When we started to explore the possibilities for a new kind of journalism through ebooks, we began an Italian series in co-edition with one of the most interesting Italian newspaper, La Stampa. The idea was
«to move in-depth analysis articles into a more flexible reading environment with a different reading experience compared to the paper one. We think this is a challenge to be embraced with new territory to explore and lots of possibilities still waiting to be discovered.»
Considering this as a new path for journalism, one where there is space for experimenting, starting with language and techniques, we have being publishing since 2011 several titles covering different topics and kinds of journalism: from investigative reports to economy, from cooking to biography, we had the chance to try very different solutions.
We just published Benedict XVI, the resignation of a Pope, in three languages: Italian, English and Spanish.
An international eye on the news: as technology opens new perspectives on lots of different aspects, the intersection between books and news is one of the most interesting to explore.
ABOUT THE BOOK
The story behind Benedict XVI surprising decision to step down as told by the "vaticanisti" and commentators of La Stampa and its specialized site, Vaticaninsider.com. A means for grasping the ramifications of this event, a glimpse into the history of Joseph Ratzinger's papacy and an inside view of the Church's process of choosing his successor.
SEE ALSO SPANISH AND ITALIAN VERSION
COMMODITY PUBLISHING, SELF-PUBLISHING, AND THE FUTURE OF FICTION
"If commodity publishing is here to stay, I can only see its future in the realm of genre fiction, because this is the area where I see sufficient reader demand to drive the kind of volume that leads to a living wage. It’s also the only area where I see authors without qualms about quality, or without any hesitation to produce as much material as possible, with the only limitation the amount of time you can keep your butt in the chair writing."
JUST BECAUSE SOMETHING HAS VALUE DOESN'T MEAN IT HAS A PRICE
"If every shred needs to be accounted for and paid for, then the harvest won't happen. Paying for every link you make, or every link you count, or every document you analyse is a losing game. Forget payment: the process of figuring out who to pay and how much is owed would totally swamp the expected return from whatever it is you're planning on making out of all those unloved scraps.
In other words, if all latent value from our activity has a price-tag attached to it, it won't get us all paid – instead, it will just stop other people from making cool, useful, interesting and valuable things out of our waste-product."
The Guardian | @doctorow
PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE MERGER BEGINS A NEW CHAPTER FOR PUBLISHING
"Publishing brands are starting to emerge as consumer brands, not in all places, but in some. And perhaps the most interesting question for the new Random Penguin merger is what they do decide to do with Penguin as a consumer brand that is not even constrained by its own publishing, but orientated to the interests of its readers more generally. In other words, can it become a home for discovery of excellent reading as well as a great publisher?"
THE E-READER REVOLUTION: OVER JUST AS IT HAS BEGUN?
"The real innovation in e-readers has been giving consumers a convenient way to buy books, wirelessly, without even having to use their computers," says Sarah Rotman Epps, a Forrester Research analyst. "Giving consumers a digital storefront right in their hands, that's what really made e-readers a phenomenon."
The Wall Street Journal
BACK TO THE FUTURE OF DIGITAL PUBLISHING
Don’t worry – this isn’t one of those shows on VH1 where washed-up pseudo-celebrities make flippant remarks about other washed-up celebrities who were famous in 1993. It’s a real look back at the past: what agents thought about digital publishing way back when. Despite what your opinion about agents’ relationships with ebooks today, in 1993 they were well-informed and perhaps ahead of the curve."
Digital Book World
"There are Futurist conferences," wrote Käthe in her review, "philosophy, fashionable Italians, Brazilian voodoo, Swedish Methodism, steampunk novelists, time travel and state secrets. Although set now, amid the ongoing international financial turmoil, I would expect this to appeal to those who enjoy all the similar sorts of elements of "The Diamond Age".
Best of all, it's a romance likely to appeal equally to men and women, tech fanciers and artists. It is amusing, quirky, earnest, and charming."
We picked some geek quotes for you:
The music business is the walking dead!
