TrendSiters - Digital Content and Web Technologies


Embed or link this publication


Essays dedicated to the new media, doing business on the web, digital content, its creation and distribution, e-publishing, e-books, digital reference, DRM technology, and other related issues.

Popular Pages

p. 1

TrendSiters Digital Content And Web Technologies 4th EDITION Sam Vaknin, Ph.D. Editing and Design: Lidija Rangelovska Lidija Rangelovska A Narcissus Publications Imprint, Skopje 2002-9 Not for Sale! Non-commercial edition.


p. 2

© 2002, 2009 Copyright Lidija Rangelovska. All rights reserved. This book, or any part thereof, may not be used or reproduced in any manner without written permission from: Lidija Rangelovska – write to: or to Visit the TrendSiters Web Site: Internet – A Medium or a Message? World in Conflict and Transition ISBN: 9989-929-23-8 Created by:LIDIJA RANGELOVSKA REPUBLIC OF MACEDONIA


p. 3

Additional articles about Digital Content on the Web: Essays dedicated to the new media, doing business on the web, digital content, its creation and distribution, e-publishing, e-books, digital reference, DRM technology, and other related issues. Visit Sam Vaknin's United Press International (UPI) Article Archive – Click HERE! This letter constitutes a permission to reprint or mirror any and all of the materials mentioned or linked to herein subject to appropriate credit and linkback. Every article published MUST include the author bio, including the link to the author's web site. AUTHOR BIO: Sam Vaknin ( ) is the author of Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain - How the West Lost the East. He served as a columnist for Central Europe Review, PopMatters, Bellaonline, and eBookWeb, a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent, and the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory and Suite101. Between 1999-2002, he served as the Economic Advisor to the Government of Macedonia. Visit Sam's Web site at


p. 4

Table of Contents E-books and e-publishing The Future of Electronic Publishing I. The Disintermediation of Content II. E(merging) Books III. Invasion of the Amazons IV. Revolt of the Scholars V. The Kidnapping of Content VI. The Miraculous Conversion VII. The Medium and the Message VIII. The Idea of Reference IX. Will Content ever be Profitable? X. Jamaican OverDrive - LDC's and LCD's XI. An Embarrassment of Riches XII. The Fall and Fall of p-Zines XIII. The Internet and the Library XIV. A Brief History of the Book XV. The Affair of the Vanishing Content XVI. Revolt of the Poor - The Demise of Intellectual Property XVII. The Territorial Web XVIII. The In-credible Web XIX. Does Free Content Sell? XX. Copyright and Free Online Scholarship XXI. The Second Gutenberg, or How Michael Hart Revolutionized the Internet


p. 5

XXII. The E-book Evangelist XXIII. Germany’s Copyright Levy XXIV. The Future of Online Reference XXV. Old Reference Works Revived XXVI. The Six Sins of the Wikipedia XXVII. Battle of the Titans – Encarta vs. Britannica XXVIIII. Microsoft Embraces the Web - Encarta and MS Student XXIX. The Encyclopedia Britannica XXX. Project Gutenberg’s Anabasis XXXI. The Ubiquitous Project Gutenberg XXXII. The Content Downloader’s Profile XXXIII. The Economics of Conspiracy Theories XXXIV. Games People Play Web Technology and Trends How to Surf the Internet Safely Cyber (Internet) Narcissists and Psychopaths Thoughts on the Internet’s Founding Myths Regulate the Internet! I. Bright Planet, Deep Web II. The Seamless Internet III. The Polyglot Internet IV. Deja Googled V. Maps of Cyberspace VI. The Universal Interface


p. 6

VII. Internet Advertising – What Went Wrong? VIII. The Economics of Spam and the Nigerian Scam IX. Don’t Blink – Interview with Jeffrey Harrow X. The Case of the Compressed Image XI. Manage IT – Information Technology at a Crossroads The Internet, the Economy, and the Digital Divide I. The Internet – A Medium or a Message? II. The Internet in the Countries in Transition III. Leapfrogging Transition IV. The Selfish Net – The Semantic Web V. The Law of Technology VI. Metaphors of the Net VII. The Solow Paradox VIII. Decision Support Systems IX. Education and the Internet as Public Goods X. The Ghost in the Net XI. Wanted: An East European Ataturk XII. The Industrious Spies XIII. Leapfrogging to Cellular Telephony Author: Sam Vaknin Contact Info:;


