Who’s After the dotBOOK Top Level Domain

Dave Winer’s post caught my attention and my curiosity was incited: Tech press misses Google/Amazon name grab

Then I read this post he linked to: Big Brands Trying To Corner Generic Namespaces?

That got me wondering: Who is going for book-related domains? Specifically, the dotBOOK one.

What follows is not the kind of thorough investigation a full staff of trained pros would turn out (like, for instance, the lax CNN-Money team who apparently just take everything at face value). But it’s damned more than anyone else has so far bothered to do. Which is really shocking — because why are they being paid if they can ignore something as big as this?

For those who want spoilers:

1) Annie Callanan, last known as COO of ProQuest — sister company of R.R. Bowker (which are both owned by Cambridge Information Group) — applies as an entity with partners, separately from Bowker’s application. If she is still a ProQuest employee, this is a conflict of interest and could also be seen as double-dipping since both ProQuest and Bowker are owned by the same parent.

2) Amazon wants the entire dotBOOK domain for itself! Really, no one else can use it except Amazon.

3) Bowker has a plan to make a mint off dotBOOK with auctions of certain URLs — which could actually be an infinite list of URLs

4) Everyone else just wants to make a buck off writers and at least one of them openly hates self-publishers — and probably independent small presses too

The following is in the order of applicants on the ICANN list here.

Bronze Registry Limited, located in Gibraltar, application 1-1217-96477.
This is actually in partnership with Famous Four Media, which seems to have been created to cash in on the gTLD gold rush. They’ve applied for many gTLDs. Of the two primary persons named in the application — Geir Andreas Rasmussen and Iain Simon Roache — Rasmussen is also listed as a Board member of Exotherm Limited, founded in 2008 and based in London, a hardware consultancy. Roache’s name is too popular to link to any entity with certainty (although I do wonder if he is the one with Abraxas). Other staff of Famous Four include Jamie Triay Clarence and Jack McGovern. Famous Four also has a Facebook placeholder page. In their application, Domain Venture Partners PCC Limited is listed as owning at least fifteen percent. Since this entity is listed as an investment venture fund, I think the overall purpose of this dotBOOK application is potential profit and these portions of their application seems to bear that out:

Why .book?
Books have for centuries captured readers’ imaginations, drawing them into previously unfathomable worlds. They have expanded and educated countless minds on innumerable subjects, and continue to open people’s eyes to realities far removed from their own. There is no doubt that the internet has brought with it the opportunity for readers to access a broader selection of books than ever before.

Certainly, since its inception the internet has revolutionised the way people communicate, share, do business and learn. However, access to the countless benefits and opportunities which the internet offers can often be hindered when navigating the ever-expanding sea of irrelevant and sometimes malicious content which also exists, and this is as true of book related content as anything else.

Thus, the aim of ‘.book’ is to create a blank canvas for online book resources set within a secure environment. The Applicant will achieve this by creating a consolidated, versatile and dedicated space to access book related information and services. As the new space is dedicated solely to those within the book affinity group the Applicant will ensure that consumer trust is promoted. Consequently consumer choice will be augmented as there will be a ready marketplace specifically for book-related enterprises to provide their goods and services. All stakeholders within the sector will be able to sample reactions to new ideas, or gather thoughts on the improvements of established ones. This will drive innovation and competition, as new channels will be available which are not yet fulfilled by current market offerings, compelling registrants to seek new and varied ways to separate themselves from the competition.

How will .book take shape?
The Applicant believes that the success of the gTLD will be determined largely by the sector’s key global stakeholders. These stakeholders will be interested in registering a domain and additionally be motivated to protect their sector from detrimental practices. The Applicant believes that stakeholders should have the opportunity to influence the gTLD and the way it is governed. Accordingly, the Applicant is establishing a Governance Council (“GC”), consisting of key stakeholders that will serve as an advisory body.

