Wednesday, June 12, 2002
Universal, Sony to Trim Download Costs
"Universal Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment plan to cut prices for digital music downloads and add new features, including CD burning and the ability to transfer songs to portable devices.
The moves are aimed at reaching out to consumers who have continued to flock to free file-swapping services while turning a cold shoulder to paid music subscription services launched by the major record labels in recent months. Single downloads have been sold for years online, but high prices and built-in anti-copying technology have ensured lackluster sales to date....
Universal Music Group will be offering tens of thousands of digital music downloads from its U.S. catalog this summer, according to UMG sources. The tracks, which will cost 99 cents for singles and $9.99 for albums, will include both new releases and older titles. Moreover, UMG sources said the record label plans to offer portability capabilities, allowing people to play songs on devices such as MP3 players.
Universal's songs will be offered through its partnership with Liquid Audio, which uses so-called digital rights management technology to control copying and transfers of songs to portable devices. Redwood City, Calif.-based Liquid Audio distributes secure digital music through its network of retailers, including Amazon.com, BestBuy.com, CDNow, Sam Goody, Barnes & Noble and Sony Music Club.
Meanwhile, Sony Music Entertainment, which has already been offering a la carte digital music downloads for two years via its partnerships including RioPort, said Wednesday it will be offering not only burning capabilities, but it will drop its prices from $1.99 to $1.49. A Sony Music Entertainment representative said "the change will be happening shortly....'
However, analysts said that it's going to be difficult for the record labels to sell music even at 99 cents and $1.99, the prices outlined Wednesday." [CNET News.com]
The songs are going to have to be priced at 99 cents or less, ideally 99 cents for a big name artist and 50 cents for a lesser-known one. They're also going to have offer excerpts so that users can preview titles, something this article doesn't mention but that I imagine will be incorporated into the services.
All in all, applause to Sony and Universal for finally using the smelling salts, waking up, and getting back in the ring. As long as I have portability, an a la carte selection, files of a high recording quality, and a decent price, I'm there. These two companies have a returning, paying customer if they follow through on this.
Fabrics Smart Enough to Change Colors and Keep You Dry
"Currently plastics made with conductive polymers are mostly used for mundane jobs like shielding electronics from radiation or controlling static electricity. But by weaving conductive polymer yarns into 'smart textiles,' it may be possible to create a highly breathable windbreaker that transforms itself into a raincoat when its sensors capture the first drops of a downpour. Other smart textiles may change color at the flick of a switch or allow parts of a garment to act as a microprocessor for wearable computers....
However conductive fibers are created, Dr. Gregory said, one of their first applications in smart textiles will probably be color shifting. The military is financing research into the creation of what it calls chameleon fabrics....
Because chemicals in the air can alter the doping of a conductive fiber, Dr. Gregory said it should also be possible, and relatively simple, to make a sun hat that changes color as a warning when pollution levels rise.
A jacket that can take on any kind of weather is much further off. It would probably involve a complex mix of smart textiles and advanced weaving techniques....
Some of the fibers, for example, might be used in a system that alters the molecular alignment of the textile or a coating so that it could absorb perspiration when it is sunny and warm or repel rain when the clouds move in. (The way that hair on your arm stands up when placed near a television screen is a crude demonstration of how fibers can aligned by electrical fields.) Other conductive fibers could form solar energy collectors to power the system." [New York Times: Technology]
What I really want is clothing that keeps me warm at work because the air conditioning is so cold, but yet keeps me cool when I go out for lunch.
Paper-thin Phone Could Replace Letter
"Soon you could be keeping your mobile phone in your purse or wallet alongside any banknotes you are carrying.
Designer Stephen Forshaw has developed a wafer-thin phone stuck on to paper that can be used to make one call.
Mr Forshaw speculated that the phone could become a novel alternative to greetings cards.
The design has already won first prize in a competition sponsored by Sony.
Dubbed the PS Call Me, the device squashes all the electronics for a phone into a flat computer chip that is thin enough to stick on a piece of paper and post, just like a letter....
As well as being used to send greetings or congratulations, the phone could also be used to check that a parcel has been delivered or to ensure that children or other at-risk groups can make emergency calls.
The PS Call Me is not the first disposable phone to be invented.
