Writing on the Ether: TOC to the Rescue

Vatican collection / iStockphoto / hairballusa

ToC’s techs to the rescue! (Greenfield, Albanese, Curtis, Owen, Shatzkin)
eBooks: That call to disarm (Wikert, Stephenson)
eBooks: No joy of bundles (Krozser)
Social media: Doing it rudely unto others (Streitfeld, Owen)
Social media: Senior on a spit (Senior)
Social media: Flânerie on the Ether (Morozov, Cain, Davis)
Social media: Speaking of Facebook… (Andrews)
Self-publishing: Charles’ aria (Penenberg, Orlando)
Self-publishing: A typo on Page 1 (Orlando)
Self-publishing: Rebecca’s recitatif (Bricker)
Self-publishing: ‘The world has moved on’ (Jones)
Writing: Poetry over practicality (Friedman, Turner)
Writing: Just tear that ‘passion’ to tatters, will you? (Anthony, Friedman)
Writing: Before you speak ill of a fellow writer (Bransford)
Publishing: Careerists’ new shift (Gonzalez)
Libraries: More on Random House and book loans (Albanese)
Mixed media: Our turn (Nyles)
Mixed media: One big step forward (Lauerman)
Mixed media: One backward policy (Cellan-Jones)
Reality: Not the War of Digital Aggression (Snaije)

Extra Ether: Originating with Michael Kelley’s reporting from the Library Journal’s The Digital Shift, news of Penguin ankling library ebook distributor OverDrive has overtaken other library-related stories. What is behind this? Per Michael Cader, writing at Publishers Lunch: (emphasis mine)

Aside from the issues related to online ebook lending in general, publishers remain particularly concerned by Overdrive’s allowing Amazon to manage the lending of library ebooks directly from their servers. (Indeed a number of publishers have maintained that the implementation of Kindle lending for libraries violates both their OverDrive contracts–which authorize fulfillment form OverDrive’s servers only–and their Amazon contracts, which cover the “purchase” of ebooks by consumers only.)

See an update Friday from Laura Hazard Owen at paidContent and Gary Price at  INFODocket in Why Penguin Terminated Their Contract With OverDrive.   Penguin is stressing “It is vital that we forge relationships with libraries and build a future together…. Our ongoing partnership with the ALA (American Library Association) is more important than ever, and our recent talks with ALA leadership helped bring everything into focus.”

ToC’s techs to the rescue! (Greenfield, Albanese, Curtis, Owen, Shatzkin)

So if Digital Book World helped prepare our souls for the coming travail — as Jeremy Greenfield‘s ongoing DBW Insights show us on a daily basis — the battle now is joined by reinforcements, in the form of the annual Tools of Change Conference. In ToC we trust.

Selected keynotes and more from the theater of endeavor will be streamed live on video for you to see, from the safety of your favorite redoubt.

And there we were, holding the DBW vigil with Bishop Shatzkin; chanting BookRepublic numbers about ebook adoption with Brother Marco; beating our breasts with Friar Matteo:

Forgive us, we have DRM-ed everything in sight like music-industry people in wayward sheep’s clothing!

We even had the Sisters of Romantica entertain the troops. But, of course, not enough conferencing yet: our beloved publishing industry is still under siege from within and without.

Now  the 2012 season’s (and every season’s) best hopes — our technologists — charge into Manhattan. Weapons are arrayed in the Digital Petting Zoo curated by Nate Hoffelder and Joe Wikert. Ordained by O’Reilly himself, the Tools of Change crusade convenes at the Marriott, where the industry will wrestle with its digital demons. (Yes, even those Small Demons, Rev. Vakili.)

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One prayer for many, as a reception is staged at the New York Public Library during the conference: May Penguin (and the other Big Six, some day) follow RandomHouse in enabling full public book lending. Andrew Albanese gave us the word this way, in Fair Trade: Random House Will Raise Library E-book Prices, But Commits to E-Book Lending.

