By Cristine Shade
It’s easy to list the pros and cons of e-books, as Author Bridge Media has done, citing the obvious pros of mobility and readability, in addition to the cons of copyright and piracy. However, this is not, nor has ever been, the heart of the print book vs. the digital book argument. The heart of the matter is the experience of reading itself, a concept that gets lost in the wars for the best ereader, tablet or smartphone platform. Can we still have as pleasurable and satisfying an experience reading via a digital platform? I say yes!
When the ereader first came on the market, released by Sony in 2004, it was one of those cool gadgets that everyone wanted. Now, 10 years later, there are numerous ereaders and ebook apps for tablets and smartphones to choose from. These devises and reading technology are here to stay, which some herald as the end of the printed book. That is an entirely different discussion, one that has been had, and frankly, disproved. This brings us back to the original question of the experience of reading itself, which is discussed in a New York Times article titled, How Do E-Books Change the Reading Experience? Author Mohsin says, “In a world of intrusive technology, we must engage in a kind of struggle if we wish to sustain moments of solitude. E-reading opens the door to distraction.” Do we read print books because they provide the “moments of solitude” that Hamid speak, of or is the content of what we are reading enough to fulfill us? Is it the book’s responsibility to give us more than the information within?
Set aside the arguments about print vs. digital for a moment and consider whether a really good book can transcend the differences of print and digital reading? After all, the story is the star. I think this is where we will find our balance in the war of print vs. digital, not in the intrinsic characteristics of the book that we hold dear, and not in the convenience of a digital platform. There’s room in our daily lives for both; we’ve proven that over the past 10 years since Sony’s release of the first ereader. It’s the story that does it. The better the story, the better the data, the better the information, we will seek them out in any medium that suits our current needs and create our own experiences. Yes, we will give up some things when reading a print book, just as we will give up others when reading digitally. This is the nature of change. We have to re-evaluate what our expectations are of the content so we can finally get back to reading for pleasure.
By Erin Sinclair
We can usually count on waves of skeptics and prophets to ride in on the cusp of change. The future is forever a topic to be discussed and some of the most famous books are those that predicted the world of tomorrow. From Big Brother to Utopia, books have been the vessel that brought us big ideas about the future of humanity. But what about the future of the book itself? What will it look like? What will it do? As technology pushes forward, the possibilities are offering more change than some are willing to embrace. Others, however, are coming alive and paving the way to a new kind of book.
The designers at IDEO have some ideas about the future of the book. In 2010, they debuted three concepts for digital reading: Alice, Coupland, and Nelson. IDEO's concepts beautifully bring together many of the concepts we've discussed in class.
Alice "turns storytelling on its head" by incorporating reader interaction and participation, and by utilizing device capabilities (such as the map, phone, messaging).
Coupland "makes book discovery a societal activity" by connecting readers to each other and to the author.
Nelson lets "readers explore a topic from multiple perspectives" by linking books not only to each other, but to other related material as well. At the same time, it creates content authority.
From the eyes of IDEO, the future of the book is bright, "with solutions that truly adapt to the new environment, rather than emulate analog qualities onscreen." Emulation got us to the Kindle and the Nook, but it cannot take us much farther than that. As T. S. Eliot wrote, "In order to arrive at what you are not/You must go through the way in which you are not." Designers, publishers, authors, and even readers are looking past the confines of the printed page towards a book reimagined, "not bound by time or space." This innovative IDEO is just one of many in the making that has the potential to reshape our book culture (even our culture itself), and as time goes on, we will see many more.
The book is arguably the most influential invention of all time: it simultaneously shaped and recorded our history, it is powerful enough to move nations to war and peace, it is personal enough to touch one life at a time, and it has the ability to teach us more than we can ever learn. The book connects us, and even as the world rapidly shifts to faster modes of communication, the book will stand. As with all change, there is potential for some of the good to be lost, but books will not be lost...they will just be a little different.
by Monica Sweeney
This time last year, editorial assistant Seth Adam Smith wrote a post on his personal blog called “Marriage Isn’t For You.” The purposefully misleading title is later explained by his father’s advice just before Smith got married: “Marriage isn’t for you. You don’t marry to make yourself happy, you marry to make someone else happy.” Smith’s post is short and simple: do your best to make others happy, and the rest will follow. Smith’s post went on to snatch 30 million views, television and online interviews, and not one, but three book deals.
