Category Archives: Digitised

My blog ‘Digitised’ features true stories of how the digital revolution has helped people market themselves and their products. It also has news articles on digitisation and its impact on society.


Dr Roman Gerodimos from Bournemouth University shares the results of a social experiment which challenged its volunteers to be without any forms of electronic media for 24 hours.

Media used per day by average Brit















The 2010 Ofcom Communications Market Reports states that the average Brit spends more than half of their waking day (between 9 and 10 hours) either online, on the phone or watching television. This means that we are glued in to some form of media or the other, often while doing our daily chores. We’re so used to living in a world where we’re controlled by media and technology that the thought of losing it for for a few hours seems impossible, let alone a day.

But at the start of the 2010 semester term, 530 first-year students from Bournemouth University pledged to give up all forms of media for 24 hours. They were joined by students from Europe, Asia, Africa, North and South America. Dr Gerodimos was in charge of organizing the media black-out to the first-year students.

Re-discovering our love for books

‘When people have media taken away from them, they do things they would not normally do – like read books, meet other people and socialize,’ said Dr Gerodimos.

He said the biggest medium to have gained from this experiment was books as the students all seemed to go back to titles on shelves that lost priority over other more current-forms of media.

‘A lot of people were surprised to rediscover their love for books. They had this revelation of how much they liked their books. They sat down to read a chapter and finished a book. The way we use the media, we don’t allow ourselves the opportunity to use books. It’s not like we more important things. We just fall under a habitual pattern. It sucks the air from other things.’

Shorter attention spans and multi-tasking

Andy McDermott, who has just sold his millionth copy with Empire of Gold, lives in his pad filled with gadgets – Playstation 3, Kindle, iPad and endless amounts of DVDs. From personal experience he, too, admits that things have changed drastically over the last few years.

‘My attention-span has definitely decreased,’ says McDermott. ‘I could finish an entire book in one sitting a few years back, today the same book takes me two days to finish because there’s always something else to do. Even when I’m reading a book on the iPad, I can’t concentrate as I’m always a swipe away from Facebook or some other app.’

‘The pattern in which we use new media, especially like internet and smart phones may indirectly affect our other activities. Its not like Facebook causes cancer. Its not like consuming a specific medium will have a direct effect. Its just that you have less time to do other things. You have more multitasking and less deep reading. None of my students have ever read a whole journal article without printing it off. That’s not what they see it for,’ says Dr Gerodimos.

‘When the medium is taken away it reminds them of books. You think you have loads of options in new media and a lot of choice with millions of websites, but realistically you visit the same 10-20 websites and then there’s a long tail. If you see the activities we’re involved in, it’s like 3 or 4 activities and then there’s a long tail, so it’s that choice/freedom which is very overestimated.’

Not everything we do online is meaningful

Even though the day was as eye-opener for media students, it was well received and many of them want to try it again. Some re-discovered their love for books, while others discovered their dependence on the media, but some students received the biggest anti-climax of their lives when…

‘Some people who were dying to go to Facebook but when they signed in after 24 hrs, they got the biggest anti-climax of their lives as they had zero notifications. This encouraged them to realize that not everything we do online is meaningful. This experiement helped them appreciate the benefits of everything we take for granted.’

Click here to read the worldwide study’s Top 5 Highlights.

Click here to read Bournemouth University students recount their 24 hours without any form of media.


Unbound: The X Factor for books

The title is not unfamiliar to John Mitchinson, one of three co-founders of Unbound. With a unique portfolio that comprises of author, publisher and retailer, Mitchinson has observed the migrating of the publishing industry to the digital domain for the better part of two decades. He reckons he has found a way to give readers exactly what they want.

Unbound was launched at the Hay Festival in May 2011.


The brains behind Unbound: Justin Pollard (standing), John Mitchinson (centre) and Dan Kieran (left). Photo courtesy: Rachel Poulton (Flickr)















So Unbound works like this:

An author has an idea that he would like to write. A funding target is agreed with the author and his agent with the Unbound team – comprising of co-founders John Mitchinson, Justin Pollard and Dan Kieran (above picture).

The team get the aspiring author talking about the book via a film or an interview and upload it on the website with a written pitch, an extract from the book and a bio of the author. Here aspiring author Terry Jones talks about ‘Evil Machines’.

After this is on the website, the team gather support of various levels to meet the funding target. Various levels of support will get you various levels of rewards, so you can go in at a low pledge, say £10, for which you get an ebook. All editions of the book will have your name on the back as a patron.