Rejoice, fellow Ethernaut, let us go into the (next) temple of publishing confabs, this time to behold Science as she girds us in this baffling War of Digital Aggression. Quoth Richard Curtis, For the First Time In History, Print Is Optional. Now What?

When we talk about the death of printed books we are really talking about the death of printed books distributed in bookstores.  With the death of a Borders and the announced reduction of Barnes & Noble’s  bookstore floor space by 25%, print on demand, a business model that does not depend on store sales or the returnability of books the way traditional bookstores do, increasingly becomes an option. If publishers elect POD for all their books they will not only continue to make money from printed books but could potentially rescue their identities, and maybe their souls as well.

What do you think?

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Here be the crossed bookmarks of titans. And we must turn to Lovely Tech, for she is just about the last goddess left:

The bottom line here is that as Amazon’s power to sign up books away from the major publishers grows, the retailers who depend on publishers for a flow of commercial product suffer along with the publishers…B&N’s decision seems to me like the right move for them…On the other hand, authors and agents who might have considered an Amazon publishing deal will have to think twice if they know very few bookstores will carry it…There are a lot of smart people engaged in a pitched battle here.

  • May our writers learn whether and when to till the soil of their own backyards as self-publishers — and whether and when to enter once more into the Halls of Traditional Publishing. Not that the writers will be at ToC. It’s another grand gathering, like DBW, designed for everybody in publishing except the people who create the essential element of the realm: the stories. It’s understandable but regrettable that the community of authors still can be so distant, at times, during this rush to digital. It affects them keenly.
  • May Knitting Laura Dawson, the Madame Defarge of Firebrand, guide us to know the dangers of the intern-novitiate when you mis-assign your metadata to pizza-stained hands.
  • May we see — somewhere between the River ePub and the Mobi-Dictum — Prior Wikert bringing us together in the merciful sanctuary of a Unified eBook Market. More on his call to action in a moment.
  • And may the calm, gracious, welcoming friendliness that passeth all understanding of Wikert’s co-chair, the saintly Kat Meyer, rub off on the rest of us.

Here is my and my fellow seminarian Dan Blank‘s latest sermon-with-video Preview: O’Reilly’s Tools of Change Conference.

Our saints go marching into conference on Monday and raise the fray through Wednesday. Observe the battle from the safe hilltop of the Twitter hashtag #TOCcon or in the chapel of my site: PorterAnderson.com. Some of our bravest strategists are at work here. And the stakes are high for all of us.

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eBooks: That call to disarm (Wikert, Stephenson)

Imagine buying a car that locks you into one brand of fuel. That new BMW only runs on BMW gas. There are plenty of BMW gas stations around, so convenience isn’t an issue. But if a different brand of gas station offers a discount, a membership program, or some other marketing campaign, you can’t participate. You’re locked in with the BMW gas stations. This could never happen in the real world, right? Consumers are too smart to buy into something like this.

Joe Wikert, always quick with smart, on-the-nose analogies, outdoes himself in this pre-ToC piece, mentioned above, for Publisher’s Weekly. His analogy is a good fit. You’re locked in by the brand you buy. In his smart column for PW, Wikert lays out The ToC Perspective: A Call for a Unified E-book Market. He makes his argument in clean fast strokes, and then gets us out of the water on an upbeat note, too:

At some point in the not-too-distant future, I’m optimistic the book publishing industry will get to the same stage as the music industry and offer a universal, DRM-free format for all e-books. Then customers will be free to use whatever e-reader they prefer without fear of lock-in and incompatibilities. The music industry made the transition; why can’t we?

Blog Sommelier: Pair Joe Wikert‘s call for unity with “E-Book Standards” – really? at TheFutureBook from Richard Stephenson, CEO of publishing support service provider YUDU Media in the UK. Stephenson nutshells it this way:

eBook standards are the right aspiration to keep publishing costs down, but in practice, standardization does not seem to fit the strategies of the large technology companies like Apple and Amazon who see setting their own standards as a source of competitive advantage especially as the digital content becomes ever more complex.

Just so.

