News For Sale? Online Journalism Fees May Return

Executives at major news companies from The New York Times Co. and The Associated Press on down are arriving at the consensus that they will simply have to find a way to charge people who read their articles online.

But it's not such a simple sell.

In Denver, after the Rocky Mountain News was shut down, a group of several dozen former staffers joined a new Web site called InDenverTimes. They would cover investigative news, sports, features and the arts. In essence, they intended to create something approximating a newspaper experience, online, without a print equivalent.

An Experiment For $5 Per Month

Excitement built as they were convinced they could make a go of it with less than a fourth of the Rocky's old circulation, at a fraction of the cost. All they needed were 50,000 people willing to pay $5 a month.

Fewer than 3,000 people signed up.

Full story on NPR (Audio available approx. 7:00 p.m. ET)

Company's 'ATM For Books' Prints On Demand

Story on NPR:

Have you ever had that frustration of walking into a bookstore, looking for a specific book, and being told it's out of print or not in stock?

One company wants to put an end to that. In a move some are calling the most significant step in publishing in the last 500 years, a New York company is trying to make books available on demand, printed out locally, rather than centrally as they always have been.

On Demand Books has installed a trial machine in a central London bookstore. It's called the Espresso machine, but it has nothing to do with coffee beans. This baby's grinding out books.

See additional text and listen to 4 minute audio piece at NPR.


On Futuristic Door Stops

Recently, I faced the hideous situation of dead hardware. I had gotten dependent upon my Palm T|X. That model of personal digital assistant ("PDA") was great as it had built in 802.11b WiFi as well as Bluetooth. As long as I was within range of a wireless access point that I had rights to use, I had the Internet in my pocket. Early on, it worked quite well with a wireless infrared keyboard. I had a precursor to a netbook in basic form as I could use the keyboard to compose Word-compatible documents on a small screen. The device was great for trying to read online content such as Mobile Twitter, The Dysfunctional Family Circus, Instapundit, and more.

Unfortunately the PDA got stuck in a soft reset loop. It was showing its age. Three years of dutiful service is beyond what would reasonably be considered "mean time between failure". Although I was able to eventually break it free of the soft reset loop, it is now stuck at the digitizer calibration phase of initial setup. After multiple efforts, the digitizer could not be re-calibrated. I had a very futuristic looking doorstop.

Replacing it was an interesting battle. Initially I was carrying a legal pad and pen with me. While my "analog PDA" worked well for me, it was not small. It also looked quite anachronistic in today's world. That did not work well in the end.

Getting a smartphone was out of the question. Nobody calls! As it is now, I don't really have a cell phone simply because the usage for inbound calls was so light. For outbound calls, I use Skype. While devices like the Palm Centro, the Android G1, and the iPhone exist they really do not meet my needs. If I get a phone, I want one that makes calls. I would much rather have a separate PDA let alone a separate camera.

Getting a replacement PDA is a complicated adventure. The market for stand-alone PDAs is virtually non-existent as of late. I visited retailers like Office Max, Office Depot, Best Buy, and even a pawn shop in search of something comparable. Nothing was available as the trend today is the marriage of the PDA and the cellular telephone.

In the end, I had to turn to eBay. In addition to securing a Terminal Node Controller for certain projects, I picked up a replacement. Instead of getting a Nokia N800 as was sought, I wound up with a Palm IIIx. The Palm IIIx, while serviceable, is a very old device. This PDA is actually old enough that it has a battery door to replace the AAA batteries it runs on. I did get a keyboard to go with it but I need to get a suitable cradle to hook it up to a host computer. The device not only does not have Bluetooth, it does not have 802.11b WiFi either. IrDA-compliant infrared is the most the device has for signalling.

With these recent travails in replacing a PDA, I had given quite a bit of thought to eBooks. How truly valuable are eBooks? How do they compare with an old-fashioned RadioShack book light? As neither my paper books nor the Kindle have any backlight in them, such cannot be curled up with in bed without a booklight. Having to shine a booklight on the screen of the Kindle would be no different from shining one on the Palm IIIx. In that situation, you have a better chance of seeing your own reflection than seeing what you want to read. I am twenty seven years old and should not need "The Clapper" to be able to use an eBook device effectively in bed.

