Cul-de-sac

May 2, 2011

In a very interesting interview Seth Godin talked about the publishing industry. He shared his ideas on the question where books might be headed. Seth recently launched a new project, trying to change the way books are sold and distributed. The Domino Project has already produced some successes.

One of the intriguing statements Seth made was about adding multimedia to books.

He called this a cul-de-sac.

In his view it will become a crying game. He compared the days publishers produced cd-roms with Vietnam. He mentioned several publishers going nearly broke.

In Seth’s opinion a book is written by one person and at some point the product is finished.

Multi Media projects are produced by lots of people. Being software projects they are never finished.

I found this quite interesting, even a bit alarming. I had the idea that adding multimedia would change the way we read. Maybe it’s not books as such that need a change, maybe it will be magazine like products. Maybe only textbooks will turn into multimedia.

Anyway: the interview is great. Take the time and listen.


The Price is Right

April 16, 2011

Before iPad was launched I started to think about the sort of ibooks that might form an extra attraction for possible ireaders. As my wife came up with the idea that iPad would become something to put on a table, I thought the old fashioned coffee table books would be a nice starting point. In every home I come, I see nice designed and well published books lying on coffee tables: 1 +1 = 3, right?

So I started touring publishers of books covering the arts, photography, design, architecture, history. I was rather stunned to notice these conversations turned out to be flashbacks.

I reexperienced earlier conversations during the rise of web 1.0 with record company management people.

There was, as we now are used to notice, ‘no real sense of urgency’. Of course it could be explained by the fact that all of these publishers were based in a very small country, called The Netherlands, but one would expect these professionals at least to be familiair with concepts like ‘desintermediation’, ‘e-books’, ‘Google’ or ‘ecommerce’. To my surprise they were not. And if they were, they were convinced that it would take years to develop and mature.

This year I started talks with museums to publish ibooks ourselves, without the publishers, since they were the ones that would be desintermediated. In preparation of making a shortlist for ibooks, I came upon art books, already available on iphone, iPad and iTouch. The price for a neat little handy booklet on Van Gogh was $ 1.99.  At least 50 or so well known painters were published as well for the same price.

This brings me to my point. As The Daily set the price for a daily on the iPad, this publisher set the price for nice, neat, little ibooks on painters.

Publishers and for that matter museums will have a very, very hard time to beat this price.

But for consumers, all over the world, the price sure is right.


The Rule of Law

September 29, 2010

The speed of change in the transformation towards electronic publishing (that’s what we used to call it a very long time ago) is picking up. Trends in technology, business, the search for new business models and very disruptive forces converge. The outcome still is blurred, but the road ahead seems to be clear. Authors will be authors, middle men will have to change, and traditional publishers have to find a new role and provide for longer lasting added value.

Some very interesting underlying points came to my attention this last week. In the avalanche of hot pressing news on devices and giant new players, we seem to forget our authors, the readers and the rule, and role of Law.

What will be the effects of the changing revenue streams on authors? They produce the original content. Will they make less in e or i? Will it be enough to collect a decent income, to keep them writing? 

Readers have great expectations, but how does one deliver?

And in a talk at Leiden University, Dirk Visser, esteemed professor and lawyer in matters of  intellectual property law, took the stand claiming that publishers who refuse to publish in digital formats misuse copyrights. In his view copyright is meant to provide the author with control on the distribution and to be paid for it. Copyright does not imply that publishers can prohibit or boycot new digital forms of distribution. Neither does copyright protect the concept of business as usual or the old ways of doing things.

Considering the effects on and benefits for authors and readers, the Dutch publishers Bertram & De Leeuw  (link in Dutch only) might have a thing or two going for them. They don’t have to fear lawsuits, at least not from authors.


Quad Erat Demonstrandum

September 27, 2010

Q.E.D. is an initialism of the  quod erat demonstrandum, which means “that which was to be demonstrated”.

This post is a new form of demonstration. This morning I recieved a tweet. The tweet pointed me to a post on a blog. The post was posted because one of the Facebook  friends of the blogger posted a link to an editorial from April about the reluctance of the publishing industry to embrace change.

Read it and ponder on the subject of Q.E.D.


Today’s disruptions

July 20, 2010

The capacity to react and respond to disruptive technologies, and I must say the incapacity as well, is the central theme of this blog. During the last weeks however I rediscovered a basic fact. It is not technology itself. Technology has only potential if and when used and applied properly. It is not technology that is disruptive.

Effects of technology have the power to be disruptive. Startups can challenge incumbents. Market outsiders can attack existing markets. Customers can act as a swarm and suddenly decide to go elsewhere. Established players should react and respond not to technology, but to other people’s actions. Players should redefine their position and value proposition.

These days the best battlefield to watch the bizarre and explosive mix of  high tech, attacks by startups and lack of responses by incumbents is media and publishing. Today Amazon communicated that it has been selling more ebooks than paper books for already quite a while. Today I recieved an email from a wellknown author stating that publishers think it’s 1960. Today I recieved an action leaflet from Aldi, a large discounter (food and nonfood), offering an inexpensive ebook reader. And that’s just about books.

Today I learned about the first personalized newspaper for the iPad while my own quality newspaper on paper still carried at least 5 enormous mistakes in it’s main editorial comment of last saturday.

And that’s just today.

The mediaindustries show us what will happen and is happening if and when myopia takes over inside a company or industry. Wise lessons are to be learned by just watchting them.

Today.


This one is about books

July 14, 2010

Today GOOG announced a very strategic deal with the Royal Library of The Netherlands. The entire collection will be made available on the web, of course if and when the material is in the public domain. I wonder if this bit of news will open publishers’ eyes and get them thinking forward and moving fast forward.


Outsider looking in

June 25, 2010

Outsiders watch industries under pressure and are not hampered by tradition. An industry under pressure is an industry where profits are evaporating. It’s really that simple. Tradition is the mentality of ‘business as usual’ combined with myopia. That’s simple as well.

Take the music industry. When analogue became digital, record companies pushed their libraries of content and made a fortune. A perfect reason for myopia:  less money to spend, higher margins and a huge demand. So execs became lazy. They forgot their basic audience: young kids without money, but with lots of time. The sole reason a young man came up with the idea of P2P, was that he could not buy a single anymore. Just one piece of music, not the whole album.

We all copied music when we were young. We all exchanged our music. This time however the bazaar was global and 24/7. Record companies sued users. Sharing sites were closed. While the record companies were defending their turf, an outsider came up with a new idea. As always.

Better copies for people with more money than time. Search, find, pay and play all in one well designed device. A single device, so to speak. What Apple basicly did was what they have been doing al along. Look at people, examine their needs and wants and come up with a multi user approach. All in one. Seller, artist, distributor, buyer, listener. Everybody happy.

But there were mp3 players all around us at the time. Why became the iPod this success? Well, as I told, it is not just a device, it is not just a gadget. It is a multi user thing. Just like the Mac was and just like the iPhone and iPad are.

Just keep watching as the iPad is taking the world of books, newspapers, magazines, tv and video by surprise.

Surprise?