Two recent articles, one by a librarian and one by a publisher, talk of the growing realization on the part of both parties that they increasingly have common interests, as both learn how to deal with the the implications of electronic publishing — Librarian Barbara Fister’s Library Journal cover story Publishers & Librarians: Two cultures one goal and publisher Neil Schlager’s blog article The problem with reference publishing.

Reading these articles has got me thinking about what I’ve been writing about on this blog in the last several months — As shown in the Categories (right sidebar) many of the subjects discussed here have common librarian-publisher threads. And in fact some of these articles have drawn comments from publisher kinds of people as well as librarians (See below). Thinking further, I realize how valuable Twitter has been for connecting to the publisher community, serving as a wide-ranging forum for discussion of current topics. So I’m listing below some of the people I’ve met on Twitter who talk about librarian/publisher issues:

Librarians:
Jose Afonso Furtado (@jafurtado)
Peter Brantley (@naypinya)
Nancy Picchi (@islandlibrarian)
Roy Tennant (@rtennant)
Lorcan Dempsey (@lisld)
Publishers:
Adam Hodgkin (@adamhodgkin)
Mike Shatzkin (@MikeShatzkin)
Tim O’Reilly (@timoreilly) – See more below
Neil Schlager (@neilschlager)
Kat Meyer (@KatMeyer)
Joe Wikert (@jwikert)

In her own category: Kassia Krozier (@booksquare) – Not a librarian or a publisher, but in the center of the discussion!

Tim O’Reilly (@timoreilly) and his group at O’Reilly Publishing have created a unique gathering place for thinking about the future of publishing. The O’Reilly Radar blog has articles by Tim and a group of other writers, some with library connections, notably Peter Brantley (@naypinya). In addition, the annual O’Reilly Tools of Change for Publishing Conference (TOC) in New York has speakers from the library world as well as the publishing world. Writers and speakers for the O’Reilly blog and TOC conference appear regularly on @timoreilly‘s Twitter tweets. Also, during the TOC conference, on-site Twitter reports are extensive. Joe Wikert (@jwikert), from the list above, also works at O’Reilly.

To read Seeing the Picture articles about issues of libraries and publishing, see the categories Publishing and TOC. Articles that have had comments/discussions with publishing people: Copyright in Google Books: Pictures & Text and Jon Orwant on Google Book Search at TOC.

Eric Rumsey is at @ericrumsey

Since the announcement by Apple last week of new iPhone OS software that will become available in June, publishers Adam Hodgkin and Mike Shatzkin have been having an interesting dialog about the future of the eBook market, and how iPhone 3.0 will affect the competition between Amazon, Apple, and Google. Most of my posting here will be a presentation of the views of Hodgkin and Shatzkin on the eBook market, but I think an article by Ben Parr, at mashable.com, on more general effects of iPhone 3.0, does a good job of setting the stage for the discussion of eBooks. In his discussion of the new ability to purchase items within an application, Parr seems to be talking about the same thing that Hodgkin sees as being so revolutionary about the new iPhone OS (Correct me if I’m wrong on this, Adam). So, first — an excerpt from Parr’s posting:

The new iPhone 3.0 software includes the ability to copy-and-paste, a landscape keyboard, and push notifications. However, none of these updates are as revolutionary as the new features Apple offers to iPhone application developers. The one to watch [especially] is the ability to purchase items within an application. This is a feature that matters because of the vast opportunities that it presents to both developers and users. … If the iPhone application store revolutionized the mobile as a platform, then the iPhone 3.0 OS may very well be the spark that revolutionizes the mobile as its own economy. [boldface here & below added]

With the new iPhone OS, Hodgkin thinks that Apple has put themselves into a leading position in their competition with Amazon and Google for the eBook market:

The announcement earlier this week about Apple’s iPhone OS 3.0 made it at last pretty clear how Apple is going to become a player and the strategy is so simple and solid that I am surprised that more of us did not see it coming. Apple has taken the very sensible position that it doesn’t need to be a big player in the digital books or the ebooks market to win the game hands down. Apple is going to let authors, publishers and developers get on with their business and work out how the digital books market is going to work and Apple is just going to collect the market-maker’s fee for letting it happen, on and in the iPhone arena. … The position that Apple have announced for themselves is stylish, decisive and agnostic. Apple doesn’t mind whether books are based in the cloud as web resources, or shipped around the internet as book-specific file formats. Web-based books, digital editions and ebook file formats can all run easily on the iPhone if that is what is needed: “Open house, come over here and play”. That is the message from Cupertino.

