Newer posts are loading.
You are at the newest post.
Click here to check if anything new just came in.

April 11 2012

Never, ever "out of print"

I recently sat down with transactional and intellectual property attorney Dana Newman (@DanaNewman) to talk about today's rights concerns for authors and how publishing models need to change to accommodate digital. We also discussed how books can no longer go out of "print" and how that could — and should — affect rights and contracts:

"Under older, more traditional contracts, the rights would revert when [a book] went out of print, meaning it was no longer being distributed in print form. Now, with print on demand and ebooks, it's becoming irrelevant. I think what we need to do is create a new structure for those rights to revert back to the author — that could be based on some sort of minimum sales threshold and that the book is no longer available through the major online retail channels. That would make more sense. On the other side for the publisher, they could think about setting a term where once the advance is earned out, then perhaps at that point they would revert the rights back to the author." (Discussed at 4:33.)

Newman also talked about the need for flexibility, shorter license terms and rights of first refusal in creating a new publishing model that is more equitable for both authors and publishers. (Discussed at 2:13.)

You can view the entire interview in the following video:

Mini TOC Chicago — Being held April 9, Mini TOC Chicago is a one-day event focusing on Chicago's thriving publishing, tech, and bookish-arts community.

Register to attend Mini TOC Chicago

Related:

March 27 2012

A huge competitive advantage awaits bold publishers

In the video interview below, Eric Ries (@ericries), author of "The Lean Startup," sits down with O'Reilly online managing editor Mac Slocum to talk about the lean startup method and how it applies to publishing. Ries argues:

"When you're publishing a new book or any piece of media, you're actually an entrepreneur, whether it says that on your business card or not. It doesn't matter if you're an editor, a publisher or an author, you are an entrepreneur." (Discussed at 00:23.)

Ries talks about the lengthy process of producing a book and the inefficient business practices behind the slow iteration speeds:

"When I signed my publishing contract, I asked for the expedited process, which I was told was about 18 months. In those 18 months, how much time was actually spent on the editorial production of the book itself? Very little time. Most of the time was either me waiting for my editor or him waiting for me. It was dealing with all the intricacies of the publishing process — the catalog, figuring out the marketing campaign, tons of activities that are all important, but have nothing to do with the actual production of the book. [The 18 months is about] fitting a zillion books — far too many — into this crazy waterfall process.

"The reason we call this 'lean startup' is because of an insight that happened in manufacturing called lean manufacturing. Working in these supposedly efficient silos, where everyone is in their department and the work product is passed from department to department seems very efficient, but it's actually radically inefficient. The first publisher to restructure their process around these [lean] principles is going to have a huge competitive advantage over their rivals." (Discussed at 5:04.)

Ries also says that "the one realization that has not hit publishing yet is that if you make content, you're in the software business … if you look at the supply chain, who's accumulating all the power? It's software companies like Apple, Amazon and Google." (Discussed at 6:43.)

For more on how the lean startup methodology applies to publishing, check out the full interview in the following video:

The future of publishing has a busy schedule.
Stay up to date with Tools of Change for Publishing events, publications, research and resources. Visit us at oreilly.com/toc.

Associated photo on home and category pages: Eric Ries by O'Reilly Conferences, on Flickr

Related:


March 20 2012

The give and take between e-publishing standards and innovation

Bill McCoy, executive director of the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF), recently sat down with O'Reilly online managing editor Mac Slocum to talk about the Readium Project and EPUB 3. He also addressed the "EPUB-iness" of formats like KF8 and iBooks, and stressed that extending and building upon the EPUB 3 standard is important for ensuring continued innovation:

"There are two ends to the spectrum when you see people taking a standard and doing things that are similar to or based on that standard but extending it. One is the need for innovation. Even a lean and nimble standards group like the IDPF can't move as rapidly as the pace of innovation at any individual organization or company. So, given the need to innovate, you're going to go beyond the standard ... that is the good side of extending.

"The bad side is when you fork and deviate or when you do things that are unnecessarily different. I think you're seeing a little of both in those efforts [KF8 and iBooks], but I'm hoping to emphasize and encourage the good. We can't let standards prevent innovation ... but we want that innovation to not lock consumers in to one closed silo." (Discussed at 4:18.)

You can view the entire interview with McCoy in the following video:

The future of publishing has a busy schedule.
Stay up to date with Tools of Change for Publishing events, publications, research and resources. Visit us at oreilly.com/toc.

Related:

March 16 2012

Publishing News: Britannica isn't dead, it's digital

Here are the publishing stories that caught my eye this week.

Information doesn't need to weigh 129 pounds

EB.jpgThe Encyclopaedia Britannica announced its final print run this week. Looking at the description of the closing print product, it's clear that its day has passed. As the New York Times reports:

"The last print version is the 32-volume 2010 edition, which weighs 129 pounds and includes new entries on global warming and the Human Genome Project." [Emphasis added.]

Some argue that Wikipedia, with its open, free, crowdsourced content, "did in" the EB. Tim Carmody over at Wired purports that Windows, not Wikipedia, caused EB's demise:

"Britannica went bankrupt in 1996, long before Wikipedia was a crowdsourced gleam in Jimmy Wales' open-access eye. In 1990, the company had $650 million in revenue. In 1996, it was being sold off in toto for $135 million. What happened in between was Encarta."

I prefer to approach the situation from a more positive angle: A group of publishing executives sitting around a boardroom table finally had an "ah-ha!" moment and realized the path to future success was of a digital nature. With print put out to pasture, EB will focus on its online and digital offerings. As described in the Washington Post:

"Online versions of the encyclopedia now serve more than 100 million people around the world, the company said, and are available on mobile devices. The encyclopedia has become increasingly social as well, [Encyclopaedia Britannica Inc. president Jorge Cauz] said, because users can send comments to editors. 'A printed encyclopedia is obsolete the minute that you print it,' Cauz said. 'Whereas our online edition is updated continuously.'"

The EB offers access to its content through a subscription model online ($69.95 annually) and through its app ($1.99 monthly). Merriam-Webster also is a subsidiary of EB — I've had my own an annual subscription to the online unabridged version of that product for a couple years now.

"But, how will EB compete with Wikipedia?" you might ask. EB president Jorge Cauz addresses this point in an interview at NPR:

"We will probably never be as large as Wikipedia because we need to concentrate on fewer topics where we can allocate scholarly knowledge. You know, we have a different assortment of contributors that really know their subject areas. We obviously put editorial processes in place so that we can actually deliver on a source of content that is factually correct and created by the experts. That, actually, is a very different value proposition than Wikipedia."

So, perhaps we shouldn't mourn the end of an era or the death of a print product, but instead celebrate a publisher that is embracing the digital age.

The future of publishing has a busy schedule.
Stay up to date with Tools of Change for Publishing events, publications, research and resources. Visit us at oreilly.com/toc.

Issues of fair use, from a U.S. federal court to Bizzaroland

Copyright was in the spotlight a few times this week. First up, a federal court in Nevada made a fair use ruling late last Friday. A post by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) summarizes:

"The judgment — part of the nuisance lawsuit avalanche started by copyright troll Righthaven — found that Democratic Underground did not infringe the copyright in a Las Vegas Review-Journal newspaper article when a user of the online political forum posted a five-sentence excerpt, with a link back to the newspaper's website.

"Judge Roger Hunt's judgment confirms that an online forum is not liable for its users' posts, even if it was not protected by the safe harbors of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's notice and takedown provisions. The decision also clarifies that a common practice on the Internet — excerpting a few sentences and linking to interesting articles elsewhere — is a fair use, not an infringement of copyright."

The EFF post dives deep into the background of the case — and the copyright troll — and is well worth the read.

In other copyright news, aggregators and search engines are being called to the carpet in Germany to pay publishers for "reproducing even short snippets of articles" — the same practice the Nevada court just deemed fair use. PC World reports that proponents of the new copyright law, being written by the German ministry of justice, argue that search engines like Google make a lot of money from digital content and those revenues should be shared. Proponents also point out that such a law will "hopefully also make publishers better equipped when they need to take on sites that abuse their content, which is a problem at the moment."

Those against the law argue that publishers are shooting themselves in the foot. The PC World post reports:

"It is just a comically stupid policy, according to Joe McNamee, advocacy coordinator at European Digital Rights (EDRi). The reason publishers put their content on the Internet is so that people can access it, and punishing companies for helping people to find content is nothing short of absurd, he said via email.

"Also, if the publishers' inability to evolve in the digital environment leads to policies that allow them not to evolve, then this will ultimately be bad for them, according to McNamee."

Officials told PC World that the law could be published by April, but likely wouldn't go into effect until next year.

And in downright weird copyright news, the Belgian copyright society SABAM wants to start charging libraries fees for having volunteers read books to children. Robin Wauters at The Next Web reports:

"Twice a month, the library in Dilbeek welcomes about 10 children to introduce them to the magical world of books ... SABAM got in touch with the library to let them know that it thinks this is unacceptable, however, and that they should start coughing up cash for the audacity to read stories from copyrighted books out loud. The library rep calculates that it could cost them roughly 250 euros (which is about $328) per year to pay SABAM for the right to — again — READ BOOKS TO KIDS."

Cory Doctorow describes the situation poignantly: "The technical term for this is 'eating your seed corn' (a less technical term might be 'acting like a titanic asshole')."

PayPal comes to its senses

Da_Vinci_Vitruve_Luc_Viatour.jpgIn a follow-up to recent PayPal news, in which PayPal attempted to establish itself as the content police, the company has decided to rescind its censorship demands. PayPal's new-new terms are described in a post at TechDirt:

"Under the new policy, only books with graphic images that fall under the US-based Miller test will be affected. Going forward, PayPal will also be taking a more targeted approach to enforcement. Instead of focusing on entire classes of fiction, it will work on a book by book basis. This specific change should allow for a better process in which the affected authors can appeal the decision to remove their works while getting the individual focus such decisions deserve."

