Meccano, the French toy manufacturer, has announced an open source, build your own robot project. Details here. As far as I can tell from the website, it isn’t yet available to buy.

I havent had a play with a real one, but I am excited. A robot you can build and adapt, using open source software (which i guess reflects the nature of Meccano, which is a bunch of pieces which can be assembled and re-assembled in any way you can imagine – similar to Lego for the unfamiliar), is a big deal in my world.

There are two versions of the robot, I link above to the larger one of the two. The massive social change around a robot in every home is coming and while the Honda Asimo is the early runner, there are so many players in this arena it is certainly unclear who will end up being the Microsoft, Google, Amazon or Apple of this brave new world.

#meccanoid

 

 

Digital publishing should be leading a revolution in publishing bringing great books to the masses – but this is stalling due to price.

Allen Lane, the founder of Penguin, introduced paperback novels in 1935 with the intention that books should cost no more than a packet of cigarettes.

I don’t buy cigarettes, but my friend Google tells me in the UK they cost a bit less than £6.50 for a pack of 20.

Second on the Amazon best selling book as I write is by Bradley Wiggins, the paperback costs £7.19 from Amazon (RRP £7.99)  while the Kindle edition costs £6.29 (and the reason I have selected 2nd on the best seller list is because first doesnt appear to have a Kindle edition thanks Jamie Oliver)

So the paperback costs more than the cigarettes, while the digital edition costs marginally less than they do.

Let’s think about this for a minute – the difference between a paperback and the Kindle edition is 90p.

That 90p must account for the cost of printing, the cost of paper, the cost of shipping, the cost of storage and possibly other costs I am not factoring in. And bearing in mind publishers sell to retailers at least 50% discount for paper books, then we should be looking at 45p as being the cost of each of those things.

While the Kindle edition is some data uploaded to Amazon who then download it after the customer purchases. Quite often the data is a couple of megabits which if it costs anything at all to store and transmit, cannot be more than a few pence.

So why does a couple of MBs of data cost not much less than a paperback (with all the costs of printing, transporting and storing) ????

I don’t know what is going on in the offices of big publishing houses across the planet, so I hesitate to say this is all about profiteering – they may have a legitimate reason – which I would really like to hear (feel free to comment to explain yourself if you work at a big publishing house).

However, what I do know is I have four books available on Amazon* – three are almost out of print as paperbacks (and the publisher doesn’t plan to print anymore as they will be available forever on Kindle) – but all are available in Kindle.

The paperback prices are in the range you would expect as compared to books from other publishing houses. But, the Kindle editions all retail at £1.92 (which is based on the US price of $2.99 which I understand is the minimum price you can put on a Kindle book). 

I mention the prices of my books primarily to make the point I am practicing what I am preaching (and if Amazon removes their minimum price I think they would go down again – publishing to a literate world should be about volume of sales not price per unit – the industry values best sellers (not highest priced sellers) after all.

Market forces will win out and the big publishing houses will flourish or not in the digital era. But keeping prices more or less the same for paper objects compared to couple of MBs downloads is probably not sustainable – look at what Apple has done to CDs with iTunes at 79p a track. Look at what Netflix and others are doing to movie and box set DVD sales.

The digital revolution is here and if the old publishers cannot change the price then new ones who will change the cost and the business model to compete will rise up and take their place – it is how the market works.

 

*My books available on Kindle:

The Joy of Ex

Fragments

UHF Shadow

The Great Wide Open

Been following this for a while, good mashable article discusses where Apple is regarding books.

Apple is launching an app for designing textbooks. These will be content rich experiences.

Apparently the cost will be capped at $14.99 and you will be able to buy individual chapters for a lower price.

This will save schools and colleges (and students!) an absolute fortune. The costs historically in publishing has always been in the paper, printing, distribution and storing. All of this is quickly vanishing as the traditional book (printed paper) starts to disappear being replaced by eBooks in their many forms.

If you own a Kindle (which, along with the Apple iPad) is the future of publishing, you can now own a digital copy of my first novel for much less than the paperback RRP of £7.

Depending on the conversion rate of the dollar (the Kindle store is driven from the US at present) the UK price should be about £2.

In my opinion the future of books is digital, but to survive this format should cost much less than buying a physical book.

Bearing in mind there is no cost for printing, distribution from printer to store, no storage cost, no cost of owning the store, paying the staff to  stock the shelves and man the tills – there is no justifiable business model (apart from excessive greed, which I guess isn’t actually justifiable) which would allow publishers to charge the same for their eBooks as for the physical versions.

Standalone digital readers

September 22, 2010

Amazon seem to be leading the way in the standalone reader category.

Compared to its rivals the Kindle seems the most affordable starting at £109.

Altho you can get a Sony eReader for under £150 at the moment.

My big concern about the standalone reader is that you’ll end up carrying this device as well as (at least) a mobile phone. (most people don’t carry a camera around anymore as their mobile phone has this covered for the everyday user)

The by word in the electronics industry has been “convergence” for as long as I can remember.

The Apple iPad is going in the right direction, but probably needs to also be an actual phone to get closer to being the finished article. I understand there has also been an issue with Flash, but word is a patch is underway.

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