Friday

Steve Jobs in posthumous sales sensation, even in a business he once described as ‘unsalvageable’. Aaron Sorkin to write the screenplay? Extraordinary.

I’ve been a bit off blog this week, but there are a couple of interesting developments that I feel the need to comment on. First of all Kobo has been busy tying up deals with retailers in the UK and Australia but also it would seem finalising plans to become a publisher. Amazon, it would seem has become both an model and a target.

Secondly, much gnashing of teeth has attended the UK OFT decision not to interfere with Amazon’s take-over of the Book Depository. Plenty of comment here and here. Personally, while its obviously an issue for UK bookshops, I wonder whether we might see increased pressure on the Australasian markets. Scribe clearly thinks so by changing its formats in order to reduce its prices. Money quote from Henry Rosenbloom:

Something has to give. We can’t keep pumping out books at prices that seem high by international standards, and that consumers aren’t prepared to pay.

My hugely scientific morning Kindle Count has grown significantly this past few months (today 3 kindles, 1 iPad representing 75% of the people reading on my bus) but not perhaps by as much as Bloomsbury’s ebook sales. 564% over the six months to August.

We are nowhere near an equilibrium point in terms of what will be the eventual ebook share, but I’m certain the speed is picking up and I expect the end point will come much quicker and be a much higher penetration than many think possible.

And on that slightly sombre note this, from the London Book Fair earlier this year is worth another look. Cory Doctorow, Richard Charkin, James Bridle and Andrew Franklin debate the continuing relevance of publishers.

And we should remember that Steve Jobs is watching.

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Flashlight: Strobing the book world #7

Am back on deck now. Well almost. Our organisation’s AGM is on Thursday and then normal service to be resumed. But there’s a lot going on so here, once again, we wave the Flashlight.

For starters, the estimable Mike Shatzkin on what we do and don’t know about the ebook revolution in progress.

I may have reached the end of ‘the end of books’ articles, having read this one. In truth, there’s only so much crystal ball gazing you can do and I think its hard enough trying to understand what we are actually doing at this moment.

Anyway, on that note, it would appear that we get our cues about ereading in much the same way as we do for print reading. From our friends. Who knew? I hear you say. This is a much more important insight than it might at first appear because it concentrates on how we know what to buy rather than what de-risks our purchasing.There is always a preponderance to concentrate on the latter because you can affect it by the use of promotion and pricing. But cutting through to the audience with a message about the experience a book offers is much tougher and yet more fundamental. And we don’t spend anywhere near enough time on it. The key digital marketing question is how can we make this ‘magical’ word of mouth thing happen? How can book meta-data link with the preferences displayed on those recomendation sites to bring books to readers?

Maybe this article can help a bit. I’ve only read quickly so far but am already in awe of the fact that you can get the word ontology into a job title. Information Ontologist, fancy.

I can’t say I’m personally that fussed about the Kindle Fire as a gadget but I can totally see the transformative power of its pricing. For myself though, I’m actually more tempted by the smaller reader which, being even more keenly priced, may have almost as big an effect. And I’d quite like one.

Bloomsbury on the move here with their version of Faber Finds and here, with a rival to Faber Factory. These infrastructure based diversifications may not be as flashy as new kindles and iPads but in some ways they are just as significant as they represent innovative thinking about how to build a sustainable business model in the digital age.

And finally, this is just a huge hit in our house. I even credit it with increased help with the tidying up. Thank you Nosy Crow.

Sweet Thames, run softly,

I really like the new app for The Waste Land.

This is how digital publishing should be approached. The enhanced ebook has always been for me the equivalent of DVD extras; frou frou that no-one cares about or opens and entirely separate from the experience they originally purchased.

The app route is much more dynamic and begins by rethinking the potential ways of presenting the work and enabling the user to interact with, understand and engage with the text. It is an organic portrayal and experience of the work not a throwaway afterthought. And an enhanced experience is what makes all the difference.

What’s more, I think that there is a hidden bonus for the publishers who make apps. With each construction they are driven to think harder and go further, to rethink the possibilities and potential of the work they are publishing rather than following the same old path. Creating apps will drive innovation throughout the business and that can only be a good thing for publishing.

Now I also really like the British Library app. Or rather I really want to like the new British Library app. Its a fabulous idea but so far its only teased me with possibility then given me the spinning beach ball of doom. The concept though looks brilliant, classic texts expertly curated. At least I hope that what it will be.

Going back to Eliot, I’m sure it will be an excellent introduction to the poem, and frankly I could watch Fiona Shaw read her shopping list and be entertained.

My own introduction to Eliot was my sixth form girlfriend,  The The’s Infected video and Marlon Brando.

Here’s Marlon.

P.S. Touch Press also created the brilliant Marcus Chown Solar System app for Faber so they have good form.

UPDATE: I’ve got the British Library app going. A Voyage in the Sunbeam by Mrs Brassey being my first excursion. Published by Longmans, Green and Co 1878.