Steve's blog

A blog about what's going on in Analysis UK...

Consumer book publishing

Veronis Suhler Stevenson today published a press release discussing consumer book publishing as well as other aspects of the communications/media sector.

For all those involved in the book industry, particularity the (internet based) used book aspect of it should find this interesting reading.

One piece that really interested me was the expected growth of the used books spending projection, which they estimate to be 25% compound annual rate over the next 5 years. So take the time to have a browse through the books you have listed on and have a think about when you last read the book and if you should be ticking the "For Sale" box as well so you can get some cash to buy more books…

Below is the Consumer Book Publishing forecast:

Total spending on new, used and online books will increase 2.7 percent in 2006 to $21.88 billion. The rise of used books is expected to alter the spending pattern on consumer books in the years to come. Spending on used books is projected to grow at a 25.0 percent compound annual rate over the next five years, reaching $2.25 billion in 2010. Record-setting demand for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, plus strong spending on titles related to the movie The Chronicles of Narnia, helped to boost total consumer spending on new books by 3.6 percent in 2005 to $20.48 billion. The used book market, limited primarily to small retail outlets, libraries and the neighborhood tag sales in the past, has become a more important factor in the consumer book market due to the Internet, jumping 25.0 percent in 2005 to $736.0 million. Used book spending pushed total spending on consumer books to $21.31 billion, a 4.4 percent increase over the 2004 level. The Consumer Book publishing industry is forecast to have total spending in 2010 of $24.9 billion.

Happy selling!


New RSS Feeds – publish your book collection online.

For sometime now has had RSS feeds for books that are for sale, if you look at the user’s profile of the book you are interested in you will see a RSS feed link. If you found that you were interested in the books that the seller had you could subscribe to the feed and keep an eye out for the latest books they had.

Alternatively for sellers you could use that RSS feed to add the books you were selling onto your own website. The links in the feed link right back to the book details page on where your customer could find out more details about the book and purchase it if they were interested. This meant all you had to do was add a simple RSS reader to your site and you were away.

Recently the RSS feeds available has been extended, the more observant will have noticed a "My RSS Feeds" link in the "My Account" section. From here you can configure special RSS feeds to publish your book collection.

On the right hand sidebar of this blog you can see an "I'm Reading…" and "My wish list" section, these are both automatically generated from a RSS consumer in the bloging software and feeds from

This screen shot shows a typical configuration of My RSS Feeds:

So if you would like your blog readers to know what books you are reading, or what ones you would like, or what books you have, if you are selling books or just want to list your entire book collection on your website then check out the MyRSS feeds.

The My RSS Feeds are also available on and so you can also list the CDs and DVDs you have, or like or would like.


DVD Downloads from

Robert Scoble yesterday talked about Amazon becoming the new Google (along with one heck of a busy schedule - I can’t wait to see the results of Scobel’s work, if its anything like the Channel 9 videos and his normal bloging they should be fantastic). Interestingly his comments come a year to the day after the Scoble goes to Amazon and Learns All About Web Services Channel 9 video was posted.

Amazon have also been very busy on the development interface over the last few years, AWS as it was, now ECS is a market leading initiative that has lead to lots of great sites consuming and mashing up Amazons data. Over at I have been able to include results from Amazon searches and product details with ease whilst keeping the style of, this is great for people looking for more details about a book they are interested in, with a single click they can get the product details, reviews and the product value information, as well as being able to purchase the product or similar products from Amazon or third party sellers if they wish.

The most recent offering from is UnBox a DVD download service. Along a similar line to Napster but for video rather than music.

Dave Taylor has an excellent review of unbox, a few things struck me about MP3 and video download services like these is that at the end of the day the products are still comparably priced to the CD or DVD based products, but the one thing you don’t get is a tangible product, hence it has no resale value which has the hidden effect of elevating the cost of the goods.

If you go and buy a DVD from your local retailer or online from or Amazon if you then decide you don’t like it, or just grow bored of it you can always sell or swap the DVD, however with downloads this becomes so much more difficult.

I would never pay for a second-hand downloaded DVD movie. If it’s DRM protected then chances are it’s not going to work on my PC, if it’s not protected then how do I know it’s original and the person selling it is legit? At least with DVD disk based products I have something that is easy to tell from a cheap rip-off.

The thought of buying a DRM protected DVD (a new one) leaves me wondering that when it comes time to upgrade/rebuild my PC will I still be able to watch this DVD or will I have thrown my money down the drain. I have one eBook (21 dog years) which I find really annoying to read off the PC and I just know one day I won’t be able to read it anymore because I will have broken something on the PC.

Personally I like to watch DVDs on my TV, music wise I enjoy the normal Hi-Fi, I’m a big fan of WinAmp on my PC, but I hate watching DVDs on my PC, you just know an IM window or email message will arrive at a key point of the movie popping into the middle of the screen and messing up the whole scene or the audio will get all messed up as the disk drives become busy for some other reason and sit their for 10 seconds making lots of noise for no apparent reason.

