How Much Would You Pay for an E-Book?

“While Amazon might be able to find a market for $9.99 books on the Kindle, the iPhone-iPod Touch world is a very different place. Very few people are willing to pay that kind of money for any sort of application, let alone an e-book.”

via Why people won’t pay for e-books on the iPhone | Fully Equipped – CNET Reviews.

With the lower cost of production and distribution, you might expect publishers to pass some of the savings from e-books on to the readers, but the trend seems to be a strategy of maintaining prices and simply expanding the profit margin, and you can’t really blame a company for looking at it that way, as long as readers are still buying.

Amazon Kindle E-Book Reader
Amazon Kindle E-Book Reader

There are two considerations that come to mind here. The first is that if readers won’t pay the increased prices, then the market will correct itself and the price of goods will drop to reflect the lower cost of production. The other is that the majority of these increased margins are likely going to the publishing houses, not the authors (similar to the relationship between record labels and musical artists). This means that there is an opportunity for independent authors to self-publish and cut out the middleman.

This possibility has existed before, and e-books have been distributed online for on-screen viewing, but the mainstream market’s push to popularize the portable e-book devices, similar to the explosion of MP3 players (notably, the iPod), has opened up a new market for self-published e-book authors to tap into, who are already primed for the delivery method.

Moreover, the idea that users pay more for content when they have a convenient way of viewing it means that more e-book readers may signal higher prices for the e-books themselves.  For consumers, the questions still remain: How much would you pay for an e-book and does the platform you read it on make a difference?

“Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” Trailer Ruins My Childhood

In September of this year, Sony Pictures will release Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, which tragically seems to bear almost no resemblance to the book, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. First published in 1978, written by Judi Barrett, illustrated by Ron Barrett, the book is charming, scary and goofy all at once. It was a staple bedtime story in my house when I was growing up.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs Cover
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs Cover

The trailer for “Cloudy” shows the story of a clumsy mad scientist who invents a machine that turns water into food, then unleashes it upon his unsuspecting town. In the original book, we listen in with two kids as grandpa tells the tale of Chewandswallow, a town where three square meals a day rain down from the sky – a perfectly lovely, if strange, place to live – until suddenly everything goes haywire. Which story do you want to hear more? I don’t understand the obsession with throwing gadgetry into every single kids’ movie out there. The book is notably without gadgets (the denizens of Chewandswallow end up floating out to sea on large pieces of toast). The idea of making houses out of giant bagels and sailboats out of sandwiches sparks a kind of creativity that is absent from the story of an inventor who comes up with a big box with blinking lights that does something improbable.

I’m reminded of Marc Hirsh’s thoughtful response to the Watchmen film over at Monkey See. He asks why we need to turn everything into a movie – especially perfectly good graphic novels that have an artistic life of their own. What are picture books, anyway, other than graphic novels for kids?

For an example of how NOT to ruin a beloved childhood book in trailer form, check out the creepy, musty, delightful trailer for Where the Wild Things Are. Much has been made of this trailer, and how good the movie MUST be. I’m going to reserve judgment, but there’s a warmth to the “Wild Things” trailer that is missing from “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.” The aesthetic reminds me of the old Jim Henson “Storyteller” series:

Jim Henson’s Storyteller Intro

Is “Race to Witch Mountain” Too Violent?

In slightly less indie news, Race to Witch Mountain (Disney’s remake of the old Escape to Witch Mountain) appears to be last weekend’s number 1 movie. Huh. I found this review of Race to Witch Mountain to be particularly interesting. Wesley Morris, Boston Globe film critic, reacted poorly to the movie not only because it was bad, but because he felt it was a very violent movie, given its young target audience.

Dwayne Johnson interview at HK Disneyland as a part of movie Race to Witch Mountain asian junket.
Dwayne Johnson interview at HK Disneyland as a part of movie 'Race to Witch Mountain' asian junket.

