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December, 2012

The Top 25 TechCrunch Posts From 2012

2012

Twenty twelve was a big year for tech news. Facebook went public, Instagram was purchased for $1B, and Apple released rehashes of previous products. But that’s just a small sampling.

The list that follows is which stories you, our fantastic readers, read the most throughout the last year in order of their popularity. Some stories are predictably at the top, but others are surprising. A story about Bruce Willis and iTunes ranks higher than the most read post concerning the Apple/Samsung patent trial.

TechCrunch’s top 25 posts ranked in order of pageviews.

  1. Update: Facebook Confirms No Private Messages Appearing On Timeline. They’re Old Wall Posts.
  2. Why Pundits And Politicians Hate NYT Election Forecaster Nate Silver
  3. Day After IPO, Mark Zuckerberg Marries Longtime Girlfriend Priscilla Chan
  4. Journalists’ Addresses Posted In Revenge For Newspaper’s Google Map Of Gun Permit Owners
  5. Facebook Buys Instagram For $1 Billion, Turns Budding Rival Into Its Standalone Photo App
  6. Apple Officially Reveals The iPhone 5: LTE, 4-Inch Retina Display, New A6 Chip, Lighter Than iPhone 4S
  7. OS X Mountain Lion: Quick, Familiar, Cheap, And Drenched In iOS Goodness
  8. GoDaddy Outage Takes Down Millions Of Sites, Anonymous Member Claims Responsibility
  9. Facebook Targets May 17th For IPO Date
  10. How To Enable Facebook Timeline Right This Second
  11. Putting An End To The Biggest Lie On The Internet
  12. Teenage Sexting Is Becoming The Norm
  13. #ScratchGate: iPhone 5 Owners Are Discovering Aluminum Is Softer Than Glass
  14. Bruce Willis Isn’t Suing Apple Over iTunes Music Ownership Rights
  15. Zynga Just Shut Down Boston Office, Laid Off 100+ Employees From The Ville And Bingo Teams In Austin
  16. Apple Awarded $1.049 Billion In Damages As Jury Finds Samsung Infringed On Design And Software Patents
  17. Court Rules Software Not Protected By Fed Crime Laws, Overturns Conviction of Goldman Engineer
  18. Watch Voting Machine Change Obama Votes To Romney Votes
  19. Lit Motors Will Shake Up The Electric Vehicle Market With Its Two-Wheeled, Untippable C-1
  20. The 20 Best iOS And Android Apps Of 2012 (So Far)
  21. Just In Time For A Facebook IPO Tax Break, Eduardo Saverin Renounces U.S. Citizenship
  22. The Top 30 Android Apps And Games Of 2011
  23. Tim Cook Apologizes For Apple Maps, Points To Competitive Alternatives
  24. Facebook Files For $5 Billion IPO
  25. Samsung Galaxy S III Review: This Is The Phone You’ve Been Waiting For

But enough with 2012. Raise your glasses. Here’s to 2013. May startups avoid the Series A crunch, Randi Zuckerberg figure out Facebook’s photo sharing and something fucking entertains Arrington.

Apple Partners With Local Publishers To Launch EBook Service In Japan

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Apple will launch an ebook service in Japan fueled with content from top local publishers, according to Japanese financial publication Nikkei (via The Digital Reader).

Apple will begin selling Japanese language ebooks later this month for reading on iPhones and iPads. iPads currently hold about a 60% share of that country’s tablet market in terms of units shipped in April to September. The Cupertino-based company reportedly has already prepared a selection of 80,000 titles from Japanese publishers, including Kodansha, Shogakukan and Kadokawa.

The popularity of iPads in Japan will give Apple’s ebook business an advantage when it launches this month, but this is not the first time that Apple has tried to enter Japan’s ebook market. When the iPad was released in 2010, Apple opened a Japanese ebook store for the launch, but the plan hit a wall when negotiations with Japanese publishers stalled.

According to Nikkei, Apple’s upcoming entry is expected to boost Japan’s ebook market, which some analysts predict will grow from about 70 billion yen to 200 billion yen in fiscal 2016.

Though the Japanese publishing industry generated $22.5 billion in revenue in 2011, bookworms there have had to wait a long time for ereaders to finally arrive. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, Japanese consumers rejected devices from Sony, Panasonic and Toshiba, but at the same time foreign manufacturers also shied away from the Japanese market, in large part because of the difficulties involved in adapting software to handle Japanese characters and vertical text.

