Hang 30: Time Surfing

Been awhile since we showed first rate surfing videos. This one from Aussie Rip Curl, uses a “30 camera array” and six world class surfers to enable editors to shift perspective, freeze frame from a combination of angles, and create the “Matrix” like illusion of perspective. Pretty cool.

They also produced a video on how they produced the video. Worth a look.

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Seven Forces that Doom Bookstores and Publishers

During the past few years, the music industry has been hammered. As music went digital, it was pirated, deconstructed, and mashed. As music stores and labels disappeared, their lobby, the RIAA, screamed bloody murder. But amidst the carnage, a funny thing happened: the music industry grew larger even though it had fewer labels and far fewer retailers. Revenue from CDs was replaced by revenue from live concerts, ring tones, downloaded singles, merchandise, and sponsorships. The new industry has its challenges (many of them traceable to lousy music), but it has hardly collapsed. This transformation presages the coming destruction of traditional book publishing and retailing, even as their overall publishing industry grows. Here are the seven reasons that bookstores and traditional book publishers are doomed. 7. Americans have stopped reading books. This is a non-trivial problem (after all, we did not stop listening to music). But the landmark National Endowment for the Arts study “Reading at Risk” confirms what we intuitively know: Americans read less than we used to. 43% of Americans read no books outside of work or school — a number meaningfully lower than Canada or most European countries. Those who do read books, don’t read many of them. About 24 percent of Americans read eight or more books in 2002, a lower percentage of “strong readers” than two thirds of European countries surveyed. Only 16% of the US population reads a book or more each month. According to Morgan Stanley, 20% of all book buyers purchase a majority of all books. Men read much less than women. NPR reports that among active readers, women typically read nine books in a year, compared with only five for men. Women read more than men in all categories except for history and biography. When most of us read, we prefer magazines and online articles that are shorter and less demanding than books. Kind of like you are doing right now. 6. Many of the books we read are crap.The largest single book category is still romance novels — a fact so embarrassing to the New York Times and other tastemakers that they exclude the category entirely from best seller lists. These bodice-rippers, together with religion, self-help, fantasy, and thrillers, account for a majority of books sold in the US (Gothic romance, which did not exist before 1972, by itself accounts for a majority of all paperback sales). Nearly all of these sales are to women, but women buy and read a lot more books than men even if you adjust out the Harlequins. Part of this is, no doubt, that brains exposed to constant media are not well wired for long form reading. We prefer writing that is built around tidy lists…oops. Nice essay to this effect by Alan Jacobs (hey, if you have read this far, you can manage it). 5. We can easily get books for free. Just Google “Torrent” and “Books” along with anything else and you will be directed to many sites that enable you to download books as pdf files easily readable on a tablet or an eReader. The site I checked helps you steal any of several dozen books on religion, most of which presumably counsel the reader against theft. It is always hard to estimate the economic impact of illicit downloading. I wonder if the net effect isn’t positive, even if authors howl. WordPerfect marketer Pete Peterson had a sensible point when he said that “if someone is going to steal software, I hope they steal ours”. Every illegal download is not a lost sale — but every time a reader finishes a book and raves about it, the marketing leads to new sales. Realizing this, most publishers will let you read the first chapter for free anyway. If we see publishers offering books for free but with advertising, we will know that the torrent sites have struck a nerve. My current bet is that it won’t happen for the same reason that iTunes curbed illegal music downloading. Customers like the ancillary content and the reliable file quality enough that if the experience is frictionless and the price sensible, we will pay. 4. “Books” are mutating.  Like music and movies, books are becoming a service, not a product. Today Amazon launched its Kindle Lending Library, which turns books into a service like Spotify for music or Netflix for movies. The number of publishers who have embraced this idea?Zero. These guys would rather face the Torrent sites than let Amazon loan their books. But publishers need to monetize their back list. Over time, they will do a deal with Amazon, even if they require Amazon to purchase a new copy after a finite number of rentals. Many publishers require libraries to do that now — and would doubtless oppose libraries as socialist if Ben Franklin hadn’t established libraries before they got organized. 
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