The Mediated Book

“The Mediated Book”

U of Chicago Law & Economics, Olin Working Paper No. 463

RANDAL C. PICKER, University of Chicago – Law School

Text in hand, we have read books by candlelight, oil lamp and Edison’s incandescent bulb, maybe even the occasional CFL. But even as light itself has changed, the book has remained constant. Until now. With the rise of Google Book Search and ebook readers like Amazon’s Kindle, we have entered the era of the mediated book. We will still browse and read books, but we will do so through a screen.

This is more than just a change in medium. Digital texts are inherently on-demand works, that is, works that can be produced at the instant that a consumer wishes to interact with the text. Physical books historically have been printed in batched runs in advance of demand. This fact of production matters relatively little for the texts themselves, as we typically want books to be fixed, reliable artifacts.

This changes matters for how we finance books. On-demand texts can be financed through advertising. Printing in advance means that embedded advertising has little chance of being relevant at the point of reading. Mediated texts can be updated instantly with new, continuously timely advertising. That advertising also can be personalized for individual readers as the interaction between the mediating device and the reader will create a rich information stream to enhance the relevance of this advertising. That process of course will raise standard privacy issues.

The short history of 20th Century advertising expenditures in the United States is characterized by two facts. First, overall expenditures as a percentage of GDP are relatively constant over time, bouncing around over the last sixty years between 1.5% and 2.5%. The emergence of new advertising platforms – say radio in 1927; broadcast TV in 1949; cable TV in 1980; and the Internet in 1997 – hasn?t altered that essential fact. The emergence of another new platform – advertising-supported books – isn’t likely to expand overall advertising expenditures much if at all. Second, print?s advertising market share has declined steadily, from roughly 55% of advertising dollars in 1935 to a little under 21% in 2007.

Mediated content accounts for a large chunk of that decline. Now books and of course print more generally will be mediated too. And we will get a nice test. Does the decline in the role of print as seen in advertising dollars reflect the decline of words relative to images and sounds? Or is this a story not of content but of technology, in which a mediated platform is a better advertising platform? The rise of the new mediated books will change how we finance books and will change our understanding of the relative roles of content and technology in driving advertising.

 

Source:  LSN Cyberspace Law Vol. 14 No. 32,  05/26/2009

Google Book Search Now Finds Magazines!

This just announced on the Google Blog:

“Today, we’re announcing an initiative to help bring more magazine archives and current magazines online, partnering with publishers to begin digitizing millions of articles from titles as diverse as New York Magazine, Popular Mechanics, and Ebony.

For years, we’ve worked to make as much information as possible accessible online, whether that information comes from books, newspapers, or images. We think that bringing more magazines online is one more important step toward our long-standing goal of providing access to all the world’s information.”

In these tight budgetary time, my first thought is a question: will libraries save any money because of this?  I only hope so.

New Google Book Search Feature

Google just announced an exciting new feature — embedded previews:

“We’re launching a set of free tools that allow retailers, publishers, and anyone with a web site to embed books from the Google Book Search index. We are also providing new ways for these sites to display full-text search results from Book Search, and even integrate with social features such as ratings, reviews, and readers’ book collections. By providing tools that help sites connect readers with books in new and interesting ways, we hope publishers and authors will find even wider audiences for their works”

Hat tip to ReadWriteWeb

Copyright Renewal Records

From Inside Google Book Search

“How do you find out whether a book was renewed? You have to check the U.S. Copyright Office records. Records from 1978 onward are online (see http://www.copyright.gov/records) but not downloadable in bulk. The Copyright Office hasn’t digitized their earlier records, but Carnegie Mellon scanned them as part of their Universal Library Project, and the tireless folks at Project Gutenberg and the Distributed Proofreaders painstakingly corrected the OCR.”

“Thanks to the efforts of Google software engineer Jarkko Hietaniemi, we’ve gathered the records from both sources, massaged them a bit for easier parsing, and combined them into a single XML file available for download here.”

[Hat tip to BoingBoing for this news!]