It wasn’t until October that Amazon finally opened pre-orders for its first Japanese-language Kindle, the Paperwhite, and extended its Kindle Store into Japan with 50,000 titles. But both Amazon and Apple face stiff competition from Rakuten, Amazon’s local rival. Introduced in July, the Kobo eReader is priced inexpensively at about $100 USD and offers 2.5 million titles, including novels, essays, comics and exclusive content.

Legimi Wants To Be The ‘Spotify For Ebooks’ With A Business Model That Relies On You Reading Less

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Legimi is definitely a startup I’ll be watching closely in 2013. Put simply, it aims to be the ‘Spotify for ebooks,’ in which for a monthly subscription, users get access to a potentially infinite library of reading material, all accessible via the cloud. But more than that, this Polish startup, whether it succeeds or not, epitomises the collision of old media business models with new technology and new consumer habits.

After years of being told that one day consumers will access all of their media from the cloud, anytime and anywhere, thanks to the likes of Spotify, Deezer and Rdio (music), or Netflix, LOVEFiLM and Hulu (film and television), that day has finally arrived. The subscription, cloud-based model, combined with new consumption devices — tablets, smartphones, and Internet-connected TVs and set-top boxes — and near-ubiquitous broadband, has ushered in an era where consumers no longer feel the need or desire to own the media they consume. So, why not apply that same consumption model to ebooks?

Well, as it turns out, there are a number of companies who already are, but in many ways it’s still very early days. Niche offerings, such as Safari Books Online, which specialises in professional and developer-related content, have been around for a while, where a subscription model is viewed by publishers as less-risky because the audience is already somewhat ring-fenced, and content becomes outdated quickly. More mass-market is Amazon’s Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, but this is still very limited and can hardly make the claim to be anything close to a ‘Spotify for ebooks.’ Then there’s the much-hyped and Founders Fund-backed Oyster, which is yet to launch but plans to offer an all-you-can-eat subscription model with an emphasis on mainstream content.

However, the New York-based startup is remaining tight-lipped about which publishers are signed up, and it’s here where many commentators predict that any subscription-based ebook service will fall down at the last hurdle: They simply won’t be able to strike the content licensing deals required, with the number of publishers needed to make the all-you-can-eat proposition a reality. That’s because the new consumption model requires a new licensing model where publishers are given a share of subscription revenue based on the number of books accessed.

Or does it?

This is where we return to Poland. Legimi thinks it’s found a way to change the consumer offering without having to tear up the legal or commercial framework that already exists for ebooks on a pay-per-download basis.

“Our approach is different; we pay the whole price of an ebook once an end-user exceeds its free sample (approximately 10 percent of the book),” Legimi co-founder and CEO Mikolaj Malaczynski tells me in an email. The premise being that most readers never make it past the free excerpt, but if they do, the company pays the full wholesale price to publishers. “We have statistically calculated the average consumption for tablet users and smartphone users, which is lower than one book per month,” he says.

Or maybe another way of looking at it is that the business model relies on a tl;dr generation (my words, not Malaczynski’s) where multiple content and services are constantly vying for a user’s attention, and that this is especially true when content is consumed on an always-connected tablet or smartphone. Whether or not consumers are reading less long-form content or not, however, perhaps misses the point. As long as the number of books read past the free sample remains inline with the overall economics of a monthly subscription, then the model could work, or at least act as a bridge until such time when publishers are more willing to embrace the idea of a subscription model.

To that end, Legimi has already launched an MVP in the form of an iPad app in the startup’s native Poland, while an iPhone version should follow in January, with Android and Windows Phone also in the pipeline. I’m told that major publishers locally are playing ball, too, such as W.A.B., Insignis, Muza, and Buchmann, enabling Legimi to offer a range of popular international and domestic titles.

Moving forward, Malaczynski says that the priority is to keep expanding the available catalogue and to optimise the business model, presumably to find the sweet spot in terms of what to charge. But much more ambitiously, Legimi is planning to launch in two additional European markets next, likely Germany and the UK. It’s at this point when the licensing ‘loop hole’ and assumptions about consumption will really be tested.

“If you ask about the average consumption of one book per month, I am not sure if it’s a universal figure,” concedes Malaczynski. “We will need to test it market by market, but we have an algorithm to verify it.”

On the upside, Malaczynski says that the rights infrastructure for publishing doesn’t differ too much between countries, meaning that Legimi can hopefully avoid spending “years negotiating new agreements with publishers, which don’t really understand the subscription model.”

And that’s where we come full circle. In the end, a ‘Spotify for ebooks’ seems inevitable, as consumer habits find themselves ahead of the market once again. It’s probably more a case of when not if. Perhaps Legimi, or another startup willing to take its model and run with it, can help to make it happen sooner rather than later. Here’s to 2013.