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28 posts from December 2007

Books Unbound

Jean_gralleyI love it when the blogosphere introduces me to new people.  That happened recently and my new friend's name is Jean Gralley.  Jean's bio says that she "writes and illustrates picture books and believes their future is in motion."  I have to admit that I don't spend much time thinking about children's books when I wonder about the future of publishing but it's great to know that people like Jean do.

Jean is working on an initiative she calls Books Unbound.  If you'd like to know what Books Unbound is all about, be sure to take a couple of minutes and watch this video.  You won't be disappointed.  She also wrote an article about her vision called Liftoff: When Books Leave the Page.

When I watched her video and read her article I immediately wondered how much flak she's taking on all this.  After all, we want to encourage kids to read, not spend even more time in front of yet another electronic device, right?  She mentioned that she does indeed hear her share of grumbles and that "a librarian who heard me speak once blogged that she liked my books well enough to buy multiple copies for her library but Books Unbound made her want to rip them all up!"

My opinion is that I'd rather have a child reading, period, and I don't care whether it's content in print or on screen.  If there are ways people like Jean can integrate that content with other forms of entertainment, great, especially if it results in more kids reading.  If you agree or if you've got feedback for Jean, please be sure to visit her website and hook up with her as well.

A Good Magazine Indeed

Good_magAlthough my reading habits have shifted dramatically over the past couple of years, opting for RSS feeds over print magazines, I just discovered a new magazine that's worth a closer look. It's appropriately called Good, and based on the issue I just read, I think they could have also called it Great.

I just finished their "High Tech/Low Tech" issue and found more interesting articles in this one magazine than I typically find in a handful of others.  Think Wired without all the annoying artwork and gratuitous neon ink.  That's right.  It's full of...wait for it...great content!

New issues come out every other month and a one-year subscription is $20.  And get this...  Every penny of your $20 subscription goes to one of 12 different nonprofit organizations that have partnered with Good.  The list includes Room to Read, Teach for America and several others.  I just signed up for a subscription and selected Kiva as my nonprofit recipient.

Now Is Gone, by Geoff Livingston with Brian Solis

Now_is_goneThe subtitle for Now Is Gone is "A Primer on New Media for Executives and Entrepreneurs" and I think that very accurately sums up this book's focus and target audience.  In short, anyone who wants to leverage new media in their business is going to find value in this book.

It's a nice, short read and yet the authors manage to cover all the critical components of new media.  One of my favorite sections in this book talks about the "five steps that a business must embrace to know its social media initiative will work."  They are:

  1. Give up control of the message
  2. Participate within your community
  3. Determine whether your community is social media savvy
  4. Committing the resources
  5. Understanding transparency and ethics

It's easy to look at a failed social media initiative and point to one or more of these items as the reason the project collapsed.  Some organizations stick by old media rules and insist on controlling the message themselves (#1), others take a "if you build it, they will come" approach and don't bother becoming active community members (#2), etc.

Here are a few other excerpts that really jumped out at me:

"I have a hunch that the years ahead will be very exciting from a creative standpoint, as well as from a media view," said Kipp Monroe.  "Creative content that does resonate with the culture and cuts through will be in big demand.  Call it an online renaissance.  I can't wait to see how what we call advertising will look 20 years from now."

Build value for the community.  This is a strategic principle.  When you are looking to "market," know your community.  It is only by listening, reading, and understanding that community that you can serve it with valuable information.  Building value for a group of people means making a core decision to create content for them regardless of the technology or social network.

Brian Oberkirch offers this valuable insight for his fellow bloggers: Focus on building the tribe one person at a time.  Forget the Technorati 100 thinking.  Being famous to 15 people is a huge advantage if they are the right 15 people.

Now Is Gone features a great companion website where the story continues in blog format.  It's also an excellent way to communicate directly with the authors.  This book is filled with solid insight and is a must read for anyone who needs a quick lesson in new media capabilities and tactics.


Blog2printEvery week I seem to stumble across a new blog that I'd like to catch up on.  The tricky part is finding the time and grabbing the content in a manner that's portable and conveniently readable.  Printing is an option but you're pretty much limited to the formatting capabilities of your browser.

Earlier today I found another solution called Blog2Print.  It's far from perfect but represents an interesting start in the right direction.  It does what its name converts your blog into a printed book.  Pricing is prohibitively high though, IMHO, as it costs $29.95 for hardcover and $24.95 for softcover.  I'm looking for the convenience of offline reading, not a coffee table book, so I can't think of a single blog that's worth this much to me.  Blog2Print probably ought to consider other options that produce PDFs a customer can print on their own as well, and at a much lower price point (or funded through advertising).  I'd also like to see them add more customization options.  For example, you should be able to include post headlines as table of contents entries.

