Tuesday, June 18, 2002
Offline Online Sales
"For Audible.com customers who want to shop offline, Costco will begin selling an Audible Air Pack starting in July. Included is a CD-ROM with Audible Manager that allows Costco customers to download two audiobook titles from a special page on Audible's site.
'We see this as an opportunity to reach out to Internet surfers and other computer users offline,' Audible spokesman Jonathan Korzen told PW Daily. 'Audible appeals to the Costco demographic, who are largely suburban car owners, who may start with audiobooks but may also be interested in non-audiobook material, such as The Wall Street Journal or Forbes magazine.'
The Air Pack will be priced under $30, and Audible offers 5,500 titles available for download." [Wired News]
U.N. Conference Says Digital Divide Still Growing
"The digital divide between rich and poor countries is growing despite the many efforts to help developing nations break into the global economy via computers, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said on Monday....
'Some countries have prospered while others have fallen behind,'' said Yoshio Utsumi, secretary-general of the Geneva-based International Telecommunications Union. 'If we do not take any action, the gap between the information 'haves' and 'have nots' will continue to grow.'
Utsumi said 'information poverty' remained a reality for much of the world. More than 80 countries had fewer than 10 telephone lines for every 100 inhabitants. And in three out of five countries, fewer than one out of 100 people used the Internet, he said." [New York Times: Technology]
TV Weblogs in a War Zone? (sorry, no link available)
"...Imagine a daily weblog from a TV war correspondent, say, CNN's Christiane Amanpour, perhaps?
While darting from war zone to war zone, Amanpour could detail the close calls and the untold traumas. She could explain the behind-the-camera dynamics that never make air. And she could add her own personal thoughts and challenges of the war experience. Think of it as Amanpour unplugged.
For a very busy Amanpour, it would be nearly painless. Two to three times a day, she'd dial up her satellite phone and leave a quick voicemail message back at CNN.com in Atlanta. A producer transcribes the message and posts it online.
The weblog would be a frank, conversational dialogue, featuring behind-the-scenes multimedia of Amanpour in action and a world map that pinpoints her position. It would also include some background data on the countries involved in the conflict. Users could post their own thoughts, sparking even more discussion.
Then crank up Turner's marketing machine. After each Amanpour live shot on TV, CNN plugs the weblog. Produce a few edgy promos to run on CNN and Turner's other cable networks. Even throw a live chat or two.
It would be a hit. Huge hit.
Editorially, Amanpour could offer a unique context that transcends her TV reporting. Promotionally, the weblog audience would feel compelled to watch Amanpour's TV reports now that they know the story behind the story. Financially, it costs next to nothing to produce and it would drive a ton of traffic." [The Lost Remote newsletter]
The only thing I would add to this interesting scenario is the use of video clips, which could be hosted on the blog itself or sent out with the RSS feed as enclosures. Immediate synergy between what shows on the air and the blog, as well as archived references.
Addendum: Ralph Brandi doesn't think this is such a hot idea:
"A much better idea would be to have reporters write the stories behind the stories for their newspapers, radio stations, or TV stations <strong>when there's actually a story behind the story</strong>. The BBC World Service has been doing this for years with what I consider to be the best broadcast program in any media, From Our Own Correspondent. The Guardian (UK) has a similar feature with their World Dispatch. Except instead of the incoherent mumblings of a journalist who rarely ventures from the same hotel every other foreign correspondent is staying at, you get well-considered, finely honed pieces of good writing by reporters at the top of their game and who only write pieces of this nature when they're warranted."
Addendum Redux: Ryan Greene has another take on this scenario that involves using a digital camera to run a video blog.
"That Camera (I'm digressing, I know) Is sweet. Blutetooth it into your network connection, and you can upload files directly to your server. Run this in the field with an OQO and you've got your portable editing studio, and broadcasting system all in one. Tie the final/edited files into a p2p system and you've got your own broadcast network, all via the web. Or go gonzo and just have everything running as a video blog, without editorial supervision."
