Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue

05/26/2013

Traditional Publishers’ Disinterest of Innovative Print Technologies Results in a Slow Death of ‘Print’


Weighing ‘Print’

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According to some highly educated and deeply experienced media professionals, traditional publishers are their own worst enemies Re the growing demise of print media. Perhaps TP’s have run away from print too early and not invested in new print technologies that are apparently begging to be expanded upon.

Even the “loss of physical books I can hold in my hand and smell” lamenting has not been enough to instill innovation in the present set of TP management to bring ‘print’ into the 21st century.

Tonight I’m introducing one of those highly educated/experienced personages mentioned above:

Andreas Weber , educated at Johannes Gutenberg-Universitat Mainz (Germany) — And Mainz, if you haven’t already guessed, is where the university’s famous namesake, who invented the first printing press, came from.

Key excerpts from Andreas to whet your appetite:

“However, the modern print-publisher is lacking vision and power for change. Though, over more then a generation ago specific solutions have been approached. Back then, in various places throughout the world, people developed the idea of revolutionising communication with media. IT, Web and print were seen as an integral part of a new communication culture.”

“Digital and analogue media don‘t contradict but build a new intermedia hybrid system.”

“The publishing industry is lacking contemporary ideas and motivation to innovate its core business with print, which is driven by digital communication technologies. Instead, they run behind on development and focus on third parties and their communication channels, which are used by publishers as ‘their new media’ to advertise in the old fashioned way.”

“Even though publishers are present in the digital world via apps and websites there is no innovative progress insight. If Google wouldn‘t bring the traffic and Apple wouldn‘t have given a platform via the iPad there would be no perspective on the subject of ‘digital content by
traditional publishers’.”

“Assuming printing is digital. Print and online are linked and form one unit. The targeted print media production is a just-in-time production. Print media products are created based on automated processes. Printed content will become more relevant, if it is customised to the customer’s request.”

“The publishing industry is lacking contemporary ideas and motivation to innovate its core business with print, which is driven by digital communication technologies.”

Now, this from Andreas Weber in Graphic Repro & Print:

News from Andreas Weber in the Gutenberg Galaxy

It started in Mainz and in Mainz it is supposed to continue. The ‘media.expo 2013’ promised new solutions and innovative tools for the publisher and media industry. The media.expo is one of many exhibitions with mainly the same content and promises for the print and media industry in Germany. The focus lies on speeches, discussions and networking of functional content.

In consideration of the current development of sales the publishing industry needs to wake-up. Even though publishers are present in the digital world via apps and websites there is no innovative progress insight. If Google wouldn‘t bring the traffic and Apple wouldn‘t
have given a platform via the iPad there would be no perspective on the subject of ‘digital content by
traditional publishers’.

Crucial: Publishers don‘t manage or develop their own intermedia communication systems. And they don‘t even use state-of-the-art communication channels in a bi-directional way to create interaction. Maybe they hate Wikipedia and the way Social Media is used by more than a billion of people? — Furthermore, they use a high proportion of their share of sales for the content creation and mostly ignore phenomenons like Twitter, Facebook or Blogs.

What is worse — publishers don‘t invest in their core business ‘print’ any more. An obvious disinterest of innovative print technologies results in a slow death of ‘print’.

But Innovation is the key. Through innovation of the print media products new markets can be entered. Back in the day Gutenberg was aware of this fact and changed the world with print. However, the modern print-publisher is lacking vision and power for change. Though, over more then a generation ago specific solutions have been approached. Back then, in various places throughout the world, people developed the idea of revolutionising communication with media. IT, Web and print were seen as an integral part of a new communication culture. The main drivers of this development were Xerox Corporation and Hewlett-Packard. They anticipated back in the 90s what is now possible: Digital and analogue media don‘t contradict but build a new intermedia hydrid system.

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04/23/2013

A Renaissance of Novella-Length Journalism and Fiction – Also Known As E-Shorts


Authors of Kindle Single memoirs, fiction and essays share in the profits for their works.

Within Amazon resides another offshoot, a store within a store you might say, called Kindle Singles (KS). Many have, no doubt, already taken advantage of or have heard about KS.

KS is a publishing niche devoted to works of 5000 to 30,000 words – commonly referred to as novellas. They can be edited, splashed with great cover art and otherwise prepared for publication and sale in record short time frames. KS is also proving to be a great entry point into the literary world and for authors to get published AND rake in a substantial 70% of the profits – and the profits have been great here because of great management that has resulted in outstanding credibility for KS along with a great attached purchasing audience and fanbase (this is key).

KS’s great management is provided by David Blum, who has worked for a range of publications, including The Wall Street Journal (where he met his wife, the television writer Terri Minsky, who created Disney’s “Lizzie McGuire”), Esquire, New York magazine and The New York Times Magazine.