Dig that: “Accordingly, the Applicant is establishing a Governance Council (“GC”), consisting of key stakeholders that will serve as an advisory body.” The Big Six get to say who gets in. And I doubt they will make it easy for self-publishers.

DotBook, LLC, Michigan or New Jersey (depending on address or contact phone number), United States, application 1-2029-6966.
This one does not seem to have any website. And this is a very, very strange one. Even though Bowker has an application in for dotBOOK, this one is from Annie Callanan, COO of Bowker’s sister company, ProQuest! If she is applying for dotBOOK as an individual with others, isn’t that a conflict of interest with her responsibilities at ProQuest and her propinquity to Bowker? Also along for this ride are her LinkedIn partners, Andy Weissberg and Neil Posner. I guess their retirement funds will be guaranteed if this plays out (I’m certain pricing specialist Posner will see to it that they all make out just swell). Here are portions from their application:

Our mission is to establish .book as the most preferred top level domain for book consumers and the global book industry stakeholders that serve them. Our objectives are:

• To expressly democratize, simplify and cost-efficiently expand the discoverability of book titles and information about books.

• To enable authors, book publishers and other industry service providers to directly and intuitively be found by their prospective customers.

• To facilitate a contemporary path for continuous promotion and an extended digital shelf life for books.

• To empower stakeholders to leverage the low cost and massive reach of the internet as an alternative global platform for increased discovery and competition in the distribution of books.

• To promote a modern and universal semantic definition of ʹbookʹ that reinforces efforts by book industry stakeholders to market increasingly unique book products and services.

• To increase international trade by preserving the profitable growth of an innovative, yet defined, book publishing market within the larger information footprint and in accordance with existing contractual agreements.

• To help drive the decentralized, stakeholder-driven production of natural language words and phrases in .book domain strings that will help consumers around the world efficiently discover and purchase books.

And this:

According to Kevin Kelly, books will not be owned but rather accessed, ʺstreamed in paid subscription services; youʹll just ʹborrowʹ what you want.ʺ But many consumers are no more concerned about these objects taking up space on their hard drives than they were about books, movies and photos taking up space on their shelves. The digitizing of information has opened up a great number of possibilities but book consumers must also be concerned that minimal competition and lack of consumer choice will result in a day when they no longer have access to knowledge, but only access to access.

New .book gTLDs are being introduced to aid publishers in marketing titles directly to consumers, and to enable consumers to intuitively self-engage in the discovery of books that most appeal to their unique interests. Consumers would then immediately fulfill that purchase from the same browser if the publisher or self-published author chooses to enable that capability. New .book gTLDs will permit writers and authors to be more assertive and experimental in fostering direct relationships with readers and buyers by marketing titles to them in a language syntax these customers can comprehend, recollect and return to with ease. The act of purchasing books on .book domains affords the consumer choice and advantage, and publishers the potential for a more efficient distribution model where they preserve control over their content, and without the need to become experts in any technology more complicated than what is used to power their own e-commerce websites.

And here they are slapping down the Big Six for their own self-interest, really:

Author choice and remuneration have also been hindered in the traditional publishing model due to the fact that only mainstream publishers had the ability to place a book in hundreds of bookstores around the globe. But there has perhaps never been a better time to become self-published–virtually anyone with a credit card can do it when the distribution platform is the internet. Self-publishing is becoming a big business for unknowns and famed authors alike. A wealth of resources are starting to surface on the web, and well respected authors like Stephen King and J.K. Rowling have already experimented with their own marketing and pricing strategies. In 2011, John Locke became the first self-published author to sell over a million e-books on Amazon. .book domains will further lower the cost of selling direct to consumers and facilitating a meaningful direct branding relationship with fans.

And I say self-interest because, hey, these three expect their coffers to be filled by writers seeking dotBOOK domains. ProQuest sister company Bowker — which was once under her leadership — has not been particularly eager to make ISBNs cheap for the writers she claims to suddenly care about in the above excerpt! I have left lots there for the paid pros — who should have been doing to digging to begin with — to yet uncover.

