Round up #82: POD, Google on Fire, Fire losing marketshare?

Round up #82: POD, Google on Fire, Fire losing marketshare?

“Google me this, Maxthon…”

I’m really surprised that the problems with 6.3.1 Kindle Fire update haven’t made it into the mainstream yet. This, to me, would be perfect blog fodder…tech writers often dump on Amazon (sometimes inaccurately), and this is a much bigger issue than the removal of the George Orwell book way back when (although less easily ironic).

The basics?

Amazon did an update to the Kindle Fire that gives people a lot more control over what can be done with the “entertablet”. I think it’s misleading that those are referred to as “parental controls”. You could be a business manager and want your employees to password protect work documents on the device. You could be a school, and not want your students to web browse. Those two are parental controls.

What has apparently happened to a significant number of people is that the update happens (automatically, in most cases…permission isn’t asked) and then it is asking them for a password…which they never set and they don’t know.

One odd thing is that different people are locked out of different things. I’ve seen a report of people being locked out of reading Books on the device, for example.

Many of the reports involve being locked out of internet use…not good for such a cloud/internet dependent device.

While the user can reset the device to factory defaults, that’s pretty darn awkward…it wipes out everything you’ve put on the device. You’d have to redownload everything from Amazon, and you’d lose game progress, personal documents, internet bookmarks, and so on.

I still think the story will break Monday, and I think Amazon is going to get it fixed somehow (even if that’s compensation to affected people).

This might even prompt Amazon to do something else big and positive. If they’ve had a text-to-speech update for the Fire in the offing, for example, they might bundle that with a patch that fixes this…getting it to us sooner.

So, one benefit of this is that I tried the free browser

Maxthon Mobile Web Browser

I’d heard about it, and already downloaded it, but this prompted me to actually check it out.

You see, it’s possible that someone could be locked out of the Silk browser because of this update, but not out of Wi-Fi. If they are also not locked out of Apps, they can use the Maxthon browser to get on the web.

So far, there are two things that make it really superior to Silk.

First, you can go into “Private mode”. That’s the equivalent of “stealth mode” in Google Chrome. It means that the Kindle Fire doesn’t keep track of what you are doing on the internet…it doesn’t remember what websites you’ve visited. That does mean you might have to enter your password more often, and if you forget the website you just visited, so does it. 🙂 However, that can be really useful. Not only does it keep extra stuff off your device, it means that you can have a shared device and not have to share everything. So, if you go into Private mode and buy a gift for your Significant Other, your SO won’t accidentally find the website through the Back button. Yes, it also means you could visit that “adult” site and leave no tracks. I’m just sayin’… 😉

Menu (not the Fire menu, the Maxthon menu…it looks almost the same, but it’s higher up on the screen) – Options – Privacy & Security

The other thing, and this is huuuuuuuuge for some people, is that your Google stuff works! You can use your Google calendar and Google docs.  That was a big drawback to Silk. I use my Google calendar for work, and it was inconvenient not to have easy access to it.

Maxthon also seems fast to me so far.

I’ve got a lot more exploring to do on it, but I thought I’d mention it for those who have wanted access to Google.

Microsoft, B&N, and POD

One of my regular readers and commenters is Roger Knights. Roger is always thinking, and always looking at things in innovative ways. We don’t always see the same possibilities, but I look forward to the comments and personal e-mails.

There has been some mixed speculation about what Microsoft pouring $300m into the digital part of the Barnes & Noble business means.  I’m concerned about it, personally. Microsoft has abandoned an e-book format before, and I think it is going to tend to make the NOOK less of a literary business and less innovative. On the other hand, D.D. Scott of The Writer’s Guide to E-Publishing blog (where I am a rotating columnist) has much more positive take.

Roger sent me a private e-mail with an interesting speculation, and kindly allowed me to share it with you:

“Hi Bufo,

I wonder if the next step for the B&N coalition + publishers might be print-on-demand. I.e., what if Microsoft funded B&N’s acquiring a $100,000 print-on-demand machine for all its stores, and if the publishers decided to print their future books in POD versions–and make their backlists available as PODs too.

This would cost a bundle, and make their expensive book warehouses and computerized inventory management schemes look like poor investments. But maybe it’s the only way to stem the tide of e-books, because retailers could get by with smaller stores, and publishers wouldn’t need warehouses, once the conversion were complete. This would reduce their costs enough to keep them within hailing range of e-book prices.”

What we are talking about here is a machine, sort of like a vending machine, that can assemble a paperbook on request…right while you are standing there.

Those machines already exist: the publishers haven’t really embraced the idea yet, and that’s part of what Roger is suggesting.

I do think there may be some place for POD (Print-On-Demand) POS (Point of Sale) machines.

