Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue


Print’s Alive, but Publishing Still in Trouble? (Actually it’s NOT)


Is Publishing in Trouble or Not?

Apparently, a main theme coming out of the July 2011 Yale Publishing Conference was that ‘fear’ was at the center of all the chaos in the modern publishing world.

This is true … But, duhhhh, who didn’t already understand that! Of course it’s fear of change that is holding publishing back from being all it can be.

Fear of change and the unknown (or not understood) has always been a prevalent weakness for most Homo sapiens. 

Stefanie Botelho, writing for FOLIO Magazine, covered the conference:

If Print Isn’t Dead, Why is Publishing Still in Trouble?

Reasons why explored at Yale Publishing Conference.

At the Yale Publishing Conference, which took place last month in New Haven, CT, big names in magazine publishing were in attendance, both as students and teachers.

The session began with Richard Foster, senior faculty fellow at Yale School of Management and managing partner with the Millbrook Management Group, LLC. He philosophized about the term “creative destruction”, focusing its various implications in correlation to the publishing world.

Subsequent sessions led by Michael Clinton, president and marketing/publishing director of Hearst; president of Dwell Media Michela O’Connor Abrams; and Glamour editor-in-chief Cynthia Leive ran the gamut of print, digital and staffing challenges.

But the biggest theme, prevalent in how speakers addressed the crowd and the audience pressed the presenters for immediate solutions to admittedly complex problems (the transition to digital, etc.), was not listed in the printed program.

It was fear.

And that may be the largest issue the publishing industry is facing today: fear of the present, fear of the future, fear of the audience and, perhaps the most crippling, fear of change.

While not as easily palpable in the speakers (who each provided case study after case study of success within their companies), both lecturers and audience members rippled with it. Age jokes were dropped at a noticeable rate (O’Connor Abrams quipped she and only one other staffer are over 30) and tales of staff let go because of unwillingness to convert to the digital age (and assist in the bevy of products unrelated to actual print issues) were some of the most poignant of the day. The message was clear: get onboard or get out, because there are plenty of others to take your seat at the publishing table—many of them young enough to still be crashing with Mom and Dad.

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Transmedia? What the F—!

What the Hell is Transmedia?

There is a whole alternative universe out there materializing for publishing. Getting to the portals that let you into a smattering of understanding may be a bitch for some of us older farts. If we accidently get positioned close (through new wave education or just blind stumbling upon) to one of these damn portals…we will have to go through a debriefing and reprogramming chamber before we can even enter through the damn thing…

At least that’s the way the vast-publishing-information-overload-tsunami that keeps crashing over us again and again (as if it had a self-perpetuating life of it’s own) makes us feel! New technology and knowledge are reproducing at the speed of light!

Will we ever be able to keep up?

So, back to the title of this post; just what is transmedia? Basically it’s a format of other available formats (they’re reproducing fast) combined into one presentation. I have paraphrased from several sources…so beware.

Wikipedia discusses transmedia storytelling…please read the link to get through portal one of the alternative publishing universe (APU).

Then proceed to Which Transmedia Practices are Best Suited to Traditional Publishing? by Edward Nawotka in Publishing Perspectives for a debrief/reprogram seance for entrance through portal two of the APU…

Good luck in the “What the F—!” universe…

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Booksellers Need to Become ‘Jack-of-All-Trades’ to Flourish

I just love that old term ‘jack-of-all-trades’…It sounds so self relient and totally competent! Outsourcing, a darling concept  in the corporate (and government world), is now OUT in the publishing and bookselling universe…at least the messy business side of that universe.

The new buzz word for a biz model being a more inclusively competent, ‘jack-of-all-trades’ type is to be ‘vertically’ organized as opposed to ‘horizontally’ (outsourcing of some functions) organized. 

As is expressed so succinctly by Michael Wolf in his Crush or Get Crushed: Why B&N Needs to Be a Publisher article on his great blog GigaOM :

Let’s face it, the total pie in books is going to shrink, and the long and unwieldy value-chain from writer to customer is going to collapse. Amazon knew this a long time ago, and that’s why they’ve been moving to disintermediate the publisher and the wholesaler in the e-book world by becoming, essentially, the entire value chain themselves.

One ingredient this new self-sufficient biz side of the publishing and bookselling universe will ALWAYS need, of course, are the writers (creators) of great content! Writers are the really one indispensable part of the equation and they too are now becoming their own publishers (mostly through online publishers/e-retailers like Amazon, etc)…but, watch out…one day we may be able to eliminate the likes of Amazon, too.   

