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Digital Publishing on Digital Publishing

If you're familiar with O'Reilly's TOC conference you know that we hosted our fifth annual U.S.-based event earlier this year.  You might also know that we're scheduled to host our third Frankfurt event later this year and we also held our first Bologna event back in March.

TOC is a global phenomenon, but it's mostly been limited to in-person events up to now.  Conference co-chair Kat Meyer, the rest of the TOC team and I are working to build the brand out further, turning it into a year-round platform that encourages and embraces change in the publishing industry.  Webcasts are one type of TOC extension and you may have read my earlier post about our new SneakPeek series; I expect to formally launch this free webcast series later this week as the first event is scheduled for late May.  I'll be back shortly to provide details and registration info.  (UPDATE: Our first TOC SneakPeek webcast takes place at 1ET/10PT next Tuesday, May 31st.  Register here for this free event.)

In addition to in-person events and webcasts we're also assembling a terrific lineup of short-form content written by some of the most innovative thinkers in the business.  We haven't even announced these on our website, but look for the following projects later this summer:

Breaking the Page: A Digital Document Design Guide, but Pete Meyers.   A fresh, elemental look at how screen-based publications work, the kinds of material they can and should contain and how to assemble all this new stuff in a package that's entertaining and compelling.

Book: A Futurist's Manifesto, by Hugh McGuire and Brian O'Leary.  A collection of essays from thought leaders and practitioners about the bleeding-edge of publishing.

Every Book Is a Startup, by Todd Sattersten. Most books for authors are focused on how to get published. This product covers how publishing works so writers can make better decisions about what route they should take.

Unlike traditional books, these won't be 300-400 page products that are out-of-date the moment they come off the printer.  As Microsoft is fond of saying, we're "eating our own dog food" with these; we're applying some of the innovation described within them to our own publishing model and toolchain:

All of these titles will be "digital first."  That means we're creating them to be e-products first and possibly print products second.  Readers will have a much richer experience with the e-versions of these titles.  That said, we're making print-on-demand versions available for two of the three for anyone who still insists on a physical copy.  (Breaking the Page is the exception here as it will be four-color and there's no cost effective POD option...yet.)

We're publishing each of these in a serial fashion.  Once we have enough content to create a "minimum viable product" we'll make it available for purchase.  As the authors write more of the content, we'll add it to the earlier version of the title.  Customers who buy the e-versions direct on oreilly.com will receive email notifications when updates are available for download.  This approach enables us to offer the first pieces of each work before the entire project is complete.

We'll offer the "minimum viable product" version at a lower price, then increase the price as we add more content.  Here's my favorite part: Customers who buy early, when the least amount of content is available, will pay the least but will also get all the additional content at no extra charge.  IOW, this serial publishing model is an incentive for customers to buy early rather than wait.

We expect to learn a lot about customer behavior, preferences and e-content flexibility with these products.  We also anticipate sharing many of the results on the publishing section of our Radar blog, via TOC and here on my blog.

Keep an eye out for my follow-up post with links to product catalog pages when they're available.  In the mean time, if you've got an idea for a short-form TOC-oriented title you'd like us to consider send me the details.  This is an important component of the TOC build-out and we'd love to hear your thoughts on additional products for the publishing community.


Thomas Retterbush

I am sure interested in Breaking the Page: A Digital Document Design Guide, but Pete Meyers. As a new e-publisher myself, I am very interested how screen-based publications work.

Your new titles may be "digital first" now, but the day will come when they will be "digital only"!

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