While the eBook may seem to be the way of the future, it does seem to be excessively involved and expensive compared to picking up something from the shelf. For those that feel the need to have everything available to them in one place, I suppose eBooks have a place. Right now I am finding print material to be easier and more enjoyable than the eBooks promoted today.

What is important to you: cute or practical?

Creative Commons License
On Futuristic Door Stops by Stephen Michael Kellat is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.

Scribd Store: YouTube for Documents Becomes iTunes for Documents

Online document sharing site Scribd has launched Scribd Store; a marketplace where publishers can sell original written works. This move comes at a time when ebook piracy is said to be at its peak (Scribd, as one of the biggest document sharing sites out there, is often mentioned in these reports), and is therefore a welcome move both for Scribd, which is trying to clean up its name, and for publishers such as Lonely Planet, O’Reilly Media, Berrett-Koehler and others, which partnered with Scribd for the Store launch.

Article continued here.


Steal This Book (for $9.99)

David Baldacci, the best-selling thriller author, learned what some of his fans think when “First Family,” his latest novel, went on sale last month. Amazon initially charged a little over $15 for a version for its Kindle reading device, and readers revolted.

Several posted reviews objecting that the electronic edition of the book wasn’t selling for $9.99, the price Amazon has promoted as its target for the majority of e-books in the Kindle store. Hundreds more have joined an informal boycott of digital books priced at more than $9.99.

Full piece in the New York Times.

Contrasted with this story: Amazon losing money on $9.99 e-books and this one: Amazon Enters Publishing with AmazonEncore it will interesting to see how things shake out.

New Book Series Shakes Up Traditional Publishing

A breakthrough in book publishing is hitting print at a time we need most: RAND Publishing introduces The Skinny On(TM) - a series of books that give the "skinny on life's most important lessons." Inspired by the Japanese literary form, Manga (whimsical, illustrated story-telling) and easily read in an hour.....

Says President of RAND Publishing, Katie Rose Hope, "We're conforming to the technology-centered Twitter-and-Facebook-Age. Readers are updated once an update to the book has been made via a medium that they choose - email, text, Twitter, any new form of technology.. We intend to keep our content up to the minute. Our books will evolve with the times."

Full press release here.

Website: The Skinny on


BOOK: The Sequel

BOOK: The Sequel is a Perseus Books Group project to be achieved later this month at BookExpo America (BEA): a book that will be compiled and published during the span of the expo.

From the website:

"It’s a book that asks the world to write the first sentence for a yet-to-be-written sequel to any book ever published...A book that will be created...collaboratively. A book that will be published into as many formats as possible in about 48 hours. The publishers, editors, publicists, marketing partners, printers, technology and distribution partners [at the BEA] will all help to generate this book by 4PM, Saturday, May 30."

Royalties from BOOK: The Sequel will go to the National Book Foundation.

You can follow BOOK: The Sequel on Twitter and submit a sentence for the book at the BOOK: The Sequel site.


Publicly-funded research for a price

Publicly-funded research doesn't seem so public when taxpayers must pay to read the results in a journal. A new law may help publishing companies preserve their business models, but will limit public access to the research.

Story on Marketplace

Trade paperbacks thrive in tough times

Some books are skipping hardcover and going straight to trade paperback. Story at USA Today.


Get That Book Deal: Three Books Tell You How

I needed advice before I tried to write a novel. The usual axiom — write what you know — wasn't helpful. I spend my days driving my older children to school and changing my younger one's diaper — not exactly best-seller material.

So I turned to experts. Three books gave me invaluable writing advice. One, by a best-selling writer; one, by a top New York agent; and one, by a guy who struggled for years to learn how to write a book and wanted to make it easier for the rest of us.

Full story on NPR



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