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7 posts from November 2011

Fran Toolan of Firebrand Navigates the Challenges of Content Management

In the old days (say, 2006!) it was easy for publishers to completely handle all aspects of content management internally. Now it's more challenging thanks to seemingly ever-changing tools, specs and platforms. Firebrand Technologies founder and president Fran Toolan recently sat down with us to discuss a variety of content management topics. Key points include:

  • "Publishers can't outsource QA"  -- Regardless of what's done in-house vs. out-of-house, quality control rests squarely on the shoulders of the publisher. [Discussed at 1:00]
  • Metadata needs to move in sync with the content -- One of the more common problems Fran sees is the disconnection between metadata and the product's content. [Discussed at 2:55]
  • New formats could easily displace existing ones-- Despite the popularity of EPUB and mobi, for example, the barriers to entry for new formats are actually pretty low, particularly if we're talking about browser-supported formats. [Discussed at 3:44]
  • HTML5 is likely to win out over native apps -- Apple's walled garden approach is driving app developers away and HTML5 offers plenty of power and flexibility. [Discussed at 4:55]
  • Don't look for a one-size-fits-all solution for devices and platforms -- Just as Kindles lend themselves so well today to long-form reading and iPads more so to short-form reading, tomorrow will probably feature devices that are tailor-made for specific applications and users. [Discussed at 7:08]
  • HTML5 could very well become Amazon's "escape hatch" -- We love to complain that Amazon doesn't support EPUB but HTML5 might represent their best way forward. [Discussed at 10:30]
  • NetGalley is doing well...-- ...but I still find that most publishers don't understand the value of digital early release/review. [Discussed at 14:25
  • Rights remains a very important area publishers are overlooking-- Ebooks make it easy to quickly to sell globally but publishers aren't managing their rights effectively to track and fully leverage the opportunities. [Discussed at 17:43]

What if Every eBook Could be Returned for a Full Refund...At Any Time?

Amazon's Kindle Owners' Lending Library has been getting a lot of buzz since it was announced last week, and rightfully so. I posted my own thoughts about it as a publisher on the O'Reilly Radar blog; click here to read my opinion and the community feedback. Some supporters of the program have mentioned it will be a great way to try before you buy. In other words, borrow the book for a week or two and if you like what you read you'll probably want to buy the book, not just borrow it. I can see that happening...sometimes. But I don't think that's the best way to encourage more ebook sales.

First of all, each of the ebook vendors offer samples of books. I always download and read the sample before I make a purchase. Samples have saved me from making a number of bad purchases. But I've often found the samples are way too short to tell whether the book is right for me. That's where an unconditional, money-back guarantee should come into play.

That's right. Why not have a no-questions-asked, complete refund option for all ebooks? I'm not talking about the return-it-within-seven-days-of-purchase Amazon offers for Kindle content. That's not good enough. I want the reassurance I can get a full refund if I buy it today and don't even start reading it till a year from now but then decide it stinks.

Is that crazy? We don't think so at O'Reilly. Here's a link to The O'Reilly Guarantee. You wont' find any fine print with exclusions that limit your right to a full refund. Btw, as the publisher at O'Reilly I can tell you I see all the email exchanges between customers and our customer service team. Very few people ever ask for a refund. In fact, our customer service team sometimes offers refunds when customers don't even ask for them and most customers reject the offer.

It's interesting how this works. We stand behind our product with a very simple "absolute satisfaction" guarantee. And believe it or not, customers aren't banging down our doors asking for their money back. Why? I think it's the same reason why we've been so successful with our DRM-free stance: We trust our customers. Pretty novel concept, isn't it?

By forcing you to make your product return within 7 days of purchase that retailer is telling you they don't trust you. Perhaps they assume you're a speed reader and are just looking for a free ride by gaming the system and reading a book in less than a week. That's too bad. A little trust goes a long way. Will some customers abuse the system? Absolutely, just like they do with DRM-free content. But the vast majority will not only do the right thing, they'll also become more loyal to you because you trust them.