Higher levels come with a slip-case book personally dedicated, right through to two tickets to the launch party and lunch with the author which may be well worth £250.

Power to the reader

Mitchinson says, ‘This aims to get people to purchase higher levels. We are also working into building an investment side to this as well, so if you put in a bigger chunk of money, you would stand to gain some share of the revenue if the book does fantastically well.’

‘So if we hit the funding target and the book is written, we may then do tie-ups with trade publishers and independent publishers and do a trade edition of the book. Essentially we are getting readers to fund writers who are putting up ideas that resonate with them.’

Crowd-funding, the new buzz-word

Mitchinson is the first to admit that Unbound is not a novel idea at all. In fact, he says it dates way back to the 19th century. ‘When the writers in 19th century wanted to publish their work, they would find people to fund their projects, which was called patronage. This is a kind of a micro-patronage, so it’s an old idea we’re using in the internet age.’

It is also a leaf taken out of Kickstarter, an American pledging website for artists, filmmakers, authors, musicians and entrepreneurs.

The buzz-word according to Mitchinson is ‘Crowd-funding: You’re funding creative projects in advance by getting commitment from the audience in advance of having produced the product, or the goal that you’re setting.’

Having worked in the industry, Mitchinson knows that there are writers who want to write books and readers who want to read them but the two are not being matched up by the existing writer-publisher-retailer model. He points to the success of literary festivals and book-clubs to prove that though book sales maybe declining, there is no dearth of audience who want to read good, engaging content.

He reckons people are missing the human element of story-telling: Authors connecting with their readers and making them feel part of the experience.

Though Unbound is still in its early days, Mitchinson is aware of the next step. ‘There are loads of visits but the challenge for us is to convert those visits into people that actually come forward and pledge.’

So, have YOU found a story you would like to support on Unbound yet?

NEWS: J.K.Rowling takes Harry Potter digital

Early on Thursday morning J.K.Rowling put an end to the Pottermore suspense that was unveiled last week. And as we guessed, it IS the digitised copies of the world-famous Harry Potter series, along with a new interactive website for fans. The announcement was delivered at an event in London earlier this morning.

Rowling said that Pottermore will go live in October but a select few Muggles will get the chance to experience the magical world early after registrations open on July 31.

Harry Potter goes digital

Pottermore: A landmark in digital publishing








The seven books in the Harry Potter series will be available as ebooks and audiobooks from October this year. Apart from that, the website will also feature 18,000 words of unpublished work by J.K.Rowling.

This will give fans a chance to play, interact and delve into the wizarding places that made the books one of the most successful series of all time and made Rowling richer than the Queen of England.

Interactivity and multimedia

The sections users can hope to re-visit on the website will be Platform 9 3/4 at London’s King Cross station where the wizards boarded the Hogwarts Express to school; Diagon Alley where, in typical wizarding tradition, their wands will chose them; and Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry where they will be sorted into the four wizarding houses – Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff and Slytherin – by the Sorting Hat. They will also get a chance to duel using curses and charms.

Rowling admitted to reporters at the event that Pottermore gives her a chance to be creative using a medium that did not exist when she was writing the books. She will incorporate the thousands of ‘stories, drawings, ideas and suggestions’ that she still receives from fans four years after the last book – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – was released.

The website will contain elements of gaming and social media, whilst being informative and staying true to the books. Like the digital books, the website will be available to users in English, French, German and Spanish.

As more and more authors and publishers recognize the importance and effectiveness of digital and multimedia publishing, Pottermore may well be a landmark in this regard, just as the books were a raving worldwide success.

Alice for the iPad is another iPad application that uses the full extent of multimedia and interactivity to bring words to life.

No plans for book eight: Rowling

The author said she has no plans to write an eighth book and even though the digital website will share visual elements from the world that she created, she wants to keeps the focus on the ‘reading.’ Pottermore is her way of reconnecting with a character and a universe that she really loves.

She admits that Harry Potter was the boy she shed the most tears for after the completion of Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows, which is now hitting cinemas in its final installment on July 15.

Authors of the digital age

After taking notes from America’s digital equivalent of J.K.Rowling, Bournemouth author Michelle Dry reckons she has what it takes to succeed as a successful online author.

