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6 posts from October 2011

Why I Love Findings

That headline doesn't have a typo. Findings is a relatively new service that gives you another way to share your Kindle highlights and, more importantly for me, save/share clips from any website you visit. I discovered Findings at the terrific Books in Browsers (BiB) event at the Internet Archive last week. If you missed the BiB livestream you'll be able to watch the archive of all the sessions shortly. Keep an eye on this link for the videos and, in the mean time, you can grab a PDF of the tweets from BiB here or see a realtime list of the tweets here.

I add highlights to pretty much every Kindle book I read and that Findings feature is nice. It's the website clips capability that really has me jazzed though. Like most of you, my coworkers and friends are always sending me links to interesting articles, blog posts, etc. I love Instapaper and use it every day to archive many of these links for later reading. But what if I just want to grab a sentence or a paragraph from that article or post? That's where Findings shines. After all, saving an entire article is nice but if I can narrow it down to just the excerpt I found most interesting, well, that's a service I'd pay for! You won't have to though as Findings is completely free.

I'm just getting started with Findings as I've only snagged a few excerpts so far. That number is about to grow significantly as I added the Findings bookmarket to all my browsers and will use it frequently. The next time I'm scratching my head, wondering where I read something about this before, I'll quickly hop over to my Findings stream to find out. You should too. Findings is one of those services that seems so simple and obvious but it's something we've all been living without for way too long.

P.S. -- Many thanks to Peter Brantley, Kat Meyer and Brewster Kahle for the wonderful BiB experience. If you're fortunate enough to get an invitation to a future BiB I suggest you do two things: immediately accept it and get ready for an extremely inspiring event!


Bookigee Founder & CEO Kristen McLean Talks Agile

The agile model has been used by software developers to create apps that customers really want. Why not use the same approach when creating content? In this TOC podcast, Bookigee founder and CEO Kristen McLean talks about how her company is using it to develop a new content discovery and exploration platform. Key points include:

  • Think iteratively rather than linearly  -- The current content development process assumes we know exactly what the audience wants. With agile, you iteratively develop (and release) the content to your customers, further tailoring it to their needs each step along the way. [Discussed at 2:47]
  • Agile allows for plenty of uncertainties -- Agile methodologies assume that you don't necessarily know who your audience is, or perhaps more importantly, that you don't know what their true needs are. [Discussed at 6:05]
  • Leading indicators trump lagging indicators-- So many decisions in publishing are based on lagging indicators like sell-through data and comparable title performance. Agile lets you flip that around and work more with leading indicators rather than lagging ones. [Discussed at 13:40 and a bit further at 19:00]
  • Agile may not work for every format -- As Kristen notes, some authors just need to go off to an island and write the entire book. That said, it's probably viable for more genres than you think. [Discussed at 17:55]
  • Large companies beware... -- There's a reason why startups are easily able to adopt agile methods and part of this has to do with the need for a flattened organization. [Discussed at 25:38]
  • Agile transformation must come from the top, not bottom up -- A visionary leader who truly buys into the approach is required. [Discussed at 32:08]
  • Quality is measured differently in early release stages-- Publishers tend to focus on the final product that's been copyedited and proofread but minimum viable products are often rough around the edges. [Discussed at 33:08]


Visit the "Digital Petting Zoo" at TOC NY in February!

I strongly recommend everyone in publishing acquaint themselves with the latest digital gadgets. After all, if you're not familiar with the devices your customers are using how can you possibly relate to their user experience? It's hard keeping up with all the devices and platforms out there though. And that's precisely what your friends at O'Reilly's Tools of Change (TOC) conference are here to help with. (Actually, this idea is way too good to be my own...we can all thank my conference co-chair, Kat Meyer, for coming up with it.)

I'm pleased to announce that during TOC NY in February we'll have a special area set aside where you'll get to experience all the latest gadgets firsthand. For example, if you're an iPad owner who's never had a chance to test drive an Android device, we've got you covered. But it's more than just the devices themselves that we'll be showcasing in our "digital petting zoo." We plan to feature some of the most innovative and game-changing apps, ebooks and other e-products in this space at the event.

