Netly: The Third Screen

Archive for the ‘Sony’ Category

Daemon, by Daniel Suarez, was initially self published

Daemon, by Daniel Suarez, was initially self published

Of all the old media businesses jeopardized by the Net, publishing has been hit hardest. And of all the publishing businesses—newspapers, magazines and book publishing among them—the one I’d least like to be running right now is anything having to do with books. After all, the first real business to be launched on the Internet was Amazon, which fired a harpoon into the side of that very business. And now, Amazon is trying to finish off the job with the Kindle, which is making it even more apparent that the days of the old-line publishing houses are numbered.

This shouldn’t be surprising: Over the years, publishing houses stopped doing their jobs—acquiring, editing, marketing and promoting books. One by one, each of these functions was scaled back, and even abandoned. Soon, we will be left with authors, on the one hand, and the sites that sell their stuff on the other. Big, old publishing houses will be completely disintermediated. Doubtless, some companies might also make a business out of acquiring, editing and even marketing—see Tina Brown’s plan here.

Amazon has a platform for self-published authors, but the problem is, it’s a closed platform; if you publish here it’s only available to Kindle owners. So Sony has stepped into the breech and announced today that today it’s opening up its eBook Store, which uses the open ePub standard. That standard, needless to say, runs on all of the Sony e-readers, as well as a variety of other book-reading devices.

Chris Smythe, who directs Sony’s eBook Store in Los Angeles, told me that the site would collaborate with SmashWords and Author Solutions, which currently offer thousands of self-published books. While the author gets to set the price, Sony and the platform vendors take a cut—I’m guessing here, based on what some folks have told me—on the order of 50%. It’s still far better than the deal most authors strike at conventionally publishing houses. Then again, they tend to pay advances, and and self publishing, so far at least, has been a sucker’s bet.

But the tide is definitely starting to turn. Recent history is littered with examples of people who are doing quite well at self publishing, and one of my favorite thrillers of the past year, Daemon, was initially self published.

Sony’s Smythe said that initially, the e-book store would be publishing only new authors. By the end of the year, however, Sony hopes to offer the full, back catalogs of SmashWords and Author Solutions available, too.

Brad Stone gets the goods on the upcoming iRex e-reader, the cleverly named DR800SG. The Philips spin-off announced today that the $399 reader would go on sale at Best Buy nationwide next month. You’ll be able to buy e-books at Barnes & Noble via Verizon’s high-speed cellular network for the thing, which has an 8.1-inch screen.

I first saw the iRex, a stylus-based e-reader that relies on E-Ink, three months ago and think that it may well offer the best value proposition in its class. (The company has promised to send me one to review.) From what I saw, the interface was clear and responsive, the screen size was just right—smaller than Amazon’s clunky DX but bigger than its standard bearer—and it handles virtually any open format, including ePub. I thought it did a better job than Sony’s fleet of e-readers and is positioned more competitively: Sony’s upcoming wireless reader is an inch smaller at the same price.

Of course, no one (except perhaps graphic artists) like a stylus. And I think buying a b/w E-Ink device is a mistake at this point, what with Apple’s Tablet Rasa pending and a flurry of color-based Readers headed this way from the likes of Pixel Qi and so on. But if you’re desperate for a book-reading device, this may well be the best to date.

Still, iRex has got it going on and I like their approach. The most intriguing bit of hardware under the hood is Qualcomm’s Gobi chip set, a radio that allows it to work seamlessly overseas. While the international reach isn’t surprising—this model is actually based on a popular iRex SKU in Europe—the relationship with Qualcomm is very significant. Qualcomm has major designs on the burgeoning third-screen market and is looking for partners who will not only use Gobi, but its Snapdragon processors and FLO distribution channels as well. Likewise, the company is rapidly working on its own color technology, which CEO Kevin Hamilton told me could be ready by next year. This is definitely a company to watch.

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