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BookNet Canada: 6 Projects That Will Save The Publishing Industry

abstract:Michael Tamblyn, CEO of BookNet Canada, describes 6 projects/changes/initiatives that could make things better for publishers, readers, and others with an interest in the future of the book. Watch the Video BookNet is the non-profit dedicated to innovation in the book industry supply chain. The talk was given at BNC's annual technology conference, which was attended by 225 industry people in Toronto. Overall the message from the conference was: use mobile devices to disseminate news and content; seek new distribution chains such as www.shortcovers.com to distributes e-books on a fast track (not currently possible via traditional publisher streams); support the bloggers and freelance journalists [we second that]; add Web 2.0 capabilities such as hyperlinks in text to the e-books to make them more than just an electronic version of a traditional print book. For a list of video casts from the conference access the TWITTER stream from BookNet Canada and look for the series of video cast presentations upcoming on YOUTUBE and then check out their new website www.biblioshare.org.

article:

March 21, 2009
— Michael Tamblyn contends that book publishers will be compelled by the dire market economy to innovate. In a graph spanning over 50 years he correlated all the unemployment statistics (recession) to blips in innovation – be it the first mouse-based computer from Xerox in 1974 to the founding of Apple in ’76 to the release of Lotus 1 2 3 in ’82 along and all the way down the line to the inventions of HTML, Linux 1992 and the ipod launch in 2001. So what does that say? People sitting around on their thumbs after losing their jobs get busy and I N N O V A T E. “Interesting stuff can happen in tough times, especially when people are interested to discover what customers want.” The upside of downturns is that people are willing to make deals; infrastructure is cheaper, development is cheaper. So with that in mind Tamblyn asked the question of the experts he knows, “What are the innovations going to be [in publishing] today?” and he came up with his list of 6 New Things.

1/Making Data Accessible

Bibliographic data is available in "the cloud" Publishers have data everywhere: cover art, Onix files, price and availability data, author files, book descriptions, chapter excerpts and so on. Tamblyn says, “It should be easy to find, easy to use and easy to play with. Whether you’re a blogger, the media, the public library, an aggregator or a community site you should be able to access the information, pull data, and even push corrections back. And it should be dirt cheap to do this. It should be free for bloggers, free for hobbyists and free for experimenters… “

To do this www.biblioshare.org has been collecting data from publishing sources across the country.

2/ Creating An XML Publishing Workflow That Doesn’t Suck

What is needed is a new system that doesn’t kill publishing teams’ editors or production managers and continues to do what XML already does, that is, to promote: usability, segmenting, format conversion ease, and portability. He wants mark up language that gives content: , and mark up that provides structure: .

What he sees is XML used all the way back to the editor, designers working in style sheets and creating ePubs and more, and HTML for the web. Existing work-arounds are: O’Rielly, The Wiley, who’ve written a lot of software and conversion tools

3/ A New DRM-free eReader

The companies who’ve tackled this are the with name brand products are not there yet: The Iliad, the Sony PRS500, the Kindle, and now the Plastic Logic Reader - a flat newsprint looking rollable mat, (which he says “is like Jesus; everyone knows it’s perfect, but only 12 people have seen it working and nobody knows when it’s going to arrive.”) What this point does not take into consideration is that people are already using their iphone to do this, and that's where I think e-books are going to continue to go. If kids these days can't be bothered to wear a watch because they check the time on their phones - it's doubtful they'll rush out to purchase another electronic device to read their e-book. People want their phone and take a call in between paragraphs, just the same way it damps the music when an incoming call interrupts their songlist.

4/ A Better Front list-Buy

How do you predict which books people are going to want to buy? Last year there were about 90,000 new titles ordered, stocked or supplied in the Canadian supply chain. 99.5% of those are still sold in paper, which is an atrocious statistic compared to e-book sales elsewhere. What that tells me is that nobody in Canada is doing e-book sales; people in Canada are shopping in the US.