«Eliza opened her furry black satchel. She pulled out a portable CD player. “Gav, look here. Once, I loved this machine. Because it plays all my CDs. But nobody buys music in the stores any more! Even I don’t pay for music, and I’m rich! I’m carrying a zombie in my purse!”
“Well, yes, that platform is obsolete now, but a new business model will arise for music.”
“No it won’t! That’s a lie! Nobody will ever pay! The music business is the walking dead! Don’t lie to me.” Eliza stuffed her doomed device back in her furry purse.
Gavin rubbed his chin. “Your Digital Native generation really has some issues.”»
Amazon had been invented to sell sci-fi books. The least chic thing in the world.
«All the Amazon guys around Seattle were also aware of the trend. They all knew that, someday, European haute couture would sell online. The problem was that feat couldn’t be done by anybody from Amazon. Because Amazon guys were hacker geeks and cheesy hicks. Amazon had been invented to sell sci-fi books. The least chic thing in the world.
The European couture biz would never go anywhere near a dorky sci-fi geek like Jeff Bezos. As for Jeff himself, Jeff would much rather conquer outer space with his private rocket than ever dress the First Lady of France.»
World of Warcraft
"I'm Level Eighty on Warcraft."
The clerk was stunned. "You're Level Eighty?! Are you Horde, or Alliance?"
"What, are you kidding me? I'm Horde, of course! I'm a Level Eighty Undead Priestess. What Guild are you in?"
"I'm a Horde Blood Elf Paladin. Level 30. I'm in the Blood Roses Guild."
"Have you ever seen a 'Spectral Tiger' loot card? I bet you never have."
The museum clerk thought about her situation. The psychic pressure was mounting on her. She was in a state of moral anguish. "Look, Signora, I'd love to help your American clients there... But if my director knew I was Warcrafting here at work, she'd kill me! Besides, you don't have any 'Spectral Tiger' in your purse, I bet."
Jeff Bezos and his private space rocket
«“So, Sally, what’s new around here?”
“Jeff Bezos just sold off two million shares.”
“So, why would our sci-fi paperback bookseller need to sell that much Amazon stock?”
“I think Jeff needs the cash for his private space rocket.”»
The Internet would crack these nuts
«She had Google, and she had Wikipedia. She could look up anything obscure, any words or phrases that she didn’t understand. A romance novel was just a book, while the Internet was the Internet. The Internet would crack these nuts for sure.»
I may dress like a nerd
«Look, Brixie, I may dress like a nerd, but I can read trends. Yeah, I can tell you what to do.»
Optimistic startup guys
«Gavin did not enjoy his hard work. The optimistic startup guys sending in these crazy proposals were guys who enjoyed their work. Gavin had the solid, old-fashioned idea that work should be painful, so that people would pay you for doing it. If the “work” was fulfilling, then work was a form of entertainment. The workers should be paying people for being entertained.»
She was such an Internet fiend ...
«Brixie wasn’t talking to him, or listening to him. Nothing like that at all. Brixie was off in her own world, flaming away like a blowtorch. She was such an Internet fiend that she had never learned any other way to behave.»
«Brixie’s blog was huge. That had to be it. Brixie had a monster fashion blog. All those Los Angeles girls with their feet on the pedals of daddy’s sports car... Speedometers twitched in Milan whenever those girls changed their shoes... And Brixie knew how to make the girls in L.A. change their shoes.
Dr. Gustav Y. Svante had warned him about this. This was an Internet thing: “disintermediation.”»
«Once, I went to this little meeting of Microsoft kids. Like, this high-school trip thing, but it was very exclusive. We met the world’s greatest Futurist there. Dr Gustav Y. Svante. Nobody knows who he is. That’s why he’s the world’s greatest Futurist. He told us... He said that the future was already here, but nobody listens to the future. The future is all around us, but we don’t see the future yet. We don’t hear it or see it, so we can’t tell it.”»
«“I meant, tell me all about this steampunk thing!” Gavin broke in. “How does that concept work out for you people, here in Brazil?”
“You don’t know about steampunk?” shouted Xavier, dubiously.
