Category Archives: Media

Amazon Cloud Drive & Cloud Player

On March 29th, Amazon launched two major new services, both of which seem to speak directly to my post guessing at an Amazon Tablet…as well as being shots across the bow of both Apple and the music industry. The two services are connected, but distinct in capabilities and effects, so let’s look at them separately:

Amazon Cloud Drive

The first is Amazon Cloud Drive, Amazon’s answer to other consumer-facing cloud storage similar to Dropbox or Windows SkyDrive. Amazon is giving everyone 5GB of space for free, with the ability to purchase additional storage for $1 per Gigabyte in chunks: 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, or 1000 GB levels are all available. While 5GB free is more than Dropbox’s 2GB, and way less than SkyDrive’s 25Gb, for raw storage in the cloud I still think Dropbox has everything else beat in usability. For Cloud Drive, you have to do all file interactions (uploading/downloading) within your browser, which isn’t as convenient on traditional computers as a locally-mounted drive. There’s no reason that Amazon couldn’t move this direction, however, and release a program that would allow more direct access.

The real killer here isn’t Cloud Drive by itself…it’s the associated Cloud Player and the model that Amazon is using for the connection between the two. Cloud Player is a web-based media player that has access to the files uploaded to your Cloud Drive. That is, if you use your Cloud Drive to hold MP3 or AAC encoded music files, those will be automatically available to Cloud Player, and can be streamed to nearly any browser. Cloud Player has the basic controls that you would expect from a music player, allowing you to view your collections by album, artist, or genre. It also allows you to build or import playlists, shuffle, and repeat songs in the same way that pretty much every music player does.

This means that with Cloud Storage + Cloud Player, I can take my own music, upload it to Amazon, and then listen to it anywhere I have a browser…or on the updated Amazon MP3 for Android app on any Android based phone or tablet. In a brilliant marketing move, Amazon is also letting you automatically cross-load any MP3 that you buy from the Amazon MP3 Store directly to your Cloud Drive…and anything that you buy from them doesn’t count against your storage limits. They are also offering a free upgrade to their 20GB storage level if you just buy any MP3 album from Amazon through the end of 2011. So you can purchase any amount of music from Amazon, and it will all be available for streaming to any computer or directly to your phone if you have an Android handset. For free.

Let’s not forget, this sort of service is exactly what got in hot water with the music labels a decade ago (with, admittedly, technical differences). Indeed, Sony has commented to Ars Technica that while they were hopeful they could work with Amazon on a licensing deal that they were “keeping their legal options open.” So it’s almost certain that Amazon will see some form of lawsuit about the service…but my money is on Amazon for this one. They have the pockets that didn’t, and have a great case for moving the industry forward if they can pull of a court victory.

This is a huge move by Amazon, and will put the pressure on Apple to respond. There have been rumors about a similar digital-locker server from Apple for years now, and their North Carolina Data Center has been rumored to be a part of Apple gearing up for a cloud-based service since it was announced. Google is also rumored to be getting into this market, with their Google Music service that is reported to be in internal testing now. It’s going to be an interesting year for these services, but Amazon has a compelling vision for Cloud Drive + Cloud Player. I’m excited by it, and really want to get my hands on an Android device so that I can play with the mobile access.

Focus on the Future

Here’s a little thing I put together for the Bay Area Library and Information Systems group that were kind enough to have me speak to a group of Children’s Librarians a week or so ago. Was a brilliant time, and I really appreciated getting to hear from a group of librarians that I just don’t talk to enough. I also had the pleasure of presenting with two very impressive people, Roger Sutton of Horn Book fame and Kristen McLean, Founder and CEO of Bookigee.

I’m really happy with the way this presentation went, especially since I used Eliza as the theme for it. :-) The downside of the way I do my presentations, however, is that the slides themselves are a tiny fraction of the actual content…most of it is me, and talking, and asking questions and such. But I liked the slides too much not to share.

Thoughts on The Harper Collins Incident

Aside from the fact that I think I’ll use The Harper Collins Incident as a band name in a novel that I’m hoping to write someday, there’s a lot to say about the whole eBook limited circulation thing. I decided to put on my Library Renewal hat and say something about it over there. I may have more to say about it here, but not right now.

So if you’re interested, head on over and read: Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal, part two in the “pithy sci-fi reference blog posts” at Library Renewal today. I’m just sad I didn’t get to the Vader quote first.

Once more the Apple apologist

I’m feeling more and more like the library equivalent of John Gruber these days.

UPDATE 2/1/11 1:18pm: website The Loop is reporting that they received a statement on the matter from Apple:

“We have not changed our developer terms or guidelines,” Apple spokesperson, Trudy Muller, told The Loop. “We are now requiring that if an app offers customers the ability to purchase books outside of the app, that the same option is also available to customers from within the app with in-app purchase.”

This is a change from previous Apple requirements, and will require existing apps to make changes to the way they behave. It also puts Amazon, B&N, and other retailers far more under Apple’s thumb in regards to pricing and profitability. More than anything, it puts them in a confrontational position with other retailers, instead of being simply a competitor. It will be very interesting to see how this shakes out.

There has been general alarm this morning on the Twitter and in the blogosphere that Apple is going to start killing off non-iBook eBook stores. Phil Bradley blogged about the New York Times article on the rejection of the Sony eReader app by Apple, saying:

Well, this is an interesting development. Sony have had their iPhone application rejected by Apple. Moreover, they’ve been told that they can no longer sell content, like e-books, within their apps, or let customers have access to purchases they have made outside the App Store.

That is what the NYT article says as well:

The company has told some applications developers, including Sony, that they can no longer sell content, like e-books, within their apps, or let customers have access to purchases they have made outside the App Store.

