Aug 18

Content Strategy and eBooks

Marvel Comics on iPad

The easiest thing to do is wait. When a new technology seems to be bubbling up at the edges of conversation, most people just wait. Wait to see how it turns out. See if it takes off.

When it comes to ebooks, the wait is over. Done. The handwriting is no longer on the wall; it’s being downloaded to your iPad.

Old Models, Redefined
The book business is faring much better than the music industry did when digital changed their business model. As millions of songs were being downloaded in the 90s, music companies were busy protecting their old-media distribution channels. At one time, music stores dotted strip malls and city street. Now, most are gone. Apple redefined their distribution model.

The next to be hit was the video business. Torrents made pirating easy. And since people already had home-entertainment centers, the devices of consumption were already in place. The studios were also slow to move, sticking with DVDs for too long. NetFlix was already busy redefining their distribution model. Continue reading

Dec 15

Mobile Video, NetFlix, and Mass Transit

Apple iPad

Apple iPad

As I was riding the bus to work this week, I observed at least two people streaming Netflix to iPads.

The lower-end iPads include WiFi, but the upgraded models offer 3G wireless service. That makes it easy to stream Netflix wherever you are. Like, for instance, the bus.

This may seem like a minor point, but for content creators and content strategists, it is a significant development worth considering. For example, as you develop your content strategy, you’re probably thinking primarily about the website and mobile experience. This means a robust website that scales appropriately for mobile users.

If you create transmedia assets, you may also be thinking about familiar channels like YouTube and Vimeo for video. Maybe Slideshare for presentations. Perhaps an eBook on Amazonor at BarnesandNoble.com. Again, this all makes sense.

Have you considered the bus? I mean, you know that mobile users are accessing your website on mobile device, and they may be on a bus. But when you think about long-form streaming video, you probably aren’t thinking about an iPad 2 streaming video on a bus. Continue reading

Sep 14

eBooks Compared to Cost of Print Publishing

Nook Color ereader

Nook Color ebook ereader now supports Android Apps

As the print industry continues on an inexorable path to extinction, an analysis by the Wall Street Journal reinforces what many of us already knew. Specifically, ebooks are just less expensive to publish.

First off, I’m not a book hater. Actually, quite the opposite. I’ve had a lifelong love affair with print. I spent many years in print publishing. Now that I’ve started writing books, I’m hoping that print sticks around just a bit longer.

Unfortunately, that’s just not going to happen.

The Internet has has led to fewer people buying and reading books. That much we know.

Yet it took the combined impact of the Amazon Kindle, the Nook, and the iPad to make ebooks truly viable. These are devices that offer the features ebook readers want at the right price. Continue reading

Apr 30

Nook Upgraded & the 5 P’s of Marketing

Nook Color ereader

Nook Color ebook ereader now supports Android Apps

And just like that, the Nook matters again. Yes, in the war to win the hearts and eyeballs of readers continues to rage on, and Barnes & Nobles has just proved that it’s not out of the fight.

In 30 seconds or less, the Nook was upgraded from being a humble ebook reader with an attractive color screen, a market where Amazon dominates. A software patch pushed the Nook into the crowded space of tablets, where Apple dominates.

Soon the Nook will have full access to the Android Marketplace, which includes the kinds of games and apps that makes the iPad so popular.

Here are five reasons why this matters to you as it relates to the Five P’s of Marketing (loosely interpreted, of course):

  • Product
  • Price
  • Place (distribution)
  • Promotion
  • People

1.PRICE: Nook competes on price and features. Everyone from the media to the average buyer is enamored with tablets. The venerable iPad 2 is one of the most coveted gadgets on the marketplace, but with prices starting at $499, it’s not exactly within reach of all buyers. For a while, the Amazon Kindle was the device to beat, but it’s still a black and white technology in a color world. At $250, the Nook offers a sharp, full color display. It may not be as full featured or sensitive as the iPad, but it suddenly feels light years ahead of the Kindle, but with a very attractive price point. Continue reading

Mar 02

iPad 2 Video Mirroring to Televisions

iPad 2 with Mirroring

Apple just announced the iPad 2, which is another insanely great device. Powerful, sexy, and affordable. (Just like me.)

One of the best features has to be the Video Mirroring capability. In my line of work, we use iPads for demonstration purposes. That’s all well and good for intimate conversations, but only so many people can huddle around an iPad. Not anymore.

This Video Mirroring allows you to plug your iPad directly into the television and display the entire iPad on screen. And some initial reports suggest that this will be backwards compatible to original iPads and then others contradict that. We’ll know in the next few days. I’m sure.

