Damn, I’m not sure I like this idea

Eoin Purcell

I normally go wild for Snowbooks’ ideas
They tend to have huge potential, sound very exciting and generally seem to push things forward. Like Snowcase:

Hosting snippets of fiction for our visitors to read and comment on is one tiny way to explore the future and to muddy the boundary between self-publishing and the traditional approach. The puzzle, though, will come if someone signs up a great new author because of it. Will that prove we still have a place in the world of fiction or that pretty soon maybe we won’t?*

But this one just doesn’t excite me

Its called The PubBench (which is clever short hand for The Publishers Benchmarking Forum). There is much more here on the welcome page:

There’s a big difference between thinking you’re doing something wrong, and knowing that your challenges are the fault of the market. It doesn’t mean the challenges go away, but it does mean you’re more able to put things into perspective and maintain your confidence in your abilities. And when things are going well, you can judge whether that’s because of your genius or because of market forces.

And a little more on The Bookseller.

But why you ask

For one thing because it will cost £25 a year (€37.50 or so). I don’t oppose this because I don’t like people making money (if you knew me you’d know that would never be an issue). Rather I think it will act to upset the smooth working of the project.

If the idea is to share ideas, knowledge and experience then there will be two basic types of visitor: The Seeker of Knowledge and the Possessor of Knowledge. For the Seeker, the price is less of an issue if the available advice is quality. For the Possessor however there is simply no incentive to join and contribute. If the Possessor does not join and contribute then there will be no value for the Seeker and so they will not join.

And that is where the pricing issue becomes a problem. £25 is a huge cliff to climb from most people’s perspective. As Chris Anderson says:

The one cent barrier is very high. One cent tends to wall off viral effects. If you make something free, it is spontaneously distributed through word of mouth, and as you know, the Web is the world’s greatest word of mouth amplifier.**

Combined with the joining problem, if networking effects are truly being ruled out then all this will be is a closed talking shop which will not help break down the mystery that for some reason seems to surround publishing. It seems a far cry from what I would see as an ideal. Something more open and accessible like Slowfire (a vision that has yet to realise its full potential) would have been nice.

In any case I don’t wish to be too negative as I do admire the sentiment behind this move and I hope it succeeds for Emma.

Still vaguely underwhelmed

*[From Emma’s blog on the topic on The Bookseller]
**BEYOND THE BOOK – Giving It Away: Free Lunch or Unrealized Opportunity?
From the Copyright Clearance Center – http://www.beyondthebook.com

I do like this though:

Some calmer thoughts on the future

Eoin Purcell

There has been a lot of comment on Barry Eisler’s recent series written for MJ Rose on Buzz, Balls & Hype (my original thoughts).

Adam Hodgkin asks me why I am so alarmed and rightly so saying:

It seems to me that everything is going the publisher’s way. Agents cant do what publishers do. Booksellers cant do the other bit either. So the value chain is up for grabs by the publisher. Mind you they will need to pay higher royalties — especially to Thom Yorke and Madonna when they next do books.

And writing a fine blog post that really is reassuring:

Publishers will sell digital editions direct because that is going to be the most efficient way to do it. Further they will do it because this is going to be a very profitable development for most book publishers, especially those that cater to niches (and most book publishers DO cater to niches). They will outsource the tricky parts (eg customer service or technological innovation), to operations like Exact Editions, but they will be better placed than the record labels to provide this kind of service to the creators.

Over at PersonaNonData the response is detailed and split in three too:

Lastly, admittedly we haven’t seen a huge amount of dynamism from mainstream publishers but I do think you treat them as too static relative to the change going on around them. I do believe publishers will react faster and in (perhaps) revolutionary ways but I can understand your skepticism

Much to think about in both, and in this third piece on if:book:

Rather than heralding a new age of self-determination by artists, the Madonnas and Stephen Kings are the exceptions that prove the rule that, while distribution may have been radically flattened by the net, attention and audience are as hard (if not harder) to come by as ever. How the vast majority of writers will make a living, and how they might have to adapt their craft to do so, is far less clear

Damn fine stuff all round and worth reading

Still thinking

PS: Berlin is great and one of the highlights was this place.