In an email sent to authors and publishers, Mark Coker, founder and CEO of Smashwords, a company directly affected by PayPal's policy changes, sums it up:

"This is a big, bold move by PayPal. It represents a watershed decision that protects the rights of writers to write, publish and distribute legal fiction. It also protects the rights of readers to purchase and enjoy all fiction in the privacy of their own imagination. It clarifies and rationalizes the role of financial services providers and pulls them out of the business of censoring legal fiction."

Got news?

Suggestions are always welcome, so feel free to send along your news scoops and ideas.

Photo (top): UBN Encyclopaedia Britannica by Ziko, on Wikimedia Commons

Photo (bottom): Da Vinci Vitruve Luc Viatour, on Wikimedia Commons

Related:


March 13 2012

Everyone has a stake in the digital reading experience

In a recent interview with O'Reilly online managing editor Mac Slocum, Louis Rosenfeld (@louisrosenfeld), publisher at Rosenfeld Media, LLC, said there's a collective responsibility for a good user experience:

"There are three or four parties that should be sharing ownership of user experience — the author, the community of readers, the publisher, and the device makers. I think the lines are going to necessarily be blurry; I'm not sure they're ever really going to stabilize. The bigger issue is people — all four of those groups — basically acknowledging they have some ownership ... but also acknowledging that their role is going to be shifting." [Discussed at 1:13.]

Rosenfeld also said, a bit surprisingly given all the focus on digital these days, that his preferred reading "device" is still print [discussed at 3:22].

You can view the entire interview in the following video.

The future of publishing has a busy schedule.
Stay up to date with Tools of Change for Publishing events, publications, research and resources. Visit us at oreilly.com/toc.

Related:

March 08 2012

Publishing can be the engine of the engagement economy

Brian O'Leary (@brianoleary), founder of Magellan Media, says the roles of publishers and editors are changing — where the role used to be deciding what would get published, now it's figuring out how what is published will be found.

In the following interview, O'Leary addresses issues of — and solutions for — content abundance from the viewpoint of publishers as well as consumers. He argues that the increasing numbers of non-readers, people who don't engage with content, "represent a threat not just to publishing, but to the way we function as a country, an economy and as a part of a world order." It is the responsibility of the publishing industry, O'Leary says, to reposition itself as the "engine of the engagement economy."

O'Leary will expand on these ideas at Mini TOC Austin, just before SXSW.

Our interview follows.

How do you define "content abundance"?

BrianOlearyMug.pngBrian O'Leary: The traditional barriers to getting a book published are all but gone. As low- or no-cost authoring, repository and distribution tools have become widely available, the number of books published each year has skyrocketed. That's evidence of abundance.

But it's broader than just having a lot more books. When I wrote "Context first," I was trying to figure out what would happen if we were no longer constrained by the physical object — what I came to call "the container."

It's not surprising to see that, freed from physical limitations, we would no longer have to write to length. We could link, expand and annotate. We could also go the other way, writing something whose length fell between a magazine article and a book, as Byliner and The Atavist support.

Michael Hart, the founder of Project Gutenberg who passed away last September, thought that portable petabyte storage capable of holding a billion ebooks would be readily accessible to a middle-class reader by 2021. Even today's devices let us hold a lifetime of reading in our hands.

Technology drives this. 2011 marked the 40th anniversary for not just Project Gutenberg, but also the introduction of the first microprocessor, the Intel 4004. In the last four decades, the number of transistors we can squeeze on a chip has grown from 2,300 to 3.1 billion, while clock speeds have increased 3,700-fold.

Much as abundance is the precursor to the development of context, capacity is the precursor to abundance. Moore's law got us to where we are, and while growth in digital capacity may slow, it is not going to stop. As Sheila Bounford has said, this capacity is rewriting the rules of the publishing supply chain.

See Brian O'Leary's presentation "Context first: A unified field theory of publishing" below.

What are some of the major challenges for publishers in this age of content abundance?

Brian O'Leary: We used to be in the business of deciding what would be published. The new role for editors and publishers is figuring out how what we publish will be found.

I think that means publishers have to do at least four things:

  1. Our content has to be made open, accessible and interoperable.
  2. We need to use context to promote discovery.
  3. We need to make broader use of our content.
  4. We can compete by providing readers with tools that draw upon context to help them manage abundance.

While most publishers now offer digital content, very few have adopted these ideas.

Content that is wrapped in platform-specific DRM serves only to strengthen the hold that platform owners have on publishers and readers. Metadata is inconsistently managed and almost always maintained at the level of a title, denying most readers an opportunity to better understand how a given text might be of interest or value.

We develop content for a single use, typically a printed book, and consider other formats, even ebooks, as derived or secondary applications. This approach means that products desired by niche markets — large-type and Braille editions, for example — are cost- effective only for the biggest-selling titles.

There are a few examples of publishers doing good work helping readers manage abundance — Safari Books is one — but the most compelling solutions these days are found in platforms like Small Demons and ReadSocialAPI.

Publishers still treat this technology-driven part of the business as someone else's purview. I worry that this approach will cost them the market over time.

Mini TOC Austin — Being held March 9, 2012 (right before SXSW), O'Reilly Tools of Change presents Mini TOC Austin, a one-day event focusing on Austin's thriving publishing, tech, and bookish-arts community.

Register to attend Mini TOC Austin

How about challenges for readers?

Brian O'Leary: Readers are like the rest of us: busy, inundated and distracted. Publishers can help them make sense of the world around them.

Honestly, though, I'm even more worried about non-readers. People who don't engage with our content represent a threat not just to publishing, but to the way we function as a country, an economy and as a part of a world order.

We have a responsibility to address this threat, not just so that we can make money, but because we're the ones with the ability to solve it.

We live and work in a world in which we have a narrow window to influence or convince people to do what we want them to do. We talk about the quality, value and importance of our work, and we view the act of publishing as validation. But the measure that matters most starts with how what we do is received.

So, I propose a far bigger, collective goal: Reposition publishing (which for me includes physical and digital forms of book, magazine and newspaper content) as the engine of the engagement economy. To make that happen, we need to increase the expectations we place on ourselves and on our readers, along the way "architecting the experience" of consumer interaction with our published works.

Tell me more about "the engine of the engagement economy" — what exactly does this mean and can you offer practical steps publishers can take to begin?

Brian O'Leary: Let's talk about three examples: underserved markets, fan fiction and flexible formats.

Today, publishers do relatively little mainstream work for vision-impaired and low- literacy populations. Large-type and Braille editions are limited to the more successful titles. Intermediaries are sometimes allowed to repurpose content, but the books are released well after they have gone mainstream. That shrinks the potential market for these works.

With respect to low-literacy readers, we in publishing sometimes act as if reading should be hard. At Contents magazine, Angela Colter described five things we can do to improve the accessibility of textual content:

  1. Make it easy to read
  2. Make it look easy to read
  3. Include only what's important
  4. Be consistent
  5. Provide feedback

I think publishers are often not mindful of these requirements, and we diminish the total reading audience as a result.

With respect to fan fiction, we sometimes forget as writers that we all started out as readers (credit to Richard Nash and William Patry here). We build our own voices by imitating others before striking off on our own.

Anna von Veh, whose company, Say Books, is publishing a fan-fiction writer, reached back to Saul Bellow, who said, "A writer is a reader moved to emulation." If we want to grow the reading market, we can help by giving readers a stake in the game.

There's some tension, of course, in situations where homage and practice feels like stealing. But even original books borrow from well-established writers and writing. The concepts are seldom new. With fan-fiction, a rising tide can carry many boats.

Finally, we are still driven to think of book content as poured into a container. I would like publishers to consider loosening the reins a bit. Think about crafts and cook books, for example. Why can't I take the digital versions of these products and sort them into categories like "have done these," "would like to try these" and "not for me"?

When we lock content down, we limit its utility. I understand the business concern with losing control of content, but that's a battle I think we can better fight with price and utility, not widespread use of DRM.

How can publishers turn the challenges into opportunities?

Brian O'Leary: When I wrote "Context first," I focused on what publishers could do to succeed in a content-abundant universe. That's what led me to talk about making content open, discoverable, reusable and relevant for our audiences.

Since then, I've been kicking around what abundance means for our industry — not just publishers, but also authors, agents, distributors, wholesalers, retailers, libraries and others. Increasingly, I've come to feel that we need to find a way to all hang together, or surely we will each hang separately.

Specifically, we need four things:

  1. We need goals, a redefinition of what publishing is and why it matters.
  2. We need rules, a set of principles that are based in fairness and recognize that we have to balance current requirements with some, perhaps many, future unknowns.
  3. We need feedback, a shared way to model new approaches, test assumptions and make decisions based in fact.
  4. We need a hook, a reason to collaborate.

If we pursue only individual initiatives, we will fail to solve the bigger problem facing us: sustaining a population for whom knowledge and understanding underpin our identities.

What's the long-view on content abundance? How do you see it playing out over the next 10-15 years?

Brian O'Leary: I'm of two minds. The optimist in me sees this as a moment of reinvention. With so many parts of the traditional publishing supply chain under attack, it makes immediate and intuitive sense for authors, agents, publishers, wholesalers, retailers and libraries to join together to rebuild the reading populace.

That's a somewhat unnerving prospect. In an exchange that took place a few years ago, Michael Hart predicted a reading-enabled future in which book prices plummet, literacy and education rates soar and old power structures crumble in the wake of scientific, industrial and humanitarian revolutions. That's kind of cool if you're part of the proletariat, but it might be a bit unnerving if you're an oligarch (or aspiring to be one).