The current marketing strategies by publishing houses is the creation and distribution of their catalogues/catalog. A whole lot of effort goes into designing the catalogue, scrupulous editing of the catalogue, and finally the expense of mailing of the catalogue out across the country – to which their catalogue almost immediately become out of date as titles are pulled, marketing plans shift, new titles are added and so on… One step in the right direction is to have pub catalogues available online and distributed via email, but users are still forced to track all the various major and indie houses down in a tedious game of cat and mouse.

What does the catalogue show? Cover, bio, description, praise, marketing and previous editions. What he suggests is a way to help booksellers guide their purchases on that first list decision. He calls it Catalogue 2.0

Is there a book that sellers missed? Is there a book that sellers underperformed as compared to the market (or over performed)? That's useful information. That helps vendors determine order numbers. He also recommends that you should be able to pull up media about the author, sample chapters and art more readily, and also what he calls, “collaborative commerce,” an accounting of which titles were returned, and which ones sold but ended up just under the radar.

5/ Online Browsing That Makes You Want To Buy

Tamblyn points out that the online shopping experience has not changed since 1995. Most sellers’ home pages offer lists of books in various ways to make it interesting. But what we really do when we’re interested in a book is search online, then buy in stores. It’s really the book browsing experience that we’re looking for and “happy accidents” that drive the brick and motar visit. People are visual beings and we are attracted to the cover art of books in addition to what reviews we happen to read. And so the question of how to create an online browsing method that takes advantage of that quality, one that goes beyond titles and lists is needed.

There are a few online sites that organize their stock using the visual components of books: www.zumi.com www.coverpop.com www.oscope.com and you can go to amaztype.com and get a bunch of book covers about Canada. These represent the technical excercises for web developers that show their skill at manipulating Amazon data, about AJAX.

6/ Technology Innovations in Publishing

You can tell when you’re in a plateau industry when the employees are highly specialized and have little opportunity to switch professions, or jobs. He wants to encourage and bring in generalists, instead of saying no to innovation say

Confessions of a First Adoptor

As an early adopter of technology who lives in a technology-mad household, I've often felt estranged from my more luddite friends. As time goes on you find yourself connected to people who, like yourself have gone through an evolution of technologies and have finally landed, Goldilocks-style, onto the just-right application/device or version of software/hardware—at least for the present moment.

To illustrate that point, just check how frequently you stay in touch with people: by mail; by email; by SMS text; by Facebook or Twitter. Each one of those paradigms offers a new dimension in communication. That sort of paradigm can be applied to all forms of human behavior that has been effected by the development of a technology for it - be it communication, music, film or information.

I am nowhere near the pure techno geeks, but I have begun to cultivate my geek-side, (my husband was a bonafide pocket-protector owner) so I have over time begun to give-in to the dark side. Behold a list of technology transitions:

VIDEO
I purchased a betamax machine before VHS dominated the video market. Then I subscribed to Netflix in California (Rogers in Canada) to get commercial videos mailed directly to my house with their handy mail-back envelopes, to save having to go down to the local store. Now we download online and don't have to wait for the mail delivery. I don't have TV; I use streaming video and access programs like Frontline and PBS on my computer - no commercials, you dictate when you watch.

CELL PHONE
I got a Blackberry when SMS technology hit... and had all my best friends on PIN, then switched to the iphone when touch screens became available. I now use my Blackberry for data, but miss the cut and paste feature that is superior on crackberries and explains why users have calluses on their thumbs while I just use my pointer finger (ok, and maybe my index with my thumb combined). But the great news is that soon iphone users will be able to cut and paste - so, dump your BB. My son has "jail broke" his phone and can manipulate his home office computer from his work office downtown. Every hour or so, I hear his computer boot-up while he accesses it or retrieves something off of it, and then it goes back into sleep mode.

