Posts Tagged ‘books’
We have fewer rights to do things with our digital purchases than our physical ones, even though digital is supposed to offer us more freedoms. If there was ever an argument not to buy digital goods, that one is probably it. Just because you handed over your hard earned cash or credit card debt does not mean you actually get to use the product or service you just bought as you see fit. Not by a long shot.
Your Login Details Are Not Yours to Share
Let’s suppose that you want to share your Netflix login with your friends and family. You’re thinking that you bought it, so it should be yours to share if you want. If you live in Tennessee, though, don’t.
Tennessee just passed a law that makes it illegal to share your Netflix login information. The law is meant to target people who sell logins in bulk, but it is worded in a way that if you shared your login with your dormitory floor, or even just your extended family, you could be in trouble to the tune of $2,500 plus jail time if you take $500 or less.
What this basically means is that your digital purchases are not yours. If you want to share movies, buy them on DVD. You do not have the same rights with digital goods as you do with physical ones.
Your Books Are Not Yours to Share
Books, the paper variety, have been one of the most shareable items in the world. Sharing books and other printed material has spread the ideas necessary for political and social improvement, such as Thomas Payne’s “Common Sense” prior to the American Revolution.
Yet, if you own a digital book, you do not have the right to pass it to a friend. Yes, there are systems such as the Nook’s LendMe feature which allows you to pass a book to a friend’s Nook for two weeks, but I honestly have a book on loan from, oh, two years ago (Sorry, Aunt Julie. I promise to return it, eventually).
Besides the Big Brother company watching over your activities, there is a platform war. Because the ebook sharing is based on Nook technology, not the universal epub, I can’t share any books with my father, who owns a Kindle. And he can’t use the Kindle version of this feature with me. This is not an attempt by the book sellers to mimic the freedoms we had with paper books. This is an attempt to get more readers to use their platforms by providing the benefits of the network. It’s more like the Betamax vs VHS wars than going back to visiting a friend’s library.
The worst thing is that these laws and gimmicks are highly unlikely to cut down on piracy. Rather than getting the movies through a semi-legitimate source, many who used to use a friend’s Netflix login are more likely to turn to pirate sources than buy their own accounts. And the inability to pass books on to friends with different platforms is more likely to limit people’s exposure to more material, and you can’t buy what you do not know about.
More than this, however, it’s the question: Who owns these digital goods? Not you. Even though digital opens the opportunities for more freedom with your purchases and information, you actually have fewer rights with digital products than physical ones. You just paid a one-time only renting fee to use them.
What if all content were free?
With all the discussion going on about pricing in my Digital Publishing course at Hult International Business School, I had to ask this question. There are people, like Cory Doctorow, who maintain that content should be free. He publishes his books for free online using the Creative Commons license. I actually agree with him since I think that piracy in terms of entertainment materials is just too rampant to fight, and who would want to? Often the pirates are the publisher’s biggest fans, and fighting fans is just weird.
But I can’t lump all publishing together. Entertainment is one thing while business, news, and other more factual writings are distinctly separate. When this information is provided for free, does it maintain an intrinsic value or gain the value of its price – nothing?
John Jantsch from Duct Tape Marketing has outlined 5 pitfalls of free content for a business. Hartley Brody with the Inbound Marketing pros over at Hubspot posted a reply defending free content. This exchange made me ask some very important questions about the value of free content:
How Much Value Do People Get from Free Content?
Jantsch points out that show-up rates for free events are around 25-30%, much lower than would be expected to a paid-event. I can’t speak for everybody, but I can say why I don’t show up to free events I RSVP for: I just can’t be bothered or something else comes up. That something else has more value in my eyes than a free event, and nothing happens to me if I don’t show up. No lost revenue without a gain, for instance. And if I do show up, how much attention will I pay? Will I be more likely to skip out if I hear a friend is having a party nearby?
Brody’s reply to this issue was to say that the event holders (or newsletter senders or whatever flavor of content you produce) should include a coupon or other incentive for people to do what they said they would, such as show up or read, but this isn’t always possible. Newspapers can’t necessarily give out coupons when all their content is free, for instance. And this coupon must be pretty valuable to outweigh my laziness before an event. After all, it’s a gain, not a loss, and humans react more strongly to potential losses than potential gains. They will trudge through snow when sick to attend an event if it means they would have “wasted” their money if they don’t go, regardless that the cost is sunk. This is hard to duplicate with a coupon.
