Friday, June 11, 2010

Redefining Publish Or Parish In The Electric Age

The continuing quandary the publishing busness finds itself in as it struggles to adjust to new pricing and more importantly, new methods of distribution is life threatening . While the traditional paper books aren’t going anywhere very soon, it is having lots of company. The new kids on the block aren't all so new. Audio books have been around for many years, Only they were books on tape, and they weren't marketed to the general public. In the early1950's the first audio book was made, only then they were put on records. and played on a turntable. In the 1970's they advanced to the cassette. The first of the recording were made available to the blind, by the Library of Congress. I knew about them generally because I have a step-grandmother who is blind, and I had seen them, along with her brail books. In the late 1970's they advanced to CD, along with all other forms of music and audio in general.. It was then the phenomenon began to take off with the general public. Fast forward to today; Today, every form of audio recording is done digitally. The audio book has become a viable industry of its own. The largest publisher of audio books Audio.com boasts approximately 75,000 titles in a wide range to topics and authors. The downloaded digital books can be played on a wide varity of devices ranging from a traditional MP3 player, to a phone such as an Iphone, and any number of smart phones, and devices such as the IPad. The portability allows one to listen to a book when and where reading a traditional paper book would not be possible. This alternative to a paper book has found a new life and is giving life to many books that would remain unread because the folks who want to read them can't or won't sit still long enough to read a paper book. The audio book has its own history which many people will never know of, and probably care even less about..

The growth of non-traditional book formats has exploded. Any format that is not paper is what I would call a non-traditional format. Another what I'd call Non-Traditional format is e-books, or e-publishing, as its called in some circles. This too, has been around for a while.
The e-book goes back to the early 1970's wen the fist ebook was produced on a IBM mainframe computer, to the Internet where specialty and hard to find books were essentially PDF of books that popped up on the screen. Even until recently the last 10 years or so they were a novelity and ralerly seen and even more rarely used by the general public. The publishing industry was terrfified of the concept of the e-book and e-ink.

In the last 10 years or so, e-books have come into their own with the development of readers such as the Kindle from Amazon and other makers of readers the idea of buying an e-book and downloading it and carrying around several large volumes of books in one small flat screen has exploded.
Traditionally, publishers had treated e-books in much the same ways as they had traditional paper books. That is until now. Amazon had made a huge market by selling their own device to read e-books, the Kindle. Once you had the Kindle it was easy to buy books from Amazon directly from the kindle, so you just used your Kindle and were happy to read.. Then along comes Apple..
Apple comes along first upsetting the status quo of the music industry and in the process reinventing it, and in many ways saving it from itself.

Now its looking to do the same for the book publishing industry. With the much hyped release of the IPad, earlier thsis spring, and as part of the Ipad scheme is the IBook store to sell ebooks . The ebook on a Ipad is a entirely different experince then on a Kindle. On the Kindle ones is limited to "black and white" ie, plain text on a white background, with no color pictures, maybe some illustrations. While very usable, it is limited in many ways. On the IPad, one is treated to a bright colorful screen that can do much more then just show e-books. The experince of reading a ebook is completly different, turning a page is much faster and eaier, The pictures are beautiful color and nore book-like then a kindle ever thought of.

One of the thing many things Apple has done is to upset the price structure that had been at Amazon. Where Amazon set the price and the percentage that the publishers and authors get, Apple came in and said they would sell their Ibooks as they call them for exactly the same as Amazon, thus eliminating whatever advantage Amazon had over Apple. It should be noted that Amazon has a Kindle app for the IPad that apparently works very well, It even lets you sync your books between the Kindle and the IPad, and go back and forth between them, picking up where you left off on one device from the other. This is good. Barnes and Noble just released a ap for the IPad for their e-book reader the nook,
There are bigger issues here then price and and who is the price leader, and even how much who gets.

