our recommendations: The ABC should count newspaper’s Web site subscribers and print circulation on separate lines in its auditing report.

    But if the ABC must conflate print subscribers and Web site subscribers, then it should take the number of Web site paying subscribers who also don’t subscribe in print, divide that by their average daily visitation frequency, and add that arithmetic result to the count of print circulation.

    Thus if the average among 290,412 paying online subscribers was 5.41 visits during July, then that’s a total of 1,571,129 visits during that 31-day month or 50,682 daily users. The WSJ‘s new ABC circulation would thus be 1,851,332 (up 3 percent this year), not 2,091,062.

    Books.com Goes Private

    Barnes & Noble today announced plans to pay US$115 million for the 25 percent of BarnesAndNoble.com that it doesn’t already own and to turn that publicly held online operation into a private subsidiary. That news might be perceived due to failures in BN.com’s online sales, e-books or printing on-demand technologies, but the real answer is behind the scenes.

    BN.com was launched in 1997 as a publicly-held company of which Barnes & Noble and Bertelsmann owned the majority of shares. Much of that launch was in reaction to the rise of Amazon.com. BN.com sold books, magazine subscriptions, e-books, CDs, DVDs and software and had developed equipment to print paperback books on-demand in Barnes & Noble stores, which would have greatly reduced those stores inventory costs.

    BN.com has never seen a profitable quarter. Last year, it closed its book on-demand printing operation, despite successful tests of that technology. In July, Barnes & Noble bought Bertelsmann’s shares for US $164 million. And, in September, BN.com stopped selling e-books, citing poor sales and limited technology.

    Outside observers might perceive those moves as somehow due to failures in BN.com’s online sales, e-book or printing on-demand technologies. But, as we wrote in September when BN.com stopped selling e-books, the closure was mainly due to BN.com’s never having reached Barnes & Noble’s overarching, Internet Boom era sales targets for it.

    In actuality, the brothers Leonard and Stephen Riggio, who respectively are chairman and vice chairman of Barnes & Noble, are also respectively the chairman and and vice chairman of BN.com, its largest individual investors, and control most of BN.com’s shares. They’d initially launched BN.com as a public company as a means to enrich themselves via their equity holdings. Profitability was a secondary goal; their primary goal was as an equity play. By owning the largest portion of the shares and selling those bit by bit when the stock went stratospheric, the Riggio brothers planned to become billionaires, the way that Jeff Bezos of Amazon.com has.

    Unfortunately for the Riggios, they launched BN.com a bit late. Although their holdings briefly made them billionaires, the Internet Boom busted not long after their launch. With BN.com shares now worth a fraction of the old value, their plan for an equity play has evaporated.

    As the controlling managers of the Barnes & Noble ‘brick & mortar’ bookstores, they don’t now foresee any immediate threat to their stores from e-books or on-demand printing by competitors, so they stopped spending on further development of those technologies. They’ll keep BN.com operating as a continuing defensive measure against Amazon.com. But they no longer have any motive to share ownership of that with anyone else. So, they’ve bought up the other owners’ shares for fractions of the previous value and are making BN.com privately theirs.

    How to Count Clients

    As we earlier this month mentioned, a U.S. television network has asked us to review for accuracy some of the facts it plans to report in a forthcoming program on digital newspaper editions. One problem the producer is having is that one of the vendors says that it has 152 newspapers as digital edition clients, but the vendor won’t disclose what newspapers. The producer (and anyone) can see that the vendor has only launched about a dozen newspapers’ digital editions. Should the producer believe the vendor’s claim.

    While we’re sympathetic to the vendor’s confidentiality concerns, any company may claim to have many clients but claim confidentiality prevents listing who. The problem with that is the claimed number of clients might be true or false. As the English expression goes, ‘the proof is in the pudding.’ How many clients you actually have is how many you’ve actually launched or, at most, are willing to disclose. All other claims are merely public relations.

    The situation reminds us of how in the mid-1980s, after he had launched the Macintosh to wild success, Steve Jobs was beseiged by people who claimed to be developing the next ‘New Thing’ for his consideration. ‘My new idea is genius!’ said one. ‘No, my idea is genius!’ said another. In response, Jobs simply and incisively remarked, ‘True genius ships’.

    His point was that anyone can claim to have ingenious but undeveloped ideas, great products unlaunched, or many clients in secret development, but true genius resides in bringing things to verifiable fruition. A vendor might claim that it has secret contracts with 152 newspaper clients, but if the vendor has brought only a dozen newspapers’ digital editions to fruition (and isn’t willing to disclose more that might be in development), then objectively that vendor has only a dozen newspaper clients. Sorry, but all else are merely secret paperwork and unverifiable public relations. The TV producer should air just the number brought to fruition or that can be verified.