So for now I’m sticking with buying boxed DVD’s, selling them as I feel fit and swapping my DVD’s with my friends through The same goes for music, if I’m buying an album then I will buy the cased thing, selling and swapping with friends through

On a similar note I recently realised a new use for that hadn’t even crossed my mind, last week I went around a friends for a few Friday evening beers, before leaving I thought I would take a DVD with me, I couldn’t find one on my shelf’s that I thought he would enjoy or hadn’t already seen. It wasn’t until we were talking that I realised he should have used his DVDSwap.wsaccount to have a browse through my DVD collection and then ask me to bring over the one he would like. Look out for a new "Bring it over" style feature on to help friends get together over a mutually enjoyable DVD soon – when I figure out a good name and how to implement the service!!!

BTW, as I’m talking about WinAmp and listening to music on the PC I have to mention .977 the 80s channel a shoutcast radio station I listen to a lot. You can enjoy classic 80s tracks with WinAmp and [Club] .977.


More SmartStamp pains.

It always amazes me how worse a product can become over its life time, Royal Mail appear to have perfected making SmartStamp annoy it’s customers on a frequent basis.

With home based business increasing thanks to sites like and eBay stamp printing applications such as SmartStamp are going to become a crucial tool.

Today all I wanted to do was print a single stamp for a small parcel to the USA.

Naturally I had to alter the printer and label when I started the application, see my previous post about the default label and printer, and then go through more pain to find the postage.

Having finally got the postage I wanted I hit print, enter my password and found out I have to do an update. It waits until I’ve spent ages setting it all up to do this. So the update happens, quite a big update, fortunately I have a fast internet connection so not to much of a problem.

Naturally being an important part of the computer I have to restart the PC to get the updates installed. However it did print my stamp for me. Wrongly! Up until today the one thing that’s always worked for me is the stamp has been well positioned. Not any more, 99012 label + stamp on a Dymo 320 looks something like this

So next I restart my PC incase the s/w needs to be updated like it asked me for. I wasn’t to happy as I was part way through downloading Vista RC1 from MSDN and the download program is a pain to find to get it to continue if you stop it part way. Actually I have no idea how to restart it I always end up back in MSDN and start another download then cancel that, but that’s another story of an annoying app.

Well after the restart which took an age (which if you are like me and trying to run an micro-ISV in your free time after work is time wasted you really could do without) the label is still positioned wrongly. Fortunately there are some confusing controls in SmartStamp to position it, so after a bit of guess work the label now shows the price like it used to.

Now for the next issue, I have to find my stamp again, USA, near the bottom of a long list of countries, I expect quite a lot of people post to USA, you would think that like most web sites and software they would have a few at the top that were very popular. But no. Then I find the stamp type, AirMail, then select the weight. Next I realise the one I wanted was actually Small Packet AirMail. Guess what, it’s decided not to keep my weight, so I have to go select one of them again.

Now I know it’s not all that easy to make the weight thing correct it’s self as there are different bands. BUT, this is really annoying every time you change stamp type it changes the weight to the min. Maybe I could just enter the weight in a text box, or use the selector, and if I’ve entered it manually then it can choose the best weight band for me. After all the one thing that’s not going to change is the weight of my parcel, but stamp choice, now that will change as I try to find the most appropriate one.

Personally I’m hoping the cheap postage scales will have a RS232 or USB interface one of these days, that would be really nice.

One day I am going to end up with the wrong stamp because of the resetting to default. Actually I just printed the stamp whilst writing this and if it wasn’t for the big SU on the label instead of the A I would have got the wrong one and the wrong weight. It’s to easy to do that. The stamp doesn’t say what weight it’s valid for either so that’s no help.

Now I have a stamp for Airmail Small Packet , I have to put a Airmail sticker on the packet and a customs declaration. Not to difficult. You can download a CN22 from Royal Mails web site and I can fire you the Dymo printer to print an Airmail sticker I have already made.

Did you make the same mistake I made. Thinking that as a label printing application designed for postage SmartStamp would include labels for Airmail and Customs declarations. Odd really, I have to print out a PDF on my laser and cut it down to size, then with a different labeller application I have to print the Airmail label. 3 Applications to sort out the stuff that has to go onto a parcel. I just don’t think anybody at royal mail has actually tried to use SmartStamp for real.

Before you correct me, yes I know that there is an Airmail logo I can use on the stamp, but not as a label by its self, and it won’t fit with the postage onto a 99012 label. So someone has clearly put 2 seconds of thought into it and stopped at that. And it’s not for small packet either. Maybe when you select an airmail stamp that has extra label requirements their could be an option to include these in the list of labels it’s about to print.

One more thing that really bugs me, and this was common in VB3 days, is the "are you sure?" exit message, that’s so old and annoying. If I’ve printed my stamp and pressed X then I certainly want to exit, don’t annoy me any more! All it tells me is the application development is still thinking VB3 style and it doesn’t really know what state it’s data is in.

