Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue


Publishing/Writing With A Super Human Brain


Super Human Brain ?

Super Human Brain ?

Tonight’s post is delving into a little “other life stuff” — remotely related to damn near everything — and, therefore, to publishing/writing 🙂

Did you realize that the human brain is made up of 100 billion neurons connected by 100,000 billion synapses ?

Wowwee ! We are literally walking around with priceless computers sitting on top of  our shoulders — AND, according to research that will be revealed below, the Human Brain Project will need computers 1000 times more powerful than any existing computers to simulate one human brain ! I’m visualizing future Homo Sapiens just thinking of writing and plots and they will form words/content in some future platform (self-correcting, of course) and will also display scenes from your thought-plot in holograms for you to visualize !!!

Oh, damn, what am I thinking (or dreaming) about ? I better wake up soon! Hmm, could this be a nightmare in disguise ?

Amanda Wills , reporting in Mashable, presents more details that include videos — ENJOY:

Supercomputer Will Simulate the Human Brain

Even in the 21st century, there are still a lot of unsolved mysteries when it comes to the human brain. It is a complicated machine that neuroscientists continually try to understand.

A new scientific endeavor hopes to unravel some of these mysteries by creating a highly detailed simulation of the human brain. Essentially, researchers will use a supercomputer to build a working replica of our minds.With $1.6 billion in funding and more than 200 researchers, the Human Brain Project is the largest, most ambitious cooperative experiment of its kind. Serious hardware is necessary for a project of this kind — to pack the simulation into a single computer would require a system 1,000 times more powerful than today’s supercomputers.

The project will officially begin later this year. It will take Europe 10 years to map all of the 100 billion neurons connected by 100,000 billion synapses that make up a human brain.

Read and view more

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The Power of Expression and the Force of Imagination

Filed under: BookExpo2010,future of publishing,publishing — gator1965 @ 12:16 pm

Publishers, printers, literary agents, publicists, editors and even authors (who should have been included in these publishing events in the past anyway!) all came together at BookExpo America 2010 to discuss, problem solve, forecast and try to learn how to assimilate changes in the publishing world to produce better models and margins.

Apparently there is still disagreement among the professionals on what is coming and how to proceed!

But, to borrow an excerpt from the following article and mash it up a little: When the dust settles…what you get is that reading remains a joy.

Carolyn Kellogg (pictured at left) of the Los Angelos Times (Books & Ideas) gives this latest rundown on the BookExpo:

Reporting from New York —If it was a bright sign that plenty of iPads lit up BookExpo America, the publishing industry’s annual trade show and convention held at Manhattan’s Jacob Javits Center this week, it was equally telling that the hot trend for fall books is dystopian fiction.

For an industry still reeling from the battered economy and not yet reconciled to the e-book revolution, tales of society gone wrong have resonated. As for the big picture, it was possible to find writers, independent publishers and executives optimistic about the future, but many remain guarded and grim.

Most participants on the CEO panel, which kicked off a day of professional sessions on Tuesday, emphasized that 90% of their sales are in traditional bookselling — never mind that the e-book market is growing rapidly.

“No author is going to want to only publish his book online,” said Jonathan Galassi, head of Farrar, Straus & Giroux. “They want to give their mother a copy.” This got a laugh, but publishers might also do well to consider what authors’ children find appealing.

That was the point of the edgy, multivaried 7-by-20-by-21 panel, in which writers, innovators and independent publishers offered an array of new ideas.

One panelist proposed that literature be taught backward (from ” Harry Potter” to Holden Caulfield to “Hamlet,” instead of the other way around); another showed photos of an upcoming book of literary tattoos, raising issues of writing, the body, and how devoted young people are to reading.

Jennifer Egan — a Guggenheim winner and National Book Award finalist — presented a chapter from her new novel, “A Visit From the Goon Squad,” which had been written using Powerpoint. Thematic color schemes, overlapping bubbles, page position and the odd formality of the slides were employed to create the story.

Egan’s experiment should play well in e-book form; at 47, she offers an example of how authors don’t have to be Gen Y to embrace — and have fun with — new technologies.

But novelist Scott Turow, new president of the Authors Guild, used his time on the CEO panel to raise concerns over e-books and the changes they bring.

He warned of the growing influence of “device manufacturers” (in addition to Amazon and Apple, Google is poised to enter the market). “The entity that ends up controlling that device,” he said, “will be a behemoth and a threatened one.”

