data aggregation

Getting to Digital

Beastly goings on
There have been a few pretty big moves in the last few days towards what seem (At least to me) sensible models for getting digital and quickly. The first is Tina Brown’s The Daily Beast‘s deal with Perseus Press that the NYT featured yesterday:

Ms. Brown said that Beast Books would select authors from The Daily Beast’s cadre of writers, most of whom are paid freelancers, to write books with quick turnarounds. She said she planned to publish three to five books in the first year.

The beauty of the deal though is that they making digital first publications:

Beast Books, that will focus on publishing timely titles by Daily Beast writers — first as e-books, and then as paperbacks on a much shorter schedule than traditional books.

I rather hope this works, it certainly sounds like a good news story if it does. The model seems sensible, it capitalises on the eyeballs the Daily Beast is dragging and as The Big Money puts it in a sensible and thoughtful paragraph:

The good news is that this is exactly what digital publishing needs to fuel its growth: a product ideally suited to a new technology. Brown’s entry into the field validates the idea of writing specifically for the Kindle and its competitors, a huge vote of confidence in the tools. The less-great news is that for all of Brown’s talent for attention-getting, the Daily Beast may not have the right content to drive sales. Which just might be the point of the whole deal—with Brown using the book deal as a back door to better content.

Disney Digital

Disney Digital


Disney’s gamble
There have been some negative comments about Disney’s newly launched program that provides online access to 500. As the NYT (again) puts it:

In what it bills as an industry-defining moment — though rivals are sure to be skeptical about that — Disney Publishing plans to introduce a new subscription-based Web site. For $79.95 a year, families can access electronic replicas of hundreds of Disney books, from “Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too” to “Hannah Montana: Crush-tastic!”

DisneyDigitalBooks.com, which is aimed at children ages 3 to 12, is organized by reading level. In the “look and listen” section for beginning readers, the books will be read aloud by voice actors to accompanying music (with each word highlighted on the screen as it is spoken). Another area is dedicated to children who read on their own. Find an unfamiliar word? Click on it and a voice says it aloud. Chapter books for teenagers and trivia features round out the service.

I like this idea because it is heading more towards the type of product that can win the battle for attention and hold its own against numerous distractions. What is more, a site like this (and being a site is crucial) has a certain seamless quality, it fits into the web rather than standing aside from it in a “connected” device. It will simply be a rich content website that you happen to pay for! That is important! that, I believe, is the future.

Both these moves are taking big publishing digital very rapidly. This is a space to watch!
Eoin

Bloomsbury’s digital strategy begin to take shape

Eoin Purcell

I hate to say, I told you so!
It has been a hobby horse of mine for some time that Bloomsbury’s clever bolt on acquisitions have real potential for online and digital development:

nearly all the moves place them in a position to exploit the brand potential of all these properties and to do that through new digital avenues if and when they choose to. All told Bloomsbury has acquired or built a tidy little reference and academic division featuring quality brands and properties.

And then today we see the announcement (Bookseller story and econsultancy report) of a new social network based around The Writers & Artists Handbook brand & content:

The redesign will allow users to create a public profile that will enable them to promote themselves and be contacted by interested parties using the site. Additionally the site now provides free searches of the Yearbook listings for people happy to supply their contact details. THE BOOKSELLER

This seems like a very sensible and I predict it will have an impact on the online community of writers and aspiring writers who are increasing in number every day. One of their key goals seems to be building profiles of who these writers are, what they want and what they might be willing to pay for. We rarely value the data that can be gathered from collecting the searches of site members even though that is partly what Google’s amazing dominance of search is based on. From the econsultancy report:

The Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook website will also be encouraging data collection among its users by offering free searches of the Yearbook listings to those happy to provide their contact details. This will enable the Yearbook, A & C Black and Bloomsbury to engage them with relevant information and offers.

I really believe that the Writers & Artists site will enable Bloomsbury to exercise a degree of leadership in this area. That might sound far fetched but think it through, there are few sites around with this depth of information and reputation. Equally if A&C Black and Bloomsbury play their cards right this could just enable them to move ahead of Faber who with their Faber Academy have extended their brand most sensibly and effectively.

Of course they might not be able to over take Faber, maybe they will have to buy them. I suspect if the shareholders could be convined, Bloomsbury could afford it, they do have rather a lot of cash!

Thinking about brands, publishing and the web.
Eoin

There is literally too much digital news to know where to start

Eoin Purcell

But start we must
So how about with this piece from Crain’s New York about a new ebook publishing house (strangely sans website yet) OR Books. The house is run by, John Oakes and Colin Robinson, two veterans of New York’s independent literary scene. To my mind the most interesting tidbit in the article was in terms of their business plan:

Publishing only e-book and print-on-demand editions, OR won’t have to deal with any returns. The company also won’t share revenue with distributors, wholesalers and bookstores, which together can collect as much as 60% of sales. The savings will go into online marketing campaigns that will run about $50,000 to $75,000 per title—huge sums for so-called mid-list books.

Print-on-demand trade paperbacks will sell for $15 apiece, but the partners have yet to decide what to charge for e-books. Typically, prices for new titles range from around $26, or the same as a hardcover, to the discounted $9.99 that Amazon charges for most of its Kindle titles.

OR will also make a small number of books available to cooperating bookstores on a nonreturnable basis. And it will consider a title a success if it sells just 5,000 electronic copies.