Pun headline, cool idea. Library Stuff is featuring each day's Overdue comic strip at the top of each day's posts! Read the press release, or just contemplate doing the same (something I'm trying to figure out how to handle in my current three-column template).
Hey, I'm raving about the strip, too, so if you're not reading it already, get thee over to the web site and subscribe!
Philips Shrinks CD to 1.2 Inches
"In the ongoing effort to squeeze the size of a CD drive to fit into small, portable devices, Koninklijke Philips Electronics reports it is using blue laser technology to miniaturize a drive for an optical disc measuring 1.2 inches in diameter and capable of storing a gigabyte of data.
The company demonstrated Tuesday what it claims is the world's first fully functional prototype optical drive to measure only 2.24 by 1.36 by .3 inches. It can replay audio data on a 1.2-inch optical disc, according to Philips.
The disc's data capacity is 50 percent greater than that of current CD-ROMs, said Koen Joosse, a Philips spokesperson. It was made possible using a blue laser, which has a shorter wavelength than the red lasers used in current optical disc technology. A shorter wavelength means the laser beam can create smaller dots on optical discs, which means more data can fit on a disc....
optical drives are still costly to install in handheld devices, Schlichting said. The optical drives, which must be larger than the discs themselves, are larger and less convenient to use than flash memory cards. And because optical discs rotate, they consume more power than flash media, he added.
'The technology is still at an early stage, and we cannot determine when this will be commercialized,' Philips' Joosse said. The company hopes to shrink the .3-inch height of the drive; the optical disc's 1.2-inch diameter is already small enough for mobile devices, he said." [PC World]
Wow - 1GB on 1.2 inch re-writable CD! Of course, I still think you're going to want wireless access to the majority of your data and content (and you won't have much of a choice if The Heavenly Jukebox comes to pass), but that's a pretty handy number to have for storage. With MP4 video, could you watch (project?) a movie using a mobile device? That's a heck of a lot of ebooks....
TiVo Generation Takes Control of Viewing
"Ours is a TiVo house and my kids -- Alexandria, 6, and Zachary, 4 -- are TiVo kids. And that means that they (and I) can sit down whenever we want -- maybe before bedtime on a Tuesday evening -- and watch an episode of 'The Proud Family.' Or 'The Brothers Garcia' or 'Kim Possible.'
In our house, two of the founding members of the TiVo generation are growing up to realize that they control the schedule of their favorite shows -- not the network.
TiVo is becoming synonymous with the digital video recorder, a VCR-like device that records TV shows to an internal hard drive instead of a removable tape. Like competitors ReplayTV and UltimateTV, TiVo offers a user interface on top of the basic DVR technology that allows users to record a program based on its name, rather than its time slot....
Kids like Alex and Zack don't need to understand how it works. They just know that their shows are on when they want to see them. And that means the kids can come home and do their homework, play on the swings or ride their bikes without having to worry that they'll miss their favorite shows.
'There is a youth element to TiVo,' said Mike Ramsay, CEO of the San Jose-based company. 'Kids' programming is the largest segment of programming being recorded...'
A survey by TiVo found that 96 percent of subscribers would never give up their TiVo service. About 40 percent of the respondents said they'd rather give up their cell phones than their TiVo units.
'That's a fairly typical response,' Bernoff said. 'People are in love with this product and they are not going to give it up. The churn rate for TiVo is tiny.'
But penetration into homes remains a challenge. Existing subscribers have a tough time explaining it to their friends -- so instead they offer demonstrations....
My wife and I did our part to spread the word, too.
My dad was quickly impressed with the TiVo service at our house and hinted that TiVo was what he wanted to unwrap on Christmas morning. My mom took advantage of the holiday promotion and ordered one.
At first, they had a tough time understanding how to work the remote control. But that was easily fixed. We brought Alex and Zack to their house." [Mercury News, via The Lost Remote]
Emphasis above is mine, mainly because the numbers are so stunning. I'm not at all surprised by them, though, as we fit comfortably in, if not ahead, of the curve. We'll be getting our third ReplayTV by year's end (no TiVos).
