Read it and weep

Amazon’s Kindle may be the poster child of the eReader market, but Canadian competitor Kobo announced triple digit growth this week, with eBook downloads up by 400% and eReader sales rising 160% year-on-year as the firm gears up for a year of expansion.

The Toronto-based company also chose this week to announce it was launching a self-publishing platform to rival Amazon’s KDP and Barnes & Noble’s PubIt. As PaidContent noted, Kobo Writing Life will be aimed at independent authors and publishers, and is currently in beta tests with fifty authors. It will launch fully in English by the end of June.

However, the week wouldn’t be complete without Amazon stealing at least some of the eBook limelight. Amazon Publishing acquired the publication rights of around 3,000 titles from Avalon Books, which was great news for fans of Romance, Mystery and Western genres. But the Internet giant isn’t the toast of the town in all quarters, as The New York Times reported that The Authors Guild is urging its 8,500 members to protest against the Department of Justice’s proposed settlement with three publishers, which – if given the go-ahead – will ultimately give Amazon the green light to lower its prices on eBooks and thus undercut its less salubrious competitors.

The Justice Department accused Apple and publishers of colluding to fix eBook prices after a several-months-long investigation. Three publishers agreed to a settlement, but the American not-for-profit organization – which constitutes authors, literary agents and attorneys from the publishing realm – is encouraging its members to submit comments in writing to the government during the 60-day comment period required before a settlement can be approved.

“The Justice Department is sanctioning the destructive, anticompetitive campaign of a corporate giant with billions in cash and boundless ambitions,” the Guild said in a statement. “The situation is bizarre, and without precedent, to our knowledge: the Justice Department is intervening to help entrench a monopolist. We encourage all authors to speak up, and let the Justice Department know that bookstores play a vital role in our literary ecosystem, and the public has a strong interest in protecting them from predation.”

We can expect to see a few more twists and turns in this escapade before it reaches its final conclusion.

Televisual tidbits

With all the headlines Amazon has been making – both good and bad – in the book realm, it’s perhaps easy to forget that it has its corporate finger in multiple media pies.

As we reported this week, Hellraiser creator Clive Barker has been enlisted by Amazon Studios to rewrite Zombies vs. Gladiators, making it one of only a handful of projects so far to be developed past the script-submission stage since Amazon’s content development division came into force almost two years ago. I, for one, cannot wait to watch Zombies vs. Gladiators…if it does ever reach production. And for what it’s worth, my money’s on the gladiators.

How much would you pay for a standalone HBO streaming player? That was one question we looked at this week, and although the broadcaster has HBO GO, there’s plenty of demand for a more open service to provide its stellar programming to a larger audience online.

HBOMONEY From Zombies vs. Gladiators to TV industry revolutions, heres the weeks media news in review

To help raise awareness of the demand for a standalone HBO streaming service, a new site — Takemymoneyhbo.com — has popped up, allowing members of the public to say (and tweet) how much they’d pay for the service each month. HBO can thank its lucky stars that such a proactive campaign has popped up which essentially illustrates the public’s love for its offering, but can we expect it to act on this?

Well, as The New York Times reported, as a premium cable channel HBO has to tread carefully because of its existing relationships with the likes of Comcast and DirecTV. To cut to the chase, HBO says “not for now”, but seems to leave the door open for something in the distant future.

Meanwhile, you may have to be content with the news that HBO GO is now also available on Kindle Fire tablets. Excellent.

In the broader digital TV space, a number of arguments permeated the tech press relating to the current state of play with TV. The Next Web’s own Martin Bryant argued that TV’s status quo may be strong, but technology WILL change it sooner rather than later, whether the industry is ready or not.

Bryant’s observations were in a roundabout way inspired by Business Insider’s Henry Blodget’s somewhat alarmist post – Don’t Mean To Be Alarmist, But The TV Business May Be Starting To Collapse. This had, in turn, prompted Dan Frommer from Splatf to assert that the TV industry as we know it is as strong as ever and any talk of a collapse was nonsense. But as Bryant put it, Frommer hadn’t factored in a big splash from a new player that catches everyone by surprise.

“Whether it’s Apple, Microsoft or someone completely unexpected, technology will fundamentally disrupt the established business of TV within the next five years – because that’s what technology does, wrote Bryant. “Just as the iPhone took the mobile industry by the throat, someone will do the same to TV, and the time has nearly come for that to happen.”

Pressing matters

Will print journalism die or will it reign supreme? Whilst The New York Times editor asserted that print won’t vanish, Gigaom’s Mathew Ingram questioned what happens when a newspaper is just another digital voice. What inspired Ingram to ask such a question? Well, Advance Publications and Postmedia recently announced they would only print some of their publications on certain days to save money.

The problem is, some of their publications serve very ‘local’ communities, and where there is a long tradition of serving said community with printed publications that can be disseminated in libraries and coffee shops, what replaces this in an age where not everyone has access to the Internet?

“Some of this is tied to the brand that a newspaper has, and the established history of covering a community,” says Ingram. “What happens to that when it stops printing on certain days, or shuts down altogether? One thing that can happen — especially if cost cutting extends to staff who would have done investigative or enterprise stories — is that a paper can lose a lot of goodwill, which is difficult to regain. But it raises the question: what is the purpose of a newspaper, to make money or to serve a public purpose in society? And can a digital paper do both?”

It’s a good question for sure. It’s one thing having a national or global publication serving a broad online readership, but with a community-based newspaper the expectations are slightly different, and there is an argument that says profit shouldn’t be the only consideration.

Elsewhere, TechDirt noted that AOL is threatening a blogger with a copyright infringement charge…for doing the exact same thing AOL itself has done on a much larger scale.

The crux of TechDirt’s issue is thus. AOL’s Huffington Post has often been accused of “over aggregating” content from other news sites, in that they cite and quote content from other publications perhaps a little too much. Whilst TechDirt actually comes to HuffPo’s defence on this front, it points to more than a little hypocracy after AOL sent a cease and desist letter to a local Maryland blog for aggregating its content. When you read the details of the case, you’ll no doubt agree it was more than a little heavy-handed.

And finally…

Whilst some of us have proper jobs to go to, others seem to have things a little too easy.

New York comedian and filmmaker Mark Malkoff set out to test Netflix’s $7.99 unlimited streaming deal to the limits, by watching 252 movies between April 16 and May 15, amounting to 404.25 hours. “I’m quite certain my Internet service provider hates me,” quipped Mark. I’m quite sure they do too, Mark.

Using a quick bit of mental arithmetic, this works out at a mere 3.2 cents per flick. If nothing else, this proves there are novel, albeit time-consuming, ways to get maximum bang for your VoD subscription buck. At an average of 8 movies a day, we have to say that’s pretty hardcore.

Image Credit: 2Tales | Flickr