Conference note: Joe Wikert is one busy guy at TOC next week. In addition to hosting with his estimable co-chair Kat Meyer, he’s involved in presentations including Margin Walking: How Annotation Technology Reinvents and Renews the Book , Real World Agile Publishing, Retooling for Faster Digital Revenue Realization, and Scaling Content Development Through Automation.

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eBooks: No joy of bundles (Krozser)

Personally, the chances of me getting excited about a print/digital bundles for fiction are pretty slim. There is the rare, rare, rare book I love so much I want to display it on my shelves. When that book enters my universe, the joy cannot be described. Usually, by the time I discover my love for this book, the opportunity to get in on the bundling deal will be lost (hey, make this a retroactive thing…then you’ve got something).

That’s Kassia Krozser at Booksquare in Tools of Change 2012: Today. Tomorrow. She notes that “it seems like so much of the industry is on round three or four of the same conversation” — conference season tends to do that, I agree — and by way of illustration, she looks at the question of bundling print and ebook editions. (In some quarters, the question comes around about as often as the writerly whine, “Do we really have to have a platform?”)

What does this have to do with the Tools of Change conference? Quite a bit. The theme speaks to my soul: change/forward/fast. While publishers work hard to figure out the right now, they need to keep a close eye on possibilities for the future. The basics are still far from being, well, basic, but we can’t deny the world is changing at (publishing) light speed.

Conference note: Kassia Krozser will moderate two sessions at ToC: Leveraging Existing Assets for New Markets and  Why Context is Everything: Monetizing Meaningful Engagement with Content. For more, see this page.

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Social media: Doing it rudely unto others (Streitfeld, Owen)

Ms. Pearl still seems a little shaken by the intensity of the response. “I knew the minute I signed the contract that there would be people who would not be happy, but the vehemence surprised me,” she said. To protect herself, she did not read Facebook or Twitter or any of the social media sites. (One Twitter post: “I might have to burn that superhero doll”).

So popular is librarian Nancy Pearl‘s “Book Lust” advocacy of bringing books back into print that the Times’ David Streitfeld in Amazon, Up in Flames, writes that she “has done as much to promote reading as anyone this side of Oprah.” And yet, when 20 publishers had rejected her list of books needing to be “rediscovered and she took up Amazon on its offer for them, “that’s when the furor started,” Streitfeld writres.

The Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association, which just gave Ms. Pearl its lifetime achievement award, described the reaction among its members as “consternation.” In Seattle, it was front-page news. “Betrayal” was a word that got used a lot.

Here’s Laura Hazard Owen‘s write at paidContent (just bought by GigaOm, congratulations): Beloved Librarian Who Signed With Amazon: ‘The Vehemence Surprised Me’

It was only going to be worse for a writer in the UK named Antonia Senior.

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Social media: Senior on a spit (Senior)

Kindle-owning bibliophiles are furtive beasts. Their shelves still boast classics and Booker winners. But inside that plastic case, other things lurk. Sci-fi and self-help. Even paranormal romance, where vampires seduce virgins and elves bonk trolls.

Antonia Senior in her spirited opinion piece at The Guardian Ebook sales are being driven by downmarket genre fiction is only telling us what we know. Albeit in unkind terms. What’s so furtive about those beasts?

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Look, even before the Dawn of Digital, mass taste ran resolutely downhill. As a 200-year-old Dickens might have said, a penny for your dreadful, m’lady. But who knows to what undisclosed location Senior has had to repair? She certainly can’t go to her usual Sainsbury’s now without a goodly disguise.

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What’s up with this vituperative reaction? No, Senior isn’t nice about the fact that the common denominator is low. But as Coward observed so long ago in the same Sceptered Isle, it’s extraordinary how potent cheap music is.

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Some were miffed that the Guardian used an image of a Mac reader when the story talks Kindle. But, of course, thanks to apt apps, one can read Kindle books on Mac products.  It’s a day crowded with revelations, is it not?