Imagine how powerful Video Mirroring on iPads will be in the hands of a trained speaker in a business presentation. This is the kind of flexibility we dream about in client pitches and presentations. You want hardware that has a wow factor.

I want to present from an iPad running Keynote, rather than a Windows PC running PowerPoint. It has nothing to do with quality of presentation and everything to do with the coolness factor. iPads are cool.
Continue reading

Sep 07

iPad for Student Health

The more I use this iPad, the more I am convinced that it is the logical and necessary next step for students. It may not be the Apple brand iPad, but it’s becoming increasingly obvious that students will benefit on many levels from these ereaders.

We’re in the back-to-school mode, which means the inevitable articles about backpacks being too heavy. There’s this one about a kid who’s carrying a backpack that’s 27% of her body weight. Or this one that weighs out how much each item in a student’s backpack weighs.

Schools and textbooks are as necessary as they have always been, but the way we transport them is beginning to evolve. Even as I get my kids ready for school, I can see that they have too much to transport.

Here are a few things necessary to make ereaders viable for kids:

  • Tough devices – Kids are not going to take good care of ereaders, particularly since they represent school and other “not fun” stuff. The device needs to be nearly indestructible. Even if it bulks up the device, a durable rubberized coating is probably necessary. Maybe the people who design the Panasonic ToughBook can help with a school-grade device.
  • Controlled web access – As it is, parents have a tough enough time monitoring what their kids see on the Internet. A device like this would need to have parental and school control built right in, so that kids aren’t surfing inappropriate content when nobody is looking.

There are many, many reasons why we should be having serious discussions about ereaders for students. But it’s almost that time, and I have to get my kids off to school. And we’re renting a forklift to get their backpacks into the car.

Additional reading:

Aug 15

iPad – Week 1

Apple iPad

Apple iPad

It’s been a week, and I do believe I am in love. Well, at least serious infatuation.

One week with the Apple iPad, and I’m wondering two things:

  1. How did I live without the iPad before this?
  2. Why is free WiFi still so hard to find?

Here’s what I love about the new iPad:

What I don’t love:

  • Screen that seems to pick up a little too many fingerprints
  • Shiny display that is difficult to read outside on a nice day
  • Bit too heavy and wide
  • Apps that still haven’t been reprogrammed from the iPhone to the iPad

The Amazon Kindle still holds a place in my backpack, just based on super-light portability. But the iPad sure does offer a lot more function and fun.

And this is just the first week. Not bad, Apple. Very impressed.

Jul 03

For Sale: Print

Marvel Comics on iPad

I have seen the future…and I am selling all of my books.

Okay, not all of them, but an awful lot of them. Books, comic books, magazines, and just about everything print. Y’see, I’ve had an Amazon Kindle 2 for over a year now. And don’t get me wrong, it’s an amazing little machine.

But then I saw the iPad, and it changed the way I thought about books, particularly comic books.

Tablets have been around for quite a while. In fact, at work, we run tablet PCs with Microsoft Windows. It’s a nice technology, but for whatever reason, it just didn’t lend itself to reading full novels. Even comics were a little awkward, since you had to use a little stylus to turn the pages of a digital comic.

Apple’s iPad interface is amazing. It’s intuitive, pleasant, and fades quickly into the background. Admittedly, it’s not quite as good as the Kindle when it comes to reading plain text books. But it’s terrific for reading comics. And if they get that screen just a tiny bit larger on the next version — without increasing the total size of the device — it’ll be about a darn near perfect comic book reading experience.

Lots of comic book friends think this is just crazy, but I happen to think that it’s the way I’ll be consuming comics in the future. Sure, part of the comic book hobby is bagging, boarding, and saving your comics. But if you think about it, that’s just a tradition rooted in print and distribution.

Back in the early days, comic books were distributed on the news stand. If you wanted comics when you were a kid, you went to the nearest news stand, pharmacy, or convenience store and got your issues. The problem was that there were very few comic book stores, so it was difficult, and often very expensive, to find back issues of comic books. Scarcity increases price, so that’s the short version of why some old comics are expensive. More people want them than there are comics to buy, and suddenly, people are paying a million dollars for a single issue of Superman.

Because of this relative scarcity of back issues — and the fact that some comic book stories are one long serialized saga — people learned to buy and collect comics. A supporting industry sprung up that supplies bags, boards, boxes, and just about ever variation in between. Multiply that by a few decades of my personal collecting fervor, and I have a room that’s seemingly overrun with white boxes.

As I stare at the iPad, I wonder how many comics will fit on this device? Better yet, how many will fit on my Mac, which I can transfer over to an iPad or whatever device? How many boxes can I possibly clear out of my collection, and how much of my man cave will I be able to reclaim?

