An Interview with the Father of Self-Publishing

February 20, 2009

Dan Poynter is without question the guru/godfather/father of self-publishing. Long before self-publishing became a cinch on the Internet, Dan was the leading practitioner and exponent of self-publishing. We’ve met a couple of times over the years, and I thought him very bright, charming and completely committed to the endeavor.

Smashwords has a great interview with Dan. He holds many opinions that differ from mine, which, rather than make me doubt him, make me question my own conclusions.

On e-books:

“We still hear people say they like the look and feel of a paper book. They will get over it. I do not know of one of these detractors who has actually read an eBook. They may have glanced at a page but they have not tested the concept. I have been publishing eReports and eBooks since 1996. Because I fly more than 6,000 miles/week, I read a lot of eBooks (mostly historical fiction). So we can argue about what the customer wants but the deciding factor will be economics. pBooks cost too much. Their list prices are higher and their actual costs are much higher when you consider printing, trucking, inventorying, processing the order, picking, packing, licking, sticking, wrapping and shipping. eBooks require little or none of these and Smashwords takes care of the delivery, billing, paying and customer service.”

Check out the whole interview at the link above. If you’re interesting in self-publishing, buy Dan’s books!

Tags: , , ,

“Reading Books on a Cell Phone is a Demented Idea”

February 18, 2009

“…the students I talk to (and I ask regularly) would go to lengths to avoid reading a book on the Internet, can’t fathom the price of Kindle, which looks like an old person’s appliance anyway, and think reading books on a cell phone is a demented idea.”

— From a comment by Barbara Fister who “coordinate(s) the Folke Bernadotte Memorial Library’s instruction program and participate(s) in collection development, reference, and collegial management of the library’s resources,” posted in reference to an article about online piracy of university press publications.

Tags: , ,

Jason Epstein on the Future of Publishing

Jason Epstein is a publishing legend. If you don’t know of him, start with the all-too-brief Wikipedia entry, and move on from there. All are well-advised to learn more about this remarkable man.

He now has a vested economic interest in the future of publishing because of his work with the Espresso book print-on-demand device. But this in no way reduces his ability to articulate the changes that are taking place in publishing. He is eloquent, experienced, educated and thoughtful, and his words should be sifted through carefully.

Fortunately the O’Reilly conference on the Tools of Change for Publishing (TOC), held this month in New York, is generous in sharing content from the many presentations there. Here is the full text of Mr. Epstein’s presentation in New York.

He covers the broad range of topics that concern all publishers. A small excerpt here:

“Whatever new publishing paradigms emerge, narrative will persist as a permanent expression of our human nature. We are a storytelling animal and all the world’s tyrants from the beginning of human time have been unable to thwart us. The triumph of samizdat over tyranny is a very old story.”

Please click and read on.

Tags: , , , , ,

The Biggest Threat to Windows is Netbooks

February 17, 2009

Two very interesting blogs/articles on ZDNet cover a fascinating story from slightly different angles.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes points out something that I never imagined happening in my lifetime: The price of PCs, in particular of netbooks, is dropping so fast that soon the operating system (at least the Windows operating system), threatens to become more expensive than the hardware.

Meanwhile Dana Blankenhorn, in a piece called Netbooks Killing Windows Faster Than Expected, reports that “IDC figures from the fourth quarter show a rush toward inexpensive Netbooks and away from Windows laptops. Take out sales of the Atom processor running many Netbooks and total shipments were down 20%, figures showed.”

Meanwhile, as reported February 2nd on MacDailyNews, “Net Applications‘ Operating System stats for January 2009 show Apple’s Mac hit 9.93% share of the operating systems visiting Net Applications’ network of websites worldwide. The stats also show Apple iPhone with a new all-time high of 0.48% share and Apple iPod with a new all-time high of 0.11%.”

Net Applications’ January 2009 Operating System Stats:

Microsoft Windows: 88.26% (vs. May 2006: 95.09%)

Apple Macintosh: 9.93% (vs. May 2006: 4.43%)

Linux: 0.83%

090202_netapps_jan09_os.gifThe trendlines are obvious, although clearly Microsoft Windows is not on the verge of disappearing. It’s less clear what this means to the future of publishing. Software will continue to play an essential role in the ongoing developments in the publishing world, but the operating system that the software runs on is decreasing in significance. So too the hardware.

