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Industry News: Microsoft allows Office transfers, Amazon buys Goodreads, Penguin changes e-book policy for libraries

March 30, 2013

Microsoft relents on product key transfer restrictions for Office 2013

After howls of protest from customers, Microsoft has reversed its policy that prevented users from transferring a license for Office 2013 from one PC to another. If you own a license for Office 2013, you can transfer up to once every 90 days, except in the event of a hardware failure. The previous license terms preventing transfers were thought to be a way to push people toward Microsoft Office 365, the company’s subscription-based office software suite. The policy change applies to Office Home and Student, Office Home and Business, Office Professional, and standalone applications (like if you bought Word on its own). Here’s Microsoft’s blog post about the change.

What this means to you: It means you can go drop money on Office 2013 and not worry that your laptop’s going to crash. It also means you don’t have to go to the yearly subscription model for using Office. It might mean one other thing, too. If Office is truly the only game in town, and Microsoft doesn’t believe it has a significant competitor, there’s really no incentive to backpedal on this point. It could be that Microsoft considers Open Office and other suites to be legitimate threats. I believe it also means that the subscription model is delayed, but not dead. You’ll see this come up again.

Amazon buys Goodreads

In a deal that should shock exactly no one, Amazon has acquired Goodreads. The acquisition gives Amazon a stronger social media presence than its online reviews. It also paves the way for integrating Goodreads into the Kindle platform, further differentiating Kindle from competitors such as Apple and the fading Nook platform. According to a posting on the Goodreads blog, Goodreads “will continue to be the wonderful community that we all cherish” after the acquisition.

What this means to you: It shouldn’t exactly be news, but Kindle is VHS and everything else is Beta. For the moment, at least, the e-reader platform war is over and Kindle has won (in terms of e-reader software; hardware is another story). But the integration of Kindle with Goodreads makes a lot of sense for both sides and the integration with the Kindle platform extends Amazon’s reach in a small, but important way. It will also likely result in future enhancements to Amazon’s recommendation functionality, if not an eventual merging of Goodreads with the Amazon site.

Penguin speeds e-book availability for libraries

Penguin books has changed its availability and licensing rules for e-books offered to libraries. Previously, it delayed e-book availability to libraries for six months after the hardcover was released. Now, e-books will be available at the same time as the hardcovers. Although Penguin had previously limited e-book availability, it had also launched a pilot program to determine whether the e-book availability actually hurt revenue. Based on the results, it’s making the change. The licensing isn’t unlimited. Libraries can lend one edition of the e-book at a time (presumably per license) and must renew that license after one year.

What this means to you: As a reader, it means you’ll get to enjoy Penguin books on your e-reader without waiting six months. As a writer, it means that one of the Big Five and a Half has determined that e-books in libraries don’t significantly harm revenue, if limits are placed on borrowing–and that’s reasonably good news. Library books can build your reader base and grow your revenue down the line. If you’re a librarian, it’s mixed news. The best deal would be to get the book without restrictions and relicensing costs, but that’s not realistic. Physical books wear out. Electronic media don’t.

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