But if you read the next two lines:

Apple rejected Sony’s iPhone application, which would have let people buy and read e-books bought from the Sony Reader Store.

Apple told Sony that from now on, all in-app purchases would have to go through Apple, said Steve Haber, president of Sony’s digital reading division.

Notice that Steve Haber did NOT say that non-in-app purchases were disallowed. I can’t tell from the sloppy reporting if that second clause actually came from the Sony interview, or from other sources. So here’s the deal: Apple has never allowed in-app purchases that bypassed Apple. It’s the reason that when you are in the Kindle app, and you go to buy a book, it pushes you out of the app and over to Safari and the Amazon website.

There seems to be no indication that the Kindle app is in jeopardy…Phil’s headline notwithstanding. It works exactly the way that Apple has told people it wants apps to work, and if Sony submitted an app that didn’t follow the rules, they knew good and well it would get rejected.

There is another explanation…Apple might be warning app developers behind the scenes that things are going to be changing. Tomorrow marks the announcement of The Daily, Rupert Murdoch’s new experimental tablet-only newspaper. With it is expected to come a new method for in-app subscriptions, which might signal the availability of a new infrastructure for app developers to take advantage of (and for Apple to force the use of).

But for now, this story is nothing but poor reporting on the NYT’s part, combined with a bit of over-excitability on the part of librarians. Amazon’s Kindle app, along with the literally thousands of other apps that rely on web-based purchasing and then web-based updating, isn’t going anywhere. Apple would have many, many, many more problems than Amazon if they just eliminated outside purchases wholesale.

CES and ALA Midwinter 2011

The next week or so for me is completely insane, as I’m attending both CES2011 and ALA Midwinter 2011, even though they actually overlap. I’ll be flying from Nashville to Las Vegas on Tuesday for CES, hopping from Vegas to San Diego on Friday for ALA Midwinter, and then taking the red-eye late on Monday night to get back to Nashville and then home early Tuesday morning.

Then I’m gonna sleep about 20 hours.

There are a lot of things I’m excited about for both trips…CES is a bazaar of tech, and I’m attending a number of exciting Press Conferences from Sony, Lenovo, ASUS, and other major tech companies. I’m going to be doing reporting on the trip over at Perpetual Beta, including (if the wifi holds up) some livestreaming. I will send a tweet out when I start a livestream, so if you are interested, follow me over at twitter and you’ll get the head’s up when I go live with anything.

At ALA Midwinter, there’s also a lot to be excited about. I have two favors to ask of anyone that happens to read this and will be in San Diego:

The first: if you are a LITA member, consider coming to the Saturday morning LITA Board of Directors meeting at 8:00am in the SDCC Room 11b. It’s early, and I don’t begrudge anyone their sleep, but if you want to see how LITA works, and help to make it better, come hang out with the Board for the morning.

The second is: Come see me stumble over my fanboy self while I interview Dr. Vernor Vinge, on Saturday in the SDCC at 1:30pm in room 29 A-D. Go to that link and leave me a question you’d like to see Dr. Vinge answer, check here and at LITABlog for a live stream of the interview, and help make this an awesome event for librarians everywhere. Dr. Vinge is a 4 time Hugo Award winner, and his writing has within it possible futures for information, libraries, and books that we should really pay attention to.

I hope to see a lot of friends as well…if you see me, please wave me down and say hello.

Privacy and Freedom of Information in 21st-Century Libraries

CoverI’m really priviledged to be a part of the latest ALA TechSource Library Technology Report, Privacy and Freedom of Information in 21st-Century Libraries. When I was given the opportunity to contribute to an issue with Deborah Caldwell-Stone, Sarah Houghton-Jan, Barbara M. Jones and Eli Neiburger…well, I said yes.

I wrote the chapter entitled “Social Networking and the Library”, and the general thrust of the chapter can be seen in this excerpt:

The central tension between libraries and social networks is simple: a social network gains usefulness when you are identifiable (people know who you are) and you share information about yourself (people know what you like). Libraries have, for years, operated under the general guideline that both of those pieces of knowledge are no ones business but yours….Taken at face value, as they relate to social networks, library ethical policies can be interpreted as directly contradictory with…privacy statements. Libraries have chosen, at times, to value privacy over access to social networks when these are in conflict. If the privacy of the patron is compromised via social networks, one possible answer is to attempt to limit access to those networks, which flies in the face of open and free access to information.

If you’re interested in the topic of Freedom of Information and how difficult holding on to library’s traditional values becomes in the 21st century, this issue is a great read. Head on over to Techsource and pick it up.

Interviewing Dr. Vernor Vinge

Dr. Vernor VingeIn one of the more surreal occurrences in my working life, I will have the opportunity to interview one of the titans of the Science Fiction world, Dr. Vernor Vinge, at the ALA Midwinter Meeting 2011 in San Diego, CA. The interview itself will be on Saturday, Jan 8th, from 1:30-3:30pm Pacific time in the San Diego Convention Center Room 29 A-D.

Plans are in place to livestream the interview at the LITA Ustream channel, and in addition to a set of questions from myself, I’ve decided to set up ways to take questions from just about anyone who wants. At the bottom of this post is an embedded Google Form where you can ask your question of Dr. Vinge…I’ll sort through any in the next 2 weeks and pick the best of the bunch for inclusion. In addition, during the interview itself, we will be taking questions not only from the live audience but also from Twitter (use the hashtag #alamw_vinge) and from the Facebook Event page.

So: hit the form below, and ask your question now. Watch the interview live on Saturday, January 8th at 1:30 Pacific time, and ask your questions as they occur to you. I, along with several awesome librarians, will try our best to collapse all of these streams into an entertaining and informative couple of hours for all.