Top Level Domain Holdings Limited, Virgin Island/Europe application 1-1038-7319
This one is straightforward. They’ve been in business for a while, have former ICANN people, have an actual website (on which they openly list the gTLDs they’re after), and if they’re a beard for someone else (Apple? Barnes & Noble? Kobo?), there’s no way to tell. But they sure do seem to have a grasp about books in their application:

The purpose of the .BOOK gTLD is to offer authors, publishers, and bookstores the opportunity to expand their audience and to help potential readers find their books or information about their books. With markets shifting from brick-and-mortar stores to e-commerce, authors are turning to Internet publishing and customers are looking for easier ways to connect with the authors of their favorite books. The .BOOK domain will bring more power and reach to individual authors while at the same time lowering initial barriers to self-publishing that have existed in the past. At the same time, smaller bookstores will be able to identify themselves to book buyers.

The .BOOK top-level domain will make books more discoverable to potential readers and serve as a medium for both established and private publishers to better connect and engage with readers.

I will leave the rest of the application for others to read in full and to pull out the other things (there are always Other Things).

NU DOT CO LLC, Miami, Florida, United States, application 1-1296-97422
Principals listed are Jose Ignacio Rasco, who is in real estate investment and whose CV is here, and who has previously been a panelist on the subject of TLDs, runs the dotCO TLD registry, and has a public photo of questionable judgment here. Others named in the application can be found at the dotCO website. From their application:

18.1 Mission⁄purpose of .BOOK
The mission of .BOOK is to provide constituents of the book industry with a de facto “home domain” for their online presence. We envision that it will become the preferred online namespace for the advertisement, sale, critique, and discussion of published materials. Given the descriptive nature of .BOOK combined with strategic marketing campaigns designed to brand the domain, it will soon become the default for book publishers, book stores, critics, and reading enthusiasts alike to engage and share their content. As over 200,000 new books are published annually in the US alone (representing over 3 billion units per year), the addressable need is significant. Furthermore, given that “book” can be associated beyond traditional physical books, we think that numerous other market segments, such as eBooks, trade journals, and magazines will also find .BOOK to be an attractive domain name solution.

It’s a rather bland pitch.

Charleston Road Registry Inc., Mountain View, California, United States, application 1-1099-17603
Well look who is hiding under another name: It’s Google!

Charleston Road Registry is an American company, wholly owned by Google, which was established to provide registry services to the Internet public.

Let’s cut to the chase:

The purpose of the proposed gTLD, .book, is to provide a dedicated domain space in which copyright holders and their authorized distributors and licensees can enact unique second-level domains that relate to the promotion, sampling, or purchase of books. Charleston Road Registry believes that registrants will find value in associating with this gTLD, as supported by the prevalence of both digital and physical books: 2.57 billion units were sold in the U.S. alone in 2010 (http:⁄⁄www.bisg.org⁄news-5-677-press-releasenew-publishing-industry-survey-details-strong-three-year-growth-in-net-revenue-units.php), and Bowker reported over 3 million titles (print and e-books) were published in the U.S. in 2010 (http:⁄⁄www.bowker.com⁄en-US⁄aboutus⁄press_room⁄2011⁄pr_05182011.shtml). The proposed gTLD will enhance consumer choice by providing new availability in the second-level domain space, creating new layers of organization on the Internet, and signaling the kind of content available in the domain.

The proposed gTLD will also provide Charleston Road Registry with the means to meet its business objectives.

This seems like a hands-off pure registry play by Google, yet this really, really bugs me:

Charleston Road Registry, as the registry operator, will define the specialized meaning of the term and, based on this definition, will identify criteria for registrants to operate in the proposed gTLD. Only entities that meet these criteria will be entitled to register for a domain in the gTLD. Specialization, therefore, arises from the Charleston Road Registry definition of a term, as well as through market dynamics as entities align their offering(s) with the term. This specialization will be maintained through intermittent audits to ensure the relevancy of content in the proposed gTLD to the defined meaning of the gTLD.

