Month: November 2006

MyPenguin: Design your own book cover

Eoin Purcell

If you look at my linkblog, you will see that I have just shared this post by Penguin.

Basically what they are offering is six classic titles with blank covers allowing you to draw, paste or even to build your own cover with beads. From the post:

The covers are art-quality paper, and from internal Penguin efforts we know that they hold ink, paint, pencil and glue (see the first efforts here). Each one comes shrink-wrapped so the paper doesn’t get dirty, and I hope people might give them as gifts.

Now doesn’t that sound cool to you? It sure does to me. They have set up an online gallery here and they already have some of their own samples posted.

The titles are:

    Meditations: Marcus Aurelius
    Crime and Punishment: Fyodor Dostoyevsky
    Magic Tales: The Brothers Grimm
    The Waves: Virginia Woolf
    The Picture of Dorian Gray: Oscar Wilde
    Emma: Jane Austen

A really innovative and impressive move by Penguin.

Very impressed today


The New Google Book Search – It is that good

Eoin Purcell

Google have two posts this morning talking up their improvements to Google Book Search.

From the Official Google Blog:

My latest assignment has been to help develop a better way to browse our digitized books on a computer screen. I’ve always had an interest in cutting-edge web applications — existing Google products such as Gmail, Google Maps, and Google Docs & Spreadsheets make heavy use of JavaScript and DHTML to create full-featured applications in a web browser that you can use without having to download and install anything.

My Verdict:

You really do have to hand it to them, they have vastly improved the readability of the online books, even offering a double page spread and a new non-reloading view which looks much better than their previous efforts. Overall the functionality at the reading stage is better and smoother and feel like the service should have to begin with!

I suspect that this is an important move for those more mobile in their reading than I however. The whole interface appears ready made for an internet enabled mobile electronic reading device. Now that is on my part total speculation but go look at this example and see what I mean.

Basically it is as if Google have reworked this product and released a version that works like we expected it would work when we h=first heard the concept. It equals anything out there right now for viewing e-books, even the flashy new Adobe Digital Editions I mentioned previously.

Go Google!

The Whys?:

It seems to me that the recent news that the company was focussing on features instead of products (read this LA Times piece for more on that) seems to be great news for some of their heretofore rather ignored tools. For all the controversy that Book Search has generatedit has never been the most reader friendly.

Of course it might also have something to do with this.
But who am I to suggest that Google fears the oncoming competition?

Launches are fun (but work)!!

Strange rumbles: Blackwells & Ottakars

Eoin Purcell

Wiley & More

The Wiley acquisition of Blackwells (of which more here) seems to have generated a huge body of interest amongst searchers on the web. My page-views yesterday doubled and the bulk of those views were of the tiny post I had noting the acquisition. Richard Charkin speculates a little and explains more in his blog today.


At first I was puzzled but on consideration it reminded me of a similar scenario with a post I wrote on Ottakars several months ago. It has proven to be an enormous success and has drawn massive search traffic (massive at least in my terms) to the site.

Is it something to do with English Bookstores & Publishing firms? Are they considered more established? Or are English book buyers and writers more attached to their bookish institutions?

I for one do not know but I remain intrigued by the massive interest these topics generate and would welcome any views!

As An Aside:

It is often so hard to know where traffic comes from on the web and thus almost impossible to determine who you are actually reaching (If you doubt me search for traffic stats or page view statistics on the web and see the masses of companies offering services. Why so many if nobody needs or wants them?). There are some very interesting blogs on these topics like Datamining which I heartily recommend visiting from time to time.

Working towards a Happy Christmas (first mention this year, at least here)

More on distribution & Publicity (Part I)

Eoin Purcell

So the question arises of what the options for distribution are for any given author and I thought it would really help to go over everything there is methodically both traditional, less traditional and new.


~A Full Service Publishing House: Okay so this is the old school, old flavour, way of getting published. You submit your manuscript and it emerges from the slush pile, [or not]catches the eye of an editor and they offer you a deal. Lately this route has been closing and it has become more regular (especially in Fiction) to have an agent make the deal happen. The agent champions the manuscript and negotiates the deal and also acts a pre-selector or initial filter for the publisher.

