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37 posts from April 2007

The Harry Potter Knit-Along Blog (and Book)

Charmed_knitsNo, I'm not a knitter and I'm sure I never will be...but, I was recently told about a very interesting knitting book and blog project that's underway elsewhere at Wiley.  The book Charmed Knits is due out next month and will be loaded with patterns for sweaters, scarves, mittens, etc., that were worn by characters in the Harry Potter movies.  (Btw, even though it's not yet available it's already got a pretty darned respectable ranking on Amazon.)

What really got my attention on this one though is the companion blog, which has the headline, "Welcome to Our Knit-Along, Harry Potter Fans!".  The blog is a great way for fans and other community members to come together and participate in a knit-along project.  My favorite part of all: The goal of the knit-along is to provide Warm Woolies (a non-profit organization whose volunteers knit warm clothing for poverty-stricken children) with a bunch of hats for needy kids.  How cool is that?!

Kudos to Wiley's very own Eva Lesiak for making the blog happen as well as Amy Sell and Claire Griffin, the marketing duo that tipped me off to this great project.  Well done!

Author Shares Publishing Secrets

4_hour_workweekMy thanks to fellow blogger Noah Kagan for e-mailing me about this great post on his blog.  In it, his friend Timothy Ferriss explains how as a first-time author he managed to secure a deal with Random House for The 4-Hour Workweek.  Btw, it's important to note that this book is currently #8 on the Amazon bestseller list!

Tim's story is filled with lots of great information nuggets, but here's the one I found most interesting: He managed to hook up with a big-time author to get connections to a top-notch agency.  I love the way he made the initial connection: through volunteer work.  I've been volunteering more of my time over the past couple of years and am amazed at the results.  Not only are you helping a cause, but the networking effects are remarkable; Timothy obviously had the same experience.

If you're an author searching for a publishing deal you owe it to yourself to read Timothy's summary.

Teen Lit Growth

TribuneMaybe there's hope for the next generation after all.  Despite the distractions of video games, online services, cell-phones and more, this article in the Chicago Tribune says that "teen literature is one of the fastest-growing segments in publishing."

Here's one of the more interesting tidbits from the article: "Participation in library programs for people under 18 has increased more than 50 percent over the last 10 years, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, part of the U.S. Department of Education."  The skeptic in me figures it's growth off a very small number, but hey, growth is growth!

I'm also thrilled to hear that publishers are looking beyond traditional books as they tap into this segment.  According to the article, "Harper Collins launched HarperTeen, a new publication aimed at 12- to 17-year-olds.  It will relaunch a Web site this fall to connect kids through books."  It will be interesting to see if it's got real appeal for the target audience or is just another website for kids, poorly designed by adults; I'm not a fan of focus groups, but this is one case where it would be very smart to have representatives from your target audience closely involved in design and development.

Books24x7 Interview with John Ambrose

John_ambrose_3John Ambrose is Vice President and General Manager of Books24x7, one of the leaders in online reference content.  Books24x7 is an important partner with my employer, John Wiley & Sons, Inc.  I've gotten to know John a bit over the years and, despite his allegiance to the evil Boston Red Sox, I've always felt he's one of the sharper minds in our business.

John was kind enough to let me ask him a few questions about his business.  Here they are, along with his insightful answers:

JW: How is the online content world doing these days?

JA: Joe, that's a very broad question. My sense from working with organizational development professionals in Global 5000 companies day-in and day-out is the online content world is alive and very well. But there is a paradox. Corporate professionals are suffering from both content overload and content underload at the same time.  It is important that content be relevant, trusted and delivered contextually to be useful.  We think we do this very well.

JW: Is the Books24x7 platform attracting a lot of interest?