    Give the Gift That Keeps On Downloading

    We received an e-mailed press release from Newsstand.com this morning, suggesting that, “When searching for the perfect gift for friends, family and business associates this holiday season, NewsStand Inc. suggests purchasing digital edition subscriptions of newspapers and magazines.” That’s not a bad idea, although your friends, family, and business associates best have broadband Internet connections.

    Newsstand.com Offer New Scientist

    New Scientist.jpg
    Newsstand.com has begun distributing a digital edition of New Scientist magazines. That’s a bit of a coup for two reasons.

    “This is a great leap forward for New Scientist. It will bring the magazine to a whole new audience, many of whom wouldn’t have access to the print copy,” said Natasha Ward, publisher of New Scientist. “I think it’s quite fitting for the title that it should be one of the first in the U.K. to publish using this technology.”

    As she mentions, the first reason why it’s a coup is that New Scientist is the first UK magazine digital edition that Newsstand.com has begun to distribute. The second reason is simply that New Scientist is a distinguished magazines. Established in 1956, owned by Reed Business Information, and published in print editions weekly to 650,000 readers worldwide, New Scientist is one of the world’s leading magazines about science.

    Its digital edition version from Newsstand.com will cost USD51 for an annual subscription or USD4.95 afor a single copy. It’s odd that Newsstand.com isn’t yet accepting funds in Pounds Sterling for digital editions of British publications.

    PBS to Broadcast Story About Digital Editions

    The Public Broadcasting Corporation‘s The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, is preparing a story about newspapers’ digital editions, mainly those retailed through Newsstand.com or Olive Software. This US news program, known for its thoughtful and in-depth reporting, has been working on this story for a few months. We’ve been pleased to help them with it. Its producers don’t yet have a broadcast date for the story.

    Yomiuri Shimbun Begins Digital Edition

    Yomiuri Shimbun, the world’s largest circulation daily newspaper (weekday: 14,242,000 copies) has begun wholesaling a digital edition. According to Nihon Shinbun Kyokai
    (Japan Newspaper Publishers & Editors Association) Yomiuri will sends its PDF files to NewspaperDirect of Canada and Konica Business Machines of Tokyo, who will partner to printout copies that they will distribute to hotels, bookstores, newsstands, and other sites in 55. Printed copies of Yomiuri had been available outside Japan only by airfreight that could delivered copies up to a day late.

    Yomiuri‘s new digital edition will be A3-sized, with 28-pages B&W pages containing the major stories from the newsprint edition, in addition to special pages from its satellite-transmitted edition for overseas subscribers. The retail price will vary worlwide, but will be two dollars in the US.

    One of Yomiuri‘s competitor, Mainichi Shimbun (the world’s third largest circulation daily, 5,635,000 weekday copies) is already wholesaling a digital edition through NewspaperDirect.

    Overreacting Against eBooks

    Navigating in New Media is much like flying an airplane. Unless you’re experienced with these media’s vagarities and business cycles, you tend to overreact and make problems worse. Porpoising is what pilots call those overreactions, which aim too high or too low, rather than a steady course. When the Internet Bubble burst, too many fickle executives of media corporates overreacted by either cutting their New Media operations too much or cutting their own overreaching expectations too little.

    Barnes&Noble.com was one of the latter. Last week, we mentioned that B&N.com had hyperbolic eBook sales expectations during the Internet Bubble and hadn’t adjusted its expectations in light of post-Bubble realities. The result was B&N.com’s eBook sales never reached its own hyperbolic expectations, so B&N last week further overreacted by quitting the eBook business.

    Too bad for B&N.com. Publishers Weekly reports that eBook sales from other vendors are up 30 percent this year. The Open eBook Forum (OeBF) — a trade group that includes Houghton Mifflin, John Wiley & Sons, AOL TimeWarner Books, McGraw-Hill, Random House, Simon & Shuster, and B&N.com itself — reports a 40 percentincrease. The OeBF reports that 660,991 e-books were sold in the first half of 2003 and that revenues during that time were $5 million. The OeBF predicts sales of more than $10 million for the full year 2003.

    An industry that’s growing at 30 to 40 percent annually, particularly during a severe recession, is a healthy business. Too bad that B&N.com had set expectations far more extreme, then overreacted. Many pundits who’ve never examined the actual sales figures think that B&N.com no longer selling eBook is a sign that the eBook market has failed. Don’t place them at the controls of your New Media business plan.

    The Future of Printing

    UDC E-book.gif

    Electronic paper will begin to steal market share from print as soon as 3 years from now, predicted Michael Kleper, the Paul and Louis Miller Distinguished Professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology‘s School of Print Media. Moreover, within three years, printers won’t be printing only paper but will also be lithographically printing electronic displays on various materials (paper, plastic, linoleum, metal, etc.) and within five years this will become a lucrative business for them.