Because only Google has had a clause like that in its application. Have we already forgotten how Google handled names with Google Plus? I don’t trust them to define anything. And also this:

Charleston Road Registry believes that the .book gTLD will best add value to the gTLD space by limiting content creation in the gTLD to only verified copyright holders and their authorized distributors and licensees. Charleston Road Registry plans to require registrars to include language in their registrar-registrant agreement that the registrant must be authorized or licensed to post any content that the registrant introduces into the gTLD. To preserve the integrity of the gTLD, Charleston Road Registry reserves the right to adopt enforcement measures, including a request that registrars facilitate a user reporting method to log complaints and⁄or potential instances of misuse within the gTLD. If a registrant is found to be in violation of the terms of the registry-registrar agreement or the registrar-registrant agreement, Charleston Road Registry may request that the appropriate registrar enforce such agreements through penalties, including but not limited to suspension of the domain name.

I will leave the rest for others to read through.

I am not at all fond of Google these days — especially after the shit they’ve pulled in (and on) France, their cavalier attitude towards public domain parasites DMCAing books out of Google Books, their continued grab at orphan works here in America, and the continued degradation of the usefulness of Google Books. I would like to see their application rejected. They and their subsidiaries should not be allowed anywhere near the word “book”.

Amazon EU S.à r.l., Luxembourg, application 1-1315-44051
Unlike Google, Amazon is upfront about wanting dotBook. I’ll leave it up to others to discern why this request originates from Luxembourg and not Seattle. From their application:

The mission of the .BOOK registry is:
To provide a unique and dedicated platform for Amazon while simultaneously protecting the integrity of its brand and reputation.
A .BOOK registry will:

• Provide Amazon with additional controls over its technical architecture, offering a stable and secure foundation for online communication and interaction.

• Provide Amazon a further platform for innovation.

• Enable Amazon to protect its intellectual property rights.

If you are not understanding what is going on there, let me put it to you simply: Amazon, and only Amazon, will be able to use the dotBOOK gTLD. Amazon wants all of it. Why is it left to me to uncover this when so many others are being paid to cover this? And here is Amazon, redefining chutzpah:

Amazon intends to initially provision a relatively small number of domains in the .BOOK registry to support the business goals of Amazon. These initiatives should not impose social costs of any type on consumers.

Impose no social costs?! Are they for real? Do I really have to say that ICANN should reject this application?

Double Bloom, LLC, Bellevue, Washington, United States, application 1-1361-60591
This one is straightforward. It’s really Donuts, Inc. which apparently was announced just this month in what must have been a fit of optimism. Oddly — to me, but probably not surprising in the Suit world — they have the same address as the Berntson Porter accountancy. I don’t know how many gTLDs they’re applying for, but it’s clearly more than dotBOOK because their application for it is strictly boilerplate:

THE GOAL OF THIS TLD

This and other Donuts TLDs represent discrete segments of commerce and human interest, and will give Internet users a better vehicle for reaching audiences. In reviewing potential strings, we deeply researched discrete industries and sectors of human activity and consulted extensive data sources relevant to the online experience. Our methodology resulted in the selection of this TLD – one that offers a very high level of user utility, precision in content delivery, and ability to contribute positively to economic growth.

This application is a lottery ticket. The Washington location could also point to them being a beard for either Microsoft or Amazon, which could also account for the boilerplate of the application being a bland disguise. Who could suspect anything? Just paranoid me.

Global Domain Registry Pty Ltd, Australia, application 1-1132-20461
This is another straightforward application, from ARI Registry. And this one really, really hates self-publishers:

MISSION⁄PURPOSE

The .book TLD will provide the publishing industry with an authoritative and intuitive identifier within the online environment. It will introduce increased domain name availability for the publishing industry via the introduction of a TLD string that is completely dedicated to its primary product segment.

