A Canadian book blog: Publishing, marketing, books and technology from a Canadian perspective

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Penguin and Random House Merge


Media outlets are reporting that two of the big six publishers have merged.

It’s interesting to see the coverage, in particular the Canadian opinions of the merger. What we have are two of the publishing industries biggest players forming one super publisher, Penguin Random House.

Realistically both were already owned by international media giants Bertelsmann (Random) and Pearson (Penguin). The new super publisher is “super” because it merges the publishing divisions and imprints across North America, Latin America, the UK, Australia & New Zealand, India, South Africa and operations in China and Spain. Wow.

The media reports, likely from the merger press releases, are spinning this as a fight against the dominance of Amazon. The idea being that a larger entity can play ball better with the dominant retail vendor. Even though Random House is quite advanced in terms of their digital publishing and data savvy, and Penguin is advanced in terms of innovative digital publishing and brand recognition, we still have two publishers (now one) against a data and technology machine. I’m not sure what people are expecting can be leveraged here. Nor why they think that their publishing buddy, if they are successful in playing better with Amazon are somehow going to open the door for smaller publishers.

My take is good for Penguin and Random House. I hope they don’t spin their wheels trying to consolidate operations and create efficiencies that likely don’t exist.

My concern would be for authors and agents and the diminishing diversity of established publishers because I do still believe publishers have a lot of valuable industry knowledge not yet earned by innovative publishing startups. We’ll see how merged these operations and imprints become but I suspect there will be reductions.

My advice to all publishers is to look closely at the skills Amazon has developed since the late 90s and catch up as quickly as possible. Look at your direct to consumer marketing, look at your brand experience, look at your website usability, look at your purchase funnels, go mobile, get your head around the data, stop looking at what other publishers are doing and look at the leaders in b2c retailer/ecommerce, assess your products, find your audience, find the budgets, hire the right staff and doggedly seek the winners. (I know you think you’re doing that, but if you step way back and take a look at you vs. them, you’ll see the difference.)

As Joe Wikert says, ‘Instead of just merging I’d rather see one of the big six stand up like this small publisher and say “we’ve walked on eggshells for far too long…it’s time for us to get serious about building that direct channel and not worry about how our existing channel partners will react.”’ (TOC.OReilly.com)

Dennis Johnson of Melville House has a good review of the media reports on the Penguin Random House merger.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Mini TOC Vancouver: Corey Pressman

Today is the first O’Reilly Mini Tools of Change Conference in Canada. Here’s the schedule.

First up was Corey Pressman of Exprima Media, which produces cool interactive experiences on mobile. Mostly apps at this stage. His presentation was titled “The Journey to Contentopia.” and it was an overview of where we’ve come in terms of the first hand-held tools of cavemen to the hand-held tools of today.

Corey Pressman @exprima gets us going #tocvan Content is differentiated from container.

A Couple of Take-Aways

  • Make “app-y” experiences.
  • Content producers can be everyone, i.e., Exprima worked with coffee producers who had training videos, eco info, and instructional info on how to sip and taste. The app is available and iPads were distributed to the coffee co-ops in the growing countries who use the content to help training, inform or educate their farmers and other vendors.
  • If you get the app-y experience, users start thinking, “how can I produce content for that?”

Corey Pressman studied anthropology so he had a number of metaphors and parallels to share.

Humans have neurological needs that require containers for our thoughts. We moved from hand-held cave tools and using those tools to tell stories in cave paintings. We had the scribe era where we hand-crafted manuscripts. And then the printing press arrived and brought about this punctuation in the equilibrium of the crafting of printed works. The printing press brought about an abundance of printed material that was only possible through manufacturing—not hand-crafting.

When things go off the rails, it’s because we have abundance. In times of abundance, business opportunities abound. We get the birth of publishing.

To Publish (v) To make public.

This means we need businesses that help distribute printed works to the public.

We have another punctuation in the equilibrium of book production, and that is digital transfer. Digitization creates abundance. Abundance means that our neurological need in the container of an iPad app or ebook, is no longer a book. As Tylor Sherman talked about in his TOC workshop on HTML5 yesterday, content must be differentiated from the container.

As Corey Pressman mentions, in The Order of Books by Roger Chartier, authors don’t write books (meaning that “book” is a mechanical process), authors write content (meaning there is a separation between content and container).

If we understand that we’ve been through this process before, then it changes our perspective of how we design and develop containers for our neurological needs.

