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31 posts from January 2008

Citizen Soldiers, by Stephen E. Ambrose

Citizen_soldiersCall me a late bloomer but I never had much of an interest in history or World War II until fairly recently.  The light went on for me after I read Playing with the Enemy by Gary Moore.  Shortly after finishing that book I asked a good friend of mine, who happens to be a history buff, what he recommends for me to read next.  I was looking for a great overview of the war but something that felt engaging and doesn't read like a text book.  He suggested Stephen Ambrose's Citizen Soldiers and I'm glad he did.

The thing that makes Citizen Soldiers so special is that Ambrose spent so much time and effort interviewing so many WWII vets.  You truly get a feel for the horror they went through and the challenges they faced.  What an incredible generation indeed.  The interviews and excerpts that are liberally spread throughout the entire book give you the feeling that you're right there chatting with these heroes.  Now that I've finished reading it I need to check back in with my buddy to see what he recommends next, although it's hard to imagine any other book that could stack up to this one.

Good Enough

TataIndia's Tata Motors has been getting a lot of publicity lately thanks to their recently announced "People's Car."  When you see pictures of families of 4, 5 or more traveling together on a scooter you quickly realize that India is an excellent target market for a sub-$3,000 car.

I can't help but think that GM, Ford, etc., are looking down their noses at Tata and laughing, figuring there's no way a car like this would ever be allowed in the U.S. thanks to our stringent safety standards.  That's too bad because I'd like to buy one even if I only used it for my 3-mile commute to work each day.   I'm toying with the idea of riding a bike 2 or 3 times per week this summer; no matter how flimsy the People's Car is I've got to believe it's no more dangerous than a 10-speed bike (or a scooter or a motorcycle) on those same roads!

So what does all this have to do with publishing?  It's all about what's considered "good enough."  In this case, the People's Car will definitely be good enough for quite a few people in India and will be considered an upgrade from the family scooter.  If someone could come up with a sub-$3,000 car for the U.S. it would likely turn the auto industry on its ear.

In the publishing world, "good enough" has been defined again and again by Google and all the free content that's readily discoverable today.  I can try to kid myself that our $40 book will always be preferred over the free alternative because of the "quality content" and "editorial rigor" we apply, but in reality, plenty of people feel the free alternatives are good enough and that's all that matters.

I enjoy the challenge of creating new products that customers will want to spend money on.  As publishers it keeps us honest and forces us to constantly work to improve our offerings.  I hope the big auto manufacturers feel the same way.  It would be easy for them to hide behind all the federal regulations and effectively lobby to prevent a product like the People's Car from ever seeing the light of day here, which would be unfortunate.

SharedBook Rocks

SharedbookIf you haven't heard of SharedBook you should visit their site and see what they have to offer.  I mentioned their Blog2Print service in this post last month.  Yesterday they announced a new deal with Random House which will enable customers to create a personalized version of The Poky Little Puppy, one of the bestselling children's books of all time.  I somehow missed this SharedBook/FanBook announcement from last month; they've created another service for sports fans to create customized books of their own.  It's limited to a small number of schools for now, but imagine how big this could be when they expand it in the future.  (They recently added Ohio State, so all those Buckeye fans can now go out and create customized books of the various national championship games they've lost over the past couple of years!)

SharedBook refers to it as their "Reverse Publishing Platform."  The Random House deal is a book customization program.  FanBook is a huge step beyond that and is really a mashup tool that lets you create your own book from a variety of content sources.  Think about what this model might look like in the future if every type of magazine, newspaper, book, online and offline content source was available through it...  I think their tagline says it all: "Made Any Good Books Lately?"

Very cool.  Be sure to check out SharedBook's blog as well.

Knowledge for Generations -- Wiley's 200th Anniversary Publication

Knowledgeforgenerations_coverWiley's 200th anniversary was marked with a series of celebrations around the globe last year.  Now that we're into the 201st year there's a beautiful new publication to mark the first 200 years of the organization.  It's called Knowledge for Generations and I took some time to flip through my copy last night.

What's really cool about this is that it's not just a static book that sits on a shelf.  There's also a website where friends and colleagues are asked to post their own stories about Wiley.  Go here to see the stories currently posted and here to write a post of your own.  PDFs are also available for the Preface and two chapters (here and here).

"We're #26!, We're #26!"

Junta42It's not exactly the rallying cry of a championship team but I was pleased to see my Publishing 2020 blog came in at #26 on Junta42's premier list of the "Top 42 Content Marketing Blogs."  I wonder if that means my colleagues here at Wiley will consider me an honorary marketer...

Other noteworthy blogs on the list include:

#2    WebInkNow, by bestselling Wiley author David Meerman Scott

#22, Made to Stick, the Heath brothers blog, authors of the excellent book by the same name

#28, Brand Autopsy, another one of my favorites, by author John Moore