Book Fair 2.0; On bloggers, ebooks and pirates

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Friday, October 12, 2007

The Internet is very much present at the Frankfurt Book Fair 2007, not just, like in previous years, as a means for the journalists who have 80 workplaces for their own notebooks to report on the fair, but like before as a chance - and as a threat for rights-owners of digital media.


Bloggers in the Living Room 2.0 at the Fair

After a marginal existence in the previous year, bloggers have got their own "living room 2.0" at the fair, furnished with everything a blogger needs, including media attention. Every day from Wednesday October 10 to Sunday October 14 they will write and podcast about the big names to meet, the events not to be missed and their very personal experiences and thoughts. Three of the bloggers write in English, two English language podcasts are done, to widen the reach of the Book Fair 2.0. The blog entries and podcasts will be available until after the book fair at http://www.book-fair.com/en/wordpress/ and the bloggers themselves can be visited on the weekend at hall 4.2, Q411, though until now it is more the media and less the visitors of the fair, the bloggers come in contact with.


EBooks and Digitalization

A user viewing an electronic page on an eBook reading device

Digitalization and digital media, especially books and magazines offered digitally, are a hot topic at this year's Frankfurt Book Fair, as more and more publishers want to see the digital counterparts of their traditional media not just as a field to be present in, but as a possible profit center. With scientific books, this move already was quite successful: Publishing house Springer for example, offering over 40,000 ebooks and over 1700 electronic magazines, of which over 1200 are still actively continued with Springer, nowadays does an ebook-variant of every traditional scientific book they print - and already has the largest part of their cash-flow from digital media.

This is harder for fiction publishing houses as the Pabel Möwig group (VPM), which has become active early. They do offer the digitized new adventures of – say, the outer-space-hero Perry Rhodan -, but the turnover is still only a small addition to the print and other media versions. Readers become readier to read on a screen, but their readiness is still growing slowly. Since a new generation of readers is growing up using the internet as a reference work – especially Google and Wikipedia – it will become more and more natural in the future.

A growing number of service companies in the publishing sector therefore offers re-digitalization apart from increasingly effective content management systems, with which new forms of media can easily be compiled from the contents of a data base.

Roland Lange, Manager at Google, explains Google's book plans at the Forum Innovation at the Frankfurt Book Fair. Credit: Wettach.

Older works, of which the publishing house owns the rights, but for which a reprint might not be profitable, are scanned, divided into content sections and tagged. When the original type face isn’t good enough, books are typewritten in third world countries two or three times which are corrected and merged into a final version. Once in the system, digitalized books can be at disposal as MobiPocket ebooks or Print On Demand (POD) and with aid of the Amazon BookSurge program remain available, possibly even within 24 hours.

Digital content can also be used as a marketing-tool with the "Search Inside" from Amazon.com, where the full text of a book is visible but only small parts of the book are shown at a time.

Right after Amazon, Google also presented their own projects for the digitalization of books, where publishers have the option of just sending a box or container full of their books in printed form and leave the job of digitalization to Google, where afterwards their content will be findable with Google Book Search. The difference between those two internet services was obvious, though: Amazon wants to earn money with books, while Google's business is advertising, their revenue model is AdSense and AdWords, targeted as perfect as possible with full text search. Both services had to answer questions as to how they will protect the content from unpaid exploitation, as probably fewer and fewer users will be willing to pay for a digital eBook when they can read the content for free, up to twenty pages at a time. The freeloader mentality of many Internet users was seen as a threat by many of the publishers.


Pirates threatening the audiobooks

Oliver Rohrbeck (left) and Johannes Stricker at the audiobook forum about digital piracy. Image credit: Wettach.

One product seen as endangered more than other media by the widespread internet piratery is the audiobooks. One of the more ambitious audiobook productions on five CDs would cost about 80,000 Euros and needs about 30,000 copies sold to sell at a profit. Once only 10,000 copies are sold and 20,000 downloaded via illegal filesharing on the internet, the model isn't profitable anymore, and the audiobook market, now thriving, might wither away again, explained Johannes Stricker of 'Der Hörverlag' publishing. Sideprofits possible in the music business are not possible for audiobooks: concerts are not the same as the public readings, which are often a deficit affair, and no one wants to pay for audiobook ringtones. On top of that, one complete work is much more costly than an album full of music, often 29, 49, 79 or even 99 Euros have to be paid for a full length reading. These prices in mind, especially young listeners rather take the free filesharing, especially as a bad conscience or the thought that this is illegal is absent from the young minds, as Oliver Rohrbeck, a famous speaker of one of Alfred Hitchcock's 'Three Investigators' detectives in Germany, complained. He admitted that he had compiled a tape for a friend as a gesture of love from time to time. Anyone using illegal downloads for such a gesture of love nowadays would face harsh fines, if only it were easier to get a little criminal to court.


Sources

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