Amazon e-book subscription? Publishers should join

Once upon a time, you might tell your children, there were buildings called libraries. A resident of a city or town, you would explain, could walk into one and borrow books--for free!

Libraries aren't likely to fade into history just yet, of course, but the possibility is more plausible given Amazon's discussions about offering an annual subscription plan for e-book access described in a Wall Street Journal report yesterday.

Amazon's library option would be part of Amazon Prime, the gradually broadening subscription plan, Larry Dignan at CNET sister site ZDNet expects.

As I see it, the move … Read more

Get Serif PagePlus X5 desktop publishing for $75

This is an update of a post I wrote earlier this year.

Remember desktop publishing software? Back in the old days, you had your pick of a dozen or more programs (Publisher, PageMaker, etc.), but now the field is practically empty.

Granted, you can still buy Adobe InDesign or QuarkXPress for a small fortune (they run $699 and $799, respectively), but what if you just want a simple program for creating newsletters, brochures, flyers, and the like?

Enter Serif PagePlus X5, the latest and greatest version of what was already a terrific desktop-publishing application. It's ideal for designing print … Read more

Uncram launches quickie publishing for social network users

The pitch from the Uncram PR rep was that Twitter's 140-character limit is holding it back from being truly useful. "I'll take this meeting," I replied, "since I fundamentally disagree with the premise. Twitter is great because of its limits."

But Uncram isn't a text expander like Instead, it's a quick-and-dirty page publishing system that uses Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn as its social communications strata. It has potential.

The idea with the service is that if you want to share an idea, there's a better way to do it than just typing a short blurb and putting in a link. On an Uncram page, you can insert multiple links, photos, videos, and maps. More interestingly, Uncram has a strong topic extraction system. It can discern what the text in your post is about, and will offer up topic snippets from MetaWeb's Freebase, where Uncram's CEO, Arial Porath, was once director of strategy.

Uncram has a little browser extension that makes getting into the system easy. When you're writing a post on Twitter or Facebook or LinkedIn, you get an "Uncram" button alongside the usual "Post" button. It fires up the page creator for you and lets you immediately share a page--called a "diary" in Uncram lingo--as soon as it's ready.

The Uncram pages look very good and carry their own discussion threads, which is both necessary and weird. It's necessary because nothing else will drive repeat traffic to these pages than a social component, but weird because the whole idea of Uncram is that you share these pages from social networks like Facebook and Twitter, which are primarily discussion platforms themselves. Uncram is designed, Porath says, to be a "write once, broadcast anywhere" system for social networks. "You should use the social network for your headlines, not the end destination," he says. In that regard it's not that different from many other Web publishing platforms, but its integration into social networks is tighter.

Uncram pages can also be private, or unlisted.

I'm not sure Uncram works as a large-scale consumer play. Google+ and Facebook are getting better at allowing users to create rich, multipart status updates. But it does have a potential revenue angle for businesses. There will be white-label or brandable versions of the platform. Since it is so easy to create a diary page on Uncram, it could be useful for marketers who quickly want to generate nice-looking and complete landing pages for social-media campaigns. Launching a weekend promotion for your nationwide chain restaurant? Throw together a page on this platform in a second and share it on all your networks. It's not a new idea, but the Uncram publishing system and social-network integration could make this platform a solid tool for brand marketers. … Read more

Don't expect to get very far with Daypo Online Tests

The Internet is great for entertainment purposes, but it can also be an effective teaching tool. Daypo Online Tests supposedly offers a way for you to create you own online tests to serve as study aids, but bad direction prevented us from using it effectively.

The program opens with a bland but seemingly intuitive user interface. Menu buttons at the top take you through the steps of creating your exam. The Properties section is where you go to get started, with fields to name your exam and add a description and author name. A dropdown menu offers different exam categories, … Read more

YouTube, music publishers settle copyright beef

A group of music publishers that joined a class action lawsuit filed against YouTube in 2007 have reached a settlement with Google's video-sharing site.

The National Music Publishers Association as well as individual music-publishing companies, such as Cherry Lane Music Publishing Company, the Harry Fox Agency, and Murbo Music Publishing, joined a class action lawsuit filed against Google by The Football Association Premier League among others.

The suit--which accused YouTube of encouraging users to upload pirated video clips of TV shows, films, and music videos--was filed shortly after Viacom filed a copyright complaint against YouTube and Google. For efficiency, Viacom and the class action were reviewed by the court simultaneously even though they were separate complaints.

"As a result of this resolution," the publishers wrote in a statement, "music publishers will have the opportunity to enter into a license agreement with YouTube and receive royalties from YouTube for musical works in videos posted on the site."