Shatzkin, however, thinks that Hodgkin has jumped too quickly for Apple, and he says that the competition is still wide open:

Hodgkin sees brilliance in Apple’s move not to enter the proprietary ebook wars, but simply to be a facilitator of sales to iPhone users … [But his article] took no note of Sony, Stanza, or the potential impact of broadly-distributed epub files. … It also took no note of Barnes & Noble’s recent purchase of Fictionwise or the fact that Waterstone’s has teamed with Sony Reader for distribution in the UK. … I think, most of all, this analysis omits full consideration of the discrete functions served by the retailer in the supply chain. … Apple is not providing the full suite of retail services. … It isn’t just too early to predict a winner; it is too early to declare the finalists.

Hodgkin posts a reply on his blog to Shatzkin:

Shatzkin has not understood what Apple are doing with the strategy announced for the iPhone 3.0 SDK. They are tackling the retail environment head on and building the retail functions. Shatzkin thinks that Apple will fail the retail test. Did Mike view the video presentation with which Apple gave a preview of 3.0 SDK? Consider that the very first item that Scott Forstall discusses (before even ‘cut and paste’!) is the way that they have enhanced the App Store. Note that its a store. A place where consumers shop. It is a retail store which enables developer creativity and it will support discovery of books, magazines, games etc, browsing and sampling, search, metadata, price choice and traditional bookstore price anarchy, and after sales support (though some fulfillment and much support will fall to developers and publishers). Most striking is the near total freedom that publishers are given on pricing (99c — $999). … It is surprising that anyone would think that Apple who have made such a considerable success of Apple stores and online retail selling will find themselves out of their depth with digital books. Nobody would say that building a retail system for digital books is going to be easy, but Apple clearly are a good candidate to do it. Especially now that they have announced this co-optive strategy.

The slides and data from Jon Orwant’s presentation on Google Book Search at TOC, that were not available when I wrote previously, have now been put up on the O’Reilly site. [these have been removed, see comment below] This is made up of 59 PDF slides, covering a range of recent developments with Google Books, including the recent release of GBS mobile, and a discussion of the Oct 2008 Publisher settlement. The part I’m most interested in is the data on GBS usage that had been mentioned by Orwant in various venues before, but with few details. The details in the TOC presentation are mostly in three “Case studies” of publishers that participate in the GBS Partner Plan — McGraw-Hill, Oxford University Press, and Springer. I’ve chosen one slide for each of these publishers that show various long-tail effects for usage of their books that are in GBS, and one slide that has data for a more extensive grouping from GBS.

McGraw-Hill case study is presented in slides 21-23. Below is slide 24. Note that this is a small sample of only the top 30 titles.

Oxford University Press – Slides 26-31. Below is slide 27. Note the long tail of visits for pre-1990 books.

Springer – Slides 32-36. Below is slide 35, showing clicks for Buy this Book. Note again the very long tail of clicks for pre-1995 books.

Slide 37 below shows “Share of books with more than 10 pages viewed”, apparently for all books in GBS. The coloring of the data lines looks ambiguous to me – The lowest line is undoubtedly for Snippet View books. It looks like the top line is for Limited Preview, which are presumably higher than Full View books, apparently the middle line, because Limited Preview books are more current.


Please comment here or Twitter @ericrumsey

Jon Orwant, from Google Book Search, made a presentation at the O’Reilly Tools Of Change (TOC) for Publishing Conference in New York last week, which I did not attend. Apparently Orwant presented some numeric data about the use of Google Books, but the data has yet to be spread to the world (See my comment on Peter Brantley’s blog about this). I’ve been searching in the week since TOC, to see what discussion there is of Orwant’s talk, and have found little. So I’m excerpting the three pieces that I have found. Only the first has any numeric data at all.

First, a piece by Jackie Fry, on the BookNet Canada publishers’ Blog. This is notable, and I’m putting it first, because it’s the only report I’ve found that has any numeric data at all from Orwant’s talk:

Conversion rates from Google Book Search results have been great for their partner publishers, mostly in the Textbook, Reference and STM channels, particularly in the shallow backlist (2003-2005 pubdates) with the highest Buy the Book clickthrus on 2004 titles. For some publishers, conversion to buy is as high as 89% for the titles they have made available.

30% of viewers looked at 10 or more pages when viewing the content of the book to make a buy decision.

The future is analytics! Google is thinking about what data they can pull out of their logs and provide anonymous aggregate data around consumer behaviour like what books were purchased that were like this one, search terms used most often for a category, most effective discounts, most effective referral sites etc.