In his book Growing Up Digital, Donald Tapscott reminds us of the adage that technology is only "technology" to those that didn't grow up with it. Baby Boomers don't think of television as technology, and kids don't think of DVRs (or interactive television) as technology. Although DVRs aren't perfect (our ReplayTV didn't notice the subtle change from Power Rangers Time Force to Power Rangers Wild Force so it stopped recording the show a few weeks ago, thereby causing much consternation), they allow for more efficent time-shifting of recorded shows. It's the best chance the networks have of reaching any viewer in our household, and this will be true of the kids for the rest of their lives.
I can't recommend DVRs highly enough, so if you don't already have one, consider purchasing one in the next year. You'll thank me later.
Got my CD from FightCloud today. Basic packaging (slimline case) with no cover art, but then all I really wanted was the music. This is the only CD I've bought this calendar year, thereby making my total so far $4.95.
"I held my review of Aggie for a day because as it turns out, I was invited yesterday to lunch with Joe Gregorio and some other RTP bloggers today and I figured I may as well meet Joe before I wrote the review. Anyway, we wound up talking about other stuff and just glossed over Aggie, and I only have good things to say about it anyway, so there was really no reason to delay the review...." [rc3.org]
End of the Road for the Unconnected Handheld?
"Recently we had a chance to try a slightly different approach to wireless Internet access and e-mail using a Bluetooth-enabled cell phone, the Sony Ericsson T68, and a Compaq iPaq H3835 with a Socket Bluetooth CF card. Once we set up a dial-up networking account for our existing EarthLink account using Socket's excellent Connection Manager software, we were able to browse the Web and check e-mail wireless from anywhere--we didn't even need to take the 2.9-ounce phone out of our shirt pockets to connect (or disconnect).
Before long, expect to see nearly all handhelds ship with some form of wireless access. And in the short term, if you can pick up a wireless-enabled handheld for between $50 and $100 more than a standard PDA, you should give it some serious thought." [ZDNet]
While I like the unique features of the Sony Clie NR-70V, I'm not as jazzed about it as I would be if it had wireless connections. New reality: I won't be buying a new PDA that doesn't have wireless capabilities. Even if the network support isn't quite there yet, it will be. Soon.
Addendum: Ryan Greene comments that there is a forthcoming Bluetooth adapter for the Sony Clie.
"The stick can currently be ordered for $210.25 from here. News release here [Palminfocenter], and here [Sony Japan]. Apparently, it is supposed to have a price of around $155.00, so the price above may reflect some of what I call the early adopter tax. More info here.
I'd pay $75.00 for the card, and so far no one has one for sale on Ebay, so I guess I'll have to wait. It's just as well, I have no other Bluetooth devices as of yet, and my cell carrier has no Bluetooth phones (yet), so I can be patient, for now." [Ryan Greene's Radio Weblog]
I'm with Ryan on this one. $75, maybe $100 if it had some other device with which to work (like synchronizing with my phone). So on the backburner for now, even though it would be cool to actually show a Bluetooth product at one of my presentations.
The Trail of Dead: Letís Save Pop Music Ö and Hollywood Too
"The music industry is not going to win this, because, like alcohol during Prohibition and satellite TV in heartland, millions of people want it. And when you have a market that size, especially young people, it will be served, legally or through a black market.
The music industry doesn't seem to get this, but apparently believes that through litigation it can hold back the tide and maintain its wildly lucrative status quo. It's not going to happen. Technology keeps moving forward.
And it's not going to stop at music either. Already places like Morpheus are offering movie files, including first runs like Spiderman. These are pretty crude , mostly filmed off a mallplex screen, but you can see the future roaring down the tracks.
One of these days the black market will figure out how to monetize this process, and the music industry and Hollywood (and books and magazines and pay-per-view TV and computer games) will find itself under assault by thieves and hijackers. And it'll be real easy to divert the movie of the future as it is being wirelessly transmitted in digital to the local moviehouse.