Thanks to the agreement, music publishers can license Google the right to sync their music with videos posted by YouTube users and YouTube will pay the royalties. The parties involved didn't disclose the complete terms of the agreement.

That's nice but what's important here is that YouTube executives continue to put their copyright troubles behind them. The Web's top video-sharing service was once packed with pirated content but the service built a filter system and now most of the top film studios and TV networks consider the site to be swept clean. … Read more

Apple, Google music clouds can't snub publishers

NEW YORK--Those in digital music should take notice of the olive branches being extended by David Israelite, the president and CEO of the National Music Publishers Association.

Israelite advised NMPA members Tuesday in Manhattan during the trade group's annual conference that it was in their best interest to help legal music sites thrive, Billboard reported. To do this, Israelite wants to streamline the process of licensing rights, a time-consuming task for Internet services that has frustrated managers from SpiralFrog to Apple to Google. Still, Israelite's comments about bridge building with the tech community could surprise some there.

For … Read more

'Go the F*** to Sleep' author: I don't support piracy

Adam Mansbach, author of the cathartic "children's book for parents" "Go the F*** to Sleep," has a complicated relationship with content pirates.

The viral spread of a PDF version of his book helped rocket the print version into the bestsellers list on Amazon before the book was printed. Finally pushed to stores and retailers just this Tuesday, it is now Amazon's number one seller.

If one were to design a viral media campaign, it could not have been done better. Except this success happened quite by accident. I talked to Mansbach about the book, piracy, and social marketing.

Mansbach says that the online spread of "Go the F*** to Sleep" started before the PDF hit the Net. He did a reading of the text on April 23, in Philadelphia. He told the audience that they could preorder the book on Amazon, and the next morning, he says, it was 125th-best seller.

He had sent the PDF of the book to a few booksellers -- a common practice in publishing. And then, Mansbach says, "Innocently enough, it was forwarded. And it went from there."

Mansbach, a novelist, never intended the world to be able to see his book, for free, online, and before the print version was available. "To show how Web-savvy we were, " he says self-deprecatingly, "We were trying to do cease and desist orders at first."

He even reached out to individuals who were sharing the PDF on Facebook accounts. Mansbach says he asked one Facebook user to remove the PDF from their page, and the response was, "'Ok, If you want, but 300 people asked me where I could get the book.'"

There was a "gradual dawning that it wasn't hurting us," he says. After about a week, Mansbach and his publisher, Akashic Books, ceased trying to stanch the spread of the book.

Mansbach still has not given the piracy of this book his full support.

"It helped us," he says, "but it would have hurt most people. We had a perfect storm. The idea of pirating I don't want to be too romantic about or supportive of."

Read more

Google closing in on $400 million deal for AdMeld


Google's full employment program for antitrust regulators continues: the search giant is in the final stages of a deal to purchase ad tech company AdMeld. Like other recent Google purchases, this deal will automatically generate scrutiny from Washington before it can formally close.

That's both because of the size of the deal--around $400 million--and because the purchase deals with a sector that Google already dominates--display ad sales.

AdMeld is one of a handful of big ad optimization platforms that work on behalf of publishers by trying to get the best prices for their inventory from a variety of … Read more

Guardian brings a broadsheet to your browser

Who says the old broadsheet newspaper is dead?

To celebrate its 190th anniversary, the U.K.'s Guardian (known at its 1821 founding as The Manchester Guardian) has concocted a very-old-school version of the front--er, home--page of today's edition.

The page uses serifed and black-letter Web fonts; copious vertical and horizontal rules; vintage engravings; and a background image of a pulpy, papery texture to re-create the thrill that awaited one who clapped a copper into a newsboy's palm and flapped open a newly purchased copy of the Latest Edition.

In explaining the project, the page's developers also have some fun with Georgian/Victorian-era prose stylings:

"This new edition is available in the following establishments: the Flaming Fox public house; the Verdi & Traviatta at the Royal Opera House; the African Expedition outfitters and the recently-constructed Silver V8 engine foundry," they write in a blog post. When readers click the included links, the rather exotic appellations become clear:… Read more

Little divides Apple, music publishers on cloud deal

Hopes are high in the music sector that Apple will have all the licenses it needs to launch a cloud music service in time for the company's Worldwide Developers Conference, which starts on June 6.

Negotiations between Apple and music publishers have begun in earnest only recently but the amount of money that separates the two sides from reaching a deal is relatively small, according to two sources with knowledge of the talks. That said, these are cloud-licensing contracts, which are new and complex and there are still several ways Apple's service could be delayed, insiders say.

Apple … Read more