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I’ll tell you the one place I think Senior misses something. She writes:

Ereaders hide (one’s reading) material. Erotica sells well. My own downmarket literary fetish is male-oriented historical fiction (histfic). Swords and sails stuff. I’m happier reading it on an ereader, and keeping shelf space for books that proclaim my cleverness.

Actually, it’s my guess that men are reading more now than they used to, if they have ereading devices. And not just because guys like gadgets (although we do) but because on the whole, we may be less inclined to share what we’re reading with the world than some women are.

Contrary to Senior’s implications, that doesn’t mean that guys are reading smut. If a guy isn’t reading Steve Pressfield (Senior, I recommend him to you for your histfic fun) – or if that guy is reading Pressfield’s The War of Art instead of The Profession – maybe it’s easier to tell his buddies on the plane that he’s got PDFs from the office on that Kindle Fire or iPad.

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Senior, however, took a lot of heat for saying that lots of publishing’s customers aren’t reading the holy icons on their ereaders. Such defensiveness is something for us to think about.

And remind me to work on that Publishing Hysteria Index.

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Social media: Flânerie on the Ether (Morozov, Cain, Davis)

If today’s Internet has a Baron Haussmann, it is Facebook. Everything that makes cyberflânerie possible — solitude and individuality, anonymity and opacity, mystery and ambivalence, curiosity and risk-taking — is under assault by that company.

Evegeny Morozov, always up for a little worthwhile controversy, this time goes for it in The Death of the Cyberflâneur. He correctly marks the passing of that day when getting around the Net could seem like strolling the cobblestoned boulevards of caprice and chance, overtaken by a Web that’s become “a place for getting things done.”

Our productivity obsession, he laments, has probably done away for good with the idea, ironically, of “browsing.”

“Isn’t it obvious that consuming great art alone is qualitatively different from consuming it socially? And why this fear of solitude in the first place? It’s hard to imagine packs of flâneurs roaming the streets of Paris as if auditioning for another sequel to “The Hangover.” But for Mr. Zuckerberg, as he acknowledged on “Charlie Rose,” “it feels better to be more connected to all these people. You have a richer life.”

It’s this idea that the individual experience is somehow inferior to the collective that underpins Facebook’s recent embrace of “frictionless sharing,” the idea that, from now on, we have to worry only about things we don’t want to share; everything else will be shared automatically.

And he gets at something more important, echoed in Susan Cain‘s new book, Quiet, about introversion in writing and where the business has taken us. She writes:

The authors whose books get published — once accepted as a reclusive breed — are now vetted by publicists to make sure they’re talk-show ready. (You wouldn’t be reading this book if I hadn’t convinced my publisher that I was enough of a pseudo-extrovert to promote it.)

Pair those comments, if you will, with some of the writings of our colleague George Davis. As you’ll find in Smile! I’m blogging you…, he loves nothing better than to refer to his own cyber-flânerie as something he seems to feel is a good bit more alive than Morozov would have us think:

Of course, flanerie still serves the storyteller well, but his boulevards have been extended exponentially. I am an unabashed flaneur, but not just in the Baudelarian sense. I’m an urban flaneur, but I’m also a rural flaneur. I’m a café and sidewalk flaneur, but I’m also a digital flaneur.

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Social media: Speaking of Facebook… (Andrews)

Now the map used in redlining is not a geographic map, but the map of your travels across the Web. The term Weblining describes the practice of denying people opportunities based on their digital selves. You might be refused health insurance based on a Google search you did about a medical condition.

Despite it’s “duh” headline — Facebook Is Using YouLori Andrews‘ op-ed brings a new chill to that “frictionless sharing” the ZuckerBorg wants you to embrace and the deepening morass of data aggregation into which some say Facebook, Google, and other operations are luring us.

Whether you can obtain a job, credit or insurance can be based on your digital doppelgänger — and you may never know why you’ve been turned down… We need a do-not-track law, similar to the do-not-call one.

