Friday, March 29, 2013

The digital/analog dichotomy

What's old is new.  We've all heard that before but what does it mean? My wife loves old appliances and furnishings because of the inherent quality of construction and classic style. Lapels get skinny, lapels get wide. You can buy a mobile phone headset that is simply an old school handset.

The more things get digital the more call for analog. Is that just conjecture or fact?  In the visual communications sector I can give a bit of guidance there.

It's hard to believe but in 1994 if you wanted to license a photo to use in your ad campaign you would call a stock photography agency, they would research their files -- and I mean real files, as in file cabinets --, send you transparencies that were duplicates of the photographer's original, and after you made your choice you would take it to the designer who would have it scanned at high resolution for the final print use.  That was the world before companies like PhotoDisc, Corbis, and DigitalStock began scanning images en masse and creating online libraries where you could search for what you needed on your own online.  I lived both sides of that equation, running a professional photo lab that specialized in high-quality duplicates but also taking the archive of the company that became Corbis from 5000 to 1,000,000 images in two years.   At Corbis we were writing the rules of production and storage as we went along but 13 years after I left the company my favorite project was working with David Alexander, founder of A&I in Los Angeles, as we curated the Bettmann Archive to find cool, old negatives that would make good art photos suitable for framing.  We both felt early on that as photography continued to get more digital there would be a valuable market for the real and tangible. We were right.

Spring forward to last month and the announcement of the new Samsung Galaxy S 4. It is a marvel of technology, with all of the linear improvements in speed and resolution you would expect along with some new high-profile features like eye-tracking. But what feature did Samsung announce as part of their new 13 megapixel camera? An option for physical book and magazine output powered by Blurb.

Blurb has always been a dichotomy.  A Web 2.0 company that was founded as the investment markets were heating up post-bust, we were without a doubt "new media" and ecommerce but with an initial product and strategy that was solidly analog.  That strategy was once again confirmed with the announcement that Samsung had chosen Blurb as their global partner.

With ebooks many of the best user experiences are those that most closely match analog.  At Blurb we're always looking for ways to make our ebook offering what our users need to encourage creativity and authorship. There will continue to be progress on that front, but with the new will always be strong reference to the old.  Yes, print usage will continue to diminish over the coming years and rightfully so. Physical, disposable, limited-life content like news and research should live in the digital realm.  But as we spend more and more time looking at pixels on a screen, the reflective experience will remain live and well -- and valuable.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Are Ebooks Really Books? From @Forbes


In one sense, ebooks are books in that they deliver a certain kind of information of a certain length and scope in one place using mostly (if not entirely) the written word. In another sense, ebooks are more like software.

Two important ways:

– Once the first copy of an ebook is produced, creating a nearly infinite amount of copies is free or very cheap and takes a few seconds; with books, creating that second copy takes some time and effort
– The thing the consumer gets when purchasing a book (a physical object with information contained in it) is not what most consumers gets when “buying” an ebook: license access to a piece of software with information in it

In both of those ways, ebooks are much more like software than what we generally think of as a book.

Semantics aside, why is this important?

“Digital books are triggering tectonic shifts in education,” writes Digital Book World blogger Beth Bacon. More school systems are buying electronic devices for their students and experimenting — if not embracing — ebooks and digital content in the learning process. For these schools with huge budgets to apply to the problem of educating their pupils, ebooks are much more like software.

When the school buys them, they don’t get a physical object that can be easily shared and reused; and, on the other hand, that needs to be stored and accounted for physically and maintained. What they do get is this new kind of thing that they need to manage (pieces of software) across another new kind of thing (hundreds or thousands of devices).

Read on here......

I'm off balance.

I have too much stuff in my wallet. I'm off balance and it's not because I've got so much cash that I'm carrying around. It's that I have too much plastic. But for the life of me I can't cut back. I need help.

Here's my issue. I travel a bit for work and I don't like having stuff for home and stuff for on-the-road. I'd forget to substitute and end up missing something I really need. I already have a separate card holder for of my various affinity memberships that lives in my travel backpack. I'm talking about the stuff I really need.

So what's in there?
  1. Drivers license
  2. Primary credit card (AmEx Platinum--the frequent traveler's best friend)
  3. Secondary credit card (Alaska Airlines Visa--for places that don't take AmEx, and there are quite a few)
  4. HSA Visa (to administer my health savings account--used for all prescriptions and medical expenses)
  5. Corporate AmEx (for things like company entertainment and reoccurring charges)
  6. Seattle Public Library card
  7. Health club membership card
  8. Checking account debit card
  9. Petco Pals card (the tiny version)
  10. QFC grocery card (the tiny version)
  11. AAA card (I have a 1952 International pick-up and you ever know when it may decide to quit)
  12. Car2Go membership card (when you need it you've got to have it!)
  13. Zipcar zipcard (ditto as above)
  14. Voters registration card
  15. Health insurance card
  16. Prescription insurance card
  17. Dental insurance card
  18. Auto insurance card
  19. Arboretum Foundation membership card (for discounts at nurseries)
  20. Starbucks Gold card

So you see my problem. My back hurts even thinking about it. I've thought about weaning off a couple of the credit cards but where do you leave them? I already hide cards from Barney's NY, Nordstrom and Macy's and you know what? I never have them when need them so I always have the hassle of having the clerk look up my info.

