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Apple app store policy change is good news for publishers

Ipad2_mar2011

A change in policies in Apple's App Store is good news for publishers. The policy change, which affects "in-app subscriptions," will mean that subscription-based publications -- such as magazines and, yes, newspapers -- have greater flexibility with pricing and also with the content they deliver.

Our Technology Blog reports:

According to the website MacRumors, which first reported on changes made to Apple's App Store Review Guidelines, the changes free up publishers' iOS apps to access content purchased outside of Apple and possibly not even offer subscriptions through the App Store if a company so chooses.

The new guidelines, which are made available only to developers, were quoted by MacRumors: "11.14 Apps can read or play approved content (specifically magazines, newspapers, books, audio, music, and video) that is subscribed to or purchased outside of the app, as long as there is no button or external link in the app to purchase the approved content. Apple will not receive any portion of the revenues for approved content that is subscribed to or purchased outside of the app"

... Apple has also removed its rule that subscriptions offered through its App Store be the "same price or less than it is offered outside the app," MacRumors said, which would allow publishers to even charge a premium for in-app subscriptions to make up for the 30% revenue cut Apple takes.

The move undoes Apple's stance in February, when it announced Apple's App Store Subscription service saying, "all we require is that, if a publisher is making a subscription offer outside of the app, the same [or better] offer be made inside the app, so that customers can easily subscribe with one click right in the app."

Apple now has no specific guidelines on pricing.

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Apple's app subscription model comes under federal scrutiny

Murdoch's the Daily launches for your iPad only

Is Richard Branson's Project magazine the future?

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: The iPad 2 in March. Credit: Jeff Chiu / Associated Press

New N.Y. Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson's upcoming puppy book

Jillabramson

On Thursday, the New York Times announced that former investigative reporter and editor Jill Abramson, who has been serving as a chief deputy to Executive Editor Bill Keller, will replace him. Abramson is expected to take over her new duties Sept. 6.

Keller will become a full-time writer, the newspaper reports. Abramson is a writer herself -- and although she's reported from Washington and Wall Street, her upcoming title isn't about business or politics.

It's about puppies.

Puppydiaries Actually, that's not quite true. "The Puppy Diaries: Raising a Dog Named Scout" is based a series of columns she wrote in the Times about her new golden retriever. The 256-page book expands on what ran in the paper, and although a copy has not made its way to Jacket Copy, it does have an awfully cute cover.

"The Puppy Diaries" is being published by Times Books, which describes it this way:

Part memoir, part manual, part investigative report, The Puppy Diaries continues Abramson's intrepid reporting on all things canine. Along the way, she weighs in on such issues as breeders or shelters, adoption or rescue, raw diet or vegan, pack-leader gurus like Cesar Millan or positive-reinforcement advocates like Karen Pryor.

"The Puppy Diaries" will be published in October. Chances are Abramson will be too busy with her new responsibilities to go on book tour, but maybe Scout will show up for a few signings.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Newly named New York Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson, center, with new Managing Editor for News Dean Baquet, left, and outgoing Executive Editor Bill Keller, right. Credit: Fred R. Conrad / Associated Press

Festival of Books: A candid look at Hollywood's bright lights (and stars)

HW Unabashed candor drew an abundance of laughs and a few gasps during Sunday’s Festival of Books session “Hollywood: Under the Bright Lights.” L.A. Times staff writer Steven Zeitchik led panelists in a lively conversation centering on various shifts in Hollywood, from the changing nature of celebrity to the increasing use of digital effects in movies. 

Discussing the new definition of celebrity, panelist Elizabeth Currid-Halkett, an assistant professor at USC’s School of Policy, Planning and Development, noted that while social media outlets such as YouTube have broken barriers to entry and launched a handful of celebrities such as pop star Justin Beiber, this new type of fame is more fleeting.

Currid-Halkett’s most recent book, "Starstruck," contemplates how society and economy intersect in the phenomenon of celebrity. The professor predicted that there will be a correction to this new celebrity model, which is oversaturated with “permutations of celebrity” and is at odds with “something that inherently is supposed to be elite.”

At the same time, she reflected on how the changing media landscape has made A-list stars more accessible -- and our reaction to that shift. “Their banality has become so compelling to us. We are so excited about the photos of them buying coffee.”   

Continue reading »

Festival of Books: The newspaper, from 'blunt instrument' to scalpel

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"The newspaper is a blunt instrument."

