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The Race to Be the ‘Netflix for eBooks’

A Statista study from earlier this year shows that the subscription model works–at least for movies and television shows: The study showed that Netflix subscriptions are nearly as common among adults aged 18 to 36 as cable television subscriptions. Hulu is another big player in this area, and Amazon has thrown its hat in the ring with its subscription Instant Video service. Among others, Spotify applies the subscription model to music. Indeed, with cloud and mobile technology pushing the popularity of subscription services to an all-time high, it’s no wonder that a new wave of companies is vying to become the “Netflix for e-books.”
Ebooks

In the Running

Scribd, Oyster and eReatah have all jumped into the e-book subscription arena, offering members access to a set number of e-books per month for a fee. But there are big names with big footprints already in the field, including Amazon’s Kindle Lending Library, which offers four times more titles than the relative newbies. (Amazon looks like it is also upping the ante with its recent purchase of Goodreads and the book sharing social network’s 16 million members.)

On the other hand, according to TechCrunch, being a newbie in tech world is sometimes an advantage in its own right. “Goodreads had over 16 million readers at the time of the deal, but the technology itself feels stagnant and dated, especially on mobile, potentially giving Oyster an edge,” the article stated.

The library liability

The biggest issue facing would-be Netflix services for e-books is as old as, well, Ben Franklin: Whereas unlimited access to movies for a monthly subscription was a new concept when Netflix emerged, the same isn’t true for books. The book-lending concept has been around as long as public libraries have been around–since Ben Franklin introduced the concept, around 1730.

Ben FranklinAnd not only do public libraries enable people to borrow books with actual paper pages, many are lending ebooks, as well–for free.

“[I]n addition to competing with e-commerce giant Amazon, whose empire began with bookselling,” wrote TechCrunch, “these startups compete with other so-called ‘Netflix for e-books’ outlets: (gasp!) local libraries.”

Scribd, for one, is not daunted: “Netflix is worth about $18 billion. Spotify is worth about $3 billion,” Trip Adler, Scribd’s co-founder and CEO, told Mashable. “I don’t see why there isn’t a similar opportunity in this space.”

Standing out from the crowd

Will Scribd, Oyster or eReatah become Netflix for e-books? Perhaps not. But does that mean the model will fail? Not necessarily. After all, people buy gym memberships even though running outside is free.

“A health club membership, like an ebook service subscription, is often an aspirational purchase for subscribers,” said the indie book publisher Smashwords in a blog. “As long as the reader wants to increase their reading in the future, they’re likely to maintain their subscription, even if they don’t actually read more.”

Interestingly, ebook subscriptions could find success for the very same reason they may not be the next Netflix: Books aren’t movies. Indeed, if there’s anything a potential industry disrupter might take away from from the ebook service race, it’s that such distinctions matter. Trying to recreate another industry’s disruption in one’s own is only asking for comparisons in which you are likely to come up short.

However, recognizing what the ebook lending companies have in common with Netflix–as well as with music streaming services like Spotify and iTunes Radio–helps create some context for the greater world of media consumption. Across the board, the competition is hottest in cloud-based technology: Consumers don’t need to own their media; they “simply” want access to it anytime and anywhere.

Life in the Cloud Quote

Learn more about the future of cloud services in our infographic, “Life in the Cloud”.

With their place in the digital media industry in mind, if Scribd, Oyster, eReatah or any other contender shoots for its own goals rather than Netflix’s, it might just become the “[insert provider name here] of ebook subscriptions.”

 

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Cloud-Based Jive Helps Businesses Run Better

Jive SoftwareWith emails in one place, documents in another, business cards stuffed into a Rolodex and texts from co-workers dinging into phones, workers spend a lot of time searching for and sorting out communications. Jive Software‘s social business platform has been helping workplaces cut through the clutter and more easily collaborate for some time, but, now that the service is offered through the cloud, it’s getting even better.

Though early releases of the cloud version of Jive were missing some features, InformationWeek reports that the increased functionality and convenience of the cloud version has large clients such as Nuance Communications and Thomson Reuters making or planning to make the switch.