“Well, I don’t read many novels! Because I’m kinda fully-booked already! But, obviously, you’re a science fiction writer at a Futurist conference! And I can see that you’re all dressed up like some fancy guy from the past, from the 19th century! So what gives with that? What is all that about?”»
«“Looks like your sci-fi prediction came true right away, Xavier.”
“That can be gratifying,” mused the novelist. “But not all the time.”»
Facebook is like his new drug
«“Everybody is in trouble with my dad. My dad only sort of gets the Internet. My dad started looking up all his old enemies on Facebook. My dad picks big flamewar fights. It’s like my dad just discovered that people can talk about politics without his permission. Facebook is like his new drug, he’s getting all sweaty and manic... Farfalla, is Facebook the work of the Devil? Google is ‘not evil,’ but nobody ever said that Facebook was ‘not evil.’”»
We just published the brand new novel by Bruce Sterling, Love Is Strange.
Cory Doctorow: Do you feel that the world is, on balance, improved by technology?
Well, if you ask that question from the point of view of almost anything in this world that's not a human being like you and me, the answer's almost certainly No. You might get a few Yea votes from the likes of albino rabbits and gene-spliced tobacco plants. Ask any living thing that's been around in the world since before the Greeks made up the word "technology," like say a bristlecone pine or a coral reef. You would hear an awful tale of woe.
Matthew Battles: Concern for the future is a perennial human predicament; what (if anything) is peculiar about the modern fascination with futurity?
Well, for us moderns, this perennial predicament isn't entirely in the charge of priests, as it generally has been for all history. Actually, there's quite a lot of stuff that's peculiar about our recent version of futurity. Number one is that we no longer know what "progress" is, so our "conservatives" have become our radicals while our "progressives" are our conservatives.
We're also a lot keener on big data and social mapping than anybody ever was before, because we've got really large big data and we more or less just invented social maps. We're alway excited by breakthroughs that haven't bored us and become banal and useful yet.
I can pick the trends, but you'll only really watch them if they somehow capture your imagination. The number one trend in the world, the biggest, the most important trend, is climate change. People hate watching it; they either flinch in guilty fear or shudder away in denial, but it makes a deeper, more drastic difference to your future than anything else that is happening now.
Personally, I enjoy watching trendy developments in augmented reality, extinct forms of media, new forms of language within digital media, the Internet of Things and popular music trends in countries other than the USA. They're not the world's most important trends, but they are trends I cared enough about to study and more or less understand. That's why they're all categories on my weblog.
The world is full of "trends," thousands of them, but you have to engage with one to derive any benefit from knowing that it's happening. For instance, that trend of smoking cigarettes is going to damage your health. Everybody yells that at you, and it's even written into law and right on the packages. So that "trend" is no big secret to you, but until the day when you can wake up to it and let it matter to yourself, you won't be able to let your thoughtless addiction go. It's a trend all right -- you can watch it happening for years, as you light another, then another, and then another -- but until you engage with it, that trend owns you, and you don't own it.
Cory Doctorow: Will "electronic art" someday cease to be a meaningful distinction? Has it already become so?
Those terms are pretty elastic. When there's a bidding war over classic paintings nowadays, people are commonly bidding worldwide while looking at jpegs of the canvas.
There's one kind of electronic art that's very publicly and self-consciously "electronic" -- commonly it's got snarled wires coming out of it, to demonstrate how electronic it is -- and I'd guess that stuff's gonna have a fairly short shelf-life. But it will be very hard to say when it's over, as it is also hard to say when it started. When did "video art" start, and when will "video art" end? How about "device art" or "network art" or "software art"?
Asking if all art will someday be "electronic" is similar to asking if there will be a day when live theater is indistinguishable from cinema. I can imagine such a situation, I don't think it's impossible, but it would mean that the concepts of "cinema" and "theater" were both long obsolete, and a society like that would be very alien.
Paul Di Filippo: If you were attempting to start your career as a science fiction writer in today's milieu, rather than in the 1980s milieu when you did begin, what would your strategy be for getting a toehold and getting your name known? In other words, where are the CHEAP TRUTHS of 2013?
