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25 posts from July 2008

The First iPhone 3G Book on a Kindle

Iphone 3g portable genius I'm pretty sure the picture on the left (click to enlarge) is a first.  Correct me if I'm wrong but I believe I'm the only person on the planet with an iPhone 3G book on their Kindle.  That's one of the many benefits of working for the publisher that produced it though, right?

Actually, this one didn't come from my group.  The book is called iPhone 3G Portable Genius and it was produced by Barry Pruett's team here at Wiley, in record time, I might add.  The print edition should appear in stores shortly and the Kindle edition will likely be available sometime this week.

Congrats to Barry, his editorial team as well as the marketing and sales teams for making this exciting project happen in such a short period of time.

One Very Happy iPhone 3G eReader

Iphone 3G The new iPhone's eReader has been referred to as a potential killer app, not that the iPhone really needs one.  Having seen one in action I'm not sure this app will kill other cell phone sales as much as it will simply give iPhone owners a very good reason to pass on the Kindle.  I can't picture many prospective customers saying, "wow, that eReader app is the reason I'm going with the iPhone 3G and not the xyz phone."  On the other hand, I can definitely see iPhone 3G owners saying, "why should I spend another $350 on a Kindle when I get a reading experience that's 'good enough' with eReader on my iPhone?"

Here's an excellent review of the app from Joe Hutsko over on Salon.  He notes that the lack of a backlit display is one of his biggest gripes against the Kindle.  Another reader of Hutsko's post beat me to the punch by stating why the Kindle is backlit-free.  To be blunt, backlit displays are harder on your eyes and the eInk technology is all about reading comfort.  That's why my eyes go nuts after a couple of hours of working on my laptop but I can read all day on my Kindle with no discomfort whatsoever.  Sure, you need a separate light source for the Kindle but I rarely find myself needing to read in the dark.

Given the choice between a Kindle and an iPhone 3G I'd still go for the Kindle.  I'll read a Mobi book from my Blackberry in a pinch but I wouldn't want that to be my primary reading device.  It's too darned small and so is the iPhone screen.  Heck, there are times when I think the Kindle screen is a tad bit too small, but it's still a far better reading experience than any other e-reading device I've seen so far.  I'm also starting to realize that multi-purpose devices aren't always the best solution; I'd prefer the larger screen of the Kindle even though it means I have yet another gadget to lug around.

P.S. -- On a related note, here's a formal announcement of Sony's decision to embrace the EPub format.  The net result is that Sony Reader owners will have more content alternatives than just the Sony store.  It's a good idea for Sony but I don't think it's a compelling reason for customers to pick their Reader over the Kindle.

Lessons Learned from myebook and LinkedIn

Lightbulb myebook and LinkedIn...  What could these two operations have in common?  Actually, although you're probably already familiar with LinkedIn, you ought to pay a quick visit to myebook.  It's a service I recently discovered and it's currently in a beta stage.

Recent announcements by both companies got me thinking more about implications for the book publishing world.  Both of them have to do with applying new social networking tricks to old businesses like content.  First up, LinkedIn...

LinkedIn recently announced an intriguing partnership with The New York Times.  If you're like me you use a networking service like LinkedIn from time to time but don't find it to be all that sticky of a site.  I'm either accepting a contact link-up request or I'm searching for someone in my existing contacts list.  Either way, I'm in and out in a matter of seconds.  The New York Times deal is interesting because it should help improve LinkedIn's stickiness factor.  I'm more likely to stay on their site if I'm reading and exchanging relevant headlines with colleagues and friends.  Newspapers are fighting for their very existence these days, so it makes sense for the Times to test this model.  If it's a valid experiment for a newspaper, why not a magazine, or...books?  Hold that thought.

Let's shift gears to myebook for a moment.  Their service is pretty cut and dry.  Anyone can create their own e-book for others to read.  The reader interface is both amusing and annoying; yes, it's fun to replicate the page-flipping experience on-screen but is that really such a critical component of the print book that we should feel compelled to preserve in the e-book experience?  myebook offers many of the same features you'll find with a few other e-book platforms but, just like with the LinkedIn example earlier, it's the social networking feature set that captures my attention.  Two of the buttons at the bottom of the myebook interface are "view comments" and "send to a friend".

Where are the "view comments" and "send to a friend" buttons on my Kindle?  They don't exist, at least not with Kindle 1.0.  But why shouldn't I be able to take pieces of the book I'm reading and send them along to my friends with Kindles for their review?  And all those notes and comments I've already embedded in some of my Kindle books/newspapers/magazines...why can't I share those with my Kindle friends as well?

Think of the new monetization models and reading models that could come from this.  What if you could gain access to a well-known person's thoughts when reading a book they already read?  For example, I love listening to Jim Rome do his spiel about the sporting scene.  I'll bet he reads a lot of sports-releated articles and books throughout the year.  Would I pay a bit more to have access to the comments he had about those same articles/books as I'm reading them?  Yes.  It would be an extension of his show and brand and plenty of fans would pay for access.  That's just one example though.  You could come up with countless ones in the world of sports, movie/TV stars, politicians and other celebrities.  Mark Cuban is another great example.  I don't always agree with him but the guy is brilliant.  I'd love to get into his head and hear what he says about some of the things we've both read.

I'm using the Kindle as the device example but this applies to any sort of e-book model.  Layered content will be part of the evolution from print to better e-content, but social networking functionality will be equally important.  Without taking these sorts of giant leaps forward isn't an e-book nothing more than a print book without the dead tree?

10 Free Passes to Publishing Teleseminar on 7/30


Larry Genkin of Larstan Publishing recently brought an offer to me that I wanted to pass along to readers of my Publishing 2020 blog.  Larry is doing a teleseminar called Surviving the Inescapable Print Publishing Ad Decline: What Print Publisher's Must Do To Stay Relevant & Thrive in Tomorrow's New Media Publishing World. Although the standard price is $195 for the 90-minute session he's offering 10 free passes to readers of Publishing 2020.  The session is scheduled for 4-5:30 PM EST on Wednesday, 7/30/08.

If you're interested, send me a quick e-mail with your contact information and I'll pass it along to Larry.  This is limited to the first 10 people who reply to this post.  (For the record, I'm not receiving any sort of fee or other compensation for this...I'm just trying to pass along a free opportunity to what appears to be an interesting teleseminar.)

Jonathan Karp on Publishing's Problem

Books2 Johnathan Karp is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Twelve, an imprint of Hachette Book Group.  Karp recently wrote this OpEd piece that I came across in today's Dallas Morning News.  In it, Karp shares some of his highlights from almost 20 years in book publishing and also talks about the problems currently facing the industry.  He also shares a list of 5 ways he believes publishers can grow their business.  Since we're talking about an industry where publishing the book is often a better financial alternative to conducting formal market research, it's obvious why there are so many books produced every year.  In short, the barriers to entry have gotten smaller and smaller and ever-improving print-on-demand technologies will only help reduce them further.

Karp also notes that, "For publishers, R&D means giving authors the resources to write the best books – works that will last, because the lasting books will, ultimately, be where the money is."  The average shelf life for books in my specialty area (IT pros) is far shorter than many other areas in the bookstore, but I'm all in favor of creating more books with longer lifecycles.  R&D isn't just about what publishers can do for authors though.  In my business R&D investments are critical for us to figure out the best way to deliver content to our customers, many of which feel free online content is "good enough."  We need to continue challenging ourselves to build products that are better than "good enough" and worth the price we ask customers to pay.  That's why we've invested so much time and energy in online experiments like Chapters on Demand, WROX Blox and Sybex's TestSuccess.