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Posts Tagged ‘Publishing’

Fear Not, Garrison! iPad, Kindle and Company Seem to be Helping

In Entertainment, Technology, Uncategorized on May 29, 2010 at 9:41 am
Mr. Garrison Keillor

Image via Wikipedia

Garrison Keillor, whose words and voice have given me comfort in the years in his books, radio show and  his daily poem, is very worried.

In a piece for The New York Times, Keillor writes that he is worried “that book publishing is about to slide into the sea.”

He fears that e-books and self publishing will close the door on an era when “e became writers through the laying on of hands. Some teacher who we worshipped touched our shoulder, and this benediction saw us through a hundred defeats. And then an an editor smiled on us and wrote a check and our babies got shoes.”

He describes a future with “18 million authors in America, each with an average of 14 readers, eight of whom are blood relatives. Average annual earnings: $1.75.”

First off. As far as I can tell, the only real difference in Keillor’s future is that the average author will have six readers who are not blood relatives.

Really.

How many people do you know who have been slaving away, tinkering on, working at what they think could be the Great American Novel? Everybody’s a writer or thinks they are. People have been writing bad short stories, poems, sketches for hundreds of years.

And most of them haven’t made a dime.

Mr. Keillor — there’s really nothing new about that.

What’s great about self-publishing operations like Amazon’s BookSurge and Pubit from Barnes and Noble, is that it makes it easier for people to get out there and take a chance. Maybe they make nothing, maybe they made Keillor’s mythical average of $1.75.”

The important thing is that people are giving it a go.

Don’t we want a world where more people are trying to communicate? I mean, does he really he think that everyone who self-publishes thinks that they’ve really written the Great American Poem, Novel, Short Story? I’m sure some do. But I’m betting the majority are just people who feel they have something to say.

And let them say it, write it, shout it, blog it, self-publish and podcast it.

Let people dream and share those dreams.

The great writing will still find its way through.

In the meantime, grab a pen, pencil, typewriter, iPad, Kindle, whatever and write! And share what you’ve written.

There’s an audience of billions looking for something to read — the American Association of Publishers on Friday announced that book sales in March were up 16.6 percent, that they’re up eight percent for the year. Audiobook sales overall are up 14.7 percent for the year and the sales of downloaded audiobooks are up 29.3 percent.

AND e-book sales are up 251.9 percent for the year.

251.9 percent!

I would say that iPads and Kindles and Nooks and so forth are helping more people become readers and writers.

I mean, really. Does it get better? A nation where people are reading and writing? Maybe it’s not all good writing. Big deal. At least people are communicating!

Please relax, Mr. Keillor. It’s all going to be okay.

Saved by the Jesus Tablet?

In Uncategorized on May 27, 2010 at 1:12 pm
Image representing iPad as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

Poynter’s online mobile media column has posted a compilation of recent headlines asking what can be saved by the iPad.

The publishing industry, traditional broadcast media, newspapers, magazines… people all over the world are wondering if this device from Apple can saved the world.

But what would you expect from something that was being referred to as “The Jesus Tablet” months before it even came out?

Well, I don’t think the iPad will necessarily save anything but I think all the evidence is there that it’s making a difference; not just helping the bottom of line for publishers but helping innovate how publications are presented and consumed.

First, there’s the survey out last week from ChangeWave that found “surprising gains in newspaper and magazine consumption,” according to Macworld.

The thing is, though, it’s not really about money yet. No magazine is close to seeing apps truly boosting up their bottom line. What we are seeing is innovation.

Take for instance, the GQ app for the iPad.

Gizmodo points out that even though the app’s not flying off the shelves,  the magazine “looks great on the iPad, even if you just read it for the pictures.”

And then there’s Sports Illustrated, which is out with a demo of where it’s going — a presentation that shows you don’t need to design an app, you don’t need to use Flash. They show you can present an incredibly rich experience if you put your mind to it.

And over at Reuters, they’ve discovered that the app, which has been downloaded more than 75,— times — “is showing triple the user session time of Reuters.com.”

So, while some are still waiting for the great iPad magazine, it’s important to remember the iPad is JUST A COUPLE OF MONTHS OLD so, let’s show maybe a little patience.