I’m not sure that a dedicated bookstore is the place for them, though. I still think the most likely scenario is that those become luxury places…great service, quality products, higher prices. I don’t think POD is going to fit that image for a bookstore.

I see them more in places like a 7-11. Get a Slurpee and a copy of Siddhartha. 🙂

Microsoft might be able to make that technology better. Right now, it takes a while to do (I would think it might take ten minutes, but I haven’t looked at it recently).

If the POD machines were a feature of a bookstore, what would the bookstore look like? Would it become a showroom, effectively…have some copies of the books to handle? If not, would getting a book in fifteen minutes be a lot more attractive than getting on in two days via Prime? It might be.

As a former bookstore manager, it doesn’t seem like it would serve the impulse need, or the browser need…but I could certainly be wrong on that.

Thank you, Roger, for another thoughtful idea to consider. Hearing from you is a bit, I think, like hearing from Thomas Edison or Leonardo da Vinci…or maybe a 19th Century explorer. You are always pushing the boundaries of where we are now.

Is the Fire going out?

There has been a lot of talk about a recent report from IDC that suggests that Amazon’s sale of the Kindle Fire imploded in the first three months of this year

Chicago Tribune article

I think this has been really misunderstood by a lot of people, but there is that “jump on Amazon” thing.

It’s quite possible that shipments were way down in Q1…we would expect that with a hot product that was introduced the previous quarter…during the holiday season.

When I managed a game store (I did that after the bookstore), we made about 90% of our sales during the holiday season…we largely coasted the rest of the year.

We’ve also heard that Amazon is the number one Android tablet, although way behind the iPad (which doesn’t use Android).

Here’s another take on this:

PC World: “Kindle Fire Sales Didn’t Collapse in The First Quarter of 2012, Research Group Says”

My feeling?

The Fire is doing just fine, thank you, and Amazon will successfully expand the line this year.

That doesn’t mean that the iPad won’t continue to outdistance it…I think there is still plenty room for the market to increase and expand for both companies (and more).

What do you think about any of these stories? Feel free to comment and let me and my readers know.

Oh, and in particular, if you have been a long-time Maxthon user, tell me what your experiences have been with it…I’d appreciate that.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

37 Responses to “Round up #82: POD, Google on Fire, Fire losing marketshare?”

  1. Diane Says:

    I have the 6.3.1 update on my Fire from March?? I guess I’m confused.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Diane!

      The update on March 28 was just 6.3. This latest one is 6.3.1. Don’t worry about being confused…I saw several articles attributing things to this update which had already been there. 🙂

      If you go to

      Settings Gear – More – Device

      and it says the current version is 6.3.1_user_ and then some more numbers, you’ve already updated to the latest one.

  2. wvstampman Says:

    I always enjoy your insights and the fact that I get to hear news from sources I would not normally read.

    I think the slow printing of POD books will not be a problem. You keep your POD printer busy during slack times printing one copy of each new book you decide to stock. That becomes the ‘shelf copy’ for prospective customers to browse. If they make a purchase, they get the shelf copy at once and a replacement copy goes to the top of the printing queue. No one has to wait unless two copies of the same book are purchased within the printing time of the replacement copy. The drawback is that the store staff is restocking another book every time one is sold. My guess is that the store would also choose to ‘print ahead’ extra copies of hot sellers.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, wvstampman!

      As a former bookstore manager, I think the POD machine would have to be for the backlist where, as you suggest, there could be considerable space between purchases.

      However, they couldn’t print ahead effectively.

      Let’s say the book is…Kon-Tiki, and it’s not being assigned for a class. Let’s say we’ll sell a copy every three months.

      If we print it ahead, it sits on the shelf for three months…and we pay rent for that space. In a bookstore, you always fight rent and salaries (and “shrinkage”…shoplifting and employee theft, and the rarer issue of damage).

      If we don’t print ahead, the customer waits ten minutes or so to get it.

      For new books, the sales aren’t spaced that way. Sales ebb and flow during the day…it might be very busy at lunch, after school closes, and after work, for example, and not busy at 8:00 at night. We had a movie theatre across the street, and our sale times were impacted by when the movie let out. 🙂

      If everything was POD, you could have the machine(s) cranking out those bestsellers…but then they aren’t available for the “long tail”, which is the strength of POD.

      I think a dedicated bookstore would have to hybridize…POD for long tail, old style for bestsellers.

      That’s why I think it could work in a grocery store, or in a public transit station, perhaps. You make your request, you do your other shopping (or wait for your plane of subway), you come pick it up.

      By the way, similar to what you are suggesting at the end of your comment, we did something that worked really well in the gamestore. We did free gift wrapping, and the smart thing our stores did was pre-wrap the really popular items. That was huge. So, your idea is good, I just don’t think a bookstore could keep up with the popular books without the long tail sales suffering.

