Thoughts on digital
Watching a fascinating (if worrying) documentary the other night on Tsunamis [Yes it has been said to me that between my obsession with documentaries of all sorts, my extreme non-fiction bookshelf and my actual daily work I come close to being the real life nerd] and the potential for a devastating one in the aftermath of an earthquake in thePacific Northwest and a certain point struck me squarely. That was that the idea that the real cause of damage and change is not the initial wave front which is devastating in itself but the flow of water often at the same of slight lower levels as the initial wave front. The quote below from Wikipedia illustrates what I mean:
Most of the damage is caused by the huge mass of water behind the initial wave front, as the height of the sea keeps rising fast and floods powerfully into the coastal area. The sheer weight of water is enough to pulverise objects in its path, often reducing buildings to their foundations and scouring exposed ground to the bedrock. Large objects such as ships and boulders can be carried several miles inland before the tsunami subsides.
And why is this relevant to Digital Publishing and Digital Content?
Because the real damage to the traditional model is not the initial wave of digital content. That after all has been around now for some time and Publishers (Newspaper, Music, Film and Books) are still robust and profitable. It is the wave after wave after wave blows that have followed that initial front that are doing the damage. The only difference is that this wave is not going to subside or reduce or return to its normal flow, this tsunami is going to continue to flow.
So what are the signs of real change?
Well for one Adobe have launched a new e-reader and so have Sony. The Adobe product is software and based on your desktop. It is slick and flashy but I don’t like it. I guess that just me. You can get it here but be warned it is still a BETA product.
The Sony product gave rise to rumours of $500,000 sales of e-books in the first weeks of its Sony Connect Store.
It is a tough world out there. Paidcontent.org one of the shrewdest sites and certainly the most prolific poster of news had two interesting pieces on the economics/realities of digital publishing for the newspaper industry. One pointed out that a pessimistic view of online revenues would suggest that it would be: 30 Years Till Online Represent 50% of Total Newspaper Revenues while another highlighted how the: FT Editor Mulls ‘High Stakes’ Of The Digital Evolution.
But some people get it. If you think that the Sony Connect story is real then here is the Real GETTING REAL. 37signals, the web applications company behind backpack (A service I use and love) recently published in PDF format their story. Since it was released they have sold 23,000 books at $19.00. Now that is $437,000 in revenue from one title, with little or no production cost and only the cost of downloads and site maintenance. The actual paper copy will cost $29.00 an amazing price for such a slim volume and I imagine they will get it! Good for them. The real kicker here is that they did all this in digital first not print and then digital.
So what to make of it all?
You may make of it what you will but from it all I draw this:
1) Digital will continue to pound traditional.
2) It is likely to be profitable (Scott Karp wonders how profitable)
3) Traditional Media will have to move more rapidly
4) WOW you can sure sell e-books when there is a demand!
5) Sounds like what I have been saying for a while.
Enjoying the length of this post.
I love Google Reader
I know I have been quiet the last few weeks but I have made one huge change and I love it. I have shifted all my blog reading to Google Reader.
It is actually the business and enables me to do something I have longed to do for some time. The real hint for this though i have to admit came from Robert Scoble who writes the phenomenally successful blog Scobleizer.
I now have a links blog.
You can access it here
I will still be highlighting some features that just are too good to leave in the side column but I love this feature and really want it to work out well. The selection will be much more diverse than the focussed Links of Interest (At Least to Me) posts so do check it out.
I have a post in the works on the Coming Digital Tsunami. More soon!
Wondering at my poor poker play.
Change is Afoot
When I read this news it gave me a little shock. Thomas Nelson, a publisher which began its life in Scotland in the 18th Century is to cease using its 18 imprint names and instead from 1st April 2006 switch to a single brand and identity Thomas Nelson Publishers. From the Publishers Weekly piece:
In a move called the One Company Initiative, Thomas Nelson is eliminating all of its imprints and reorganizing its publishing functions around strategic publishing units keyed to BISAC category codes. The company’s 18 imprints (as well as the three it just acquired with its purchase of Integrity) will be phased out effective April 1
At first I was stunned that such a venerable publishing would almost callously discard tried, trusted and tested brands. But on reflection the logic of Thomas Nelson’s move is unquestionable.
On this blog I have said before that the drive of the industry will force publishers into more and better branding; both of themselves and their authors.
This move can be seen as a crucial first step in that process. No need to spend money identifying a new imprint or establishing a profile for it. You brand the publisher and ensure quality then build each author and each book separately.
Those of you who wonder about that and the decision made should read some of Michael Hyatt’s views on his excellent blog Working Smart. You will see that he is perceptive and thoughtful and would not have made this move without due consideration.
I wonder will this start a trend to towards consolidation of publishing within companies and under one central imprint?
Wondering why I haven’t blogged in so long
[Via Terry Whalin’s blog]
Oh what a wonderful world. I have been getting really annoyed at the links and links and more links that The Big Bad Book Blog have been serving up (I am conscious of the hypocrisy/irony here) and then today they served up a wonderful piece going in depth into the mysteries of buying/getting front table exposure in superstore Borders.
I found some interesting news today on a newly discovered blog called New Media Trends. The post covers the fascinating changes in the Danish Newspaper industry. Well worth reading and really offers a perspective on what the world of rapid innovation looks like.
Jeff Jarvis posts some nice thoughts on the whole Google/YouTube thing.