John’s Note (1): …controlling that device (?) What device? Maybe Scott Turow meant the entity that controls the manufacture of ALL electronic publishing/writing devices…In which case I think his concerns are for naught…since no one ever will control the diverse intellect & entrepreneurship involved!

John’s Note (2): I think author meant threatening one.

From the consumer perspective, e-books are just another format to add to hardcovers and paperbacks; inside publishing, however, they’re forcing significant shifts. Also speaking as part of the CEO panel, ICM agent Esther Newberg said e-books had hit the industry “like a fist.” began a tradition — which its Kindle readers applauded — of selling e-books for $9.99 apiece, a price that publishers find unsustainable. Apple’s emergence as an e-book seller has allowed publishers to have more control over pricing: Many e-books now retail for between $12.99 and $15.99.

But Apple has also forced a change in publishing’s traditional retail model that is resonating throughout the business: Because of the way contracts have been structured, authors stand to lose the most.

John’s Note (3): I think publishing’s traditional model has been the agency model not the retail model (that Amazon introduced with the Kindle with all prices set at $9.99 by Amazon (the retailer).

John’s Note (4): I disagree with the conclusion that authors stand to lose the most. Authors may not get advances but they will get a bigger per centage of royalties on each book sold. I refer you to author J. R. Konrath’s novel Shaken published by the new online publisher AmazonEncore. Read about it on my other blog at

At a private Authors Guild event on the eve of the convention, Garrison Keillor spoke of the end of an era; a version of his talk ran on the New York Times’ op-ed page Wednesday.

“This book party in Tribeca feels like a Historic Moment, like a 1982 convention of typewriter salesmen or the hunting party of Kaiser Wilhelm II,” Keillor wrote. “I think that book publishing is about to slide into the sea.”

Of course, we’ve heard this many times before. Twenty-five years ago, it was corporate conglomeration that was going to kill publishing, then the advent of chain retailers such as Borders and Barnes & Noble and later the rise of Even as far back as the 15th century, Venetian judge Filippo di Strata declared of Gutenberg’s movable type, “The pen is a virgin; the printing press, a whore.”

Through it all, books and publishing have survived.

What may be new is the exhaustion in the top ranks. Newberg expressed what other publishing veterans won’t say out loud: “One of the only good things about being old is that I won’t have to deal with this.”

And yet, in a distant corner of the convention floor, 75-year-old Lewis Lapham, the legendary editor of Harper’s, was attending his first BookExpo with his new journal, Lapham’s Quarterly. The publication has a successful online presence, but he wanted to meet independent booksellers and librarians in person.

“We’ve had a lot of inquiries,” Lapham said. “We’re hopeful.” Tellingly, he was less interested in talking about the business than in “the power of expression and the force of imagination.”

That kind of engagement is a reminder of why books matter. Take away the booths, the changing business model, the e-readers and all the other noise around BookExpo, and what you get is that reading remains a joy.

Novelist Michael Connelly was at his eighth convention; although BookExpo is open only to publishing professionals, he signed hundreds of copies of his upcoming book, “The Reversal.” He sees hope in this community.

“When people come together,” he said, “I get a sense of celebration.”


Some Publishing Prognostications

I admire and respect Mike Shatzkin who is CEO of The Idea Logical Company, Inc., a publishing consulting company. This man has worked at every level in the publishing chain since the early sixties and possesses a uniquely insightful knowledge of said industry.

The BISG (Book Industry Study Group)says this of Mike:

Mike’s first job in publishing was as a sales clerk at the brand-new paperback department at Brentano’s Bookstore on 5th Avenue in 1962. Since then, he has authored five books and worked at virtually every step in the publishing value chain: editorial, production, sales, marketing and distribution. He served as Director of Marketing for The Two Continents Publishing Group in the 1970s and has been a consultant since 1979.

I have often used Mike as a valuable resource on my blogs. I mention this because, although I don’t always agree with every one of his conclusions (I’ll give an example later), he is a foremost authority that usually nails it correctly with logical perpsective gained from real experience.

ANYWAY, Mike has prepaired a brief but intensive history, status and outlook for publishing that is extremely informative and will educate all that are interested and want to know why publishing is in dire straits today and what it will look like and how it will perform in the future.