In slightly less indie news, Race to Witch Mountain (Disney’s remake of the old Escape to Witch Mountain) appears to be last weekend’s number 1 movie. Huh. I found this review of Race to Witch Mountain to be particularly interesting. Wesley Morris, Boston Globe film critic, reacted poorly to the movie not only because it was bad, but because he felt it was a very violent movie, given its young target audience.

Morris asks two very important questions at the end of his review: Will kids freak out [at this movie]? Could they already be desensitized to that sort of thing?

What kind of violence is okay in kids’ films? What even makes a movie a “kids’ film” and not a “family film?” I remember watching “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” as a kid, a movie that depicts sex, violence and one incredibly scary Christopher Lloyd. And yet, there’s something about the cartoon nature of the violence that made it seem like a family film way back in the day. Then again, what are we trying to protect children from? Are we preventing nightmares, or are we more worried that they’ll mimic what’s on screen?

Ask Terry Lickona Your Burning Questions

PBS Engage is inviting users to ask questions of Terry Lickona, renowned producer of the long running music program Austin City Limits, Monday at 4pm. Lickona will answer user submitted questions in an hour-long chat from SXSW.

PBS Banner at SXSW 2009 by fragility_v2
PBS Banner at SXSW 2009.
Photo by fragility_v2

Submit questions by 4pm or join the discussion live. If you are in Austin for SXSW, you can stop by the PBS events in person. Tell them Teague sent you.

New Media Showdown at Columbia J-School

On Wednesday, the NY Mag Daily Intel blog posted about the Columbia Journalism School’s struggle to integrate new media skills with an old-school journalism curriculum. Linda Holmes of Monkey See points out that the good dirt is in the comments section, where, of course, a lot of posters claim that the Daily Intel has published information without citing sufficient sources.

Let’s put aside the veracity claims for now: I think it’s safe to say that all of us who work in new media have heard the phrase “you’re just playing with toys” at one time or another (Daily Intel attributes it to a J-school professor). The reality is that new media “toys” wield an enormous amount of power. Why else would a whole bunch of respectable journalists and journalism students flock to the Daily Intel website to refute claims about Columbia? If it was just a toy, it would be easy to shelve and ignore.

The dean of the j-school points out:

“You can go to the Learning Annex and take a Flash course. I don’t think what we should do is be replicating courses you can take at the Learning Annex. But you have to have some familiarity, or you’re not able to execute a website.”

In other words, journalism schools aren’t supposed to turn out graphic designers or Flash programmers. Nobody has really figured out yet if new media is an art, a science, a trade, or some other profession entirely. When you simultaneously integrate design, engineering and content, it’s pretty difficult for traditional academic categories to keep up. But where does that leave institutions devoted to teaching traditional media? Do the “new” and the “old” have enough in common to be taught in one curriculum?

Norway’s public broadcaster launches BitTorrent tracker

NRK Tyholt Tower by Fredrik Thommesen
NRK Tyholt Tower by Fredrik Thommesen

“NRK, Norway’s public broadcaster, has decided that its BitTorrent distribution experiment has gone so well that the company will launch its own tracker in order to distribute its programming. Norway’s commitment to openness means that the files are DRM-free and even available for fansubbing.” –  Norway’s public broadcaster launches BitTorrent tracker.

Several public broadcasters have experimented with BitTorrent as a distribution platform.  The example that comes to mind for me is the CBC distributing Canada’s Next Great Prime Minister on BitTorrent around this time last year.

NRK has taken this a step further and started their own tracker to distribute programming and get some sense of the analytics.  Granted, one of the main reasons NRK can do this is because 94% of their revenue comes from a licensing fee paid by television owners, similar to the system in the UK.

I imagine this is an exciting development for Norwegian ex-patriates, but I wonder how the owners of televisions feel about their fee supporting viewing on computers.  It will be interesting to see if Norway adopts a broadband or computer licensing fee to replace the television licensing fee, or if revenues simply drop as viewers switch from TVs to computers.