JA: Books24x7, in partnership with the best professional reference publishers like John Wiley, has unlocked the information contained in great books and delivers it in a way that serves the administration and integration needs of corporations; the flexibility and ease-of-use needs of users; and the licensing and security needs of publishers.  Our parent company, SkillSoft, has relationships with more than 1,700 global corporations and Books24x7 continues to be a key component of the overall offering.  Clients who adopt Books24x7 as part of their corporate learning strategy often report that they are achieving between 3-6 hours per employee per month in increased productivity.  That’s powerful.

JW: You have a wealth of content available for your customers at Books24x7.  Are there particular topics or segments that are more popular than others?

JA: We launched our ITPro offering in 1999, and quickly discovered that corporations wanted to provide tools that can develop the "total IT professional" which led to BusinessPro. Today, most clients licensing ITPro also license BusinessPro. We've also broadened into more than a dozen collections in response to clients. Our EngineeringPro and FinancePro were introduced two years ago and have been growing nicely. More recently corporations have been asking for more executive content which has led us to ExecEssentials, ExecBlueprints, ExecSummaries and AnalystPerspectives. Our newest collection called Well-BeingEssentials is now introducing the power of e-reference to HR departments. 

JW: How much emphasis do you place on usability for the Books24x7 interface?  Is this something your team is often experimenting with by adding/changing features?

JA: Our UI may be the e-reference industry's most widely field-tested. We get extremely high marks from clients for maintaining the difficult balance between simplicity and feature richness; between ease-of-use and power tools.  We are continually iterating with new features. Most recently we've introduced new innovations such as downloadable chapters, custom topic trees, and search-within-a search.  We also offer what I believe is the first robust e-reference database for mobile users which we call "Books24x7 on the Go."  Michael Bleyhl, who heads up sales training at EMC, leverages our mobile solution for their sales "road warriors."

JW: Occasionally I hear from an author who's concerned about the possible cannibalization of their print sales from services like Books24x7.  I've looked at the numbers on several books and can't find anything to support the concern but I was wondering if you (or any of your other publishing partners) have ever done more in-depth research on the topic.

JA: Frankly, Joe, I haven't heard that from authors since the early days of 1998-2000 when we were just starting to bring the publishing industry together.  Today, I am proud to say we have a very symbiotic relationship with nearly 400 publishers.  Interestingly, many titles in Books24x7 are not found in your typical Barnes and Noble store.  Authors and publishers want their content in Books24x7 because they recognize the importance of exposure to the corporate market. Every page of our site has a "purchase this book" link and we drive a great deal of traffic to for books that might have otherwise languished in obscurity.  I know clients sometimes order printed books in volume for special projects or live training programs.   Plus, our model ensures that publishers (and subsequently the authors) are paid every time a page of book content is used.  Everyone wins.

JW: Where do you see your business heading in the future?  Are there any new and interesting developments you can share with us?

JA: Corporations want one-stop shopping. So we will look at new opportunities to grow our suite of content collections in new disciplines.  We are also seeing demand for greater variety of delivery modes -- online, offline, mobile and audio.  We find rich video interesting and see opportunities to link video to drive usage of book content.  Watch this space, no pun intended!

Two Interesting New Titles

Dice PuzzlesAs you can see from some of the previous posts on this blog, I'm very proud of the new and innovative titles our team publishes.  Two of the more interesting ones that just hit my desk are The Official Dice Technology Job Search Guide and Puzzles for Programmers and Pros.

The Dice book covers everything you need to know for the IT job space, regardless of whether you're just entering it or are a seasoned professional.  Helpful hints for your resume, cover letter and interviewing/negotiation tactics are presented throughout, all from, the leaders in the tech job arena.

The Puzzles book is also for IT professionals and offers a great way to stay sharp and test your analytical skills.  It's a WROX book, but it's not like any other WROX book out there...  If you're a programmer you'll find plenty of interesting challenges in this one.  But it's not limited to programmers; my son is heading off to college in a few months and the engineer-to-be in him loves figuring these things out.

Neither of these are in stores yet but they should be shortly.  Congratulations to Carol Long and the rest of the editorial team that put these two together.