That's quite a tough question. It's pretty hard to have a "career" doing any single creative thing nowadays. If you really make a stir as a "science fiction writer" nowadays, you're likely to get swept up in all kinds of network-society fringe activities, such as blogging, going to conventions, comics, gaming, TV, movies, collectibles.... The days when you could be a "science fiction writer" and work exclusively on books and magazines seem to have vanished already.
I'm pretty sure that the best way to get a toehold in writing is to start writing work that you yourself want to read. Then, see who really cares about it, and try to understand why. Wasting energy trying to ace your way through collapsing industries is a drag. You should never be surprised if your most effective, most influential writing is writing no publisher will pay for.
Ted Striphas: Have you adjusted your writing style, or the substance of your writing, in light of new digital systems for producing, distributing, and communicating about books? If so, how, and with what consequences?
I'd say that my writing career has been a constant struggle with that issue since about 1980. I do a lot of writing for digital systems, "writing" that's got nothing to do with "books." It's hard to say what the consequences of this struggle are, but I can guess. I frankly think it damaged my prose style -- because I never had the chance to fully master the methods by which I express myself. But it also kept me flexible and alert in other ways. It's likely similar to the effect of digital music on contemporary musicians -- they can make a lot of weirder noises, lots faster, but they don't become virtuosos.
It changed my work profoundly when I realized I could talk to a global audience on the Internet, although I was legally limited from doing that by national publishing systems. The lack of any global book market has much reduced my interest in publishing books. National systems don't "publish" me, but rather conceal me. This especially happens to writers outside the Anglophone market, but I know a lot of them, and I've become sensitized to their issues. It's one of the general issues of globalization.
Ted Striphas, John Sundman: Some have suggested that the age of the long form novel is nearing an end, and that shorter, strung-together narrative chunks represent the future. How would you respond to this claim?
I'd suggest trying to imagine somebody in the year 2062 sitting down to read "the best tweets of 2012." Does that prospect sound at all plausible to you? I'm a blogger and I'm very keen on randomly-assembled narrative chunks, but I've always known that blog content has a short shelf-life. It's like doing stand-up comedy.
Ted Striphas: Like many science fiction writers (or, like many of the best science fiction writers), you've introduced several neologisms into the English language—words and phrases like "buckyjunk," "major consensus narrative," "spime," and a host of others. Beyond the fact that neologisms can make for lively writing, why push the limits of language this way?
I know that can sound like "pushing" language, but from my point of view, social change reveals gaps in language. For instance, the idea of an "Internet of Things" leaves, to my eye, an obvious verbal hole for a "thing" that's created specifically to exist within an "internet of things." What kind of "thing" is that "thing?" "Spime" is not a great word, but it's there if anybody needs it.
If there's an issue that needs discussion, but there's no way to discuss it without some clumsy workaround, then why not just make up a word for it? Thousands of slang terms are invented in many dialects of English every day. The English language isn't going to buckle and collapse because I made up the term "buckyjunk," which prophesies the pollution problems involved in making items from semi-indestructible "buckminsterfullerene."
Some people think I made up other colorful terms such as "blobject" and "junkspace," but I didn't, I was quite happy just to find these neologisms and do my part to spread them around. Where is my downside? I'm a science fiction writer, I'm not going to get arrested for using new words.
Matthew Battles: What are some of the more unexpected ways our things might outlive us?
Actually it's mostly the past's things that will outlive us. Things that have already successfully lived a long time, such as the Pyramids, are likely to stay around longer than 99.9% of our things. It might be a bit startling to realize that it's mostly our paper that will survive us as data, while a lot of our electronics will succumb to erasure, loss, and bit rot.
If we're like most civilizations, we're going to leave some of our most effective clues to ourselves in our garbage. We've got plenty of it, too. We've got Pyramids of garbage.
Richard Nash: I once heard you note that they only thing you knew for certain about the future is that we were growing older. What would you say are the key changes in culture from the increase in life expectancy?
