Books are Optimized for No Participation

November 16, 2011

Over at PressThink Jay Rosen observed that professional journalism has been optimized for low participation. He explains that “until a few years ago, the ‘job’ of the user was simply to receive the news and maybe send a letter to the editor.” This was a logical outcome of the available technology. “Journalists built their practices on top of a one-way, one-to-many, broadcasting system,” he noted. (more…)

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Just in Time: An Expert on the Future of Books

September 16, 2010

Phew! That was close. Just yesterday I read on Simon Pulman’s Transmythology blog (Story, Branded Entertainment & Transmedia) that “It is a given that 90% of books purchased will be digitally downloaded.”

Today I learned from an “expert” that “the book is here to stay.”

Professor Clingham is a professor of English — clearly not mathematics — for he notes: “Just after Christmas last year, for the first time ever, the sale of electronic books exceeded the sale of hardback books. But, surprisingly, the sale of hardback books has remained constant, suggesting that people are buying more books and not just changing preference.”

The good professor obviously does not read my blog. If he did (and had a better memory than I), he would recall my entry from last January 5th where I discussed Amazon’s silly press statement: “On Christmas Day, for the first time ever, customers purchased more Kindle books than physical books.”

It turns out that Amazon was using the word “purchase” very loosely, in that 64 of the 100 top Kindle store bestsellers were free. These days Amazon admits that money is part of the transaction when we call said transaction a purchase.

So it was not after Christmas, but on Christmas Day, and it was only Amazon (not the world) and it was not sales. Aside from that, bingo.

Today I received also an inquiry from a third year graphic design student at the University of Leeds in the U.K. He explained that he is writing his dissertation on the “death of the printed word and image” and is reading as many articles as possible.

He read just one article on my site (out of perhaps fifty) and “wondered if you could point me in the direction of any other relevant research that is currently being undertaken?”

I’ve been at a loss for words. I thought to write: Why don’t you start by reading the rest of the articles on my site all of which discuss the…

And then I paused.

None of them discuss the “death of the printed word and image”. That’s because I don’t believe that the printed word and image are dying.

A key distinction to be made here: of course my site is all about the decrease in relative consumption of analog forms of content, replaced and often augmented by the wonderful explosion in available digital content.

But just because print is decreasing don’t mean it’s dying. I thought today: There is NO empirical evidence that print is dying. There’s a ton of evidence of decreased consumption, but media consumption does not evolve in a linear fashion. The trend line might look like it’s heading towards zero but an examination of historic media consumption patterns suggests that the decline will taper and at some point level off.

It could be that 90% of books purchased will be digitally downloaded, as Simon Pulman suggests. There is, however, no evidence of this. It is not “a given” (which Mr. Pulman acknowledged today).

Ebook enthusiasts, of which I am one, must keep in mind that analog media does not have to die for digital media to flourish.

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It’s a Book

September 6, 2010

“Can you blog with it?”

“No. It’s a book.”

Cute little video for a new book by Lane Smith…great example of the use of viral online media to promote…a book.


“Lane Smith brilliantly captures the fears of today’s book lovers over e-readers in a children’s book — and does so with great humor.”
The New York Post

“Personally, we laughed our ass off—and we know a few kids who will, too.”
Time Out New York Kids


Thanks for the heads up, Wendy.

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You Too Can Earn $17/hour in Book Publishing!

August 31, 2010

…if you have a university degree AND a publishing certificate, speak English and French and know XML.

This is but one of the challenges of book publishing today: The technical skills required are exploding, but the economics still suck.

I don’t wish to heap ridicule on this particular company: it’s happening everywhere.

Publishing Assistant
Canadian Scholars’ Press Inc./Women’s Press
(Toronto, ON)
Deadline: October 1, 2010

Canadian Scholars’ Press Inc./Women’s Press, one of Canada’s leading independent academic publishing companies, requires a Publishing Assistant for a 20-week contract beginning November 1st. Reporting to the Marketing and Editorial Associate, the Publishing Assistant is responsible for:

• Promoting sales through targeted email campaigns
• Assisting in the dissemination of book data to Indigo, Amazon, and other vendors
• Managing Google Books claims
• Coordinating desk and examination copy mailings
• Assisting in the creation of marketing materials such as press releases, catalogues, and newsletters
• Assisting with the maintenance of the CSPI website
• Promoting CSPI’s social media profile
• Assisting the editorial, production, and permissions departments as required
• Some internal administrative duties

Required skills and experience:

• Recent completion of a post-secondary degree specializing in literature, communications, or a related field
• Proficiency in Microsoft Office software
• Enrolment in and/or completion of a professional publishing certificate is a strong asset
• French language proficiency is an asset
• Experience with XML coding and/or ONIX for books is an asset
• Keen interest in the book publishing industry
• Excellent communication and time management skills
• Related work experience in a field such as publishing, bookselling, communications, or marketing will distinguish a potential candidate, but is not required

This is a paid position with an hourly rate of $17. To apply, please submit a resume and cover letter to no later than Friday, October 1st. We thank all applicants for their interest, but only those selected for an interview will be contacted. CSPI is an equal opportunity employer.

According to you can earn the same amount as an administrative assistant, and $2.40 more per hour as a retail manager.

So much for the value of a university education.

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Will Authors of the Future Need Publishers?

September 15, 2009

A good follow-up to yesterday’s post about Daniel Menaker’s post on trade book publishing comes from Nathanial Bransford’s popular blog (81 comments so far on the entry). Titled, of course, Will Authors of the Future Need Publishers? Bransford makes several important points.

1. Book sales are off 2.5% for the year as of July, compared to a 9.5% drop in broader retail. This is not so bad.

2. “For the last hundred years the publishing industry has been built around one key advantage that no one else could match: distribution.” I’ve argued in favor of this point for many years, but too many publishing staff are caught up in the romance of their trade. Their brand is essentially meaningless to readers — it is meaningful mainly to booksellers and librarians. (When was the last time you started a conversation with “I just read a great new book from HarperCollins”?)

3. “Right now, with e-books hovering somewhere around 5% of sales, authors still need publishers. Even the self-publishing success stories almost always involve self-published authors finding their way to traditional publishers. Why? Someone’s got to get the books into the stores, and publishers are the best at it.

“But what about in the future if e-books become 50% or more of an author’s sales?”

This topic dominates the rest of the post.

Bransford wisely notes that “all of this assumes that e-books become dominant, and to be sure, that’s a big ‘if.'”

But it’s certainly not inconceivable, and his post paints an interesting picture of how trade book publishing will change if eBooks take over half of the current retail market.

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