Posts in “Publishing”

February 25, 2010

O’Reilly TOC publishing conference

I’m back from the Tools of Change for Publishing conference. This was the best year yet! I met a lot of people, saw many old friends, and got caught up in the excitement of the next phase of publishing.

I am thrilled about the direction we’re going at Logos, and to see so many publishers getting ready to make the changes necessary to succeed on digital platforms.

It was all exciting the first time, too, in the late 1990’s. I enjoyed talking this week with fellow attendees of the ACM Conference on Digital Libraries ‘98 and the early NIST e-Book conferences. E-books: an overnight success decades in the making! And it’s funny how many of the products in the exhibit area look exactly like ones we saw back then; only this time the prototypes are shipping. Now it all feels “real.”

The slides for my session Network Effects Support Premium Pricing are online at the session page. (These slides have the outline I spoke from. I didn’t show it during the session because I hate reading bullet points off slides, and didn’t have the time to do all the art.)

It looks like the Ignite presentation (20 slides that auto-advance every 15 seconds – stressful!) isn’t online yet, but you can read about how Sean Boisen stumbled upon it on his blog.

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December 10, 2009

The future is now

Michael Hyatt, CEO of Thomas Nelson, wrote about The End of Book Publishing As We Know It. His post includes a video of Sports Illustrated’s tablet prototype.

It’s very cool, and looks like the obvious next step in publishing: the freshness of a web page, the editorial attention of a magazine, and the depth of a book, in the form factor of a Kindle.

It even looks comfortable and familiar to me… I feel like I’ve seen it before…

Separated at birth?



We’ve been building the future for a few years, and we’re shipping it now. (Minus the dedicated device with touch screen; but put Logos 4 on a tablet PC and you’re just about there.)

So here’s my experience-based take on Hyatt’s six conclusions about the future of book publishing:

1. The line between newspapers, magazines, and books is about to become blurred.

Boy, howdy. We contracted with professional news artists from major newspapers to build a whole new set of infographics, like Solomon’s Temple shown above. We consulted The Society for News Design’s annual awards book for Home Page layout ideas. The page incorporates hand-chosen excerpts from books and will integrate with Bible Study Magazine in the future.

And let me add databases to the blurry mix. A single table or piece of data in isolation won’t satisfy users of an interactive tool. SI will need to have their stats linked into massive back-end databases, just like a Bible map now needs to be backed up with all kinds of metadata.

2. Publishers will need to envision multimedia content from the beginning.

And in many cases this means starting over. We have dozens of books with graphic representations of Solomon’s Temple, but we had to start over to ensure we’d have not only a great image, but the high-resolution vector art and 3D model. (Look for that same temple model to be animated and explorable in the future.)

Publishers also need to secure the rights to re-mix and re-use data. You don’t want a timeline graphic, you want a database of events you can repurpose many ways.

3. Consumer expectations are going to skyrocket.

Paper is the true what-you-see-is-what-you-get medium. Our expectations for what we can do with it don’t go beyond scissors and tape. In the digital world, consumers expect the production values of a major motion picture with the data crunching of a spreadsheet and the flexibility of a scrapbook.

There are many issues for publishers to worry about here:

  • Production Quality – There will need to be a bigger investment in art and design. And, in interactive media, a significant investment in the design of the user interface. Design will need to anticipate usage scenarios, too. The picture bleeds off the page for artistic effect? Great – but can I copy it uncropped to put into my report?
  • Flexibility – We already had high-production-value multimedia content. The 1990’s saw a plethora of multimedia products; Microsoft’s Multimedia Beethoven: The Ninth Symphony was an excellent example of using every media type to produce something that wasn’t a book, a magazine, or a movie. But production of each product was insanely expensive, and each product was a closed box, tied tightly to a technological moment in time. These products are unusable today. Future-proof publishing needs to have flexibility designed-in.
  • IllustrationRights – The entire publishing industry is built on a rights-model designed for physical distribution. Any significant property (books with text, multiple contributors, and licensed images, or video with music, images, and other content) is tied down like Gulliver was by the Lilliputians. We are creating new media and new content not only to use it flexibly, but to be able to grant consumers the right to use it in the ways they’re demanding.

4. The cost of producing digital books will get more expensive.

In addition to audio, video, and design costs, publishers will need to invest more in markup and tagging. It’s not enough to cite an article in a footnote, it needs to be linked to the source. Are cross references links? Are people disambiguated? Are places tagged with latitude and longitude? Are events tagged for timelines? Are images annotated so that you can search for a picture as easily as for a word?

Indexing and abstracting will become much more important. Stand-alone back-of-the-book indexes will need to be replaced with rich tagging that works across multiple properties.