But I think the alternative is worse: The pessimist in me says that collective action of the sort that we saw in the energy industry in the 1970s and 1980s will not take place in publishing. Even though the energy business was as fragmented then as publishing is now, we are unlikely to get the government to intervene this time.

No one really knows what will happen in a decade or more, but sticking with the prevailing distribution-driven model for physical and digital objects will only get more expensive, less predictable and, ultimately, less satisfying for the readers who remain. I think we need to be in the content solutions business, with print being one of those options. Otherwise, intermediaries and platforms will carry the day.

So, I favor the optimist. Initiatives like Bookserver and some foundation-funded projects in the professional and scholarly space show that cooperation is possible. I'm hoping that efforts like mine can also make it widespread.

This interview was edited and condensed.


Related:


  • Viewing content at the atomic level
  • Getting the content out there isn't enough anymore
  • Clay Johnson, "Is SEO Killing America?" (video)


  • March 06 2012

    The core of the author platform is unchanged — it's the tools that are rapidly changing

    Digital not only is affecting the way books are produced and consumed, it's also affecting the way readers and authors interact. In the following interview, Jeff Potter (@cookingforgeeks), author of "Cooking for Geeks," talks about the changing author platform, which is requiring authors to don marketing hats and connect with readers directly. He says the book as a product is expanding to include the conversations and communities surrounding the book.

    Potter will expand on these ideas at Mini TOC Austin on March 9 in Austin, Texas.

    Our interview follows.

    What is an "author platform" and how is it different today from, say, 10 years ago?

    Jeff_Potter.pngJeff Potter: There is so much amazing writing available online, whether curated by hand (New York Times, The Atlantic) or by community (Reddit, Hacker News). Readers today can satisfy most of their reasons for reading for little time and money. That's a pretty big hurdle for a book author to compete with. I realized that, in order for people to want to spend time with my book, it was going to have to fit into a lifestyle that's already full of amazing, quick content.

    Readers are buying books as experiences, not just for the facts or knowledge, and a component of that is the author-reader relationship. A decade ago, it was a very one-directional conversation: The author wrote and the reader read; ideas and questions rarely flowed from reader to author or from reader to reader. Today, that's no longer the case. Readers tweet me questions; they file errata and corrections on O'Reilly's site; they send me messages. The "book" is no longer the product — the product is now the conversations and community that grow around the book.

    Historically, an author's job was done when the final manuscript was submitted, maybe along with a minor number of press interviews after the book launched. The author platform today has expanded to include fostering that online community and supporting readers. Being an author is about communicating ideas, not about writing a book, and once framed this way, it's easy to see that an author's platform, at its core, is unchanged — anything that helps the author spread ideas and excite readers — but that the tools for doing this are rapidly changing.

    What are some of the key ways authors can connect with readers?

    Jeff Potter: Google Alerts and Twitter searches, these are some of my favorite things. Readers will tweet out or blog about my book without even thinking that I might see it. I make a habit of responding, even if only a short comment ("Glad you liked it!" or "Let me know if you have any Qs"), and I can't tell you how many times that's blown people away and led to a fun conversation.

    As for blogging, and this is just me, I find it to be more work than it's worth to post regularly, but that's probably more an artifact of who I am and the particular topic I deal with. There are tons and tons and tons of food blogs; coming up with something novel and not just being an echo chamber is harder in this field. If, however, you're dealing with a specific topic and can create a blog of real value to your community, definitely do that.

    In marketing your book "Cooking for Geeks," what were some of the most successful tactics you used?

    GeeksCover.pngJeff Potter: In a nutshell, being creative and coming up with tactics that fit my audience and message. I was incredibly lucky to have my book come out the same month that JetBlue sold its "All You Can Fly" pass — I put up a blog post that read, "If you buy a box of books, and JetBlue flies to your city, I'll come and give a talk." This worked out amazingly well. I didn't have to deal with cash or selling book-by-book — I had the boxes of books shipped ahead of time, and I got to go to events where someone else was excited enough to have me come and speak that they made sure there were plenty of people for a fun talk. And by selling a box (using my author's discount), I was able to pay for my costs along the way. It wasn't glamorous, but it was an incredible experience.

    In the interest of offering something directly actionable, here's my quick punch-list of things that I recommend:

    1. Have a website for your book that comes up right away in Google when searching for the title. (Change the title if necessary!)
    2. On the main page, have a very clear "Media / Press" section.
    3. On your press page, give the following information:
      • List your contact info, including a phone number (You can remove it after a few months; get a Skype or Google Voice number if you prefer.)
      • List two or three bullet points of what makes your book unique (from the viewpoint of what would be interesting from the journalist's readers perspective).
      • Photos of you and your book, with a permission release.
    Mini TOC Austin — Being held March 9, 2012 — right before SXSW — O'Reilly Tools of Change presents Mini TOC Austin, a one-day event focusing on Austin's thriving publishing, tech, and bookish-arts community.

    Register to attend Mini TOC Austin


    What advice would you offer to new authors just starting out?

    Jeff Potter: This is going to sound cheesy, but write a good book that readers want. Worrying about publicity and even author platform stuff is much further down the list, compared to having something interesting to share. So, to that extent, here are a few tips I wish I'd been given on day one on how to write a book.

    • Dedicated time; dedicated space. This is the magic formula that I hear over and over from successful creative people. Whether it's a dedicated writing desk or a table at a café, find a space where you can get into the act of creating content. And then carve out time in your schedule to go there. The hardest challenge, I found, was to get the proverbial pen and paper ready to go. Once out, things seem to take care of themselves, at least most of the time.
    • Do creating separate from editing. The act of creating is about adding words (or paint or clay or cocoa powder); the act of editing is removing the weaker ideas. Trying to do both at the same time is like trying to play tug of war with yourself: You'll end up exhausted and in exactly the same spot you started.
    • WIIFM: "What's in it for me?" Every single sentence is there for the benefit of the reader. Not you, the writer, nor your editor, nor as an inside joke between you and a friend. (Well, maybe some of that's okay, right Marlowe?)
    • Know who you're writing for, and write for them. Don't worry about trying to make something "broadly appealing." For me, I wrote the book I wish I would have 10 years ago when just starting out in the kitchen. It was that simple.
    • Answer one and only one fundamental question in your book. The "Cooking for Geeks" question was: "How do you go into the kitchen and have fun cooking?" As a corollary to this rule, develop a simple litmus test for anything you're putting in your book. In "Cooking for Geeks," everything had to be a) fun or interesting, b) directly applicable, and c) answer the fundamental question.

    I'll leave you with two of my favorite quotes. Stephen King: Writing is "like crossing the Atlantic in a Bathtub" (I'd add "with a teaspoon as an oar"). And Gene Fowler said, "Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead." Writing a book is the single hardest thing I have done in my life. It's also the most rewarding.

    This interview was edited and condensed.

    Related:

    March 05 2012

    Unglue.it seeks to set ebooks free

    This post is part of the TOC podcast series. You can also subscribe to the free TOC podcast through iTunes.


    Gluejar president Eric Hellman (@gluejar) likes to ask people the question, "Have you ever given anybody a book?" Everyone's answer to that is "yes," and Gluejar's platform, Unglue.it, is an interesting model that sets ebooks free. Notice I didn't say the books themselves are free. Similar to the Kickstarter model, there's a minimum payment that must be made to the rights holder, but once that threshold is achieved, the ebook becomes freely distributable. This opens the door to all sorts of potential sponsorship deals as well as ways to give more visibility to slow-moving backlist titles.

    Key points from the full video interview (below) include:

    • It's not just for backlist — But the backlist is a logical starting point, especially those titles that may have already reached a sufficient revenue or profit level for the rights holder. And let's not forget that some "long tail" titles are generating little to no sales at all. [Discussed at the 3:32 mark.]
    • What's the licensing model for readers? — Unglue.it uses the Creative Commons license to give the reader the right to do a number of things with the econtent based on what options the rights holder selects. [Discussed at 4:15.]
    • Publishers have shown both interest and skepticism — Several projects are already underway despite the fact that many rights holders are content to let others be the guinea pigs with this platform. [Discussed at 6:40.]
    • Unglue.it could be a terrific solution for libraries — The economic model could be ideal for the library market as they navigate the transition from scarcity to a world of abundance. [Discussed at 7:26.]

    You can view the entire interview in the following video.

    The future of publishing has a busy schedule.
    Stay up to date with Tools of Change for Publishing events, publications, research and resources. Visit us at oreilly.com/toc.

    Related:

    March 02 2012

    Publishing News: It's time to break the stick

    Here are a few stories from the publishing space that caught my eye this week.

    We're approaching the proverbial fork in the road

    Silo.pngMathew Ingram at GigaOm took a look at the ebook landscape this week and welcomed everyone to "the platform-dependent bookstore of the future." Ingram reviewed a situation that occurred between author Seth Godin and Apple regarding hyperlinks in his new book, "Stop Stealing Dreams," that linked to books sold at Amazon (Godin also has a blog post about the situation here). Ingram argued:

    "[Amazon, Apple and Barnes & Noble] have far more control over whose ebooks see the light of day because they also own the major ereading platforms, and they are making decisions based not on what they think consumers want to read but on their own competitive interests."

    Ingram also pointed out that blame for the oligopoly marketplace in the U.S. doesn't fall solely on the chain store giants:

    Publishers are partly to blame for the walled-garden status of the market as well, since they handed Amazon and Apple the stick of digital-rights management, which the two companies are now using to beat them.

    Ingram's post is a must-read and a clear warning of what the future will hold if something doesn't change: "Welcome to the mutually incompatible, silo-based, platform-dependent and user-unfriendly future of books."

    The future of publishing has a busy schedule.
    Stay up to date with Tools of Change for Publishing events, publications, research and resources. Visit us at oreilly.com/toc.