The answer, the one the entertainment industry doesn't want to face, is to embrace this technology revolution. It means beating the Napsters and Morpheii (and not the current half-assed industry alternative) at their own game.
By that, I mean putting the entire catalogue, including new releases, online. Put them on in higher quality and with faster download speeds (through compression, etc.) than anything out there right now....
Whatever the amount, a new payment system has to be put into place. The pieces are already there ó online micropayments, debit cards for young people, security passwords for security, but no one has put them all together.
A hundred million dollars and a task force of financial institutions, online service providers and entertainment executives ought to be able to iron out standards in six months and have the system in beta in 18....
Meanwhile, the music industry could go back to doing its real job: finding and developing talented, less-predictable, new bands. And who knows, perhaps Hollywood could even start taking risks again....
If the music industry won't create this new industry, then the pirates will. And, after a decent interval, the pirates will be rehabilitated as the new establishment." [ABCNews commentary]
Now the Doctor Is Online: Consultations Via E-mail
"A new service will let people consult with their doctors by e-mail--for a fee. Doctors are expected to charge $20 to $30 per e-mail, according to Medem, an online physician network founded by the American Medical Association and other medical groups. It announced the e-mail service in Chicago during the annual meeting of the AMA, which is part owner of the company.
Most health plans probably won't pay for the e-mails. Still, Dr. Edward Fotsch, chief executive officer of Medem, said he expects many patients will be willing to pay out of their own pockets for the convenience of being able to consult with their doctors via the Internet.
A virtual visit is easier and probably cheaper than taking time off from work, visiting a doctor in person and paying a typical $15 office co-payment, Fotsch said. Besides, he said, it can be tough to reach a doctor by phone.
About 200 doctors already are offering the service....
While most doctors use e-mail, many are wary about exchanging e-mails with patients. One worry is liability. In an effort to offer some legal protection to doctors, the Medem service asks patients to read a consent form that warns the system can't guarantee privacy.
Another worry, on the part of some, is that they wouldn't be paid for the e-mailed consultation. The new service solves that by requiring you to give a credit card number." [Chicago Sun-Times]
Can they read and answer questions using a PDA? That would seem an efficient way to implement this since they could answer questions from anywhere using software (drug interactions) on the device plus wireless access to databases. In cases like these, the medical library's services may be even more essential.
Addendum: Mary Lu notes that "This isn't the first real application of doctors and health care professionals doing online consultations."
Guthrie on Copyright
"Pete Seeger describes his
father predecessor (Thanks, Misha!) Woody Guthrie's view on copyright:
Pete Seeger, June 1967:
When Woody Guthrie was singing hillbilly songs on a little Los Angeles radio station in the late 1930s, he used to mail out a small mimeographed songbook to listeners who wanted the words to his songs, On the bottom of one page appeared the following: 'This song is Copyrighted in U.S., under Seal of Copyright # 154085, for a period of 28 years, and anybody caught singin it without our permission, will be mighty good friends of ourn, cause we don't give a dern. Publish it. Write it. Sing it. Swing to it. Yodel it. We wrote it, that's all we wanted to do.' W.G." [Boing Boing]
Business Card-sized CD-R Media 100pk for $40
"Wanna burn a bunch of business-card discs? $40 gets you 100 CD-biz-card blanks, each holding 50MB. You could hand out copies of Seth Schoen's Bootable Business Card Linux, a substantial fraction of Project Gutenberg, you name it. I'm told that you can burn these with any tray-loading burner." [Boing Boing]
It would be interesting to make library cards out of these discs and give them to legislators. I'll have to think out what should be on the CD, but an index page that points to library services, interesting statistics, remote database access, and maybe some patron testimonials (video, Flash,?) could be a good start.
Video Games in Gym Class - DDR 101?
"Saige writes: 'When I was in school, gym class was basketball, running laps, and icky locker rooms. Today, kids get to play video games - and get credit for them! No, it is not as bad as it seems. Apparently, someone has become clued in that Dance Dance Revolution promotes physical activity, and a school in California is making use of that. Can I go back and retake gym?' " [Slashdot]
We still love DDR at our house, and every time a new kid sees it, they're hooked. The kids wouldn't be at all surprised to find it in their school someday.
