Thursday, July 14, 2011

Biography of a Book

You’ve always read a biography in a book and probably wondering how a book gets into a biography. Well the question becomes more interesting when you try and answer not just the how; but where, what and when…. That’s quite a few questions.

Johannes Guttenberg would not have imagined, in 1440 that his innovation of publishing books through a printing press would be short lived for just 600 years. After all it took him 4000 years to replace his typeset imprints over the handwritten scripts on paper which first started sometime in the third millennium BC in Egypt.

Well that’s history, lets look at some numbers. Recently Amazon announced that they booked USD 16 million in revenues by selling ebooks as opposed to its USD 3 billion dollars in physical books. ebook sales which accounted for about 1.5% of the totals book sales in 2009 grew up to 5% in 2010. If these numbers seem so small what is the hue and cry about this ebook phenomena? Well that’s because this ebook phenomena started just 5 years back and iPad happened 2 years back and now you see so many more tablets coming; the Galaxy, the Playbook, Dell Streak and the list goes on. The impact of tablets in last 2 years has been big enough to approach the tipping point to ensure that the larger majority start adopting the technology without feeling intimidated by it.

While the way books are being presented changed, the way these books are written and represented in terms of experience has remained more or less the same. Until now. Early attempt has been to keep the experience of ebooks, as close to the real books as possible. This was good initially as they helped a lot of non techie people adopt this technology faster and see the other benefits faster. A regular tablet or eReader can hold over 3000 books and yet fit into your purse or you handbag. A larger section of the early adopters of this technology now argue that they need more interactivity and more features built into the conventional ebooks. Questions asked are: Can we watch a video in the cookery book which explains how an apple pie is baked or can we listen to the sweet music of bagpipe, played in the far Scottish islands? Well that’s now possible with the new generation ebooks. With the introduction of the ePub 3 standards these features are possible along with making ebooks available in all popular scripts other than the Roman script.

This is good rather encouraging for people who always want to learn and relate more to data and information or books in those genre. Scientific, Technical, Medical, Educational and books for visually challenged will be good. However what remains to be seen, their effects on the way people perform basic functions. Will adoption of these tablets incur any behavioral changes in reading habits and the way people consume information? A journalist, till late 1990s, used to go through tons of books and papers to research a particular topic. His understanding of that specific subject was remarkable, immaculate and unchallenged. Online research today has diluted this depth up to a large extent.

Well does that mean technology is not as good as we think it is?

Not really.

The adoption of new technology also increases the efficiency of any act done. In that process the expectation to excel or perform better also goes up and with faster turn around time the limiting factor still remains the human mind. An average human mind cannot go faster than its performance limit and technology can never replace the function of a human mind. The way a packet of cigarettes or a bottle of alcohol comes with its statutory warnings, so should a new technology device.

The advancement in ebook technology will take reading experience to a different level, it would probably limit a persons ability to imagine. An interesting novel creates a unique rendition in the minds of each reader. A person reading the Harry Potter series (before the movie was made) would imagine Harry, Arthur and Hermione in a specific avatar. With technology pushing you towards spoon-fed images, videos and audios under the interactive offerings will limit a person’s ability to imagine.

Even as we close the chapter of the new path breaking standards, ePub3, with so many new features, work has already begun on the next level of this format, ePub4. ePub4, though not as path breaking as its predecessor, will further enhance the features substantially. ePub3 however remains the standard to watch for and the key consideration for so many publishers who have been fence sitters in the digital revolution.

The ebook revolution is here to stay, but when will it completely displace the printed books is a question to be pondered upon. My take, it will last for another 20 years after which printed books would be a novelty for people to put in their living rooms.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Nationalism effect

A few weeks back, during he Egyptian political crisis, when Mubarak eventually stepped down after 2 weeks of hold off (apparently he did that to siphon off some 200 billion dollars out f Egypt). Air India chartered special flights to fly Indian stranded. some were tourists and some were people who were working there. The catch you have to pay twice the amount of money you would have usually paid, and there was a huge uproar on how can a national carrier do such a thing. How can they take advantage of people who are in trouble, distressed etc etc...

No other international carrier, including Kingfisher, Jet Airways made this offer to charter this plane...

Air India today is going through a lot of problems:
1) It has the highest employee to plane ratio
2) Being state controlled it is bound to political whims and fancies to suit the operations
3) It needs about 17500 crores to turnaround and the govt intends to give only 25% of that as a bailout package...
4) the employees are not talking eye to eye with the management and are constantly threatening to go on strike
5) It is the only aircraft that has to explain to passengers on how to use the toilets and yet the toilets are so filthy that a decent non Indian will not be able to use it even on a New York - Delhi Flight... speaks a lot about the Indian Hygiene standards...
6) It is in red for the past 5 years and will continue to do so..
7) It is one of the only national carriers in the world which now requires to get a sovereign guarantee to procure new aircrafts and yet the govt has to question why they have to buy now?

