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How Climategate has galvanised the scientific

info community SEE PAGE 18

FOLLOWING THE FLOCK SAP joins IBM in the open source arena SEE PAGE 10

The e-reader, tablet and e-book devices market race hots up

Publishers must learn to control their digital agenda

Archana Venkatraman

Publishers must continue to focus on digitisation but adopt a wait-and-see attitude before betting on the winner of the e-reader, tablet and e-books market race, which is set to intensify with the launch of Google’s online bookstore, Google Editions, later this year. At a time when Amazon, Apple and even Google try to tie in publishers and authors to exclusive distribution con- tracts, a mono focus on e-books from a single vendor would be a mistake, experts say, pointing to how Amazon signed an exclusive e-book distribution deal with the Wylie Agency in July 2010. Although, the deal was limited to a few titles, should this trend proliferate, it could result in a fragmented market. Research firm Euromonitor

International is advising publishers to embrace the move to digitisation whole- heartedly, but adds that choosing to sup- port iPad, Google Editions or Amazon is not the deciding factor. Its head of glob- al consumer electronics research, Wee Teck Loo, said: “Publishers have more than enough titles to spread across all parties. The advantage of digital print is the ease of converting to various for- mats (open source or proprietary).” The advice comes at a time when pub- lishers are torn between the consumer appeal of Apple’s iPad, Amazon’s vast


Waiting in Berlin: customers queue in the rain for the launch of Apple’s iPad earlier this summer Inset: Euromonitor’s Wee Teck Loo

collection of e-books and Google’s strat- egy of selling content in a device-agnos- tic way. But experts say publishers still have an option to offer content without having to choose between platforms and product categories. Euromonitor also predicted that consumers will remain cautious of spending on any product if the content available is limited, and those that do will still likely need paper copies to fill the gaps created from the format wars between manufacturers. The sale of e-books in the UK so far this year is 83,970 units – a mere 0.3%

household penetration rate. Ofcom’s Communications Market 2010 report revealed that despite their growing availability, only a minority of house- holds have access to such devices. By comparison, Apple sold three million iPads within three months of its US launch. “The contrasting performance of iPads versus e-books is an example of the ongoing tussle between single use ver- sus multifunctional devices,” said Loo. Publishers must not get carried away by the iPad’s success, however, as the Continued on page 2…

Capturing London 2012 Museums, libraries and archives are gearing up for people to have their say on the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games as part of “The People’s Record”. Supported by the MLA, 19 projects will record the Games’ impact on communities across England, designed to sustain an online legacy for all regions. Museums, libraries and archives will work with local partners to collect the experiences of local people. The current phase of the project runs to March 2011. Roy Clare, MLA chief executive, said: “The People’s Record will be the first co-ordinated record by a host nation of the public’s reaction to the Games and illustrates how we can all play a key role in the Cultural Olympiad and transform the way people experience museums, libraries and archives.”

Clare: We can all play a key role. Open government data is ‘not open at all’ Tim Buckley Owen

Council spending figures are supposed to be free for anyone to download and mash, but are “not open at all”, accord- ing to a local government transparency campaigner.

Chris Taggart of

OpenlyLocal claims that data analyst Spikes Cavell has gained privileged access to some council spending data for its “Spotlight on Spending” database. Spikes Cavell is allowing people to use its processed data for personal use only and is employing a captcha to

screen out machines attempting to download it automatically.


amounts to “shooting down all those goals of mashing up the data, using the community”, Taggart claims. Earlier, Communities and Local Government secretary Eric Pickles wrote to local authorities instructing them to open their books, following an announcement by the coalition govern- ment that all councils must publish expenditure over £500 by next January. “I don’t expect everyone to do


it right first time, but I do expect every- one to do it,” he said. Conservative Pickles also won plaudits from maver- ick Labour MP Tom Watson for his pioneering efforts at openness within his own department. “We should give credit where it is due,” he said. However, Taggart claims that coun- cils publishing their data only through Spotlight on Spending “will not achieve the results of transparency or of equality of access”. Instead he urges the government’s newly created Public


Sector Transparency Board to turn the issue into a test case. This isn’t the only coalition trans-

parency initiative to hit rough seas. The COINS public spending database has also been criticised for omitting crucial figures and the crowd-sourced Spending Challenge site was closed for a while because of concerns that it was attract- ing racist and defamatory material. Turn to p15 for more on this story. A Q&A with Chris Taggart appears on p16-17


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