  3. Betty Reed Says:

    I am a long-time user of Maxthon on my PC’s. What I particularly like is the feature that allows me to log on to Maxthon and then sync my bookmarks from any other PC that had Maxthon installed.
    I was delighted to find out there is a version of Maxthon for my Fire. I installed it, logged in, and sure enough, there were all my bookmarks synced from my PC.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Betty!

      Thanks for that tip! I haven’t had it on two machines yet, but that is a feature I’ll use. I sometimes bookmark something on the Fire, and then e-mail myself the bookmark for a machine where it is easier to compose. This kind of bookmark cloud storage would make it easier, for sure. 🙂

  4. Edward Boyhan Says:

    Several other bloggers have pointed out an additional reason why the IDC analysis is flawed — it has to do with the unbelievably fast sales of the iPad. The KF sales could be constant or even rising modestly, but iPad sales could be increasing so fast that as the iPad percentage increases, the KF percentage falls and gives one the impression that KF sales have tanked. Since Amazon doesn’t release figures, the data used by IDC are at best suspect(as the article you referenced points out).

    As to the print on demand idea, I’ve had the opportunity to watch one of these in action. It’s an interesting machine, and it produces a surprisingly good quality product. One thing it is not, however, is fast. I don’t see this as being much of a counter to ebooks. At best it will help a bit at the margin — especially for rare or slow selling titles that smaller booksellers or distributors might not want to keep in inventory.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Edward!

      Yes, I agree with that analysis, although IDC was suggesting that the sales actually dropped (which, as you point out, they can’t really know).

      Let’s just make up some numbers.

      Let’s say that last year there were five tablets sold…four iPads and one Fire.

      This year, there are ten tablets sold…eight iPads and two Kindles.

      That’s great for Kindle sales, even though their market share stayed the same.

      What if it was twenty tables and two were Kindles? Their market share is halved, but their sales are doubled.

      Naturally, and I know you know this, it doesn’t work that way…there were other players, and the Kindle Fire may have taken sales away from them.

      Any idea how long it took the POD machine to print the book?

      • Edward Boyhan Says:

        It’s been awhile, but depending on length, page size (different setups — takes time) I’m remembering 5-30 minutes per title (depending on quantity required). I did a Google search to try and refine this, but none of the sites I visited seemed to want to talk about production time.

        There were some other interesting factoids: there are less than 50 in the US, and less than 80 worldwide. The machine takes about 21 square feet of retail space (3×7 — it’s 6′ high). Most booksellers, and university libraries that have them are charging costs. One bookstore was quoting a $25-150 one time setup fee plus $0.045 per page. Most usages seem aimed at authors and/or small publishers who want a limited number of copies. It didn’t seem oriented towards the average consumer who wandered in wanting to buy a single copy of a title. University libraries seem to be the prime target — they use them to print research reports, and other academic texts which are in limited demand.

        I don’t (and none of the web sites I visited) see a business case here for retail bookstores to combat ebooks. As far as I could tell there is one company making the machine called (oddly) Expresso (and there actually is one installed in a coffee shop in NYC 😀 ).

      • Edward Boyhan Says:

        to be clear (which I wasn’t) the faster time (5 mins) accrues when your requested quantity is larger. For just a single copy, it’s more like half an hour (setup takes time — this could be improved with software/databases of books, but that’s not the way it’s currently envisioned).

  5. Pam Says:

    POD seems so “yesterday”. Too many advantages to ebooks, although I guess it would be OK for books that aren’t digitized. I can’t imagine it would be a moneymaker, but maybe there are alot of people that won’t switch from DTB’s – not sure. I just know I wouldn’t be interested!

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Pam!

      I understand. 🙂 Maybe for a gift. There might also be a market for people who don’t want to spend $80 for an EBR (E-Book Reader), but will pay $7 from time to time for a paperbook.

  6. Whitney Franklin Says:

    Hi Bufo,
    I have a quick question for you regarding the 6.3.1 update. I had to have my kindle fire replaced recently because it would no longer charge correctly. The replacement fire I received came with the 6.3.1 update already installed. I haven’t had any password problems, but I have noticed that this new fire is slower and takes longer to scroll top to bottom and bottom to top. It isn’t uncommon when scrolling for momentary freezes to occur. This wasn’t a problem with my old fire. I’m just not sure if the problem lies with the new device or the new software. I returned my older fire before I even knew there was an update. Have you heard of anyone else having these kinds of complaints about the lasted updates? Hope you don’t mind my asking here. I’ve noticed the kindle boards can be a bit vicious with any question that seems to criticize the kindle. I LOVE all of my kindles (4 in the family), I’m just trying to figure out why this new one acts differently from the old.
    Thanks,
    Whitney

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Whitney!