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Self-publishing: Charles’ aria (Penenberg, Orlando)

If you’re looking to self-publish, the path I took is still clear and safe today but it takes time. Before turning to social media to further sales, you need to think twice. Don’t bother unless you’re serious and willing to put in the time. The overarching reason my efforts have proven successful is because I am personally engaged and dedicated to the process. I put in a lot of time and effort testing, re-testing, taking risks, and engaging with my audience.

In Relationship Guru Charles Orlando Helps E-Book Self-Publishers Help Themselves , author Charles Orlando (The Problem with Women…is Men) tells Adam Penenberg at Fast Company , “My agent was successful in garnering interest from a division of one of the major publishers. As negotiations started, however, it became clear that my revenue percentage was going to be very low with nearly zero marketing/PR support from the publisher. Moreover, I would be lucky if my book would be released within 18 months, as it needed to be put into the queue.”

He goes on to offer a detailed (including prices) account of his self-publication experience with CreateSpace (which then was BookSurge, as he points out).  And here’s a wonderfully wise cautionary note at the end of the piece from Orlando for other writers:

Be wary of social media gurus who want to “help you” build your brand. Research shows that if the number of self-proclaimed social media experts keeps growing at its current rate, the number of experts will outnumber the number of actual social media users in very short order. Remember that it’s a marathon, not a sprint, and social media will give you a platform, but it’s up to you to find your voice. Don’t sell using social media. Engage. Sales will come later.

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Self-publishing: A typo on Page 1 (Orlando)

Just as a matter of fact, I’ll point out that there is a typo on the first page of the Kindle edition of Charles Orlando‘s book, at the end of what is one long paragraph in that version.

Is it a major gaffe? Of course not. Is it Orlando’s fault? I doubt it. Is it the kind of thing that readers notice? It is. Is it the sort of thing we need to discuss openly and address aggressively because it’s affecting how the market thinks of electronic reading? It is.

It’s simply a closing parenthetical mark dropped. Can happen to anyone. I’ve checked it against  the print version via Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature and can show you the difference here. The first grab is from the print version (my circles are in yellow), the second is from the Kindle version (my circles are in red).

I mean really. A first-page typo, how unfortunate. But no author is immune to these problems in e-editions, and at a time when ebooks are moving so much material into readers’ hands, this trend becomes more concerning daily That’s why I bring these moments to the Ether from time to time. Not to slap wrists, not to condemn anyone, but to explain this problem of quality is serious. That’s why it’s now being discussed by responsible self-publishers and ebook conversion folks.

We can go on and on about our technological advances and capabilities. But at Tools for Change, will we see the software that prevents this sort of editorial gaffe when going from paper to electronic versions, or the other direction? Hard to do. You’ll read our colleague Guy Gonzalez later in this column, in fact, discussing the bridging that many publishing people need to do, getting editorial expertise nearer to technical operation.

That’s the startup I want to see in the showcase at ToC eventually. Quality control. The Etherverse is calling out you good tech folks. Show us what you’ve got. 🙂

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Self-publishing: Rebecca’s recitatif (Bricker)

The package I purchased from CreateSpace cost about $750, which included cover/interior design and layout, Kindle conversion, and 20 free paperback copies. I filled out a detailed questionnaire about the book’s genre, tone, plot, themes and characters as well as my own design ideas… I laid out the front section of the book and included an illustration of my favorite cafe in Florence—where I had spent many hours journaling.

Rebecca Bricker, my colleague from our work with Dan Blank on author platforming at We Grow Media, has a guest post about Being a Part of the “Self-Publishing Revolution” at the blog site of Kathy Pooler (another “Dan clan” member), on her own experience with CreateSpace.The Kindle edition of Bricker’s Tales from Tavanti is coming soon, and she is  generously answering writer’s questions about her very fresh experience with the program in the comments section of the post, if you’d like to run something past her.

I marvel at the revolution that’s taking place in an industry that hasn’t changed much in the past 500 years. One day, at noon, I placed an order on Amazon for three copies of my book. At midnight, Amazon sent an e-mail saying my books had shipped. In 12 hours, they had been printed, bound, packaged and shipped.