p. 7

E-BOOKS AND E-PUBLISHING The Future of Electronic Publishing First published by United Press International (UPI) UNESCO's somewhat arbitrary definition of "book" is: ""Non-periodical printed publication of at least 49 pages excluding covers". The emergence of electronic publishing was supposed to change all that. Yet a bloodbath of unusual proportions has taken place in the last few months. Time Warner's iPublish and MightyWords (partly owned by Barnes and Noble) were the last in a string of resounding failures which cast in doubt the business model underlying digital content. Everything seemed to have gone wrong: the dot.coms dot bombed, venture capital dried up, competing standards fractured an already fragile marketplace, the hardware (e-book readers) was clunky and awkward, the software unwieldy, the e-books badly written or already in the public domain. Terrified by the inexorable process of disintermediation (the establishment of direct contact between author and readers, excluding publishers and bookstores) and by the ease with which digital content can be replicated - publishers resorted to draconian copyright protection measures (euphemistically known as "digital rights management"). This further alienated the few potential readers left. The opposite model of "viral" or "buzz" marketing (by encouraging the dissemination of free copies of the promoted book) was only marginally more successful. Moreover, e-publishing's delivery platform, the Internet, has been transformed beyond recognition since March 2000. From an open, somewhat anarchic, web of networked computers - it has evolved into a territorial, commercial, corporate extension of "brick and mortar" giants, subject to government regulation. It is less friendly towards independent (small) publishers, the backbone of e-publishing. Increasingly, it is expropriated by publishing and media behemoths. It is treated as a medium for cross promotion, supply chain management, and customer relations management. It offers only some minor synergies with non-cyberspace, real world, franchises and media properties. The likes of Disney and Bertelsmann have swung a full circle from considering the Internet to be the next big thing in New Media delivery - to frantic efforts to contain the red ink it oozed all over their otherwise impeccable balance sheets. But were the now silent pundits right all the same? Is the future of publishing (and other media industries) inextricably intertwined with the Internet? The answer depends on whether an old habit dies hard. Internet surfers are used to free content. They are very reluctant to pay for information (with precious few exceptions, like the "Wall Street Journal"'s electronic edition). Moreover, the Internet, with 3 billion pages listed in the Google search engine (and another 15 billion in "invisible" databases), provides many


p. 8

free substitutes to every information product, no matter how superior. Web based media companies (such as Salon and have been experimenting with payment and pricing models. But this is besides the point. Whether in the form of subscription (Britannica), pay per view (Questia), pay to print (Fathom), sample and pay to buy the physical product (RealRead), or micropayments (Amazon) - the public refuses to cough up. Moreover, the advertising-subsidized free content Web site has died together with Web advertising. Geocities - a community of free hosted, ad-supported, Web sites purchased by Yahoo! - is now selectively shutting down Web sites (when they exceed a certain level of traffic) to convince their owners to revert to a monthly hosting fee model. With Lycos in trouble in Europe, Tripod may well follow suit shortly. Earlier this year, Microsoft has shut down ListBot (a host of discussion lists). Suite101 has stopped paying its editors (content authors) effective January 15th. fired hundreds of category editors. With the ugly demise of Themestream, WebSeed is the only content aggregator which tries to buck the trend by relying (partly) on advertising revenue. Paradoxically, e-publishing's main hope may lie with its ostensible adversary: the library. Unbelievably, e-publishers actually tried to limit the access of library patrons to e-books (i.e., the lending of e-books to multiple patrons). But, libraries are not only repositories of knowledge and community centres. They are also dominant promoters of new knowledge technologies. They are already the largest buyers of e-books. Together with schools and other educational institutions, libraries can serve as decisive socialization agents and introduce generations of pupils, students, and readers to the possibilities and riches of e-publishing. Government use of e-books (e.g., by the military) may have the same beneficial effect. As standards converge (Adobe's Portable Document Format and Microsoft's MS Reader LIT format are likely to be the winners), as hardware improves and becomes ubiquitous (within multi-purpose devices or as standalone higher quality units), as content becomes more attractive (already many new titles are published in both print and electronic formats), as more versatile information taxonomies (like the Digital Object Identifier) are introduced, as the Internet becomes more gender-neutral, polyglot, and cosmopolitan - e-publishing is likely to recover and flourish. This renaissance will probably be aided by the gradual decline of print magazines and by a strengthening movement for free open source scholarly publishing. The publishing of periodical content and academic research (including, gradually, peer reviewed research) may be already shifting to the Web. Non-fiction and textbooks will follow. Alternative models of pricing are already in evidence (author pays to publish, author pays to obtain peer review, publisher pays to publish, buy a physical product and gain access to enhanced online content, and so on). Web site rating agencies will help to discriminate between the credible and the incredible. Publishing is moving - albeit kicking and screaming - online. Return