So even as I type this post, Kat and I are reaching out to all the device/platform vendors to make sure they're well represented in the zoo. We're also on the lookout for cool apps and ebooks, especially ones that may have somehow slipped below our radar. If you know of one or you've helped develop one you'd like to nominate for inclusion in the zoo email me with the details.

I'll be serving as the zookeeper for the event, so if you're planning to attend TOC NY, please be sure to stop by and say hello. Speaking of which, sign up now to secure the best TOC registration rate possible!


Worldreader: Books for All

TOC Frankfurt is a wrap and I met a bunch of terrific people there. There's one in particular I want to call attention to: Elizabeth Wood of Worldreader. If you haven't heard of Worldreader I ask that you take a few minutes to learn about them. Their mission is to make digital books available to all in the developing world. These folks are changing lives. What more noble cause is there than that?

I'm blogging about them because there are three things I'd like you to do. First, watch the video below. We tend to take e-readers and ebooks for granted. Worldreader is using them to change the world and bring knowledge to those who might not otherwise have access to this content.

Second, I challenge you to get involved with Worldreader. What can you as a member of the publishing community do to help this organization, either through your company or on your own? I met with Elizabeth after her TOC Frankfurt session and I've offered to help them in any way I can. I encourage you to do the same.

Finally, I'm looking to raise Worldreader's awareness level throughout the publishing community. You undoubtedly have Twitter followers and Facebook friends that I don't reach. Will you help me spread the word about Worldreader by tweeting, blogging, etc., a link to their site or this post?


The Global eBook Market: Current Conditions & Future Projections

Screen shot 2011-10-09 at 11.52.41 AM 2011 has been a year of significant change in the ebook sector. This change has been uneven, leaving some countries and languages ahead of others at this point. To further complicate matters, governmental issues, tax policies and countless other local factors play a significant role in ebook adoption and growth. Up to now there hasn't been a single resource available to help you sort out the global ebook situation.

The Tools of Change (TOC) team is happy to report that we've created something that addresses this problem. It's our Global eBook Market report and it's available to you FREE via this link.

The Global eBook Market report covers most European countries as well as Brazil and China. We realize we have a few more territories we need to add and that a one-time report isn't the best solution. That's why we're going to use the outstanding O'Reilly ebook distribution platform to provide free updates going forward. You probably already know that the O'Reilly platform offers ebooks in all the popular formats. So whether you want the PDF, EPUB or mobi version of this report we've got you covered. (UPDATE: PDF is the only version available right now but we'll have the other versions posted soon.) Just head over to that link, put the product in your shopping cart and the multi-format version will be added to your oreilly.com account. Then, as we add and update this report you'll receive an email notification telling you when the latest version is available. Again, all of this is offered to you totally free of charge.

We're launching this report at our TOC Frankfurt event on Tuesday. In fact, the closing session of TOC Frankfurt features a short interview I'll be doing with the report's author, Ruediger Wischenbart. I hope to see you there; if not, be sure to follow what's happening at TOC Frankfurt via the #tocffm and #toccon hashtags as well as through the event's mobile app.


Goodreads New Recommendation Engine & Discoverability

Discoverability is one of the key issues that plagues the book and econtent world. The bad news is the situation is only going to get worse, particularly when you consider all the new publishing and self-publishing platforms that are vying for our attention. The good news is we're starting to see platforms like Goodreads to help you discover new titles that match your interests. Goodreads community manager, Patrick Brown, tells us all about their new recommendation engine and some of the complexities of the algorithm behind it. Watch the interview via this link or the embedded version below. Key points include:

  • Recommendation engines are complex -- The Goodreads engine has been in development for 6 years! In fact, the Goodreads algorithm benefited from the competition Netflix had to improve their own algorithm. [Discussed at 2:50]
  • The more you use the better the advice -- Goodreads obviously wants us all to engage with their service as much as possible. One benefit to doing so is that the recommendations served up will be more fine-tuned to your interests. [Discussed at 5:24]
  • Serendipity can be found further down the long tail -- Part of what makes the Goodreads recommendation engine so valuable is that they're not just recommending the latest bestseller on the topic. [Discussed at 6:40]
  • Categories are broad today, but... -- This initial release of the Goodreads recommendation engine uses large buckets (e.g., History, but not narrowed down to, say, WWII). Over time the granularity, and therefore, the value of this aspect of the service will improve. [Discussed at 13:45]