I'm Drew Breunig and I obsess about technology, media, language, and culture. I live in New York, studied anthropology, and lead strategy at PlaceIQ.

These are reactions to things I feel are important.


Posts tagged books
Will Apple launch a sort of GarageBand for e-books? “That’s what we believe you’re about to see,” MacInnis told Ars (and our other sources agree). “Publishing something to ePub is very similar to publishing web content. Remember iWeb? That iWeb code didn’t just get flushed down the toilet—I think you’ll see some of [that code] repurposed.”

Ars Technica on Apple’s textbook event this week.

My hopes for this announcement, if it is a “GarageBand for eBooks”:

  1. It’s free
  2. It’s not just for text books
  3. It is able to tie into a boilerplate Newsstand app, allowing publishers to more easily layout periodical content in a standard way (the divergence between Newsstand apps is unnecessary and frustrating)
  4. Textbooks are published into a textbook ecosystem, with unified notes, book collections for courses managed by instructors, and interactive quizzes built into books allowing students to take short exams and instructors to grade easily from an iPad.

I think 2 will eventually pan out, but 3 is wishful thinking. 4 would be a game changer, but would require massive commitments from major universities to catch on. Teachers I know would like such an ecosystem (I would have liked it as a student), but it may be a hinderance to adoption and is probably best saved for later.

We have expressed our strong disagreement and the seriousness of our disagreement by temporarily ceasing the sale of all Macmillan titles. We want you to know that ultimately, however, we will have to capitulate and accept Macmillan’s terms because Macmillan has a monopoly over their own titles, and we will want to offer them to you even at prices we believe are needlessly high for e-books. Amazon customers will at that point decide for themselves whether they believe it’s reasonable to pay $14.99 for a bestselling e-book. We don’t believe that all of the major publishers will take the same route as Macmillan. And we know for sure that many independent presses and self-published authors will see this as an opportunity to provide attractively priced e-books as an alternative.

Amazon caves to Macmillan’s pricing demands.

Earlier I said Amazon’s real leverage is their existing volume of physical book sales: publishers don’t want to be cut out of that loop. I was wrong about that…

Now that they’ve caved, it seems Amazon’s physical book business is more of a curse than a gift: when Apple was dictating pricing models to the record labels, Apple wasn’t reliant on CD sales that labels could have blocked. If the labels fought back on pricing, Apple had the luxury of not accepting their terms while they waited for their iPod install base to soar and create digital music profits the labels could no longer ignore.

Amazon is very much reliant on each major publisher. Kindle sales can’t be fueled by books digitized at home (like how the first iPods were filled with ripped CDs). They’re reliant on the publishers for content.

Just before Apple announced the iPad and the agency deal for ebooks, Amazon pre-empted by announcing an option for publishing ebooks in which they would graciously reduce their cut from 70% to 30%, ‘same as Apple’. From a distance this looks competitive, but the devil is in the small print; to get the 30% rate, you have to agree that Amazon is a publisher, license your rights to Amazon to publish through the Kindle platform, guarantee that you will not allow other ebook editions to sell for less than the Kindle price, and let Amazon set that price, with a ceiling of $9.99. In other words, Amazon choose how much to pay you, while using your books to undercut any possible rivals (including the paper editions you still sell). It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the major publishers don’t think very highly of this offer.

Amazon, Macmillan: an outsider’s guide to the fight (via marco)

Worth noting is Amazon’s leverage: they’re an enormous book seller. In these trying times, publishers loathe the punishment of being kicked out of their store.

Lessig Calls Google Book Settlement A “Path To Insanity”  

Hear, hear! Maybe this will make it on BoingBoing.

My electronic library has about a 50% crossover with my physical library, so that I can read the book on my electronic reader, “loan” the book without endangering my physical copy, or eventually rid myself of the paper copy if it is a book I do not have strong feelings about. I do not buy DRM’d ebooks that are priced at more than a few dollars, but would pay up to $10 for a clean file if it was a new release. I do not pretend that uploading or downloading unpurchased electronic books is morally correct, but I do think it is more of a grey area than some of your readers may.

From “Confessions of a Book Pirate.”

The nice thing about book pirates is that they’re a hell of a lot more articulate than the usual Pirate Bay frat-boy. (Via The Millions)

How, where, can I ask writers who are unhappy with the Settlement to speak up - to stand up and be counted? We don’t have to agree on every detail, but I think there are a lot of us who see it as urgently important to let it be known that writers support the principle of copyright, and want the Copyright Office, the judges, the publishers, and the libraries to know that we intend to keep control of our work, in print or out, printed or electronic, believing that the people who do the work, rather than any corporation, should have the major voice in how it’s used and who profits from it.
Ursula K. Le Guin. Funny, didn’t see this quote up on BoingBoing. What a lovely last line. (Via io9)

Amazon Launches 70% Kindle Royalty Option 

Under this option, Amazon will pay authors and publishers a royalty of 70% of the list price of Kindle books, which is a far higher per-copy royalty than most authors receive on physical book sales (including the standard Kindle book royalties).

Ala Ebtekar: Ascension. I can’t get enough of this work.

When the stock market crashed in 1929, Irma’s spirit was put to the test. Her husband, who’d long suffered from depression, committed suicide. But instead of wallowing in grief, the 54-year-old widow found meaning in a project—writing a cookbook she titled The Joy of Cooking: A Collection of Reliable Recipes with a Casual Culinary Chat. Once completed in 1931, she spent half her savings to publish the book locally in St. Louis. Friends and acquaintances tested the recipes, and the feedback was encouraging, so she began pitching it to major publishers. Five years later, in 1936, Bobbs-Merrill finally took a chance on it and agreed to distribute the Joy of Cooking nationwide.
The history of The Joy of Cooking. Read the whole thing. (Via mental_floss)
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