p. 9

The Disintermediation of Content Are content brokers - publishers, distributors, and record companies - a thing of the past? In one word: disintermediation The gradual removal of layers of content brokering and intermediation - mainly in manufacturing marketing - is the continuation of a long term trend. Consider music for instance. Streaming audio on the internet ("soft radio"), or downloadable MP3 files may render the CD obsolete - but they were preceded by radio music broadcasts. But the novelty is that the Internet provides a venue for the marketing of niche products and reduces the barriers to entry previously imposed by the need to invest in costly "branding" campaigns and manufacturing and distribution activities. This trend is also likely to restore the balance between artists and the commercial exploiters of their products. The very definition of "artist" will expand to encompass all creative people. One will seek to distinguish oneself, to "brand" oneself and to auction one's services, ideas, products, designs, experience, physique, or biography, etc. directly to end-users and consumers. This is a return to pre-industrial times when artisans ruled the economic scene. Work stability will suffer and work mobility will increase in a landscape of shifting allegiances, head hunting, remote collaboration, and similar labour market trends. But distributors, publishers, and record companies are not going to vanish. They are going to metamorphose. This is because they fulfil a few functions and provide a few services whose importance is only enhanced by the "free for all" Internet culture. Content intermediaries grade content and separate the qualitative from the ephemeral and the atrocious. The deluge of self-published and vanity published e-books, music tracks and art works has generated few masterpieces and a lot of trash. The absence of judicious filtering has unjustly given a bad name to whole segments of the industry (e.g., small, or web-based publishers). Consumers - inundated, disappointed and exhausted - will pay a premium for content rating services. Though driven by crass commercial considerations, most publishers and record companies do apply certain quality standards routinely and thus are positioned to provide these rating services reliably. Content brokers are relationship managers. Consider distributors: they provide instant access to centralized, continuously updated, "addressbooks" of clients (stores, consumers, media, etc.). This reduces the time to market and increases efficiency. It alters revenue models very substantially. Content creators can thus concentrate on what they do best: content creation, and reduce their overhead by outsourcing the functions of distribution and relationships management. The existence of central "relationship ledgers" yields synergies which can be applied to all the clients of the distributor. The distributor provides a single address that content re-sellers converge on and feed off. Distributors, publishers and record companies also provide logistical support: warehousing, consolidated sales reporting and transaction auditing, and a single, periodic payment.