From Mike Shatzkin :

This is the 2nd of a 4-part post spelling out what I would have said if I had appeared at the Annual General Meeting of the UK Publishers Association on Wednesday, April 28, and not been cancelled by a volcano. Part 1 set the stage, spelling out how much change can take place in 20 years. This post offers a vision of the world of information and entertainment (or what we today think of as the world of “content”) 20 years from now. Part 3 will suggest what a publisher’s role can be in the new paradigm and Part 4 will take a shorter view, looking at the change we should expect in the next 2 or 3 years.

If we accept that 20 years is time for things to change a lot and with the belief that the pace of change in the world of information and entertainment is accelerating because of digital technology, here’s a view of what happens to content, audiences, and what will pass for “publishing” 20 years from now.

I’d expect that 20 years from now, the “local” hard drive will be relatively unimportant: a relatively short-term “emergency” cache for the rare moments when you aren’t easily connected to the network (the internet.) Data — all data, including everything you think you “own” — will live in “the cloud.” Kids in 2030 will find it as quaint to think of not being able to get at your files except by getting to your own computer as kids today would think it was to not be able to call somebody unless you could find a phone booth and they were at home (which was the situation 20 years ago.) Local storage may be seen by some as a virtue, but it is a virtue manufactured of necessity. It’s actually a hindrance. We will very shortly expect to get at all our files at any time based on a password or an iris scan or a fingerprint or some combination thereof (depending on our need for security.)

And we’ll access those files through a multiplicity of devices, which by then will really just be screens of varying descriptions with online access. There will be big ones that hang on our walls for us to watch movies on and to put a Picasso in when we’re not watching a movie. There will be small ones, foldable ones, and ones that come in rolls where you can use whatever roll width suits your immediate purpose. With your password, you’ll be able to use my screen for your data, just as you can use my computer to get at your gmail account today. There will be screens you can write and underline on which will store your markings (to share or not, as you choose.)

(I don’t want to get into the fact that we’re working toward converting a phone conversation into having the hologram of the person on the other end in the room for your chat, and I don’t know enough to know the timetable for that, but maybe we’ll get there in 20 years too!)

When screen technology progresses sufficiently, the idea of using paper will become a total anachronism. Paper won’t record and store your notes or annotations; screens will. For any volume of content, paper gets heavy. Screens don’t. If you could call anything up on a screen in your pocket that you could get today on paper, why would you want the paper? Nobody will, except for the artistic value that is associated with antiques. Paper won’t even be as good as a screen for your grocery shopping list. (I am imagining that my wife would be able to add an item or two to the screen list I have folded in my back pocket while I’m walking to the store.)

Even illustrated and coffee table books will be just about defunct, except as pure works of art. Screens will be able to deliver better image quality with more flexibility: to blow up the image, or rotate it (which you can see in the “Elements” ebook on the iPad today.) Screens can deliver you the accompanying text on top of the image for you to read it and then “take it away” for you to see the image alone. Books can’t do that.

Now, if this becomes true, it obviously changes the face of publishing. If distribution of all content is digital, and it is hard to see why it would not be, then the list of businesses that exist today that won’t exist in 20 years is a long one. Bookstores will exist, but they’ll be curiosity shops carrying used books and perhaps a handful of printed-on-demand newer items for the few print-pervy holdouts that remain (and 20 years from now, there will still be some.) It is hard to see survival for newsstands. Printing may still exist for packaging, but it won’t for newpapers, magazines, or books (except for the handful printed-on-demand.)

The change for publishers, though, is far more profound than a simple change in delivery mechanism would suggest. Publishers, indeed all commercial media in our lifetime, have been defined primarily by format. Some do books; some do magazines; some do newspapers. Others called producers do movies or television or radio. The capital and skill set requirements for a format effectively channeled the media company. For the most part, big media was not topic- or subject-specific; it was format-specific.

But when the exchange between publisher and content consumer becomes a file, rather than a book or magazine or movie or TV show, then format becomes irrelevant. A file can hold any of the formats we have historically thought of: text, photographs, diagrams, maps, video, audio. A file can also hold games and productivity software. So the publisher that is limited by the formats of the 20th century will not be competitive in the cloud-and-screen based media exchange of the future.

Wrapping our heads around the transition from physical media to digital gives some clues to how publishing and publishers will have to change to survive, but there’s another aspect of the web development we can expect over the next 20 years that is just as important. We call that the shift from “horizontal media” to “vertical.”