The .book TLD will be introduced with restricted eligibility criteria. Second level domain registrations will only be available to industry participants, therefore providing the TLD with a defined audience, purpose and value proposition.

Restricted eligibility criteria? Only industry participants? What’s that mean? No Jews and no writers?

As if that wasn’t bad enough, get a load of this:

The .book TLD will be launched with a marketing strategy that will help to position the TLD as the definitive online space for the presentation of information relating to books and other published material. Registration will require an International Standard Book Number (ISBN) which further supports the TLDs value proposition as the definitive, authoritative space for the publishing industry. Recognised worldwide, the ISBN is the standard international code affixed to any book published and released to market. The introduction of this feature will ensure the internet that the information they are viewing is genuine and authoritative.

An ISBN is a requirement? This is wrong in so many ways. And it still gets worse:

The integrity of the .book TLD will be maintained through the provision of second level domain names to authentic and established publishers. This will in-turn build trust and validation for the content that is presented under the .book TLD.

Authentic and established publishers? What the hell does that mean? No self-publishers or small presses need apply? Because you don’t like their provenance, you get to unbook a book? This entire pitch sounds like they’re a beard for the Big Six. This application should be rejected.

And finally, the traditional 800-pound book gorilla: Bowker.

R.R. Bowker LLC, New Providence, New Jersey, United States, application 1-1020-75316
Bowker has a long history in the printed book business. Bowker also has a stranglehold — read: monopoly — on the provisioning of ISBNs in America and they have chosen to make them expensive to individual authors. They are friends of publishers, not writers. And this is the part of the application that gets up my nose:

Auction registration policies
Bowker will pull a specified number of .book domains out of the general registry for auction. Auction domains will be generic in nature, typically focused on book genres, and will be auctioned leveraging a full service provider.

Examples could include:

http://www.romance.book, http://www.mystery.book, http://www.misterio.book,
http://www.bookseller.book, http://www.bookstore.book
http://www.bible.book, http://www.biblia.book, http://www.bibbia.book, http://www.qur’an.book
or similar.

How big a list is that going to be? Who creates that list? What surprises are going to be on that list? How do we know they won’t keep adding to that list over time? Who oversees them? I can come up with hundreds, if not thousands, of words that end in dotBOOK that are ripe for auctions. When does it stop? When is it affordable to writers, not just publishers and multinational corporations? Nowhere in this proposal is anything about self-publishers. The Author’s Guild is mentioned in passing — which is a real insult to every writer, given how the AG wants to give away orphan works to Google! As much good as Bowker could do with this, they have a reputation aligned with large companies — not the people who create the things those companies sell: Writers. There is absolutely nothing in this application that shows any understanding of how things have changed. For how much it points to the past, Bowker could have just as well sent this application in via telegraph!

How is it no one bothered to investigate who was applying for the dotBOOK gTLD? Why is it left to me to burn up my free time on a Saturday to produce a post that will be the uncredited fodder for everyone else who is paid to follow this beat?

Frankly, I don’t like any of these applications. I want ICANN to have a Do Over with them. There is no way in hell Amazon should have dotBOOK to itself, no way in hell Google should get it, and no way in hell the double-dipping ProQuest/Bowker should get it.

I’m very disappointed that Kobo didn’t apply for this. It’s in Kobo’s best interest to have it and Kobo would also understand that it would be in their best interest to be objective and inclusive with it (not grabbing it for themselves like Amazon’s attempt) — because any shady business would crater their own business.

I also have this question: Why the hell should only tech companies and legacy book entities have a shot at this? How much does it cost to field one of these applications? Would the National Writers Union have been able to afford to apply? Or even those idiots at the Author’s Guild?