      I haven’t been hearing that, and haven’t noticed it myself.

      Try turning the Kindle all the way off, leaving it off for a minute, and then starting it again.

      Have you put much on it? A reset to factory defaults could help, but that’s awkward if you already have a lot of things on it.

  7. rogerknights Says:

    Ahoy from a 19th-century explorer, Doc Livingston—and thanks for posting my brain-wave.

    Bufo (to Edward): “Any idea how long it took the POD machine to print the book?”

    I just read that the time is now down to five minutes—but that may be for an unillustrated mass-market paperback. Books with color would take longer—and might require a special machine. I believe the newer machines are faster that the half-hour machines one commenter described above.

    Bufo: “However, they couldn’t print ahead effectively. Let’s say the book is…Kon-Tiki, and it’s not being assigned for a class. Let’s say we’ll sell a copy every three months. If we print it ahead, it sits on the shelf for three months…and we pay rent for that space. In a bookstore, you always fight rent and salaries (and “shrinkage”…shoplifting and employee theft, and the rarer issue of damage).”

    But that’s a long-tail book, so it wouldn’t be printed ahead. In its place on a shelf there’d be a thin brochure with the book’s color cover on front containing promotional material for it. There’d be ten times more of these brochures than books in the store, instead of or in addition to the books themselves, so browsers would have plenty of tempting items to latch onto. Browsers who were intrigued could take the brochure to a viewing terminal in a viewing lounge, scan in the brochure’s barcode, and browse through the book there. Perhaps “guided browsings” could be provided by the software that would help to “sell” the book.

    Bufo: “If we don’t print ahead, the customer waits ten minutes or so to get it.”

    That’s fine, for a backlist book. Better than waiting a week, and requiring a second trip. And meanwhile the buyer could sit in the browsing lounge and scan through books recommended to him because of his past purchases—which would increase the chances of another sale. Or, if he just wanted to pass the time, he could view free cartoons or be drinking free coffee or whatnot—he wouldn’t be impatiently twiddling his thumbs.

    Bufo: “For new books, the sales aren’t spaced that way. Sales ebb and flow during the day…it might be very busy at lunch, after school closes, and after work, for example, and not busy at 8:00 at night. We had a movie theatre across the street, and our sale times were impacted by when the movie let out.”

    So, for new books, the store would print several copies ahead. And there is slick software in operation that can to some extent, and with some human assistance, anticipate and correct for sales surges. It wouldn’t be as ideal as the current system for customers, where the larger inventory provides more of a built-in “buffer.” (Offsetting this somewhat, a POD store would never “sell out” of a title, as sometimes happens.)

    Bufo: “If everything was POD, you could have the machine(s) cranking out those bestsellers…but then they aren’t available for the “long tail”, which is the strength of POD.”

    Not so, because when a clerk enters a customer order, it would go to the head of the queue, becoming the next book to print.

    Bufo: “I’m not sure that a dedicated bookstore is the place for them, though. I still think the most likely scenario is that those become luxury places…great service, quality products, higher prices.”

    By “those” did you mean current bookstores or dedicated POD stores? (I’m assuming you meant the former.)

    Bufo: “I don’t think POD is going to fit that image for a bookstore. I see them more in places like a 7-11. Get a Slurpee and a copy of Siddhartha.”

    Bufo: “I think it could work in a grocery store, or in a public transit station, perhaps. You make your request, you do your other shopping (or wait for your plane of subway), you come pick it up.”

    There wouldn’t be enough volume at such places to pay for a $100,000 machine.

    Bufo: “If the POD machines were a feature of a bookstore, what would the bookstore look like? Would it become a showroom, effectively…have some copies of the books to handle? If not, would getting a book in fifteen minutes be a lot more attractive than getting on in two days via Prime? It might be.”

    It would be a showroom + a Just-In-Time warehouse. I envisage a lounge with video terminals that allows customers to browse through the store’s “stock,” zero in on areas of interest using “customers who bought this book also bought these books …,” accumulate wish lists, etc.

    Bufo: “I think a dedicated bookstore would have to hybridize…POD for long tail, old style for bestsellers.”

    There are two perspectives one can take on the POD issue: bottom-up and top-down. The objections above are from a bottom-up perspective, that of a book-buyer or a store manager. They are about the cons of a POD setup compared to the existing business model, without heavily weighing the threat of e-books in the equation.

    Bufo: “Those machines already exist: the publishers haven’t really embraced the idea yet, and that’s part of what Roger is suggesting.”

    I’ve read that the big-six publishers have refused to make their titles available in POD format. This has really held back the popularity of POD books and bookstores. My guess is that the Big Six didn’t want to enable an upstart POD retail chain to undercut the prices of its current paperbook retail partners like B&N.