That description came from journalist Ralph Frammolino on Sunday in the brief question-and-answer period at the end of the Festival of Books discussion titled "From the Front Page to the Book Shelf" moderated by L.A. Times Editor Russ Stanton.

The statement essentially sums up why the journalists on the panel -- who, in addition to Frammolino,  included Jason Felch, Gayle Tzemach Lemmon and Judy Pasternak -- were motivated to publish expanded versions of their original stories in book form.

Although most reporters are keenly aware of the constraints on their storytelling -- the daily deadlines, the length of the story in print, the attention span of the hurried reader (good ones, anyway) -- they don't often come across stories that merit much more space and time. (Frammolino places the frequency at "one or two stories in a lifetime.")

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Slain photojournalist Tim Hetherington, remembered in books

  Timhetherington_junger Photojournalist Tim Hetherington, who was killed in an explosion in Libya on Wednesday, may be best remembered for codirecting the Oscar-nominated documentary "Restrepo." The documentary, codirected by author Sebastian Junger, focused on American soldiers in Afghanistan.

Hetherington had published one book, "Long Story Bit by Bit: Liberia Retold," in 2009. Publisher Umbrage writes that the book "entwines documentary photography, oral testimony, and memoir to map the dynamics of power, tragedy and triumph in Liberia’s recent history. It depicts a past of rebel camps, rainforest destruction, Charles Taylor’s trial as a war criminal, and other happenings contrasted with the hope for the future."

Hetherington's work as a photojournalist had appeared in many places, including the New Yorker -- here's a gallery of photographs he shot in Guinea to accompany a 2010 story by Jon Lee Anderson -- and Vanity Fair, which has two galleries of Hetherington's Afghanistan photographs online.

With his colleague Junger, author of "The Perfect Storm," Hetherington traveled to Afghanistan to create an intimate document of the lives of American soldiers there. Actually, there were multiple documents: "Restrepo," Hetherington's photographs and Junger's bestselling book "War."

In the acknowledgements to "War," Junger wrote:

Finally there is my friend, partner and comrade through all of this Tim Hetherington. It's hard for me to even begin describing his contribution to this work. The images he captured -- both stills and video -- have become almost iconic of the war in Afghanistan. But more than that his humor, courage and companionship during our trips helped make this project psychologically possible for me. It was difficult out there, and Tim's attitude about those difficulties was crucial. I was once asked about our collaboration, and my answer was something to the effect that working with Tim was like climbing into a little sports car and driving around really, really fast. He saw this story in startling new ways, and I learned a tremendous amount from just talking to him.

"Thanks, Tim," Junger concluded. "I hope we get to do many more like this."

RELATED:

Tim Hetherington killed in Libya

Movie review: "Restrepo"

Sebastian Junger bands with soldier brothers to document "War"

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Author Sebastian Junger, left, with photojournalist Tim Hetherington in Afghanistan in 2007. Credit: Tim Hetherington / Outpost Films

Perez Hilton to publish children's book. Really?

Perezhiltonjustbieber Top gossip blogger Perez Hilton will publish a children's book with Penguin, it was announced Tuesday. The book will be called "The Boy With Pink Hair."

Hilton himself, who has often switched up his style, had pink hair on the cover of his 2009 book, "Red Carpet Suicide." That book can now be gotten in hardcover, new, for as little as $2.11 on Amazon. In paperback, it's one penny.

More than once I've heard people in publishing grumble about the glut of celebrity books, which often get large advances yet fail to enthuse readers. They wind up remaindered, or being sold brand new for pocket change.

But this is a little much. Perez Hilton isn't a celebrity, he's a blogger (not that there's anything wrong  with that) who writes about celebrities. He's got an amusingly snarky sense of humor and a clumsy talent with MSpaint.

What can we expect of the book? Penguin writes:

"The Boy With Pink Hair" is the story of a child born with a shock of fabulous hair that sets him apart from his peers. While some find this difference hard to accept or understand, "The Boy With Pink Hair" uses the opportunity to find what makes him special and share it with the world. The children’s book is illustrated with vibrant retro-feeling art by first-time illustrator Jen Hill, putting into pictures the fun that comes with embracing individuality.

