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22 posts from May 2008

Chapters on Demand

Wrox2There have been countless times over the past several years when customers have asked us, "hey, how come I have to buy the entire book when all I really want are these 3 chapters?"  This is a pretty popular question when you're standing in the WROX booth at a developer's conference, for example.  Well, I'm happy to say that we now have a product for that situation and it's called Chapters on Demand.

The service launched yesterday and there are currently 47 titles available in PDF format, most selling for $4.99 each.  That's about 900 chapters that are available immediately and we've got another 800 chapters (from 37 other titles) that will be added shortly.

My favorite part of this: We're selling all this e-content without the use of traditional DRM.  I say "traditional" because we're using more of a social DRM solution where we inject the customer's name in the footer of the PDF.  Print it.  Use it on however many devices you want to.  Just don't release it into the wild.  Is this hack-proof?  Of course not, but what is?  The key is that we want to make this a very attractive product for our customers and we believe this is the right approach.

For more details, see this post on Jim Minatel's blog.  Btw, Jim and the rest of the team did a fantastic job implementing this great service -- congrats to everyone involved!

Amazon Reviews and Ratings

Amazon_blackThe Bivings Report recently wrote a very insightful blog post where they ask the question, "Are Amazon Comments Truly Helpful?"  It caused me to stop and realize that I've rarely, if ever, used reader comments to help decide whether or not to buy a particular book.  I'm not even sure the overall 5-star rating influences my purchase decision.  Btw, every time I write a book review here on the Publishing 2020 blog I cut-and-paste it onto the book's Amazon page.  Now I'm wondering why.

Perhaps my problem is that I tend to be a destination buyer.  I generally know what I want, I find it, and I buy it.  I'm more swayed by the description the author/publisher provided than the opinions of seven strangers who (might have) read the book.  That said, I often wind up reading books that have been recommended to me by friends and colleagues, people I trust.

So where's that filter option on Amazon?  Why can't I provide a list of trusted friends and colleagues and have a separate system that just shows their reviews and ratings?  Sure, it works best with larger numbers of friends/colleagues, but I'll bet there are plenty of reviews from people I know that I've never come across on Amazon.  That's a shame (as well as a lost sale).

One last point about the Bivings post...  It's funny how the vast majority of customer reviews are 5-stars.  I'll bet the reviews I posted follow this same pattern, partially for the first reason cited.  In fact, if I don't enjoy a book after 20 or 30 pages I generally put it aside and never pick it up again.  I can only think of two times that I've actually written scathing reviews of books on my blog (and Amazon); in one case I suffered through the entire book and in the other I couldn't make it past chapter 1.

DailyLit's Wikipedia Tours

Daily_litI love it when a company takes action on a community-generated product idea.  Three short months ago I wrote this blog post about an opportunity for someone to build a new content delivery model around the Wikipedia.  That "someone" turned out to be DailyLit, an organization that already had the infrastructure in place to deliver the content model I described.

Earlier today, DailyLit President & CEO Susan Danziger announced the new Wikipedia Tours service.  They're launching with 10 different subjects including Wonders of the World, Famous Inventors and one I already signed up for, Presidents of the United States.  All of the products are currently free, but as I mentioned in that earlier post, I think they could eventually monetize some (if not all) of them.

Kudos to Susan and her team for quickly adding this service to the DailyLit product line!

Inside Steve's Brain, by Leander Kahney

Inside_steve_brainInside Steve's Brain was a fun and fast read.  Author Leander Kahney did a fantastic job summarizing the thought processes Apple CEO Steve Jobs has gone through over the years.  Whether it was the start-up period with Woz, when Jobs got tossed out of his own company, his time building NeXT and his subsequent return to Apple, it's all covered here.  This is particularly remarkable given the small size of this book (less than 300 pages).

I'm not an Apple fan but this is the second Jobs-related book I've read in the past several months.  The other one was Option$, the parody by Fake Steve Jobs.  While Option$ was more entertaining, of course, Kahney's book is quite engaging as well.  His writing style makes you feel you were right there in the garage, the office or the boardroom setting he's currently describing.

Here are a few of my favorite excerpts:

British comedian Charlie Booker said..."If you truly believe you need to pick a mobile phone that 'says something' about your personality, don't bother.  You don't have a personality.  A mental illness, maybe -- but not a personality."

Regarding Apple employees...Despite the zeal, employees are distinctly un-cultish.  They consciously avoid the cultish types.  At a job interview, the worst thing a prospective employee can say is: "I've always wanted to work at Apple," or "I've always been a big fan."

To explain why employees and coworkers put up with him (Jobs), critics invoke the Stockholm Syndrome.  His employees are captives who have fallen in love with their captor.

The (Apple) stores are insanely profitable.  One Apple store can make as much money as six other stores in the same mall combined -- and can pull in almost the same revenue as a big Best Buy store, but with only 10% of the floor space.

"We said, we want our stores to create an ownership experience for the customer," explained (Apple's Ron) Johnson.  The store should be about the lifetime of the product, not the moment of the transaction.

Celebrity Merchandising

Lightbulb_2While browsing through a local Borders store I noticed a special shelf in the sports section.  The shelf display read "Mike & Mike Picks" and it featured a handful of books, presumably some of the favorites of Greeny and Golic from ESPN's Mike & Mike in the Morning.

I'm a big fan of the show so I couldn't stop myself from spending a few extra minutes giving these books a good looking over.  Then it dawned on me.  What a brilliant idea, but why isn't Borders doing more of this?

Why aren't there a couple of shelves in the politics section, say, one for Bill O'Reilly's picks and another for Rush Limbaugh's?  How about one in the cooking section with Giada De Laurentiis's favorite books?  The possibilities are endless.  And just because every one of these celebrities also has a book or two (or more) of their own, don't assume they wouldn't recommend others; after all, Greeny has a book of his own too and yet he's part of the Mike & Mike combo.

The idea isn't just limited to could be built around other brands as well.  For example, "Sports Illustrated Picks" for sports books or "Expedia Picks" for travel guides.  Again, there are a lot of interesting ways to build this out.

So what's in it for the celeb or the brand?  First of all, visibility.  It's certainly not a bad thing to have the "Mike & Mike" name in Borders, reminding sports fans of the radio show.  Secondly, there are other cross-promotional opportunities.  Borders could (and should) feature these "picks" lists on their website, include links to the celeb/brand and insist on reciprocity; after all, it's also good for Borders to get visibility on the Mike & Mike site as well as any others they'd enlist.  Finally, if that's what it takes to get some of the big names involved, I think the bookstore should consider giving the celeb/brand a small cut of the transaction, especially if part of the deal calls for that celeb/brand to help promote the Borders name.

I'm curious to see whether this becomes nothing more than a one-time deal limited to Mike & Mike or if Borders will leverage it into a broader promotional vehicle throughout the store.