This lack of effort to attend or gain the benefits of free content versus paid means that when someone has actually paid for content, they will actually get more value out of it. If I have paid for a NY Times online subscription, you betcha I’ll be reading most of those articles! When I pay for a single magazine, I go through each page not to miss anything, even when most of it is uninteresting. I feel I have wasted money when I don’t. Do I read all my RSS feeds with such zeal? Nope. I lose nothing by doing so, even though my feeds routinely pump out great information.
How Can We Judge the Value of Free Content?
Jantsch also raised the point about “eroded value.” In his words, “How good can something that’s free really be?” He was more worried about the lack of differentiation between quality content and slapped-together “pitch fests.” When all the prices are the same, telling the two apart is hard. This probably contributes to the lack of effort people will put into attending a free event. Without prior experience, it’s hard to tell if the event is really worth going to.
Brody counters by suggesting that publishers need to build a reputation for quality and then show that reputation off by displaying how many other people have signed up for your content. This still doesn’t display how much the content is worth, however, since it doesn’t answer how many of those newsletter recipients are actually reading the e-mails or have just forgotten to opt-out. With the Internet being so huge, it isn’t that hard to get a large following. Just look at some of the “gurus” on Twitter.
A higher price signals the higher value. The retail industry has known this for ages. They have known that if you want your store to be considered high end, make the scarves expensive. Even though they are really rather cheap to produce, the price gives the items caché and the brand, value.
Prices Might Help
Pricing your content will help you avoid these pitfalls. If you charge for your events, people are more likely to show and truly listen to what you have to say. The price can be used as a way to judge value, too, so the more expensive – to a point – the more valuable.
Now, like Jantsch, I am not suggesting hiding behind a paywall. For instance, displaying ads for expensive items would associate your free content with the value of the displayed merchandise. You can encourage event attendance by having people pay with digital currency received through a game experience. Perhaps a more common and direct system, however, is the freemium system. A newspaper could have its more general reporting up for free and its in-depth coverage behind a small paywall. Longer reports and such could be paid for one at a time. eConsultancy does something like this with their varied level freemium memberships.
A while ago I picked up the book The Design of Everyday Things by Donald A. Norman. The book was originally published in 1987. In other words, this book is as old as I am. That’s a bit scary. Scarier is that they didn’t really have computers back then. I know. Take deep breaths.
Of course, if they didn’t use computers back then and this is a digital marketing blog, what is the connection? Your answer: Good design doesn’t depend on the medium.
That was the reason this book was assigned to my Digital Marketing Masters class as must-do reading in our usability course. It was an enlightening view on how people approach problems, such as “Open the door.”
Opening doors is one of the first examples that Norman uses to illustrate his point that design is integral to how we use the tools around us. Basically, the idea is that if you are presented with a door with a flat metal plate, you know you have to push. If it has a bar where the plate would be, you know to pull. If the bar or plate is on the left, you know the hinge is on the right, and vice versa. But those rules don’t always apply. I know way too many doors with two bars, for instance. And no, writing “Push” or “Pull” doesn’t count. People don’t read. We take cues based on design. Though this seems like common sense, take my favorite door: those to the British trains. They have the handle on the outside and you have to reach through a window to open them. Norman used this example in his book, published in 1987, and they are still confusing people today.
The book is absolutely littered with examples like this, though that might be the most famous. I also enjoyed his description of absolutely useless telephone systems. Do you remember those telephones with multiple lines? They still use them, but they seem to be a dang sight better than what they were like. Unlabeled buttons and odd combinations to reach certain outcomes and if you mess up, you’ll never know what you did wrong.
Now pause, tell me, how this isn’t like so many websites you’ve been on? How about the ones that don’t seem to have a “Login” button even though you have to login to post something? Or those that don’t offer you a “Forgot my password” option unless you go to the “Help” section, which is nowhere near the big red letters saying you’re an idiot for not remembering your password. Or those menus that seemed to have been organized by the most eccentric person on the planet who thinks t-shirts are going-out wear?
People still rely on cues to figure out what they are going to do.
And when we design something to be used, like a “Login” button, it had better have all the bells and whistles to let people know how to use it. This could be as simple as making it a button so it looks like we should click on it, instead of just Times New Roman 12-point font in black, no underline.
Norman’s basic point is that when people make mistakes in using tools, it’s the designer’s fault. We’ve all used those lovely intranet systems that take forever to look up a simple piece of data. We’ve all gotten lost and had to ask a more experienced coworker for help. We’ve all watched in dismay when the task actually required what seems like 10 more steps than it should, using five different menus. Norman sets us free from feeling stupid. It’s not our fault. It’s the designer’s.