We’ve seen that media have been defined by format. The companion thought is that media have rarely been defined by topic or subject. Whether you’re talking about CBS or the BBC, The New York Times or the Times of London, or Random House in either country, the subject of the content is not limited. These companies will cover news, sports, public affairs, science, every academic discipline at some level, and pure entertainment. Except in the spheres where publishing exists in service to or as an extension of another establishment (educational, academic, professional), the primary identify of most publishers of scale is by their format, not their audience.

But we already see that the Web has changed that. Even superficially-”horizontal” brands on the web — Huffington Post and Gawker being two examples that are popular in the US — serve pretty specific interests (politics and celebrity, respectively, in these two cases.) And there are far more examples of new successful web brands which are subject specific: on sports, politics, women’s interest, health, crafts, cars. These businesses are built, first of all, on repeat visitors to a particular web site. But when they’re smart, they add user-generated content which turns into databases. They have lengthy comment strings to their blogposts which attract an audience of their own.

And they are building the publishing brands of 2030.

When we lived in a world of physically-produced and hand-delivered content, barriers of cost and scale effectively kept content scarce. It is no longer. Anybody who creates any content today can make it available to the world for no incremental cost if they have a web connection. Lots of professional content creators — individual and institutional — feel it is in their best interest to make content available without charge on the Web (sometimes with advertising support; sometimes not.) A consumer 20 years ago couldn’t read good writing and watch videos all day about whatever is their favorite subject for free unless they went to a library, where access would be bureacratic and cumbersome. A consumer with a web connection today surely can. All of this inevitably reduces the price anybody can charge for a competing piece of content in any form.

Here’s the important point for publishers to take on board. Content is being devalued by technology. This is inexorable. It is not anybody’s fault. It is not in anybody’s power to change it. The price consumers will be willing to pay for content is going to go down because of the laws of supply and demand. It is true that professional content creators can benefit from efficiencies and cost savings offered by the same technologies, so the loss of revenue doesn’t necessarily translate into an equivalent loss of income or profit. But the general direction is one way: down. Businesses that depend on monetizing the content they create will continue to be increasingly challenged over the next 20 years as they have been over the last 10. This won’t end well for the formula of creating content and selling it.

John’s Note: I respectfully disagree with the previous paragraph. New content-driven technology gadgets should INCREASE not decrease the value of good content…AND I think the future demand for content will grow exponentially as many future tech devices will demand ever newer and fresher content. The tech with the best content offerings will be the better sellers. It’s like having a nice new futuristic car in front of you that runs on content, but you can’t drive it because you’re out of content! After all, NO tech device or technology can replace the human brain and create content…

But if the price of content must inexorably go down because of the laws of supply and demand, publishers should look at what might go up for the same reason. And what will become more valuable over time is the audience looking at the content. Content won’t be scarce and command revenue, but human attention will. As the world verticalizes, the owner or controller of the web community that has (for example) the gardeners will be the one to decide what new gardening content is needed. However it is montetized — by standalone sale, or as part of a subscription, or supported by advertising, or underwritten by a sponsor — the control will belong to the entity that commands the eyeballs.

What all of this means, taken together, is that the successful publisher of the year 2030 will own a web community which is both a principal source of content and provides the audience for it. The community will not be content-centric alone; but we aren’t getting into that in more detail right now because sketching out the whole concept for “vortals” is “out of scope” for this exercise.

The publisher who owns “knitting”, or perhaps “knitting sweaters”, will develop and curate the content and control access to the audience just as surely as a major publisher has controlled access to bookstores shelves or a newspaper publisher to newsstand sales in our lifetimes.

Without bookstores and without any general marketplace dedicated to the sale of “books” as a format, the idea of a General Trade Publisher will have no meaning.

That’s 20 years away so publishers have some time to get from “here” to “there”. But they won’t get “there” by staying “here.”


Publishing E-pocalypse or a New Age?

2009 has just staggered out the door…but left behind a massive footprint of electronic publishing inroads and positioning for future inevitable victories.

M. J. Rose, a successful author of numerous books, including The Memorist and The Reincarnationist, discusses this New Age of E-Publishing in an insightful article for Publishing Perspectives. She relates her own experiences in and prognostications for the publishing industry. M. J. Rose was the first author to use the Internet to release an e-book that was picked up by traditional publishers. She is also the owner of the ad agency, Past Life, a dramatic series based on her bestselling novel The Reincarnationist, debuts February 11, 2010 on FoxTV.