American inventor Randice-Lisa Altschul has developed a cardboard throw-away phone that works until its battery runs out." [BBC Sci/Tech]
I'm not sure how I missed this one last month, but it's a natural outgrowth of the Phone-card Phone. These cardboard, palm-sized phones were supposed to go on sale last fall at places like 7-Eleven and Wal-Mart, but I have yet to see it anywhere. Anybody seen one out in the wild? I want one to show at my presentations.
Another View on Replay TV and Forcible-content-watching
"Here is an alternative view of the Replay TV issue, that I haven't heard presented so far. Please feel free to post this to politech if you find it interesting.
Using Replay TV to skip commercials is not theft. Actually it should be completely legal, as the people of the united states have already paid for programming on the public airwaves.
First, the people of the US gave the broadcast companies access to the public airwaves. This access wasn't granted so that the broadcasters could then "sell" us programming. This access was granted so that the broadcasters could present us with content. We also granted the broadcasters the right to present us with advertising to help them meet the costs of producing the content they are presenting over the public airwaves.
If you accept this premise, then using a Replay TV to skip advertising is not theft in any way. The people have already paid for the content of a TV broadcast with a very valuable public resource, the RF spectrum it is broadcast on. So there really is no contract between the TV viewer and the broadcaster when it comes to advertising. In effect we have already paid our share...." [Allen Hutchison on Declan McCullagh's Politech, via Corante Copyfight]
Presence of Mind
"cwcoxjr (10:33:15 AM): the UC PDA thing is similar to a project at PARC — part of the Ubiquitous Computing project
cybrarygal (10:33:38 AM): yeah, just more "mainstream"
cwcoxjr (10:35:30 AM): presence is very important. I know "where" you are by your AIM presence, for example.
cwcoxjr (10:35:51 AM): eventually, Radio will know where you are by your AIM [or Jabber] presence
cybrarygal (10:36:07 AM): or your news aggregator
cwcoxjr (10:40:39 AM): makes no sense to deliver the newspaper to your house when you're on vacation" [The Peanut Gallery]
Part of an IM chat Will and I had this morning that highlights why I told Adam that I think aggregators have to start going mobile. One reason I like Radio's aggregator is that I can access it remotely, but I don't think it would hold up well on a PDA (although I have never verifiied this). I want my news whenever and wherever I am.
Less Email == Good
"Yahoo groups in your news aggregator. Somehow I had totally missed this feature of Yahoo Groups. In the case that somebody else might have missed it too, if you submit: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Group_name/messages?rss=1 to your aggregator, you will get all posts submitted to that group in your favourite news reader. [Paolo Valdemarin: Paolo's Weblog]
Cool, I subscribed to klog and will probably subscribe to a few others as I figure out which email lists I'm on use Yahoo." [Adam Wendt's Agnostic Audiophile Smorgasborg]
It's too bad the flashing ads and outages are forcing so many lists off of Yahoo Groups, because this is a great idea. If we were to start using Mailman at SLS, is there a way to set this up so that messages sent to a list can go to an aggregator as well?
We want to share information. Really, we do.
At SLS, we have something called "The Weekly Reader." It's a folder full of announcements, program flyers, and newsletters from other libraries and Library Systems - all on paper. There's a list of 15 people on the front, and it gets routed from one person to the next. Right now, I'm reading the WR from the week of March 16, which is actually pretty good. It takes me a long time to get around to reading WRs when I get them specifically because I have to find time to integrate it into my daily routine. I received this edition on June 3, and I'll pass it on to the next person today, June 12. That's a great turnaround time for me, but the whole process is way too slow for sharing information. Most of the stuff in it is from January and February, which means I'm now six months behind the information curve. Monthly newsletters just aren't cutting it anymore.
And apparently I'm not the only one that's having trouble reading the WR in a timely fashion because I'm second-to-last on the list, so it's taken three months to get to me. What's the solution? Ideally, news aggregators. Half of the paper in the folders tends to be newsletters from the other 11 Library Systems in Illinois. If they were blogging the news on a daily basis, I would have seen the news items THAT DAY, rather than months later. I know it will be even longer before I can get my member libraries into my aggregator, but we as System agencies really need to examine how to use RSS and news aggregation for information exchange, archiving information (once the WR pages go to the next person, I'll never know where to find them), and knowledge management.
My goal is to have SLS on the forefront of such a movement using Radio by the end of the summer. I want to be the proof-of-concept that illustrates the benefits and advantages of this approach. We can no longer afford to remain months behind in sharing information!