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Self-publishing: ‘The world has moved on’ (Jones)

The list (of highly successful self-publishing authors) represents a growing worry for traditional publishers, but it is also one often overstated. According to an analysis by Publishers Marketplace of the NYT bestseller lists last year, just 11 self-published authors made the charts, and since they were selling at a fraction of the price of other books they were earning a fraction of the income. However, as Joe Konrath points out, or Lexi Revellion, they do not need to earn grand sums of cash in order to maintain a living at this (and damage the reputation of those publishers who should be publishing them).

Philip Jones at TheFutureBook in The book was great and the typos weren’t very bad  describes this as a time when “Amazon has created a huge freemarket for ‘published’ content where there is little or no differentiator based on quality, or other suitable algorithm.”  Having heard from Molly Barton of Penguin at the IfBookThen conference about the Book Country program, Jones sees a potential model there – “building author communities around your publishing business – as promising.

Of course talent will still slip through the net and some self-published writers will never be wooed back into the fold, but at least by opening the gates a little publishers will come across as a more welcoming option for all writers in search of readers… The clear and present danger with the Kindle’s penny-dreadfuls is that over time they put off readers, not because the books are ‘downmarket’, but because they are badly edited and poorly presented.

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Writing: Poetry over practicality (Friedman, Turner)

  • Talk to your dog or cat.
  • Take a nap.
  • Work up a sweat.
  • Write in the bathroom.
  • Visit a body of water.
  • Bitch loudly.
  • Imagine humility of quitting.

Jane Friedman, intrepid host of the Ether, and Matthew Turner decided to crowdsource 100 Tips to Alleviate Self-Doubt from writers. And the first 70 or more answers — not yet 100 — run quite a spectrum, from suggestions of reading helpful books on creativity to watching birds, snacking (chocolate is mentioned specifically, of course), and sleeping on it.

What strikes me is that so far no one has suggested:

  • Learn to spell better.
  • Learn to punctuate better.
  • Learn to structure stories better.

In other words, turning to activities that might actually create a cause for more self-confidence seems not to be of interest to the crowdly sorcerers at work on this so far. What does that mean? Hey, what do I know? I’m just looking at such suggested alternatives as:

  • Make fun of your inner critic.
  • Jump around.
  • Sit among trees.
  • Play an instrument.
  • Use the Force.
  • Sing the song you’re given.

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Writing: Just tear that ‘passion’ to tatters, will you? (Anthony, Friedman)

Leaders overseeing innovation efforts inside their companies need to be careful of mistaking passion for competence. The philosopher George Santayana defined a fanatic as someone redoubles their effort when they have forgotten their aim.

Scott Anthony‘s Don’t Confuse Passion with Competence takes to the corporate setting the same message that Jane Friedman laid out for writers in her recent piece, Placing Too Much Emphasis on Passion. Friedman wrote:

Passion plus commitment is not too common in my experience. More often you find:

  • a person with a passion for something but lacking talent (sometimes due to lack of ability to practice for the time required, lack of a mentor, etc.)
  • a person with a talent for something without a passion for pursuing it
  • a person with either talent or passion but no ability to commit (whether through life circumstance or otherwise)

Not unlike writers who try to alleviate the symptomatic effects of self-doubt — but not the causes (such as too little expertise in what they’re trying to accomplish) — the passion-mongers of the world can tire you out with their insistence on sharing their zeal.Which runs counter to fashionable ideas today about the supposed supremacy of passion. As Anthony puts it:

Entrepreneurs should be able to argue passionately that their idea will change the world, and then, without skipping a beat, honestly assess the risks standing in the way of its success and describe what they are doing to mitigate them.

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Writing: Before you speak ill of a fellow writer (Bransford)

How would you like it if someone casually dished your book as a piece of trash not worth the pixels it was printed on and it should be burned in a fiery pit of suck?