Two others that really deserve a look: The Rejecter is a literary agent’s assistant’s blog and Working Towards the Betterment of Publishing is by a government contractor and amateur novelist.
And last but not least: Google Docs & Spreadsheets.
The news doesn’t look too good for print news. If you have read many of my posts on this topic you will know that I don’t fully buy the whole print will die thing. Radio has not gone anywhere. Sure it’s not the force it was at it height but it still makes money and has adapted (Albeit painfully) to the new reality. Still this post from The Editors Weblog [via Buzzmachine] is interesting because it gives a French perspective and one particular Frenchman: Arnaud Lagadère.
Seems like a lot of news to down the spirits of journalists. Though this news, I think, should really cheer them up. NewsAssignment.net has been given a $100,000 financing gift by Reuters. Looks like the project will definitely float now which is exciting.
Here & Here
Jennifer Jackson has an interesting post today about connections, agent vs. author time and some other stuff all riffing off a post she highlights. Both are worth reading.
Here & Here
Find of the Month
Just read two posts by Bloglily which I can only describe as some of the best blog posts ever. One of the great things about WordPress is that it has an exciting and vibrant set of bloggers who are deeply into writing, prose and literature. Ranging from Litlove’s Tales from the Reading Room
to Bloglily’s site there is so much on offer. I have decided today that Bloglily is my Find of the Month for September 2006.
Because she is so full of enthusiasm for everyone’s work, because her discussion is free and open and elegant, because she never disappoints with a post and because her encouragement and spirit are inspirational to everyone.
Go visit BL Here
Catching my breath
Blink and you will miss it
Many of the book readers amongst us will have missed the Launch of Google Archive. That’s okay I wouldn’t feel too bad about it. Google hardly made a huge fuss over it and not many people have noticed beyond a cluster of techies and the like. But it is actually pretty important. In fact I think it the most significant thing to happen to the publishing industry since Google News and Google Book Search. But if you want to read some more: here are some of the comments, click a few links.
And you are wondering why?
Well the reason this is important is that many of the works and archives available in Google News Archive are still being charged for by newspapers and their web-sites. What that represents is an admission by newspapers and magazines that they need search, Yup you heard it, they need their archive material to be crawled by google and returned in results so that people can find it.
And as if the parallels were not obvious for publishing I will spell it out. Archives are exceptionally valuable sources of income for newspapers just as for book publishers, backlists are great revenue streams. The New York Times with its times select service has garnered some $9 million but there is a real problem with its system. By putting it behind a barrier you exclude search engines which is making their archives hard to find and more difficult to monetize either through contextual advertising or access fees. This move as I have said is about squaring the circle and enabling Media companies to get searches directly to their content and enabling them to monetize that content. Its all about Money and in this instance Search = Money.
So if backlists are money too (just currently unreachable money) then what are the implications for publishers?
We need Search. We might no like Google, heck we might think they are evil despite their famous “Don’t be Evil” motto but we sure need their 60% of the search market. If there were ever a louder wake up call for an industry to just get on with getting everything online and searchable this is it. The Newspaper industry has accepted the necessity of change and book publishers will simply have to change too.
There is no reason why it has to be just Google. We can partner with everyone. The more we put out there the more we will drive searchers to out content and the easier it will be for us to monetize and profit from it. And what is more we need to learn that standalone is not enough. Yes its valuable to digitise and get your own content ready for the web but leaving it stuck in a single silo with no links or search potential is foolhardy at best.
I feel like a broken record saying this kind of thing. The short version is embrace Google Book Search. The long version is in many other blog posts.
Just a few notes:
Like most of Google’s moves in recent years this one has a feel of half-baked or launched before its time-ness to it. But if the product develops as rapidly as some of its other forays and fi they integrate it well into native Search results over time then its value will be compelling.
For now you have to go to the source to pay for and to access the article but I have a feeling that over time and as the source newspapers begin to see the value of it, Google’s own Payment system will become an integral part of this offering.
Not everyone is on board with this project yet and the best round-up is Rafat’s from paidcontent.org (A Blog all publishers should read daily).
Amazed at the enormity of this announcement
Reports seem to indicate that Google Book Search is driving traffic to Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk and WH Smiths. At least that is what Hitwise are telling us.
This seems pretty logical if you think on it and it fits with what I have said about GBS from the beginning. I wonder how long before Google start to partner with booksellers to sell direct from GBS itself? It would be logical to sell, not just digital versions of in copyright books, but also print versions. the publisher could certainly afford to do the deal. Even if they gave Google some percentage of the cover price/selling price (even a large one) they could still make a great deal of money. This is especially true if more and more of searches end up with native results from the GBS database! What is more Google’s payment system could handle transactions and keep publishers costs down. It is a win-win situation.
I do wonder how long before Google starts to monetize this system with or without the partnership of publishers. Even if Google were to create an Associates type deal with Amazon the revenue could be significant as the traffic from GBS grows. the opportunity lost to publishers would be significant. It is clear to me that the longer publishers resist this, the more the danger of Googel simply saying a) we have the resources to go it alone, or b) yes you can come in with us but we are now so entrenched and powerful the terms are awful.
I like Google Book Search, I agree that it can be improved (See Video Here) but overall it seems bizarre to me that publisher shave not hopped on the bandwagon with greater speed and abandon!