August 17, 2005

More Blu-Ray Supporters Emerging [8:33 am]

Lions Gate Is Expected to Support Blu-ray Discs

Lions Gate Home Entertainment is expected to announce today that it plans to produce next-generation digital video discs using Blu-ray technology developed by Sony and others. The decision could give the supporters of the Blu-ray format an edge in its continuing battle against backers of HD-DVD technology, who are supporting a competing format for new high-definition discs.

Lions Gate, which controls about 4 percent of the DVD market, is the latest studio to declare its allegiance in the format contest. [...]

[Lions Gate Entertainment's president] Mr. [Steve] Beeks said that the Lions Gate’s agreement was not exclusive and his company could produce discs in the HD-DVD format if needed. However, he said the sooner the industry and consumers settled on a single format, the better.

Blu-ray is likely to become the dominant standard faster, Mr. Beeks said, partly because Sony plans to include the technology in its new PlayStation 3 game consoles that are expected to be in stores next spring. The game machines thus would double as Blu-ray disc players and could potentially increase Blu-ray disc sales.

Like the other studios, Lions Gate has had to balance the benefits of the competing formats against how quickly they could be marketed to consumers. Some industry executives say that growth in the sales of the current generation of DVD’s is slowing and that introducing high-definition discs is needed to increase overall sales.

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An Art Form Evolves [8:30 am]

Comics Escape a Paper Box, and Electronic Questions Pop Out

“It’s time for comics to balance the scales, see the world and broaden its horizons,” he added. It’s time for comics to go digital.

The digital revolution, he argued, would bring comics closer to their roots: cave paintings. Yes, cave paintings. “The ancestors of printed comics drew, painted and carved their time-paths from beginning to end, without interruption,” Mr. [Scott] McCloud wrote. And with the help of digital technology, he suggested, comics could break out of their boxes and get back to what he called “the infinite canvas.”

[...] Well, Mr. McCloud got his way. Comics did go digital. But he did not get everything.

There are many sites where you can find online comics, both old (coconino.fr) and new (onlinecomics.net and comicwindows.com). Some of the comics are also available in print, but because of the Web, lots of comic artists who would have had a chance at syndication can now show their wares and find their publics. In fact, there’s even a new site out there called webcomicsnation.com, which is supposed to do for Web comics what Blogger did for blogs and Flickr did for photo sharing.

And there are contests too. [...]

[...] But when it comes to the content of Web comics, Mr. Groth was right. The comics that use digital technology to break out of their frozen boxes are really more like animated cartoons. And those that don’t are just like the old, pre-digital ones, without the allure of the printed page and with a few added headaches for reader and creator alike.

Later: Slashdot - Comics Escape a Paper Box and Evolve to the Web

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Response to the NPD Report [8:08 am]

Recording Industry’s Slipped Disc [pdf]

“‘Burned’ CDs accounted for 29 percent of all recorded music obtained by fans in 2004, compared to 16 percent attributed to downloads from online file-sharing networks,” the AP wrote. “The data, compiled by the market research firm NPD Group, suggested that about half of all recordings obtained by music fans in 2004 came from authorized CD sales and about 4 percent from paid music downloads. … ‘CD burning is a problem that is really undermining sales,’ Bainwol said in a phone interview before addressing about 750 members of the National Association of Recording Merchandisers in San Diego on Friday. ‘(Copy protection technology) is an answer to the problem that clearly the marketplace is going to see more of,’ he added.”

I don’t think the recording industry is feeling the sting from legions of people like me who want their Werner Mueller albums on a CD transfer. (I can’t imagine those Phase 4 beauties are even on CD, let alone iTunes, but I’ve been wrong before.) While I might be a small part of the problem, the RIAA and record store retailers are feeling the heat from the thriving CD-to-CD burn.

[...] I understand that CDs still account for so much of the music business’s revenues, from the retailer in Rochester to the lawyers in Los Angeles, but this kind of action seems a tad on the late side. CDs are tangible, unlike the ethereal digital bytes of the Internet, but the content on those discs will continue to flow illegally unless the recording industry completely locks them up.

That seems unlikely to happen. Instead, the industry should take a cue from the success of iTunes and other legal music outlets: Give us something that we can’t get from burning. For many, those are the accoutrements from album art to liner notes to all kinds of gussied-up editions of our favorite albums. To some extent this is happening — from the Velvet Underground catalog to Marvin Gaye to Stevie Wonder . But I must add one small note: Ratcheting up the CD price is not a way to make that work.

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iPod as iDentity [8:03 am]

The iPod: A Love Story Between Man, Machine [pdf]

To the iPodders around the world, the irresistible, indispensable, irreplaceable iPod is a personal memory bank.

“The iPod is a very powerful identity technology,” says Sherry Turkle, director of the Initiative on Technology and the Self at MIT, where she teaches the psychology of the relationship between people and machines. The iPod, to be sure, isn’t the only digital music player around, but it’s without a doubt the most popular. With nearly 22 million sold, three-quarters of the U.S. market, “the iPod is just one more technology that uses the computer as the second self — a reflection of who we are as people, a way of seeing ourselves in the mirror of the machine,” she says.

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