Leslie Kaufman , New York Times, says:

 

Amazon Broadens Its Terrain

David Blum does not have a regular table at the Four Seasons or host celebrity parties at the top of the Standard Hotel.

He does not get a lot of fawning press. After he was fired by The Village Voice and left The New York Press, Gawker Media in 2009 pronounced him “a sad bumbling doctor for dying New York City weeklies.”

But four years is an eon in the digital realm, and in that time Mr. Blum has transformed himself from doctor of the dying to midwife of the up-and-coming. As such, he is a man whom authors want to court.

Mr. Blum is the editor of Amazon Kindle Singles, a Web service that is helping to promote a renaissance of novella-length journalism and fiction, known as e-shorts.

Amazon Kindle Singles is a hybrid. First, it is a store within the megastore of Amazon.com, offering a showcase of carefully selected original works of 5,000 to 30,000 words that come from an array of outside publishers as well as from in-house. Most sell for less than $2, and Mr. Blum is the final arbiter of what goes up for sale.

It is also a small, in-house publishing brand — analogous to a grocery store that makes an in-house brand of salsa to compete with other manufacturers. Mr. Blum comes up with his own ideas or cherry-picks pieces from the more than 1,000 unsolicited manuscripts he receives each month. He then edits them and helps pick cover art.

Amazon Singles usually pays nothing upfront to the author (there are rare exceptions) and keeps 30 percent of all sales. Yet it is an enticing deal for some authors, because Singles now delivers a reliable purchasing audience, giving them a chance to earn thousands for their work. (A quick calculation shows that the authors make an average of roughly $22,000, but the amount varies widely by piece.)

“Every day I become more obsessed with how brilliant the concept is,” Mr. Blum, 57, said over coffee at the Lamb’s Club in Manhattan, crediting the idea entirely to Amazon.

For him, the brilliance is that authors can now share in the profits instead of getting a flat fee. “The idea that writers would participate in the publishing model is just very bold,” he said.

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03/24/2013

The Publishing Industry Will Never Be The Same – What Say We Make It Better! – Or Seeking Literature’s True Business


Make Publishing Better Than It Ever Was

Excellent idea! And one also fostered by +Jon Evans — an author (whose novels have been praised by The Times, The Economist and Washington Post), journalist, software engineer and TechCrunch weekly columnist — whom I recently discovered and, must say, admire. I admire his wit and intelligence — and especially for introducing me to +Richard Nash — another deeply accomplished,  independent publishing entrepreneur, VP of Community and Content of Small Demons, founder of Cursor, and Publisher of Red Lemonade plus much more.

Jon’s outlook as excerpted: “For the last five years, in the face of this spreading transformation, the publishing industry has been caught in a tawdry and depressing spiral of denial and decay, constantly attempting to reject new media, new technologies, and new business models until they can fight back no more…That’s why Nash’s essay is such a breath of revolutionary air. The publishing industry will never be the same, but why can’t it be better? Why can’t a whole new model of publishing be created, rather than this false dichotomy between “published” and “self-published”?”

Richard’s outlook as excerpted: “You begin to realize that the business of literature is the business of making culture, not just the business of manufacturing bound books. This, in turn, means that the increased difficulty of selling bound books in a traditional manner (and the lower price point in selling digital books) is not going to be a significant challenge over the long run, except to free the business of literature from the limitations imposed when one is producing things rather than ideas and stories.

A business born out of the invention of mechanical reproduction transforms and transcends the very circumstances of its inception, and again has the potential to continue to transform and transcend itself—to disrupt industries like education, to drive the movie industry, to empower the gaming industry. Book culture is in far less peril than many choose to assume, for the notion of an imperiled book culture assumes that book culture is a beast far more refined, rarified, and fragile than it actually is. By defining books as against technology, we deny our true selves, we deny the power of the book. Let’s restore to publishing its true reputation—not as a hedge against the future, not as a bulwark against radical change, not as a citadel amidst the barbarians, but rather as the future at hand, as the radical agent of change, as the barbarian. The business of literature is blowing shit up.”

“The business of literature is blowing shit up.” — I like this thesis and it bears repeating.

I know the theme of my post tonight will make some of my past commenters happy 🙂

Let’s explore this issue more (and be introduced to numerous cool links as a byproduct) in this dissecting TechCrunch article by Jon Evans:

 

“The Business Of Literature Is Blowing Shit Up”

If you love books–heck, if you even like ‘em–run, don’t walk, and read this magnificent, magisterial essay by Richard Nash on their past, present and future. It’s long. Don’t be frightened. But even if the Internet has shredded your attention span, at least scroll down to its epic final paragraph. Go on. I’ll wait.