P.S. Illinois State Library, you're next on my list!
So I'm reading through the above-mentioned March 16 Weekly Reader, when I come across the February newsletter from the DuPage Library System (one of our sister Systems). It includes some wonderful statistics about libraries (from Quotable Facts about America's Libraries, 2001-2002) that I feel compelled to share here. Read on, and then pick your jaw up off the floor. (All emphasis is mine.)
- Federal spending on libraries annually is only 54 cents per person.
- Reference librarians in the nation's public and academic libraries answer more than 7,000,000 questions weekly. Standing single file, the line of questioners would stretch from Boston to San Francisco.
- Americans go to school, public, and academic libraries more than twice as often as they go to the movies. [Jenny says: Take that, Mr. Valenti!]
- Americans spend seven times as much money on home video games ($7 billion) as they do on school library materials for their children ($1 billion).
- Students visit school library media centers almost 1.5 billion times during the school year - about one-and-a-half times the number of visits to state and national parks.
- There are more public libraries than McDonald's - a total of 16,090 including branches. [Jenny says: This has always been my favorite library statistic!]
- Americans spend more than three times as much on salty snacks as they do on public libraries.
- Public libraries are the number one point of online access for people without Internet connections at home, school, or work.
- 95% of public libraries provide access to the Internet.
- Academic libraries answer 97 million reference questions each year - almost three times the attendance at college football games.
- College libraries receive less than three cents of every dollar spent on higher education.
- If the cost of gas had risen as fast as the cost of academic library periodicals since 1990, it would cost $3.00 a gallon to put fuel in your car.
GPS for Sport
"It's funny Jenny mentions this. I had a similar thought when I saw a feature on geochaching on the Home & Liesure Channel (name?). I was thinking more in terms of tying the 'sport' into local history possibly myself.
You could easily do this with a spare PC and some creative thinking in terms of peripherals. Like IR ports for beaming info to and from customer handhelds, a printer for output and why'll were at it - why not loan a few GPS units to as well.
After more coinsidertation, the idea seemed geared more toward visitors to our community as opposed to local library customers, but I suppose that there is plenty of room for overlap here." [LibTech Weblog]
Eric riffs on yesterday's post about geocaching. Some great ideas there, especially the local history angle....
"Russ Lipton's RadioDocs, on-line, ready for UserLand." [Scripting News]
Yay! Userland did the sensible thing and incorporated Russ' Radio docs into the Radio site! I'm assuming he's getting paid for this and that he'll be adding more to the archive. Kudos to Userland for recognizing the need and the solution! Keep up the great work, Russ!
[Two suggestions: a table of contents as a front page or at the top, and dates of last revision next to all of the links.]
RSS Hits Exceed Home Page Hits
"Yesterday, my RSS feed got more hits than the home page, and my RSS feed has been up for less than a week. Home page hits are off significantly, which tells me that a number of people who used to hit the site several times a day (you wonderful people) have plugged my site into their RSS aggregator. Granted, depending on the feed reader you use, you might be hitting the site 50 times a day with it, so there's no way to tell how many people are actually using the RSS feed (well, there is, but not with the tool I'm using for log analysis), but it does seem to have taken off like a rocket." [rc3.org]
Companies Offer Large-type Billing for Blind Customers
"Help--and privacy--may be just a phone call away for people who can't see well enough to handle utility bills on their own.
With a call to ComEd, Peoples Gas, North Shore Gas and some telephone companies, people who are blind or can't read ordinary type can request bills in jumbo type, Braille or sometimes on an audio cassette. There is no charge for this service.
Customers of Bank One can also get their bank statements in 20-point type, Braille or on cassette.
Phone companies including AT&T and Sprint also offer large-print and Braille bills and, in some instances, instruction books.
Many of the utility bill conversions from ordinary type are done by a small company called Horizons for the Blind in Crystal Lake. Camille Caffarelli started the business in her basement 25 years ago." [Chicago Sun-Times]
This is great, but don't you wonder if these companies are also making sure that their web sites are accessible?
John Garside is making me late for work today because he sent me a message saying that rather than using any of the well-known news aggregators, he's using "an app which will track ANY site (including DHTML, SSL ...) every second, with eminently searchable aarchives, new content highlighted/on my harddrive (100 sites downloaded per minute)."
