martes, 31 de marzo de 2009

Books that aren't books

Artículo publicado en Revista Debate y traducido al inglés.

Books that aren’t books

Stephen King has sold somewhere between 300 and 350 million books. His novels on terror, fantasy or science fiction are available in both paperback and hardback format. That’s paper with printed words on it. At then end of the day, books. However at the beginning of this year the well known author surprised the world by launching his latest novel “Ur” and his first book that isn’t a book. This very special edition will only be available on digital devices and can be purchased for just three dollars.

One of the world’s greatest and oldest cultural industries is going through a historic moment. The evolution of electronic books (eBooks), the great proliferation of titles in this format and their positive reception on behalf of their readers opens the debate about the future of the worldwide book publishing business.

Is it possible that in 10 years time we will not be reading any more books printed on paper? The first chapter of this story – still with an unclear ending – has now been written. An electronic device that can condense everything from the Bible to The Little Prince into one has now arrived.
On the 24th of February, one of the world’s largest e-commerce sites launched Kindle 2, the second version of its device for reading digital books commonly called eBooks. This slim device can store up to 1500 books and can also be used to download magazines and newspapers and to retrieve one’s e-mail.

For the moment Amazon has an accumulated offering of some 245,000 tiles for Kindle but it is just a question of time before the arrival of all books in this format. There are many candidates vying to digitalize whole libraries, while others such as Google have been doing so for years. This gigantic and costly task will undoubtedly result in an inevitable concentration of authors rights into fewer publishing houses.

The disappearance of the book in its physical form, and the enormous cultural changes that will come about, have already opened a lively debate that divides the interested parties into two distinct camps or libraries.

According to Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon and Kindle, this device is not coming to replace the readership of books but rather to “preserve this great tradition and to make it evolve even more”.
Besides its nifty product attributes in terms of weight and storage capacity this technology launch stands apart from many others for one very improbable reason: its great impact among the adult population. Not just young people start to use it but also more experienced readers. That is why it can be considered as almost an ambivalent device, innovative sure, but also “conservative”. Amazon plans on selling a million units in 2009, and close to 3.5 million in 2010.
The reach of electronic books will not be restricted to these devices alone. The Apple iPhone places at the disposition of its users a similar book reading application and all the major brands have commenced the process of converting their mobile phones into walking books.

Hernán Casciari, writer and founder of, one of the most read blogs in the Spanish speaking world writes: “I am reading a marvelous book, heavy and fat (some 1,600 pages) and for the first time in my life as a reader I start to feel the urgency of the electronic book. We have become accustomed to the shift key, hypertext and having to manage three to five ideas at a time. Returning to the simple unidirectional book is like having to start a fire with a stick and a stone”.

In a technology blog a user asks and then answers his own question: In truth, do you want your whole life to be digital? Yes!

Quite to the contrary, Sven Birkerts, American essayist, critic and author of the book “The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age”, sustains in an article published in The Atlantic magazine that the book “is part of a cultural system” and his fear is that “Kindle will be to literature and the humanities what Wikipedia has become to information: a one-stop outlet”.

It is clear that the reading of books in digital format does not just mean a simple a change of habits for readers – or a cultural revolution – but rather augurs concrete reforms in the publishing business.

The price of titles has diminished considerably in the transition from paper to digital. On one can acquire the latest releases for ten dollars and download classics to the monitor for just two dollars. Numbers that diminish significantly, based on similar experiences in other industries always tend to lower, never to increase.

Piracy and the possibility of users sharing books from one device to another or the arrival of a new Napster (peer to peer system for downloading music without paying rights) for published material are just some of the phantasms lurking over the pages of this novel.

The experience of the music industry that invented the iTunes micro-payments model (by charging one dollar for each soundtrack) following years of dire hardship has possibly created a less rocky road to be followed in the conflict over books. Getting users accustomed to paying for content, even in much more modest amounts, appears to be the key. Since the leading cases provide the model to follow, the early beginnings of this relationship, in which readers continue to pay, would appear to smooth the way forward.

