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19 posts from October 2008

And the Survey Says...Publishers Ignoring eReaders

Survey Here's some disturbing news I read earlier this morning.  It's from a survey conducted by the organizers of the Frankfurt Book Fair and it has to do with the future of our industry.  I was stunned to read that "60 percent of publishers who answered a questionnaire neither use e-readers themselves nor download the e-books which can be read on the devices or on computers."  Wow.

Regardless of your opinions about the current generation of e-readers, you owe it to yourself and your career to invest in one and get familiar with it.  Owning a Kindle has had a significant impact on how I view our industry.  It's also sparked a number of new product ideas I never would have envisioned without hands-on e-reader experience.

Perhaps this weak e-reader interest is a function of industry hubris.  I'll be the first to admit that print may never die but I'm always amazed when I come across yet another publisher/editor who feels e-content will never take off.

That probably helps explain another statistic that jumped out at me in this survey: Only 14% think publishers could vanish someday.  I'll bet there's 100% overlap between the respondents in that 14% and the 40% from above who actually use e-readers!

Repurposed Content in the eWorld

Books4 Here's a great article from The New York Times about creating derivative works from existing products.  Although that sort of thing happens all the time, the key here is to think of the e-content opportunities.  Creating compilations, greatest hits, and similar products in the physical world involves a cost-of-goods component which not only increases the expense but also adds to the risk.  That's not the case in the e-world.

Regardless of whether it's for the Kindle, Sony Reader or some other device, every editor and publisher should inspect their product lines for new revenue streams like this.  And while the starting point is your existing content inventory, I think it's even more important to use this as a lens through which to view your future content acquisition plans.  How might those plans change if you're able to create additional derivative works with them?

Heading to O'Reilly

OreillyI'm not the type of person who changes jobs very often.  In fact, I've only switched three times in a 25-year career and every time I've wound up staying longer at the next job than I did at the previous one.

So after almost 10 years at Wiley (including 3 with IDG/Hungry Minds) I recently made the decision to join O'Reilly (here's the press release).  I can't say enough good things about the wonderful folks at Wiley; it's an outstanding organization loaded with passionate, talented professionals.  I've often heard people use the same words to describe the O'Reilly organization, btw.

Although it was tough leaving all my Wiley colleagues last Friday I can't tell you how excited I am to join the O'Reilly team.  I'm sure I'll be drinking from the fire hose at first, so wish me luck as I embark on this new journey.

P.S. -- Publishing 2020 and Kindleville will both live on as I plan to continue blogging.  Stay tuned for future posts related to my new role at O'Reilly...

Where Is Everybody?


I stopped by the local Borders concept store last night and was delighted to see quite a few customers on the scene.  Earlier in the year I was concerned about traffic levels but that's before several of the other stores in the new mall opened around it.  Last night featured plenty of reading, browsing and buying activity throughout the store...except for one key section....

The tech kiosk area, where you can download MP3's, research your family tree and test drive Sony's eReader was a dead zone.  Nobody was there.  No employees and not a single customer other than myself.  I probably wandered around in there for 10-15 minutes and never saw a soul.

I believe this means two things.  First, if this store is any example, people go to bookstores for books, not technology.  That's got to be a disappointing reality for Borders but I also think there may be a way to address the problem, which leads to my second point.

"If you build it, they will come" only works in the movies.  If they really want to succeed Borders needs to do something beyond just making all this technology available in the store.  Where are the in-store events (e.g., come let us help you research your family name, come see the latest e-book technologies, etc.)?  How about signage in other areas of the store that promotes the tech kiosk area?  I didn't see evidence of either last night and I can't see how they'll build any buzz for this without events/promos.

Sorting Out the Cesspool with Brands

Coca cola Google CEO Eric Schmidt recently said the following to a gathering of magazine executives: "Brands are the solution, not the problem.  Brands are how you sort out the cesspool."

You don't have to be a genius to realize that brands are every bit as important in the online world as they are in the physical/print world.  I don't disagree with what Schmidt has to say, but I think he neglected to make a very important point: Fresh, new online brands can be created in record time and that's a critical difference from the print world.  For example, I read Time magazine (on my Kindle) but I never go to  I also still have a print subscription to Fast Company magazine but I never go to their website either.  It's tough to admit but in a customer's mind sometimes a brand only means "print" or "online", but not both.

I'm assuming the meeting's attendees included representation from all of the major magazine brands. And while each of those brands have significant equity in both print and online any one of them could easily be toppled with the a slightly different mix of content or community engagement, for example.

The key isn't just that brands are important, as any Marketing 101 student already knows.  What's critical is figuring out (a) how (and even if!) your print brand can also be an engaging online brand and (b) how to continuously reinvest in that brand to stay ahead of the rapidly evolving online competitors and upstarts.  It's foolish to assume that your well-known print brand will automatically draw loads of interest online.