As I continue thinking about the future of publishing, I can’t help but wonder whether the blogging platform could play a role. In previous posts I’ve mentioned my belief that e-books haven’t taken off for two reasons: First, there’s no killer device/application for them. Secondly, most e-books are simple ports of a printed product – a great e-book product needs to be developed with the e-format in mind.
What if a book is truly developed as a blog, using the same approach and platform? Put aside the question of how you monetize the content; I’ll get to that in a minute… For now, consider three interesting benefits that result when a book is constructed this way:
- The book is written in an open format, with comments from many in the community. These comments live with the work and will always be available for anyone to read later. If you prefer to simply read just what the author intended, you can skip the comments.
- As with most blogs, the material is written in bite-size pieces, not lengthy chapters. This would force authors to be concise, making the reading experience more effective and efficient.
- Most importantly, this enables the rich layering I think is required to leverage the platform and create the e-book experience that’s much more effective than a quick dump of a printed book into PDF, for example. You take advantage of extensive links and built-in cross-references that you simply can’t pull off in a printed book.
Quite a few books are being built today through the use of blogs. A good example is the book Robert Scoble and Shel Israel are writing for Wiley. They’re using the Red Couch blog as a way to preview the content and solicit input. That’s great, but I hope you agree that what I’m proposing above is a step or two beyond that.
You could argue that Safari and Books24x7 already offer something like this. Or do they? Aren’t they just simple conversions from the printed book? There are a few more bells and whistles than the printed version, but the Safari and Books24x7 content wasn’t developed from the ground up with an online platform in mind.
Back to the million-dollar question: How do you monetize this model? One option is to take the core content and put it into a printed book format when the writing is finished. You lose the benefit of the comments feature in point #1 and all of point #3 above though. Another option is to move the blog into some sort of subscription-based system after the book is complete. One problem there is that everything up to that point has been Googled, meaning it’s all out there in an archive for anyone to read. A third option is to build and host the product using an advertising revenue model. That sounds like the hardest one of all…
What are your thoughts? Should we experiment more with blogging as a way to build and publish books? If so, how can everyone make some money along the way?