Nathan Bransford, recently back to blogging after a break for some book work, picks up from Hannah Moskowitz‘s concerns about writers who tear into each other in comments on book reviews. Expanding that to reviews, themselves, Bransford takes the high road and states firmly that peer-to-peer snark really isn’t appropriate. It’s yet another area in which, all too frequently, you can find publishing people behaving badly. Writes Bransford:

 I do believe writers give up the right to write casually bitchy reviews.

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Publishing: Careerists’ new shift (Gonzalez)

With each passing year the turning radius to make the shift to digital-first becomes tighter and tighter, and even more so for staff. There’s no value in being the last man standing at a publisher unable (or worse, unwilling) to make the shift, and there are few job opportunities for those “good soliders” who can’t clearly demonstrate that they have at least tried to stay ahead of the curve.

Guy LeCharles Gonzalez has 5 Career Tips to Survive Publishing’s Digital Shift — perfect for the working stiff who needs to be a more flexible stiff. It’s good stuff at a time when, as Gonzalez says, “impatience is a virtue.”

Stop being a passive consumer and jump in the deep end of the pool. Try everything until you’re savvy and connected enough to figure out what to ignore at a quick glance. Even if a particular medium or platform doesn’t appeal to you personally, try to understand where it fits in the big picture and who the primary and secondary audiences are.

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a name=”16″>Libraries: More on Random House and book loans (Albanese)

Never has a price increase been such good news for libraries. At a meeting with ALA leaders this week in New York, Random House officials said the “terms of sale” for Random House e-books to libraries will change, with a price increase coming. But the publisher reiterated its commitment to library e-book lending, saying they would continue to enable e-book lending of their entire list for both adult and children’s titles, backlist and frontlist, without restriction.

Andrew Albanese at Publishers Weekly writes in Fair Trade: Random House Will Raise Library E-book Prices, But Commits to E-Book Lending  the end of at least one nerve-wracking bout for libraries with Big-Six-y squirmings-around on the topic of supplying books for loans. As Albanese notes, the really heartening part of this news is that it proves “there is a path forward.”

Currently, of the “big six” publishers, only Random House allows for unrestricted lending of library e-books. Even though the net effect of Random House’s announcement is that the price of library e-books will rise—never a good thing in a time of budget stress—the news is nevertheless positive.

Conference note: The Library Alternative is a strong panel in the ToC lineup, moderated by the Internet Archives Peter Brantley, a key national advocate for libraries.  It’s scheduled for Tuesday at 1:40pET.

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Mixed media: Our turn (Nyles)

 If Barnes & Noble’s future is tied to that of the print book publishing houses, then Barnes & Noble is as doomed as Borders, Crown Books and the other brick-and-mortar booksellers that have preceded it into oblivion. The Nook alone will not save Barnes & Noble’s business because the change that is roiling the publishing business today… is not simply a transition from printed media to digital. It’s a transition from a marketplace where information was controlled by a few gatekeepers to one where anyone may offer their content to a mass audience.

Robert Nyles at the Knight Media Center’s Online Journalism Review writes in It’s not the medium – it’s the market that “it appears that the book industry’s going to make the same costly mistakes as the newspaper industry did.”:

The book publishers could have a future. Beyond controlling access to the marketplace, book publishers provided one other, very valuable service to authors – book editing. And the demand for editing, guidance and advice for authors is growing as the number of authors grows. Book publishers could find ways to transition their business models to serve the growing number of eBook publishers, instead of hoping that Barnes & Noble shuts them out. But it’s becoming clear that they won’t…you shouldn’t waste a moment of time rooting for a business that’s not rooting for you.

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Mixed media: One big step forward (Lauerman)

We’re actually publishing, on average, roughly one-third fewer posts on Salon than we were a year ago (from 848 to 572 in December; 943 to 602 in January). So: 33 percent fewer posts; 40 percent greater traffic.

Salon editor in chief Kerry Lauerman writes in Hit Record, about the remarkable turnaround in numbers and quality his online magazine has come up with, in bucking the trend.