With 60,000 Jive users, Thomson Reuters’ planned switch to the cloud-based version of the service is no small endorsement. Thomson Reuters claims 100% employee participation with the software, and considers Jive’s “The Hub” feature so comprehensive that the company was able to shut down 14 other intranet collaboration systems it had been using (including portals and wikis) because Jive had made them redundant.

Thomson Reuters is particularly excited to gain access to the cloud-based Jive’s new social directory feature, “because allowing employees to find other employees and locate specific expertise within the company is one of the major uses of the social platform,” reports InformationWeek.

Collaboration has always been at the heart of Jive, but as Macmillan Science and Education recently learned, going through the cloud has made it easier to collaborate.

The publisher tried out the cloud-based Jive to help connect 450 employees. The pilot was so successful that the company phased it in more quickly than expected.

“The advantage of it being in the cloud is that bringing users on was just a question of literally telling them what the URL was,” Stephen Devlin, CTO of Macmillan Science and Education, told CBR Online.

Immediate integration of new features is often a benefit of cloud-based software, and Jive is no exception. The company recently announced it will be releasing two betas with its next update–Jive + Producteev integration and Real Time Communication, Both of these features will be available only to cloud customers.

Cloud users will also be the benefactors of new collaborations, such as that between Jive and Okta Cloud Connect, which ZDNet reports will allow Jive customers to connect with Microsoft Active Directory and other corporate LDAP directories.

With better directory services, increased collaboration and access to new features, the cloud-based Jive platform is upping the efficiency and productivity ante for business.

 

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App Gives Users the Benefits of ‘Bump’ without the Bump

Welcome to Mozy’s App Profile, where we introduce new programs seeking to improve the way we live and socialize. This week, Mozy takes a look at Airlike, an app that could change the way you interact with your phone and the files stored on it.

AirLike AppRemember Bump? When the file-sharing app first appeared on the market, the technology that allowed two users to transfer information from one phone to another simply by holding their devices and bumping fists was a great party trick. But did fist-pounding one’s neighbor become a universal way to share information? Did Bumping become the new handshake at networking events and business meetings? Not exactly.

A new app–Airlike–is giving users the opportunity to use the same style of proximity technology to share files in a more practical way. Indeed, wrote reviewer Tucker Cummings on Tapscape, it’s practical and fun, and can be compared to technology seen in the movies. “Whenever I watch a sci-fi or action flick, I find myself wishing that the technology I see on the screen was real,” he said. “Airlike is pretty much the closest thing I’ve found to that kind of ability.”

With Airlike, rather than physically touching, users simply point their phones at one another and “flick” files toward each other with their fingers. Business users may feel more comfortable with this less touchy-feely way to file share, especially when it comes to new connections. Instead of using Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, Airlike leverages GPS and the phone’s gyroscope, compass and accelerometer sensors to send the information.

A lack of consumer enthusiasm for touching others wasn’t the only challenge Bump faced and Airlike overcomes.

“Along with trumping Bump’s need for physical contact, [Airlike maker] Displair is also talking up Airlike’s functionality over Apple’s own AirDrop phone-to-phone filesharing offering,” wrote TechCrunch. “That’s because AirDrop requires iOS7, while Airlike works on iOS 6 and up, meaning that it supports a greater number of Apple’s older devices.”

Airlike has the edge now, but could it, like Bump, face similar threats of being overshadowed by a newer, more feature-rich rival? Not yet, but when building a better mousetrap, it’s always wise to keep an eye out for the exterminator. Indeed, with the average lifespan of an app estimated to be 14 months, Airlike could be just as cool as the market needs it to be–and relevant for just as long.

 

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Battle of the Streaming Bands

If anything could qualify as the end of the debate between whether the future of digital music lies in downloads or streaming, it could be the launch of iTunes Radio. The fact that Apple–the pay-per-download giant–is placing bets on music streaming is very telling, but the September release of iTunes Radio has also opened for debate another question: Which provider will offer the best service?

“An arms race is afoot,” RCA Records President and CEO Tom Corson told Rolling Stone.