What the Ipad and other tablets do is open up the possibilities of what an e-book reader could be. No longer limited to displying e-ink in basic black & white and presenting limited pictures or drawing. It can now display full color. The addition of a full color screen and native web integration between the e-magazines and the web opens up a world of possibilities for content developers . The introduction of tablets running other os, ie, android, HP's webos, and even Linux bring a whole range of choices for the consumers, that is if they are produced and consumers will use them. I suspect that for the near future, even after other tablets are on the market, there will be Apple and everyone else.

I don't think books are going anywhere any time soon, but their relevealance to today’s generation is not the same as it ws to ours and our parents; they don't hold them in the respect that they were once held,, The same could be said for other physical media, LP, tapes. now, cd. and dvds. We have a whole generation of people who only think of content as bits and bytes they can store on a hard drive and watch on whatever they can plug it into. The idea of having a room filled with books is disappearing fast. This is one of the problems that the publishing industry need to address.
One way to encourage book sales is to give the buyer a incentive to buy a hard cover book instead of going and just buying a digital copy, be it either e-book, or audio. That is to allow him to have the book and listen to it at the same time. Towards the end of proping up book sales I have the following idea;

My idea is that of a cross promotion of media types; mainly books to e-books and audio books. Include a special code for a audio book from audio.com to allow the buyer of the HB book to download the audio version free.

In limited runs of paper books, to start with; probably hard cover books; Include a special code for a audio book from audio.com to allow the buyer of the HB book to download the audio version free.
The code would be specific to that run of books and would let them know that it come from the book. There would be extra content along with the book, specific to the code. In other words if one used another code they would get the regualr audio version of the book, without the extras, thus justifiy the extra cost of the hard cover book, and give the consumer a value ad for buying a hard cover book. instead of just the ebook, or audio book. The same deal cold also be arranged for ebooks from Amamzon, they could get either the ebook with extras, or the audio book with extras.
Also none of the books would have the same number or code so the same code couldn't be resused several times, it would be checked against a datase to tell where the book was sold and when, allowing tracking of how many codes where used, and on what, ebook or audio etc.. and what part of country etc...like the promo code tv shows use to tell how many people respond to their ads..
As for Amazon and Audio, they would be paid a fee by the publishers for every code redeemed like coupons are now, and Authors would get royalties from the original book sales, with a bonus from the publisher for every code redeemed, granted not as much as if the electronic book had been bought, but some... The idea that the publishers and others would make up money on volume and not per unit,, and the the addition of having the electronic version out where people are going to see and talk about it and how they got are essentially free advertising, promotion for the books, they would never get if they just sold the paper book and it just sat on a shelve at home..

This a idea to help get the publishing industry to rethink how they look at books and content in general. They are not just publishing a book to publish a book, they are publishing intellectual material, and not just paper books and magazines.
They are publishing ideas and which more important the how much they make in the traditional way, Hard Cover Books, and paperbacks, which will always sell, or getting the ideas out where it can be seen and talked about, the way to do that is to make the same material available in all formats. and make it easy to use the content on any platform, and move between the platforms.

Theses are just some ideas for bridging the gap between traditional publishing and the new forms of publishing and medias,,
All of the media industries are wrestling with the same issues, how to get their media out and still keep control. and make money. As for control, If one looks at the music industry, they find that DRM dose not work. It only makes it hard for honest consumers to use the media, and and only slows the serious pirarites down, slightly, so its not worth it. The movie indusrty also has yet to learn this. The best thing the publishing indursty can do is open it up so any ebook will play on any ereader, and be transfereable, the same with audio books, Publicity is their best friend. seing people reading and listing to books out and about is the best advertisement there is. People talking about what their reading is what they need, not people talking about how they can't read something because its locked down.
Well, there are probably many aspects that I didn't discuss . If you jave any thoughts on this please feel free to email or leave a comment.

Ken La
wson

1 comment:

rosaria said...

Kenneth, thanks for emailing me. Your article is quite interesting and informative. Most bloggers, I found, prefer quick visits, with links to more in-depth information. Your article requires a great deal of committment from the reader who might just want to peruse it fast.

We are always learning, aren't we?