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December 08 2011

Tools of Change for Publishing Newsletter: December 7, 2011

TOC 2011 Speaker

While we're eagerly preparing for our large Tools of Change for Publishing (TOC) conference coming up in New York City this February, we're also focused on smaller things. To wit: Our mini TOCs. Mini TOCs are one-day conferences that examine modern-day publishing from a variety of aspects. In the U.S., we've firmed up dates for miniTOC conferences in Austin, Texas (March 9), and Chicago, Illinois (April 9). And the not-so-mini TOC Bologna is slated for Italy on March 18 in conjunction with the Children's Book Fair, which theme will inform that day's discussion. We'll be certain to keep you updated as we are.

As always, we welcome your suggestions and feedback. We also promise to write less about Amazon in future issues. Way less. Promise. We'll return in the New Year with new content and new fun. Please email us with kudos or dissent at (no reason to give that address to Jeff Bezos, OK?).

O'Reilly TOC newsletter header
Kat Meyer

Joe Wikert


Kat Meyer and Joe Wikert

Chairs, Tools of Change

TOC New York 2012

Seeking Startups for Startup Showcase

Want to get your early-stage company in front of some of the most savvy and connected publishing professionals in the industry? We're looking for publishing (and publishing-related) startups to participate in the Startup Showcase, happening Tuesday, Feb. 14, during TOC New York. Read more about the showcase and see if your company is qualified to participate.

Photos from TOC

See the Full Schedule

Hot Type

Kat & Joe's Must–Reads

Ball of Confusion

In pointing to this piece, Joe says, "I love the points Todd Sattersten makes in this article on the 'Paperless Book'. It's an important read for everyone in the publishing industry." We'll cut to the chase: Our customers don't know what a book is anymore. That's all.

The Twitter Book Dept. of Gosh Darn Sweet
Twitter expert (and recent coauthor with Tim O'Reilly of the second edition of The Twitter Book) Sarah Milstein posted a very sweet human interest story on our Radar platform last week profiling one small bookstore owner who is using social media to drive business. Ominvore Books owner Celia Sack is bawdy, she's opinionated, and she's making a niche shop thrive—140 characters at a time.

ALL Amazon

From the Windy Halls of Amazonia

Monopoly/Strangehold/The Usual

In considering the library e-lending system OverDrive and its relationship to Amazon, Kat scans a new Publishers Weekly piece, titled in part Libraries Caught in the Crossfire, by Andrew Albanese and Jim Milliot. She writes: "The library e-lending issue could use a more comprehensive examination—Jim and Andrew's piece here hints at the complexity, but it's ripe for further exploration. Where Overdrive has locked in many libraries, and Amazon has locked in Overdrive, and publishers have become slightly myopic where the big picture/long term results of ebook library lending are concerned, it's definitely one of those opportunities that feels more like a problem right now." Monopolizing stuff, indeed.

Digital Duchy
This item wasn't tough to find, being as it's the cover story of the current issue of Wired Magazine, but if you missed it you'll probably be forever indebted to us for tepidly serving it up right here. Wired contributor Steven Levy sat down with Amazon founder Jeff Bezos to discuss the Kindle Fire and all things Amazonian. "Bezos doesn't consider the Fire a mere device, preferring to call it a 'media service,'" Levy writes. "While he takes pride in the Fire, he really sees it as an advanced mobile portal to Amazon's cloud universe. . . . When you pay $199 for Fire, you' re not buying a gadget—you're filing citizen papers for the digital duchy of Amazonia."

Amazon Infographic

Pretty: Scary
For those who like pretty pictures, and we are heartily among that group, Frugal Dad offers this groovy (read: terrifying) infographic delineating Amazon's monster reach.

Petard, Hoisted
Call us smug, but call us right: All of O'Reilly's ebooks are DRM-free. We have many lofty philosophies for this stance but our bottom line is that it's good for business. Writing on his blog, Charlie Stross might be thought to agree. In a piece mildly titled Cutting Their Own Throats, he argues that by locking their texts, Big Six publishers are not only losing significant sales, their "pig-headed insistence . . . is handing Amazon a stick with which to beat them harder." Yow.