With all these problems the carrier is still expected to do social service... why?

1) For the people who would have flown into Egypt on a foreign carrier just because they offered a better price, or may be they are perceived to offer better service?
2) Why didn't those foreign carriers carry them back?
3) This chartered plane went empty to Cairo, who is expected to pay for those seats?
4) Why should govt take financial onus of the people whey they are there for financial gains or personal pleasure?
Nationalism in India seems to be only when there is a moment of crisis and a one way route. The national carriers are supposed to bear the national pressure during the time of crisis...

I feel Air India should now be hived off as a professional entity, most developed countries have it that way...

Sunday, January 3, 2010

An Year of promise

An optimist stays up until midnight to see the new year in.
A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves.

Whichever way you look, may the new year have a lot in store for you....

One can expect a lot from this year...
The year that's starts with a Blue Moon and an Lunar Eclipse, tells you in advance this is an year of opportunities and challenges. Incidentally this is the longest annular eclipse in the 21st century.
This is the year of Commonwealth 2010 (New Delhi), when India grows beyond the glory of Asiad '82.
The year when telecom industry gets number portability and 3G.
On the Global front we look forward to the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. The Burj Dubai in Dubai, United Arab Emirates will be completed. It is already the tallest man-made structure ever built. The 2010 Winter Olympics will take place in Vancouver and Whistler, British Columbia, Canada.
Incidentally, 2010 is also a 1984 science fiction film released by MGM and directed by Peter Hyams. "2010: The Year We Make Contact" is a sequel to the 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey, and is based on Arthur C. Clarke's novel 2010: Odyssey Two, a literary sequel to the film.
One thing is common with these events is, they are "BIG"! and like the movie name suggests this is our year to make contact and make it even bigger in every field we are in.
God speed!!!!!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The COP15 Dilemma

Copenhagen has been in the news these days for all the right and wrong reasons.... but to summarize some of the points that bring out the dilemma are:

1) For starters its going to host the summit to decide what are the next steps to save the earth from global warming.
2) Question: Is there a global warming, some critics ask? the earth is too large to be affected by our curtailing of fossil fuels and hence the carbon footprints. The ice is melting at the Artic, is it having the same effect at the other end... was this effect there in the last 1000 years... are the world temperature data being manipulated to show a face that some of the influential countries want to show the rest of the world.
3) Well the fossil fuels are going to last for only 5o more years, is this a bid for the Renewable energy companies to make a hoopla to shift to alternate sources, if yes is it the clean energy companies or is it the bio-fuel companies who will benefit the most? Should be the bio fuel one... cos the market are in already in place for the bio fuel to be used as an alternative... but the downside is:
3.1) Bio fuel need vast areas of plantation's to grow and rain forests are being cut to make way for these plantations on one end which effects the world Eco balance and will hurt earth in a larger way...
3.2) On the other end if the bio fuel occupies the existing arable land used for cultivation of food grains and vegetables, then it would create a shortage of world food and in turn effect many under-developed and developing countries as it will food grain prices up leading to wide spread inflation and the poorer countries will be the most affected.
4) One suggestion to reduce your carbon footprint is to "Turn Vegetarian" well the logic goes is if an "X" amount of arable land can feed 100 vegetarian it can only feed 30 non Vegetarians and also increase your carbon emissions in the process... Turning vegetarian will probably increase the woes to point number 3.2 and further fuel inflation...

Above all this, human beings still manage to hold its sense of humor intact and the most hilarious situation comes straight from COP15... the Mayor has requested all COP15 members not to pay prostitutes for their services, probably to avoid further increase in diplomatic temperatures... But the sex workers moved a step ahead... they are offering free sex to the delegates who will show them both, their delegate passes and the card circulated by the mayor... Now this might put some of the delegates into a real dilemma...

Which ever way the discussion is going it seems to be affecting the under privileged countries...

