Here are a few highlights from this week’s publishing news.
Amazon launches the Kindle Cloud Reader, HTML5 wins big
The biggest news this week was probably Amazon’s launch of the Kindle Cloud Reader. The fact that Amazon opted to write the app in HTML5 might be the best example yet of its commitment to its “Buy Once, Read Everywhere” mission. Amazon Kindle director Dorothy Nicholls pointed out in the news release:
We have written the application from the ground up in HTML5, so that customers can also access their content offline directly from their browser. The flexibility of HTML5 allows us to build one application that automatically adapts to the platform you’re using – from Chrome to iOS.
Basing the app in the browser also enables Amazon to bypass the Apple in-app purchase rules. As far as how it works, early reviews indicate it’s a bit clunky at launch, but a good step in the right direction. William Fenton has a nice review and breakdown of the Kindle Cloud Reader in a post at PC Magazine.
Questions still abound about Amazon’s decision to stick with its Kindle format. In an interview for MIT’s Technology Review, Joe Wikert, general manager and publisher at O’Reilly, said he’s “disappointed that Amazon decided to try to carve out [its] own format,” and pointed out that “Epub, a free, open standard supported by many in the publishing industry, offers a richer experience than the Kindle allows.”
The choice to base the new app in HTML5, however, might be telling. Kassia Krozser, owner of Booksquare, was quoted by Technology Review musing that perhaps “Amazon will take this opportunity to embrace more-advanced technology. The latest version of Epub, Epub 3, is based on HTML5, and it might make sense for Amazon to abandon its format to make better use of the browser.”
Survey says: Publishing is saved
Overall U.S. publishing revenues are growing
Publishers’ net sales revenue has grown annually; 2010’s $27.94 Billion is a 5.6% increase over 2008.
Overall U.S. publishing unit sales are up as well
Publishers’ 2.57 Billion net units sold in 2010 represent a 4.1% increase since 2008.
Americans, young and old, are reading actively in all print and digital formats
2010 total net sales revenue in the consumer-focused Trade market is $13.94 Billion, increasing 5.8% since 2008 (and excluding 2011’s e-book sales surge). Both Adult Fiction and Juvenile (non-fiction and fiction) have seen consistent annual gains.
In an interview for the New York Times, Tina Jordan, vice president of the Association of American Publishers, summed up the good news: “In each category we’re seeing growth. The printed word is alive and well whether it takes a paper delivery or digital delivery.”
Suit against Apple and major US publishers might lack legs
Also in the news this week, Seattle law firm Hagens Berman filed a class-action lawsuit against Apple and five major US publishers: Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, Hachette, Penguin and Macmillan.
According to a press release, Apple and the publishing houses “colluded” and “forced Amazon to abandon its discount pricing and adhere to a new agency model in which publishers set prices and extinguished competition so that retailers such as Amazon could no longer offer lower prices for e-books.”
The lawsuit rings familiar, as the legality of the agency model was brought into question earlier this year. In an interview for the Guardian, Philip Jones, deputy editor of The Bookseller, indicated this case was about more than the agency model, however, and that it might not have legs:
There are lots of accusations of collusion and conspiracy, rather like a John Grisham novel, but I couldn’t find a single instance where they had proof, or even hinted that they had proof. There is a question over how the agency model has been implemented and whether that is illegal in the US and Europe…but they are insinuating that there was collusion between Apple and these major publishers and I don’t believe they can make the case. The lawyers can write that collusion was necessary for agency to occur, and give logic to that argument, but that doesn’t prove that collusion actually took place.