Go Read This

Go Read This | The Guardian on Scientific Publishing & Robert Maxwell

Absolutely smashing read from a few weeks ago on Scientific Publishing, Robert Maxwell and the implications for Science itself:

And no one was more transformative and ingenious than Robert Maxwell, who turned scientific journals into a spectacular money-making machine that bankrolled his rise in British society. Maxwell would go on to become an MP, a press baron who challenged Rupert Murdoch, and one of the most notorious figures in British life. But his true importance was far larger than most of us realise. Improbable as it might sound, few people in the last century have done more to shape the way science is conducted today than Maxwell.

Is the staggeringly profitable business of scientific publishing bad for science? | The Guardian

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Go Read This | The Quarto Group Chairman’s Statement

There are so many reasons to read the chairman’s* statement in The Quarto Group’s latest update. For starters it is well written and as a result, is a pleasure to read. It is also full of gems like this one:

Contrary to popular mythology, most people in the developing world are not time-deprived. Indeed, there is much greater scope now to fill one’s non-working time (and, perhaps even one’s working time!) with elective personal activities, ranging from engaging in the chit-chat of social media, exercising, playing sport, indulging in hobbies and pastimes, cooking classes, book clubs, playing videogames, watching television, and so on. The list of activities is endless.

I don’t think you’d read that anywhere else. What’s more it offers something valuable, perspective. Perspective on the industry and what it means to be a certain type of publisher in this digital age.

Orbach sums this up in a succinct pair of paragraphs that dive deep into the implications of digital for Quarto AND for publishing as a whole:

E-books are probably not growing the overall audience much except for a brief honeymoon with a new device and, so long as outlets for printed books remain significant, the costly infrastructure of many existing publishers may have to remain largely in place. The evidence is becoming overwhelming that, in popular, narrative areas of fiction and non-fiction not an area of focus for Quarto, e-books are eating into sales of printed books. This may not challenge the economics of book publishing fundamentally for bestselling titles but, as bookshops diminish, and the exposure of less popular titles declines as a result, the committed book reader will be ill served by the outcome. And, if that were not enough to adjust to, attention is now turning to all the wonderful things that can be done with content on an e-reader such as the iPad, the Kindle Fire, the Nook, and other brands.

While Quarto is feeling the ripple effects of this evolutionary change, the impact to date has been slight. To satisfy the curiosity of analysts and commentators, we have noted  above that our digital revenues climbed five-fold in a year. But they still only represent a little over one percent of group revenues. Quartos book output is substantially non-fiction titles that are useful and, often, necessary for readers pursuing a craft, a hobby, home improvement, self-improvement, and so on. This is not a large part of the current e-book market, and efforts to build both apps and e-books around the kind of content we create have not been well rewarded. This is not surprising, as they have not taken advantage of the benefits that the new tablet computers and e-readers now offer. At the moment, and seeking to take advantage of better and less cumbersome software authoring tools, more efforts are being made to create enhanced e-books. No doubt, some will turn out to be very fine, but it remains unclear whether there is a profitable commercial model lurking in all of the experimentation.

It’s not just the level-headed analysis of whether ebooks are growing the market (anywhere other than the margins or in markets were they may be activating demand that simply could not be met with print books I suspect they are not) but also in the sober attitude towards other digital products. I might personally feel the attitude is a little TOO sober and not possessed of enough vision, but that’s hardly the point. Mostly I enjoy how the two paragraphs illustrate that different parts of our industry are moving at different paces, something we forget at our peril.

Go read the whole thing, it’s rewarding, engaging and interesting throughout.

via THE QUARTO GROUP | LATEST RESULTS.

*That’s Laurence Orbach

Go Read This | Unbound: The Crowdfunding Cargo Cult | Mssv

Great piece on Unbound, all of which I agree with, by Adrian Hon:

Where Kickstarter is transparent, Unbound is bafflingly opaque – although this coyness may stem from publishers’ reluctance to talk about hard numbers even when they’re raising all their money from the public. Transparency also applies to creators; on Kickstarter, they write their own project descriptions and film their own videos, allowing their personality, experience, and trustworthiness (or lack thereof) to shine through, and from the earnest amateurishness of some efforts actually helps convey how much they could use the money.

Unbound writes project descriptions for their authors. They’re slick, but they’re also soulless (which is odd, since if anyone ought to be able to write well, it’s authors) and distancing. This leads to another issue – do successful authors like Terry Jones even need the money? After all, they’re asking for a lot – £10,000 at a minimum, and much, much higher in most cases – so you want to be sure it’s being used wisely.

via Unbound: The Crowdfunding Cargo Cult | Mssv.

Go Read This | Absolutely. (Not) | Bait ‘n’ Beer

There is much to be learned from this short post! Like why you need to think about what digital means for you and your situation!

Does anyone really think Simon & Schuster’s problems and opportunities are the same as Penguin’s (to say nothing of Unbridled Books’ or Coffee House Press’s)?  Are McGraw-Hill’s the same as Wolters Kluwers’? As The New York Times’? Should an indie bookseller in Madison adopt the same plan as one in Brooklyn and should either of them try to mimic Barnes and Noble or Amazon?

Of course nobody believes those things but you wouldn’t know it from reading about us in the mainstream press, in the trades, in blogs or on Twitter. Scare headlines, sweeping generalizations and bold assertions (generally unsupported by even the most scant data) are what we talk and argue about.

Our industry is complex, nuanced and undergoing change at an increasing rate. If we should have learned anything in the past year, it’s that every time we’re Absolutely Right, we can be pretty confident of being wrong.

via Absolutely. (Not) | Bait ‘n’ Beer.