I’ve added the emphasis there. That, frankly seems a pretty significant sum to be even contemplating in ad spend online (or will that mean print ads for ebooks? And the ebook price is not yet set? Stranger and stranger I say.

Wherever Spanish is read
Everywhere online and digital if the latest reports are to be believed. The top three Spanish publishers have joined forces to create a digital distributor. Seems eminently sensible. A much fuller article can be read on Publishing Perspectives a relative but very interesting newcomer to the publishing news scene, focused on international views and opinions. from the text it seems like these major players have developed a pretty sensible model too:

In negotiations with the Association of Spanish Literary Agencies (ADAL), the publishers have agreed to price ebooks at 80% of a printed books cover price, with a standard 25% royalty rate. Booksellers will be offered a maximum discount of 50%.

The truth, plain and unvarnished
I’ll only cover three items today and perhaps do a follow up post tomorrow, but that third item must be Andrew Savikas’ really gauntlet throwing down piece over at o”Reilly Radar in which he basically calls B*llsh*t in people who think the value is in theur conent. twitter has been abuzz with publisher types praising it all day and with real reason. it is clear, concise and devastating for those who disagree with his perspective:

“But people are still buying content when they buy a book or an album,” the argument goes. Yes, they are. The same way that you’re buying food when you go to a restaurant. You are purchasing calories that your body will convert to energy. But few restaurants (especially those you visit frequently) have ingredients any different from those you can get yourself at the corner store, for much less money. So it can’t be true that your primary goal is to purchase food; you’re purchasing a meal, prepared so you don’t have to, cleaned up so you don’t have to, and done so in a pleasing and convenient atmosphere. You are paying for the preparation of the food and the experience of eating it in the restaurant, not the food itself [2] (beyond the raw cost of the physical ingredients, which in the case of digital content is effectively zero).

And to finish the sad news, for the staff of Borders in Blanchardstown, the book buyers and the publishers of Ireland is that the only Irish store in the UK arm is closing along with four UK based branches. It is a real shame, I liked the store though I will freely admit I got there irregularly. I wish there was some way to avoid this outcome.

Not happy this evening,
Eoin

Springer Images: A simple but important idea

Eoin Purcell

A screen capture from the SpringerImages site

A screen capture from the SpringerImages site


I like SpringImages.com and not just because I am the kind of nerd who will use it. Even without paying a subscription you get pretty broad usage terms:

If you are a Registered and a Subscribed User, you may

* Access, browse, copy, collate, display, search, bookmark, retrieve, display and use the Content for educational, personal, scientific, or research purposes, including illustration, explanation, example, comment, criticism, teaching, research or analysis in accordance with these Terms of Use.
* Add keywords to Content and save prior searches of the Content on your Account, and you may use the Content to tailor your Account in accordance with these Terms of Use.
* Download or create printouts of certain Content under certain restrictions and conditions. All reproduction and distribution of such printouts, and all downloading and electronic storage of materials retrieved through the Content shall be for your own internal, personal or scholarly use.

There is much more detail about the site here! In terms of what most casual users would need, this certainly hits the spot. Opening up these images is a very smart move and one that should be pretty widely welcomed. This is exactly the kind of material it is hard to find in the real world of web search which is the real value of opening up the database for searches even if the results of those searches might yield unusable images (for subscription reasons). I wonder how well the site plays with Google?

Go have a look!
Eoin

Tor.com launches a “publisher agnostic” webstore

UPDATE: Tor.com becomes an imprint in itself!

The front page of the Tor.com store

The front page of the Tor.com store

Singing Praises
If you watched the Mike Shatzkin video (it has shuffled to new quarters now and offers a very fancy annotation system) I linked to last weekend about the digital shift, this news makes perfect sense. I wrote some time ago about the differences between the Tor.com community and the less developed Voyager books community, well now, Tor have taken a further giant leap ahead and launched a new store for the web community that they say:

offers science fiction and fantasy media from most major publishers—the only requirement is that the books in question relate to the genre in some form or another. In keeping with the spirit of our “…And Related Subjects” tagline, we’ve made sure to be as inclusive as possible, and are going to be constantly updating and refining the selection of titles available in the Store.

Smarts
Frankly, this is a game changing move and here is why. Tor has succeeded in capturing a great deal of attention relating to science fiction and fantasy in the online space. They have done this organically by offering decent services and interesting content to fans of the genres. Now they are adding, not so much a commercial layer as a further service to their members. The community is already buying books, they are already reading about books they might wish to buy on Tor.com. By offering a way to get these books to the community they have made life easier for the community members, at a stage when those members have already become used to allocating a great deal of their attention to Tor.com.

Naturally (and so long as prices are reasonable) they will use the site to buy books and not resent the fact that Tor will benefit. What’s more, Tor don’t need to clutter their site with lots of ads for books, links in CONTEXT will suffice. I’ve several times read reviews of books then had to leave the site to find a copy for sale, an in content link would have saved me time, hassle and probably money.

We’ll see more of this
I have long felt Tor.com was a sensible and exciting model for genre fiction publishers, in much the same way as Osprey’s site seems to be for military history. I have little doubt we will see other publishers try and develop sites with similar features. I wonder will they get the central message of Tor.com which is that only by loosening control and offering something that the community values will you progress in the digitally shifted world?

Who knows, it will sure be interesting to see how it develops!
Eoin