    But what if, from the top-down perspective of the Big Six or the head of B&N, that model is now seen to be unsustainable? As customers are lost to e-books, volume shrinks and fixed overhead sends income statements into the red. Rising the prices of paperbooks drives more customers away. What if the only way to survive and thrive is to cut paperbook prices in half? From that perspective, the “cons” above are trivial compared to the necessity of survival.

    If that’s the case—if not now, then in three-to-five years—then what’s the solution? Halving the cost of paperbooks would necessarily involve getting rid of printing costs, warehouses, inventory management, shipping costs, and return costs, and going entirely (after a transition period) to POD publishing. For bookstore chains, it would involve becoming price-competitive with e-books because publishers would pass on their savings in the form of lower wholesale prices, plus fewer employees would be needed, plus stores could be much smaller.

    Once that is realized, the second realization is, or should be, that the sooner this is done, and the more coherently it is done, the better. I.e., a coordinated venture with all the major publishers, major chains, and a technological sugar daddy (MSFT) on board would make for a smoother transition and create a better “story” to outsiders. (I.e., it wouldn’t look like a desperation move.) And there’d be more money available to absorb the cost now than later.

    Such a coordinated move could include some attractive synergistic extras. For instance, book-buyers could be offered heavily discounted eBook and/or audiobook versions, or discounts on additional copies. Browsers could perhaps be allowed to listen via headphones to audiobook snippets.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Roger!

      Ahoy! 🙂

      I appreciate you letting me post it…I’m sure it’s gotten some people thinking.

      In terms of the Kon-Tiki example, we agree about printing ahead. I was responding to wvstampman, who had suggested that a book would be printed before the need (print-on-predemand?).

      The 7-11 wouldn’t buy the machine, in my vision of it. It would parallel those DVD rental machines, or other vending machines. Someone would own the route. They would own the machines, and get a fee from the store and commissions from the publishers. They might pay some kind of franchising/licensing fee. Many of them would not make money, because they would have been sold the potential…that’s how a lot of businesses work. They’d be told, “When Romeo and Juliet gets assigned as a school project, you’ll make a ton of money! Fifty Shades of Gray sold a bazillion copies…wouldn’t you like to be part of that? No retail experience necessary!”

      The first person fails (partially because so many people buy it online or get e-books), someone else buys the route (for a significant initial fee), and then the cycle continues. That’s quite sustainable. A few people make money, most don’t.

      The scenario for “those” was bookstores…the stores could be around now, there could be a new chain rising, and/or islands through parallel evolution.

      I still have a hard time seeing how the POD dedicated bookstore competes with e-books and luxury bookstores. I just don’t think the experience is going to appeal to enough people. It can take, even a large bookstore, a very long time to profit $100,000 to pay for a machine they bought…and which they have to maintain and replace eventually.

      I think your idea of college bookstores is a good one. That’s a very different model, with a much higher per-sale, and a short sales cycle.

      • Edward Boyhan Says:

        On the college bookstore scenario: I agree that it’s the best alternative from a business case viewpoint (and several university entities — mostly libraries — have already installed the machines), but it is at best only a transitional opportunity.

        What student with half a brain would want to go to the library or bookstore to get something required for class on “paper” when they could just as easily get it in EBR form (if the POD machine can print it, then by definition an electronic copy of the work exists) on the tablet du jour? Paper is heavy; bits are, well …, weightless :D.

        The college bookstore of yore may be yet another something headed for the dustbins of history.

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Edward!

        Well, there might be some backward professors who prefer paper… 😉

      • rogerknights Says:

        Edward Boyhan: “What student with half a brain would want to go to the library or bookstore to get something required for class on “paper” when they could just as easily get it in EBR form (if the POD machine can print it, then by definition an electronic copy of the work exists) on the tablet du jour? Paper is heavy; bits are, well …, weightless .
        ————

        Bufo: “Well, there might be some backward professors who prefer paper…”

        I used to think that way too, but I was put straight by an online commenter who objected to my enthusiasm thusly:

        “As a college student, I strongly disagree with your prediction of the kindle becoming widely-used as a textbook viewing tool. Students enjoy the feel of a textbook and the ability to jot down notes;…. [note-taking is possible but less convenient on a Kindle–RK.]

        “I have an online textbook (obviously not viewable in convenient Kindle-format) for a class this semester, and I have never heard as much negative feedback about any book (my $180 accounting textbook included) as I have for this book. It’s still expensive at $60, and a non-resellable PDF does not seem worth that price whatsoever.

        “Also, at a university like Penn State, much of the material is customized for the classes on a small scale (think printed and bound at Kinko’s), or is just powerpoint presentations printed out.”

