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12 posts from April 2013

Why I created a Flipboard magazine

Flipboard MagazineFlipboard recently announced the ability for anyone to become a publisher on their platform. Within two weeks 500,000+ magazines were created. I created one of those and I'd like to tell you why.

Before I do that though, let me tell you how you can get my Publishing 2020 magazine. Since Flipboard isn't available as a web-based app (which is a shame) I can't just embed a link to the magazine. Here's the link Flipboard provides, but it's nothing more than a short note saying my magazine exists and to download the Flipboard app and search for "Joe Wikert" to find it. That's not the best approach so let's hope they make it easier to share magazines down the road.

Now let's talk about "why." I've said before that I'm accessing my RSS feeds less and less. I switched from Google Reader to Zite for awhile but that wasn't always the best option either. I still love to see what others in the industry find interesting though, mostly by reading what they're reading.

Twitter kind of addresses this but I find it very difficult to focus on one person's point of view via tweets. It's everyone's stream of consciousness coming at you all at once. Even with the best filters in place it always feels like you're drinking from the fire hose. And every tweet has a shelf life of seconds at best. The Flipboard interface encourages a deeper dive and even though it's presenting much of the same information it doesn't come across as having a short shelf life.

As fun as it can be to abbreviate and get creative, Twitter's 140-character limit gets in the way at times, right? I see Flipboard magazines filling a nice, comfy space between Twitter and blogs. I read articles throughout the day and some of them are tweet-worthy. But the best deserve more commentary or context than I can squeeze into 140 characters. That's where a Flipboard magazine comes in. The majority of the articles I'm adding to my Publishing 2020 Flipboard magazine also include my thoughts about the piece. Annotations are an important element of the Flipboard magazine model but, unfortunately, the Flipboard user interface makes them hard to see. That's another item I hope Flipboard fixes in an app update.

My last point has to do with my addiction to the magazine called The Week. It's one of the last magazines I still subscribe to in print (mostly because it's not available as an Android app...yet). If you're not familiar with it, The Week aggregates the best news stories and adds some commentary. It's like reading the Cliffs Notes for all the major newspapers, magazines, and websites. I'd like to think that in some small way my Flipboard magazine is doing the same for the publishing industry.

My goal is to give the publishing community another resource for industry news and analysis, all delivered conveniently and elegantly via the Flipboard interface. I hope you'll sign up and let me know what you think. Also, if you feel I've overlooked an important article, send me a link so I can read and add it to the magazine.


Best of TOC

Best of tocIt's challenging keeping up with publishing industry news and analysis. I have way too many content feeds to monitor and I'm sure you do too. We do our best to highlight the most important developments on the TOC website but you're forgiven if you fall behind or miss an article every so often.

Most of analysis on the TOC site is somewhat timeless but the blog format might not make it feel that way. That's why we gathered the best of the best articles and assembled them for you in a handy, to-go version. It's called Best of TOC: Analysis and Ideas about the Future of Publishing. More than 60 of the most thought-provoking articles from the TOC team and community are featured and it's available in EPUB, mobi and PDF formats. Best of all, it's completely free.

If you need to catch up on your TOC reading you no longer have an excuse. Download your copy today and tell us what you think.


Will we ever see a "Spotify for ebooks"?

My music buying habits have definitely changed over the years. I'm doing a lot more streaming now and rarely buying individual tracks or albums. I use Spotify but I also started using Rdio. I'm still in the free trial period for the latter and not sure which, if either, I'll end up paying for.

One question that seems to keep popping up in the ebook publishing world is, "when will a Spotify for ebooks emerge?" You could argue that a few services already offer unlimited access to free ebook content. Those services are, of course, limited in their breadth. You won't find any offering all the latest bestsellers, for example, but Spotify and other streaming music services let you listen to plenty of hits.

You could also say that Amazon already has something like this with their Kindle Owners' Lending Library program (KOLL). This service lets Amazon Prime members borrow from hundreds of thousands of ebooks with no due dates. And it's all included in the $79 annual Prime membership fee, so it's almost like a free program, assuming you joined Prime for other reasons.

I'm not convinced KOLL is the answer though. It's basically a throw-in, or an afterthought, to the Prime membership program. And while 300K+ titles is huge, I don't believe the successful "Spotify for ebooks" will focus on breadth of content; I think it will be more about narrow focus and depth of content.

I don't have much interest in an all-you-can-read ebook subscription model with a million titles, especially if it doesn't have the depth I prefer. I'll pay more for vertical subscriptions that offer me more depth. Sports and history are two of my favorite topics. Rather than paying $15/month for a broad catalog with limited depth in those two areas, I'd prefer to pay $10/month each, or $20/month total, for two separate vertical subscriptions with more titles that are likely to match my interests.

