Links of Interest (At Least to Me) 11/12/2009

Editor & Publisher and Kirkus Reviews to close. Frankly I find this a little strange. Even spinning them off might have been better, though survival on their own would have been pretty unlikely without serious reorganization and a fundamental rethinking of the business models.

Canongate is profiled in the Wall Street Journal, that Jamie Byng has an eye for a book that can be packaged. It’d almost make ya jealous.

Frankly, I don’t buy this Apple Tablet nonsense much. Apple cannot single-handedly change the industry, though they may try. In any case when Steve Jobs announces this on a stage somewhere, I’m sure I’ll want it, but until then, I shall waste no energy waiting or wanting.

On the other hand, both Mike Shatzkin and Michael Hyatt have articles about new display systems for content that they claim will change the book world as we know it. I think both are right that change is coming but I have more sympathy with the Sports Illustrated demo video on Michael Hyatt’s post. After all that looks like a faster webpage with some extra features rather than something new. Webpages are the answer and so putting the web in every hand you can is the way forward for publishers and makes more sense than creating new, confusing and unnecessary formats. The trick is to make the customer pay for access to your content, not find a fancy way to display it.

Funding Literature in a Digital Age (initial thoughts)

Eoin Purcell

Time to think
Maybe it’s because I have some time on my hands, or simply that with my head freed of some other obligations I have allowed some peripheral issues to sink in, I don’t know. In any case, today when the if:book report for the Arts Council of England: read:write. Digital Possibilities for Literature came across my desk (or rather through my e-mail) it sparked quiote a few thoughts.

Funding Literature
The first of those was that the report makes a very good case for the actual act of publishing becoming increasingly cheap and easy. Indeed, section 4.3 asks what must for the whole report be the critical question:

When new writing can be published for little or no cost online, when does it make sense to fund digital magazines? When much online culture is created by willing, unpaid volunteers, where is public subsidy appropriate and valuable?

They go on to suggest that:

in some cases it is appropriate to provide funding in order to encourage less technically confident communities to explore the medium; and there is an argument in favour of using funding to attract established print writers into the online space.
While it is debatable whether funding ezines always ensures better output, there is only so much that can be achieved technically with amateur skillsets and limited time. Funding interventions in the online magazine space could be oriented towards improving technical know-how and implementing robust infrastructures in publications, funded or unfunded, with an existing track record of “making it work” and delivering quality content using the free tools and DIY ethos of the Web. ACE could also provide expertise in generating income through the Web.

I’ve no huge issue with these ideas. Inf act I suspect that they are largely moot, even after a year. If you look a the work that large publishers are engaged in with the likes of and the ease with which a magazine can be published online, then funding infrastructure might well be pretty worthless, rather funding training for the services (free and paid) that enable writers to post their material for free would be more sensible. The key take away being: Don’t Reinvent The Wheel!*

Which brings me to the question of getting the word out abut online literature. Sure you can publish for free or the price of a beer, but how do you promote it? Nothing in the report really addresses that core need, looking at the web in a sense as one large marketing opportunity, but the truth is that it is one large wasteland for content that need good marketing, clever campaigns and link love to rise to the surface.

I need to read the report again but while I think it has quite nicely judged the possibilities, I suspect that many of these possibilities remain only remote opportunities (for more on that idea, this blog post is pretty good). There can be no simple hope that by removing the costs associated with the traditional print infrastructure we can equally escape the costs of marketing. Those costs will actually increase and become more relevant as a slew of content creates and added for free to the web overwhelms us.

It’s already happening!

* I’ve touched on this before!

From The Archive: August 2006 The New Magazines

From The Archives
From The Archives

Eoin Purcell

Inspired by a riffing im conversation with David Maybury it occurred to me that I might with some advantage, link back to some of my archive material and update my thoughts on the topic. Appropriately enough my first choice was this one on magazines and archives. So here it goes.

The New Magazines ~ August 2006

Magazines provide space for longer more considered pieces of journalism and discussion. Admittedly (and this is pretty important when we consider blogs as new magazines) the web provides that facility too but it has limitations.

~ Firstly the archived material of a given blog can be hard to find. This is especially true if it is very old and not highlighted (oddly enough Chris has mentioned these issues on his own blog in a previous post). A good quality magazine could leverage historic content from a blog, expose it to new readers, form a coherent time based archive with a proper index and contents table (requiring only a little forward planning) which would in turn help the blog improve its own archive situation.

~ Secondly while we often have long hours to read magazines too often our access to computer screens is in between meetings, work and other commitments. We have time to consider brief posts but go beyond the 700-800 word range and you encounter trouble in attention and readability (or maybe you don’t let me know what you think). A magazine on the other hand can craft a truly impressive article of 5-10,000 words and be read effortlessly. It will not be until good, cheap, robust and long lifed portable e-reader appear that entirely web based magazine/blog achieves this goal


And where are we now?
To a large extent not much has changed. There have been some initial efforts towards POD in books most recently Faber’s, Faber Finds move. But Random House also offers a POD service as do others.

On the digital front online magazine sites are building large readerships. Mainstream media outlets have started really pushing online development and are succeeding in attracting readers if not in all cases a profitable base quite yet.

Publishers have embraced blogs and communities of interested readers and authors are being built, most successfully at Tor where is proving a wonderful Sci-Fi & Fantasy geek’s haven.

I’ve seen no efforts t sell the printed product as added value though perhaps Penguins e-specials is a prelude to that type of offer.

When you look at what has been achieved by online efforts like Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along-Blog (it is selling very strongly through iTunes and will no doubt sell very well in DVD when it comes out) I think it is fair to say that online popularity can deliver offline sales.

I think there is more to write in this. I’ll need to think it through but this Archives Series has some promise.

Still not depressed about the state of publishing.

Kindle: Good luck avoiding that story today


UPDATED: From Endgadget’s Live blogging:
Seems very smart to me:

9:55 – “We didn’t like this solution either. So instead we chose EV-DO cellular. … as soon as I tell you we’re using EV-DO that should cause a second set of concerns, a whole new thing to worry about. Everybody knows that using these wireless cell networks there’s a data plan, a contract, a monthly bill. But we didn’t like that, either. So we built Amazon Whispernet. It’s built on top of Sprint’s EV-DO network. There’s no data plan, no contract, no bill. We pay for all of that behind the scenes so you can just read. What are you going to read?”

[hat tip to the bookseller]



Amazon’s Jeff Bezos already built a better bookstore. Now he believes he can improve upon one of humankind’s most divine creations: the book itself.

read/write web

Amazon Sets eBook World Alight with Kindle – Finally, Time For Read/Write Books!


I’m rooting for Jeff and the Kindle. I’m not sure that he’s going to win his bet that people will use a single-purpose device rather than reading on a multi-function device like the iPhone and its successors. But I’m also not sure he needs to. Even if some other device becomes the reader of choice, Amazon will still become one of the leading sources of the books that feed it. All Amazon needs to do here is move the industry forward, and I think that’s already been accomplished.

Howard Owens
Seth Godin
Ryan Sholin
The Book Depository
Lorcan Dempsey’s Weblog
Book Patrol

Yup, you can run, but you sure a hell cannot hide!

Poor imitations

Eoin Purcell

Reading the headline of the Irish Independent this morning I spotted a story that promised:
Access [to] your favourite magazines through a new Irish website
And I though excellent, an Exact Editions for Ireland.

But unfortunately is but a poor copy of exact Editions, offering at least in its samples, bad resolution, PDF only downloads, little in the way of search capacity or even a nice clean site.

It is incredibly disappointing.