If you're interested in seeing what Blog2Print's finished product looks like, go to this link and give it a try.  Just enter your blog's URL and check out the results.  Oh, btw, Blog2Print is currently limited to Google's Blogger platform only, so if you don't use Blogger you're out of luck...for now.  Regardless, you can still see how it works by plugging in the URL of anyone else's Blogger-hosted blog.

The Most Bizarre Story of the Year

Chuck_norris The cover shown with this post is not a joke.  It's a real book entitled The Truth About Chuck Norris: 400 Facts About the World's Greatest Human.  I hadn't heard about this one till I read this news story from Reuters today.  Thinking it was a novelty title few people had heard about, I looked it up on Amazon and was stunned to see it is currently ranked #86 for all books!

Walker, Texas Ranger only exists in the land of reruns but the world is apparently infatuated with "mythical facts" about the show's star.  I could see this working as a website or an article in Mad magazine, but a book?!  All year long we've been hearing that fewer and fewer adults are reading books.  Shouldn't we be equally disturbed that one like this is doing so well?  I love sarcasm and humor as much as the next guy, but who's buying this crap?!

P.S. -- I guess I shouldn't be too surprised.  After all, I see The Secret is still in the top 25 on Amazon!  Wow.  P.T. Barnum was right.

The Blind Side, by Michael Lewis

Blind_sideI'm a big Michael Lewis fan.  I read Moneyball and loved it, but I figured that's because baseball is my favorite sport.  So when colleague Willem K. got me a copy of Lewis latest book, The Blind Side, I figured I'd read it but not right away; after all football is #3 or #4 on my list of must-watch sports, so what's the rush?

I finally started reading it recently and finished it last night.  Now I wish I would have started sooner.  It's every bit as good as Moneyball but from a completely different perspective.  The Blind Side tells the story of Michael Oher, an extremely poor individual from Memphis who is an incredible physical specimen.  It's his physical abilities that get everyone's attention, including the NCAA.  In fact, if you're looking for a book to show you just how incompetent and silly the NCAA can be, well, you've found the winner with The Blind Side.

Besides the story of Oher, Lewis also uses this book to document the left tackle's meteoric rise in importance and pay scale in the NFL. The book is filled with interesting behind-the-scenes observations from coaches and players alike.  For example, I don't think I've ever read so much about Lawrence Taylor's career-ending hit on Joe Theismann.

All in all, this is an excellent summary of a position and a player who is currently still in college but should soon be making his mark in the NFL.  It's also an inspiring story of a family who took him in and gave him a chance.  In short, there's something in this for everyone regardless of whether you're a big time football fan.

Christian Publishing & Author Blogs


Courtesy of the ECPA's Michael Covington, here's a list of Christian publisher and author blogs:

Publisher Blogs
Kregel Publications
Kregel Fiction
Kregel Homeschooling
InterVarsity Press: Behind the Books
InterVarsity Press: Addenda & Errata
InterVarsity Press: Andy Unedited
InterVarsity Press: Strangely Dim
Randall House Publications
Off the Shelf (Wayne Hastings of Thomas Nelson)
The Suburban Christian (Al Hsu of InterVarsity Press)
From Where I Sit (Michael Hyatt of Thomas Nelson)
Oxford University Press

Author Blogs
Jim Seybert's Fools Box
Brandilyn Collins' Forensics & Faith
Kristy Dykes' Christian Love Stories
Robin Lee Hatcher's Write Thinking
Mary DeMuth's RelevantBlog

Christian Publishing News Blog
Cook Partners (from Cook International)

Free Content Really Sells

Wmpy_kidPlenty of authors and publishers are still concerned about potential cannibalization when book content is also available for free online.  This New York Times article, Crossover Dreams: Turning Free Web Work Into Free Book Sales provides even more evidence that free online content can indeed be sold in print.  This particular article talks about a book called Diary of a Wimpy Kid and the 147,000 copies it has sold since it was published in April.  This, despite that all the content remains freely available at a site called Funbrain.

This is just one successful example, of course, and there are many others.  One that I like to cite is our group's very own Naked Conversations, by Robert Scoble and Shel Israel.  The book was built on a blog and the content is still there for anyone who wants to read it free online.  Despite the fact that the content remains freely available, Naked Conversations is still one of the all-time top-selling books about blogging.

Publishing Talk: Blog, Widget & Facebook

PubtalkPublishing Talk is the name of a blog I've subscribed to for quite awhile now.  Highly recommended.  My thanks to Krisan Matthews of The Publishing Curve blog for pointing out that Publishing Talk is much more than just a blog.  There's also a Facebook group as well as a discussion board.  And, I just added their feed widget to my own blog (look in the right panel).  If you've got a Facebook account you ought to join the group...and if you don't have a Facebook account you need to get one today!  When you get there, look me up and send me a friend invitation so we can build a strong publishing network.