books on the radio


ReThink / ReImagine / ReBuild: Crushing It at #BNC10 and Beyond

Craig Riggs & Dan Wagstaff Crush It at BookNet Canada Tech Forum 2010.

It was a brisk day at the MaRS Building in downtown Toronto last week as a couple hundred publishing denizens gathered for the BookNet Canada Tech Forum 2010.

The title for this year’s discussion was ‘Calculated Risk: Adventures in Book Publishing‘.

Alana Wilcox.

The day focused on four interconnected themes: Ambition, Trailblazing, Energy, Learning as You Go.

The conference organizers did an excellent job of creating a clean, professional and energetic atmosphere that was highlighted by Sachiko Murakami’s  introduction to Deanna McFadden toward the end of the day. (Good times, Sachiko, good times!)

The speakers mostly rose to the occasion and delivered passionate, thoughtful presentations that balanced insight and information in equal measures.

Sarah LaBrie, Clare Hitchens and Sachiko Murakami have written more specifically detailed accounts of the speakers than I will get into here.  Please go to their sites for their excellent analysis of the presentations.

*

My Two Take-Aways

1) Nothing replaces human contact and collaboration.

You’ve got to make the time to get out and meet the people that you work with in the industry.  You have to spend time with them, talk to them, share stories and ideas.

There is no substitute for that experience and as someone who lives in Vancouver and spends a lot of time communicating digitally with people all over North America and elsewhere it was hugely gratifying to meet my online colleagues in person.

2) It’s about open source leadership and community building.

If you’re looking for the cookie cutter formula on how to proceed in book publishing in the digital age then you’ve come to the wrong place.

The opportunities – the verticles – available to content creators, publishers and the audience are past the point of calculation.  

As digital distribution eclipses standard supply chain and territorial restrictions and simultaneously generates new expectations from a worldwide audience where does one turn to for surefire solutions?

As the industry is beset by the sudden – and profitable – appearance of new players and new ideas in the publishing ecosystem how does a traditional publisher adapt?

When content creators have the tools to create and disseminate their work in high quality editions to a cultivated community of passionate followers in several formats for relatively little capital investment, what does that auger for the future of the modern business model?

As the concept of piracy becomes the new supply chain where does that leave the notion of copyright, territorial rights and control? What are the new revenue streams?

How does a publisher with hundreds of titles competing in the market that is divided into increasingly specific self-organized communities – whose constituents spend zero time pouring over the book review section of the Globe and Mail or concerning themselves with flashy banner ads on publisher targeted websites – make any impact on those communities?

What does leadership look like in this environment?

If – as Richard Nash noted in his presentation – content has become infinite and our focus on supply will change to management of demand, how does an organization make the transition?

How does one create, build and manage communities in this environment.  Can a standard top-down management structure succeed here?

I submit that in these circumstances leadership then becomes about empowerment, trust, collaboration and a willingness to explore.

Empower the people in the organization to step outside the box and experiment with authors and audience.  Trust them to make the right decisions and encourage them to be brave enough to make mistakes.  Have the courage to learn honestly from your mistakes and then go make some more.

Treat the people in your organization as trusted collaborators.  Be open to the ideas and instincts of the people who grew up never knowing a time before the internet.

The same goes for the authors and communities.  Empower them, trust them with your ideas and brands and collaborate with them to make books that truly serve the contemporary vision.

Breakdown any process that is inhibiting these relationships from flowering.

Lead by recognizing the moment that is at hand.

Trust, openness, collaboration, community, exploration.

*

Thoughts on #BNC11 as a leadership model for the book publishing industry

If we are encouraging the book publishing industry to be adventurous and to embrace the four themes of Ambition, Trailblazing, Energy and Learning As You Go would it be crazy to suggest that the conference itself live these values and act as a qualified example?

If we are encouraging publishers to rethink their business models, to abandon traditional top-down mentalities and to take a more broadminded view of the relationship between publisher, content creator and audience, would it make sense that the conference itself abandon the standard ‘one to many’ model and encourage a more participatory, collaborative approach?

I’m not advocating for the controlled chaos of the BookCamp formula here and I don’t have any examples at hand for what a ‘more participatory, collaborative approach’ might mean right at the moment but I think that it certainly deserves to be investigated.

If we can engage the leaders of the industry to explore collaboration, to discuss the granularity of the digital possibilities with their colleagues and to facilitate experiential opportunities for engaging these ideas then maybe we demonstrate what adaptation looks like in real time and push the industry forward as a result.

Can the traditional conference formula be augmented to allow for these kinds of exchanges?

Don’t get me wrong, #BNC10 was a success and I learned a lot, but as we move forward I think that there’s opportunity for the idea of what BNC means in the future to change and to reflect the themes that it is built around.

Nevertheless, it was a great day and everyone at BNC deserves to huge thank you for making it so excellent.

I look forward to #BNC11.

Rampant twittering provides an opportunity for the entire publishing community.

