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24 posts from March 2008

eBook Reporter Blog

EbookIf you're interested in following developments in the ebook market there's a new blog you should check out.  It's called eBook Reporter and it's written by Jim LaRoche.  You might remember Jim's name from this earlier post I wrote about his BlogBook service and how he used it to create Joe2Go, the conversion of my blog archives into PDF and Kindle formats.

Jim just launched eBook Reporter earlier this month but already has several insightful posts about the industry like this one, which points to eInk as the likely culprit for the Kindle shipment delays.  Be sure to grab his RSS feed.

PodiobooksI love discovering new content delivery services.  That's why when I read about Podiobooks in a recent issue of Blogger & Podcaster magazine I couldn't resist checking it out.  I'm glad I did.  Podiobooks is a very cool service that lets you listen to audio books in podcast format.  You find a title that sounds interesting and subscribe to it like you would any other RSS feed.

According to their site, there are currently 190 titles available and more than 42,000 members of the service.  Here's another interesting tidbit: All the podiobooks are free.  A donation model is used where authors receive 75% of whatever amount you want to offer.

As a standalone content platform for new (and not so new) authors, my hope is that services like Podiobooks will join forces with companies like AuthorHouse, Dog Ear Publishing and the upcoming Smashwords.  All of these outfits typically feature non-exclusivity in their author agreements, so it makes sense for them to form some sort of alliance where an author can have their content distributed in print, online or via audio syndication.

Microsoft's Channel 9 Interviews Mary Jo Foley

Microsoft_20Tech industry journalist and Wiley author Mary Jo Foley usually spends her time interviewing people about Microsoft.  This time, though, the team at Microsoft's Channel 9 turned the tables and interviewed Mary Jo (see it here).  It's a rare opportunity to see how a real pro goes about her job.

Mary Jo talks a bit about the difference between being a reporter and a blogger and also gives more background on her upcoming book, Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft Plans to Stay Relevant in the Post-Gates Era, which is due to hit shelves next month.  I've been fortunate enough to read Mary Jo's manuscript as it came in and I thoroughly enjoyed it, both as a tech enthusiast and someone who's curious to see where Microsoft is heading after Gates steps down.  Highly recommended.

Borders Moving Further Away from the Long Tail

BordersBorders CEO George Jones continues to tinker with the bookseller's approach and in-store experience.  The new concept store design previewed last month and now Borders is announcing plans to feature more titles face-out on the shelves, resulting in fewer titles in each store.

I like the fact that it should help increase sell-through of many of those face-out titles but I hope they don't cut back too far on the rest of their inventory.  This strategy focuses on selling more products to people already in the store but doesn't really offer any incentive to drive more traffic to the store.  It's always a good idea to try and sell more to your existing customers, but what's being done to draw in new ones?  The kiosks and other media center elements of the concept store design might help, but will that be enough?  B&N will no doubt start touting the breadth and depth advantage they'll have over Borders.  Once this change at Borders is complete, customers are likely to equate B&N with "more titles" and Borders with "attractive shelves."  If those are the two distinguishing factors I know which one I'd lean towards for destination purchases.

The worst thing that could happen in all this is for more Borders customers to start leaving empty-handed because the title they're looking for isn't in stock.  So rather than focus exclusively on the shelves customers see, I think it's important for Borders to also consider their back-office area.  How effectively are those in-store receiving and storage areas managed?  Are there opportunities to maintain an inventory of some of the second- and third-tier books they're looking to drop?

Perhaps it's time to look at all the available real estate in the store and come up with some innovative ways to maintain broad selection while still moving to this face-out model.  After all, it's better for a customer to discover a book is in the store (but not on the shelf) via a kiosk or clerk than to walk away without making a purchase, right?

The Big Switch, by Nicholas Carr

The_big_switchNick Carr is the author who made a big splash a few years ago with the controversial book Does IT Matter?  CIOs and computer geeks around the world were irritated by Carr's suggestion that IT no longer offers organizations a competitive advantage.  Interesting concept, but I never bought into it either.

Don't let that turn you off from Carr's latest book, The Big Switch.  I finished reading it earlier this week and found it to be a very interesting and well-researched work.  Carr's premise this time is that the world of computers has much in common with the history and evolution of electricity.  The Big Switch taught me a lot about development of that wall outlet we take for granted; although that might sound like a boring subject, Carr makes it engaging and really caused the light in my head to go on (no pun intended) with his analogy to the computer industry.

Have you ever had e-mail problems at your office?  Maybe the main server goes down or some other unusual event occurs, causing you to lose your e-mail/web connection.  It happens just about everywhere at some point.  But have you noticed how reliable a service like Gmail is?  I'm pretty sure that in the 5+ years I've been using Gmail I've never run into a service outage.  Ever.

That's one of the points in The Big Switch: Just like when companies who used to generate their own power eventually switched over to central power stations as they started to appear, many of the services provided by your company's IT department (e-mail, storage, etc.) should be instead be outsourced and centralized for greater efficiencies and reliability.

It all comes down to having your organization focus on doing what it does best and outsourcing the rest.  Sure, you might have a great IT department today, but can it really compete with the service levels, reliability and cost structure of some of the better outsource solutions?  Even if this doesn't result in a dramatic, wholesale shift in the long term, it's clear that it makes a lot of sense for select applications and will continue to become a more viable approach going forward.  Hmmm...maybe Carr was right all along and IT really doesn't matter!

Very good book.  Highly recommended.