That future's here already in today's retirement communities. Genoa is one of the "oldest" cities in Europe, in terms of Genoa's aged population. You can see that reality in little things in Genoa, like how long the buses dawdle at the stops as the aged passengers climb painfully on and off. There are elderly in the cafes, the cafes are quiet and solemn, the customers don't yell, gesture or move around much. Kids in Genoa seem to instinctively gather in self-protective packs. There are a lot of little old ladies in Genoa -- as lifespans extend, the gender balance changes.
An older world is not a shocking difference, but compare Genoa to Moscow, where the people have a lousy life expectancy. Moscow is pretty tough, loud, sexy and raucous by comparison to Genoa.
Richard Nash: What would you say are the key changes in culture from the increase in life expectancy to date, and from now on? And to follow on, how does this intersect with the much debated topics of abundance on the one hand, and declining fertility on the other?
You can only have declining fertility for so long, until whichever groups are declining are replaced by other groups that aren't declining. In other words, if rich guys don't breed, you're gonna get a new breed of rich guy.
One could argue that if longevity was increasing fast enough, then old people would make up for the birth deficit in young people, but the math has never worked that way to date. It's pretty easy to increase the number of people surviving to old age, but we've done very little in increasing the absolute human lifespan. I don't doubt that it's possible, and I've written a lot of science fiction about it, but it's not in fact happening yet as a fact on the ground.
If we start seeing "Methuselah mice" with five or ten times the normal mouse lifespan, then my attitude would change immediately, and I would be gravely concerned. We would be in for massive, irrevocable changes in politics, law, ethics, economics, society, most everything we know.
Marianne de Pierres: Speaking about longevity, what do you believe is the human species’ saving grace? What gives you the most hope for our future?
I frankly take a lot of comfort in the idea that we human beings just don't know what's going on. We have a long history of stumbling over facts that are completely unpredictable and utterly outside our limited ken. The universe must have a lot more surprises for us, if we can somehow keep making fresh mistakes. So I'd say our saving grace is not our foresight but our naivete.
Nils Gilman: What is the most accomplished literary work(s) of prophesy?
Well, the monument there is almost certainly "As We May Think" by Vannevar Bush, but since that's a pop-science article, it might not be accepted as "literary." It's certainly very "accomplished," though. Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World" has a lot of prescient stuff in in that quite horrified Huxley and doesn't bother us a bit. Jules Verne's first novel, "Paris in the 20th Century," is amazingly prophetic, but since Verne never could publish it, it wasn't very "accomplished." The cartoons of Albert Robida are cartoon satires, but their prescience is truly amazing.
Giuliana Guazzaroni: How much is augmented reality important for the future of technology and web, and for fiction as well?
I'm a big fan of "augmented reality," but I think the field is going to break up into a wide variety of applications, devices and approaches, some more significant, others less. Augmented Reality is generally important because it's one of those grand, metaphysical quests in computer science -- what is reality, what can we do to reality? The answer is that "reality" is not in any particular danger from computer science, but you might find out some interesting things that would never show up if you asked simpler questions, such as, say, "how do we write some code to paste video snippets onto this handheld screen."
A collection of our best interviews about publishing, writing and fiction in these challenging times.
A path through changes in culture and in the book universe.
Bruce Sterling, Ted Striphas, Richard Nash, Kassia Krozser, Brian O'Leary, Joe Wikert, Piotr Kowalczyk, Joanna Penn, Joel Friedlander, Ken Liu, Jacob Appel, Rhys Hughes, Kaaron Warren, Jamie Todd Rubin.
Download it for free or pay it with a tweet.
* .mobi (Kindle)
* .epub (Apple, others)
WHY PUBLISHERS NEED A CONTENT STRATEGY TODAY
"The concept of a content strategy is closely linked to the development of the Internet and its associated web content. Its origins lie in the 1990s, when the field of user experience developed. Content strategy is now increasingly used in the business environment and refers to the cross-media planning, development and management of information about products. This aspect is also valid for the publishing industry, and is relevant to all of the information publishers produce about their products. But it is more important to transfer the concept of content strategy to the actual product of publishers – the content itself."