Shadow Mountain Press released Smith’s first book based on the blog post called, Marriage Isn’t for You: It’s for the One You Love, in May 2014. After seeing just near 3,000 in sales since its release, Smith’s former employer, B-K Publishing, signed him on for a two-book deal. The first, Your Life Isn’t for You: A Selfish Person’s Guide to Being Selfless was just published this September, and the second You, Unstuck: You Are the Solution to Your Greatest Problem is in the works. Smith has plans to do book tours, a video series, and even a TED Talk called “The Not For You Movement.”
Smith is not the only writer to have earned a book deal from a viral article. The author of the post, “I am Adam Lanza’s Mother,” Liza Long recently published The Price of Silence: A Mom’s Perspective on Mental Illness that has sold just over 1,200 copies since August, according to Bookscan. These writers’ initial posts could not be more different, but they both draw in the reader with shocking titles and deal with emotional subjects. What separate Smith and Long from most published authors is that their pathway to signing a book deal is a relatively new one. Publishers habitually vet potential authors based on their online fan bases, authority over the topic, or celebrity status, yes, but investing time and money in an author with just one successful post is a new approach, and one that could be very risky.
While Smith’s career has skyrocketed in just a year, the long-term success of his efforts remains to be seen. 3,000 in initial sales is a great start for a small publisher, but is a single online success stemming from a click bait article a catalyst for true publishing success? Only the next months and years will tell, and this information will help publishers decide how powerful—or insignificant—a viral article can be in forging new authors in the business.
by Shaina Lange
From what used to be dial-up connections and AOL, to the sustained presence of Facebook and dating sites, a new way of open communication and community posting emerges everyday. With all of these technological changes in the way we interact with each other and the world around us, there was bound to be a business opportunity waiting in the midst of online media. YouTube is changing the editorial and acquisitions process, as publishers are now using YouTube to find their next big book idea and even creating imprints from the video site.
Online celebrities who begin an amateur presence through channels such as YouTube, opinion blogs and cooking sites have the power to create massive fan bases, and, through those fan bases, new business models emerge. We all remember Rebecca Black’s fleeting five minutes of fame with her YouTube video of “It’s Friday,” which quickly turned into a signed label and professional music video. While Black’s video was mainly made famous because it was parodied, her name and fame remain in our minds. Over the last few years especially, YouTube celebrities have been acquired as offline success stories, from television shows to radio gigs and now books.
YouTube sensations such as Michelle Phan, with more than seven million subscribers for her make up tutorials, are now becoming potential authors for what publishers think will be the next bestsellers. Phan’s book entitled Make Up will be released next week by Penguin’s Harmony imprint.
Taking the popularity and reach of YouTube even further, publishers and other media companies are creating imprints based on YouTube opportunities. Simon & Schuster recently created an imprint called Keywords Press, which acquires and publishes works by YouTube celebrities. Awesomeness TV, a subsidiary of DreamWorks that produces YouTube shows, also recently started its own publishing imprint called AwesomenessInk. As the COO of AwesomenessTV states, “It’s not just about the views those shows generate. It’s also about the likes and shared comments.”
Preliminary results from online-inspired books are positive. Running Press, an imprint of Perseus, released The Pointless Book by comedic video blogger Alfie Deyes last month in the U.K., and it quickly became a bestseller. Much of what is driving the book’s popularity has been Deyes’ fan base. Similar to the concept of 1,000 fans, Deyes’ five million subscribers between his three YouTube channels and blog have been posting on social media sites about the book, tremendously accelerating his print book sales.
It is interesting to see this reversal in media inspiration; What used to be a movie inspired by a book has turned into books inspired by online celebrities. As we have seen with the following behind the Twilight book and movie series, as well as the entire Harry Potter enterprise, younger generations have more of a tendency towards cult-like following and subscriptions. It is these followings that publishers plan to use as a major marketing and sales opportunity. Let’s just hope that they last longer than Rebecca Black’s music video.
Original Article: “From YouTube Stars, Literary Lions” by Jeffrey Trachtenberg and Rolfe Winkler, The Wall Street Journal
How Amazon is turning books into products while consumers continue to be lured by the siren call of the $9.99 novel
If you’ve been following the highly publicized Hatchett v. Amazon dispute, then you’ve probably heard of the retail giant’s decree of keeping ebook prices—even those published by major publishing houses with substantial overhead costs—hovering around the magical consumer-friendly number of $9.99. You may also be aware of the mixed feedback from both publishers and authors. Having established itself as the biggest ebook seller in the game, Amazon has thrown its weight around in setting expectations for pricing standards putting major pressure on publishers to find ways to reduce their production costs. A big concern is that these cost-cuts could potentially result in cutting corners when it comes to upholding time-tested editorial processes which have historically ensured the quality of published works, including extensive proofreading and copyediting. The question is not whether quality will be compromised if such budget constraints become the norm, but how much.