By M. J. Rose:

As we come to the end of 2009 there’s only one thing we know about the future of publishing—it’s going to keep changing. Like it or not, no matter what industry you’re in and how hard you try to hold onto the past, fighting change is not only futile, it’s often what kills you.

When Change is Pain

The changes we’re in the middle of are cause for alarm for many people:

Kirkus is gone.

Fifty-four percent of people now find out about books via online ads. (Yes ads! Not reviews.) Sixty-seven percent of people buying a book didn’t know what they were going to buy before they walked in the store.

There are millions of readers who post about what they’re reading on their blogs and social networks like Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads.

People can read e-books on their iPhones on line in the supermarket, go home, turn on their Kindles and be instantly synced up.

HarperCollins has an online slush pile called Authonomy. Harlequin has a similar testing ground called Carina.

And Steven Covey, author of the perennial backlist bestseller Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, just gave exclusive rights to his e-books to Amazon and not his publisher.

Bookstores are publishers and authors are publishers and publishers are bookstores.

And yet, the one thing everyone seems to fear the most is Amazon’s slashing e-book prices and selling them at a loss.

Last week almost all the major publishers announced they would be holding back e-book releases on select titles until three to four months after the hardcover release.

Now? The time to have gotten involved in timing and pricing was two years ago before when the Kindle came on the market. When experimentation would have made sense. When there were no precedents set. But to do it now?

Kassia Krozser, at Book Square, blogged that the way some agents and publishers are reacting is fetishistic: “We must worship the all-mighty hardcover,” she wrote, “without worrying about the actual impact to overall sales. Without even considering the reader. Of course, why would publishing ever consider the reader?”

Why indeed?

As someone who has spent her life in advertising doing endless research about the end user, I’m continually shocked by the lack of information publishers have about readers. And even worse their lack of concern about the info they don’t have.

E-books vs. Hardcovers

There is a lot of information about readers that is key to what the future holds and how it’s going to play out. And we need to be paying attention to it.

For instance, 40% of hardcovers are either resold online two or three times or lent to friend and family two to three times. Or swapped two or three or more times.

None of those transactions pay a penny to the publisher or the author.

But e-books can’t be resold. Or borrowed. (Barnes & Noble’s Nook offers publishers the option to lend once, but few allow it.)

Read the rest of the article here:


Publishing Predictions for Next Decade

Richard Eoin Nash, former publisher of Soft Skull Press, has written an intelligent editorial for Publishing Perspectives deflating currently-held and often-times mistaken beliefs regarding the future of publishing. This is a must-read:

The New Gatekeepers

The endless media hoo-haa about the death of the book and the death of reading will slowly fade away, going the way of the articles of the last century about TV destroying radio and film and books. The death of the e-book, much like the death of the CD and the coming demise of the mp3, will provoke relatively few histrionics. As connectivity becomes ever more pervasive through 4G, WiMax etc, all text will be in the cloud, and the need for files vanishes.

It becomes clear that roughly the same percentage of the population continues to read immersive text-only long form narrative, and that the proliferation of multimodal forms in art, entertainment and education are precisely that, the creation of something new, and not the destruction of books, or painting. Many writers will choose to write in multimodal forms, just as many novelists currently write screenplays, and a few write videogames.

However, articles on the death of culture will continue. Any time technology has increased the number of people who can create, disseminate, and consume knowledge, the existing gatekeepers have decried it as signaling the end of civilization. This phenomenon goes as far back as we can keep track of this impulse, to Socrates bemoaning the use of the book to avoid memorization, and continues throughout history, through Gutenberg and the loss of control over translations of the Bible, through the 19th century and the panic over fiction destroying the minds and morals of young women, through the moral panic of the 1950’s over comics and the pulp novel, to the present reactionary idiocies of Sven Birkerts and Mark Helprin.

Yet more fuel will be added to the conservative reaction as increasing access to education and lower technical and economic barriers to entry is going to lead to an explosion of creative production in the developing world, as billions more Africans, Indians and Asians enter the middle-class and start reading and writing narrative, just as Westerners did in the past century.

Too much to possibly happen in a decade? Remember: two and a half decades from now, the iPhone’s computing power will fit inside a blood cell.

Takeaway: While companies are destroyed, modes of creating culture are not. In 2020 there will be more writers, more readers, and yes, more match-makers bringing them together, than ever before.

And in 2020, I’ll predict there’ll be yet more writers, readers and matchmakers in 2030.

Read the entire article here:

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