Advertisements


SFU Summer Publishing Workshops: Sign Up Now to Attend

Sign Up Now to Study Book Publishing in Vancouver, Summer 2010.

Summertime in Vancouver

+ studying book/magazine publishing at SFU

= some kind of perfect bliss.

It’s time for you to do some serious thinking about coming out to Vancouver to bask in the glory of one of the best book publishing programs in the world.  And to experience the radiant, sublime amazingness of this city at the height of summer.

Bleeding Edge Ideas Calmly Discussed.

SFU has unveiled their program for the 2010 Summer Publishing Workshops and it looks pretty serious.

Some of the best and most experienced people in the business combined with some of the brightest lights in new media will be on hand to give students an unforgettable learning experience.

Vancouver is home to some of the best doers and thinkers in the digital area.

People who not only actively engage the web, social media and the digital landscape but who are excellent communicators about that experience.

There’s no better example of this than Lisa Manfield and Rebecca Bollwit on Marketing Magazines Online.

Unless, of course, we’re talking about the Justice League of America style panel that’ll be leading students through the session called Digital Strategy: Editor’s Intensive featuring: John ‘Hawkman’ Maxwell, Joy ‘Invisible Plane’ Gugler, Boris ‘Aquaman’ Mann and Monique ‘Super Girl’ Trottier.

Just take a moment to think about those people.  Check out those links and look at the quality of work that they do.

What kind of ideas are they capable of unlocking in you?

And I haven’t even mentioned industry powerhouse thinkers like O’Reilly Media’s Andrew Savikas, Neelan Choksi of Lexcycle, Mark Coker from Smashwords, Chris Lanbonte, Ali Cairns and Jesse Finkelstein from D&M Publishers, Sarah ‘Smart Bitches‘ Wendell, Richard Nash, and Kobo’s Michael Tamblyn to name only a few.

Learn the Fundamentals from Industry Masters.

And there’s much knowledge and wisdom to be gleaned from the best minds in traditional publishing, too.

Take a look at this roll call of industry vets:

Tom Best from HB Fenn and Key Porter Books, Randy Chan, Brad Martin and Kristin Cochrane from Random House Canada, Simon and Schuster Canada’s Kevin Hanson, Donna Hayes from Harlequin Enterprises, the legendary David Kent from Harper Collins Canada, Brian Lam from Vancouver’s Arsenal Pulp Press and Kevin Williams from TalonBooks will all be on hand to give you the 411 on the real challenges and opportunities that the book publishing industry faces going forward.

Pretty frickin’ amazing.

*

So here’s the deal: Think about it, then do something about it.

The best minds in traditional book and magazine publishing + guiding lights in new media + sunlight, Stanley Park, mountains and the Pacific Ocean.

The answer to the question is Yes.  As in “Yes, I’m going to do it,” and “Yes, I’m going to take advantage of this opportunity.”

Imagine what you’ll learn.  Imagine the new ideas, fresh perspectives and great people that you’ll meet.

And I’ll be there, too.  I’ll be reprising and updating the talk that I gave last year called Digital Rights Management vs the Inevitability of Free Content.

For more info on what courses are available, a full list of faculty and details on costing and accommodation please check the SFU Publishing Workshops website and/or send me an email.

Hope to see you there.



Strumming Your Own Banjo: Ali G Writes a Few Books
January 4, 2010, 11:54 AM
Filed under: Imagination | Tags: , , , , ,


DIY Incendiary Codex: The Robert Chaplin Interview

Chaplin Vault 02In the vault with Rob Chaplin: to listen to our conversation click this link.

I’ve known Rob Chaplin for a few years.  Ever since he walked into Sophia Books – back when I was buyer there for art books & graphic weirdness – and asked me to take a few copies of Ten Counting Cat into stock for general sale.

10 CountingNo problem. After all, the writing was funny, the drawings were great and the design was bang-on.

It had everything that I wanted from a book: independent spirit, unique and well realized vision and a sense of humor.

So we took the books, put them in the shelves and displayed them in the window.  It didn’t take long for them to sell.

Part of the magic of Robert’s books is that he does all the work himself.  He writes, illustrates and designs each of his books.  Then he sends the files to Friesens in Winnipeg and they send him a couple thousand books a few weeks later that he then sells to people, bookstores, libraries, whomever.  It’s an act of fine art, true dedication to his vision and more than a little wariness toward the entanglements of the standard book publishing process.

Brussel SproutsRobert and I have a tendency to bump into each other a couple of times a year at various speakeasy establishments and nocturnal gathering places where we’ll sketch out plans for global conquest on napkins on the bartop.

When I was helping to plan Bookcamp Vancouver I knew that I had to include Robert in the program somehow.

He showed up in his trademark sweater with a backpack full of books.

Every time I turned a corner Robert was singing the rhymes of the Brussel Sprout or leading small groups of confused conference goers in the Oath Regarding the Existence of Unicorns.

It was hilarious.

I really like Rob’s energy, his enthusiasm and his desire to demonstrate his independent approach.  He’s out there slinging funny rhymes, perpetrating great design and generating new ideas every day.