It’s been a rotten decade for book publishers, newspapers, and anyone else clinging to that 15th century technology called the printing press. Marc Andreessen has advised the mighty New York Times to “burn the boats” and shut down their presses. His partner Ben Horowitz claimed last year that “babies born today will probably never read anything in print.”

Meanwhile, Borders is deadthe tablet is killing the e-reader, and Barnes & Noble’s Nook has gone from investor darling to dead-weight albatross. The “Big Six” publishers may seem to be surviving nicely, but check out this graph:

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10/15/2011

The Transubstantiation of the Printed Word


Physical bookshelf space was a bottleneck … really an inefficient flaw … under the old printed word publishing model. Not only bookshelf space in the bookstores, but also bookshelf space in the homes of buyers with limited space.

There is a solution, albeit one that will be resisted by some.

This by Mark O’Connell in The New Yorker:

The Book Scrappage Scheme

In a panel discussion on the continued rise of e-books at the Frankfurt Book Fair last week, Evan Schnittman of Bloomsbury Publishing made an obvious but nonetheless important point. “Print has an inherent flaw,” he said. “It needs shelf space.” It’s a truth that most readers bump up against at some point, especially those who live in small apartments and have to undertake periodic culls in order to free up space for new acquisitions. A company called 1Dollarscan, however, has come up with a somewhat radical solution to this problem. To bibliophiles, this particular cure might seem worse than the disease, but there’s no denying that it is a practical solution to a practical problem. Here’s how it works: you ship them your books, and they scan and digitize them into fully searchable PDF files before recycling the hard copies (i.e. pulping them). As the company’s name suggests, they charge a dollar for every 100 pages they digitize. The service’s appeal is obvious. You free up shelf space for new books (or for things other than books) and you get to keep the actual text itself, which you can access on a computer, tablet, e-reader, or smartphone.

1Dollarscan is the American outpost of a service called Bookscan that has been running successfully in Japan since last year. (Here’s a video of the process in action; it’s in Japanese, but you’ll get the idea.) Like most of his compatriots, the company’s founder, Yusuke Ohki, inhabits a very small living space. In 2010, he decided that his two thousand or so books were occupying more of his tiny Tokyo apartment than he was willing to put up with. He was also concerned about the prospect of his two young children being buried under an avalanche of paper and toppling shelves in the event of an earthquake. “There were lots of news in Japan that bookshelves were falling over in bookstores,” as he told Forbes, “and that people died after being stampeded by books after huge earthquakes.” He decided to scan his entire library into his iPad before getting rid of all the hard copies. Within months, he was running a company that did something similar for the paying public, and employing a staff of a hundred and twenty to do the scanning and shredding. The company took off partly on account of the Japanese e-book market lagging far behind that of the English-speaking world—murky copyright laws, higher prices, and the technical trickiness of rendering Japanese characters on e-reader screens have all been contributing factors. The fear of collapsing shelves invoked by Ohki has surely spread and intensified since the massive earthquake earlier this year; this, too, will have added to the success of his company. In a recent article on 1Dollarscan, the Economist pointed out that the reason the pages are discarded after scanning has to do with “the ambiguous borders of American copyright law.” When a book is scanned for the first time, the company does not retain a master copy; for copyright reasons, it must treat each copy as a unique item. In other words, every time they get a paperback of “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” or “The Da Vinci Code,” they have to go through the entire process anew.

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07/24/2011

Books Are Morphing into Fluid Concepts in Cyberspace


Books As Fluid Concepts - The Old Meets The New

“Instead of being a discrete object, the book is becoming much more of a fluid concept, and there is opportunity in that transformation for those who want to discover it.”

This information is presented by Mathew Ingram through gigaom.com. The text sputters mucho links and references to drilled down background info that will bestow a PhD level of knowledge! Enjoy the post: 

What’s a book? It’s whatever you want it to be

As we’ve mentioned a number of times, the evolution of the book-publishing business has been accelerating recently, with more authors doing an end run around the traditional industry by self-publishing — or even setting up their own e-book stores, as Harry Potter creator J.K. Rowling has done with her new Pottermore site. Now media companies seem to be showing an increasing interest in publishing their own e-books using content that they have already created, moves that are taking them into the growing market in between full-length books and magazine-style pieces.

The latest move in that direction comes from Ars Technica, which is part of the Conde Nast magazine empire that includes Wired magazine and The New Yorker. The technology blog, which has become well known for its exhaustive reviews of new Apple hardware and software by author and programmer John Siracusa, is offering its latest review — an in-depth look at Apple’s new operating system, code-named OS X “Lion” — as an e-book using the Kindle Single program. The book (which is really just a long magazine article) costs $5, and is more or less identical to the version that is on the Ars website.

Paying for convenience?