    What to do about Amazon

    AmazonAnother publisher broke up with Amazon this week in response to the IPG-Amazon situation. A post at Publishers Weekly reported that "Educational Development Corporation (EDC), publisher of Usborne and Kane Miller books in the U.S., has announced that "the company will no longer sell any of its books on Amazon or to any entities that resell to Amazon."

    Randall White, president of EDC, stated in the report that the decision was based on Amazon's moves to "gain control of publishing and other industries by making it impossible for other retailers to compete effectively."

    Last week, author Jim Hanas made a stand against Amazon as well, removing the Amazon "buy" button from the website for his book "Why They Cried." This week, the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America also removed the Amazon links on its website.

    But, in the end, are moves from mid-level publishers and distribution houses and individual authors going to dent Amazon's hefty armor (read: boat loads of cash and rapidly expanding market share)? Probably not much. But as I (and others) have written before, the Big Six have an ace in the hole: DRM. In a post at Dear Author, Jane Litte touched on the DRM solution and highlighted the toll this situation is taking on the consumer:

    "IPG is asking readers to make a moral decision with their wallets without providing a plausible alternative. Why not go DRM free and offer Mobi books to Kindle owners? This really strikes at the heart of Amazon ... Amazon isn't making money off device sales ... We [consumers] recognize that Amazon as the exclusive vendor of books would be bad for us, but what are publishers doing about it? Why is it the reader, the only party who does not make money in this equation, have to be the one to take the financial hit in the fight against Amazon? Why aren't publishers making it easier for readers to move away from Amazon? Why aren't they trying to appeal to our wallets instead of our morality?"

    In a post at Publishers Weekly, Peter Brantley noted the lack of customer service amongst the large publishers and how the subsequent alienation of readers is actually driving publishing customers to Amazon:

    "... through the combination of usurious pricing strategies and their undeclared war on libraries, the largest publishers have unerringly drawn their customers — readers with whom they've never cared to have a direct relationship — closer into the arms of the retailer whose market power and influence they most fear — Amazon. So much for a strategy of self-interest ... And, because publishers are not working in alignment with my interests, their marketplace goals have moved into conflict with mine."

    Javier Celaya proposed a solution over at Publishing Perspectives: Publishers should band together and create a joint platform. He compared the publishing industry's situation with Amazon to the situation the aerospace industry had with Boeing: "The aeronautical industry, which was once dominated by Boeing, managed to develop the Airbus consortium. The publishing industry can also aspire to create its own 'cultural Airbus'."

    Celaya offers several key factors for publishers and international online retailers to consider. His post is well worth the read.


    Power buyers indicate the digital tipping point is nigh

    The Book Industry Study Group (BISG) released the first installment in Volume Three of the ongoing "Consumer Attitudes Toward E-Book Reading" survey this week. According to the report release, digital may be at the tipping point with readers, particularly among "power buyers," or consumers who "acquire ebooks at least weekly" and who function as "predictors of where the market is moving."

    The release noted::

    "... more than half of ebook readers increased their use of apps to purchase books and more than one-third increased their use of general retail websites such as Amazon.com. The gains for these digital vendors come at the expense of brick and mortar bookstores, even independents. More than a third of ebook buyers decreased their spending at national chains and 29% said they are buying less from their local indie.

    This installment of the study also showed that though ereading devices remain dominant, "multi-function tablet devices and smartphones are gaining in popularity" — 17% (compared to 13% in November) said they most often used tablets for reading ebooks.

    For more on this BISG study, check out the presentation slides and transcript from the "Consumer Attitudes Toward E-Book Reading" session at TOC 2012.

    Top Photo: Silo by eirikref, on Flickr


    Related:


    February 17 2012

    Publishing News: Let's remember why we got into this business

    TOC 2012In this special edition of the Publishing Week in Review, I'm taking a look at highlights from the 2012 Tools of Change for Publishing Conference held in New York City earlier this week.

    Publishing isn't about print vs digital or incompatible ereading formats — it's about storytelling

    As far as inspiration goes, it doesn't get much better than LeVar Burton's TOC keynote address. Burton first talked about how he came to literature and publishing. Going back to his childhood, he reminisced that you were either reading a book or getting hit by one — his mother didn't care how, but "in her house, you were going to have an encounter with the written word."

    His experiences with storytelling became more profound when he landed a major role on the miniseries "Roots," which taught him about the transformative nature of literature when combined with a visual medium. That experience was so profound for Burton that he left his priesthood studies, deciding storytelling was more effective at reaching people. This decision also later led to 25 years of "Reading Rainbow," the series that used TV to get kids interested in books.

    Burton said that "stories are bridges to real-world experiences" and that he's a "firm believer between that which we imagine and that which we create."

    "The stories that we tell each other and have told each other throughout the history of the development of civilization are integrally important, are inextricably linked, to how we continue to invent the world in which we live."

    Burton said reading and storytelling go far beyond discussions of print versus digital or which digital format should prevail:

    "We are going to be absolutely fine, so long as we do not fail ourselves in the one fundamental aspect of who it is we are and what we bring to the table. Remember, human beings are manifesting machines. We are just like that child watching the episodes of 'Star Trek,' seeing those images, using our imaginations, coming up with a piece of technology that actually serves humanity going forward.

    "Our imaginations always have been, always will be, our continuing link into ourselves in order to make contact with ourselves so that then we might share the beauty of ourselves through culture with the rest of the world ... I encourage you to remember the nature of what it is you signed on for. You've come here to make a difference. You've come here to use your imaginations in the service of storytelling. Doing the same things we have done for years with a new opportunity, with new tools, a few more bells and whistles — it's still, and always will be, about storytelling."

    Burton's full keynote is available in the following video:

    The Publishing Panic of 2015 is coming. Can we stop it?

    Joe Karaganis, vice president of The American Assembly at Columbia University, addressed issues of piracy and enforcement in a keynote address. Using his work with the Media Piracy in Emerging Economies project as a backdrop, Karaganis said the opposition to SOPA/PIPA and ACTA has moved the conversation beyond online piracy to the convergence of citizenship, democratic accountability and different rights.

    The main ingredients of piracy, Karaganis said, are "high prices, low incomes and cheap digital technologies" and that "enforcement has been irrelevant — it's what happens around the edges of these underlying economic drivers." He argued that the current system doesn't scale well and that prosecution rarely occurs:

    "When you look at how enforcement works in middle- and low-income countries, you find a pretty simple, consistent pattern: You find raid-based enforcement, characterized by the ramping up of police actions and little to no follow through. There's little likelihood that these cases will make it to trial, and in fact, little expectation that they will."

    There's a simple explanation for the discrepancy: "It's cheaper to buy cops than lawyers — raids are cheap, but due process is expensive and slow." He argued that the new enforcement measures (SOPA/PIPA/ACTA) realize this futility and so they instead focus on abridging due process: "The only way to scale up enforcement is to take it out of the courts, to make it an administrative function, and whenever possible, and automated one."

    Karaganis said his research showed there's a lot of casual infringement, but very little large-scale or hard-core infringement — 1-3% are hard-core pirates, according to his data.

    Bringing the discussion around to publishing, specifically the education market, Karaganis asked, "What happens when the access problem is solved without any corresponding solution to the crisis of the library or the commercial markets — there will be access; the question is, who will make it convenient and affordable?" Using open-education research as an example, he said the problem is that they're not competing with the commercial market, they're competing with the pirate market:

    "They're competing with a 'copy culture' that hasn't waited for approved institutional solutions to emerge. As digital readers get very, very cheap in the next few years, that copy culture is going to grow exponentially and produce a huge democratization in educational opportunity and access to knowledge. That will be a hugely disruptive challenge to all parties involved and produce its own cause for enforcement and control."

    Karaganis referred to this impending phenomenon as "The Publishing Panic of 2015," and to address it we'll need more than just opposition to legislation like SOPA and PIPA:

    "It's not enough to simply say SOPA is bad or enforcement doesn't work, even among people who agree. We need to develop a positive set of proposals for what we want, collectively, for what the public interest is in and around intellectual property. 'What's the positive agenda?' is a very fair question."

    More background on Karaganis' research can be found at The American Assembly website. The "Media Piracy in Emerging Economies" report can be downloaded here.

    Karaganis' full keynote can be viewed in the following video:

    Bookstores: It's about monetizing relationships and experiences, not about selling books

    The "Kepler's 2020: Building the Community Bookstore of the 21st Century" session created quite a buzz at the show. For a bit of background, The Kepler's 2020 Project release described it:

    "The project aims to create an innovative hybrid business model that includes a for-profit, community-owned-and-operated bookstore, and a nonprofit organization that will feature on-stage author interviews, lectures by leading intellectuals, educational workshops and other literary and cultural events."

    Thad McIlroy, owner of TheFutureofPublishing.com, opened the conference session with thoughts on reinventing "the notion of the bookstore in the midst of this crazy time of change." McIlroy said that the Kepler's 2020 project, being led by literary entrepreneur Praveen Madan, is blazing a trail.

    Madan's subsequent presentation focused on debunking industry myths. Specifically, printed books are not going to survive and we don't need bookstores in the age of instantly downloadable ebooks.

    Madan shared a survey finding that revealed overwhelming support (95%) for using bookstores as "a place for browsing and discovering new ideas" and (72%) as "a place to buy books." He pointed out that more than half of the responders had ereading devices.

    Madan also offered two trends that explain why bookstores need to be reinvented and why they still have a future:

    1. Technology is having an isolating impact — "People are more and more disconnected from each other." We are working from home, shopping from home, and community gathering places (churches, schools, community centers) aren't as effective. So, what places are going to bring people together? "We think that can be bookstores," Madan said. "Bookstores need to be re-imagined as those places."
    2. Browsing — We still need showrooms for books. "The reality is that 18 years after Amazon started tweaking its algorithms for recommending books, a well-curated, physical, in-store experience is still better at helping readers discover books," Madan said.