Designers often make things so that way the back end is nice and tidy, but if you have ever seen the back side of a cross-stitch piece, if the one side is neat, the other side is a mess (at least in my cross stitch). And that’s what we’re faced with. The worst part is that designers don’t realize it. They think it’s easy, because, well, they designed it! And honestly, what do you expect? It is difficult to go out of one’s way to make life easy for someone in an entirely different position than you.
In the end, I couldn’t recommend this book more to digital marketers. This is an enlightening book and quite a fun read. Norman has a very conversation tone, like chatting with a very witty friend. The old examples even make it more interesting because, well, old as they are, they were new to me.
Pricing is a sticky issue for publishers, particularly in the digital world. Basically, if a price is too high, you, the reader, may ask why on Earth would you want to pay that and go to your friendly neighborhood pirate for a free copy.
So how can a publisher approach pricing in the digital world? Here are three methods.
1. As Cheap As Possible
Because why not? Distribution is free and, as Clay Shirky suggests in his book Cognitive Surplus, there are almost no marginal costs. Basically, each ebook sale is added gravy. Going along in this line, ebooks can be priced fairly cheaply. While speaking at Bloomsbury Publishing in London, Cory Doctorow, author and journalist, acknowledges that there is the possibility of these cheap ebooks cannibalizing the more expensive paperbacks and hard covers, but he doubts it. Rather, he thinks he is merely hitting a market that has a lower price point. Those who want the more expensive hard covers will get them at that price point.
Though Doctorow sells his ebooks, he doesn’t lock the ebook files to one device or prevent users from doing what they want with them. He says that if I could lend and give away copies of my paper books why, when digital is supposed to give us so much more freedom, do I actually have less freedom to share the things I enjoy with my friends? He has a good point. In order to enable this, he protects his work using the Creative Commons license online. While his ebooks may be easy to find, he can still make money off of movie rights and physical book sales. Furthermore, he contends in that by allowing free distribution of his ebooks, he has actually done better in hardcover sales than he generally would. His reasoning? It’s great publicity.
People want to share the things they love. This is the motivation behind much of the digital piracy online. Seth Godin suggests in his book Tribes that pirate copies are being produced by the work’s biggest fans who want to spread the good word. Doctorow tells of how the 7th Harry Potter book was available online within 24 hours of release, and translated by fans into German within 24 hours of that. No one sits and translates a book into another language, for free, without a sizable amount of passion and love. And particularly Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I mean, did you see the size of that book? Doctorow is suggesting that this passion be harnessed into good publicity by allowing fans to freely share the work in a completely legal manner, rather than having to do so illegally.
2. Price What You Can Get
Rupert Murdoch certainly does not agree with Doctorow, having put The Times behind a pay wall. The experts are divided about whether or not this will work. Vivian Schiller from nytimes.com maintains that a blanket pay wall damages publishing’s traditional revenue driver: advertising. Bear in mind, she was the one who took down the TimesSelect pay wall. But there are others who think that Murdoch has a good chance at success, such as Rob Grimshaw from FT.com and Charlie Beckett from LSE’s thinktank Polis. They basically think that it will succeed as long as the payment is easy and accommodating to the readers, either bundled in with another News Corps service or with different packages for readers to choose from. Obviously FT.com thinks pay walls work, having successfully implemented their own.
But, as Clay Shirky has said, “Financial information is one of the few kinds of information whose recipients don’t want to share.” If a pay wall is to work, it has to protect information that both the readers and the publishers want protected, such as financial advice and information that helps those in the know come out better than those who aren’t privy to the necessary info. More than that, the information has to be unique enough that it is not easily replaceable. This goes to what the doubting experts touched on. Sly Bailey from the Daily Mirror and John Temple, from the now closed Rocky Mountain News, think that trying to force payment for what is, in essence, rather standard news coverage will not work. The FT.com has a reputation for good advice and financial news coverage. This is rather hard to find. Good world news coverage? Now that’s actually pretty easy.
3. Price Based On Costs
Kent Anderson at The Scholarly Kitchen also seems to disagree with Doctorow. Anderson holds that publishers have to be able to recoup the sizable investment required to create the material in the first place, plus cover the on-going maintenance of the publishing outfit. The manufacturing mindset of costing out items based on how much they cost to produce no longer works. There is a zero marginal cost to creating a copy of a file, as Clay Shirky has pointed out, but there is an accumulated cost over time to maintaining a decent publishing website and staff.