So why would someone want to pay $5 to read something that they could read for free on a website, or download via their browser and read offline via Read It Later or some other service? That’s a good question (Fortune tried something similar with a recent feature on Apple, but it wasn’t available online at all). Whatever the answer might be, Ars Technica editor Ken Fisher told the Nieman Journalism Lab on Friday that more than 3,000 people had decided to do just that within 24 hours of the review being available online. Said Fisher:

I was surprised by how many people told us they read the review online and they just wanted their own copy to go back to. Or they just bought it as a tip-jar kind of thing.

It may have helped that Siracusa’s review is a lot closer to being a book than it is just a regular review in an online magazine — it is more than 27,000 words in length, which is split up over 19 pages. That’s a lot of text to read on a website, and some readers said that they downloaded the Kindle single just to save themselves from having to read all those pages on a computer. Fisher said the magazine also saw some new users sign up for its $5-a-month premium subscription plan, which disables advertising and lets users download any of the magazine’s articles as PDFs.

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01/07/2010

Help (understood or not) is on the Way for Print Media


Publishers need to become more committed to understanding the three-dimensional debth of multi-media products and the concepts of light, sound and motion to enhance “printed word” content.

Jim Gaines, editor-in-chief of multimedia magazine FLYPmedia, former managing editor at: People, Time and Life magazines AND corporate editor of Time Inc., discusses this impact topic in the December, 2009 edition of FOLIO magazine:

So far, publishers have demonstrated more fervor than conviction in their attempts to embrace digital innovation. With a few important exceptions—notably The Atlantic—general-interest magazine sites have given themselves over to opinion and aggregation, chasing the headless eyeball and revenue from desolate banner ads while leaving behind all trace of the narrative and design richness of the parent publications.

There is a desperate, shotgun quality to print-digital marriages, as well—like Entertainment Weekly’s “video in print” ad for CBS in September, GQ’s iPhone app in October and Esquire’s experiment with “augmented reality” on the December cover. Popular Science got there first in July, by, as they say, holding up the magazine cover to a computer’s webcam so readers can see “a 3-D landscape dotted with wind turbines popping off the page; by blowing into your computer’s microphone, you can even make the turbines spin faster.”

And as the song goes, you would cry too if it happened to you.

Help is On the Way

Happily, help is on the way, though at first glance, it has a decidedly menacing aspect. Like a hologram, it takes a little squinting to see it for what it is.

The much-rumored whatchamacallit from Apple (iTablet, iPad, whatever) will be just the ancestor of a new world of digital devices whose capabilities are going to lift the greatest burden of publishing (the cost of paper, ink and distribution) bringing HD video, animation, eloquent info graphics and the engaging arts of video gaming to the task of journalism and most other purposes of non-fiction story-telling, including education.

Just as transformative, the iWhatever and its descendants will liberate users from the lean-forward nature of the desktop experience by putting the screen in our hands. The Internet will still be the best way to find what you’re looking for fast, but it will be a great deal more than that, as well. Thanks to broadband penetration, print has lost its monopoly on ubiquity.

When I was the editor of People, I used to say magazines were safe until fiber optics made it to the bathroom. That was a long time ago. What I could not imagine then was how much more robust story-telling could be when liberated from paper and ink, or how you could ever feel like curling up with a computer.

Perhaps most importantly, multimedia story-telling will endow “print” journalism with the brand-enhancing asset that has kept advertisers investing in broadcast and cable: the engaging energy of light, sound and motion. Industry analysts have yet to make the leap from Web as a distribution channel to revolutionary medium.

“The strategies that make media companies successful will require new capabilities,” according to one recent study, which enumerated them: “tracking and research to gain deeper insights into audience interests, informatics to manage and direct Web traffic, database management, custom content and applications development, and the ability to manage a network of partnerships.”

Well, yes. But the way to enhance those relationships is not through database management, but by building trust and engagement—by telling great stories in a way that makes people want to read and experience them.

The Next “Magazine”

This will not be easy. ASME will need to get over itself and stop treating advertisers like enemy occupiers. ABC rules and circulation practices will need to change so that print brands can re-imagine themselves without losing credit for the loyal adherents who follow them there. Publishing giants will have to act like startups, inviting story-tellers from the worlds of film and gaming to join writers and designers with a serious claim on resources and the mandate to fail until they succeed in perfecting the crafts and arts of multimedia story-telling.

When that happens, some enlightened American company—publisher, ASME, maybe even an advertiser!—knowing that its brand equity is intimately tied to the values it promotes, will put its name (and money) behind the next great American “magazine.”

That could very well be a broadband multimedia experience whose mission is the same one that has always informed America’s publishing at its best—to share experience, in a spirit of generosity, to bear faithful witness, to bring coherence and light to the gravest problems and greatest purposes of American life.

Or, as Henry Luce once put it: “To see life. To see the world. To eyewitness great events ….”

Now that’s an app.

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