Tag Archives: Media

The iPod for Books

Publishers should be thinking a lot more seriously about electronic books and how to leap ahead of their competitors.

Sony’s eBook has only been available in Canada for a few months, and it’s far from the perfect product, but it provides a glimpse into what’s coming.

Playing with the eBook Reader reminds me of the first MP3 players I used in the 90’s. At the time, people scoffed at the idea that the small players would replace their CD collection. People scoffed at the idea of an online music store where songs would be downloaded. And we all know how that turned out.

The shift to electronic books could easily follow the same pattern, assuming the hardware meets our needs. The Sony eBook is close – more on the problems later.

First – the good.

I love the eBook reader. It’s sleek, easy to use, and the screen technology is far better than anything I’ve seen before. Partly this is due to the high resolution of the e-ink technology – it’s more than twice the resolution of your typical computer screen – so text is crisp. Since the screen technology doesn’t depend on back lighting (like your laptop) it looks totally flat, so the effect is much closer to the look of paper than a digital screen.

The Sony eBook also displays images (in black and white), plays MP3’s and allows you to load up Word documents and PDF files, along with their own e-book format and other open electronic book formats.

I’ve loaded about 70 books into my reader and I’ve barely touched the internal memory. This version of the reader has 2 slots for Sony memory sticks, so there’s really no limit to the amount of content you can carry around.

I found that I quickly adjusted to the form factor. The placement of the ‘next page’ buttons line up with where you normally hold a book, and there’s a bookmark function to hold your place.

Essentially, the reading experience is different, but not in a negative way. The feel of the book obviously isn’t there, but it functions pretty much like a book, and that’s what makes its potential so powerful.

Riding the bus, sitting in a doctor’s waiting room, or hanging out on a park bench – this device is ideal. Like an mp3 player, it’s light and easy to carry – so I’m more likely to have it with me than I might a big heavy book. And considering that I can haul around hundreds of books, it’s hands down a much better option.


I can see a lot of major advantages in terms of publishing.


Reference and technical books, particularly those about software, are largely out of date by the time they’re published. With an electronic book, updates and changes could be made as often as required, and just a download away. It’s a natural for serialization. And dare I say it – a daily newspaper ?


While I can haul out my laptop for a quick one-on-one presentation with a potential client, the size of the eBook is more easier to deal with, and I can literally stand in the elevator and walk through a presentation on the way up. Keep in mind that the screen only displayed in black and white (actually, 4 shades of grey) so I do repurpose my presentations to make them look good on the screen, but you can also just load up any PDF, Word doc, JPG or Gif image, and the eBook will simply display colour as monochrome images.

eBook and Podcasts

Given that Sony’s included an MP3 player right in the eBook, it seems natural to bundle books with author podcasts, as well as serialized “books on MP3” packages that could be used for promotion.


Books use paper. eBooks use bytes. Need I say more ? Shipping ? Fogetaboutit.

Here’s where I think things need to improve

Software. Sony makes great consumer entertainment products but its software is often horrid. Given that they have a great model with the iTunes store, there’s really no excuse for the state of Sony eBook store. The software is also the interface for loading books onto the eBook reader. It needs a major over-haul in look & feel as well as functionality.

Connectivity. Hard to beleive, but Sony’s software is PC only. Given the nature of the eBook reader, the Apple crowd should be a prime target market. But unless they’re running their MacBook in dual boot mode, they’re out of luck.

Tether. Connectivity to the computer is via a USB cable. I’m assuming the reason there’s no Bluetooth or other wireless connectivity is space, but I’d dearly love to be able to move data back and forth without having to find the cable and plug in. This is a challenge Apple still hasn’t solved with the iPod so I supposed I shouldn’t be so demanding. All I know is that as long as the device has to hook up to my computer, it’s potential is limited.

Price. The 505 model is 300.00 Canadian, which seems expensive given the price of things like iPods, game consoles and and digital cameras. The goal here is to get people using the device so they’ll buy books. Consumers don’t like paying for technology development and a price point that’s too high will keep the adoption rate low.

The newly released 700 models has some nice new features including touch scrolling, but at 400.00 it’s just way too expensive. Amazon’s competitor, the wireless Kindle, is 359.00 USD

Why publishers need to pay attention

The book isn’t going away any time soon, but things are going to change dramatically. Electronic books open up some new possibilities for existing publishing models, and throw the doors wide open to new models.

Is it possible that within a few years the biggest book seller might be a hardware manufacturer ? There’s a reason Amazon created it’s own electronic book reader.

Why not publish dailies in ebook form, so that I can grab up update on my way out the door and read it on the bus ?

Sony’s eBook reader already supports RSS feeds – with a wireless connection there’s no reason I couldn’t be walking through the mall, train station or even at transit bus shelter and downloading the latest update to the periodicals and books I’ve subscribed to.

The e-paper will get better. The connectivity will improve. The price will come down. There’ll be other models and competitors. All those things bode well for publishers – IF they get with it and start to explore what’s possible.


Get this article for your Sony eBook reader (open BBeb format)

Sony eBook reader at SonyStyle.ca

Amazon’s Kindle

(this article has been cross posted at RobertOuimet.com )

Canada’s Big Media Still Big

I know with the long weekend ahead, you’ve been wondering about the state of media in Canada – now you can rest easy and enjoy that extra day off.