Anderson suggests adopting more of a software-style approach to publishing that makes up this initial investment over the foreseeable lifespan of the product. This approach is already working in some industries, such as the music publishing industry, which he calls, “one of the more mature areas of digital business.” The price of an iTunes song is creeping upwards, to as much as $1.29 for the more popular releases. People are willing to pay that, and the companies can’t afford to price lower.
These three approaches to pricing each make sense, but they all can’t be right. It is possible that, thanks to the ease of reproducing digital material, we can easily hit lower price points, saving those sales, while still enjoying the more profitable sales of premium products, such as hard covers, as Doctorow suggest. It is also completely valid for publishers to try and price what they think they can get, as Murdoch is attempting to do with The Times pay wall. But it is also true that we may be approaching how we think of a publisher’s costs from the wrong direction. Perhaps what we are really looking at is a large initial cost followed by a steady stream of a lower maintenance cost, and this must be recouped via pricing, as Anderson proposed.
There is no easy way to tell which will work out in the long run. Of course, I have my ideas, though. Those are the subject of my next post. Stay tuned for Part 2!
*This post was written as part of an assignment for my
but since the topic was interesting, I decided to use it for this blog.
So digital has shaken up the publishing world. Major magazine’s have folded, newspapers are dying out, and journalists are scrambling to find something that resembles job security. But how, exactly, is digital different from traditional?
This is the question that has caused so many journalists and editors so many headaches. After all, the news and stories haven’t changed, right? Just the medium, right?
Well, not really. With a digital publication, the writers write and the editors make sure that what is written will appeal to the audience. In a way this hasn’t changed, but the relationship between the two has. Editors no longer have to rely on their own stable of authors. They can shop around. On the internet it is a very simple thing to link to another publication or to get permission from a freelancer to post his or her work (with payment, of course). And authors can get their work placed in a variety of websites and magazines. When I was working for the Phoenix Comicon I noticed a trend. More and more journalists didn’t say which magazine or newspaper they worked for. Rather they listed where their stories had appeared. I expect this trend will continue. Journalists turn freelance and editors become curators.
The traditional magazine or newspaper is also morphing. Before digital, magazines and newspapers each ran their own unique stories. No two articles were exactly the same and a battle existed to get exclusive content and be the first with a story. Now, even if you are first with a big story, it will be an hour or two before a competitor grabs it, too. Though getting a story first remains important, newspapers and magazines are now focusing on maintaining a consistency of topics and tone, according to Susan Currie Sivek in this article. They are becoming less a catalogue of content and more a brand where consumers can expect a to find the same presentation and general genre of content. The focus is shifting from the story to the brand. I’ll leave it to you to decide which is better.
Lastly, before the Internet, a newspaper’s circulation territory was only as big as it could profitably deliver its product. With the Internet, this is no longer true. This is the key reason why the Boston Globe was able to expose the Catholic Church to world wide criticism in 2002 when it covered the trial of a priest pedophile. Not all Bostonians really cared about the woes of Catholics. But Catholics around the world sure did. Because the Globe was now easily available world-wide to anyone who spoke English, the message could be easily shared. Before the internet, sharing was too difficult and the base circulation too small.
So the Internet has, indeed, changed publishing. The relationship between the people who make publishing happen, the role of branding, and even the audience have all changed. Some things remain the same. It’s still a message being sent from one to many. But a lot is different, thanks to digital technology.
*This post was written as part of an assignment for my
but since the topic was interesting, I decided to use it for this blog.
Dear blog readers, for the last three months, I have been subjected to an on-going customer service failure from Barnes & Nobles. I want to share my woes with you in the hopes that this will get their attention. Below you will find the e-mail I just sent out to their catch-all management e-mail. Enjoy!
Subject: Yes, this is a complaint
Hello management people and Dan – the nice guy who saw my complaint on Twitter,
I am writing to you because, after 3 months of waiting for your customer service team to give me a replacement Nook because the one I had bought was faulty, I was promised an appeasement gift by Louis Lis (during the week of February the 20th) and Isabella, a floor supervisor (on March 2, 2011). I finally got my Nook back and called the hotline about the appeasement and was offered $10 and then $20 in store credit.