p. 10

Yet, having said all that, content intermediaries still over-charge their clients (the content creators) for their services. This is especially true in an age of just-in-time inventory and digital distribution. Network effects mean that content brokers have to invest much less in marketing, branding and advertising once a product's first mover advantage is established. Economic laws of increasing, rather than diminishing, returns mean that every additional unit sold yields a HIGHER profit - rather than a declining one. The pie is getting bigger. Hence, the meteoric increase in royalties publishers pay authors from sales of the electronic versions of their work (anywhere from Random House's 35% to 50% paid by smaller publishers). As this tectonic shift reverberates through the whole distribution chain, retail outlets are beginning to transact directly with content creators. The borders between the types of intermediaries are blurred. Barnes and Noble (the American bookstores chain) has, in effect, become a publisher. Many publishers have virtual storefronts. Many authors sell directly to their readers, acting as publishers. The introduction of "book ATMs" - POD (Print On Demand) machines, which will print every conceivable title in minutes, on the spot, in "book kiosks" - will give rise to a host of new intermediaries. Intermediation is not gone. It is here to stay because it is sorely needed. But it is in a state of flux. Old maxims break down. New modes of operation emerge. Functions are amalgamated, outsourced, dispensed with, or created from scratch. It is an exciting scene, full with opportunities. Return


p. 11

E(merging) Books A novel re-definition through experimentation of the classical format of the book is emerging. Consider the now defunct BookTailor. It used to sell its book customization software mainly to travel agents - but such software is likely to conquer other niches (such as the legal and medical professions). It allows users to select bits and pieces from a library of e-books, combine them into a totally new tome and print and bind the latter on demand. The client can also choose to buy the end-product as an e-book. Consider what this simple business model does to entrenched and age old notions such as "original" and "copies", copyright, and book identifiers. What is the "original" in this case? Is it the final, user-customized book - or its sources? And if no customized book is identical to any other - what happens to the intuitive notion of "copies"? Should BookTailor-generated books considered to be unique exemplars of one-copy print runs? If so, should each one receive a unique identifier (for instance, a unique ISBN)? Does the user possess any rights in the final product, composed and selected by him? What about the copyrights of the original authors? Or take On the face of it, it presents no profound challenge to established publishing practices and to the modern concept of intellectual property. Members register their books, obtain a BCID (BookCrossing ID Number) and then give the book to someone, or simply leave it lying around for a total stranger to find. Henceforth, fate determines the chain of events. Eventual successive owners of the volume are supposed to report to BookCrossing (by e-mail) about the book's and their whereabouts, thereby generating moving plots and mapping the territory of literacy and bibliomania. This innocuous model subversively undermines the concept - legal and moral - of ownership. It also expropriates the book from the realm of passive, inert objects and transforms it into a catalyst of human interactions across time and space. In other words, it returns the book to its origins: a time capsule, a time machine and the embodiment of a historical narrative. E-books, hitherto, have largely been nothing but an ephemeral rendition of their print predecessors. But e-books are another medium altogether. They can and will provide a different reading experience. Consider "hyperlinks within the e-book and without it - to web content, reference works, etc., embedded instant shopping and ordering links, divergent, userinteractive, decision driven plotlines, interaction with other e-books (using Bluetooth or another wireless standard), collaborative authoring, gaming and community activities, automatically or periodically updated content, ,multimedia capabilities, database, Favourites and History Maintenance (records of reading habits, shopping habits, interaction with other readers, plot related decisions and much more), automatic and embedded audio conversion and translation capabilities, full wireless piconetworking and scatternetworking capabilities and more". Return


