books on the radio


Mocking the Amazon Kindle: Green Apple Books Delivers

Green Apple Books in San Francisco has put together two great videos playing old school books against the Amazon Kindle.

In case you’re wondering what amazing tactile – not to mention tethered – experiences the Amazon Kindle offers please check these videos for details.

Many posts on this blog advocate embracing new digital technologies and occasionally mock publishers for dragging their feet in adopting these new technologies and not making books available digitally for their customers.  Yes, I am the same guy who writes those posts, too, but recognize this: I am not in favour of brutal, clunky, exclusive, non-customer friendly technologies that cost $400 USD and don’t actually allow you to own the content that you pay for – see Kindle vs George Orwell’s 1984 for more details.  That is something that’s too ridiculous to consider.

I believe in digital dissemination and ease of use for ebooks via things like the iPhone and/or whatever technology that is inclusive and open as opposed to exclusive and tethered, but I also believe that the digital revolution in publishing is only going to make publishers make better books and more money.

I’m happy to see the guys at Green Apple Books rightfully mocking the Amazon Kindle.



Excerpted Thoughts for a Sunday Morning

The italicized text below is a response that I wrote to a question that my friend Janet asked me via Facebook this morning.  I post it here because I think that it’s a fairly succinct expression of some of the ideas that I’ve been thinking about recently.

IMG_1396That’s a good question, Janet.  It seems impossible for me to imagine that the move to digital could be stopped or thwarted or derailed… but one of the things that I said many times when talking at SFU is ‘keep an open mind and be prepared to adapt’ so one has to be ready for whatever.

The technology is just so much more sophisticated, democratic and ubiquitous now than say it was at the end of the 90’s when the first digital readers appeared like clunky plastic mastodons on the digital landscape.

Look at the utility and ubiquitousness of the mobile phone.  In south east Asia, China, Japan, Korea.  Those are the places that we should be looking to for cues on what’s possible and how to disseminate content, who the audience is and how they access that content in the first place.

You think that people in publishing are scared of digital now?  Wait until they realize that the price of their electronic content is going to be around 99 cents and some times much less than that.  $9.99 is a dream come true for digital content costing but once Amazon’s death grip on the market is broken and a true ecology of online retailers and content providers starts to allow the consumer to decide price and once publisher’s get savvy enough to start repackaging content in meaningful ways for the new consumer then maybe the industry will cease to have this fear based sense of entitlement – which will kill whoever doesn’t snap out of it – and will realize that they’re actually a service provider to the customer.

Adaptation, improvisation, experimentation: those are the tools that need to be applied to the problem of digital change in book publishing.

Here’s my final heretical thought: serial downloads of content on a micropayment plan.  The next Dickens will arrive in digital installments paid for by subscription and unencumbered by DRM to your cell phone a couple times a week.  It’ll cost you next to nothing but the sheer number of readers will be staggering.  The real money is made by various digital extensions and mutations of the content – by allowing the readership to manipulate and remix the content among other things – and the physical edition that is printed at the end.  Remainders will become non existent because the publisher’s knowledge of their customers combined with better printing technologies – POD will become the engine that drives physical books into unexplored markets worldwide – will allow them to print an almost exact number of books to satisfy the market.

The book is not going away, writers and creators using language are not going away.  If anything the book is going to achieve a more exalted place in the minds of the public.

But the current landscape of book publishers are not entitled to be there without breaking a sweat.  If there’s a lot of dawdling then their competition will blow past them at the speed of light.



BookCamp Vancouver 2009 Unconference: SOLD OUT, Waiting List Available
July 15, 2009, 9:55 PM
Filed under: BookCamp Vancouver 2009, Industry Change | Tags:

Thanks to a sudden leak to twitter the BookCamp Vancouver 2009 Unconference registration was opened for a week and is now SOLD OUT.  A waiting list has been posted for those of you who want to attend.  We are expecting to have a limited number of spaces available so please sign up soon if you want to attend!

Thanks!  Wow.  Sold out in one week…. for a weird thing about books?  Are you nuts?

Participation is crucial and your ideas and experiences are vital to making this a success.  Looking forward to seeing you there and exploring the future of books, publishing and reading.

BookCampVancouver

Forget Frankfurt!

BookCamp Vancouver is a user-generated un_conference that brings print publishers, educators, community builders and the tech community together – for free! BookCamp Vancouver is an opportunity to explore the present and future of books and book-like technologies. It’s open to anyone interested in the publishing industry and the potential dynamics of the reader/creator/publisher relationship.

Join us for a day of sharing new ideas, radical notions and engaging conversation! We’ll consider the future of the Book as an object; examine its ongoing role as a delivery mechanism for stories, information and entertainment; and examine how publishers can leverage themselves for success in the digital age.

Participants and self-selected guests will choose the agenda for the day, forming breakup groups to discuss and potentially create future book technologies, workflows, and grand schemes. Lend your passion and expertise to Bookcamp Vancouver by volunteering to facilitate a session.

