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28 posts from November 2007

Coming Soon: Dynamically Generated Ads in PDFs

AdobeFile this one under "what took them so long?"  According to this article on, Adobe is working with Yahoo to create a system where publishers will be able to dynamically embed contextually relevant ads in PDF files.  It's like AdSense for PDFs.  Brilliant.  This will give publishers of all shapes and sizes many more options to consider when distributing their content.

My Favorite Bookstore

Union_square_2Anytime I'm in the New York City area I always make a point of stopping in at the Barnes & Noble store in Union Square.  It's a book-lover's paradise.  Floor after floor and shelf after seems like it never ends.

On this particular visit I noticed something different: This store now has several touch-screen kiosks that help you find what you're looking for.  OK, maybe that's not so revolutionary.  After all, Borders has offered this sort of thing for quite awhile, but I've always missed it when searching through a Barnes & Noble store.

The B&N kiosk not only lets you search the store and, but it also prints out all the information you need about a given book in a nice receipt-like format.  For example, I did a quick search for our Blogging Heroes title.  It's not in the store yet but the kiosk created a handy little printout that tells me when it's due in and, my favorite feature, a list of related titles I might also be interested in.  As my shopping buddy and Sybex Publisher Neil Edde said, "it's like 'Amazon in your pocket."  I hope they roll out these kiosks across the entire chain.  Very helpful and handy.

Wiley to Launch Fisher Investments Press

FiThe big announcement out of the home office in Hoboken today is the Fisher Investments Press deal.  Wiley's business publishing program continues to grow by leaps and bound under the leadership of Joan O'Neil, the group's Vice President & Executive Publisher.  This particular announcement is exciting because it results in an entirely new line of books with Fisher Investments.  That name probably sounds familiar because it's an extremely well respected investment management organization led by Ken Fisher, author of Wiley's best-selling The Only Three Questions That Count: Investing By Knowing What Others Don't.

The first title,10 Roads to Riches, is due out in 2008.  Congrats to Joan and her team for forging this exciting new Press alliance!

The Wonderful World of Widgets

Cogs_2To paraphrase the famous line from The Graduate, "I've got one word for you: Widgets!"  If you need a nice reminder that widgets are the future, particularly in the world of content, read this article in this morning's USA Today.

Several book-oriented widgets currently exist but we're only scratching the surface of what can be done with this technology.  I use LibraryThing's widget on my blog.  If you hover your mouse over one of the covers in the left panel you'll find a link to that book on Amazon.  That's nice, but how about adding content access?  Wouldn't it be cool to add some functionality and have that same widget cycle through a few excerpts from the book?  Just hover over it and a pop-up appears showing a few sentences.  Want more?  Click on a set of horizontal arrows that will take you through all the excerpts the publisher wants to make available.

That's still pretty rudimentary.  How about making it more interactive and customizable?  Let's say I'm reading one of those books on a Kindle.  Shouldn't I be able to highlight a passage and have it added to the content I'm able to show via my widget?  Yes, the publisher would probably want to cap the amount of content someone could use for customized excerpts...or would they?

Better yet, let's say I'm reading that same book on my Kindle and I come across a paragraph I want to send to a friend.  With a few quick clicks I select the excerpt and send it off to them along with a note saying, "I immediately thought of you when I read this."  The excerpt shows up in your friend's e-mail in-box along with a cover image and link to buy the book.  Is there any better advertising than that?!

Take that last example a step further.  Let's say both of you are using the iRead app on Facebook.  One future option would be to enable your friends to post book excerpts and comments on Facebook.  So in the previous example, there would be a box you could check to automatically have this book, the excerpt and your comment posted on their Facebook page.

As the USA Today article notes, "there's no limit to what widgets can do."

Andy Grove on Big Companies vs. Startups

PortfolioI haven't been overly impressed with Conde Nast's Portfolio magazine but this article from the latest issue is a very worthwhile read.  It's written by Andy Grove and it talks about the opportunities Grove sees for large companies.  Everyone talks about how startups can be more nimble and focused, as outlined in Clayton Christensen's The Innovator's Dilemma, one of my all-time favorite books, btw.

Grove's article offers somewhat of an anti-Innovator's Dilemma point of view.  As Grove puts it, "In looking at various companies that have been hindered by their own success, we found that under certain conditions a firm can create a new growth spurt for itself by entering an entirely different industry."  He calls it "cross-boundary disruption" and uses Apple's decision to invade the music industry as Exhibit A.  OK, I buy that one, but his next example is Walmart and health care.  Huh? 

Sure, I've seen the mini-clinics they've set up in many of their stores but can Walmart really become a disrupter in the health care industry?  This seems like a major branding message issue to me.  It wasn't that long ago that Walmart's tagline was "Everyday Low Prices."  That's great when you're looking to buy motor oil or milk, and it might even work for a flu shot or a quick checkup, but is that really the message you're looking for at your doctor's office, the person who might be making life and death decisions for you?

In all fairness I see Walmart has changed their tagline to "Save Money. Live Better."  That's a subtle shift from "Everyday Low Prices" and it might help avoid the branding conflict I'm talking about.  Regardless, I wonder how many people will still equate Walmart with "low prices" no matter what tagline they use.  Then again, I suppose the old joke is still true: What do you call the person who ranks lowest in their med school class?  "Doctor."