Those of you who have read any of my posts to date will have noticed no doubt a certain duality. A belief that technology offers an interesting and exciting future for book publishing combined with fears that new and different gatekeepers will be ready to choke off the opportunities that present themselves.
The gate keepers I most fear are search engines who have managed through foresight and perseverance to place themselves between the audience and content. Yes there are challengers to the crowns of Yahoo and Google and their few mega companions but in truth they are few and they serve to prove the rule.
In pondering this I have been reading widely about how search works and was guided by “Melanie’s Round Up” in John Battelle’s Searchblog to a fascinating article in IEEE Spectrum on pagerank and how:
While search engines do not make for a level playing field, their use partially mitigates the rich-get-richer nature of the Web, giving new sites an increased chance of being discovered.
It is tough but rewarding read and can be found in its entirety here. I am still torn between a dream and reality but I am perhaps a little easier in my dreaming.
Those of you who read my links post yesterday may have seen my link to Plagiarism Today which I praised highly. Author Jonathon got back with a comment that I think it only fair to post on the front page:
May 31st, 2006 at 4:31 pm e
I just wanted to say thank you for the link and for the review. It means a lot. However, I am probably not the world’s best choice for balance. I do support the Creative Commons initiative and most sharing of content, it’s just plagiarism and outright content theft that bothers me.
Still I am very glad that you enjoy the site and found it useful. I hope that I can continue to please.
I seem to have gotten back into the swing of these links posts recently. I wonder how long they last!
An interesting link this one. The Publishing Spot is an excellent source of comment, interview and other posts relating to publishing.
I think I may have linked to Open Access News before but I don’t mind. It’s an excellent website and offers a slightly academic view on some of the challenges ahead for trade and mainstream publishers as their customers demand more “Open access” to content just as some in the scientific community are now.
It wouldn’t do to post two links that were pushing the openness of the web without linking to somewhere else for a little balance. Plagiarism Today is quite honestly one of the finest sites on the web I have come across. It is passionate, dedicated and honest. It sticks to its core mission and seems intent on informing the world. From it’s About Page:
Plagiarism Today (PT) is a site targeted at Webmasters and copyright holders regarding the issue of plagiarism online. Though it deals with many legal issues, in particular the DMCA and copyright law, it is not a legal blog and is, instead, a blog regarding a societal ill that’s effects may never be fully understood or comprehended.
Publishing News has a report on an amusing hoo-ha between American and British publishers at the BEA last week. As they report it:
Carolyn Reidy, President and Publisher of Simon & Schuster, told the packed ‘Turf Wars’ session at the BEA last Friday. She said UK publishers were scare-mongering in their concerns over territoriality and that agents should ask themselves whether an exclusive grant of English-language rights in a non-English-language territory helped or hindered an author’s career. Reidy has no doubts that it’s a hindrance.
Do go and read the piece in full. I cannot help but feel that it is a sad comment on publishing that British Publishers fear the challenge of American Imports. Surely they can out compete their American rivals in the EU at least and if they cannot then they should really be searching for alliances across the water to protect their lead authors and to offer comprehensive book deals.
There is an intriguing story on thePostChronicle today about comic books:
Comic Book Resources, an online magazine, found more than 30 percent had downloaded a comic book at least once, and 12 percent said they downloaded comic books regularly.
Not even comics are immune to the changes in the industry. The sooner publishers, of all types, realize that and go with it, the sooner they will see the benefits. At least that is what we hope.
One man’s project to
document how to turn our blogs into books, or ‘blooks’
read it all.
Scott Wallick is an editor with a very good blog. Read his “An Editor” tagged posts.
A used and rare booksellers blog.Very readable.
There is a fascinating post called Shaking Up tech Publishing on David Heinemeier Hansson’s blog Loud Thinking. It is from several months ago so you may have heard about it before. At first blush it might seem like just a rant against the publishing industry.
I’ve been talking to a lot of friends and acquaintances who are writing tech books for a wide variety of old-school publishers and I can’t believe the deals they’re taking.
It seems that the industry standard is something akin to 10% of the profits (which easily take 4-5-6 months to arrive), being forced to write in Word, and finally a production cycle that’s at least a good 3 months from final book to delivery. That’s horrible!
But if you persevere it’s actually quite a read offering an interesting perspective on the development process of books and perhaps a glimpse of the future of book production.
But you don’t have to abandon dead trees entirely to be profitable as a tech author. Look at the Pragmatic Programmers. They use Subversion for revision control and collaboration alongside a tech-powered writing pipeline where authors write book “source code” and are able to produce PDFs straight from that! There is not even an InDesign step at the end. And you get to write in your favourite editor (I used TextMate for my work on the Rails book).
The criticism of the industry is probably a little unfair in some ways but the value of his constructive points outweighs that. Interestingly he heavily praises a company I have mentioned previously The Pragmatic Programmers. Worth checking out the post and the publishers.