Previous month:
May 2009
Next month:
July 2009

9 posts from June 2009

The Blurb Solution

Thirteen My Poems A good friend of mine was recently telling me about her (almost) 13 year-old daughter and her poetry.  She told me I needed to read some of these poems to believe them.  (They're so good, in fact, that her teacher thought she plagiarized them; I thought you were presumed innocent till proven guilty in this country!)  She also wanted to know how she could go about trying to get them published.

I told her I knew nothing about the poetry publishing world, but that they'd have to either find some publishers to approach or a good agent to represent them...or, they could just go the self-publishing route.  I gave her information on a couple of options and she wound up choosing Blurb.  Within a very short period of time, my friend had her daughter's poems loaded into Blurb and ready for sale.

Self-publishing rocks!  Where else could an (almost) 13 year-old get their poems published, virtually overnight?!  And btw, her mom is right.  See for yourself by reading a couple of the poems in her new book, Thirteen: My Poems.  Use Blurb's preview feature to read the one called "I Tried to Touch the Sky" and tell me this kid doesn't have remarkable talent!

The author's name is Annie Mackowick and it just so happens that tomorrow, June 11th, is her 13th birthday.  I'm about to order a copy of this one for myself.  If you'd like to make an aspiring author's 13th birthday extra special, be sure to order a copy of your own.

P.S. -- I have no financial interest in this.  It's just my way of helping spread the word for a great service (Blurb) as well as an up-and-coming author.

"Gutenberg 2.0"

Gutenberg "Gutenberg 2.0"  That's what this article calls the future vision from BEA.  It's worth reading but I feel compelled to add my two cents on a few points:

One said the recording industry shot itself in the foot by not releasing singles in compact-disc format, accelerating the shift to downloading.

I think they're suggesting the music industry could have averted disaster by just selling singles CDs in brick-and-mortar stores.  I have a hard time believing that.  The music business wasn't affected so much by the need for the granularity of content as it was by the immediate gratification of e-distribution.  IOW, a bunch of singles on CDs in your local music store  wouldn't have stopped the Napster tsunami.

The article goes on to say that sales of individual chapters will help the book publishing industry avoid the same fate.  Although I think there's an opportunity for e-chapter sales I'm starting to believe that opportunity has plenty of limits.  Certain genres simply don't lend themselves to it but others certainly do.  The more important point is that quick print to e- conversions aren't likely to move the needle much, and simply selling print chapters in e-format falls into that category.

...(Symtio is) an alternative to Amazon, which with its Kindle reader represents a "closed marketplace." Users can buy its e-books only at the website.

The Kindle is viewed as a closed marketplace but that's starting to change, no thanks to Amazon! At O'Reilly we sell e-book bundles of our titles which include Kindle editions in .mobi format with no DRM.  So in this case, the publisher has established its own e-storefront.  Kindle owners don't have to go to to buy Kindle content.  Other (smart) publishers are likely to follow suit.  I also expect to see other non-publisher e-storefronts pop up to serve Kindle owners with paid content (think Feedbooks, but for paid content).

One galley that seemed to exemplify several trends was for "Level 26," the first "digi-novel" from Anthony E. Zuiker.  Every 15 to 20 pages, Zuiker tells the reader to log into to access a "cyberbridge" video that builds off the printed product.

That's asking a lot of the reader.  I also worry about the mixed media solution.  Someone reading a print book probably doesn't want to go back and forth between the book and a computer screen.  The better approach is to turn this into a 100% e-product, not one that straddles the fence between print and e-.  It sounds like a product that's tailor made for, btw.

Google Wave and Publishing

Google Wave Have you heard about Google Wave?  It's been described as "how email would work if it were invented today."  So instead of simply tacking on new features to existing email clients, Google Wave offers a clean slate approach.  In fact, it looks like Google Wave will offer a new, intuitive way of communicating while still using some of the email/IM/etc. features you've grown to know and love; IOW, it will offer the best of both worlds.

Think about this now in publishing terms.  The Sony Reader is just a convenient way to access books in electronic form.  The Kindle took it up a notch by enabling wireless delivery of more content forms, not just books but also magazines and newspapers, for example.  At the end of the day though, both of these products still mostly re-render print content in e-form.  They don't do much to fully leverage the e-platform, mostly because they're working with content that was built for print, not e-use.

What the publishing industry needs is a product like Google Wave more fully leverages e-content capabilities while still supporting all of the useful features of print.  If you haven't watched the Google Wave demo from last week's Google I/O you need to (see below); and even if you can't spare the almost 90 minutes the full demo/keynote required, just watch the first 10-12 minutes and you'll have a good feel for this amazing service.  And when you watch it, think about how an approach like the one used for Google Wave would create an enormous splash in the publishing industry (books, magazines, newspapers, etc.)

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.