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Publishing News: Week in Review

The American Chemical Society gets recognized for its app, Bloomsbury changes focus on rights, and the tablet wars flare up

Lots of publishing news this week. These are some highlights that caught my eye. (Note: These stories were published here on Radar throughout the week.)

Highlights from mobile app news this week

ACS.jpgThe Professional and Scholarly Publishing Division of the Association of American Publishers recognized the American Chemical Society (ACS) mobile app in two categories: Best New eProduct/Innovation in ePublishing and Best New eProduct in Physical Sciences and Mathematics.

I’m not a scientist, and the news might have filtered into the if-only-I-were-a-math-genius pile, but the ACS mobile app is actually pretty slick. It not only gives scientists and scholars access to archives, databases and current content in all of ACS’ journals, but it also offers a live-stream update of new research as it’s published. Applications of this type of platform could work across all academic disciplines, of course, but news organizations and other content providers shouldn’t dismiss it as a scholastic-only platform.

Also in mobile app news, Conduit announced its move into mobile apps. The new Conduit Mobile Platform will allow publishers and developers to create one app that will work on all major platforms. What’s more, the company claims the apps can be created by anyone — not just skilled developers — and it’s free. Ina Fried at All Things Digital smartly pointed out the issue of profitably remains unclear. Functionality will be interesting to watch as well. The platform will be launched at the GSMA Mobile World Congress next week in Barcelona.

Bloomsbury’s change in vision brought the issue of rights sharply into focus

bloomhome_0301.jpgPublisher’s Weekly reported on Monday that UK publisher Bloomsbury is dropping its previous geographic model and going global, setting up worldwide divisions structured around publishing categories. As part of this move, they’re looking to gain worldwide rights to titles as well.

In an e-mail interview, Dana Newman, a Los Angeles lawyer and literary agent, said Bloomsbury’s move is a sign of the changing times and that there’s more to come:

I think the Bloomsbury restructuring reflects the rapid transition underway to a global publishing model over traditional territorial markets, and that we’ll see a similar disruption in the way rights are licensed — publishers will be seeking world rights, including digital, whenever possible.

These shifts in how publishers approach rights also need to be noted and analyzed by rights holders. “The issues rights holders face in this environment are ensuring that when they grant such expansive rights the publisher is in a position to fully exploit them, and, as always, arriving at fair licensing terms; royalty rates still vary widely among publishers, especially for foreign digital rights,” Newman said.

As digital platforms grow and morph, it’s getting harder to understand who owns what rights. In the Publisher’s Weekly piece, Bloomsbury’s Richard Charkin said “Bloomsbury won’t do a deal that doesn’t include digital rights.” This concept of including digital rights will become even more important as publishers such as Harper Collins start packaging digital rights with audio rights.

Hewlett-Packard got the tablet wars underway

HP TouchPadHewlett-Packard announced the launch of its TouchPad tablet, which is scheduled to hit stores sometime this summer — no pricing information has been released, however.

The announcement was timely, as Apple is in a bit of a battle with publishers over subscription and in-app purchasing policies. HP is taking Apple head-on, even hiring one of Apple’s senior directors to help draw developers.

Also notable is that HP has signed on Time Inc., allowing the publisher to provide magazine subscriptions under agreeable terms. The European Newspaper Association (ENPA) is likely taking note as its concerns over Apple’s subscription policies intensify.

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