GETTING RID OF THE MIDDLE MAN
"What the artist needs now, is courage. The artist must take risks and sometimes the artist will fail. The key is to figure out what the past mistakes were, improve, and try again.
The difference now is that we’re in it for the long haul. Yes, the middle men aren’t necessary (although sometimes they can be useful). But the people who expect to get rich overnight through things like Kickstarter or other forms of crowdsourcing generally will fail.
Those who use these tools as tools to build that bridge to a big project or to a long career or to years of maintaining a business generally will succeed. Not because their first outing was successful; it probably wasn’t. But because they have a vision. They care more about the project than the money."
The Business Rusch
THE ONE THING YOU CAN DO TO BECOME A SUCCESSFUL AUTHOR - NOW
"You don’t need a Big Six publisher to be successful. You don’t even need a small or mid-sized publisher. What you need, are the smarts, hard work, and good products to make it happen. In other words, you need you. Publishing success comes down to you, not whether some far-away publisher has deigned to grace you with a book deal."
IS KICKSTARTER THE ANSWER FOR ASPIRING AUTHORS?
"I suspect I couldn’t find a successful Kickstarter campaign in which a would-be author received money to write his or her book for the same reason that a publisher won’t extend that individual a contract; when putting up money, you want a sense of what you are getting in return. Pledges come with rewards, usually in the form of advanced or signed copies. If a book hasn’t even been written yet, how would a donor know that pledge would ever be fulfilled? And let’s not forget how long the donor would have to wait to receive that reward, even if the author managed to complete the work?
Kickstarter, to me, seems a good complement to someone’s self-publishing plan. Beyond providing investment capital, it builds an audience and generates interest in the work. Mr. Godin said he wanted his Kickstarter campaign to tell publishers to take this approach seriously; it’s possible someone looking to self-publish could generate such interest on Kickstarter that a publisher would be persuaded to take them on. I hope that has happened."
The Artist's Road
CAN THE INTERNET SAVE THE NOVEL?
"The internet is a permanent fixture in modern life, and that it influences the way we read, write and think is simply fact. So instead of lamenting how digital ubiquity is nibbling away at the novel’s purview, what if a novel were to pull a fast one and swallow the internet whole? "
AUTHOR-PUBLISHER MARKETING RESPONSIBILITIES
"The author is responsible for the care and feeding of his/her readers. In other words, once the publisher has convinced someone who has never read a book of yours to “discover” you, it becomes your job to make a personal connection with that reader. Seth Godin would talk about this in terms of building your tribe. Some authors think of it as tending their flock."
Books and Such
Joe Wikert is General Manager & Publisher at O'Reilly Media, Inc., where he manages the sales and editorial groups. He's the author of the Publishing 2020 blog where he's provided industry insights for the past 4+ years. Joe is also a Kindle owner and blogger; you can find his thoughts about this device on Kindleville. Prior to joining O'Reilly Joe was Vice President and Executive Publisher at John Wiley & Sons, Inc., in their P/T division. He and his wonderful wife Kelly have 3 great kids: Sarah, Craig and Hannah.
Blog | @jwikert
The only certain thing in publishing nowadays is that everything moves really fast. If you should describe the actual situation with three adjectives, which ones would you pick and why?
The three I would use are transformative, exciting, and alarming. I say transformative because we are seeing a move from print to digital that will have a profound impact on the future of our industry. Print won't go away but the capabilities of digital, especially when content is developed in a digital-first model, are exciting…and that's why I used the word exciting. I think publishing would be dull if all we were doing was to create the next set of print titles. We have a blank canvas in front of us now that is capable of so much more than just print. Lastly, I say alarming because of all the walled gardens that are being erected. Amazon is the perfect example here. Customers are attracted by the irresistible deals but will eventually realize they're locked into the Amazon platform, or at least the content they purchase is locked into it.
Could you point out an example of innovation in publishing that is worth to look at in the next future?