In the meantime, take a look at what Wired Magazine has done.

As Mashable points out: “When the iPad was first announced, many thought that Wired Magazine’s edition for the device would be the one to redefine the way we look at magazines. From the looks of it, it doesn’t disappoint.”

And then think about what New Yorker editor David Remnick had to say to AdAge, telling them they’re working on a business model that will allow subscribers to pay one price to get the magazine across platforms, rather than having to pay for the print, for the web, for the app and so forth.

In talking about pricing, Remnick actually sums up the fact that this is all still so very new.

“This is going to evolve,” he said.

E-Rights and Wrongs

In Entertainment, Technology on April 29, 2010 at 10:07 am
Image representing Amazon Kindle as depicted i...

Image via CrunchBase

So, we have the Kindle and the IPad and the Nook and more e-readers coming out all the time.

And you have some big name writers making big bucks writing pieces just for these devices and you have other writers who are doing well enough, that they’re backing away from traditional publishing to focus on work to be downloaded.

So, all must be pretty good for writers as the world of publishing expands online, right? Well, not quite.

Much as what happened when ITunes started and some musicians withheld their music, complaining about the terms. And, there are some who are still keeping their music out of digital stores and there are others who have seen their music become available but are none too happy about how it’s turned out.

Well, it’s turning out to be the same with writers as it has been with musicians as authors struggle on several fronts from controlling the rights to their work to how much their going to get to well, if everything’s going to be sold online, what’s going to happen to bookstores?

The issue’s been in the news this week because after a month’s long fight, Random House has agreed to let the family of William Styron, author of Sophie’s Choice and other classics, to sell the e-rights to his books to Open Road Media.

What made this especially notable is that Random House has taken a pretty hard line when it comes to holding on to the e-rights of books.

As the Wall Street Journal reported in December, Random House CEO Markus Dohle sent a letter to literary agents asserting that the “vast majority of our backlist contracts grant us the right to publish books in electronic formats.

And in response to those who disagreed because contracts drawn up decades before e-books became popular — r practical — a Random House spokesman told the paper: “We believe Random House has the right to pblish out author’s backlist titles as e-books.”

Well, of course they do.

You would think Random House had learned its lesson — after all, it was nearly ten years ago that they lost a landmark case when it tried to get Rosetta Books from publishing some e-books.

In other cases, it’s been writers deciding to withhold e-versions of their books.

JK Rowling has chosen to keep Harry Potter off of e-readers for now and, in November, John Grisham (lawyer, that he is) made a very passionate argument about why he wasn’t allowing e-versions of his books to be sold.

“You’re going to wipe out tons of bookstores and publishers and we’re going to buy it all online,” he told the Today Show. “I’m probably going to be all right — but the aspiring writers are going to have a very hard time getting published.”

And while Grisham’s holdout didn’t last long (unsurprisingly, perhaps, there’s no comment from him or his representatives), his arguments are still valid.

So, as you download books (something I’ve done) and curl up with your IPad, Nook or Kindle or Sony Reader or whatever, keep in mind that someone created the work and that there’s a chance that person is still fighting for the ability to have some control over it.

It’s especially important when you realize there are still battles on the horizon.

Dave Eggers and Forward to the Past

In Entertainment, Technology, Uncategorized on April 26, 2010 at 8:24 pm

Dave Eggers collects hyphens.

Novelistjournalistmemoirist.

And then there’s

publisherscreenwriterphilanthropisteditor.

And, this past Friday, he reinforced one of them — prize-winner.

This time, it was the Los Angeles Times.

They honored Eggers at their Festival of Books with the  Innovators Award, which ‘recognizes the people and institutions that are doing cutting edge work to bring books, publishing and storytelling into the future, whether in terms of new business models, new technologies or new applications of narrative art.”

The award goes on to say that:

“He is exactly the kind of person the Innovator’s Award is intended to honor: a forward thinker who is not afraid of print, but also not afraid to look ahead to the future, and who is drawing a new generation of writers and readers to the written word.”