"With its canary-yellow Everyblob hero, its masterfully simple design and its abstract realm where even death was a cheerful event, Pac-Man brought video gaming out of the bars and into the malls....
Video games have become a part of contemporary life. The kids who grew up steering Pac-Man around his dot-filled maze have grown up to make video games one of the biggest slices of the entertainment-industry pie. Yet no game to date has come close to dominating the popular landscape the way Pac-Man did in the early 1980s. Certainly, the novelty of both the game and the medium itself was a major factor in creating the Pac-phenomenon. But all the later and equally novel video game landmarks -- Donkey Kong and Mario, Street Fighter, Myst, Doom, the Sims -- are eclipsed by Pac-Man's gigantic, canary-yellow sun." [Salon]
Robert Brown points out Neil Gaiman has some excellent things to say about librarians and he's right! Actually, both of them are right. :-)
"My very favourite moment of A.L.A. was a grandmotherly librarian enthusing to me about how very much she had enjoyed my single use, in Stardust,of what my own grandmother would, and then only under duress, refer to ominously as 'The F Word'.
That very narrowly beat out the amazing graphic novel preconference (amazing because it wasn't, as I half-expected, a bunch of librarians who were comics fans, but was, much more interestingly, 175 librarians who could see the enormous demand for graphic novels in their libraries, particularly amongst teens, and wanted to know more about these things that, due to demand, they were putting on their shelves); spending quality time with Jane Yolen (who I normally forget is *j*a*n*e* y*o*l*e*n* because mostly I think of her as my friend Adam's mum/Allie's grandma etc., so seeing her in her element and worshipped like the goddess of some exotic tribe made me inexplicably happy); and seeing the "Advanced Listening Copies" of Two Plays For Voices ; not to mention signing finished copies of Coraline; spending time with Art Spiegelman, and with the lovely Colleen Doran and the not-as-lovely-as-Colleen-but pretty-darn-loveable-in-his-own-right Jeff Smith; and the librarian who told me how Sandman graphic novels were the most checked-out things from her rural library "until they meet someone who adopts them, and then they don't come back" -- she didn't see it as books getting stolen, she was just happy that a kid out there had found a book he or she wanted so much she or he "adopted" it; and spending time with author Chris Lynch; and, above all, realising the incredibly powerful role that all the librarians play in keeping America literate (for little pay and not a lot of appreciation, I don't think it's overstating things to suggest these people are the thin grey line between literacy and barbarism)." [Neil Gaimain's Journal, June 6, 2002]
Pot. Kettle. Black.
"The record industry is calling the radio business corrupt. I myself am shocked, shocked to hear that. Could it be remotely possible that the real problem with record sales isn't that people are stealing music but that, with the Communications Act of 1996, Congress and the last two presidential administrations broke the promotional mechanism that drove both industries?" [Over the Edge]
Despite my agreement with Dan's sarcasm, the NY Times article focuses on a piece of legislation proposed by a legislator who seems pretty clued in:
"The bill, which is sponsored by Senator Russell D. Feingold, Democrat of Wisconsin, will address several issues, including whether to limit consolidation in the radio industry by imposing a cap on the number of stations a company can own. He will also seek to limit the practice of record labels' paying independent promoters to promote new hits to station programmers, something that has gone on for decades, but is now being described as a new form of payola....
Greg Hessinger, national executive director of the American Federation of Television and Recording Artists, added, 'No one wants to be left behind.' But what is striking to many is what they consider to be the teapot calling the kettle black: the recording companies, who for the most part have been gobbled up by large global media conglomerates themselves, are attacking the radio industry for its consolidation. The Universal Music Group, for one, a division of Vivendi Universal, has distributed nearly one of every three new albums sold so far this year. And just last week, BMG Music, which is owned by Bertelsmann, announced it was buying the Zomba Music Group, the largest independent record company, which it already owned a stake in."