Finally, the approaching world of the digital book also brings with it some big news. Just like what happened on the Internet where anyone can now create their own media communications platform, launching one’s own book will be even easier than planting a tree. Amazon has created a digital text platform that allows any writer in a just a few steps, without intermediaries, to publish his own text and share in a percentage of the sales.

And in the very name of the product that will slowly revolutionize one of the most aged industries of our culture there is controversy. Some would claim that in the name chosen by Amazon they express their true mission, “to burn the books”. The word kindle is after all synonymous with igniting a fire.

How to get a divorce, win your first million or to die in style

Artículo publicado en Revista Debate traducido al inglés.

How to get a divorce, win your first million or to die in style

In Germany if both parties agree on a separation the divorce settlement can be done over the Internet.

In China hundreds of people who have been recruited via the Web gather together in front of an electronics store to obtain a better price on the purchase of a flat screen TV. “Hello, there are twenty of us out here in all and we each wish to purchase an LCD monitor. What’s your best price offer? And if the price isn’t right we’ll check out another store just around the corner”.

The Internet is offering outrageous and innovative options for being entertained, boring oneself and even for falling into or out of love, and its growth has motivated cultural changes both small and large and the appearance of some very surprising new services.

Just ten years ago the idea of having one’s own web page appeared impossible. It was common to hear excuses like “I don’t know how”, or “who do I ask?” and “I don’t know anything about Internet”. At that time the Internet was just a small planet with a few million pages and its visitors a select global minority.

Finding the website of a newspaper that was updated on an hourly basis; or an e-mail service that allowed one to avoid the trip to the post office with letter in hand and the eternal queue; or enjoying the possibility of downloading music (with apologies to copyrights) were sufficient to make us all marvel at its wonders.

It didn’t seem that we lacked much else. At that time the scope of the Internet appeared to be infinite. Today in, a website with over thirty million users one can create a family tree and find long lost relatives scattered around the globe.

In we can discover a very peculiar philosophy. According to this site a quiet happy life without problems can be boring.

As a result they invite you to buy problems so that everyone has something to keep themselves occupied.
From one dollar to five thousand dollars, simple problems to more complex ones are offered for sale to the public. There is also the option of giving a problem on birthdays and anniversaries. “Hi, Happy Birthday.

Here goes a complicated problem as a gift so that you have something to do”.
A webpage for every eight people that surf is a sufficient number for everyone to find what they might want.

With over 1,500 million users across the globe and the possibility of just about anyone being able to create their own space on the net and publish their own content in just seconds, the Internet has multiplied its offering in almost incalculable form. Everyday, new projects are launched backed with multimillion dollar investments that surprise us and that even the most fanatical surfers are able to keep up with.

One of the great landmarks in the history of the Internet is The Million Dollar Home Page. In 2005 a 21 year old English student launched a website to help finance his university career. He created a web page and divided it into a million pixels (a minimum unit of color) which he then sold for one dollar each. He made his first million in less than a year and his funny and generous creature still lives on in

The calculations are not precise but studies by Netcast estimate that the number of websites has doubled over the last two years and that there are now more than 182 million web pages competing for our attention

In the movie “The Holiday” Iris (Kate Winslett) and Amanda (Cameron Díaz) decide to exchange homes for their vacations.
In for an annual subscription of a hundred dollars one can consult more than 26,000 houses and apartments for exchange with one’s own. An active community formed by thousands of people that vacation this way every year and allows one to swap one’s house for another.

“Participate in creating a better World, one couch at a time” is the slogan of a very special service. If sleeping on a couch for a few days does not seem too much when its time to cut costs in one can find more than a million people in more than 50,000 towns and cities around the World who are prepared to lend their couch with the sole interest of helping out.

A French website soon to be launched will do the homework for those students prepared to pay.