How will this decline affect book consumers?
Without a doubt, publishing a book has become exponentially simpler with the advent of the internet, actually selling books is another story. Self-publishing has seen a significant upward trend amongst amateur authors and writers who aren’t afraid to skip the middleman and put in their fair share of elbow grease to get their books in front of audiences. But then they face the challenge of making their work distinguishable from the millions of other self-published titles, an increasingly difficult task in an infinitely sprawling hyperspace market.
And these authors aren’t just competing against other books. Big internet retailers like Amazon are gobbling up markets left and right for all kinds of products, and more and more consumers are flocking to stock up on everything from home goods, clothing, to groceries. Amazon employs intricate data tracking systems and algorithms which generate customer-specific ads on a person’s Amazon homepage. When a customer logs into their Amazon account with the innocent intention to simply browse books, but many can’t help but succumb to the slew of distracting product listings and ads they are immediately bombarded with. This sensory assault is a collage of product suggestions compiled from data on their previous purchases and browsing history.
What does it mean for a culture when books are laid out side by side with bulk toilet paper, toothpaste, laundry detergent and cheap office furniture?
It’s no surprise that brick and mortar stores have struggled to keep up with the often significantly lower prices offered through online retailers. These days, even big box stores like Best Buy and K-mart have been left in the dust as online retailers are able to be in the hands and pockets of potential customers 24/7. The incredibly invasive (but effective) use of data tracking utilized by online retailers, tailoring advertisements specifically to match the interests of each individual, has turned shopping into a science. Consumers have grown accustomed to having access to the best of everything, at the lowest possible price. Amazon even has a feature for members to purchase an item with the click of a single button. Maybe next is you simply think hard enough about a product and find out later when you see your credit card statement and a brown cardboard box on your doorstep that you indeed made a purchase!
Buying stuff has never been easier, and finding the lowest possible price takes minimal effort thanks to sophisticated price comparison features offered on search engines like Yahoo and Google, which do all the dirty work for you. Retailers can’t complain since after all, during your search for the best price on a pair of Adidas cross-trainers, your search engine may slyly suggest a pair of Pumas instead that you like even more. A buyer’s decision making process has become a complex and highly manipulated operation thanks to shady (yet legal) third-party tracking capabilities.
Sure, in some ways it can be seen as in the best interest of a consumer (and the market overall) to be exposed to more products they are likely to have an interest in, but with the sheer quantity of merchandise available for purchase online a customer can only possibly view a fraction of those options. When a customer goes to the store and is confronted with one thousand different varieties of toilet paper, and consequently on thousand different decisions to make, how will they choose? It’s an easy guess to say it’s likely to boil down to price relative to perceivable quality (the customer may not actually have any experience with the brand but may read reviews or make judgements based on the product label and packaging), but an even more influential factor is often familiarity. Even if a customer’s preferred brand of toilet paper isn’t the best or the cheapest, they may simply purchase it out of ritual. For many people, this factor may be the most important of all.
Back to books.
For the average reader, it’s probably not crucial who published the book they’re reading. It’s a safe bet that most readers, if asked who original publishers of even their favorite titles are, would have no idea off the top of their heads. For most readers, the familiarity factor when deciding on the next title to purchase is the author and perhaps to a lesser degree, the cover design. When readers are bombarded with a hundred different book titles that are considered “related” to the last one they read based on the logistics of a complex algorithm designed by a retailer, price is sure to be a major factor, and one whose importance I predict will grow as the number of viable options grows.
Internet shopping is faster and cheaper, and more book-buyers are making their purchases online. Publishing houses have struggled to keep with the times, but cutting print production is not the answer, as print books surprisingly continue to outsell e-books by a large margin. If publishers embrace the move to digital consumption by developing more efficient, straight-to-ebook editorial processes, they may save some time and money, but they stand to lose valuable print-buying customers. Another solution for publishers may be to find a way to focus on branding themselves that speaks to readers directly, and perhaps better justify their prices by providing content of a quality that clearly sets their books apart from the sludge of cheaply produced, low-cost self-published products.
One thing is clear, Amazon is calling the shots and if publishers want to survive they must choose to conform, or to rebel by working together and offering a clever and convenient method for purchasing the books which could compete against the giant e-tailer.