Trylle Trilogy

Amanda Hocking: Digital Millionaire










26-year-old US author Amanda Hocking is a self-made millionaire. After being rejected by publishers all over New York, Hocking decided to use the web to sell her books online. She uses Amazon, Smashwords and iTunes where her Indie-fiction ‘supernatural teen romance’  books are selling in on an average at 100,000 copies a month for as little as $2.99 and $0.99.

Regular authors normally earn 10% of the revenue generated from their books because a lot of money is lost between the final edit and hitting the racks in bookstores. This money is lost to the literary agent, literary editor, publisher, shelf-space, printing, marketing, sales, inventory, etc. However, publishing books in the digital sphere cuts those costs tremendously. Hocking self-edits her work and gets to keep 70% of her revenue. She does her own promotion and marketing via her blog and her social media accounts.

She is estimated to be earning $2million a year from the sale of her books. Having released 10 titles in the span of two years, she has already caught the attenion of Hollywood film-makers with her Trylle Trilogy.

Retina Blue

Michelle Dry: Digital Dreams













Bournemouth author Michelle Dry is a business analyst who researches market trends as part of her full-time job. She has worked at Borders and Waterstones and has done loads of research on how people consume books in the digital age. With two books out, she reckons she has cracked the formula for digital publishing success, taking some tips from Hocking.

‘If you want to achieve digital success, you emulate something that has been done successfully previously. In this case Hocking has embraced the digital era,’ says Dry, who, like Hocking, has armed herself with her blog and social media accounts for getting the word out.

She credits Hocking for tapping into a genre that is still a hit with teenagers because of the success of Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series. ‘Her (Hocking’s) books are on vampires, fairies, trolls, the current current trend is Twilight; there is a standard desire and supply and demand. People look for something similar.’

‘Time and place is paramount,’ says Dry who also attributes that Hocking had credible work ready at just the right time to tap into reader’s tastes and budgets. ‘She had five titles which she posted on Smashwords, iPad and Kindle for a price cheap enough for people to purchase on a whim.’

Dry has released two books simultaneously: ‘Retina Blue‘ under adult fiction and ‘Goylegate‘  under children’s fiction. ‘Retina Blue’ is priced at £10 for a physical copy whereas the digital copy costs under £3. She has deliberately released two books simultaneously to find out how purchasing works differently for adults and children.

‘Younger people don’t go out to play; they go on Facebook, they go look at recos, all of this is how we’re progressing. We’e not quite so sociable today. Sociability comes through digitization,’ says Dry whose sales are picking up as more and more people get to know of her work.

Earlier this year, the Guardian reported on how ebooks have become the best-selling category in American publishing for the first time. Dry is just back from New York where she has seen everyone on their iPads, Kindles, Playbooks and mobile phones. She says the US sets technology trends which the rest of the world then follow, so she is aiming to strike while the iron is hot.

A blog that brought a book to life

Tricia Walker’s book ‘Benedict’s Brother’ was gathering dust on the shelf after being rejected by numerous authors. She soon realised she didn’t need a publisher when she had a blog.

Benedict's Brother: From blog to screenplay













Benedict’s Brother was written 13 years ago by Tricia Walker. Even though she worked on it with an agent and had an award-winning writer mentor her, publishers refused to buy the story. She reluctantly let the manuscript retreat to the confines of her bedroom drawer.

In August 1999, Blogger – known for being one of the earliest web-publishing tools – was launched by Pyra Labs.  In Fedruary 2003, Pyra Labs was acquired by Google. In May 2004, Google enhanced the look and feel of Blogger with web templates, post archives and posting via e-mail.

In August 2006, Walker, deciding that her story was not worthy of drawer-dust, decided to resurrect her book via a blog – something she had only heard of. It helped that her story was a journey and that telling it through its actual time-line served the dual purpose of helping readers keep pace with the plot while leaving them insatiable for more.

According to Blogger, the live blog of Benedict’s Brother has 1223 views from its first post in August to the end of the book in December 2006. It can be read in its entirety here.

Unexpected Success

‘I did it in instalments in real-time with the actual story. I did an instalment every two weeks,’ says Walker. ‘It was then published with a small publisher; we had a launch, which was the biggest-selling launch for Borders UK bookstores that year.’

Six months later Benedict’s Brother was named ‘Top 3 Book of the Year’ in Publishing News, alongside some award-winning authors. ‘I was pretty much blown away by its success,’ she said.

Did she lose out on an audience because she published the whole book online? ‘No,’ says Tricia. ‘Infact, more people wanted the book because they liked what they read on the blog.’

She says that her blog worked because her story still had relevance after all those years and the fact that it was written in the form of a  diary which began in August and concluded in December.