This now from Michael Wolf on GigaOM: 

Talk about frustrating: This week Barnes & Noble announced topline growth year over year and its first profit in four quarters, and how was it rewarded for its hard work?

With a pounding by Wall Street.

The drubbing was due in part to the news the company was eliminating its dividend in order to invest more in its digital business, but there’s no doubt the recent Borders bankruptcy filing weighed on the minds of investors. After all, B&N is the Coke to Borders’ Pepsi, and it’s easy to assume what happens to one will eventually inflict the other.

But as this excellent answer on Quora by former Borders employee Mark Evans points out, Borders failed for numerous reasons, the most important of which was its outsourcing of online to Amazon. What B&N realized — and Borders didn’t — was you don’t become a true online retailer by outsourcing the business, especially to what may be your number one competitor.

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Literary Armageddon: Technology Is Beating the Hell Out of Publishing

Publishing in recent years has just gotten too damn big for it’s baggy britches and needed a restructuring of some sort to come into alignment with the literary god’s invisible but real and moral principal of justifiable publication for all worthy projects… not just the ramblings of the latest celebrity fad or news-drenched idiot for a quick buck! So, the literary god sent down Kindle and iPad as a jumpstart rejuvenator.

Dan Agin, author and neuroscientist (you REALLY need to look up this interesting professor) wrote on this subject for the Huffington Post:

Kindle Armageddon: How the Publishing Industry Is Slitting Its Own Throat
Once upon a time, the only books that existed were books copied by hand by monks and scribes and sold to the very rich for the equivalent of $5000 or $6000 a book. Then along came the printing press, and all the monks and scribes had to find another way to earn their bread.

Once upon a time the only books that existed were books on paper made by printing presses and sold to the rich and not so rich and not rich at all for enough money to make publishing houses worth hundreds of millions of dollars, enough money to pay high salaries to publishing executives. Then along came the digital book, and many thousands of people in and around publishing had to find another way to earn their bread.

The subtext of the story is the impact of technology on culture and commerce, and the unfailing collapse of any industry that allows itself to be blinded by sloth, short term greed, and general mediocrity of attitudes.

Anyone with an imagination about the future of technology and commerce knows that the printed book on paper is already on its way to obsolescence. The wrangling and beefing and whining about prices and protecting demand for printed books by publishing executives is both amusing and tragic.

It’s tragic because when an industry dies because of corporate blindness, people do get hurt. When the automobile put the horse and carriage trade out of business, blacksmiths and carriage makers became irrelevant overnight. But before that happened people were up to their eyeballs in media baloney that the automobile was only a fad.

Some fad.

The same will happen to the entire printed-book industry, editors, publishers, printers, salesmen, publicists, marketeers, whatever. They will be gone or transformed — to be remembered in anecdotes about the old days.

Which brings us to the Amazon Kindle. Although most people don’t know it, you don’t need a Kindle to read Kindle books. The current high price of the Kindle device is irrelevant. Amazon is now offering free software for download to any PC, the software allowing Kindle books to be downloaded in seconds to be read at once. Anyone with a laptop that runs Windows can read Kindle books. There are now 400,000 Kindle titles available, everything from high and low class lesbian erotica (Spectrum Diva Books) and erotic romances (Harlequin Blaze) to high and low class Supreme Court decisions and books about string theory in cosmology. In short, nearly everything is now available — and soon it will ALL be available in digital format.

My personal view is that apart from the ease of access to books, the most important feature of Kindle books is that the type size can be adjusted to anything you like at the click of a button. No more eye strain. No more visits to a bookstore that may be miles from your house. No more waiting for printed books in the mail. No more crowding your living space with thousands of books that you can’t throw out because they are part of your life and represent what you once were and what you are now. The Kindle (or your computer hosting Kindle books) can hold thousands of books in no more space than that occupied by a single school notebook.

Anyone who believes this new technology is going away is dreaming. Anyone who believes the print publishing industry has a chance to survive in its present form is dreaming. It’s now possible for any small publisher to have free and almost immediate access to the largest bookstore in the world — Amazon. In a few days, a small publisher can have its entire backlist in Kindle format available at Amazon to readers. Salesmen are bypassed, distributors are bypassed, bookstore buyers are bypassed. What will not change much is marketing and promotion — new books will still need to be brought to the attention of the public. But the new books will be Kindle or Kindle-like digital books.

The big print publishers need to understand the reality of the 21st century: either you roll with new technology or you get rolled over by it. That’s the lesson of the history of technology in commerce.

Requiescant in pace, big print publishing. The run is finished.

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