OK, maybe take out the AAA card as long as I have my number in my phone. Voter's registration? Seems un-American to not carry it. And until places like Starbucks can consistently work via mobile app scanning I'm not comfortable going all digital. So do I live with the rear-pocket weight and bulk or is there a solution? I'm open to ideas but here is my requirement. I carry three things always. My keys, my iPhone5, my wallet. I don't want a fourth.

Suggestions encouraged.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Samsung Galaxy S 4 Gets BlurbPowered™

Blurb and Samsung partner to power mobile book creation.

Samsung’s pre-installed Story Album photo function allows users to instantly create professional-quality printed photo books from their Galaxy S 4 camera images.
This BlurbPowered™ partnership enables “everyday authors” to connect directly to Blurb’s global book publishing and fulfillment platform.

Print beautiful Blurb books directly from the new Samsung Galaxy S 4

Everyday moments become lasting memories with the BlurbPowered™ Story Album from Samsung.
  • Great-looking books are simple to make – create stunning layouts with the Story Album's automatic photo formatting.
  • Include captions, dates, and more and then preview and order directly from the Samsung Galaxy smartphone.
  • Choose from 7 x 7 inch softcover or hardcover – or the new 5 x 5 softcover, exclusively for Samsung Galaxy S 4 owners.
For more information please visit:

Monday, March 11, 2013

SXSW 2013: Self-Publishing, David Carr and the ‘Theology of Free’. From @PublishersWkly

Despite a year at SXSW Interactive that seems to have both a big spurt in attendance and fewer book publishing focused panels, there were still some useful discussions of the evolution of publishing in the digital era and its financial underpinnings. PW senior news editor Rachel Deahl moderated a lively discussion of the issues around self-publishing—from pricing to readers to misconceptions—while once again the New York Time’s David Carr managed to make some sense of monetization, online content and the future of getting paid.

Called Self-Publishing in the Age of E, Deahl’s panel featured bestselling self (and now conventionally) published novelist Hugh Howey, author of the bestselling sci-fi series Wool, Erin Brown, a former St. Martin’s and HarperCollins editor and now an Austin based freelance editor, and literary agent Kirby Kim of William Morris Endeavor. It didn’t take long to get to core issues around self-publishing: quality, the seemingly ever-growing sales of e-books and the role of conventional publishers at time when many authors have grasped that they have other options—and sometimes more lucrative options.

Originally published by small press, Howey quickly decided to go the self-publishing route generating an enormous word of mouth following that turned his books into e-book bestsellers on Amazon. Indeed Howey said at one point he was generating $30,000 to $40,000 a month in sales and selling hundreds of thousands of e-books. His mantra is “build your audience and the editors and agents will come.” Responding to Deahl’s question about pricing Howey didn’t hesitate: “Free is the best price,” he said, “but Amazon wouldn’t let me give them away, so I priced them at 99 cents.” In fact, he acknowledged that his book are “underpriced,” but “its all about building an audience.”

Read on here.....

Monday, March 4, 2013

Polaroid Socialmatic Camera: A Retro Instagram-Style Dream. From @RWW

If you're still mourning the death of the Polaroid camera, cheer up - your favorite bit of retro technology is being reinvented for 2014. A company called Socialmatic just reached a deal to launch a line of Polaroid-branded instant digital cameras next year - and it's playing up the natural intersection of Instagram and retro instant photography
The concept design makes the camera resemble one big Instagram logo - without the word "Instagram." There's a screen around back for editing and adding photo filters and a little slot on the side that actually prints your Insta-masterworks. The camera, to be manufactured by Polaroid partner C&A Marketing, will sport a 4.3-inch screen, Wi-Fi and 3G mobile broadband support, as well as 16GB of expandable photo storage, though the rest of the details are scarce. For more photos, you can check out Socialmatic's image gallery.
Even if the finished product (and mock-up) are a little silly, the idea sure beats Polaroid's other recent bid for relevance, which was an absurd plan to open branded brick-and-mortar photo printing stores.
Socialmatic might have an uphill battle cozying up with Instagram enough to use its logo on the project, but my fingers are crossed for anything that can bring the Instagram era full circle - and back to its humble, instant printing roots. 

Original article and more photos here

Friday, March 1, 2013

Trusted Friend Is Top Book Discovery Tool. From @galleycat

Goodreads recently asked 1,000 members of the social network publishing’s burning question: What convinced you to read the book?
They revealed the results at the Tools of Change (TOC) conference (chart embedded above). Overwhelmingly, most readers relied on real life conversations: “trusted friend,” “everybody was talking about it” and “book club” were the top answers. Here’s more about the survey:
“Discovery” is a huge topic in the publishing industry, especially as more and more books are published each year. For this presentation, we took a different tack. Rather than just ask a general “How do you discover books?” question, we went to recent readers of two popular books on Goodreads and asked: “What convinced you to read this book?” The two choices were Gone Girl (which was the most reviewed book on Goodreads in 2012 and the winner of the Mystery & Thriller category in the 2012 Goodreads Choice Awards) and The Night Circus (a debut novel from 2011, which was a finalist in the 2011 Goodreads Choice Awards).
Here’s the complete slideshow from the TOC presentation…