She recenty received the wonderful news that Benedict’s Brother will soon be turned into a motion picture. So who will portray her (the protagonist) in the movie? She crosses her fingers and gushes with pride when she takes the names of two very famous British actresses. But she doesn’t want to jinx it, till one of them signs on the dotted line.

Just back from Cannes, life cannot be any better for Tricia Walker, who is planning to write the sequeal to Benedict’s Brother on her new i-Pad.

NEWS: J.K.Rowling surprises fans with Harry Potter website

Harry Potter author J.K.Rowlinghas released a new website for fans of the franchise. The announcement comes just when fans thought that the final installment of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows would be the last they would get to see of the boy-wizard.












The website is named Pottermore. It has a picture of two owls (one presumably Hedwig). The only text on the website, apart from the name, reads ‘Coming Soon…’ with Rowling’s signature scribbled on the bottom.

But once you click on any of the two owls, you get a link to a YouTube countdown page, giving you a countdown untill J.K. Rowling’s announcement. The date suggests the announcement will be made at 11am on June 23, 2011.

The final installment of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows releases on July 15. Tickets for the same went on sale on June 15 and, not surprisingly, sold out quickly – especially the midnight premier.

A spokesperson for the ‘world’s first billionaire author’ said that the Pottermore website is genuine, adding that it is not a new book but that fans will have to wait till the announcement to know what it is.

The Leaky Cauldron, a Potter fansite, are the only ones to have been granted exclusive access to Pottermore. They have described it as “one of the most amazing, engaging and breathtaking additions to this fandom imaginable”.

Unless I’m wrong, it looks like J.K.Rowling is creating something spectacular using digitization and technology. According to The Telegraph, Pottermore is rumoured to be an interactive website.

There is also a Twitter account @Pottermore created to promote the website. At the time of publishing this article, it had two tweets and was fast gaining mileage with 35,000 followers in less than a day since the account was created.

I’ve been trying to find out the significance of the day and the closest I can come to that is the fact that the first Harry Potter book (Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone) was released 14 years ago (1997) on June 30, marking the birth of one of the best-selling brands of all time.

But what EXACTLY will this ‘mystery announcement’ be? Looks like we Muggles will just have to wait till June 23, 2011 to find out.

NEWS: Google To Stop Online Newspaper Scanning

According to Mashable, Google has halted its newspaper digitization project – an initiative which aimed to make all the newspapers avaiable online.

Google stops online scanning

No more newspaper scanning









The archives of several hundred newspapers will still be viewable online at:

Newspaper publishes can continue to publish their work via sitemaps. Google will be redirecting their resources towards their other projects.

They have informed their partners about this latest development.

NEWS: Waterstone’s sold to Russian billionaire for £53m

UK book specialist Waterstone’s has been sold by HMV to Russian billionaire Alexander Mamut for £53m. The sale was announced early today (May 20) morning. Waterstone’s has 296 outlets peppered all over the UK.

Russian biollionaire takes over Waterstones

Will Waterstones be the same under Mamut?









Mamut plans to reposition Waterstone’s as a local community store after the transfer. The Russian billionaire owns 6% of HMV Group. In 2007, he bought US blogging site LiveJournal.

Mamut added: ‘The opportunity ahead to reposition Waterstone’s as a regional and local community orientated bookseller is an exciting one. The business enjoys a great loyalty from its customers and I believe that there is considerable integrity and value in the brand.’

Waterstones’ current managing director Dominic Myers will remain within HMV as Mamut plans to replace him with James Daunt, founder of Daunt Books chain of independent bookshops in London. Dominic Myers said in a statement: ‘Mr Mamut’s investment has been inspired and motivated by the opportunity to refocus the core business of bookselling towards a renewed customer responsiveness.’

The HMV Group has been losing profits for a while now. In the 17-week-period preceding April 30, Waterstone’s sales fell 8.4%. In the same time-frame, DVD sales of HMV fell almost-double (15.1%).

‘A sale of Waterstone’s to Alexander Mamut provides a good new home for the business,’ said Fox. ‘We expect this deal to enable the group to achieve a reduction in (its) borrowing requirements, and, in turn, focus on plans for transforming the HMV Group into a broad-based entertainment business.’

HMV is currently shutting 40 stores in an effort to balance its sales. It is also exploring a sale of its Canadian businesses. Their current lenders are Lloyds Banking Group and Royal Bank of Scotland.