        The other problems with Kindle textbooks are that the non-DX models are too narrow to show the tables used in many science texts, and that the e-ink models can’t show color, which is also a feature of some science texts—and most art-course texts. Kindles have had poor success in college classrooms as a result. They’ve done best so far in elementary and middle schools, I believe.

        Edward Boyhan: “What student with half a brain would want to go to the library or bookstore to get something required for class on “paper” when they could just as easily get it in EBR form (if the POD machine can print it, then by definition an electronic copy of the work exists) on the tablet du jour? Paper is heavy; bits are, well …, weightless .
        ————

        Bufo: “Well, there might be some backward professors who prefer paper…”

        I used to think that way too, but I was put straight by an online commenter who objected to my enthusiasm thusly:

        “As a college student, I strongly disagree with your prediction of the kindle becoming widely-used as a textbook viewing tool. Students enjoy the feel of a textbook and the ability to jot down notes;…. [note-taking is possible but less convenient on a Kindle–RK.]

        “I have an online textbook (obviously not viewable in convenient Kindle-format) for a class this semester, and I have never heard as much negative feedback about any book (my $180 accounting textbook included) as I have for this book. It’s still expensive at $60, and a non-resellable PDF does not seem worth that price whatsoever.

        “Also, at a university like Penn State, much of the material is customized for the classes on a small scale (think printed and bound at Kinko’s), or is just powerpoint presentations printed out.”

        The other problems with Kindle textbooks are that the non-DX models are too narrow to show the tables used in many science texts, and that the e-ink models can’t show color, which is also a feature of some science texts—and most art-course texts. Kindles have had poor success in college classrooms as a result. They’ve done best so far in elementary and middle schools, I believe.

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Roger!

        Was that comment written after the popularity of the iPad?

        I think many times I see people judging the success of a technology in the future based on the state of the technology today. “Nobody will use e-bookbooks, because they want color.” Now, they have that.

        Is a table on an iPad significantly harder to view than a table in a textbook? I have to say, it’s often easier for me to read something with small detail on my Kindle Fire than it would be in paper.

        In twenty-five years, you may have a generation that has virtually never handwritten anything. Oh, they might still have the classes in school…like there were woodworking classes in my high school, despite the fact that none of us was going to make our own chairs. 🙂

        I’m having a very difficult time seeing how short runs of focused material can be done better with paper than with digital, as the commenter suggests.

        I think that the acceptance of e-textbooks is going to grow rapidly, not diminish. It’s a market Apple wants, and Microsoft wants, and they’ll pour money into it.

        I think the economics of that $50 book versus that $180 book, as the $50 book improves in quality and the $180 book stays basically the same, will change the preferences.

        I’d go back to the Steve Wozniak story when Wozniak was a kid. As I recall it, Wozniak said to “Dad”, “I want to own a computer.” The response was, “Nobody owns a computer…they’re as big as a house.” That was (sort of) true at the time…Wozniak was one of the people who changed that.

      • rogerknights Says:

        Bufo: “I still have a hard time seeing how the POD dedicated bookstore competes with e-books and luxury bookstores. I just don’t think the experience is going to appeal to enough people. It can take, even a large bookstore, a very long time to profit $100,000 to pay for a machine they bought…and which they have to maintain and replace eventually.

        I’m not saying that POD bookstores will ever be attractive from a bottom-up perspective. Rather, I’m saying that they may come, in time, to be seen as a necessary financial move from a top-down perspective—i.e., that of publishers and chain store top executives, if they are being eaten alive by the eBook revolution. They won’t go down without a fight—and this would include last ditch efforts like going all-POD. If a visionary high-tech funder like MSFT were involved, it might put up part of the money to acquire the POD machines for the chains. (Indie stores could buy their copies from nearby chain stores at a wholesale price.)

        The appeal of POD books would be their much lower price. That would outweigh, for the large majority, having fewer traditional amenities in a bookstore and occasionally having to wait for a copy to print out.

        IMO!

      • rogerknights Says:

        PS: in addition to lower prices, POD bookstores — if backed by the Big Six — would have a vastly larger “stock” on hand. These two features, plus the unavailability of non-POD books from the Big Six, would mean any disgruntled customers would have nowhere to go but used book stores.

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Roger!

        Nowhere to go…but the internet or e-books. 🙂

        I would imagine that any POD book would also be available in paper through the internet…no reason not to do that that I see.

        I’ve also thought that used bookstores (with considerably inflated prices from where they are now) may do very well i the future.

      • rogerknights Says:

        Bufo: “Was that comment written after the popularity of the iPad?”

        Yes (the comment I quoted). The iPad has changed the game. I hope you’re right about paper textbooks going bye-bye. They’re heavy, used for a short period, need regular updates (which would be easy for e-Books), expensive, etc.