There are two reasons I would like more and something else:
1) Not only was my Nook held hostage, but I was repeatedly lied to and had to suffer what can only be described as some of the worst customer service in my life as I tried to get it back. I called once a week only to be told “Your Nook will be sent to you in two days. You should receive it in about four.” When the Nook did not arrive, I had to make the call again, the next week. Please understand, I live in London, a fact well-known to your customer service call center. Being stuck on hold between 7pm and 11pm at night is not pretty, and I had to do this repeatedly. I know that the poor front line grunt who was taking my call wasn’t lying to me on purpose, but it was still a lie and I hold the organization that misinformed that poor front line grunt responsible. I also had other people on the phone tell me that the most I could get was my Nook back, and that that would have to wait because the warehouse was out. That is not including the people who insinuated that the broken Nook was my fault. The item had a blank patch on the screen and was never in contact with any water. That was not my fault. I believe I am due a little more than 20 bucks for this treatment and theft. That barely covers a hardback business book off of your website.
2) I cannot use a gift certificate. I happen to be living abroad right now in London. That would be the reason why I bought the Nook in the first place. I wanted to have books with me while I travel. Now, I have a bunch of books I can’t take home that I have bought for classes. This is money I have lost, thanks to the theft of my Nook. I am a student and do not have a lot of money and this has truly put me out. Store credit, especially sent to my permanent address in Arizona in the form of a gift-certificate, is useless to me right now. It’s adding insult to injury.
So, here’s what I propose: Give me a better offer. You have no idea what a raving B&N fan I was until this fiasco. I was promoting the Nook far and wide to my 500+ Twitter Followers. I praised B&Ns customer service, too. Now I’m using this as a case study in bad manners. Turn me around. It is possible, if you give it a real try and not just shake your head and apologize.
As for the gift-certificate, if you give me credit on my online account, I can actually use it. But if you send me a gift certificate, as said above, you might as well stick it in the shredder. Just credit my account to amount more than a paltry 20 bucks. Don’t ask me to do anything else when this entire saga is your organization’s fault.
Also, try to think out of the box. I’m flexible.
So, moving forward, you’ll have to reply to this e-mail unless you like cross-Atlantic phone calls. I don’t, and I’ve made quite a few to your call-center (which is in the Philippines, actually, if I am not mistaken – at least part of it). I’m sick and tired of being put on hold and I really despise being told that managerial staff are too busy and in a meeting – “Could you please call back in an hour?” I will call and completely annoy you until I get some satisfaction. That was the only way I got my Nook back, after all. If I had waited for your side to do anything, you would have stolen it permanently.
However, I would rather avoid all that and handle this like adults. Please provide me a telephone number where I can reach you so we can discuss this and you can attempt to make me less angry.
Thank you for your consideration,
This book is a great introductory book on digital marketing. It’s a bit out of date, but the principles are still good. It’s actually a bit amusing and educational to see how the authors predicted the world would look a few years ago and compare it to what it actually looks like.
I would expect this good work from a book with Ogilvy’s name plastered on the front cover. The authors, Kent Wertime (from Ogilvy) and Ian Fenwick (from Sasin 25), certainly know what they are talking about and go in-depth on the subjects. And they cover a lot of subjects. This book is rather thick. Wertime and Fenwick cover the various digital channels that are making their way into marketing meetings. My favorite section was “Games: The New Hollywood,” but they also cover things like Television and IPTV. From there it is on to how to use all these channels. Here, Wertime and Fenwick do not go channel by channel. Instead, they, correctly, emphasize using channels together. They provide a step by step guide on how to do this.
It’s a very thorough book, but if you are looking for an in depth advanced read, look elsewhere. As their inclusion of a step-by-step guide on building a digital marketing plan might suggest, they are aiming for beginners. The authors take the tone of talking to newcomers who don’t know anything. They describe everything from the ground up. They do go into pretty good detail but you will probably know most of it already if you are already familiar with digital marketing.
But even an advanced practitioner can walk away satisfied. The authors provide a very interesting way of looking at digital channels and organize everything very nicely into trends and principles so that you can easily grasp the highlights and how that information all fits together. Even if you already knew the information, this is worthwhile. This is true both for their discussion on digital channels and their “How-To” section.
I also enjoyed the writing style. Regardless of the break out case studies in little boxes, a personal pet peeve of mine, it was quite easy to read. The conversational tone and the use of examples made it interesting.
So, I recommend this book. Again, it is a bit out of date, but as I’ve already stated, if you are already familiar with digital marketing, you’re reading this because of how they approach the structure. Be warned, though. It’s a bit hefty.