Are you Pushing the boat out?

Eoin Purcell

That’s what friends are for
One of my good friends is a person I have huge admiration for. I doubt he realises how much, as he spends a good deal of time looking outward and comparing himself to others, rather than taking stock of how much he has actually done in his life.

One of the reasons I admire him is that he has overcome adversities the like of which I cannot even begin to understand. Another is that he regularly refreshes my viewpoint by throwing a curve-ball into a conversation.

Just such an occasion occurred this weekend and jolted me out of a certain reverie. He asked me if I was pushing the boat out. He didn’t mean was I ‘having a cracking party’ or ‘celebrating’, he meant was I working as hard as I could.

He reminded me of the harshest lesson I have ever learned (the details are best left unexplored for now), that complacency destroys achievement. And by reminding me of that he made me ask the questions that help me avoid that lesson being repeated.

The complacent among us
Complacency is one of my major weaknesses (development areas in PC Speak). It is a truly funny weakness. I strive for a goal so hard and so long that when I achieve it I think I am sorted. I take a break and then get back to work thinking that I am working at the same level that got me to where I am but in fact I am taking my foot off the gas a little and becoming lazy. I am not pushing the boat out.

Its remedy
This has bitten me in the ass a few times in the past but now I have a few tester questions that try and jolt my sense of complacency:

⁃ Are you working as hard as you can?
⁃ Are your rivals working harder than you?
⁃ Is someone beating you at something you consider a strength?
⁃ Are you achieving you goals? (Key question)
⁃ Are you heading the right direction?

You want the answers to be Yes, No, No, Yes, Yes. To my mind anything else is trouble.

Why you might ask is this relevant to publishing?
Because it is an industry where smart, energetic and driven people work. There will always be hard workers, smart workers and often brilliant workers at companies that publish into your and other markets.

If you don’t match or exceed their efforts then you will fail. Maybe it won’t be spectacular, maybe it won’t be a hugely noticeable thing at first but five years down the line when your list is anemic and their list is kicking yours, you’ll know all about it.

This is especially true for the Irish market for reasons I’ll talk about tomorrow. So if I am ever fearful that complacency is creeping up on me, I asked myself those tough questions, act on the answers and redouble my efforts.

Enjoying this new found blog enthusiasm

PS Check this site out.

Exact Editions: Interesting little series on open archives

Eoin Purcell

There are good reasons why some magazines should be completely Open Access — many scientific periodicals have moved to this model of distribution. They now have to pay their costs by levying a charge from the contributors or sponsors of the research reported. Also, Open Access makes complete sense for magazines which are essentially free in print; but we think it is unlikely that a consumer magazine which is completely Open Access will sell many personal subscriptions.

Seems to make sense to me
And so does the rest of it. You can read the above and its content here. The blog addresses the ideas that lie behind pretty much every news media’s archive policy in the five posts hitting on Moving Walls(A concept from Jstor), Conversion rates from free samples:

So what does this tell us? One lesson that we have taken from our monthly stats is that a significant increase in trial usage will boost subscriptions. It is actually a very obvious point, if a publisher promotes the archive of the magazine, and the quality of its back issues is more widely appreciated, more subscriptions will be sold.

Magazines are much like books in this respect. Just as Amazon’s Search Inside works — “Browsing pages sells more books”, so also with magazines. Browsing sells more subscriptions. If only dentists waiting rooms were points of sale, we would be leaving his surgery with a couple of subscriptions as well as our dental floss. Of course, on the web they can become that.

There is just so much packed into these posts. I like them because they are chatty and open, dealing with the issues and concerns of all publishers but specifically magazine publishers. And they are viewed if you like from the perspective of a relatively well placed observer whose interests are not opposed to publishers as the quote below makes clear:

Furthermore, the way our deal works with the publishers we absorb the distribution and maintenance costs of the digital edition. So it costs Exact Editions, not the publisher, a bit more to maintain an Open Archive. We think these costs are easily containable within the parameters of the small commission we obtain from selling additional digital subscriptions, so we encourage our publishing partners to offer Open Archives with a moving wall. The marginal costs of maintaining Open Access are marginal. So you dont need to feel sorry for us!

All in all a great sequence of posts with real information and insight behind them. And a very nice product too (See for example the sample edition of Prospect).

Reading more online?

Chapter Chunks: O’Reilly selling chapters individually online

Eoin Purcell

One of the compelling lessons of the digital music revolution was that people wanted to acquire and share songs, not albums. The analogies to books are imperfect, because books tend to be more of an essential organic whole than albums, but even with books, especially reference or tutorial books, it’s certainly possible that someone wants only part of a book.

Tom O’Reilly pushes the boat out

I think sometimes that there are two publishing worlds. One where things like this happen and one where they don’t. The key here though is that this concept is actually only the fruit of previous thinking as another quote makes obvious:

This capability is a direct outgrowth of the Xquery infrastructure we originally built for SafariU, our remixable textbook initiative.

That in itself is impressive. It shows foresight, a willingness to plan for possibilities beyond the current need and a desire to be able to reach distant goals.