When Apple introduced the Macintosh and the LaserWriter, Adobe introduced PostScript, and Aldus introduced PageMaker, the seeds of the current publishing revolution were sewn. We’re moving into another era, where creativity in publishing is not primarily about do-it-yourself on a desktop computer, with a printed artifact the outcome.

Exciting times. Exhausting times!

Update: February 18, 2009

In a blog on ZDNet today, Andrew Nusca reports that a chip maker called Freescale “has announced that it will use Google’s Android operating system for a new type of Netbook by next quarter.

“Though Google’s Android software was originally developed for smartphones, Freescale believes it can use the flexible OS to make a new class of less-expensive mini-notebooks and Netbooks.”

…”The company expects the amount of Netbooks sold this year — already an explosive amount of growth — to double to about 30 million. [Mobile research firm ABI Research has a higher forecast of 35 million.]”

Freescale expects the retail price to be $199!

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Kindle Mania Overtakes America

The Kindle 2 was indeed unveiled on February 9th as “rumored.” (What do you call a supposed rumor that everyone already knows? A “deliberate leak” perhaps.) Ship date is February 24th, just in time for those who forgot to buy chocolates and roses on Valentine’s Day.

Kindle lovers everywhere are thrilled; the skeptics remains skeptical.

The upside: it’s a little thinner, an ounce lighter, has a better display, and a longer battery life. More titles are now available which is a good thing since the increased storage capacity will hold 1,500 books. As the average American reads 5 books per year, they will be able to keep 300 years worth of reading on their Valentine’s or birthday gift.

The downside: it’s the exact same retail price, $359, and there’s no trade-in allowance.


I have to admit that Jeff Bezos is a marketing master, having convinced so many people that the Kindle is a momentous leap forward. Even those who are not inclined to buy one are starting to feel like wallflowers at the orgy.

But talk about modest improvements offered for the same price.

According to the Seybold Bulletin, “A poll of about 1,000 attendees (at the recent Tools of Change for Publishing conference) indicated that around 400 were current Kindle owners, but that only 15 of those were actually considering buying the new device, leaving open the question of how many new buyers the second generation device will have. The device does not offer existing users enough change to make it worthwhile to invest a second $359 in the device only a year after the introduction of the first Kindle.”

Meanwhile an online survey on the Toronto Globe and Mail website last week asked: “Would you ever switch from reading printed books to reading e-books with a digital device?” With over 11,000 responses, 75% said “No.”

switch to e-books-sm.jpg

But some colleagues who I respect are Kindle converts (KCs). Dave Kellogg, CEO of Mark Logic, writes one of the publishing industry’s most intelligent and insightful blogs. He’s a Kindle fan, and explains his reasoning here.

The entry is prompted by a story in the current issue of The Economist, entitled Well Read. Amongst Dave’s trenchant observations is that the Kindle is the strategy whereby Amazon will achieve over the publishing industry something near Apple’s power over the music industry — and the only thing he see stopping it “is the Google Books settlement, where Google gets a shot at creating an Amazon-class bookstore for books — and derivatives thereof.”

He also notes in the article what must be the most preposterous claim yet made for e-books: “So far, says Mr. Kessel [a member of Amazon’s Kindle team], this does not seem to spell the end of paper books, since Kindle users buy just as many bound books as before, so that their total consumption of books goes up by 2.6 times.” Could you give us that once more, Mr. Kessel?

Kellogg does not mention that the same issue of The Economist contains an editorial called An iTunes Moment? which notes that “the iPhone, meanwhile, has quietly become the most widely used e-book reader: more people have downloaded e-book software (such as Stanza, eReader and Classics) for iPhones than have bought Kindles.” The piece concludes that Apple may well be in a position to block Amazon’s attempt to corner the eBook market. “There are already millions of iPhones and touch-screen iPods in circulation, and the company has long been rumoured to be working on a larger “tablet” device,” the editorial notes. “Selling e-books and newspapers via iTunes, which already has millions of paying customers, would be simple. True, Steve Jobs, Apple’s mercurial boss, has expressed scepticism about e-readers, claiming that “people don’t read any more”. But Mr Jobs has a record of insisting that Apple is not interested in making a particular product (a video iPod, a mobile phone) — right up until the moment when he unveils one. Might e-books soon be the next example?”

Stay tuned…this story has a few more chapters to go.

Tags: , , , , , , ,