Sunday, April 14, 2013

Big Boost Media Sees eBooks as More than Just Books


A new ebook platform has been born, only this one has bigger goals than just digitizing books. The Salak Group, Inc. and Bright Launch LLC have joined together to form Big Boost Media Group to build ebooks as a business tool, rather than just for entertainment, information,  or learning. But are ebooks meant to be tools to further a business or a specific individual’s standing in the corporate world?

>"Everyone is aware of the growing penetration of eBooks," said Uli Iserloh, Big Boost co-founder and president of Bright Launch, in a press release. "But eBooks are more than one-off books. Their ability to contain video, audio, links and interactive mechanisms makes them an incredibly powerful communications channel that can engage and capture high value audiences by delivering tightly focused messages."

Iserloh’s concept of a book is sound, especially in terms of the definition of an ebook. From the early onset of recent digital publishing, critics and supporters alike agreed that ebooks should not just be computer file versions of a print book, arguing that the capabilities are so much greater than just transferring the words from one type of page to another. However, the company model does speak to a greater purpose for ebooks as marketing tools.

"Our approach can be applied to everyone from an author to an executive, corporation, nonprofit or retailer," added John Salak, Big Boost co-founder and president of The Salak Group. "By helping our clients develop, format and distribute eBooks, we create platforms our clients can use to build brands, promote executives, raise funds for nonprofits, and sell other services and products they offer."

Some shady recent practices in digital publishing have caused a number of  critics to rail against that concept that an ebook can be repurposed to further an agenda by artificially driving a title up the bestseller list through a number of dishonest practices. But as Salak pointed out in an interview with GoodEReader, businesses or non-profit charitable organizations who develop a critically worthwhile ebook and invest in its creation are making smarter use of their marketing and advertising dollars; rather than placing those funds with a firm to develop a television commercial or by taking out print ad space, the company can spread a much broader message by advertising a thorough work of their expertise in the form of an ebook.

Big Boost Media Sees eBooks as More than Just Books is a post from: E-Reader News

Random House Experiments with Media Convergence via Black Crown


When big title movies come out, often there is a video game released to build synergy between the two products. A new television show Defiance is getting a ton of buzz with a science fiction plot and viewers can participate in an online game world. Random House is hoping to capitalize on this growing trend of media convergence with a new story based video game to run in parallel with a new eBook.

Supported and funded by Random House, Black Crown is powered by Failbetter Games’ StoryNexus platform, with special functionality created for the Black Crown project with Additional features by Popleaf. The author is a total mystery and the website is due to go live in May.

The game itself is a bit of a mystery, as is the author and the upcoming eBook title. All we know is that it is a post-apocalyptic setting and the game is free to play, with micro transactions to unlock new content and stories.

Random House Experiments with Media Convergence via Black Crown is a post from: E-Reader News

Digital Dredd: Jumping onto 2000AD with Prog 1824


The most daunting thing about comics these days, it seems, is the continuity: Where’s the starting point for a comic that has been running since 1947? Marvel and DC have both made efforts in this direction in the past few years, with DC’s New 52 and Marvel’s Marvel Now touted as jumping-on points.

The UK comic 2000AD has been around since 1977, and it wasn’t easy to find in the U.S. until just a few years ago, but it presents a bit less of a challenge than superheroes. The flagship story, Judge Dredd, runs in fairly short episodes that can be read independently, and the other features come and go.

Still, it’s unusual for everything to sync up the way they did with Prog 1824 (note to newbies: issues are called “progs,” and no, I don’t know why), in which all four stories are starting fresh. First up is a Judge Dredd story, “Cypher.” In case you missed the movie, here’s all you need to know to read Judge Dredd: The title character is a law enforcer (police, judge, and executioner all in one) in a massive, post-apocalyptic future city, Mega-City One, which is surrounded by a vast radioactive wasteland, the Cursed Earth. Dredd and his fellow judges ride around on enormous, badass motorcycles dispensing justice, which is very macho, but this comic also includes plenty of strong, interesting female characters, including a number of female judges. The first page of “Cypher” is heavy on backstory, but after that it plunges straight into robot-versus-judge action. Good times.

“Dandridge: The Copper Conspiracy” is the sort of thing that Americans regard as “British humor.” It is set in an alternate version of the 1980s in which the Victorian Spiritualists turned out to be right after all, and ghosts are everywhere—but mostly used as sources of power. The title character, Doctor Spartacus Dandridge, was a 19th-century ghost-hunter who is now a ghost himself. Back in action thanks to a special suit that gives him form, he is supposed to be hunting down a stolen faerie dagger, but he is too busy living the good life. Dandridge is one of those preposterously charming characters who bends everyone to his will, but by the end of the first chapter his powers of “savoir fu” may have met their match in the form of a trio of ghost-powered flying robots. Warren Pleece’s smooth art is perfect for this story.

The third story, “Survival Geeks,” is the first chapter of a three-part stand-alone story about a girl who goes home with a geeky guy and wakes up in another dimension. It’s light-hearted, with a quartet of engaging characters and a lot of geek-insider humor. The story is co-written by longtime 2000AD contributor Gordon Rennie and newcomer Emma Beeby, who is the first woman ever to write a Judge Dredd story (in Prog 1826).

Finally, “Stickleback,” written by Ian Edginton and illustrated by D’Israeli, is a strange story set in late 19th-century London and illustrated in a beautifully liquid white-on-black style that is totally unlike anything else in comics—the cover image of Prog 1824 is the title character. Stickleback, a master criminal with an exposed spine, emerges from some sort of suspended animation in this episode, while robbers break into a factory, an event whose significance will emerge in the next episode.