ICQ
My son used to use ICQ to do online multi-player gaming before anyone was into this. He collaborated "in the crystal cave" with other game developers. He lived in Tokyo communicated simultaneously with colleagues in Texas, his brother in Los Angeles and friends in Vancouver. When MSN came out with Instant Messenger we were all online. Now I use SKYPE when I'm abroad for all long distance and the message feature on my facebook page when I'm at home. Never had the money for a sattelite phone.

MUSIC
OK, I actually did have an 8-track machine before college... my older sister had a record player. That was of course before tape decks and CD's. I got an iPod and started purchasing single songs off of itunes while friends were still giving us CD's as Christmas presents. I was the fourth itunes/literary/podcast content provider on itunes and other podcast aggregators, and currently have over 100 segments posted and syndicated there today.

AUDIO INTERVIEWS
I used to use a digital Sony mini tape recorder (with an awesome mic) to record my author interviews and subject interviews for book and journalist projects but switched to using the iPod recording piece that slips into the USB port and has a fab little bendy mic I can sit on my lap at conferences and meetings, and then download to my computer and edit straight into Peak Pro to create mp3's and podcasts.

NETWORKING
When social networking websites emerged I started using MySpace and then switched over to Facebook because, it's just better and seems to have more of the people I know. I've got a personal fb page and I've created fb group pages for my two important web networks - the BookBuffet FB and the Whistler Reads FB. I hate redundancy, so I try to keep the BookBuffet FB for user-generated content and accessing information I want to learn from our members such as "what's on their bedside table", "how they rate books".

DIGITAL PRODUCTION
I used Brightcove to distribute our BookBuffet video content on our website with its excellent customizable formats and had (while it was free) a BrightCove Channel for all of our BookBuffet and Whistler Reads videos of author events, discussions, presentations. (I even slapped on a microphone and did one video book review on the slopes skiing down the Olympic run on Whistler Mountain.)

WEB AGGREGATION/DISTRIBUTION
I got into the RSS and XML methods of receiving instant updates from sources of interest, then switched toTwitter, which is I find it is much more useful to stay informed about the people (individuals and businesses, organizations, think-tanks) in the sectors and industries I am interested in.

BOOK PUBLISHING
And in the publishing industry when I published two books I found the traditional work-flow methodology archaic compared to what could be and SHOULD be adapted to streamline the process. This is what Michael Tamblyn refers to in his presentation. From the ground up, the way publishers connect to new authors, to their editorial and design staff, to their print/electronic departments and their distribution chains — all of it, needs to change.

The cost and time savings alone is worth it. The environmental aspect demands it. In "the old methods" you had to mail an introductory letter, writing sample or printed manuscript to your editor who got back to you via telephone. Then we evolved to emailing of Word docs and e-communications. But the publisher side still produced printed galleys which were couriered out to me (at great enviro and fiscal expense) which I had to mark-up and learn all those squiggles and archaic scratches, which were re-typed and re-printed and sent to the copy editor who did her own version of hieroglyphic and when all the corrections were made the final galley was approved and the book went to print after an exhaustive physical visit to the color correction department and a two-day meeting sitting side-by-side with the book designer.

What we proposed was using an electronic editor so the documents could be reviewed, corrected and sent digitally resulting in no carbon footprint with air courier fees and ground package delivery services, no one having to scale my mountain retreat path to the door, no drive back into the village (after snow removal of car and navigating the busy parking lot jammed with tourists... you get the picture.)

So what technology and innovation bring in the way of ease, affordability and environmental advantage make it difficult to ignore. If you don't jump in and start to grasp some of it, you'll find less and less to talk about with your tech savvy friends, or in the very least, less of their time available to catch up with you face to face. Go to your local library and take a computer course. Log onto a technology webstie and take a tutorial. Take a tech-savvy friend out to lunch and ask them to show you how their iphone works and all the crazy apps they're using. Find a knowledgeable sales staff at your University Book Store to show you all the cool gadgets in stock and how to work them. The fastest growing online community is the >70 age range - it's NEVER TOO LATE.

 

 

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