Project Publishing
The domino finally drops as Seth Godin announced the last book in his year-long adventure with Amazon Publishing. He writes, "By most of the measures I set out at the beginning, the project has been a success. So why stop? Mostly because it was a project, not a lifelong commitment to being a publisher of books. Projects are fun to start, but part of the deal is that they don't last forever." Prompted by Godin's announcement, Paid Content's always-excellent Laura Hazard Owen turns a jaundiced eye towards Seattle with The Truth About Amazon Publishing which, while crunching numbers, managed to elucidate quite a few nasty feuds, making this one of the more entertaining number-crunching pieces we've read in a while.

Tim Ferriss App4-Hour Fame
We take nearly four hours to turn to Tim Ferris, the "4-Hour" everything dude, whose new deal with Amazon is marketing genius. According to Laura Hazard Owen, Ferris is the first author signed to a new Amazon imprint and, though his new title, 4-Hour Chef, won't be out until next September, he's already marketing the book by offering fans a chance to win one of 50 pre-loaded Kindle Fires. There's more about drinking wine and eating fruit cake while the pounds magically melt away, but you have to do some of the work and read it yourself.

Publisher's Corner

The occasional rant from our benevolent dictator

Joe Wikert
Joe pulls himself briefly away from any number of Pittsburgh Penguin hockey games to brush some bitter froth from his lips and pour it instead onto the page. We thought the Penguins were doing better; he's a bit testy.

Kindle device license limits are stupid. There, I said it. I'm betting most consumers and quite a few publishers don't realize that Amazon has limits in place to prevent you from loading one Kindle ebook on more than six devices within the same account. You're probably wondering why I have so many devices connected to the same account. The answer is simple: I like to test new devices and the old ones become hand-me-down's to family members. They all remain on the same account though.

Amazon has a default maximum of six devices for any given Kindle ebook. Once you try to get it onto the seventh device you're greeted with an error message saying, "License Limit Reached," and they nudge you to buy another copy of the product. No way. I already bought it once and I'm not buying it again.
This is yet another example of why DRM is such a poor choice for publishers. Someone decided six was a magical number and so no title can be read across more than six devices. Sure, I could de-register or maybe even just delete the book from one or two of my older devices—but why should I have to?
Limitations like this, including DRM in general, are evil and should be done away with. Amazon and publishers, please start trusting your customers and eliminate barriers like this. You're not protecting your revenue stream this way, but you are doing a terrific job of irritating your customers and reminding them that you don't trust them.

This Month's Free TOC Webcasts

The Challenging Business of Kids' Apps

The Challenging Business of Kids' Apps

December 8, 10am PTM

Learn how to navigate the mobile software ecosystem, produce the best possible product, and make it stand out in a crowded marketplace.

HTML5 for Publishers

HTML5 for Publishers

December 14, 10am PT

Get an overview of some of the most exciting features HTML5 provides to ebook content creators—audio⁄video, geolocation, and the Canvas—and learn how to put them in action.

Register Now for Free

Audible Knowledge

The Latest from our TOC Podcast Series

You can also subscribe to the free TOC podcast through iTunes. Not an iTunes fan? No worries. All podcasts live safely here.

APIs and Content
In which Joe talks with FluidInfo CEO Terry Jones about how APIs can enable developers to work with content like a box of LEGO bricks, building solutions you may never have dreamed of.

Final Note

Worst. Book. Ever.

Microwave for One

Publishers Weekly's Gabe Habash's loving poke at Microwave for One has gone deliciously viral, which is perhaps the only delicious thing about Microwave for One. Bon appétit!

PSSST: Want to just read these newsletters again and again for ever and ever like the sacred texts they are? They all live happily together now online.

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In this Issue:

  • TOC Startup Showcase
  • Hot Type

  • Amazonian Madness
  • Publisher's Corner: DRM SUX
  • Free Live TOC Webcasts
  • Audible Knowledge
  • Podcasts
  • Worst Book Ever
  • New Books & Free Reports

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New Books & Reports
for Publishers

Kindle Fire: Out of the Box
Kindle Fire: Out of the Box

Ebook: $2.99

First to market, this is the book that should have come with the device.


Book: A Futurist's Manifesto
Book: A Futurist's Manifesto
a Startup

Ebook: $7.99

Pre-Order Print: $24.99


Every Book Is a Startup
Every Book Is

a Startup

Ebook: $7.99

Pre-Order Print: $24.99


The Global eBook Market: Current Conditions & Future Projections

The Global eBook Market: Current Conditions & Future Projections


What Is EPUB 3?

What Is EPUB 3?


HTML5 for Publishers

HTML5 for Publishers


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