Our plan is for this to be a day of talking and doing – of rolling up the proverbial shirt sleeves and tinkering with the publishing mechanism. We’re inviting authors, typographers, designers, printers, technologists, booksellers, literary agents, publishers and geeks of every stripe to come along and consider if and how technology can transform and perhaps improve on The Book.

Lots more information about BookCamp Vancouver can be found at http://bookcampvan.pbworks.com/ and http://bookcampvan.protagonize.com. Once you’re registered, go and check it out!



Piracy and the Concept of ‘Free’ in Book Publishing

Today I had the privilege of speaking to Kirk Biglione of Medialoper.com and Quartet Press in Pasadena, California about DRM and the current state of uncertainty in book publishing.  He led me to look into a man named Brian O’Leary of Magellan Media who has just published a manuscript called ‘Impact of P2P and Free Distribution on Book Sales‘ with O’Reilly.

First, I found this audio interview between Kirk and Brian about the findings in Brian’s book.  Essential listening.

I then tracked down this video of Brian’s presentation of his findings at the Tools of Change in Publishing Conference in February.  Essential viewing click the image below.

[blip.tv ?posts_id=2011560&dest=-1]

The text below summarizes the video.

As digital content has become more available and more commonly distributed in book publishing, fears of piracy and lost sales have grown. The rise of peer-to-peer file sharing sites has likely amplified these fears. While the debate over the impact of ?free? content has been at times heated, the discussions are more often than not characterized by a lack of hard data. To address this data gap, O?Reilly Media began a project in 2008 to characterize the ?free? universe, catalog and assess recent experiments, establish ways to measure the benefit or cost of free distribution and conduct some follow-on experiments of our own. O?Reilly is joined in this effort by Random House, which contributed data for several of its own tests. Come to this session to hear an interim report on the initial phase of this ongoing study, including a preliminary model of where and when free distribution works as well as what?s worth continuing to track over time.



Indie Writer Uploads to Kindle, Scores 2 Book Deal

cover_thearkBoyd Morrison is certainly an interesting guy.  Not only does he represent the first known instance of a writer completely subverting the traditional submission process for turning a manuscript into a printed work – he went around the slush pile like water around a rock – but he’s also worked for NASA, Microsoft and he’s been on Jeopardy!  And he’s an actor.  And he lives just a few hours away in Seattle, Washington.  All good, as they say.

Bronwyn Kienapple brought this up over at Book Ninja earlier today and it’s bound to generate a lot of discussion.

If nothing else Amazon/Kindle is looking really good right now while Simon and Schuster may come off looking like geniuses.  Or early-adopting opportunists but why split hairs?  For his part – from my experience with his website – Morrison seems like a shrewd self-promoter with enough technical expertise, writerly talent and gumption to subvert the traditional publishing acquistions process.  A trail blazer, you might say.

Both the Ark and another book in the series will be published in hard cover next year.  The details of how this happened and who at Simon & Schuster recognized the potential in the author and book is still nebulous.

Some details are available at Susan Tunis’ blog and while we’re all waiting for an official story I’m going to try to contact Boyd for a Books on the Radio interview!  For people who are interested in some of the meta-details here’s a link to a Kindle discussion board hosted by the author.



DRM & eBooks: Cory Doctorow @ O’Reilly’s Tools of Change 2009

I have finally figured out how to embed video from Blip.tv!  I am extremely happy to post this excellent video of Cory Doctorow speaking at the O’Reilly’s Tools of Change for Publishing Conference in February 2009. The title of Cory’s talk is TOC09 Digital Distribution and the Whip Hand: Don’t Get iTunesed with Your eBooks.

This video saw the first appearance of something called Doctorow’s Law, which states: “Any time someone puts a lock on something you own, against your wishes, and doesn’t give you the key, it’s not being done to your benefit.”

[blip.tv ?posts_id=2006465&dest=-1]



Content vs Advertising: Lisa Charters @ Random House Canada

The mercurial Alexa Clark interviews Lisa Charters, SVP Digital @ Random House Canada, about respecting a customer’s “time and energy” and the usefulness of ‘book trailers’.

I have always been suspicious of book trailers.  I understand the concept: brief videos consumed online advertising a new book. Slick tantalizing digital productions for the printed word.  I can imagine what a revolutionary idea this must have seemed to be when it was hatched in some reflective tower on Madison Avenue.  But the book is the intersection of the reader’s imagination and the writer’s vision and the publisher’s marketing department needs to stand out of the way.  Trailers, with their representations of location, mood, even the visual depiction of a character can ruin that experience for the reader.

In the brief interview above, Lisa Charters speaks about giving the consumer and their media partners ‘content’ rather than advertising.   Content comes in the form of useful or interesting information like an author interview while advertising is something – like a trailer – designed to sell the book.  Charters notes that content has an increased chance of being seen online because it offers opinions or insights that are valuable while advertising is expensive to produce and highly ignorable by definition.

I met Lisa during BookCamp Toronto 2009.  She attended my early session on Digital Rights Management and also lead the session “The Quagmire of International Copyright in the Digital Age.”  She was totally engaged in every session that she attended that day and I learned a lot from her just by listening.  Thanks to Alexa and Lisa for making the above interview happen.