For many Internet has now become a digital filing cabinet containing their photos, documents, videos and e-mail accounts. When a person dies the mechanisms for transferring that information become obsolete and generally the terms of service of the many sites where the information is stored do not permit the transfer by any unauthorized third party. A newly launched service aptly named takes charge of resolving this problem and very simply organizes a person’s digital inheritance.

lunes, 23 de marzo de 2009

¡Muéstrame el dinero!

El Cronista publicó el viernes un artículo que escribí sobre la crisis de los diarios en Internet. El espacio que se sostenía sería el futuro de los medios escritos, hoy también entra en problemas. Grandes masas de usuarios, pero pocos dispuestos a pagar por los contenidos, y una pauta publicitaria que no llega a cubrir los costos.

lunes, 16 de marzo de 2009

Cómo divorciarse, ganar el primer millón o morir con estilo

La revista Debate publica un artículo que escribí sobre algunas geniales locuras que ofrece Internet. Un repaso de sitios con servicios difíciles de imaginar en el mundo preGoogle.

martes, 10 de marzo de 2009

Don't be evil

Artículo publicado en Revista Debate traducido al inglés.

“Don´t be evil” is the unofficial slogan of Google, its code of conduct. And “organizing the world´s information” its self prophecy. “Why?” Because besides being its mission, it also sounds good, and that provides space for them to do what they desire doing without anyone bothering them. Sshhh, Google is organizing all the world´s information.

A little more than ten years on and Larry Page´s and Sergey Brin´s creature has become, to all intents and purposes, a fully brazen multinational corporation present in every corner in the world with more than 20,000 employees and synonymous with the very medium that gave it life. “Did you find it on Google?” is a question as often repeated as its predecessor: “Did you find it on Internet?” To google or “googling” are terms that have now been incorporated into our everyday language. Google or Internet, however you prefer to name it is now a benevolent giant, loved by everyone with its good heart beating in every crevice of the inhospitable but explorable Web.

Google´s race towards the history books has undoubtedly been fast. On 4th September 1998 the company began its operations as a search engine service that quickly became the N°1 contender conquering the previously established leaders such as Lycos, Infoseek & Altavista.

Today, in addition to its dominant market position in the search business (according to comScore its market share will be 63.5% at end 2009) it has rolled out a veritable arsenal of new products that have revolutionized the Web. Almost all of its services are free, because its income comes from advertising via its AdWords and AdSense platforms. Between own creations and acquisitions their portfolio now comprises more than one hundred products, including Gmail, Maps and You Tube.

Not always the first, but always the best. It is not a company that specializes in innovation but rather in doing everything better than any other. Adapted to, and adaptable by their users, fast, versatile, simple to use, those are the trademark of the applications which carry the famous G stamp upon them. Just like its search engine which buried the competition with its notable features, many of its other adventures have had the same good fortune. When they couldn’t (or didn’t want to) beat the competition they merged with them or bought them out. For example in 2003 when they took over, the principal service for creating and publishing blogs; or when in 2006 for $1.650 million You Tube became part of the family.

In October 2004 they got to where no one would have imagined: they purchased Keyhole and renamed it Earth, a program that allows one to visualize images of the planet in 3D. Today, four years later with this same application one can also view the bottom of the ocean and even explore the Moon.

With the motive of its tenth birthday, Google in festive mood made a striking review of its brief and intense story that can be consulted in

Which will be the future great star of Internet is the question that everyone is asking. The great passion - and the obsession of all cybernauts - is attempting to anticipate what will be the next step and what is coming in terms of technological advancement. Meanwhile Google, which talks about its past does not anticipate much about its future.

While rumors of the possible purchase of mass media are discarded and one also hears the voices of those predicting their disembarkation in the mobile phone business, it neither confirms nor denies their supposed intentions to compete with Microsoft by launching their own operating system. Windows. But Google branded, of course.