One of the more interesting areas I'm seeing right now is the notion of content subscriptions where you rent your ebooks rather than own them. Some have referred to the eventual coming of a "Spotify for ebooks" and I think that's going to happen. I'm not sure it will be a broad, general subscription package though. As a consumer I'm more interested in specific genres with a great deal of depth, not a broad list of titles, many of which I don't really care about. So a sports subscription, a history one or a biographical one would be very appealing to me. Many consumers (myself included!) scoffed at the idea of a music subscription program before Spotify. That mindset is changing rapidly. Even my own habits are changing. I used to buy tracks but haven't bought one in months and yet I listen to Spotify every week. We'll see the same model emerge with ebooks.
Which are in your opinion the three unavoidable steps for publishers today?
First, they need to not only embrace technology, they need to immerse themselves in it. How can you get a sense for the customer's point of view if you're not using a tablet and/or eInk device on a regular basis? Second, they need to think beyond just the portable, packaged formats like EPUB, mobi, and PDF. Streaming content (see answer to #2 above) is going to become more and more important and that's going to be delivered through HTML5; so HTML5 is a technology publishers need to fully embrace. Lastly, they need to abandon DRM. It's time to start trusting your customers and do away with the restrictions of DRM. This will also help tear down those walled gardens I talked about in point #1.
WHY IT'S TIME FOR MORE TRANSPARENCY IN PUBLISHING
"The self-publishing environment is full of authors with entrepreneurial spirit sharing openly. We discuss sales numbers and promote each other through blog posts and social networks, especially when our books are in the same genre. Because in this environment, it’s about co-opetition, when parties with similar interests cooperate to create higher value together than they can apart. In learning together, we can fail faster, respond and adapt more quickly.
Publishers can do the same thing, and are beginning to by sharing information at conferences like FutureBook, but a wider adoption of co-opetition would hasten the process."
The Future Book
WHY WE LOVE SHORT STORIES
"This is what I love about them: their ability to to give us everything we expect in a novel, but in the time it takes between tea and bed or for the doctor to call your name in the waiting room. They are able to suck you into another world as quickly as they spit you back out. They can have a beginning, a middle and an end, with characters that you'll love and ones you'll hate. They can make you laugh or cry, scared or shocked. Sometimes they can be even more powerful than a normal book, as their concentrated form will make you really think about what is being said."
THE STRANGE CASE OF THE DROWNING EDITOR
"There are almost no editors left who are willing or able to sign something up because they love it, because they can see how to make it work and because their seniority and record of success gives them the right to expect the occasional hunch to be trusted. Every single book is bought by committee – but of course the vast majority are rejected by committee and so the fundamental quality of an editor, their taste, is called into question time and time again by marketing, sales and publicity."
CAN BOOKS ENDURE IN A 140-CHARACTER WORLD?
"Of course, getting into a narrative requires concentration. Although it’s hard to focus in these times, that doesn’t mean that we have to abandon literature; we just need to package it in a new context. Instead of spending five months immersed in Proust, the visual and auditory quality of social media makes it possible to spend five minutes getting your mind blown by a contemporary philosopher. Quality, not quantity, is the key. Luckily, a new generation of poets, writers and thinkers is emerging, and they are conveying the resonant messages of longer-form literature through the hyperkinetic delivery methods of social media."
THE BATTLE FOR THE BOOKS (EXCERPT)
"By definition, there is no market for millions of forgotten, out-of-print books; their contents offer endless opportunities for personal enrichment, but no equivalent financial richness. Scanning the world’s books presented, at best, a negligible business opportunity along with some very foreseeable legal headaches. So why did Google bother?"
ALL SIX MEGA-PUBLISHERS CAN MERGE, AND THEY STILL WON'T WIN AMAZON'S GAME
"The reason that publishers find themselves in a war of out-bidding for boneheaded celebrity books, eroding their own profit margins with every bid, is that they were the ones who opted to grow the easy way. The industry was built on discovering, developing, and painstakingly promoting young talent. As the firms have gotten bigger, those uncertain ROIs have been slashed in favor of what looks like a sure thing. Everything else is slashed. No author gets truly great editing out of publishing houses anymore, and most of the promotional work falls to the author once the book comes out — even when a major house has paid a healthy six-figure advance."