        I was just arguing that B&W e-ink readers aren’t good replacements—and that there are more obstacles to a switchover to the iPad than is apparent at first glance. E.g., there will need to be a way for professors to electronically post handouts for students to download that is compatible with varying student devices. And professors will have to learn how to create and post such documents. And the iPad needs access to MS Word & Office to work well with other students’ software and computers.

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Roger!

        Interesting that the comment was after the iPad’s popularity.

        As someone quite involved with information distribution, I actually think the barriers are lower than you are suggesting. Posting and distributing to multi-platforms is not particularly complicated any more. As to compatibility with Microsoft…that’s one reason Microsoft is investing this money, to try and hold on to that “need” for people. I do reasonably well with Microsoft products on my Fire…a professor could send me a PowerPoint, Excel, or MS Word doc and I’d be find on this Android device.

      • rogerknights Says:

        Bufo: “I would imagine that any POD book would also be available in paper through the internet…no reason not to do that that I see.”

        But publishers don’t have to sell through Amazon if they don’t want to. Macmillan was ready to pull its books. If they don’t want Amazon to discount its prices, they might just cut it out and sell exclusively through B&N. If they’re desperate and facing ruin, they might do so.

        Bufo: ““Nowhere to go…but the internet or e-books.”

        Publishers could pull their e-Books from Amazon just as they could pull their paperbooks. (Unless authors have something in their contracts that would make this difficult for publishers.)

        Bufo: “I’ve also thought that used bookstores (with considerably inflated prices from where they are now) may do very well i the future.”

        I do think there’d be a place for the luxury bookstores you mentioned. But not for new books, if and when publishers went all-POD.

        My thoughts on this matter were sparked by the MSFT deal with B&N. I wondered, What other “black swan” might pop up as a result of high-level secret strategizing? This is what I’ve come up with. I’m not claiming it would be popular with the public, or even that it would be a success for the Big Six and the chains. I’m just saying it’s their last hope—or at least that they might see it that way. MSFT’s money and digital orientation make it somewhat likely.

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Roger!

        That’s correct: publishers wouldn’t need to sell through Amazon (although they might choose to do that). They could also sell books directly themselves, and that’s one of the possible models.

        I don’t think we would find that authors have something in a contract that requires a specific retailer, but there may be something (for brand name authors) about “reasonable promotion and marketing” or some such. The problem for publishers is that the authors could just decide to sell their future books themselves (or through smaller outlets). The publishers are really going to be put in a position of proving their value, especially to the younger generation of writers.

        By the way, it was Amazon that pulled the buy buttons from Macmillan’s paperbooks, not the other way around. Macmillan threatened to “window” (delay the e-book, in this case, until perhaps months after the p-book) e-books, but that’s not quite the same as pulling them. I suspect they would be more reluctant to even do that at this point.

        I know you are just thinking through possibilities and looking for the curve, and that’s good. I’m not saying any of your ideas wouldn’t work. It’s just my scientific piece that wants to test hypotheses: that’s their reason for being. 🙂

      • rogerknights Says:

        Oops, I misspoke. The comment was I quoted was made before the iPad was released. That makes it look more sensible.

        I think Apple has targeted the textbook market with that guy they hired a few years back and a few other moves they’ve made (I forget the specifics). One feature they should add (or is there an app for that?) would be a microphone with an audio note-taking ability, so students could record and replay professors’ key points, and integrate them with their typed-in notes.

  8. rogerknights Says:

    PS: College bookstores might be a good fit for a POD publishing ecosystem. They would print long runs (dozens to hundreds) of a small number (500?) of textbooks and “required reading,” which would be efficient. But they could also service any customer’s special-ordered regular book, effortlessly capturing additional sales, (Once the publishers had fully committed to converting to POD.) Their shelf-space and warehousing requirements would be reduced.

    And B&N has lots of college bookstores. Maybe this niche could serve as a pilot test for regular books.

  9. rogerknights Says:

    PPS: An advantage that the promoters of POD publishing could tout is that books’ formal and substantive errors and omissions could be corrected immediately, rather than waiting for a next printing–which rarely occurs. Authors could also add rebuttals to critics.

    (There should be a page in the end-matter devoted to documenting the nature, dates, and version numbers of such fixups.)

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Roger!

      Yes, they could do that…it would add to the costs, of course. Someone would have to find the corrections, make the corrections, and send the file. The author might need to be further compensated (although they might not). What if someone already bought the book? Do they have any remedy for a new copy?

      That doesn’t mean it wouldn’t happen, but I do think it would decrease the profit margin.