This is the type of discussion we'll have at our free webcast on Friday, April 26 at 1PM ET. The webcast is called Why the Ebook Subscription Model Might Be Right for Your Content and features Safari CEO Andrew Savikas. Be sure to register now as slots are filling up quickly. Also, attendees will be able to ask questions during the webcast but if you've got any you'd like me to put on the top of the list for Andrew please email them to me.


The future of educational publishing

The ebook revolution started with the launch of the original Kindle back in late 2007. More than 5 years later the world is now moving away from dedicated e-readers to multifunction tablets. Despite the dramatic rise in ebook sales most students are still lugging around backpacks full of heavy textbooks. Why has this sector been so slow to switch to digital? What does the future of educational publishing look like? What attributes will be required for the successful textbook publisher of the future?

Those are just a few of the questions Schilling is asking as they research their next industry white paper. If you missed their last one on author and publisher relations you can learn more about it and download it here.

Schilling is in the investigation stage for this next report on the education publishing market. They plan to publish this free report in time for TOC Frankfurt in October. If you're in the education publishing space and would like to participate in this project you can learn more about it here and sign up for an interview here. You can also obtain more details about the report in this downloadable PDF document.

I took part in the interview process for the author/publisher relations report and if you're in the education publishing space I encourage you to schedule an interview with Schilling for this project.


Content ownership and resale

Over the past few weeks we've seen some landmark decisions on whether you really own that content you bought and if you can resell it. First, in the Kirtsaeng vs. Wiley case we learned that it's OK to buy low-priced print books from overseas, ship them to the U.S. and resell them for a profit. That's a victory for the middleman entrepreneur and everyone frustrated with high-priced textbooks. Well, it's a victory till publishers raise their overseas prices to be more in line with U.S. prices, at which point students in those foreign countries lose.

Next, we have the federal ruling against ReDigi on the digital content resale front. I'm hoping ReDigi appeals but for now this means you can't sell your iTunes library, for example. That ruling is considered a victory for labels (and publishers as ReDigi is looking to move into used ebook sales) and a loss for consumers.

The simple rule appears to be you can buy your physical product from anywhere and resell it to anyone but your digital products are really only licensed to you and you can't even resell that license. Now let's add Amazon's AutoRip service to the discussion to see how it further complicates things and the dangerous precedent it sets.

If you're not familiar with AutoRip, it's a nifty way for consumers to get the digital version of CDs or albums they've bought from Amazon. It addresses the issue everyone has experienced at least once in their life: you bought the album so why can't you have the CD, cassette or MP3 version free? Not all tracks are AutoRip-eligible on Amazon; presumably Amazon got permission from the labels for AutoRip-eligible songs.

So what happens if I buy a CD from Amazon, get all the tracks into AutoRip and then sell the CD to someone else? Maybe I'll sell it via Amazon's own Marketplace service. I get to keep all the songs I originally bought, still in AutoRip, and I've paid far less for them than I probably could have in any physical or digital format. Victory for the consumer! Maybe the labels participating in AutoRip still haven't figured out most people are ripping CDs on their own and then reselling them. By participating in AutoRip they've helped the consumer avoid the ripping step and are further encouraging resale of that physical CD. A resale, I might add, that the label gets zero revenue from. At least with ReDigi the labels were able to participate in the resale revenue stream.

Now let's consider the dangerous precedent this sets. What exactly is the value of the digital content from the consumer's point of view? In the scenario above it's the price the consumer paid after netting their original CD purchase with whatever they earn on the resale of the CD. IOW, the perceived value of the content is pretty low.

What happens when AutoRip is extended into books? Buy a print book today and get the Kindle edition free. In fact, Amazon could easily give you a free Kindle edition of every print book you've ever bought from them, including ones you sold to your local used bookstore years ago. Again, a victory for the consumer. But doesn't that further erode the value the consumer places on the digital content? The ebook basically becomes a free item tossed into the deal long after you made the purchase decision. It's like floor mats for the new car.

What worries me most about this model though is how it once again keeps publishers away from establishing a direct relationship with their customers. If you really want to give the consumer a free ebook version of the print book they bought, why not bring them to your own site and get to know them? The answer to that question, of course, is publishers would have to give up DRM to provide the free ebook. So once again, we have DRM being a tool used against publishers and their ability to create a direct channel with their customers. What a shame.

P.S. -- Here's a related article on Dear Author on how DRM also prevents independent bookstores from competing in the ebook space.