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Andy versus Roger

The Wimbledon final match on 5th July was simply stupendous in more ways than one... Andy was the better player and Federer the more deserving one... why?
While Andy's back hand and his placements worked in his favour, it was Federer's Aces and his persistence that gave him the trophy... Both played like true heroes, but there were a couple of situations in the match that made Federer he deserving one...
Andy started winning the first set easily... the second set was actually Andy's till the last defining moment in the tie breaker. Andy led the tie breaker 5 -2 and that was the defining moment of the match when Roger showed nothing is lost and cam back with all he had to win the set. the next set was equally difficult for Roger but the 4th set, Andy had a superb come back again winning it quite easily .... with all hopes now set on Andy to win the match, Roger just hung on there and played for each point thereafter and not worried about the final outcome.... At the end Roger, the calmer one, ended up taking the gold and creating history with 16 grand slam victories.
Corporates can take a lot from this game... A lot of times competitors, who are bigger and better, end up taking market share with pure might. they have the power to trounce you and wipe you out... the only thing that remains in your favour is your dream. Your dream to achieve that milestone that will take you beyond just monetary achievement, but the satisfaction that you stuck around and finished the course.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Look Before you leap

I overheard someone commenting about a new ad campaign that had hit the TV with the IPL. Barely anybody would have missed it. The ZooZoo Ad from Vodafone. The person "bet her job"; that the ad was an animation and not a live shoot. The discussion went into an even more tangle when she was challenged and the only way to justify the argument was her years of experience and the fact that she was so closely associated with the brand... well the discussion didn't end over there... a little enquiry later it was clear that the ad was an actual shoot. But surprise surprise, the impulse bets and the overt justifications just disappeared into thin air...
I have always been wondering in some corporate set ups how can one bet based on his likes and dislikes and not have an argument on plain-simple facts. why should egos always play a large role on 'why I am more important than the rest of you'.
This stems from the insecurities that creep up in an corporate environment. The need to be recognised and far outshine your colleagues.
But the question even then remain is on why should you lie or put your credibility at stake, just to prove a point that doesnot benefit your work anyways?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Sin of Lying

Here's an interesting story I heard sometime back...

A minister told his congregation, "Next week I plan to preach about the sin of lying. To help you understand my sermon, I want you all to read Chapter 17. The following Sunday, as he prepared to deliver his sermon, the minister asked for a show of hands. He wanted to know how many had read Chapter 17. Every hand went up. The minister smiled and said, "There are only sixteen chapters. I will now proceed with my sermon on the sin of lying."

In the corporate world, there are many such characters who they know stuff which they are not even aware of... but just to be on the right side of the boss they nod their heads that they know about the context, with their fingers crossed that the next question will not drill down into further details... part of this tendency to be a compulsive liar is the fear of not knowing, while other might; and the other part is the feeling of being superior, that sudden surge of minuscule adrenaline rush, when you know more than the others.

I heard one person in my company, claim that the company spends 30% of the total advertising spends in India and when asked to support his claim with facts, he simply shrugged it off saying why should he share this information with anyone, in a ridiculing tone...

The fact was that the company, tough being one of the largest conglomerates, spent about 2% of the Advertising spend and probably 3% of the marketing spends. But however far you are away from the truth, the tendency to lie not only takes away your respect, but also your ability to respect others, your tendency to be open to accept ideas that will help you grow as a good manager and as an even better person...

Monday, March 23, 2009

Tablet PC- Difficulty in crossing the Chasm

Just last week I came across a person who happened to be carrying a Tablet PC... It brought back memories from 2003, when I was with Digit magazine, that the hype of a Tablet PC had just started. every media covered the product as if there was no end to it and the product was probably the best thing that happened to computing after Apple gave the world the MAC or IBM, the PC... and then suddenly it was totally out of the picture with the product not being seen at all or practically no manufacturer today producing it... some blamed it on the high cost, some blamed it on applications not being up to the mark...

The case however reminded me of the book "Crossing the chasm" by Geoffrey Moore, who beautifully put across how technology products need to be marketed in a different way to ensure that the product goes beyond the early adopters and gets accepted in the early majority...

Like most technology adoption life cycle, the early adopters do lap up a product that has been just introduced in the market. but unlike the others, there is a large gap between the EA and the EM that needs to be fathomed with great effort. the early indication shown by the EA only indicates that the product has a potential, but the true test lies in the ease in which the product cane be easily accepted by the EM and hence make it a success... the problem would probably lie at Microsoft's end to not promote the product enough to find its acceptance with the Majority...

Batman - Dark Night - the sure way to fire

I was watching Batman - Dark Night.... The opening scene is interesting where Joker takes his bunch of goons to rob the mob bank and in a well co-ordinated effort, every time the previous person completes his task, the next person in his link has to eliminate him and then start his work... at the end only Joker survives... I recently saw a similar strategy where a company wants to consolidate its operations and reduce their number of regions by half while also reducing the number of people by half too... it first starts with the inital regions to fire a few and relocate a few guys, while the person identified for the new region eliminates people from the consolidated region and fires a few more after consolidation... finally the HO fires whatever remaining target needs to be acheived, in a true Joker style execution...

Hats off to a picture perfect execution...

Monday, March 16, 2009

Unethical advertising methods...

Here is an advertising campaign from an casino firm - Indiana Casino that featured an Obama sound-alike voice over to promote their services... the ad was taken off air on the insistence of white house officials....