    During Monday’s session of Seybold-Romano Future of Print Conference at the Seybold San Francisco 2003 Conference, Kleper, author of the Handbook of Digital Publishing and the Kleper Report on Digital Publishing, gave a tour of the state-of-the-art in electronic paper technologies and how to print electronic displays.

    These included the versions of electronic paper now being manufactured by the partnership between E-Ink and Philips Electronics, by the Xerox spin-off company Gyricon, and SiPix. Although these companies’ e-paper products are currently being manufactured for use in retail signs — a far more lucrative market than newspapers and magazines — these companies are working on e-paper prototypes of electronic periodicals.

    Those technologies use electrophysical (i.e., apply current and a metalic ball or powder shows black or white images). However, Kleper was even more enthusiastic about newer e-paper technologies that use Organic Light Emitting Diodes (OLED). Invented in 1987, OLED are manfactured from organic materials that not only glow when electrified, but continue to glow even when the electric current is turned off. Modulating that current changes their intensity. Although OLEDs currently cost about 50% more expensive than LED to manufacture, those costs are declining even more rapidly than LED costs and OLEDs.

    Kleper showed an e-paper prototype from Universal Display Corporation, a startup company that hopes to commercialize OLED e-papers. The color prototype (illustrated above) e-paper rolls into a pen-shaped CPU/battery. A variety of consumer products are already using OLED displays for smaller purposes, such as the display on the Philips-Norelco 8894xl electric razor. Rolltronics is another manufacturer.

    Another very promising display technology is Light Emitting Polymers (LEP). Being commercialized by Cambridge Display Technologies and Add-Vision, LEPs are electronic displays circuits that can be screen-printed onto any flat material, such as paper, marble, linoleum, metal, etc. The screen-printing doesn’t require a dust-free ‘clean room’ and can be done by any commercial printing who has the right equipment. Imagine a pub’s with bartops that display today’s games. Or magazines pages (paper) that display animation when opened. Etcetera. This displays can be permanent (i.e., laminated under a protective surface) or disposable (lasting about six months, according to Kleper’s description of the current printing technologies).

    He and other experts here at the conference believe that LEPs will be a major new market for commercial printers. Printers will print electronic displays rather than ink on paper.

    So promising is this new market for printers that Flink Ink, the major American producer of printing inks, earlier this year announced that it will move into manufacturing of conductive inks and European companies (including Philips, Siemens, and Thomson) are forming a consortium to prevent American dominance of this new electronic technology.

    Electronic devices and electronic displays won’t kill the printing industry. It will be the printing industry, not the electronics industry, who will print those displays.

    Kleper’s demonstrations and predictions that electronic paper technologies will begin to steal market share from print as soon as 3 years were in marked contrast to the subsequent presentation, The Medium is the Message: Information Distribution, by Howard Finberg of the Poynter Institute for Media Studies. Finberg noted the existence of the e-paper manufactured by E-Ink, saying he’s a big fan of that company. But Finberg predicted that consumers will be using e-paper to receive newspapers by 2025.

    Barnes & Noble Closes its eBooks

    Barnes & Noble.com today announced that, effective immediately, it will no longer sell electronic books.

    It told its customers that they have 90 days to download any eBooks that they’ve already purchased but not yet downloaded. “After December 9, 2003, eBook titles that have not been downloaded to the appropriate readers will no longer be accessible,” B&N.com e-mailed its customers who ever have purchased eBooks. “As always, we appreciate your patronage, and we regret any inconvenience this may cause you.”

    We know that Barnes & Noble.com has been reducing its eBook operations for the past two years, but its announcement today was sudden and unexpected.

    The core reason for B&N.com’s decision is that its eBook sales never reached the company’s expectations. Those expectations were devised during the height of the dot.com bubble. B&N’s then spent rather lavishly on its eBook operations, hiring a 200+ person staff based in lower Manhattan, plus tried to create a wholesale operations for selling eBooks by purchasing for ‘dot.com bubble’ prices a variety of eBook startup companies. Nevertheless, it eBook retail decisions were hesitant and largely based upon whatever its archcompetitor Amazon.com. A step behind and a step late.

    eBook sales worldwide have steadily risen year after year, a trend that shows a steady market upon which a reasonable retailer can build a business. But that trend hasn’t risen to Barnes & Noble.com’s dot.com bubble anticipations. B&N has cut staff and operations during the past two years, but its expectations were so high that there still was practically no way that B&N.com profi or even retrieve the costs it has already sunk into its eBooks operations. The executive bureaucratic response to that problem is, of course, to stop altogether selling eBooks. Barnes & Noble.com did that today.

    eBooks aren’t dead; sales have been steadily rising. What died today was Barnes & Noble.com’s eBook sales business plan.