      • rogerknights Says:

        Bufo: “Someone would have to find the corrections …”

        The first finder would be the author, who wouldn’t “have to find” items needing correction. It’s notorious that such flaws leap out at him the instant he sees his work between covers, and/or that his friends and relatives mention them to him soon thereafter. So the work is already half-done for free, and the correction would eagerly be done by the embarrassed author. (In fact, many authors currently pay to have corrections made when they see their galley proofs.)

        The second finder would be grammar-sticklers who would eagerly submit fixes for the flaws they’ve found if there were a convenient portal for them to do so. Getting an acknowledgment from POD publishers for their efforts, which is rare now, would motivate them further, Much of the web’s content is being produced mostly for free in a “gift economy,” as Kevin Kelly or some other cyber guru opined—correctly. There’d be no shortage of volunteers—but if there were, publishers could offer them a $1 gift coupon for the first-submitter of each bug the author accepted.

        Since these are mainstream, Big Six, books I’m talking about, there shouldn’t be more than a dozen such bugs per book. (If an author of publisher didn’t want to bother with fixups, they simply would omit the invitational paragraph and typo-feedback-link in their front matter.) Such an arrangement is already in successful operation without imposing any significant burden: Lots of people can and do send in technical corrections to O’Reilly Books technical books, because that company has a text box on the online page for each of its books whereby readers can conveniently submit errors they’ve found.

        Bufo: “… make the corrections, and send the file. … I do think it would decrease the profit margin.”

        Each O’Reilly submission is made available to the author, who vets them for correctness and posts the ones he approves on a “corrections” page associated with that book. There are rarely more than a dozen errors on such a page. I’d guess the cost to the author is an hour or two’s work. The same amount of work would be involved in correcting a POD book, but with the added benefit to the author of erasing these embarrassments from copies printed henceforth.

        BTW, in the past two weeks I’ve submitted about six e-mails containing over 100 corrections to an article in the famous online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. The editor, far from being grudging about the work I’ve imposed on him, has been ecstatic and urged me to keep ’em coming. (Which I plan to do with another article that “needs work”—I’ve found about 50 bugs in it.) He posted a handsome acknowledgement of me for making my suggestions at the end of the article. This is the proper attitude, and it’s in fact the attitude that many authors and editors actually live up to. Since POD books could give them the option to fix flaws after publication, they should give them that option. That’s all I’m suggesting—an option. No author or publisher would be imposed on by the its mere availability; if they think it would hurt their bottom line, they could opt out.

        Bufo: “The author might need to be further compensated (although they might not).”

        That’s between him and his publisher. If some authors won’t participate without payment, so be it. The others would be glad to have a chance to have a second round of copy editing to wring out the bugs—and their eagerness justifies making the facility available to them.

        Bufo: “What if someone already bought the book? Do they have any remedy for a new copy?

        No. But half a loaf is better than no bread. (I.e., future purchasers would benefit—which isn’t the case now.)

        BTW, in the case of e-Books, all purchasers would benefit, because they’re all alerted to the free availability of a revised version. (What Amazon should do is enable buyers to download these revised versions without losing their notes and marks. It would cost Amazon $10,000,000 and a year’s time, but it would be worth it, though intangible, in terms of occupying the moral high ground vs. B&N.)

        (For readers who would like to read more on this topic 😉 , Bufo and I have debated this matter at greater length here (but I’ve just made a better case):

  10. MikeTeeVee Says:

    Re: Google Calendar on the Fire: The mobile (smartphone) view works in the Silk browser, but it’s rather simplistic. Instead, I use the Calengoo app which is fantastic.

    Other Google smartphone views work fine on the Fire in the Silk browser: Gmail, Reader, etc.

  11. rogerknights Says:

    My thinking about Print-On-Demand was sparked by an article in Businessweek of April 30 (which I’d mislaid), which can be found here:
    http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-04-26/amazon-vs-dot-publishers-the-book-battle-continues?chan=technology+companies_&_industries+innovation+channel_news+-+technology

    Jason Epstein, who was an early proponent of POD and an executive at Random House, said that if the publishing industry didn’t exist and had to be built up from scratch today, the current wasteful arrangement would never be adopted–POD would be the obvious winner, because it’s more economic. (No over-printing, no under-printing, etc.) What’s blocking its adaptation is the boiled bullfrog syndrome: It would be a costly leap in the dark to make a switch, and it would make some executives look foolish for having bet the farm on automated warehouses, etc.

  12. Tradpubs are doing digital only imprints « I Love My Kindle Says:

    […] I’ve shared with you before my reader Roger Knights’ ideas on print-on-demand machines in stores. […]

  13. Round up #113: Print on Demand blooms, States suit approved « I Love My Kindle Says:

    […] Knights, one of my regular readers and commenters, has championed the idea of traditional publishers utilizing “Print on Demand” (POD) machines. The idea is that […]

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