That’s why in Internet there is a growing sense that the next big step of the giant, in its online expansion, will probably be an offline product, and its victim will be Microsoft. The Google operating system, faster and more intelligent than the Windows monopoly, will have an added attraction that will make it even more special: It will be free.

In May 2007 Google took the first step on this secret path by launching Android. This operating system for mobile devices will be the germ that will give life, subject to further evolution, to the software that will seek to battle it out with Windows. Its next evolutionary jump will be to the Netbooks (mini laptops) constituting a clear advance warning before advancing to the traditional PC.

The competition with Microsoft is not news. The battles between Gmail and Hotmail, MSN Messenger versus Google Talk and more recently Chrome versus Explorer are only some signs of this ongoing war in the waters of the Web. The possibility of the competition advancing into the terrain of traditional software, the absolute dominion of Microsoft for the past 25 years would undoubtedly break any chance of a peace treaty.

lunes, 9 de marzo de 2009

El futuro de Google, nuestro futuro

Aquí el print del artículo publicado en el último número de la Revista Debate. Para leer el artículo online ingresar aquí: .

viernes, 6 de marzo de 2009

Ideas para la Casa Blanca

Veinte emprendores Web fueron invitados a la Casa Blanca para aportar ideas en el camino de "digitalizar" y llevar a la 3.0 a toda la estructura Web del gobierno de Estados Unidos. Ben Kaufman, CEO de Kluster (creadores de un servicio que te permite recibir opiniones e ideas para lo que necesites), pide a través de un mail colaboración a sus usuarios.

miércoles, 4 de marzo de 2009

About football, blankets and Internet

“Playing football is like trying to cover oneself with a blanket that is too short. If you cover your head inevitably you will not cover your feet.” This phrase from the football (soccer) arena explains how a team that tries to be offensive can come unstuck and suffer in defense and vice versa.

The illustration of the blanket also serves to demonstrate what is today one of the greatest problems confronting Internet.

The principal business model being implemented by web sites is based on advertising. The content or services are seen and freely utilized by millions of users and it is the presence of brands and their message which subsidizes this interaction. However the online advertising pie, despite its uninterrupted growth around the globe, is still not sufficient to keep out the cold that runs from head to toes.

This is the reason why the online newspapers or the Internet magazines have not yet taken off. The advertising income does not yet cover their costs and the bottom line remains red. In many cases these digital businesses are considered as cannibalizers of their mother product (the paper version) by the readers that emigrate from the physical version to the digital one.

The free model is not an invention of the Internet.

In preWeb times advertising was also responsible for subsidizing the interaction between the media and their audience (readers, listeners or viewers). The written press for time immemorial has charged its readers a minimum cost that does not reflect the true value of the product, but rather responds to a percentage of the costs of printing and distribution. The journalistic value, the reporting and chronicling, or in other words the content that converts the printed word into media communications has always been supported by advertising.

With the advent of Marketing Promotions this same business model has granted us free music recitals at the beach sponsored by a well known mobile telephone brand, but it didn’t go any further. When someone had to send a letter or make a long distance phone call they had to pay for it. No brand was prepared to sponsor that cost.

In Internet this business model - or non-business model - has extended to the deepest fathoms of the earth.

The income generated by advertising in Internet must also cover the costs of sponsoring our e-mail accounts so that these may be free, or advertising in the social networks so that no one charges us anything for interacting with our friends and in the video portals so that we may view hours of free “television”.

That’s why, and this is the heart of the problem, the advertising investment is not sufficient to cover the needs of an industry that offers practically everything for free.

Imagine just for a moment if the offline world had functioned in this way. Nobody would have paid to send a letter because Coca Cola would have subsidized the cost by stamping its logo on the envelopes. In bars, free beer would be offered because a tobacco company sponsored the moment and whoever desired a smoke wouldn’t have to pay for that privilege due to the sponsorship by a medical insurance company.