    "What we really need is for someone in the technology world to step up and say, "I think there is an opportunity here," he said. Madan also insisted it needs to be open: "We'll pay for the services and we'll pay for the development, but the platform needs to be open source."

    The buzz was heightened at the end of the Q&A session when Madan said he was looking to partner with Amazon to sell ebooks through his store:

    "[Ebooks are] something we want to provide; we want to be part of the overall experience. But the solution and the technology has to come from somebody else. I'm very serious about looking at [partnering with] Amazon and just giving away Kindles and telling people it's okay — you have our permission. Walk into the bookstore, browse the books and download the books on your Kindle."

    When people ask Madan how he'll make money, he answers that that isn't the point — he doesn't need to make money on every downloaded book; he'll make money on the relationships in other ways.

    You can learn more about The Kepler's 2020 Project in the following short video:


    If you couldn't make it to TOC, or you missed a session you wanted to see, sign up for the TOC 2012 Complete Video Compilation and check out our archive of free keynotes and interviews.


    Related:

    February 10 2012

    Publishing News: B&N boycott becomes booksellers' cold war against Amazon

    Here are a few stories from the publishing space that caught my eye this week.

    The booksellers' cold war rages on

    NoEntry3.pngTwo weeks ago, Amazon made a move that might have landed it access to B&N brick-and-mortar stores. Last week, B&N slammed its brick-and-mortar doors in Amazon's face. This week, B&N was joined by Canada's Indigo Books and Music and Books-a-Million, and also (in effect) by the American Book Association (ABA) — in what the Guardian dubbed the "cold war between North American booksellers and Amazon."

    In an interview with the Globe and Mail, Janet Eger, vice president at Indigo, explained the company's position: "In our view Amazon's actions are not in the long-term interests of the reading public or the publishing and book retailing industry, globally."

    The ABA denied the initial reports by Publisher's Weekly (which has since edited its original post) that it joined the "boycott," but it did remove Amazon titles from its IndieCommerce database this week and made an overall change in its policies. As PW reported:

    "Not only has IndieCommerce decided not to list these titles, but it has created a new policy that states 'only publishers' titles that are made available to retailers for sale in all available formats will be included in the IndieCommerce inventory database'."

    Individual stores, however, can opt to add Amazon books as custom products to their own websites if they so choose.

    Amazon didn't appear to be phased by the news. In fact, the company appears to be focused elsewhere: Rumors of Amazon's plans to open its own brick-and-mortar store heated up this week when GoodEReader reported on a proposed location in Seattle.

    Leader in eBook conversion in the US and in Europe, and Apple-Authorized ePublishing Services Provider, Jouve is helping to transform the way the publishing industry designs, produces, and distributes content. Our services span the entire value chain for print and digital products, enabling publishers to build multi-channel production strategies and systems. Learn more www.jouve.com.

    DRM is publishers' ace in the hole against Amazon

    Ace2.pngBattle techniques for the Big Six to use in this cold war against Amazon were proposed this week as well. Paul Biba at TeleRead suggested that the Big Six have greater control and influence than they realize — they just need to wield it:

    "There is no reason why the Big Six can't offer exclusive deals to Kobo and B&N. Give them a three-month exclusive selling period for expected ebook best-sellers and do away with the agency pricing during that period. After three months, make the ebooks available to everyone and reinstate agency pricing. This would boost competition and play against Amazon's exclusivity program."

    The problem with this strategy is the same problem that would arise if publishers cut out Amazon altogether — consumers would be alienated and sales would suffer (let's face it, Amazon's got the biggest piece of the market share pie at this point).

    Publishers do, however, have an ace in the hole — they just need the courage to play it. O'Reilly publisher and general manager Joe Wikert pointed this out in very clear terms in a post at Publishers Weekly:

    "In a terrific blog post entitled "Cutting Their Own Throats," author Charlie Stross argues that publishers' fear has enabled a big ebook player like Amazon to further reinforce its market position, often at the expense of publishers and authors — an unintended consequence of DRM. Given all these issues, why not eliminate DRM, since even the music industry has seen the light and moved on from DRM."

    Transferability and cognitive friction improve the reading experience

    Alan Jacobs at the Atlantic made a couple of thought-provoking observations about reading this week. In one post, he compared Nick Carr's affinity for the "fixities of the printed book" and Kevin Kelly's for the "fluidities of the ebook." He argued that both Carr and Kelly's observations, though they make good points, are too narrowly focused on the book as an object, rather than as "a tool for use." Jacobs shared a story about losing his Kindle, but not losing any of his content and annotations as a consequence, and observed:

    "So what we have here is best described not as fixity or fluidity, but as transferability — a reassuring kind of consistency across platforms and formats. You might say that this is fixity enabled by fluidity: the reproducibility of pixels combined with the stability of Amazon's enormous database amount to insurance against the fragility of any particular designed object. (And by downloading my books and annotations to two or three 'designed objects' I also insure myself against the failure of Amazon's databases.)"

    In another post, Jacobs took a look at the cognitive experience of reading and suggested that retention is improved by increased "cognitive friction" — the effort required to read, annotate, highlight and otherwise process digital content. Both posts (here and here) are well worth the read.

    Photo (top): NO ENTRY by markhillary, on Flickr

    Photo (bottom): battle 002 by Paul J Everett, on Flickr

    Related:

    December 23 2011

    Publishing News: The 99-cent problem

    Here are a few stories that caught my eye in the publishing space this week.

    The concern of 99 cents

    Penny.jpgAuthor Melissa Foster took a look this week at the 99-cent price debate, highlighting the good, the bad and the ugly. The bad and the ugly mostly focused on how the price point affects independent authors:

    If an author is self-published through Amazon KDP, he or she earns 34 cents per 99-cent book sold ... If you add up the average cover cost of $350, average editing job of $1,400, then divide by 34 cents, the author would have to sell 5,134 books just to break even, and that's nearly impossible without an additional amount for advertising.

    Foster follows this by pointing out that most independent authors don't sell more than 100 copies of a book — that's a whopping $34 — and says independent authors who publish through small presses generally only pocket 12 cents per 99-cent book sold.

    Employing this price point doesn't bode well for authors looking to sign with a traditional publisher, either. Foster quoted agent Jenny Bent: "... publishers are increasingly skeptical about how success at 99 cents will translate into success using their very different business model."

    Author M.J. Rose also is quoted in the post, arguing that this sort of focus on price is wrong:

    Readers may buy you once for 99 cents, but if they are disappointed they will never buy you again or even download you for free. On the other hand a reader will pay $4.99, $5.99 even up to $12 for an ebook of a writer whose work speaks to her. I'm seeing way too much conversation about what to charge for the book instead of how to write the book ... Quality matters more than ever.

    Foster's analysis also highlighted some positive aspects of the price point, including using it as a promotional or marketing tool. An author could set the first book in a series at 99 cents, for instance, to help suck in readers — the old "the first one's (almost) free, but you'll be back" routine.

    There's a lot more discussion on this debate over in the comment section of Kevin Kelly's blog post on this topic (from earlier this year). But really, the bottom line is this: the 99-cent price point is only financially viable for authors who are able to sell a boatload of books.

    SPi Global partners with publishers and information providers to maximize the value of their content online and offline. With escalating costs of production and printing, changing customer preferences, and the need to adapt, SPi Global enables organizations to exploit and invest in new media technology. With a complete suite of digital and publishing services, we help companies gain a competitive advantage through our unique and innovative solutions. For more information, please visit spi-global.com/content-solutions.

    SOPA, meet DeSopa

    The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) hearing was delayed, possibly until next year, but anti-SOPA geeks aren't waiting to see what's going to happen. Andy Greenberg reported over at Forbes that "the Internet's communities of coders and free speech advocates" are hard at work building tools to circumvent SOPA's copyright protection measures:

    ... a developer named Tamer Rizk has been busy building an add-on for Firefox called DeSopa, which aims to give any Firefox user access to sites that SOPA's copyright protection measures have blocked. 'This program is a proof of concept that SOPA will not help prevent piracy,' reads a note included on DeSopa's download page. 'If SOPA is implemented, thousands of similar and more innovative programs and services will sprout up to provide access to the websites that people frequent. SOPA is a mistake. It does not even technically help solve the underlying problem, as this software illustrates.'

    (Note: as of publication, the DeSopa add-on had been taken down from Mozilla's site.)

    Greenberg also looked at Reddit users who "have been assembling their own lists of IP addresses for key sites that might be blocked under SOPA, what some of them call the 'Emergency List'." He also has a nice discussion of SOPA's unintended consequences and the collateral damage it could cause. The piece is well worth the read.

    The future of stories is here

    In a post at The Atlantic, senior editor Alexis Madrigal highlighted "The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore" as the perfect gift for kids whose parents have an iPad. The river of book recommendations is hip deep this time of year, but the last line of Madrigal's post prodded me to check out the app: "It's what the future of stories looks like." (Hat tip to @tcarmody.)

    Screenshot from The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore

    Playing with the book/app reminded me of articles predicting that the coffee-table book will make it through the digital transition relatively unscathed. I'm not so sure about that. If the beauty of the art in this book and the way it's integrated into the interactivity are an indication of future stories, print may well be in trouble on the coffee-table front as well. Imagine an iPad coffee-table book that could play music from a foreign country and teach you common phrases in the native tongue; one that could seamlessly integrate video, animation or sound with the content. Print books can't do that.

    The screenshot below shows the interactivity options and more of the beautiful art:

    Screenshot from The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore

    I sure hope Madrigal is right — this book app points to a very rich future for stories, and you don't need kids (or to be a kid) to fall in love with it.

