James Bridle

Go Read This | Apple should be breaking new ground – not the law | Books | The Observer

That James Bridle is such a smart fellow:

The literature industry’s fear of technology is what really sits at the centre of this debate. There have always been two complementary and effective ways of countering Amazon’s dominance, and neither has been taken up in the (English-speaking) publishing world: these are investing in building national ebook stores, as has been done in France, Germany, Scandinavia and elsewhere; and relaxing the ferocious demands of Digital Rights Management, which make purchasing an ebook from anyone but “verticals” like Amazon and Kobo a virtual misery.

via Apple should be breaking new ground – not the law | Books | The Observer.

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Ebooks Are Boring? So What?

Nick Atkinson has an interesting post over on FutureBook this morning. In it he asks three questions he feels people aren’t asking about ebooks. The ones he hits on are:

EBooks  aren’t actually that exciting, so why are people buying them?

Why am I rubbish at selling books online?

Where the heck is my audience? They used to shop at Borders.

he’s got a refreshing perspective on some of those:

So why are we struggling so much to make a digital book look and feel like a book? I remember the overwhelming sense of disappointment, anti-climax and resignation that I felt when I first looked at an eBook, way back when, on the Iliad – a device thankfully confined to myth and legend (it had a STYLUS for god’s sake). Even now, working with a conversion supplier I’m proud to partner with, who does a good job of stretching the ePub and Kindle formats, whenever we get our eBooks back, we still often gaze misty-eyed at the print edition and wonder where the design went and that’s just on text-based product. If you are honest, you’ve felt the same way. We’ve had moments where we’ve tried to shoehorn full-colour books into reflowable epubs to see what would happen, got the files back and laughed out loud at ourselves for even bothering.

via 3 important questions about digital that nobody is asking. | FutureBook.

Not that he’ll be put out, but I disagree with the first half of his post pretty strongly in that I actually like ebooks as they are, simple text files. I don’t want enhancements.

There’s a peculiar, and seemingly pervasive, fear among publishers that the written word just isn’t compelling enough for their readers (one well addressed by James Bridle here) in the digital age. It’s something I just don’t understand. Afterall text is fine in print, why not in digital form?

The rest of it though, I’m mostly on board with and it speaks to the quick presentation on Niches & Communities I gave to publishers during the Pecha Kucha session at TOC Frankfurt in 2009.

Not, I stress, that I think ebooks are the end of all things book related as I myself wrote for Publishing Perspective some time ago:

THE critical concern should be developing an expertise in how to sell content in many different forms and at many different prices to different audiences. Publishers should be platform agnostic, selling wherever readers are willing to buy and not focusing if it is an e-book, an app, online access, segments, chapters, quotes, mash-ups, readings, conferences, or anything else (a point made Friday on Publishing Perspectives by Clive Rich).

Rather than expend their energy focusing on one format that may be fleeting, publishers need to focus on two long-term objectives: audience development and content curation. Neither of these are specific to digital activities, meaning that they will only serve to bolster the print side of the business as well, whether it declines rapidly or gradually.

Still, a good post that will no doubt generate discussion!
Eoin 

The Frankfurt Marriot

Frankfurt Day One 2010: TOC Frankfurt, Canada Livres International Rights Seminar

The Frankfurt MarriotIt has been an excellent if somewhat tiring first day here in Frankfurt.

First up was O’Reilly’s Tools Of Change Frankfurt, which started with an interesting overview from Andrew Savikas followed by Pablo Arrieta and Douglas Rushkoff who gave the highlight quote of the morning y telling the room that 60% of them were superfluous to the needs of publishing.

Rushkoff was both right and wrong in his prophecy I suspect, but time will tell. It has certainly been the topic of more than a few conversations I’ve shared in recent years and numbers both higher and lower have bounced around, the emphasis being in a 40-60% range.

My session seemed to go okay, but it is always hard to call these things. I was lucky to have an engaged audience for the questions and answer portion of the session though.

While I was there the rather interesting news about Richard Nash‘s (a longtime American based Irishman) first list at his Red Lemonade (get it!) imprint broke. This is kind of the first of two shoes to drop so wait for the community type announcement when it comes, I expect it will be very interesting indeed.

On top of that, during my session, in another room, where he was giving his own talk (one I’d have loved to see) clever old James Bridle only went and announced a rather cool new project, Open Booksmarks. I wish him, and the project, luck, it’s interesting and I think it has legs too.

Once my session was over it was off to the Messe for the Canada Livres International Digital Rights Seminar, which had at least one Irish attendee other than myself, Ivan O’Brien of O’Brien Press.

That series of talks and the panel discussion that followed was excellent. The speakers gave such a diverse view of how ebooks are shaping their markets and their realities.

John Oakes of O/R books has a model that makes their own website the primary sales channel. They sell ebooks and print editions direct to customers and have had some success, notably Going Rouge, a title on Sarah Palin that parodied her Autobiography, Going Rogue. They also license paperback editions of the books to other publishers for sale in traditional bookstores which seems like a reversion to the days of paperback houses to me, not such a terrible idea in some ways.

Perhaps the two most eye-opening talks for me were from Ronald Schild from MVB Marketing (a subsidiary of the German Publishers and Booksellers Association) and Silvia Clemares head of digital publishing at Grup62. They were eye-opening because both talked about efforts by their native book industries to respond to digital change in strategic focussed ways. In Ronald’s case it was Libreka and for Silvia, Libranda.

But they weren’t the only innovators either, Erin Creasy from ECW Press outlined not just the sheer complexity of their ebook rights situation, but also their new digital only press, Joyland a smart play if ever their was one.

Michael Tamblyn of Kobo Books also spoke and he was (as he always seems to be) excellent. he focussed on international sales and how they have taken off for Kobo. One fascinating slice of a day in the life of Kobo, May 21st 2010 showed them selling ebooks into over 150 countries, which is frankly amazing and shows you what a scrappy upstart can do.

I had a great day and met (if for some, MUCH too briefly like Richard Padley, Sophie Rochester and Kate Pullinger) some great people, much more busyness ahead tomorrow!
Eoin

Go Read This | On Wikipedia, Cultural Patrimony, and Historiography | booktwo.org

I’ve long been struck by how, despite the ease of creation, publication and distribution, much digital text, from email to blog posts, is in fact essential ephemeral rather than permanent. James Bridle hits on some of this in a wonderful post today that covers his talk at dConstruct2010 in Brighton. Frankly, I wonder how many times I can call James a genius before it gets embarrassing, but he is one and this is another fine example of his impressive thinking.

Which struck me pretty hard, that bit about atemporality, and the flatness of digital memory, but particularly our lack of awareness of this situation. I talked about the Library of Alexandria, and the Yo La Long Dia, and the National Libraries of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Iraq—all examples of cultural destruction caused in part by neglect and willful disregard for our shared patrimony.

These losses, despite their horror, will always happen: but what can we do to mitigate and understand it? In a world obsessed with “facts”, a more nuanced comprehension of historical process would enable us to better weigh truth, whether it concerns the evidence for going to war, the proliferation of damaging conspiracy theories, the polarisation of debate on climate change, or so many other issues. This sounds utopian, and it is. But I do believe that we’re building systems that allow us to do this better, and one of our responsibilities should be to design and architect those systems to make this explicit, and to educate.

via On Wikipedia, Cultural Patrimony, and Historiography | booktwo.org.