Four short links: 26 Feb 2009

Three stories about old-media in new-media age, and some patent goblins to leave a bad taste in your mouth:

  1. The Kindle Swindle — the Authors Guild president argues that the robot voice of the Kindle does away with audiobook royalty streams, lucrative for some titles. Doesn’t mention the vast majority of books for which there is no audiobook. Creators have attempted to regulate use with licenses, but I think the plasticity of bits argues against this being possible for much longer. Now “audiobook”-ness is a feature of the device, not a feature of the retailed artistic work, and the question is not only how to charge for it but whether it makes sense to continue to charge for it. Neil Gaiman, by the way, doesn’t feel the same way as the head of the Author’s Guild.
  2. If You Want to Save Newspapers, Learn to Love Your iPhones — a long Observer piece about the “future of newspapers”, reinvention in the mobile age, subscription models, the curse of Google, etc. Many great quotes, for example: “Google is great for Google, but it’s terrible for content providers, because it divides that content quantitatively rather than qualitatively. And if you are going to get people to pay for content, you have to encourage them to make qualitative decisions about that content.” — Robert Thomson, the managing editor of The Wall Street Journal.
  3. NYT ArticleSkimmer — reminscent, vaguely, of Arts & Letters Daily, the original “big heap o’ content” page. Between this and Big Picture, I’m enjoying the experimentation in online newspaper formats.
  4. Microsoft Sues TomTom Over Patents, Including Linux Kernel — Microsoft patented elements of the FAT filesystem, including the system for representing long filenames on systems that only handle 8.3 filenames like CRAPWARE.EXE. This filesystem is used in pretty much every digital camera and Flash filesystem device, and the TomTom system in question. This Ars Digita article raises the interesting possibility that the Open Invention Network could respond by flexing its patent portfolio muscles and make it clear that nobody wants a battle over patents (except lawyers who are paid by the hour).
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  • http://4thscreen.blogspot.com Zigurd

    O’Reilly has an inherently different position relative to Kindle TTS:

    On the one hand, an artificial TTS voice is somehow appropriate for a programming book.

    On the other hand having the usual amount of code in a programming book read aloud is probably categorized as an “enhanced interrogation technique.”

  • Steve

    #2 is something that still boggles my mind. How these newspapers missed this massive transition to online news/articles is beyond me. I suppose they were in denial. No business model works without paying some degree of attention-even MSFT knows this. Another good like is justaskgemalto, it’s a digital security site that knowledgeable and less net savvy individuals can utilize.

  • http://basiscraft.com Thomas Lord

    Writers’ Guild is Right on the audio thing, at least as long as there is DRM here.

    You can’t have it both ways, Nat. The bits aren’t “plastic” (your term) until they’re free.

    -t