Hilton, whose given name is Mario Lavandeira, told The Times in 2008, "I want my own little empire." He has a syndicated radio show, but his clothing line with Hot Topic, which was rumored to have fizzled at its launch, is no longer stocked by the stores. Hilton still has his popular website, though -- where he promised, last fall, he'd start being nice

RELATED:

Save us from ourselves: Perez Hilton has a book

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Perez Hilton shows off his Britney Spears shirt to Justin Bieber at the premiere of Bieber's film "Justin Bieber: Never Say Never." Credit: Getty Images for Paramount Pictures

All the Radiohead that's fit to print

Radiohead_2008

Radiohead launches its own newspaper Tuesday, a one-time freebie that the band is distributing worldwide. Some fans in New Zealand and England have already picked up their copies of The Universal Sigh.

OK, it's a funny name for a newspaper -- but The Radiohead Star-Ledger wouldn't have had been quite so Radiohead-y.

The newspaper is reported to include pieces from Robert McFarlane ("Mountains of the Mind"), a nonfiction writer who explores remote regions in England and Ireland, and Jay Griffiths, a woman who writes both fiction and nonfiction.

The British newspaper the Guardian got its copy of The Universal Sigh from a very special newspaperman:

Shortly after noon all became clear, when a small figure in skinny jeans and a brown hat stepped into an old-fashioned newspaper booth outside the shop. "That's Thom!" Thom Yorke, the band's lead singer, began handing out copies of the paper, pausing for a handshake and a photograph with each fan, occasionally even smiling. Someone shouted "We love you, Thom!" but there was no press forward to see one of the biggest rock stars in the world. It wasn't that kind of queue.

The Universal Sigh is a collaboration between the band and the artist Stanley Donwood, and, in the sense that it is printed on newsprint and contains both words and images, might indeed be described as a newspaper. The news courtesy of Radiohead is unlikely to trouble Newsnight, however. "Everything was normal and as it should be until one day I woke up and there was something wrong," opens the first story in the paper. "I didn't know what it was, but it was a kind of persistent thing that I couldn't quite ignore."

It might be a stretch to expect him to show up here in L.A., but on Tuesday The Universal Sigh will be handed out at two locations: in Silverlake and at Amoeba Records in Hollywood, both at 1 p.m. Our sibling blog Pop & Hiss found a photo of the Universal Sigh that leaked last week.

The band is expected to release a "newspaper album" version of its new record, "The King of Limbs," which the Telegraph reports will include a CD, two vinyl records, artwork and a newspaper different from Tuesday's.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Top: Radiohead's Colin Greenwood and Thom Yorke performing at the Hollywood Bowl in 2008. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

 

Garrison Keillor envisions radio (but not bookish) retirement

Garrisonkeillor_2010

Author and radio host Garrison Keillor plans to retire in the spring of 2013, he tells the AARP in an interview. Retire from his "Garrison Keillor Prairie Home Companion Show," that is. Books? No chance.

Keillor is the author of 10 books set in his fictional Minnesota town, Lake Wobegone, which also stars in his radio variety program, which, in turn, is broadcast on 590 of public radio stations nationwide. The first book was "Lake Wobegone Days," published in 1985. He's also written a number of other books, humor pieces for the New Yorker, and was even Salon.com's Mr. Blue, providing advice to both the lovelorn and hopeful authors -- perhaps the only time that romance and writing advice has been combined into a single column.

Keillor, who started his first version of "A Prairie Home Companion" in 1974, has easily moved between radio and print. These days, he also hosts the short daily radio show "The Writers Almanac," in which he provides commentary about authors and reads a poetry; coming up in April is "Good Poems, American Places," a 518-page anthology of poetry Keillor has edited.

About poetry and its place in our lives, he tells the AARP:

Life is a carnival, people are wildly busy, there are love affairs to be pursued, arguments to be waged, omelets to be made, gardens to be tended, plus ballgames, movies, auctions, bike trips, and poetry is very patient. Emily Dickinson has waited 120-some years for you to read "Success is counted sweetest by those who ne'er succeed," and she can wait a few more years. Same with Walt Whitman, same with Dorianne Laux, Billy Collins, Philip Booth, Maxine Kumin, May Swenson, and all the others. They'll be around. You will catch up with them eventually.