  • The book can’t bind the reality of it all.
  • The ipad can’t bind the reality of it all either.
  • These are containers.

HTML is what go us to where we are today in publishing. Circa 1990, content got untethered from container with the birth of the internet as we know it today. This was a pivotal moment. In anthropology, we have this with the introduction and overlap of species. And those “hopeful monsters”, the new species, survive or die away, but the ones remaining are the ones who are adaptive. They become the species of the future.

With the printing press, the 1st books were made to look like illuminated manuscripts. As we say in geek, we lacked interaction protocols for the new platform. Over time we developed metadata for those “new” manuscripts. We added page numbers, spaces between the words, footnotes, set pictures and added front and backmatter.

In anthropology, this transition period is also a beginning, it’s an incanabula period (incanabula means cradle, early days). We are still in the early days of epub and apps. We are mimicking the old creations.

  • Page curl on ipad
  • iBooks sets thumbnail images of book covers on a wooden looking shelf
  • Digital backgrounds are made to look like paper

Now it’s time to grow up.

We have to intentionally design: don’t just make it look like something else.

User-centered interaction design will save the world (of content) anyway. We need to think about what people are doing with these devices, not what they did with the old containers.

Curated content: comprehensiveness vs. essence, noise vs. sound

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Mini TOC Vancouver Oct 19-20, 2012


October 19 & 20

Centre for Digital Media, 685 Great Northern Way
$150 for Both Days (Workshop + Conference) or $75 for Single Day

What’s Mini TOC?
Come out to Vancouver’s first mini-TOC. O’Reilly’s Tools of Change conference is an annual event held in New York every year. Just like TEDx, mini-TOC is a way to bring the same type of stellar programming from the main event to the local stage. This is the first time the event has been held in Vancouver!

Who’s It For?
Smart, engaged, bookish and techy people are going to gather on October 19 and 20 for a series of workshop events on the Friday and a full conference day on the Saturday. If you’re a publisher, author, marketer, designer, programmer or interested in the convergence of books and technology, then this conference is for you.

October 19, 9:30 am to 5 pm: Friday Workshops

  • Start time is 9:30-10 am for registration, coffee and networking.
  • Then at 10 am, there are two tracks to choose from, either Tech: HTML5/Mobile or eBook Publishing.
  • Lunch from 1-2 pm.
  • The tracks continue on in the afternoon.

When registering, make sure to pick either the Tech or eBook track. I was a bit confused by the registration process. So to clarify, if you’re keen on both days, look for the ticket types that are $150, then select either the Tech or Ebook one. If you’re interested only in the workshop day or only in the conference day, then those are the $75 ticket types, and again if you’re choosing the Friday workshop, make sure to select your preference for the Tech or Ebook track.

October 20, 9 am to 5 pm: Conference Day

  • Start time is 9 am for registration and coffee. The conference gets underway at 9:30 with some introductory remarks and the Keynote from Corey Pressman of Exprima Media, “From Caves to Clouds: The Journey to Contentopia”

imageCorey Pressman taught Anthropology for 12 years before leaving teaching to start Exprima Media, a software company dedicated to creating robust and engaging educational experiences for the web and native mobile platforms. Exprima Media is currently working with publishers such as W.W. Norton, John Wiley & Sons, and McGraw Hill to build the future of educational interactive media. Also, under Corey’s direction, Exprima Media is participating in the ‘global mobile’ revolution, developing educational mobile applications for use in less economically developed nations.

  • I’m super excited for the next presenter, Igor Falestski of Mobify.com, who will be talking about designing for multiple screens. Meaning, how do publishers plan for and design for iPad, iPhone, Kindle, Android devices, desktop and whatever other devices are out there.

  • Great presentations follow on academic publishing and mobile apps, digital publishing models, challenges with discoverability in online marketplaces, book design, legal conundrums and the advantages and disadvantages of digital reading.

    To check out the full schedule:

    Registration for mini-TOC Vancouver

    * There is a 50% early bird discount that ends Friday.
    Ticket prices right now are the discounted price: $75 for one day or $150 for both

    Don’t Forget Ignite
    And, stick around after 5 pm on Saturday for the reception and IGNITE presentations. In case you’re unfamiliar with Ignite, it’s a style of presentation that is flash fire and timed. The format is 20 slides displayed for 20 seconds each. It’s a real performance!