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Thinking "instead about the future of reading"

Tiger StadiumI spent part of this past weekend in Detroit with my son attending Game One of the Stanley Cup Finals.  As Penguins fans the game was a bummer, but as a father and son road trip it produced a host of memories we'll have the rest of our lives.  So what in the world does this have to do with the business of publishing?

See that picture on the left?  It's a shot of what's left of glorious old Tiger Stadium, also in Detroit.  Click on it to blow it up and see just how sad the image is.  We're talking about a stadium where Ty Cobb and other Tiger greats once played.

As I considered that scene Sunday morning I couldn't help but think of the publishing industry.  For some reason it also reminded me of this recent Wired article by Clive Thompson.  The key quote is:

We need to stop thinking about the future of publishing and think instead about the future of reading.

So true.  We spend so much time thinking about how to port from print to e- and other quick-and-dirty solutions.  We're so focused on how publishing works today and not spending enough time thinking about how reading has changed over the past several years and how it's likely to evolve in the future.

Here's a subtle example.  At the recent BEA conference Smashwords founder Mark Coker had an interesting exchange with a Penguin executive.  (That's "Penguin" as in the publishing company, not the hockey team, btw!)  I retweeted his summary of how the exec asked if Smashwords supports DRM, Mark said "no", and the exec asked if he'd like his card back.  Nice.

The Penguin exec is focused on the current state (and what he thinks will be the future) of publishing, not the future of reading.  DRM is the technology equivalent of a dead man walking.  Customers don't like it and they don't want it, so why continue pushing it?  DRM is not about the future of reading.

Publishers who focus on things like DRM and not on the future of reading will struggle mightily in the future, and the future is already happening.  Those who get too caught up in the way they want things to work rather than what readers want had better change soon.


Book Calendar

The future of reading is not so bad. People are starting to read more again. I think it is partially because of the deep fascination with gadgets. There are all the latest toys; kindle, iphone, sony reader, and others. Plus reading is cheap entertainment. This is the NEA article. I hope the uptrend continues.

Madison McGraw "Girl Arsonist"

I'm afraid I may have something to do with the Pens shoddy performance. I've been the kiss of death for every NHL team that I've rooted for the in playoffs. As a Flyers fan and 'underdog' fan, I thought it would be nice to see the Pens win (then we could say we were knocked out by the Champs). Sorry.

Publishing Goliaths are burying their heads in the sand regarding DRM and eBook pricing.

A group of concerned Kindle owners speak every day on the Boycott Anything Over 9.99 Amazon Discussion Boards. The group is up to 416 participants (and that doesn't include those silent readers).

We email authors and publishers when we discover that their eBooks are selling at inflated prices. Most authors respond to us quickly and kindly - and most author admit they have no idea how the 'pricing' works.

Goliath Publishers have never bothered to reply.

Variance Publishing, a small publisher, responded immediately, and lowered all their digital list prices (and sent us a box of ARCs!). Needless to say, we promote and buy their books.

I find it ironic that publishers are semi acknowledging that they need to Charles Darwin it (change or die), yet, not only are they not asking readers what they want (here's an idea, stop looking at statistics and charts and TALK to consumers), they aren't listening when consumers talk.


Madison McGraw "Girl Arsonist"

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