    Related:

    December 16 2011

    Publishing News: Hating Amazon is not a strategy

    Here are a few of the stories that caught my eye in the publishing space this week.

    Amazon's Price Check ignites passions, but perhaps cooler heads will prevail

    Amazon's Price Check promotion caused quite the kerfuffle last week, and the publishing industry arguably made the most noise — which is interesting, as books were not included in the promotion. Author Richard Russo fanned the flames again on Monday with his op-ed piece in the New York Times, in which he noted responses from his fellow writers: "I wondered what my writer friends made of all this, so I dashed off an e-mail to Scott Turow, the president of the Authors Guild, and cc'ed Stephen King, Dennis Lehane, Andre Dubus III, Anita Shreve, Tom Perrotta and Ann Patchett." The response?

    These writers all derive considerable income from Amazon's book sales. But when the responses to my query started coming in it was clear Amazon's program would find no defenders in our ranks ... 'Scorched-earth capitalism' is how Dennis described it ... Andre was outraged by Amazon's attempt to turn its customers into 'Droid-packing' spies ... [Stephen King] saw the new strategy as both 'invasive and unfair' ... it was 'a bridge too far.'

    Russo went on to praise the indie bookstore experience and indicate Amazon is killing the reading culture: "Armed with such experiences, my writer pals and I took personally Amazon's assault on the kinds of stores that hand-sold our books before anybody knew who we were, back before Amazon or the Internet itself existed. As Anita [Shreve] put it, losing independent bookstores would be 'akin to editing ... a critical part of our culture out of American life'."

    Chad W. Post over at Three Percent chimed in with a piece, in part a response to Russo, that is well worth the read (hat tip to Peter Brantley and @calliemiller). Post argued that Amazon is a corporate business acting like a corporate business — just like the Big Six publishers:

    ... it's worth wondering if the Big Six are in this publishing game for the benefit of book culture as a whole, or to make as much money as possible for their shareholders. The correct answer is the latter, and that's reflected in nearly every decision they make. As a result, people like Richard Russo and Stephen King publish their books with Random House and Simon & Schuster so that they can reap the benefits of these corporate practices ... And that's totally well within their rights. And by 'their,' I mean Russo & Co., the Big Six, and Amazon.

    Post goes on to suggest more productive ways to approach the situation with Amazon that are worth a look.

    Ed Cain over at Forbes had another pragmatic approach to the situation:

    This is the future of online retail. Expect price checking apps from lots of other companies in the near future. Brick-and-mortar retailers and booksellers will have to respond by offering something that online stores simply can't offer: an experience.

    At the end of the day, Don Linn had perhaps the most succinct response to the Amazon as Evil Empire situation:

    don-linn-tweet.png

    This kerfuffle isn't likely to die anytime soon, however. Slate fired things up in the opposite direction from Russo et al., Tuesday with its post "Don't Support Your Local Bookseller: Buying books on Amazon is better for authors, better for the economy, and better for you."

    Ingram Content Group Inc. is the world's largest and most trusted distributor of physical and digital content. Thousands of publishers, retailers, and libraries worldwide use our best-of-class digital, audio, print, print-on-demand, inventory management, wholesale and full-service distribution programs to realize the full business potential of books. Learn more at ingramcontent.com.

    Consumer Reports hits digital publishing's sweet spot

    The New York Times reported this week that Consumer Reports "has more than six times as many digital subscribers as The Wall Street Journal, the leader among newspapers ... And in August, Consumer Reports started generating more revenue from digital subscriptions than from print." And on top of that, Consumer Reports isn't losing its print subscriber base.

    Granted, as Bill Grueskin, dean of academic affairs at the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University and formerly managing editor of WSJ.com pointed out for the post, news organizations can't just rip a page out of the Consumer Reports playbook:

    It isn't much of a leap for people to pay $5.95 a month for access to a database that will help them make a wise purchase of a $500 dishwasher or a $25,000 car. It is much harder to get consumers — particularly those trained for the past 15 years to expect content for free — to pay for coverage of metro news, football games or politics.

    But news organizations certainly can glean some helpful tips. For example, Grueskin noted that Consumer Reports has been consistent with its paywall — it didn't go up, then come down, then go up again.

    In addition to several other takeaways for news organizations — including discussions about crowdsourcing, injecting youthful creativity into business culture and supplying authoritative information — Consumer Reports' policy of not allowing advertising in order to "protect a reputation for clearsighted recommendations" should inspire insight. Obviously, news organizations can't eliminate advertising, but perhaps they can look at the quality of their ad inventories and make adjustments and decisions accordingly.

    The verdict: Kindle Fire goes back in the box

    KindleFireMissingManualCover.pngDavid Streitfeld at the New York Times followed up this week on a piece he recently wrote on consumer dissatisfaction with the Kindle Fire. Streitfeld said he received a "torrential response" that ranged from Fire devotion to Apple conspiracy theories. "The uproar," he said, "underlined yet again how people have deep-seated but contradictory feelings about their devices. In one sense, they demand a lot; in another, they are very forgiving."

    Streitfeld turned to digital book consultant and author Peter Meyers for his professional evaluation of Amazon's tablet device. Meyers, who wrote O'Reilly's upcoming "Kindle Fire: The Missing Manual," was decidedly unbiased in his opinion of the Fire:

    Apple would have never shipped a device like the Fire. It's got way too many rough edges (sluggish touchscreen, magazine apps that don't really fit the smaller screen, an easy-to-hit power button) ... But the Fire's not made for Apple's customers ... It's for the millions of people who: a) don't have $500-plus to spend on an iPad and b) really want to be part of the touchscreen revolution that's changing how we control devices.

    Which device will win Meyers over in the end? He's very clear about what he'll do with his Kindle Fire: "Mine's going back in the box as soon as I'm done [with the manual]," he wrote in an email to Streitfeld. "The iPad 2 is years ahead of it and lets me consume and create with no friction."

    Related:


    December 14 2011

    Research and restraint: Two more things to add to your digital publishing toolkit

    Since 2009, author and digital book producer Peter Meyers (@petermeyers) has been researching and documenting the digital publishing revolution in his project "Breaking the Page: Transforming Books and the Reading Experience." His investigation into digital books has uncovered a host of tools and use cases. The project has also shown that when it comes to digital book enhancements, just because you can do something doesn't mean you should.

    A free preview edition of Meyers' project is now available — in ebook format, of course — and he'll discuss "Breaking the Page" in depth at his TOC New York 2012 session, "Breaking The Page: Content Design For An Infinite Canvas."

    In the following interview, Meyers talks about how and why the project got started and what's surprised him thus far. He also reveals the unfortunate connection between today's enhanced ebooks and the font-filled newsletters of the mid-1980s.

    What is "Breaking the Page"? What was the inspiration?

    Peter MeyersPeter Meyers: I was an early adopter of everything that was happening around the world of the Kindle and ebooks. It struck me that it was still the very beginning of the digital publishing revolution, and all that was really happening in the world of Kindle was that publishers were taking these digital snapshots of print books and stuffing them onto the Kindle. As much as I love my Kindle and I love reading Kindle books on platforms like the iPhone, I felt like we weren't yet seeing authors and publishers deliver new kinds of reading experiences.

    So, back in 2009 or so when it became clear that the industry overall was undergoing these significant changes and when it also became clear that some kind of tablet device was on the horizon from Apple, I felt that we were on the cusp of a sea change. Publishers and authors and readers alike weren't yet getting their heads around how books were going to change, and I wanted to take a systematic look at what these new kinds of books were going to look like. How are they going to change the things that authors create? How are they going to change the reading experience? What parts of the reading experience can and should stay the same? And I wanted to do so in a way that put the needs of the reader up front. "Breaking the Page," for me, was a way of taking a considered look at all of the innovation that was going on but trying to think through some of the best practices.

    How are ebooks missing the point?

    Peter Meyers: I'm not sure that I would say plain EPUB ebooks are missing the point. In fact, the sales figures show they're doing an incredibly good job of satisfying maybe everyone except for the bean counters at the big publishing firms, who, at this point, are understandably afraid of how things are looking for the future. But from a reader's perspective, I think traditional plain-vanilla ebooks are doing a great job — you get mystery readers and romance readers and serious literary fans, and they just can't get enough and they're buying more books. If I'm any sort of measure to judge by, I'm buying many more books on all my digital devices.

    I think where things were less successful was in that first wave of enhancements, where the entire industry kind of decided collectively, "Hey, we need enhancements. We need enhanced ebooks." And I will raise my hand and say, "Guilty." I was complicit, and I participated in a number of enhancement projects.

    The collective reaction on the part of readers was pretty much a big giant yawn of disinterest. Publishers spent a fair amount of money experimenting on that front. Now they're starting to conclude that the time and resources required to create these enhanced books are probably not worth the effort. In some cases, enhancements are a quick way to turn off people who are interested in reading books in the first place.

    Which publishers and platforms are "breaking the page" well?

    Peter Meyers: I certainly see a lot of experimenting happening out there. At the risk of sounding like a total company shill, I will say that O'Reilly does an admirable job in terms of not thinking of itself as a company that is in the business of selling print books, but staying true to its motto of changing the world by spreading the knowledge of innovators. There are places in which a company, be it O'Reilly or any other publisher, is so centered on books as the unit of delivery that it's hard to respond to a disruption like StackOverflow, for example, where people pose and field questions having to do with technical challenges. StackOverflow is a great and constant reminder that the competitive threats to publishers often don't come from other publishers, but from different approaches.

    In the world of textbook publishing, there's a firm called Inkling that specializes in textbooks for the iPad. A lot of what Inkling has done has been successful because rather than taking a PDF replica of a traditional print textbook and cramming it onto the iPad, Inkling has "XML-ified" everything — it's ditched, more or less, the print page. Inkling has a nice little trick in there for teachers who have classrooms that are split between students who have the print version and those who have the iPad version, and the company has really rethought how to design content and reading experiences for the iPad.