The funny thing is that what Eggers is being honored for — being “a forward thinker” —is actually less about forward thinking and more about mixing a commitment to the past with real business smarts.

It’s as the award says, his “refreshing disregard for conventional wisdom” that makes Eggers so important.

Because, while you have people like Michael Wolff who makes money stealing content from newspapers and then goes around predicting their death (here’s a story about one of his predictions of doom; I won’t link to his site because I don’t want to give him any traffic — even typing his name causes pain) it’s very refreshing to have Eggers.

In their coverage of the awards ceremony, the LA Times quotes Eggers offering what could be seen as a rebuke to Wolff.

“It’s the best time in the history of the printed word to be a publisher or a writer,” he said. “People want to declare the death of the printed word. It’s always our tendency to assume something is dying. It’s a fun thing to do, but it doesn’t always make sense.”

In the article, Eggers offers up part of his philosophy as a publisher.

“I’m actually quite a traditionalist,” he says. “We’re trying to make the business model rational, scalable, reasonable.”

And that really may be the key — not every media outlet has to be everything to everybody. You don’t need to own a chain of papers, or a baseball team, or television stations and real estate holding; to be a successful publisher, maybe you just need to keep things in perspective.

As Eggers told The Onion’s AV Club earlier this year:

“The paper-based media really has to work within a rational scale, and if they do, they’ll be fine. There’s plenty of room, people really care, there are magazines that people will fight to hold onto. You might not be able to operate your own LearJet and have an unlimited expense account, but if you have a reasonable expectation for a print-based product, whether it’s a newspaper or a magazine, you can certainly exist.

“Your readers will make sure you exist.”

Hallelujah.

Auletta, Amazon and the Death of Publishing

In Entertainment, Technology, Uncategorized on April 22, 2010 at 10:19 am
Image representing Amazon Kindle as depicted i...

Image via CrunchBase

Back in the early 1990s when I worked for The New York Post, there was a sense that The New York Times daily coverage of the city wasn’t all that it could be and what they did — which drove competitors crazy — was they might ignore a story for a couple of days and the come out with these long, comprehensive pieces that included everything, including the kitchen sink.

And that’s kind of how I feel about Ken Auletta’s new piece in The New Yorker that asks the question, “Can the IPad topple the Kindle and save the book business?”

If you haven’t read it, it is worth the time because even if he doesn’t have a lot that’s new, he pretty much has everything that others (including me) have written.

Reading it, though, I realized that I think it might have been a more interesting read if Auletta had taken the opposite track — asking not whether Apple can save publishing but exploring whether Amazon can kill publishers.

Auletta quotes a “close associate” of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos as saying,”What Amazon really wanted to do was make the price of e-books so low that people would no longer buy hardcover books. Then the next shoe to drop would be to cut publishers out and go right to authors.”

It’s not a new concern.

Last December when Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People announced he was shifting his digital rights to Amazon from his traditional publisher, Simon and Schuster, for a year, the New York Times led off by saying:

“Ever since electronic books emerged as a major growth market, New York’s largest publishing houses have worried that big-name authors might sign deals directly with e-book retailers or other new ventures, bypassing traditional publishers entirely.”

Then, in January, Amazon announced a plan allowing authors who give their exclusive e-book rights to Amazon to earn 70 percent royalty.

That was followed five days later by Ian McKewan shifting the e-rights to five of his books to Amazon, doubling his usual royalty as became the first big-name British author to sign on.

And, of course, there’s Stephen King, the kind of author who perhaps symbolizes the greatest threat to traditional publishers.

When the second version of the Kindle was announced, King read from a novella he wrote specifically to be distributed through the device.

It was such a success that a couple of weeks ago, he released a second story, created just for the Kindle.

And it’s not just the big names like King and Covey.

Galleycat, the publishing blog, recently interviewed mystery writer JA Kornath, who is making quite a nice living selling for the Kindle.

So, will Amazon prove to be the death of publishing? Will the IPad save it?

Probably no and no, though they are already clearly having an effect.

And, as I’ve pointed out before, until we figure out how to make sure there are enough devices for every student in every school to be able to get one, we need to make sure there are printed books out there for people to read.