Sound tempting? There are two ways to read 2000AD digitally: Via their iOS Newsstand app or as a direct download from their site. The issues are priced at $2.99 each in the app, and there are several subscription plans that make a lot of sense if you decide to get into the 2000AD habit. The digital price on the site is £1.99, which your credit card company will translate into your local currency; what’s nice about buying the comics this way is that they are direct downloads in PDF or CBZ format, so they are platform-independent and DRM-free.

Since it’s an import, the digital edition of 2000AD is a much better deal than print—it’s both cheaper and a lot faster, as the comics tend not to show up in U.S. shops until after their cover date. And because it’s a weekly, digital solves the problem of clutter as well.

This issue is filled with imaginative storytelling and superb art, and after reading it I was hooked. I highly recommend this issue if you’re looking for something fresh, funny, and original—and you don’t want to spend a month figuring out the backstory.

Digital Dredd: Jumping onto 2000AD with Prog 1824 is a post from: E-Reader News

Netbooks doomed to oblivion by 2015, report says

Netbooks like this one from Acer are most likely doomed, according an new analyst report.
Netbooks like this one from Acer are most likely doomed, according to a new analyst report. (Business Wire / May 18, 2009)
Looks like the iPad is about to cause another casualty. The latest victim: Netbooks. 
You remember those small, cuddly laptops launched just a few years ago, with lower power, less functionality and lower prices to match. They were kind of computing 'tweeners designed to fill the perceived gap between big, honkin' laptops and the new, gee-whiz smartphones.

That was fine, for about a minute, according to a report from IHS iSuppli. Then along came the iPad in 2010, and that, as they say, was that. 

According to the report, shipments of netbooks in 2013 will be mere 3.97 million, a nosedive of 72% from the 14.13 million shipped last year. That's a long way down from the 32.14 million netbooks shipped in 2010, the peak for a product introduced in 2007. 

Wile E. Coyote couldn't survived a fall off a cliff that steep, and neither will netbooks, according to iSuppli. 

The firm projects that in 2014, there will be 264,000 netbooks shipped. And by 2015: Zero. Zip. Nada. 

"Netbooks shot to popularity immediately after launch because they were optimized for low cost, delivering what many consumers believed as acceptable computer performance," said Craig Stice, senior principal analyst for computer platforms at IHS in the report. "However, netbooks began their descent to oblivion with the introduction in 2010 of Apple’s iPad."

Paradoxes from Digital Minds


\At publishing events as recently as only a handful of years ago, the mood was often derisive towards ebooks, digital publishing, self-publishing, and anything else that challenged the status quo. The sentiment slowly melted into cautious optimism as ebook sales began to account for more and more of publishers’ profit margins and as self-published authors began to make headlines for their success. But the mood at this year’s London Book Fair kickoff event, the Digital Minds Conference, is more than welcoming of digital publishing and all of its features; there now seems to be an air of almost acknowledging the more work needs to be done quickly on the digital front.

Earlier today, a lot of the focus was on publishers working with start-ups and the need for adopting the “start-up mentality,” one in which a structured business plan is less necessary than a focused goal. The advice was that publishers use reader feedback to drive the direction of their work, rather than producing content and trying to adapt readers to it.

Editors were encouraged to adopt a digital strategy, not as something that gets added on after the concept of the book is created, but instead with more of an intentional focus and vision. While not required to be able to develop every aspect of an ebook, industry professionals were cautioned that they had to develop at least some level of technological know-how in order to stay current and relevant.

In a panel on copyright issues, some of the confusion surrounding copyright was made more clear by understanding that copyright law is not keeping up with the timeline of technology. That simple statement can actually be applied to a number of frustrating issues in digital publishing, including the snail’s pace of ebook lending and digital textbooks.

Some of the most refreshing remarks in different discussions came from the acknowledgement that it is ultimately the readers who are going to determine a publisher’s success or failure. Smart publishers are going to look to the online communities and feedback to gauge reader response, and then build content to that response. Enhanced ebooks were called into question because too often they are built by a team with an expensive vision, rather than as a response to what consumers would like to experience.

The Digital Minds Conference continues through today in conjunction with the London Book Fair.

Paradoxes from Digital Minds is a post from: E-Reader News

London Book Fair Kicks Off with Digital Minds Conference


While the London Book Fair has historically been a rights’ conference, in which media of a variety of types are negotiated among publishers, studios, and more, the wider adoption and importance of digital publishing have led to a pre-Fair event that is an outstanding conference in its own right. The Digital Minds Conference, which began today in London and kicks off the LBF, brings together some of the industry leaders and game changers for an annual peek at the state and the future of ebooks.

One of this year’s biggest draws at Digital Minds is author Neil Gaiman, who is arguably one of the author leaders in social media adoption and brand-building to further reach his audiences. This author branding is especially important for a writer like Gaiman, whose work crosses multiple genres but still reaches nearly two million Twitter followers. Gaiman delivered this morning’s keynote speech at the conference.

Rebecca Smart, CEO of Osprey Group, also spoke on some of the current obstacles in digital publishing, notably the lack of speed that belies the entire digital model and an artificial level of complexity to publishing ebooks. There was a lot of discussion about the ways publishers need to take a lesson from start-ups, beginning with a “no rules” mentality towards risk taking and new projects. Smart wrote about this need in a pre-Conference blog post.

One of the most interesting features of any conference of this type would be the long-awaited, often secretive announcements. Ganxy will be announcing changes to their ebook model tomorrow, but today’s news was the Black Crown project. Black Crown is a still-cryptic “infectious new kind of narrative experience,” whose own website states that an author will be revealed some time next month.

Follow @Porter_Anderson and the hashtag #digiconf13 on Twitter for updates throughout the day from the Digital Minds Conference in London.

London Book Fair Kicks Off with Digital Minds Conference is a post from: E-Reader News