Naturally, I couldn't ignore that comment, so I visited the page he sent (http://www.japanacea.com/page1013.html), and while I recognize a couple of the programs listed (like InfoMinder), I had never heard of their choice pick (and the one John uses), WebSite-Watcher. Here's a list of features from the WW site:
- monitors websites with a minimum of time and online cost
- saves changed websites to your hard disk
- highlights changes in pages that have been modified
- highlights specified words in a website
- archives store websites for future reference
- works with all main web browsers - IE, Netscape & Opera
- Many more features to be up to date! li>
It certainly sounds intriguing, so I'm going to download since it has a 30-day trial period (it costs $40). Although it's being sold as a way to track your competition, its ability to archive contents is appealing. Another plus is that it integrates into Internet Explorer, Netscape Navigator, and Opera, although it is a Windows-only product.
Anybody else know anything about this software?
Consumers Face Wiretapping Fees
"Phone and Internet consumers could be cheated out of next-generation services and hit with higher rates as telephone companies scramble to make their lines wiretap-friendly for the FBI by the end of the month.
Under a 1994 law, the Federal Communications Commission requires carriers--including wireless services--to bring their voice-surveillance capabilities up to scratch with FBI rules. The clock is ticking for the telcos, which have until June 30 to upgrade their switches to give the FBI access to extract dialed numbers and conversations.
Despite the half billion dollars Congress set aside to offset costs, many telecom companies say obeying the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act--CALEA--is still an expensive endeavor, one that might harm consumer confidence and cause rate hikes....
Carriers aren't the only ones antsy about CALEA. Since Congress passed the law in 1994, the fight between privacy advocates and FCC rule makers on easy-access digit extraction and wiretapping has been a bitter one." [PC World]
"Paolo: 'It's important to consider that 'set of news sources' could also mean reports generated by your accounting software, status of your servers, posts in a discussion group, orders from your e-commerce site, updates from your co-workers workflow management software..' Thanks Paolo, that's absolutely true." [Scripting News]
Kind of ties in with my earlier post about Adam's aggregator ideas, too.
Music Industry Sounds Off on CD Burning
"Sales of pirated music discs jumped nearly 50 percent in 2001. The culprit? The availability of cheap disc-replication gear and a drop in CD-R prices, an industry study shows." [CNET News.com]
Spin, music industry, spin! Hey, wait... maybe we can blame the sale of blank paper to decreases in library circulation! Yeah, that's the ticket....
Check out the following quotes from the CNET article:
"The group added that the global market for pirated music--including discs and cassettes-- totaled 1.9 billion recordings in 2001, compared with 1.8 billion in 2000...."
"[IFPI Chief Executive Jay Berman said in a statement] '...The economic losses due to piracy are enormous, and they are felt thought the music value chain. Piracy also nurtures organized crime across the world, and it stunts investment, growth and jobs.' "
Two points to note:
- "The global market for pirated music" is exactly that - a market. If only the music industry would recognize that! Lower CD prices and online music services would decimate that market.
- "Piracy... stunts investment, growth and jobs." If this was a sound argument against piracy, then we'd be legislating against the music industry's stonewalling of online music services.
"There are no Secrets: ClearChannelSucks.org. Clear Channel is the company that had been buying up radio stations all across America (and europe) in a widescale industry consolidation now almost complete. The company makes extra margin from an almost monopolistic position.
Watch out as this site gains in reach and flow." [Adam Curry's Weblog]
Find It, Read It, Write It
"Albert points to John Robb points to McGee on Google and personal knowledge management. Robb rifs that the "key to making Google work even better is to have each customer service representative add detail information they acquired using Google on an Intranet K-Log. That way, a Google search (using the Google appliance) would provide higher yields of relevant links/data for customer service inquiries." Which leads to these lowly k-12 education variations on the theme and some first musings on the practical, student-tested, product-observable uses of Manila at mlk middle school's library this year. Somebody's got to barge into the room on behalf of librarians and public education.
A key piece in the 'Googling of knowledge' described above is the filtering of Google (or whatever search engine is used) through caring and smart humans. Robb mentions a customer service rep. I offer, from behind the checkout counter of a school library, teachers, service reps of a sort, and most importantly, nearby." [homoLudens III, via John Robb's Radio Weblog]
Wow. Want to read about a working example of collaboration between teachers and librarians using blogs? Here it is. Be sure to read this entire post for yourself. Let your neurons fire through it, as I'm doing, and then let's talk about how to start implementing this type of collaboration within SLS this fall!