But that’s what happens in Internet and the Google generation has become accustomed to it.
Just the same the future is promising. The options for micro payments for small services and the charging model known as freemium (a free version supported by another paid for premium one) has started to make inroads on the Web and to complement income from advertising.

For the time being Internet advertising is not unlike that blanket that no matter how hard we pull on it, is a long way away from being infinite.

Paparazzi of our own life

Martin says: “I’ve just found out that my best friend Carlos has separated from his wife, that Diego has a head ache and is addicted to Ibuprofen, that Claudia – the friend of a friend that I have never ever seen – her clothes don’t fit her anymore and my girlfriend has just broken-up with me. She found out yesterday on Facebook that I hadn’t gone to the movies with my friends, saw the photos of that girl…and well it’s all over.”

A world in which private life does not exist appears possible. A life in which not only our tastes and habits, but everything that we do on a daily basis, is converted into news for the benefit of the greater public knowledge.

Living deprived of our privacy, as if we were Hollywood stars may be feasible in the future thanks to the attraction for self exhibition that Internet has inspired in part of our society.
In the early days of the Web the presence of an ordinary person went unnoticed among the millions of websites. We could find out who Madonna was going out with or the latest drinking binge of Prince William & Harry, but nothing about Pepe, the neighbor next door. There were no great differences with the offering from the traditional media, the combination of TV-radio-press that dominated the major part of the 20th Century. Much more information, faster and updated several times a day, but the same type of news.

The jump to 2.0 and the creation of user generated content that today mobilizes the major share of digital traffic has broken with all the previously conceived scenarios. Nowadays we not only live the private lives of the famous. Today anyone can post his photos on Facebook, or tell us what he is doing minute by minute on Twitter, or upload the video of a night out with friends on You Tube. Everyone is converting themselves in the Paparazzi of their own life and as a consequence, the lives of all those around them.

Even if you should decide to avoid this unwanted publicity and carry on with life in happy anonymity there is still a possibility that Internet threatens to frustrate you.

“You are on Facebook aren’t you?” is now a common question among surfers. “I’ve never registered but my friends upload videos in which I appear; my sister posted images of when we were kids and I am running around naked, and my wife is a friend of my mates so she knows everything that we do every time we get together…so I’m not, but I am.”, the other might easily respond.

New functions offered by some sites complicate this panorama even further. The option of tagging the faces in a photo so that when you pass over it with a mouse so you can identify the person is one of the novelties. Some sites have started to test a system that will allow automatic face recognition. As a result, in time Internet will become plagued by images and videos of each and every one of us.

Googling candidates in a job search is already a common practice among many human resource teams. What are they searching for? More information, personal data that has not already been detailed on a CV but that the detective Web 2.0 places at their disposal.

For the moment there do not appear to be any restrictions or tools that allow us to detain our steady march towards stardom, so the end of our days of anonymity appear to be close.

Artículos in english

Con la inestimable colaboración de Sean Ashe, subí las traducciones al inglés de dos artículos que publiqué en la Revista Debate.

Contenidos Web

lustration by Minh Uong/The New York Times

Wall Street Journal publica un artículo muy interesante sobre los contenidos de nicho, y una nueva tendencia en la gestión de contenidos. Mientras que Brian Stelter analiza en The New York Times la problemática del copyright en Internet.

lunes, 2 de marzo de 2009

La publicidad en Internet no alcanza para todos

En la Revista Debate se puede leer un artículo que publiqué sobre el fenómeno del (no) negocio online. Un mercado que busca resistir por la torta publicitaria, pero sus limitadas porciones no alcanzan para que coman todos. Si interesa, leer y comentar aquí.

Google cambia

Asoman cambios en

Opciones para PROMOVER links y para REMOVER los que no queremos, en una versión personalizable de los resultados de búsqueda. Además las opciones de ingresar a un sitio salteando la intro, o ver versiones anteriores (caches) de cada página.