One by one, I have been getting rid of my regular books. I’ve donated them to book sales, shared them with friends, and have basically just purged many of my bookshelves. There are still keepers, but the vast majority have found a second life somewhere else.

High quality digital content is easier than ever to find. You can even do it legally through Amazon and Apple, which means that you’re not stealing from the pockets of your favorite writers or artists. The only thing that is changing is the distribution channel, and bookstores, comic stores, and newsstands are scrambling to adapt to this new profit model. Some will survive, but many will not.

In the meantime, I’m trying to figure out what to do with my comic book collection. It’ll be a few years before everything in my current collection is ready in the digital format. It’ll start with the mainstream publishers like Marvel and DC Comics, but it will move quickly to independent publishers. I’m a traditionalist, so if publishers offer comics on DVDs with large runs of back issues, I’ll be buying those disks. They are so compact that it’s easy enough to store huge collections.

The way content — including ebooks — is popping into the Apple iTunes store, I think the future is happening sooner rather than later. And that’s just fine by me.

In the meantime, does anyone want to buy some classic comics? Cheap.

Apr 30

Flash, HTML5, & Why We Need to Move On

You gotta wonder…how many people really understand the whole Steve Jobs vs. Adobe Flash debate? Sure, if you are reading this blog, you may already have a better-than-average understanding of technology. And you may even work and socialize with similarly tech-minded people.

But the rest of the consumer world? Maybe not so much.

For now, it’s not really that big of an issue. There aren’t that many iPads out there yet, so the device penetration is rather small. If they stay close to home (i.e., mostly use apps they buy in the Apple iTunes store), they’ll be mostly unaffected by the whole hullabaloo.

If the iPad takes off, and it probably will, it will mean that people will start to understand that the standards debate actually does matter to them. It’s the same way that people with old televisions started to understand that they just cannot watch HD television or use TV widgets (like the ones from Vizio).

As a content marketer, I’m rooting for a quick end to the debate. Right now, I know how to push out compelling messages in Flash. And in HTML and widgets and video, etc. If the developers tell me that we can do something with a particular technology, I try to understand what kind of message I can deliver…obviously paying keen attention to the limitations of the medium. It’s just the way it is. It’s not a big deal, we just learn to communicate brand value and message through whatever medium people happen to be using.

If I have to learn the nuances of communicating through HTML5, great, I’ll do that. If I can keep using Flash, terrific, let’s get moving.

In the meantime, I just hope that this debate doesn’t have some kind of chilling effect on people’s willingness to buy new devices, including the iPad. Sometimes people sit out new technology to see which will be the dominant format. Most of the world sat out the latest Blu Ray versus HD DVD. They didn’t care who won. They just wanted to buy stuff, so they waited it out. People who didn’t even remember the VHS versus Betamax debate could reference it as a prime example of the original video-format wars.

Let’s solve this HTML5 versus Flash versus open source versus Apple versus Adobe debate quickly. We need to get on with the business of selling devices, creating great content, and exploiting the best new technology channels.

Apr 27

Another eReader Convert

Another day, another ereader convert.

Yup, another co-worker came to the office today to show off his Kindle. He admitted that my relentless raving for the Kindle pushed him over the edge. That, and he ran the numbers, and realized that he’s actually going to spend less on his reading materials. He’s a heavy reader of new non-fiction books, so the cost of shipping alone from Amazon and BN.com was apparently adding up.

He loves the Kindle and was showing it around the room. His favorite feature? His back no longer aches from lugging around books. Nice.

The falling cost of ebook readers is increasing the amount of content that you can get electronically. The improved capabilities coming from the Nook, Kindle, and the Apple iPad are inspiring content creators and even marketers to look at new ways to distribute content electronically. It’s a beautiful circle of ever-increasing growth for electronic publishing. It’s a lot like the early incarnations of websites in the 1990s, except on an accelerated timeline.

Like the early Internet — heck, like anything early in the development stage — the ebook and ereader market is going to experience explosive growth in many different directions. Some of them will be logical, especially in hindsight. Some directions will be surprising, and perhaps even illogical. Other directions will fizzle and be left to Net history and Wikipedia entries.

People jump on new technology like it’s supposed to be fully de-bugged and realized in the first or even second release. It’s never been that way. Consider the first cars or telephones or televisions or even the first computers. These devices evolved naturally, as engineers and users determined was features were valuable and which were unnecessary. It’ll be the same way with ereaders and ebooks. You can wait it out or you can jump in and be part of the virtual team that de-bugs and priortizes our future technology.

Today, one of my co-workers joined the revolution. One day, we’ll laugh about how primitive the Kindle is compared to our more advanced devices.