I just can’t argue with that kind of dedication.

I’m really happy to be able to share this interview because we really get a chance to hear the fundamental breakdown of how Rob sees the creative/publishing process.  It should be like manna from heaven for anyone out there looking for inspiration or help in their own DIY book projects.

For more information on Robert Chaplin, Library Editions and sterling silver brussel sprouts check out his website.



Simon and Schuster Test Waters w/ Stephen King eBook Release

Stephen King

UPDATE: This post has been refreshed from its original state.  That’s what I get for taking Publisher’s Weekly at its word.

Anyway, mid-way through this piece I ask readers to suspend their disbelief – difficult to do when reading a post on book publishing, pricing and digital content, I know – and  follow my argument as I use the information from the Publisher’s Weekly column slightly out of context but not entirely out of the realm of possibility.

Mark Coker from Smashwords.com lends useful insight via this Huffington Post piece. Follow the hashtag #publishersmatter on Twitter.

Please add any comments that you think are helpful.

***

Interesting piece from Publisher’s Weekly about Simon and Schuster’s decision to delay the release of the eBook version of Stephen King’s massive new novel, Under the Dome.dome

Apparently S&S will be releasing the 1000+ page novel on November 10th and then dropping the ebook on the market on December 24th.  Timing is everything, I guess.

The Publisher’s Weekly piece also notes that the S&S will be charging $35 for the eBook, however some further research conducted at StephenKing.com indicates that the ebook will sell for standard Kindle-pricing.

Mr King asks his readers not to “believe the press reports that the e-book reader price for Under the Dome will be $35. This was the result of confusion from a press release from the publisher… It is true that you cannot order the book as an e-download until December 24th, but the physical book, which is a beautiful thing, you can pre-order for less than $9–so who’s better than us?”

So, pricing right?  It’s all up in the air.  Nobody knows what anything is worth whether it’s a brand spankin’ new hardcover or an infinitely replicable digital file.  Are they both worth $9?  Really?  Are publishers seriously asking the public to swallow that crock?

But they’re trapped between the ruthless capitalism of dominant retailers at war with each other and the ruthless efficiency of the digital age.

***

Let’s say for example that the Great Book Pricing War of 2009 wasn’t happening and skewing this argument beyond proportion and let’s say that S&S thought that $35 for a hard cover was a fair price – which it is – and that $35 for an eBook was also a fair price – which is arguable to say the least.

I float this scenario forward for your consideration because I have heard book publishers say the very same thing – that a digital file should be priced at the same level as the physical product.

To me this notion of equal pricing for physical/digital looks more like a series of test balloons designed to reinforce industry fears than skillful marketing strategies for new books by some of English language’s most beloved authors.

Who gave the final OK on that pricing strategy and where is he/she getting their information?

It’s well documented that the last Harry Potter book – itself a hefty tome – was pirated and disseminated almost immediately upon release (in fact, an in-house perp at Scholastic did the job even before the book hit the shelves) and surely the people at Simon and Schuster are aware that this will happen here, too.  I expect that this book will be seeded widely within 24 hours of officially going on sale.

I have documented the bibliographic zeal that Stephen King’s fans show toward his work online in my presentations on DRM and Free Content.  I expect that a great majority will look at the cost of $35 for the hard cover version as a fair price to pay – and indeed many of the people who use P2P/torrent sites to download and share Stephen King’s books are dedicated enough to purchase the physical copy – and will see the same price for a digital file as incomprehensibly expensive.

This will certainly bear watching.  I have to believe that this is some kind of Big Author Test of Current Market Conditions rather than a strategy that S&S expects to trot out for every new hard cover release.

Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol showed us something about this new digital/print landscape and the new Stephen King promises to yield even more data even if it seems that it will come at the expense of common sense.

But one must keep an open mind.  Hopefully this publishing event will show us something new.



Cranbury v. McGuire: The Future of Publishing Interview

masthead

Sometime around the middle of August I got an email from Amy Logan-Holmes at Open Book: Toronto asking whether I would be interested in participating in something called the 48 Hour Interview that would run in their Fall Issue.

She described it as an email exchange or co-interview between two people working within the books/publishing industry.  The participants are free to discuss whatever they like provided that the ‘interview’ occurs within 48 consecutive hours and, I suppose, is at least tangentially related to the business at hand.

So I’m thinking, “Ok, that sounds doable.  I wonder who she’s going to pair me up with?”

And, of course, it was Hugh McGuire, co-creator of Book Oven and Librivox.org.  Organizer of BookCamp Toronto and well-coiffed confidante of the Digital Literati.

No pressure, right?

None.

It was a great, if somewhat long, interview that really dug into some key issues facing the evolving – convulsing? – book publishing industry today.

The whole thing was edited and punched into shape by the very talented Clelia Scala.  Many thanks to Hugh and everyone at Open Book: Toronto.

For an example of something that I wrote for the interview that may or may not be interesting, please click the little red (more…) button below.

Continue reading



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.