Big Media in Canada is doing just fine.



The CRTC today released its Communications Monitoring Report. In the past the Commission published one report on the state of broadcasting, and one on the telecommunications industry, and this is the first of their ‘converged’ reports – presumably to reflect the state of the industry.

The report makes it clear that the Canadian broadcast sector is doing just fine, despite dire warnings of its impending demise thanks to the internet. The report also shows just how big a role the internet plays in our every day lives and consumption of entertainment.

Here are some facts pulled from the CRTC report.


  • Revenues for private commercial radio stations increased by 6.2%, from $1.4 billion in 2006 to $1.5 billion in 2007.
  • Commercial television revenues increased 4.3%, or $218 million, from $5 billion in 2006 to $5.3 billion in 2007. This was largely due to increased subscriber revenues of $152 million.
  • Revenues for specialty, pay and pay-per-view television and video-on-demand services increased by 9%, rising from $2.5 billion in 2006 to $2.7 billion in 2007.
  • Revenues for private conventional television broadcasters went from $2.1 billion in 2006 to $2.2 billion in 2007, an increase of 1.3%. During this period, revenues for English-language stations grew by 2% to $1.8 billion, while those for French-language stations fell by 2% to $381 million
  • Online advertising continued to experience growth, with spending rising from $900 million in 2006 to $1.2 billion in 2007.

English Canadian use of…

  • RADIO: 18.3 hours of per week
  • TV: 26.8 hours of per week
  • INTERNET: 13.4 hours per wee


  • The number of Canadians who have watched a video online has more than doubled over the past three years, with user-generated content being more popular than professionally produced programs.
  • Among the more popular online activities in 2007, 36% of Canadians watched a video, 16% listened to a streaming radio station and 17% downloaded music.
  • 11% of Canadians reported downloading and listening to a podcast on either their computer or an MP3 player, an activity that is seen as a complement to conventional broadcasting.

It may just be a case of bad timing, but just a couple of weeks ago, a CBC submission to the CRTC more-or-less argued Canadians aren’t using the Internet for entertainment. (you can read the CBC’s full position here)

Today’s CRTC report shows that we are in fact using the internet for entertainment. One of the most popular online activites happens to be…watching videos. At the end of the day, regardless of the facts, the CBC’s argument in it’s submission seems to be that since it hasn’t figured out how to make money online, online shouldn’t be considered a business opportunity for Canadian broadcasters.

Given that traditional broadcast is still showing yearly increases in revenue, I’m not sure they’re in any hurry to try figure out how to make money online, despite the fact that Canadians are consuming a huge amount of content online. To my mind, that bodes well for smart nimble companies that can jump into this obviously ripe market while the ‘big boys’ sit back and wait for it to be a more predictable business opportunity.

(cross posted here)

Improved Canada.com Newsletter Shuts Out Mac Users

[eds. note: according to an email I got from CanWest, this problem will be resolved with tomorrow’s – Feb 1st – edition]

This is one of those situations where function is definatley more important than form.

I get a daily enewsletter from the Vancouver Sun, and have for a while now.

There are usually a couple of stories I’m interested in, so I’ll follow the links in the newsletter and get the story on their web site, which is of course part of the Canada.com portal.

Yesterday the Sun rolled out a new design for their enewsletter – and for anyone using Mail on a Mac – there’s a bit of a problem. The links don’t work. Clicking on any of the story links just reloads the page, and you never get to the story.

Now, its true, enewsletters are a bit of a nightmare, since how they look and function is totally dependent upon the mail program at the other end. The same is true for web sites, but with mail, there are even more issues than with multiple flavours of web browsers.

Its seems odd though, given this is coming from a newspaper company. Print media in general are Mac shops – or at least heavily weighted with Macs.

Its interesting this slipped by the developer, because the entire function of an email newsletter is to get you to follow the links. No links ? What’s the point ?

Oh well, guess I’ll strike one more ‘traditional media’ company as a source for information – at least for now.



I have to give Sun editor-in-chief Patricia Graham big points. I emailed her, along with the web folk at Canada.com this morning, explaining the issue. She was the first to reply, within an hour, saying it’ll be looked at.

BBC Job Cuts

On again, off again job cuts at British Broadcasting Corporation appear to be on again. And they could spark strikes.

The BBC is braced for its worst industrial action in a decade as management prepares to axe up to 2,800 posts to save £2 billion.

The 12pc cut, which was not denied yesterday by the BBC, has come as a shock to the work force

Strike action appeared inevitable last night as unions digested the impact of proposed cuts of up to 12 per cent of the 23,000-strong work force.

full story here

What's Wrong with Old Media

photo by violet.blue
photo by violet blue

San Francisco based columnist and blogger Violet Blue is sharing her recent experience as an “expert guest” on the Tyra Banks TV show.

It’s a pitch perfect picture of what’s wrong with old-media, starting with their insisting VB cover her tattoos.

When I was about to go onstage in front of the studio audience, a staff member presented me with a list of pre-planned questions they’d had all along.

The answers to all of those questions — my answers — were also included. The staff member who had me review them confessed to having cut and pasted the responses from my Oprah article. I said, “I know. I can recognize my own writing.”

Read Violet Blue’s full post with pics and vid here.

If you’re thinking this is an anomaly, don’t.