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30 posts from October 2006

Books24x7 Podcasts

The folks at Books24x7 recently launched a monthly podcast series called Publisher 1-on-1 Interviews where they talk with some of their publisher partners to discuss current trends and future products. The latest addition to the series is an interview with yours truly where Pam Boiros of Books24x7 asks me about digital publishing and what’s currently on my radar. Give it a listen and let me know whether you think I’m right or wrong. Also be sure to check out their other podcast series ExecBlueprints Excerpts and Soundview Author Interviews.

Five Challenges for Online Publishing

Carolyn McCall CEO of The Guardian Media Group recently described the five challenges she sees ahead for online publishing. Kevin Anderson, also of The Guardian, provided the details in this post. While all five are valid, I have some additional observations about the first one:

Our brands and our staff are the foundation of our future.

Brands are clearly as important online as they are anywhere else. Google might officially say they don’t like it when their name is used as a verb, but they’re also undoubtedly proud of having built such a well-known brand.

My concern here is that while brands are critical to success, brand loyalty for online properties, especially for free services, is often quite weak. Sure, I use Google regularly throughout the day, but if a better solution comes along I’m switching to it immediately. That’s precisely why a company like Google needs to aggressively keep testing new services and acquiring promising businesses.

Consider this comparison: The corporate world has stuck with (and often complained about) Microsoft Office despite the fact that viable, cheaper alternatives have been available for years. Google would love to see that level of commitment from their user base; it might appear that they’ve already achieved that status today, but that’s mostly because nobody has built a better search mousetrap…yet.

Words of Wisdom from Kathy Sierra

Regardless of what business you’re in, read this “Dilbert and the zone of mediocrity” post on Kathy Sierra’s blog. After you read it once, be sure to read it again, then either print it out for handy reference later or bookmark it so you don’t forget about it.

I have to admit that I sometimes cringe when I read what Kathy has to say on her blog. No, it’s not because I disagree with her; it’s because she often strikes a nerve. I see myself in some of her examples and it’s really quite uncomfortable.

Here’s a key point from her post and what I would refer to as Exhibit A in my struggle:

Today, the more you try to prevent failure, the more likely you are to fail.

Ouch. In sporting events they call it “playing not to lose.” In fact, I think the Arizona Cardinals did that this past Monday night...

Netflix for Books…Sort of…

I was once asked, “Why isn’t there a service out there like Netflix, but for books?” One obvious answer is, “because it’s a heck of a lot more expensive to ship books than it is to ship a DVD.” It got me to thinking though…

Why not create some sort of a regional, Netflix-like program? What if you could pay your local bookstore $x/month for the ability to borrow books from them, read them at your leisure and then return them for more down the road? Part of this depends on how much “x” is, of course.

I know, you’re thinking, “we already have something like this and it’s called ‘the library’.” Not quite. The local library typically has only one copy of any given book and quite often, it’s checked out.

B&N and Borders aren’t likely to do this anytime soon, but why wouldn’t an organization like Half Price Books? After all, they’re sitting on a load of inventory at every store, waiting for someone to come in and buy a copy then return to sell it for a fraction of the original price later. They’ve typically got multiple copies of a given book, so you don’t face the checked-out problem you find at the library.

Rather than let all that inventory sit while waiting for a buyer, why not loan it out for a monthly fee and generate more in-store traffic? I’d certainly consider the service for $10 or $20/month.

Wiley Grows Again

Congratulations to everyone involved in the Whatsonwhen acquisition, announced earlier today. Whatsonwhen offers a wealth of information about travel and entertainment. I’m particularly excited to watch as Whatsonwhen joins the Wiley family with Frommer’s – these two should provide an unbeatable combination in the online travel world.