Richard Nash is an independent publishing entrepreneur, presently launching Cursor, a start-up portfolio of social publishing imprints the first of which, Red Lemonade, will launch in Spring 2011.
Blog | @R_Nash
The only certain thing in publishing nowadays is that everything moves really fast. If you should describe the actual situation with three adjectives, which ones would you pick and why?
Beautiful: it's like Keats's "On First Looking Into Chapman's Homer"…we've been muddling through the jungle for a while, still a lovely and intense place, but where publishing is now, we're reaching the point at which we can begin to see the Pacific and comprehend the true scale of the world. (And remember, that's a metaphor for reading.)
That's really the only adjective that matters. The rest just describe work: some days are joyful, some days stressful.
Could you point out an example of innovation in publishing that is worth to look at in the next future?
Poeti.ca A very simply tool for copyediting but one that is gentle and wise.
Which are in your opinion the three unavoidable steps for publishers today?
THE TRANSFORMATION OF PUBLISHING
"When cultural historians eventually come to describe the years 1990 to 2012, they will be hard put to resist phrases such as "paradigm shift", "literary upheaval", and "IT revolution". No question: my generation has seen a transformation in the world of letters unequalled since the days of Gutenberg. What's more, it has happened at warp speed."
SIZE DOESN'T MATTER IN PUBLISHING
"I can appreciate a publisher’s desire to minimize Amazon’s influence. But, there is a fundamental flaw with trying to compete against Amazon using a merger strategy. No matter how big a publisher gets, Amazon still controls direct access to the consumer. And, the one who goes direct to the consumer ultimately wins. All of the Big Six publishers could merge into one giant entity, but that wouldn’t prevent Amazon from maintaining leverage."
Digital Book World
BOOK PUBLISHING CRISIS: CAPITALISM KILLS CULTURE
"But the implications are larger. If you work in, say, journalism, or the music business, you’ve seen this kind of thing before: the erosion and then collapse of an industry, often after mergers and acquisitions announced with buzzwords – “synergy”! – or reassurances that new ownership means that nothing significant will change because, after all, we really value the kind of work you people do. Will publishing continue to slide, gradually, or will it fall apart, like newspapers – which have lost approximately a third of their staffs since the recession and seen advertising revenue sink to 1953 levels — and record labels – where annual sales of the top-10 albums have gone from over 60 million to about 20 million in roughly a decade. Members of the creative class have been here, and it hasn’t worked out real well for them."
LOSS & GAIN, OR THE FATE OF THE BOOK
"People of the book, such as I, not only believe that the replacement of the page by the screen will alter human character, thin it out, empty it of depth, but secretly hope this happens. A deterioration in human character consequent upon the demise of the book will be, for the inveterate reader, an apologia pro vita sua. For we who have spent so much of our lives with, and even for books secretly derived a sense of moral superiority from having done so. This is obvious from the fact that no one says “Young people nowadays do not read” in a tone other than of lament or, more usually, moral condemnation. A person who does not read—and for us reading means books—is a mental barbarian, a man who, wittingly or unwittingly, confines himself to his own experience, necessarily an infinitesimal proportion of all possible experiences. He is not only a barbarian, but an egotist."
The New Criterion
WANT TO BE READ 100 YEARS FROM NOW? HERE'S HOW.
"So, you want to be an artist. You want to be one of those writers everyone has read, even though you’re long dead. You want your work in libraries, on bookstore shelves, and in digital format. You want professors to assign your work, or kids to sneak that “crap” that everyone decries but everyone loves."
A GAME WITHOUT RULES
"What is fascinating about international literary prizes is that the obstacles to choosing between writers coming from different cultures and working in different languages are so evident and daunting as to render the task almost futile; yet such is the appetite for international prizes and for winners that people do everything possible to overlook this. So what is the underlying purpose of these prizes? To what extent are novelists—like athletes in the Olympics, or soccer players in the World Cup—being asked to contribute to the building of a vast and for the moment largely imaginary global culture? In what way does this change the kind of literature that gets written, and the way it is written and talked about?"
The New York Review of Books