You will not be asked to pay for publication and you will be paid a royalty (and more than likely an advance). The publisher will do their best to market the book but in all likelihood as a first time author much of the support will be your doing and you will need to be good at it to build momentum (unless you are a celebrity, preferably a chef). of course they do solve the distribution issues [most of the time].

~ Vanity Publisher: A good vanity publisher will always let you know where you stand. You are paying them to publish your book, it is that simple. They will not pretend to be a publisher with a sales channel, they will not pretend to have an outlet that will build sales and recognition just you pay money and you get books, it is not a bad deal, it is necessary sometimes and is a route to market for some people who really know what they are planning and how to get there. They may offer some associated services, like distribution and order fulfilment but it should cost more and also be up to you to find buyers.

I think to be fair to the changing field of Self-Publishing that it needs a clean post of its own. I will set that up and hopefully run it before the end of the week.

Working hard this week

The Wiley/Blackwell deal

I missed much of the coverage on this deal in which Wiley acquired Blackwell but it strikes me as one more sign that there is a great deal of acquisition to come and industry consolidation too.

With the Riverdeep acquistion recently this marks one of a few large and interesting recent moves. Over on Personanondata you will find much better coverage such as this.


Author Praise

I spotted some nice praise for one of my favourite authors in Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of 2006:

No Present Like Time
Steph Swainston (Eos)Swainston’s scintillating prose, well-developed characters and talent for brilliant absurdities mark this as one of the more innovative fantasies of recent years.

Just wanted to share it.
Buy her first book too its excellent:

Happy seeing priase for a good writer

Where is the Editor?

Eoin Purcell

While it sounds a little humorous and more like a game from my childhood in actual fact this is a very important issue and and that will become more so over the next few years.

Editors are an endangered species in one sense and a rare commodity in another. They are endangered because the revolution in publishing is making their role either superfluous or too expensive. As publishing technology develops and becomes easier to use, more people are capable of using that technology that has facilitated it to publish articles, magazines and books for themselves.

Endangered because . . .
Editors, designers and all the other people who had up to this point been involved in the process are thus marginalised because a large body of people (the new self publishers) see no need for them. What is more, the people who hire editors and designers, Publishers, begin to see them as cost centres in an increasingly competitive market. When you are competing against books and other publishers that do not use professional design or professional editors and thus have lower costs (not to mention those for whom the costs are largely irrelevant) in the journey toward the bookshelf you can understand their logic.

It’s a perfect storm for editors then. One the one hand they are no longer wanted by one side of the industry and on the other they are being seen as drags on profit rather than assistants in making it by publishers. Tough spot to be in.

But rare commodities because . . .
The skills are still vital. Think about the digital world for little and consider the real stars. One group of stars are quality writers and editors. The staff who ensure sites like and Lifehacker function well are armed with the skills of the reporter and journalist. There are those who would disagree but I think while there is too much hype about blogging in general, in specific cases bloggers are as good if not better than journalists.

The skills of the writer and journalist then are as valid and useful in a world where publishing written content is in essence (once access issues and power are considered and not forgetting those left behind) free. The reason is that these people are talented at rooting out information, capable digesters of information and able to scrounge up scoops and news stories that interest the readership. Not everyone can do it, or wants to do it. it is the reason why Jason Calacanis idea of paying for talent from Digg to work on Netscape was at once brilliant and controversial.

The future . . .
Talented editors will still be in demand for the same reason that talented editors and reporters will succeed in the new environment. But before that happens a number of key blocks will have to slot into place:

  1. Self publishers must realise that although they do not NEED editors, their work might still BENEFIT from their expertise.
  2. Publishers must realise that although they do not CREATE REVENUE, editors CREATE VALUE.
  3. Editors need to take responsibility for themselves, either by joining companies where they are champions for their books (like Snowbooks) or by going it alone as freelance editors and building a business that they control.

So you can see what I think of Where’s the Editor? The real editor needs to stand up, face the music and to some degree tough out a rough time until smoother waters come their way.

Looking forward to rest