Thursday, 26 May 2011

Gagging Gaga - Why can't we download music legally?

I saw a story this morning that has really bugged me (click here to read it).  Amazon and Apple have been battling it out in world of MP3 music downloads and seeing stories like this really bugs me.  

Living in the Middle East, we don't have any real sources to download music from legally and I don't see when we can expect this either.  
Gaga with a Gag order in the Middle East

As much as we talk about progress in the Middle East, we seem to be moving backwards as far as progress in music publishing rights go, which as a result only encourages music piracy.  Creating a source for legal downloads would eliminate go some way to eliminating the problems that the big record companies complain about.  If record companies want to complain about piracy, they should first give us an avenue for downloading music legally in this region as asking us to buy CD's from our local record store isn't the solution.

I'm not saying all of this because I didn't get to take advantage of Lady Gaga's US$ 0.99 download promotion offer for her latest album but as much as I like my gadgets, I'd like to see the content available for us to enjoy it.

End of rant.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Like a Kindle the Wind

Amazon's announcement this week that it's sold more e-books for its Kindle platform than it did regular paper books is nothing short of amazing (Amazon's official PR can be seen by clicking here).

Are paper books gone with the wind?
The winds have changed course and its blowing in the direction of e-books.  Despite the fact that e-book readers are still a rarity in the UAE and that there aren't many avenues to download e-books, the fact is that once an Amazon (or any other reputable bookseller can get a e-store up and running here), we should start to see the adoption of more e-books.

Having bought my Kindle a few weeks ago, I have to say I've loved it (I've written more about this in a previous blog post).

Show me the Money!

More significantly though, this probably means there's going to be a significant change in the margin structures the publishing industry works on.  Till now, when we bought paper books, there was always a cost of printing, cost of shipping and cost of selling that probably ate up a significant portion of the costs.  Then there would also be cases of obsolete and damaged stocks that traditional booksellers have to manage as well.

In the virtual world that Amazon lives in, most of these costs are variable or don't exist.  The cost of publishing disappears, there is no shipping cost as such, the selling costs are minimal (no landlords or staff salaries to look after) and no excess inventory to manage.  Even if Amazon charges a few dollars less for each Kindle book, it does mean bigger margins for them and significantly more margins than a traditional bookseller can hope to achieve.

Struggling Authors Welcome

For those aspiring authors, the move to e-books could also now make their chances of being published that much more easier as well.  By virtue of the fact that a publisher may not having to think as much of all the prohibitive fixed costs that existed in the traditional publishing sector could mean they go out on a limb more often to promote an up and coming author.

At a time when we've been hearing about the troubles Borders has been having in the United States, it comes as a little surprise that traditional book retailers are finding it difficult.  This is not to say that they'll disappear altogether but the ones that survive are the one's who'll find a way to still engage us going forward.  How they do that, I'm not quite sure but whichever they do work out, I do hope to still see some of them around in my local community mall.  Let's just hope paper books are not gone with the wind.

P.S. Just as I was putting the final touches onto this blog post, I saw fellow blogger Alexander McNabb also put out his post on e-books earlier this morning, which is worth a read (click here to read it)

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

To tumbl or not?

I've set up a tumblr account today ( and I'm still not sure what I should be doing with it, whether I should pursue having a second blog account or not and whether I still quite understand what is the point of tumblr.

For now, it's set up.  Whether it's updated regularly is another point but let's see what happens with it.

Any feedback on tumblr, I'd be happy to hear it.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Buyer Beware!

I got an e-mail last night from Akanksha Goel of Socialize, an up and coming social media house in the UAE which carried a link to a story on their official blog, in which they spoke about the recent Apple location-gate scandal, the Sony PSN hacking incident and an example of when Amazon's cloud hosting services had crashed recently, brining down various other web services such as Quora and HootSuite.

I got tempted into answering this as the press has been playing this mainly as a case of a corporations behaving badly but what responsibility do we as consumers have?  What happened to Caveat Emptor (Buyer Beware)? 

In the age of one-click convenience, we choose to ignore many of these risks and can't shift the entire responsibility onto these corporations without first accepting some blame ourselves.

Read about this further on the Socialize Blog by clicking here and you can see my comments on there as well.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Read On - My Kindle experience

The 3rd Generation Amazon Kindle

I’ve been traveling a lot of late and I’ve found a revelation.  The Kindle.  It’s not a new or revolutionary device but it’s changed the way I read.  I may be late to the party but it’s never too late to start reading.
I tend to generally read more when I travel and it was always been an issue to lug around a book or two in my hand luggage or to find myself frustrated when I’m on a plane and I’ve finished my book and there’s been nothing decent on the inflight entertainment to watch.
With the Kindle though, it’s as if I’ve discovered the joys of reading again.
One reason why I’ve avoided e-readers till now was that I didn’t like the idea of reading off a screen, much preferring the paper editions.  I somehow never felt comfortable when was I reading off a screen for an extended period of time however with the Kindle’s e-ink technology, it’s surprisingly soothing on the eyes.  You can read it for hours and not feel the strain on your eyes as you would on an LCD-based device.
The other advantage of the Kindle has been that you can multiple books stored on one lightweight, featherweight device.  Reading two or even three books simultaneously has all of a sudden become a possibility.
Looks like I don't need another bookshelf
in my office after buying the Kindle
Comparatively, you could read e-books off the Kindle App on the iPad, iPhone or other similar devices but holding an iPad in your hand for hours on end, isn’t practical because of its weight and screen technology.  It eventually weighs you down whereas with the Kindle, it’s light enough to hold onto for hours.  The advantage of the iPad App though is that if you start a book on your Kindle device, you can start off where you left off on your iPad because it synchronizes your progress across the different devices you’re reading on.

There are two versions of the Kindle available, a WIFI model and a 3G version.  I opted for the WIFI model but the 3G model is unique in that it doesn't require you to get a data plan.  It works in most countries and any data costs related to downloading a book on the Kindle are borne by Amazon.

Sharing a book isn’t the same though.  For those traditionalists who enjoy buying a book and then lending it onto a few friends, this is something that you can’t do on the Kindle.
Visiting a bookstore is a different experience as well.  While I love going to bookstores, I’ve found it different since I got the Kindle.  I now see myself as a traitor in a bookstore.  I’m in there to browse through a few books and getting ideas for what I can download from the Amazon Kindle store.
With the Kindle, I’ve also found myself reading at home, which is something I wasn’t doing as often.  Whether this is just a passing fad or a habit that I pick up for life, I’m not sure, but I hope to keep it up for as long as I can.
If you haven’t used a Kindle yet, try it out.  I’m sure it’s bound to change the way you read as well.  With so many distractions and attention spans getting shorter, I’m glad I found something that keeps my attention for more than five minutes at a time.