Now I know I rant on about this annoying little application (which isn’t all that cheap at the end of the day), but as someone who uses it I feel I have to make my views known in a desperate hope someone may take notice one day…

Come on Royal Mail sort this product out. Please put a little effort into this, you may have won a best use of technology award for it, but it still needs a lot of attention to make it customer friendly and usable technology.

Update: As I continue to write this I’ve just tried a few more things and guess what, it’s remembered my printer and the label positioning (V3.0.0.10), I selected another label and it looks like that would also print wrong, but at least it’s remembered my settings, sad how something so basic should now cause me to be happy. Now I don’t know if that’s because of the update that just happened or because I just saved my label as a template in the hope that it would keep the label positions.

Well I’m off to search around the Royal Mail website to try and get a refund for the badly printed label. Guess what, that’s not part of the application either. I’m also firing up Napster for some music, theirs another application that continues to irritate me immensely, can they make it any more difficult and slow to play some music!


Book Sale Directory Service.

A few days ago LRABooks launched Book Sale Scout, a web based book sale directory.

This looks like a great service to locate book sales, unfortunately for me it appears to be USA specific at this time, but then if you could see the books piled around me in my flat you might say it’s for the best!.

Check out more details on the Book Selling Online blog post and the follow up article reviewing the launch.

I have to say, being a programmer, developer, software engineer (or what ever other name you wish to use) I was a little disappointed to see their programmer getting some flack for a few of the early bugs.

No software application is without bugs (OK, maybe NASA have a couple of bug free apps, but most commercial stuff will have a few thrown in for free). Whilst us developers do our best to keep them out I personally believe it is ultimately the job of the tester to make sure the application is fit for purpose and operates in an acceptable manner.

Many small companies go without software testers, especially one person micro-ISV’s, but where ever possible someone other than the programmer should test the application before it gets released, us developers are too close to the code to be able to test properly.

So whilst I’m not surprised Book Sale Scout had a couple of bugs I am disappointed that the poor programmer got the blame so freely and not the tester or who ever decided to release the application.

Anyway, rant over and done with, check out Book Sale Scout it looks to be a promising resource for books and I wish them all the best success.

Also if your into selling books I can highly recommend Steve Webber’s Selling Books blog.


New SSL Certificates

I have update the SSL certificates on, and today.

These come from a different certificate provider this time.

The certificates are used during login, sale transactions and where personal identifiable data is being transferred to us. Please check the secure padlock on your browser to ensure these are OK when you are using https pages on the, and servers.

These changes should not cause any problems or be noticeable (other than by inspecting the certificate details).


Books Labels.

A few weeks ago Joel Spolsky blogged that he wanted a way to manage his company library.

One of the requirements was to be able to print out a label for his books. This struck a cord with me and I looked into the possibility of including this as part of

Now I should add that I own a Dymo LabelWriter 320, it’s a great label printer, easy to use, versatile, the labels are great, clear text and they stick really well to the packages.

Here’s what a 99012 address label with book data looks like:

I purchased the printer to print the address and stamp labels when I ship a book. Previously I’d been using 14 labels/ A4 sheet on an inkjet printer, this was really rather painful and I won’t tell you how many times I printed on a label that I’d already used, put the sheet in upside down and even put the sheet in, switched the printer on and found another document in the queue printing onto my labels – I did that a few times!.

I found only one commercial component package on Component Source that I thought would do the trick and I was all ready to write a .NET app to use that. However I realised that Dymo do add-ins for Word etc for the printer so I decided to search their website for a SDK.

The developers section wasn’t to hard to find and the SDK was quickly downloaded.

Dymo provide a very wide range of examples and good documentation for the SDK, even samples for Internet Explorer and FireFox.

It turns out to be quite easy to use the COM objects supplied by the Dymo software to automate label creation, and with the addition of a bit of JavaScript this can be made to print out labels from a web page.

I had problems with FireFox as it wasn’t happy creating the COM object due to security restrictions; I think I need to sign the JavaScript .js file. I will have to spend some more time investigating this.

So the result of all this is that earlier today (actually yesterday as it’s 2am now) I uploaded Item labeller for, and You can see how to use the Item Labeller in a posting on the community forum of

The labeller allows fields from your book, CD or DVD entry to be printed out, you can define different label definitions and store these in your ( and account.

I have to take my hat off to Dymo, I love the printer. The SDK and resources they provide for developers is great. Thank you Dymo! I will be buying another Dymo LabelWriter one day soon! (So I don't have to change labels and so I can test the Item Labeller better).

If you want to read the very lengthy thread of replies Joel got to his request it can be found here - some where about half way down is a post from me plugging :-D

BTW: Check out the “I’m Reading” and “My Wish List” in the sidebar on the right here, these come from RSS feeds generated from my account – more on that in a post soon.