    Screenshot from Inkling promotional video
    Inkling integrates a music textbook and the scores that go along with it. Students can listen to what the music sounds like and follow along as the music is progressing.

    What are the most important digital publishing tools?

    Peter Meyers: It's funny. On the one hand, the list is pretty easy — it goes something like: Objective-C, HTML5, XML, and anything that will help your development team use those tools in conjunction with an author to create compelling stories or informative teaching material. But on the other hand, this has nothing at all to do with tools. And as crazy as this might sound, I think market research should be part of everyone's toolkit. The reason I say market research is because in this digital publishing world, a lot of times what publishers and authors must do is think through the consumer's need for their products.

    For example, if you're a publisher and you've got an amazing coffee table book about great travel destinations for coffee lovers, the market research question might be, "Does that print book do the best job of satisfying people's need to learn about coffee-centric vacations, or will an app do a better job?" In many cases, the answer is going to be, "Print actually does an amazing job when it comes to coffee table books that have to do with travel." So, researching the market before we embark on these digital publishing initiatives is a way of determining where a product fits into the landscape.

    Has there been something in your work thus far that has surprised you?

    Peter Meyers: The biggest surprise was when I got started, roughly around the time of the arrival of the iPad. I had this hypothesis that storytelling and narrative nonfiction were going to be changed significantly as we entered the world of touchscreen publishing. I've more or less come 180-degrees around on that and come to the conclusion that the bound codex, be it a digital collection of pages or a printed collection of pages, is actually the perfect form for telling a story of about 100,000 words — and it probably just needs words, especially in the hands of the right author.

    As so often happens when new technologies arrive on the scene, the new technologies don't eliminate the old technologies. Rather, they add to the kinds of stories that can be told. My revelation was that plain prose stories didn't go away and probably won't go away. They certainly will occupy a smaller portion of most people's media consumption in the years and the decades ahead, but they do a wonderful job in telling a 100,000-word love story or biography or what have you.

    The other thing I have found extremely surprising and kind of eye-opening is the way that books, in an age and a time of information overload, provide a source of refuge for people. At the risk of getting too touchy-feely, we're assaulted by so many micro bits of content from status updates and Twitter and Facebook and RSS feeds that books of the 200- to 400-page variety give people a reason to focus and to follow a story. The books actually acquire an even greater value in a digital world because they give people continuity and a thread to follow while the rest of their days are fractured by so many different kinds of information sources.

    TOC NY 2012 — O'Reilly's TOC Conference, being held Feb. 13-15, 2012, in New York City, is where the publishing and tech industries converge. Practitioners and executives from both camps will share what they've learned and join together to navigate publishing's ongoing transformation.

    Register to attend TOC 2012

    What will the publishing landscape look like in 10 years?

    Peter Meyers: I do spend time thinking about that — ten years from now, is it going to be Steve Jobs' youngest daughter taking over Apple and announcing the iHolograph while graciously ushering out Tim Cook? Who knows, that may be a possibility. What I am a little bit more confident about predicting is that the tools authors and publishers will have at their disposal will be a lot better and a lot easier to use. I really think that we're at a point in time that's analogous to web publishing in the mid-'90s, where most of the good stuff that you could do required hand coding and a certain amount of expertise.

    Just looking at the companies I'm following in the world of authoring software and authoring solutions, there's so much activity on that front that's targeted at designing tools that let creative people tell their stories without having to master Objective-C or JavaScript. It's uncommon, I think, to find people who have creative dispositions who are also skilled in these kinds of programming-style tools.

    The other thing I see happening in the next decade is more authors emerging who are multi-mode threats. My favorite example these days is David Pogue. He's a great speaker, he's a great writer, and he's also very nimble in the world of putting together fun and entertaining iMovie productions. As the next generation of authors grows up — hopefully somewhat capable in the world of writing — they'll also be adept in other media forums, like audio and video. [Disclosure: David Pogue is the creator of the Missing Manual series.]

    Also, the urge to binge on multimedia will subside. It'll be less of a thrill to put every single thing that you can do as an author into your latest production. It's similar to how we all learned in the mid-1980s that putting 28 different fonts in the church newsletter just made it look awful. The instinct to put video and audio in an ebook — and, yeah, we can have a bird fly down as the cover opens — it's just too much. As authors get more skilled with these tools, they'll develop a restraint and a respect for the audience. Authors will know that not everything needs to be included.

    This interview was edited and condensed.

    Related:

    November 07 2011

    Do agent-publishers carry a conflict of interest?

    The shift in the digital publishing landscape is changing more than formats and production processes — it's bringing new positions with it, too. One of the most noteworthy new jobs — and perhaps most controversial and contentious — is the emerging agent-publisher role.

    To find out more about what agent-publishers mean for established publishers, authors, and agents, I turned to Booksquare's Kassia Krozser (@booksquare). She says the agent-publisher position rose out of the refusal of traditional publishers to adjust their business models. "Traditional publishers need to not only rethink how they sell their value to authors and agents," Krozser says, "but they also need to rethink the economic structure of their deals."

    The agent-publisher isn't a squeaky-clean solution for authors, however. Krozser is concerned the position might come with an inherent conflict of interest.

    Our interview follows.

    What is an agent-publisher, and why is this new position emerging?

    Kassia_KrozserKassia Krozser: The first part of the question is fairly simple: an agent-publisher is someone who fulfills both roles. The second is even easier. Agent-publishers are emerging because, well, traditional publishers couldn't or wouldn't twist their business models to meet the market realities. Agents, smartly, saw a business opportunity in the desire of authors to make reasonably good money from self-publishing. Agents also recognized that authors do not necessarily possess — nor necessarily want to assume — the functions publishers fulfill.

    Traditional publishers try to coax these same authors into their existing structures. This, I think, is a mistake on the part of traditional publishers because they're having a difficult time articulating the value proposition to these authors. Think about the choice authors are making: 70% royalty for self-publishing, 25% royalty for going with a traditional publisher. Then add in agents who realize they can offer a suite of services while still allowing authors to do better than they would with a traditional publishing house, for a 15% fee.

    I should note that this phenomenon is mostly geared toward backlist titles, though some digital originals are emerging. And because it's backlist, the economics weighed by the authors — and the benefits — are very much skewed toward self-publishing or going agent-publisher.

    It's not like the distribution and marketing are all that different.

    How are agent-publishers disruptive to the publishing ecosystem?

    Kassia Krozser: It's disruptive because backlist is incredibly lucrative, and backlist for digital means additive sales, in the sense that readers are buying favorites from their existing print libraries in digital. Publishers don't want to lose control of the digital backlist. These are titles that have (likely) earned out, so the investment in converting to digital, for a traditional publisher, is peanuts. The potential profitability of the book is quite nice because, in digital, books remain on the shelf forever — which isn't great for the authors if the royalties are low.

    So, if authors or their agents take these properties and exploit them, then there goes a steady, predictable, and profitable revenue stream for publishers. As readers shift from print to digital, the shift of these sales from publisher to author/agent — I am using some terms interchangeably — is profound.

    This will increase a prime tension: publishers want to acquire as many rights as possible, for as long as possible; agents want to retain as many rights as possible while licensing other rights for as short as possible. What to watch for in the near future is how the balance of power shifts.

    In my opinion, traditional publishers need to not only rethink how they sell their value to authors and agents, but they also need to rethink the economic structure of their deals.

    TOC NY 2012 — O'Reilly's TOC Conference, being held Feb. 13-15, 2012 in New York City, is where the publishing and tech industries converge. Practitioners and executives from both camps will share what they've learned and join together to navigate publishing's ongoing transformation.

    Register to attend TOC 2012

    Is the agent-publisher arrangement a viable service model?

    Kassia Krozser: I'm torn on this point. I completely understand why agents are moving into this marketplace. I am also concerned about conflicts of interest. If I'm an author and my agent is selling to traditional publishers while also creating a profit center around digital publishing, can I be certain my best interests are being considered?

    On the other hand, it is currently the case that traditional publishers are not willing or able to pay market value for these backlist books. And it is very hard for authors/agents/innocent bystanders to discern what value is added by these publishers. The quality of ebooks from traditional publishers is sub-par — oh yes, I can point you to examples — marketing is negligible, and cost of conversion is minor (I am assuming the books the traditional publishers care about have earned out and then some).

    So, authors have three choices: DIY, agent-publisher, or traditional publishers. DIY means the author has to employ a lot of new/uncomfortable skills (please authors, you are not as good at conversion as you think you are). Agent-publisher means you have someone doing those jobs for you at a 15% rate, plus, possibly, expenses. Traditional means you have someone doing that work at a 75% rate.

    So, yeah, agent-publisher is a viable business model. But it's also an opportunity for others to move into the space — non-agent publishers who can offer rates and services on par with agents. For example, I am seeing small, and growing, author collectives springing up. In these, each author is his/her own entity, handling conversion, formatting, and proofing on his/her own. But the group markets collectively and has a single point of sale, with, presumably, someone managing the distribution of monies. While this creates work for these authors, they also don't have to pay the agent a fee. More of these sorts of arrangements would help me get past my conflict of interest issues.

    This interview was edited and condensed.

    Related:

    October 14 2011

    Publishing News: Amazon fires up B&N and BAM

    Here are the stories that caught my eye in the publishing space this week.

    Amazon and DC Comics forge exclusive deal, B&N and BAM lash out

    NeilTweet.PNGI first got wind of this story on Bleeding Cool when Neil Gaiman tweeted it. Basically, Amazon landed an exclusive deal with DC Comics to carry 100 of its best-selling graphic novels on the Kindle. B&N was first to take issue with the digital exclusivity and pulled the print versions of all 100 graphic novels from its shelves. This week, Books-A-Million, now the second largest chain bookstore in the US after the closing of Borders, joined the fray.