By Candice Blodgett
Publishers were facing a challenge with a newer, cheaper publication option. Should we dip our toe in the waters, only risking something we’re willing to lose? Should we dive in, with the faith that ‘if we build it, they (readers) will come’? Can’t we lose a lot of money, offering up the best of what we’ve got to offer, if they don’t come, or – if they do come – if they don’t stay? We’ll be lucky if we make money. This is going to ruin business. Those new guys and their new format are why we can’t have nice things. They’re going to make us all look bad.
Does any of this sound familiar? It should. It’s old news, though perhaps much older than you were expecting. This is a tale from World War II. The new kids on the block then were paperbacks. The big risk the American publishers took? Armed Services Editions – a *gasp* disposable magazine format that could be made cheaply – printed not only of the lighter themes and reads (westerns, mysteries, sex) they expected soldiers would want but also of their premium literary content and new compilations specifically for the format.
What happened? The publishers dove in to those waters, head first. They essentially gave away (selling ASE books to the military for six cents is a far cry from $2 hardcovers after all) over one hundred million books. It was well worth the risk. The soldiers read and, more importantly, they kept reading. The fears that no one would ever pay (or pay more) for books after being exposed to cheap as free reading were unfounded. By taking that risk, they grew the market. There were more, and more diverse, readers as well as more diverse genres of reading available in more formats. They “cooperated in an experiment that…(made) us a nation of book readers”.
It’s said that those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. I think, this time, the doom lies in not repeating history. American publishers took what they thought was a massive risk, but it was their willingness to take risks, adapt their models and visions of business, and make innovative (if nerve-wracking at the time) decisions that not only saved their industry but let it flourish.
Come on in, the water’s fine.
By Ashley Taylor
As the publishing environment shifts and transitions into an E-publishing format, there are more and more genres and presses that are making this change, following suit from other big name publishing companies such as Random House, Simon & Schuster, Scholastic, and many more. The article, entitled, "Xist Publishing Creates Digital-First Children's Books" tells the tale of a woman who started up her own press, mainly to give her daughter the ability to be able to read books on her Kindle. As the environment shifts to a more digital age, it is clear, in stories such as these, that readers, young and old alike, will want to be able to still enjoy the books and magazines that they love, in various different formats. With the new influx of products such as E-Readers, Kindles, iPads and several of the like, reading is becoming an integral part of these products, with several apps and products enabling readers to be able to do so on the products that they love. In the article, the press that was developed is primarily for children, showing that this genre and this type of press is extremely popular and has a large following and fan base. The link for the article is found below:
by Rhonda L. Larson
While many of the students in Cohort 10 who have, or hope to pursue, careers in publishing are NOT planning on branching into the news media field, a recent trend in the news media business may signal an emerging or future trend in nontrade publishing. In the past month, five Gannett-owned newspapers eliminated their copy desks. The NetNewsCheck website (http://www.netnewscheck.com/article/35765/copy-editors-get-digitally-redefined) reported that Kate Marymont, the senior VP of news in Gannett’s publishing division, said the change, which included replacing other traditional editors, such as city and assignment editors, was part of an overhaul to make the newsroom “more digitally focused.” The idea, apparently, was to “redefine” the role of copy editors, and not do away with the process or function.
Teresa Schmedding, president of the American Copy Editors Society (ACES), and the deputy manager editor-digital for the Daily Herald Media Group in Chicago, indicated this kind of move risks the integrity of news media outlets. “It’s been proven that people value quality of content and that your credibility is directly tied to that.” According to the article, Schmedding also said she believes copy editors are more critical than ever given the “abundance of misinformation flying about cyberspace coupled with the demands on reporters to crank out copy.”
In 2011, the ACES annual conference focused on the future of editing. Attendees summarized the message with “The copy editor is dead. The content editor is alive.” (http://editingandpublishing.wordpress.com/2012/01/09/does-copyediting-have-a-bright-future/) Kourtney Kinsel, in a blog for Texas Christian University’s Editing and Publishing course, wrote, “far from predicting the extinction of copyediting as a crareer, this statement [from the ACES annual conference attendees] attest to the changing role of the copyeditor. Above all else, the title shift from “copyeditor” to “content editor” marks a turn towards a job with more defined characteristics. For example, content editors specialize in communication by helping to make content go public.”
