IndexThree stories are occupying my techie RSS feeds these days, and they are all alarming ones. Readers, I urge you to keep abreast of the news on these and stay tuned for any on-line activism that may arise. There are some pivotal issues being decided upon in the next year or so. What are my top stories?

1) The Borders/Red Group Closures

Oh sure, I hear you saying. You read ebooks now. Why should you care? Here’s why: because the world is full of non-Americans, and the bugbear of geographical restrictions means these people may be more screwed than you think. When I lived in New Zealand in 2005, my city (the fourth largest city in the country) had a grand total of ONE bricks and mortar bookstore. It was a Whitcoull’s. If they closed it, that would have been it! Now, close it AND prevent those customers from buying the ebooks instead, and what are you leaving them with?

2) The Hot Mess That is the Apple In-App Purchasing Fiasco

Don’t get me wrong, I love my iPad, and am typing this article right now on a Macbook which is currently charging my iPod Touch. I am not a ‘fangirl’ but these products work for me and make my life easier. But I have some serious misgivings about the stand they are trying to make on in-app purchases.

As a customer, I don’t really care about the logistics of who pays what to whom or how one can skirt the app store guidelines this way or that way. What I do care about, though, is being able to enjoy my own legally purchased content on my own legally purchased device. And my concern is that I won’t be able to do this anymore because Apple is playing such hard ball on this that vendors I rely upon will just bail completely. It won’t be ‘I don’t care about the in-app purchasing because I can just buy it off the website.’ It will be ‘even if you buy it off the website, it’s all a moot point because there will be no effing app to read it on.’

Already, I have held off on renewing some Zinio subscriptions because I’m worried that if I do it before this is all resolved, I may be stuck reading them on a laptop if Zinio pulls their app. And if Kobo pulls their app too, what will that leave me with? The iBooks store is an absolute wasteland for the non-American, so even if I wanted to shop there, I wouldn’t be able to buy anything good…

3) The Broadband Spectrum and Usage-Based Billing

I hope my fellow Canadians are following Michael Geist’s blog. He has some excellent columns on this and knows his stuff. It’s not so much about the showdown between the bigwigs and the indies on who pays what percent of this or that. As with the Apple problem, it’s about what this means for the customer. The reality is that in Canada anyway, most of us are vastly over-paying for our internet, and the bigwig monopoly seem determined to monetize—at super-high markup—every pixel we view. All right, many of us spend more internet time than we should on stupid stuff. But there are some nobler uses—and some bottom-line business livelihood ones—that come into play as well. The question should not be ‘how do we stifle innovation and competition by making everyone paranoid about how much bandwidth they use?’ The question should instead be ‘how can we make bandwidth cheaper and more stable/plentiful to promote new business models and improve the economy for everyone?’ Now, factor in the bookstore closures, which may spike the ebook business, and you see how tangled up this all gets…

As for the broadband spectrum, Geist addresses this in his column today and the short version is this: Canada, among other countries, is implementing a switch this year from analog to digital television transmission. So his question is: what will happen to the bandwidth that gets freed up when everything migrates off of the analog spectrum? If you’re an entrepreneur looking to start any kind of net-based business, this will be an issue to watch for.

2011 is going to be an important year, I think. I am just praying that those in actual power here don’t screw this whole thing up!

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"I’m a journalist, a teacher and an e-book fiend. I work as a French teacher at a K-3 private school. I use drama, music, puppets, props and all manner of tech in my job, and I love it. I enjoy moving between all the classes and having a relationship with each child in the school. Kids are hilarious, and I enjoy watching them grow and learn. My current device of choice for reading is my Amazon Kindle Touch, but I have owned or used devices by Sony, Kobo, Aluratek and others. I also read on my tablet devices using the Kindle app, and I enjoy synching between them, so that I’m always up to date no matter where I am or what I have with me."


  1. As always, a thoughtful and interesting article. Thanks Joanna. I am not sure how much of this is directly relevant to eBooks, in that broadband is barely needed due to the small size of the files. It is surprising for me in Ireland to read of such broadband problems in a country like Canada, where we would have expected it to be hot. I have an average 6Mb line in my home for about 40 US dollars a month with no real bandwidth limit. Wifi is a bit more expensive but not much.

    “. . the world is full of non-Americans”
    My favourite line of 2011. In a good way ! LOL

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