I was recently asked "What do you love about your job? " To be honest, I hadn't thought about the answer in quite awhile. (Btw, I recommend you ask yourself this question every so often...you might be surprised where it leads.)
As I gave this more consideration, several different responses came to mind. I love my job because it gives me the opportunity to:
- impact the future of publishing,
- build a new business,
- become the #1 publisher in a topic area,
- pitch a new idea and see the light bulbs go on, and
- help someone develop new skills.
I plan to cover each of these in future posts, but let me give you some details on #1 here.
OK, I acknowledge it's pretty ambitious to say that I can have an "impact on the future of publishing". But, as Jim Collins explains in Good to Great, "Big Hairy Audacious Goals" (BHAGs) are a good thing. As Publisher of WROX, I have the opportunity to look to the future every day.
WROX is all about "programmer-to-programmer", meaning the books are written by developers in the trenches, not professional writers. But WROX is also about community: Go check out our programmer-to-programmer forums to see what I mean. This community site exists for the sole purpose of bringing developers together: they can ask questions, provide solutions, share code, etc. Our goal is to be more than just a provider of printed materials. We want to extend the customer relationship beyond the bookstore transaction.
When I think about the future of publishing, I also try to keep an eye on my own kids (ages 17, 15 and 10) and how they find answers today. While my generation is used to looking things up in a book, my kids are always online and rarely reach for a book. All of them are quite comfortable Googling and would probably consider a printed book as something other than their primary resource.
Speaking of printed books, I've gone so far as to read a couple of e-books on my PocketPC. It's effective, but not a great experience. Nevertheless, I can see where even a tiny screen like this could one day be a useful way to read a book, with one caveat: the way the content is presented cannot be the same as in a printed book.
I wasn't around, but I've heard the early days of TV featured shows which were nothing more than radio programs where you could see the actors. The medium was so new that it took awhile for the true benefits to be leveraged. I think we're at the same stage today with e-books. Simply taking the contents of a printed book and putting it into .PDF format, for example, doesn't really take advantage of all the benefits of delivery on a computer screen, PocketPC, etc. The content has to be layered and presented differently but nobody has found a cost-effective way of porting from one platform (print) to the other (electronic)...yet.
How do we get past this and discover the breakthrough approach that I'm certain is out there? I think the answer to this is (a) experimentation and (b) looking at other businesses and their models to see what might work. As I look outside traditional publishing for ideas, I plan to test out the "flipping it" model covered in an interesting book I'm currently reading entitled Why Not? In it, the authors talk about how to completely reverse current assumptions. Priceline is one of their examples: Rather than having the seller state the price, why not let the buyer do it? It's this sort of out-of-the-box thinking that will help us take the publishing industry to the next level.