p. 12

Invasion of the Amazons The last few months have witnessed a bloodbath in tech stocks coupled with a frantic redefinition of the web and of every player in it (as far as content is concerned). This effort is three pronged: Some companies are gambling on content distribution and the possession of the attendant digital infrastructure. MightyWords, for example, stealthily transformed itself from a "freefor-all-everyone-welcome" e-publisher to a distribution channel of choice works (mainly by midlist authors). It now aims to feed its content to content-starved web sites. In the process, it shed thousands of unfortunate authors who did not meet its (never stated) sales criteria. Others bet the farm on content creation and packaging. invaded the digital publishing and POD (Print on Demand) businesses in a series of lightning purchases. It is now the largest e-book store by a wide margin. But Amazon seemed to have got it right once more. The web's own virtual mall and the former darling of Wall Street has diversified into micropayments. The Internet started as a free medium for free spirits. E-commerce was once considered a dirty word. Web surfers became used to free content. Hence the (very low) glass ceiling on the price of content made available through the web - and the need to charge customers less than 1 US dollars to a few dollars per transaction ("micro-payments"). Various service providers (such as Pay-Pal) emerged, none became sufficiently dominant and all-pervasive to constitute a standard. Web merchants' ability to accept micropayments is crucial. E-commerce (let alone m-commerce) will never take off without it. Enter Amazon. Its "Honour System" is licenced to third party web sites (such as and SatireWire). It allows people to donate money or effect micro-payments, apparently through its patented one-click system. As far as the web sites are concerned, there are two major drawbacks: all donations and payments are refundable within 30 days and Amazon charges them 15 cents per transaction plus 15(!) percent. By far the worst deal in town. So, why the fuss? Because of Amazon's customer list. This development emphasizes the growing realization that one's list of customers - properly data mined - is the greatest asset, greater even than original content and more important than distribution channels and digital right management or asset management applications. Merchants are willing to pay for access to this ever expanding virtual neighbourhood (even if they are not made privy to the customer information collected by Amazon).


p. 13

The Honour System looks suspiciously similar to the payment system designed by Amazon for Stephen King's serialized e-novel, "The Plant". Interesting to note how the needs of authors and publishers are now in the driver's seat, helping to spur along innovations in business methods. Return


p. 14

Revolt of the Scholars Scindex's Instant Publishing Service is about empowerment. The price of scholarly, peerreviewed journals has skyrocketed in the last few years, often way out of the limited means of libraries, universities, individual scientists and scholars. A "scholarly divide" has opened between the haves (academic institutions with rich endowments and well-heeled corporations) and the haves not (all the others). Paradoxically, access to authoritative and authenticated knowledge has declined as the number of professional journals has proliferated. This is not to mention the long (and often crucial) delays in publishing research results and the shoddy work of many under-paid and over-worked peer reviewers. The Internet was suppose to change all that. Originally, a computer network for the exchange of (restricted and open) research results among scientists and academics in participating institutions - it was supposed to provide instant publishing, instant access and instant gratification. It has delivered only partially. Preprints of academic papers are often placed online by their eager authors and subjected to peer scrutiny. But this haphazard publishing cottage industry did nothing to dethrone the print incumbents and their avaricious pricing. The major missing element is, of course, respectability. But there are others. No agreed upon content or knowledge classification method has emerged. Some web sites (such as Suite101) use the Dewey decimal system. Others invented and implemented systems of their making. Additionally, one click publishing technology (such as Webseed's or Blogger's) came to be identified strictly to non-scholarly material: personal reminiscences, correspondence, articles and news. Enter Scindex and its Academic Resource Channel. Established by academics and software experts from Bulgaria, it epitomizes the tearing down of geographical barriers heralded by the Internet. But it does much more than that. Scindex is a whole, self-contained, stand-alone, instant self-publishing and self-assembly system. Self-publishing systems do exist (for instance, Purdue University's) - but they incorporate only certain components. Scindex covers the whole range. Having (freely) registered as a member, a scientist or a scholar can publish their papers, essays, research results, articles and comments online. They have to submit an abstract and use Sciendex's classification ("call") numbers and science descriptors, arranged in a massive directory available in the "RealSci Locator". The Locator can be also downloaded and used off-line and its is surprisingly user-friendly. The submission process itself is totally automated and very short. The system includes a long series of thematic journals. These journals self-assemble, in accordance with the call numbers selected by the submitters. An article submitted with certain call numbers will automatically be included in the relevant journals.


p. 15

The fly in the ointment is the absence of peer review. As the system moves from beta to commercialization, Scindex intends to address this issue by introducing a system of incentives and inducements. Reviewers will be granted "credit points" to be applied against the (paid) publication of their own papers, for instance. Scindex is the model of things to come. Publishing becomes more and more automated and knowledge-orientated. Peer reviewed papers become more outlandishly expensive and irrelevant. Scientists and scholars are getting impatient and rebellious. The confluence of these three trends spells - at the least - the creation of a web based universe of parallel and alternative scholarly publishing. Return



no comments yet