And, thus, the battle is on among music streaming companies, from the long-running Pandora to the rumored YouTube streaming service. Though the war is sure to be a lengthy one, some industry experts are weighing in on who is faring best so far and why.

Pandora

Right off the bat, Pandora’s early entrance into the music streaming game gives it 70 million advantages over the new services. With all of those active users, Pandora also has the support of long-time advertisers. Indeed, CNBC reports that Pandora runs advertisements for eight to 10 minutes per hour.

Spotify

Spotify allows users to get more hands on with their playlists than Pandora, with hand-curated collections of songs. The Huffington Post calls Spotify “more robust” than other streaming music services. In addition, it’s integration with Facebook is a unique feature that makes the music listening experience more social, even for lonely office workers.

Backing Up Celebrities

How many GBs would it take to back up some of today’s most popular musicians, performers, and other celebrities? Find out in Mozy’s infographic, “Backing Up Celebrities”.

iTunes Radio

Though comparatively late to the music streaming scene, iTunes Radio already has two big advantages over the longstanding Pandora:, according to CNET: human-curated stations and global music rights. There is also potential, states CNET, in the combination of iTunes Radio, Siri and automobiles. “iTunes Radio is a clear threat,” said BTIG analyst Richard Greenfield in the CNET article. “[Siri is] key to giving iOS an important place in the car and beyond, and making iTunes Radio a true ‘Pandora Killer.’”

YouTube Music

A YouTube music streaming service is still officially a rumor, but there is lots of buzz about it nonetheless. Forbes predicts that such a move would essentially be a rebrand–although a smart rebrand–of Google’s existing service, Google Play Music All Access.

“YouTube … is a brand that everyone knows, and most kids already use it to discover their music,” wrote Bobby Owsinski in the Forbes post. “Adding a streaming music function becomes only just a new YouTube feature, not a new service.”‘

So, music streaming services, get ready to rumble! What all this ramping up means to the consumer is that the future of music has been decided. Notably, the expansion of iTunes’ scope from digital downloads only to streaming seems to be an indication that the industry in changing gears. Almost certainly, the features of each service will evolve as both the technology and competition heats up, and the broad reach of better established brands like iTunes and YouTube will give the original names in streaming–such as Pandora and Spotify–a run for their money.

One thing is for sure: Music lovers who want more songs at their fingertips–at all times–will be sharing the victory with whichever service rises to the top.

 

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How Cannonball is Changing Email on the iPad

Cannonball Email AppFor people who work well with simplistic lists, the traditional mobile email interface is fine. It works. But for those who like a more interactive, visual and smart inbox experience–and for those who can never make it through that long list of emails–Cannonball, a new email app for iPad, delivers.

In addition to providing messages in traditional list form, Cannonball groups messages by sender in two columns of thumbnails. “The effect is that it becomes much more fun to browse your inbox,” wrote Mashable about the new app, adding that it also increases email efficiency. “Suddenly, messages from services like Groupon and LinkedIn get lumped together and can be deleted in bulk. Likewise, you can choose to group messages from a particular friend or coworker together so you can easily scroll back and sort through your recent correspondences.”

The concept may sound familiar–it’s not unlike the new “promotions” and “priority” inboxes (among others) recently rolled out by Gmail. That similarity is cited as a drawback by TechCrunch, though it’s worth noting that all emails in the Cannonball model, regardless of the inbox they are in, appear in the iPad email interface. So while Cannonball may be replicating an existing Gmail feature, it’s bringing it to a new class of devices.

But the real advantage of Cannonball, Mashable states, is not its inbox triage capabilities, but rather its goals for email management: Unlike other mobile email apps, it doesn’t aim for a completely empty inbox.

“Cannonball is operating with a slightly different premise,” notes Mashable. “Most users don’t want to have zero emails in their inbox; what they want is to have zero unread emails in their inbox.”

And that’s what makes the product so unique. Cannonball’s touchable, drag-and-drop-able, colorful interface is pleasant to look at and easy to use, and the email triage capabilities it offers are helpful for anyone overrun with too many emails (read: everyone with email). However, because some emails contain important information or must be mulled before making a response, the goal of inbox management–rather than annihilation—makes Cannonball worth a try.

 

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