More research [is needed] – Saw some good presentations with quantifiable research included – Brian O’Leary from Magellan, Joe Orwent (sic) from Google, and Neelan Choksi from Lexcycle were some of the few presenters who were able to quantify in any way what is going on in the marketplace. We need more  …

James Long’s report, on thedigitalist.net (Pan Macmillan Publishing):

Jon Orwant, from Google Book Search, stated at TOC that ‘the ultimate goal of Google Book Search is to convert images to “original intent” XML’. He explained the post-processing Google runs to continuously improve the quality of the scanned books, and to convert images to structured content. Retro-injecting structure accurately is no mean feat but when it’s done, Google will be able to transform the books into a variety of formats. The content becomes mutable and transportable, in a sense it isn’t yet, even though it is scanned, online and searchable. Orwant also presented three case studies – McGraw Hill, OUP, Springer – that demonstrated the benefits publishers can gain from having their books in GBS.

Highlighting the theme of discovery (to my mind), Tim O’Reilly interjected, at the end of these case studies, and made the point that O’Reilly used to own the top links to their own books in Google search results, but have now lost those links to GBS. Orwant, somewhat simplistically, responded that O’Reilly needed to improve their website to regain the top ranked link per title, as this spot was determined by Google’s search algorithms. This was not a convincing response, and dodged the issue, which I understood to be that the scale and in-house-ness of GBS could seriously inhibit the ability of the publisher to represent their own products online at the most common point of entry by the consumer, Google search results. There are many compelling reasons for publishers to own the top search result link, the most obvious being: offer unique additional content around the title, start a conversation with the reader, control the brand.

Edward Champion’s comments on his blog:

Thanks to a concept called blending, Google Book Search options remain in the top search results. An effort to direct traffic GBS’s way. …

There are 1.5 million free books, all public domain titles, available on Google. But if you want to access them, well, you’ll have to go to Google. Or you’ll have to have Google generate results at your site. Because the Google team are specialists in latency. They can do things with milliseconds that you couldn’t work out in your dreams.

As an experiment, Google recently unleashed Google Books Mobile, which means that you can nose search Google Book Search from your smartphone … Orwant was careful to point out that Google is not in the handset manufacturing or carrier business. But he anticipated, just as many of the seer-like speakers at Tools of Change did based on sketchy inside information, a “rapid evolution.”

Tim O’Reilly tried to badger Orwant too. You see, O’Reilly used to have good webpage placement for many of his titles. But those days are gone, replaced by Google Book Search results above the O’Reilly pages. And that hardly seems fair …

There’s some comfort in knowing that 99% of the books at GBS have been viewed at least once. Even the sleep-inducing textbooks. Which is really quite something. Which brings us to the future, which is based on the past …

That snippet view you see with some titles? Orwant‘s official position, pressed by Cory Doctorow, is that it’s fair use. But once the October 2008 settlement in Authors Guild v. Google is approved by the court, you’re going to see that snippet view jump to 20% of the book.

Please comment here or Twitter @ericrumsey

In a brief response letter, author and publisher Marc Aronson writes about the copyright status of pictures that are in publisher partner books in Google Books. Aronson suggests that the rights for pictures are separate from the rights for text. I’ve corresponded with Aronson to expand on this idea, and he says that in his experience as an author and editor, he has been told that he needs to obtain rights to pictures and text separately. I’ve searched for other commentary on this issue, and have found very little. It’s a subject that needs exploration. Anyone have ideas?

All books in the publisher partner program, of course, are under copyright, and are available only in Limited Preview, with the publisher giving Google the rights to display a specific number of pages. In some cases of books containing pictures, however, the pages are available, but without the pictures. Is this because the publisher has gotten the rights for limited preview of the text, but not the pictures, as Aronson suggests? The three examples below show a variety of Limited Preview options. The first two are especially pertinent, because they are for books from the same publisher (Macmillan), in the same series, that have a different picture preview status, possibly indicating that the illustrator has given permission to display pictures in the first case, but not in the second.

In this example, the first 39 pages* are available for preview, with all pictures displaying. There are about 30 thumbnail images for pages with pictures on the About this Book page.
Birds of North America (Golden Field Guides)
By Chandler S. Robbins et al, Illustrated by Arthur Singer, Published by Macmillan, 2001

In this book, from the same publisher, the first 37 pages* are available for preview, but almost all pictures do not display, replaced with the message “Copyrighted image.” There are no thumbnail images on the About page.
Wildflowers of North America (Golden Field Guides)
By Frank D. Venning, Illustrated by Manabu C. Saito, Published by Macmillan, 2001

This book follows the most common, fairly liberal, pattern of publishers in Limited preview books, with the first 50 pages* available including all pictures. A full complement of 30 thumbnails is on the About page.
Central Rocky Mountain Wildflowers
By H. Wayne Phillips, Illustrated, Published by Globe Pequot, 1999

* The number of pages available for preview varies from session to session — The number given here is the maximum I experienced.