5. Digital content creation and distribution will become our primary focus.

We’re still distributing on DVD-ROM’s, to my amazement. (Broadband Internet just isn’t everywhere yet.) But a few months ago we shut down the last of our physical distribution network. The good news is, we didn’t own a warehouse, and serving that distribution network was just a small part of our business, and never our focus.

Physical products will remain an important part of the traditional publisher’s business, but they’ll need to decide if their focus will remain on physical-goods logistics or move to digital competencies. This is different than the move to sell off printing-presses a decade ago. It is more than asking “Do we outsource the warehouse?” It’s asking “Who are we?”

6. People will be reading more than ever.

The good news! We see this all the time. Freedom from the bonds of paper weight means we can give the user a great deal on more content than their shelves could hold. An easy interface and automated research tools help engage users with their content. Each innovation – especially our move to a newspaper-style Home Page – helps users get more out of their digital library. And when they get more value from it, they purchase more content.

Publishers, are you ready?

Take this simple quiz:

  • [ ] Graphic design is a core competency in-house, not an outsourced project.
  • [ ] I have unrestricted global rights to the content I publish.
  • [ ] I employ an Information Architect.
  • [ ] My content is always designed for use in multiple media or formats.
  • [ ] Everything we own or license is thoroughly indexed and stored in a database.
  • [ ] I employ an Interaction Designer.
  • [ ] Software development is a core competency in-house.
  • [ ] I have an experienced digital publishing partner, not a project-based contractor.

Do you need a perfect score? Nope. (I don’t have one either
.) But these are things to think about as we prepare for the new normal in publishing.

March 3, 2008

Seeing Kindles in the wild…

I keep meaning to write a detailed review of the Amazon Kindle, but I’m too busy reading.

I’ll just say that this past week I walked onto a plane, reading my Kindle, and had to interrupt a guy reading his Kindle so I could get to mine.

We compared notes and found that, aside from the "I keep turning pages accidentally when I pick it up" problem, we’re both loving it and reading more.

I’ve had almost every e-book reader ever made (side effect of working in electronic publishing) and the Kindle is the first one I’ve read more than two books on. I’m near a dozen and going strong.

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February 11, 2008

TOC first impressions

Once again, O’Reilly’s TOC is exceeding my expectations. The morning keynotes really beat on the theme of community and social interaction; the idea that people want products that help them interact with each other, not with the product.

Our product helps individuals study the Bible, but in most cases the result of that study is sharing with others — through a sermon, a lesson, or personal interaction. The challenge for us is breaking down the wall between the personal study and the community interaction.

Maybe it’s time to re-think remote notes in the context of a more web-connected world. (Remote notes was an ahead-of-its-time feature that let users see each other’s notes in Logos Bible Software.)

The other surprise this morning was the number of useful little nuggets I got from other presentations. Buried in all the pronouncements on “how things are going to be different” are some “from the field” reports on actual successes and failures. I’ve gotten a few practical ideas already, and already talked to someone who’s tried (and succeeded!) with a new business model we’d considered but weren’t sure would work in electronic publishing: a “rent-to-own” model for content, bridging the low monthly cost of a subscription with the security of owning your own copy of the material.

I also appreciated Derek Powazek’s tip about rotating the display of “top items” instead of putting up a ranked list of “top stuff” that becomes self perpetuating.

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January 31, 2008

Back by popular demand

O’Reilly is hosting another "Tools of Change for Publishing" conference, this time in New York, February 11-13, 2008.

I enjoyed the conference last year, and was flattered to be invited back to reprise my presentation "Business Models that Guarantee Profitability". If you’re interested in the future of publishing, TOC is the place to be. I just wish I wasn’t presenting at the same time as Seth Godin; it’s hard to run back and forth between two breakouts when you’re the one up front…

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June 19, 2007

O’Reilly Tools of Change

I’m at the O’Reilly Tools of Change Conference for Publishing, in San Jose.

I did the rounds of electronic publishing conferences a decade ago (can it be?) and there’s a strong sense of déjà vu. The imminent end of print publishing was predicted, again; new e-book readers and formats were discussed; and, while the names have changed, the exhibits all looked the same.

The only difference is, this time I believe it. The solutions are no longer ahead of their time, the scenarios aren’t unrealistic, paper is being given credit where it deserves it, and we’ve got the long tail to reassure us that it’ll all be okay: even if you don’t get everything right, you can still live forever in the long tail. Like the guys who still make vinyl records.

I presented our Pre-Pub and Community Pricing models under the embarrassingly confident title “Business Models that Guarantee Profitability in Publishing.” My favorite part was showing a 1790 “Proposals for Printing by Subscription” that illustrates how un-original our model really is. (You can see it in my PDF handout.)

Lunch with one of our publishing partners and dinner with another capped off a very thought-provoking day.

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