And as he talks about quote-unquote retirement, the 68 year old is still writing. What he's up to right now, he tells the AARP:

I'm working on a screenplay about a son of Lake Wobegon coming home for a funeral and finding out that, despite his long years of exile in distant cities, he still belongs to these people. It's scary how much he still belongs here. These people have the power to make him ashamed, which distant cities do not. His conscience resides here. The next novel is a Guy Noir mystery in which the old detective is all lined up to become a multimillionaire thanks to his friendship with a brilliant woman, Naomi Fallopian, who has come up with the perfect weight-loss scheme.

As for the radio show, he says he's looking for a replacement host. "I'm pushing forward," he says, "but I'm also in denial." Read the complete interview online at the AARP.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Garrison Keillor performs onstage in the "Garrison Keillor Prairie Home Companion Show" in Rochester, Minn., on Jan. 23, 2010. Credit: Tom Wallace / Minneapolis Star Tribune / MCT

William T. Vollmann and Susan Meiselas talk photography

Meiselas_vollmannRobert Capa Gold Medal-winning and MacArthur "genius" fellow photographer Susan Meiselas and National Book Award-winning author William T. Vollmann sat down at the Hammer Museum on Tuesday night for an open, onstage conversation. It was the first time the two had met in person. The only communication they'd had before -- Vollmann doesn't use e-mail -- was a six-minute phone conversation in advance of the event, during which they'd talked about what they wouldn't talk about.

Not surprisingly, at times it was awkward.

But that awkwardness was entirely fitting, revealing an actual thinking-in-the-moment. It was a geniune and fascinating conversation, with occasional halts for considerations, rather than a prepared talk.

To get things started, they each showed 10 of their photographs. Vollmann went first because the other way around would be "anti-climactic" he said. "She's a great photographer, and I'm a writer who likes to take pictures."

Vollmann explained his motivation for taking photos of fighters and others he encountered in Afghanistan: "Everybody deserves to be made immortal in some way."

Meiselas wasn't so sure. "This question of how it serves them plagues me," she said. Meiselas was a photojournalist who went to Nicaragua in 1978, taking pictures of its revolutionaries, who often felt compelled to conceal their faces from her for safety. She showed images of people crossing the border from Mexico into the United states on foot -- people who also would not want to be identified.

"I'm so fascinated by what it means for a writer to make pictures," Meiselas said. She later went back to this idea. "My photographs are hoping you'll be in that scene -- I'm trying to link you into that narrative space." As a kind of response, Vollman spoke about his presence as a witness. Fittingly, in his photos, his own shadow often fell partially on his subject, literally inserting him into the frame.

How being witness can affect events is something the two discussed without reaching resolution."I'm always hoping I can do some kind of good," Vollmann said. But "good" is a complicated path.

Meiselas showed photographs she'd taken of mass graves in Kurdistan, photographs she called "evidential" (as opposed to "narrative"). Those photographs, which helped bring the story of the Kurds' suffering to light, were taken in advance of the latest Iraq war, which both Meiselas and Vollmann said they opposed. "The complicated thing for me," Meiselas said, "all my Kurdish friends were pro-war. They wanted exactly what they got."

In the audience: a revolutionary and an Oscar-winner.

Continue reading »

Apple's app subscription model comes under federal scrutiny

Colbert_ipadgrammys Both the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission are looking at Apple's recently announced plan to take a 30% cut of revenue from content subscriptions sold through its App Store, according to reports.

On Tuesday, Apple announced that the 30% cut would apply to subscriptions of digital newspapers and magazines. The 30% cut also applies to items sold through an app -- which, for book-lovers, notably includes the Kindle App and in-app purchases of Kindle e-books.

Our Technology blog writes:

The Department of Justice is in the "early stages" of a probe into the subscription service and what it means for competition after publishers made complaints, Reuters reported. The DOJ is currently contacting both Apple and publishers, Reuters said, citing an unnamed person who is "familiar with the department's procedures."

The Wall Street Journal reported that the Federal Trade Commission is involved in the investigation as well.

The analyst firm Forrester has been among those arguing that Apple's 30% plan is too high, stating that such fees should be about 5%.

Whether any online retailer will settle for 5% is yet to be seen, but on Wednesday, Google made a move in that direction. In a clear effort to propose a more attractive alternative than Apple's to publishers, the Google tablet subscription model, dubbed Google One Pass, takes a cut of 10% or less.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Stephen Colbert with an iPad at the 2011 Grammy awards. Credit: Robert Gauthier / LA Times

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