Books are produced by writers. And the tide of disintermediation is on the side of writers, not publishers. Something is just wrong here when those who create what dotBOOK would highlight are locked out of the process.

Now all of you who are paid to do this sort of thing, start your Me-Too Media engines.

I won’t expect credit or links. Because none of you ever give them.

9 Comments

Filed under Books: General, Books: Internet, Digital Book, Digital Overthrow, eBooks: General

9 responses to “Who’s After the dotBOOK Top Level Domain

  1. Pingback: Amazon & Bowker Apply for .book Internet Domain Name Extension - GalleyCat

  2. Wolf Baginski

    On the Amazon application:

    If they ran it from outside the EU, anybody they sold to in the EU would pay VAT at their country’s rate. In the UK that is 20% at the moment. But, since domain registration is a service, if they run it from inside the EU they only need to charge VAT at the rate Luxembourg applies. I don’t know what the VAT rate would be, but on ebooks the rate is 3%. Even the usual 15% rate is better than most countries.

    They are very coy about the low VAT rate this lets them charge on ebooks, just saying that they charge VAT as required by law. The EU is a big enough market that it makes sense for them to exploit the tax situation. If .book turns out to be dominated by English-language, saving 5 percentage points on the UK market alone is significant, and they have the business and server facilities already in place.

  3. The application fee was $185,000.

    • mikecane

      Yes, I found that out about a day later. I wonder if such a barrier is in the public interest? On the other hand, this is an entire gTLD, not just an URL.

  4. Mike, Thank you for the research on DOT BOOK domain grab. They almost got away with it. Thanks to you this end run is being exposed. Every author in the world will eventually thank you… as soon as your work sees the light of day!

    It is another example of the people who already have a monopoly on something about to be given yet another sure thing for no good reason. Nobody needs to own DOT BOOK its as stupid as granting ‘ownership’ to GM for DOT CAR WHY??? The DOT BOOK domain needs to be killed or owned by everyone.

  5. Pingback: Ownership in the Digital Age, Part 1

  6. Scaldemort

    A footnote to Famous Four Media, Gibraltar. A (previous) employer….

    Bunch of the greediest rats that you hopefully will never have the displeasure of paying a domain too. Forget the rest of the vehicles, they WILL racketeer (80-90%) of their way to the top thanks to their (long-time-planned) exclusive pocket-pals Verisign and ICANN. The said Mr Iain Simon Roache is a socially inept hard-on for the working girl, whilst non-nonchalantly disavowing the individuals who worked flat out hardest for him, for his own love of greed.

    Sorry Mike an unrelated rant, but FUCK Famous Four Media and their grey- matter greed.

    I’m sure this will flop as far from the pockets from whence it came.

  7. Mike, Luxembourg makes all kinds of (tax) sense for Bezos. The company there would own the domain, along with the other 75 Amazon has applied for, and would take its profits there.

    Google has applied for a total of more than 100 dotSOMETHING domains, including dotBLOG.

    Donuts puts them all to shame: it has spent >$56 million on the applications it filed for 307 different dotSOMETHING domain, including dotMORTGAGE and dotDENTIST. It wants to be the “next” ICANN and its CEO, Paul Stahura, used to run Demand Media which was infamous as a cyber squatter. Bloomberg said last year that 107 of the domains Donuts have applied for are earmarked for sale to Demand Media,

    Amazon and Google have also both applied for dotAPP, dotSHOP, dotMAP and dotMBA.

    ICANN received 1,930 applications along with $357,050,000 in application fees.

    Guardian newspaper and Guardian insurance are fighting over dotGUARDIAN.

    I think ICANN should be hauled into the courts for encouraging monopolistic behaviour. Their remit is to manage domain names in a fair and equitable fashion. Selling off entire top level domains to companies which will then have a monopoly over them is outrageous and a total abandonment of ICANN’s job.

  8. Pingback: AAP Criticizes Amazon’s Bid for .Book Domain Name - GalleyCat

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