    The reactions seem short sighted and knee-jerkish, especially in light of reports that the exclusive deal was for a limited period of four months. Giving Amazon additional (large platform retail sale) carte blanche to the print sales over that period seems a risky and questionable business strategy at best. CNN sums up the big-picture damage this fracas is causing: "Everyone is battling, and consumers are caught in the crossfire ..."

    Content consumption increases threefold with Nook, Kindle

    ShelfAwareness took a look at some of the digital publishing highlights from the conferences that took place this week ahead of the Frankfurt Book Fair. The increase in ereading is no surprise — Amazon announced in May that its sales of Kindle books surpassed print sales — but the speed of the transition and the accelerated ubiquity are notable. Some key points from the ShelfAwareness piece include:

    • Both Nook and Kindle users consume three times more content than they did before buying the device.
    • "Stephen Page, publisher and CEO of Faber & Faber, said that because of ebooks, the 85-year-old publishing house this year sold books in 20 countries where it had never sold a single book in the past."
    • The importance of digitizing backlists is becoming clear: Spanish publisher Santillana reports a substantial increase in sales after putting its backlist on the Kindle. "Before doing so, the ratio of sales of Santillana backlist titles in the U.S. to its other markets was 1:15; since the Kindle move, the ratio is 2:1."

    What newspapers can learn from Wikipedia's success

    Nieman Lab's Megan Garber took a look this week at Benjamin Mako Hill's research on the worldwide success of Wikipedia. Hill's analysis is interesting, but what really caught my eye was the application of that analysis to the newspaper industry, as suggested by Garber:

    If you want user contributions, build platforms that are familiar and easy. Lower the barriers to participation; focus on helping users to understand what you want from them rather than on dazzling them. Though gamification — with incentives that encourage certain user behaviors, complete with individual rewards (badges! titles! mayors!) — certainly has a role to play in the new news ecosystem, Hill's findings suggest that the inverse of game dynamics can be a powerful force, as well. His research highlights the value of platforms that invite rather than challenge — and the validity of contributions made for the collective good rather than the individual.

    These insights also can add to the discussion on the viability of paywalls, which saw some interesting activity this week as well. Press+ and the Knight Foundation teamed up to help college newspapers install metered paywalls — not so much to make broke college students pay to read their school's news, but to provide a way to charge for subscriptions or pander for donations from parents and alumni outside the college community. In a similar vein, The Independent newspaper in the UK is going the paywall route as well — but only for readers outside the UK.

    TOC NY 2012 — O'Reilly's TOC Conference, being held Feb 13-15, 2012, in New York City, is where the publishing and tech industries converge. Practitioners and executives from both camps will share what they've learned and join together to navigate publishing's ongoing transformation.

    Register to attend TOC 2012

    Related:

    October 07 2011

    Mindset over matter

    The challenges publishers face today trying to transform a centuries-old industry into (arguably) an almost completely new business traverse every sector of the industry. Beyond all the challenges with technology and changing business landscapes, however, lies the root problem with the transition to digital: publishers' mindset, says Timo Boezeman (@boezeman), digital publisher and non-fiction editor for A.W. Bruna Publishers and a speaker at TOC Frankfurt. In the following interview, Boezeman addresses issues of territorial rights, technological opportunities and DRM, but says publishers must first accept that "change is a must."

    What is the largest hurdle publishers must overcome in the transition to digital?

    timo-boezeman.jpgTimo Boezeman: The largest hurdle in the transition is the mindset. Publishing is one of the oldest industries around and now has to deal with a transition from analog to digital at a speed that is at least twice as fast as the music industry faced. What I see around me in the Netherlands — and I don't know if this is or was the same in the US — is that the publishers don't want to learn from the mistakes made by the music industry, and they make every mistake all over again: DRM, high pricing, not enough titles available, technical difficulties due to the different readers and types of ebooks, etc. If they would just see that the world is changing rapidly, that digital will be bigger than analog soon, and that change is a must, it would help us all — including consumers.

    What are some of the global obstacles to digital innovation in regard to DRM?

    Timo Boezeman: This is a difficult question. In the US and the UK, you have closed ecosystems like Amazon, Google, B&N, and iBookstore. In the Netherlands, we don't; none of these players are here yet. Right now, we have one file type: EPUB, which is supported by all the ereaders — including the iPad — available here and by all the ebook retailers. Most publishers use DRM to protect their titles, though this is easy to get around if you want to. The ebook price is generally about 75% of the hardcover price; the price of paper books is set by the publisher over here — by law — and can't be altered by retailers. This results, for now, in ebook retailers not lowering the prices of ebooks, even though it is allowed — the fixed price is only for paper books. It also results in consumers saying ebooks are too expensive.

    To come back to my comparison with the US: if we had an Amazon — a big retailer with its own ebook format and reader — it would matter less if the system had DRM or not. But in our situation, there are several issues: first, getting an ebook on an ereader; second, reading it — you need to register with Adobe to use the DRM'd ebooks on some readers and tablets; and, lastly, switching between retailers and/or devices.

    TOC Frankfurt 2011 — Being held on Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2011, TOC Frankfurt will feature a full day of cutting-edge keynotes and panel discussions by key figures in the worlds of publishing and technology.

    Save 100€ off the regular admission price with code TOC2011OR

    How will cloud technology affect digital publishing going forward?

    Timo Boezeman: Cloud technology is something I believe in very much, but it is a difficult topic because of the mindset. This technology will support reading because if books are in the cloud, you can also let readers read them by subscription instead of buying them one by one, like Spotify with music or like 24Symbols already is doing with books. And indeed, one step further, you've got the potential for books as browser URLs, which HTML5 will make possible. This offers other advantages — you don't have to program for specific operating systems, for example. The biggest challenge in this, however — just as with music — is the money that can be made. Spotify shows that money can be made, but that it is still a very low profit margin. Should we see this as "better than nothing" because otherwise it would be missed income or illegally downloaded? Or as "the start of something more" — growing revenues, maybe even a change in the mindset of consumers that content is worth paying for, so prices eventually will rise again?

    What do you think is more important, access or ownership?

    Timo Boezeman: Both, because I believe in what I call "tastes." You should provide a different taste for each consumer. There will always, or at least for decades to come, be people who want paper books. Maybe their demands will rise — higher quality, full color, etc. — but paper will be here for some time. Then you have people who read digital books, but they want to own their content. And last, you have people who don't want or have the need to own digital content, but want access to it when they want, how they want and on the device they choose. But if you put everything in perspective, I would say that access is a trend coming to the book industry, which until now has been ruled by ownership.

    Will we eventually see an end to territorial rights?

    Timo Boezeman: In the way they are arranged now, yes. One other thing that has to change in the mindset of the publishing industry is to start thinking of the consumer first — not of the bookstore or retailer you want to sell your books to, but the end user of your product. Do they benefit from territorial rights? No. They only suffer from it — it means that titles are not available everywhere at the same moment. Which, when the interest in a title is high, only encourages piracy. Just look at the film industry for examples. But that doesn't mean those rights have no reason to exist; it means that along with rights, there also must be thought of the consumer. And this is all for the good of the publishing industry because we all want consumers who like our products to pay for them, don't we?

    This interview was edited and condensed.

    Associated photo on home and category pages: Men with printing press, circa 1930s by Seattle Municipal Archives, on Flickr

    Related:

    October 03 2011

    Failure is a digital prerequisite

    This post is part of the TOC podcast series, which we'll be featuring here on Radar in the coming months. You can also subscribe to the free TOC podcast through iTunes.


    In the following podcast, Jesse Wiley (@jcwiley), who works on digital and new business initiatives at John Wiley & Sons, Inc., and is a seventh-generation Wiley family member, talks about the challenges the 200-year-old company faces in the digital age. Wiley says that success and innovation depend on learning how to fail — and expecting to fail.

    Highlights from the full video interview (below) include:

  • Some lessons learned: Wiley discusses treating authors and partners as brands unto themselves. He also says the company is learning that traditional print practices don't necessarily translate to digital practices, particularly in terms of discoverability: "As bookstores become less and less of a channel, you don't have an opportunity to have your brand physically represented in a store the way it has been in the past." [Discussed at the 1:25 mark.]
  • Coping with the changing landscape: Wiley says the company is constantly adapting to stay ahead of the game: "We're continually reorganizing our people and our businesses to adjust to the markets, which I think is essential — things are changing so fast, you can't just expect what worked even a year ago to work tomorrow." He says they're adapting incentive plans for editors and investing not only in technology but in the things that make technology work, such as project management. [Discussed at 10:28.]
  • Dealing with revenue streams and knowing when to make a move: Finding a balance between the print and digital business is a challenge, Wiley says, and in a way, the areas that still are doing well in print are funding the new digital projects. He also says it's important to learn to fail: "Learning to fail is not an established concept in publishing, but in the technology world, innovation is built on doing pilots and testing — learning to fail and expecting to fail, and learning from both the successes and the failures." [Discussed at 11:55.]
  • For more of Wiley's thoughts check out the full interview in the following video.

    TOC Frankfurt 2011 — Being held on Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2011, TOC Frankfurt will feature a full day of cutting-edge keynotes and panel discussions by key figures in the worlds of publishing and technology.

    Save 100€ off the regular admission price with code TOC2011OR

    Related:

    Older posts are this way If this message doesn't go away, click anywhere on the page to continue loading posts.
    Could not load more posts
    Maybe Soup is currently being updated? I'll try again automatically in a few seconds...
    Just a second, loading more posts...
    You've reached the end.

    Don't be the product, buy the product!

    Schweinderl