However, Fred Vultee posted in ACES’s Copydesk blog in 2013 that, even though the shrinking number of copy editor positions is not quite as drastic as it may seem, due to job title changes, the number of positions has declined considerably—possibly 28.9 percent from 2001 and 30.5 percent from 2007 (http://www.copydesk.org/blog/2013/06/01/editing-job-losses/). He cited a summary of a study, based on the American Society of News Editors (ASNE) 2012 newsroom census, which indicated “the editing side of the newsroom had fared worst in the past decade of recession- and Internet-related job cuts
While the readers of this newsletter will likely all agree on the importance of copy editing (or “content editing”), and that the role will continue to evolve as publishers from every sector of the industry provide different types of content and formats, it’s important to consider what this will mean to us individually as publishing professionals, and for our readers and employers ? How will we ensure readers are provided quality, accurate content, and that our employers are not sued, or have their reputations besmirched? Ultimately, will publishers protect themselves by hiring adequate editorial staff (regardless of how the positions are titled), and allowing those professionals time to do their jobs?
By Kelly Viola
Book covers have always been important. They help publishers sell the book by giving basic information about the book and protecting the book and its contents from damage. More importantly though, they direct the reader to a potentially great story. A creative or interesting book cover can also direct prospective book owners into book stores or onto websites, which helps sell books. Additionally, book covers have historically been used to convey the importance of the book's owner. Today is really no different, except it is not the book’s owner who is important so much as the book’s potential owner.
Originally intended to protect the contents within the book, book covers and jackets were originally made of skin (these were typically leather, but human skin is not unheard of). The skins could be impressed with gold and delicate patterns, scarred with acid, adorned with jewels or carved ivory, or decorated with wood. Book covers evolved during the industrial revolution to be covered in cloth and eventually paper decorated with different fonts, illustrations, or photographs. The unifying fact most book covers have in common is that they display pertinent data – the authors, title, price, and publisher. They can also can contain positive reviews or summaries that give both detail about what’s in the book and why a reader should read it.
Although the book cover has previously been able to keep up with changing technology, there is a sense that perhaps the age of the book cover is ending. However, there is also a feeling that with the help of new technology, we are about to see another renaissance that combines cover artwork with interactive and innovative technology. Personally, I am in the second group. Book covers have always been important, but never more than now because they need to catch readers who may have too many titles to choose from. Book covers also help draw online sales and gain new readership. Superficially, if the cover looks promising, the book may be prominently displayed in a store or online. The downstream effects are more customers and more sales. This is true for the online market place and brick and mortar bookstores. In a way, the covers are still used to protect the book. The more attractive a cover is to a reader, the more likely the reader will be to pick up the book, which protects the book from obscurity.
The book cover is also more important now because of the technology that it is creating in response to the changing market. With more choices, there is more competition, so publishers are experimenting with user experience and design to grab readers and sales. Three-dimensional (3-D) book covers have been recently released, and interactive book covers and book cover features have also been rumored to be on the horizon. In response to the need for more creative work in this new marketplace, graphic designers are getting more creative. Book cover artwork may be edgier today than it was 20 years ago. This artwork has to grab a potential reader who has many times more options than they did before. The cover also needs to look good on a thumb nail sized screen, so the colors may be jarring, such as the covers of Stieg Larson’s Millennium Series. Book covers may also be redesigned to make the public uncomfortable, which results in reader discussions and notoriety for the book; the redesign of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is doing just that. Some redesigns are established to capture a new generation of readers, such as the redesigns for the Harry Potter series, or they are meant to caputre a new audience all together, such as covers inspired by film adaptions. All of these designs or redesigns have one goal in mind. Get the reader to buy the book.
On the downside, if done hastily or incorrectly, the changes in book cover technology or design could negatively impact book sales and readers. If new technology is used for a book cover, but it is not user friendly or it breaks easily, then perhaps then the reader may not buy another interactive book. If the technology is changing too quickly and the new format is not well designed or supported (because yes, help desks may be required), then the technology for the interactive or 3-D book cover could be the next 8-Track. There are also risks to traditional book covers. If a redesigned book cover does not keep the spirit of the book or the expectations of its traditional audience in mind as it moves forward, then both the prospective and the traditional audience could avoid purchasing the book. This was the case with the redesign for Anne of Green Gables, which mistakenly used a hip blonde "Abercrombie-like" model for the cover instead of a traditional Anne Shirley. Consequently, if a traditional book theme is used repetitively, then the publisher runs the risk of too many similar looking book covers, which readers may bypass all together. For example, it was recently reported there are many books about Africa with acacia trees and sunsets on the cover. Each of these miscalculations could lead to countless lost sales in the future. However, if all of the risks are appropriately addressed, book covers can invite readers to explore the new and unusual, while keeping their sense of nostalgia alive and well.
Book covers draw the reader to the book and will have a continuing role in the world of publishing. They may not look the same in the future, but they will still protect the book, invite the reader, and give them a sense of pride in their selection.