We’ve — completely against the trend — slowed down our process. We’ve tried to work longer on stories for greater impact, and publish fewer quick-takes that we know you can consume elsewhere…It sounds  simple, maybe obvious, but: We’ve gone back to our primary mission and have been focusing on originality. And it’s working.

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Mixed media: One backward policy (Cellan-Jones)

Under the handle @fieldproducer he has become one of the most effective – and followed – distributors of breaking news on Twitter. And while much of his tweeting involves promoting Sky News journalists, he will push information out from all kinds of sources, from news agencies, to bloggers, to rival news organisations. He prides himself on beating other news tweeters to the punch on every new line in a developing story.

BBC NewsRory Cellan-Jones is taking about Neal Mann, whom many of us follow for his hustle in hard news. #savefieldproducer became the rallying tweet around Mann, as SkyNews issued what many see as crippling staff regulations against retweeting non-Sky reports. Clearly dismayed at the chilling effect of Sky’s stance on journos working the news, Cellan-Jones goes on to refer to the Beeb’s struggle with social-media policy and concludes:

We are all feeling our way forward through the fog of this new media landscape. The social media revolution is changing power structures in newsrooms, allowing young journalists who understand this new world – and a few older ones – to build reputations independent of their own organisations.

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Reality: Not the War of Digital Aggression (Snaije)

Writer, filmmaker and journalist Michael Bronner co-founded Warscapes in New York last November with Bhakti Shringarpure, a writer and academic who focuses on literature emerging from civil wars following European colonialism.

I can tease about the technologists’ cavalry coming over the hill all I like, but Paris-based Olivia Snaije at Ed Nawotka’s Publishing Perspectives  writes up Warscapes: in New International Literary Magazine Covers the Intimate Side of War.

She goes on to quote co-founder Michael Bronner:

The magazine is “specifically dedicated to providing a lens into current conflicts, especially those that are underrepresented (or not represented at all) in mainstream publishing and media. We search for voices that convey the realities of life amid conflict — perspectives of intimacy and integrity. We hope to enhance understanding of specific conflicts and, less directly, of conflict itself.”

Conference note: Publishing Perspectives’ Ed Nawotka is scheduled to moderate two panels at the coming O’Reilly Tools of Change (ToC) Conference in New York City. Can We Have a Rational Discussion About Copyright? is set for 2:30pET / 11:30aPT / 1930 GMT on Tuesday (14 February). And Opening Up the Playing Field: New Content Tools and Platforms for a Growing Global Content Marketplace is at 8:30aET / 5:30aPT / 1330 GMT on Wednesday (15 February).

Wave when you see me at ToC. I’m the one by the power outlet.

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Main image: iStockphoto / hairballusa

Posted in Writing on the Ether.

Porter Anderson / @Porter_Anderson

Porter Anderson (@Porter_Anderson) is a journalist and consultant in publishing. He’s The Bookseller’s (London) Associate Editor in charge of The FutureBook. He’s a featured writer with Thought Catalog (New York), which carries his reports, commentary, and frequent Music for Writers interviews with composers and musicians. And he’s a regular contributor of “Provocations in Publishing” with Writer Unboxed. Through his consultancy, Porter Anderson Media, Porter covers, programs, and speaks at publishing conferences and other events in Europe and the US, and works with various players in publishing, such as Library Journal’s SELF-e, Frankfurt Book Fair’s Business Club, and authors. You can follow his editorial output at Porter Anderson Media, and via this RSS link.

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20 Comments on "Writing on the Ether: TOC to the Rescue"

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Dan Blank

Is it just me, or are these getting longer? Great coverage of TOC, AND all the other great stories this week, both big and small. I really loved Guy’s post – glad to see it here as well!
Thanks.

Porter Anderson

Yep, @DanBlank:twitter — especially during conference time, you have to pick and choose your whiffs of Ether. Last person to read the whole thing missed her daughter’s wedding, I believe. 🙂  Thanks for dropping in and for the good comment. Guy’s piece is a favorite of mine, too. Thanks again for the good collaboration on the @T0C:twitter  preview at @WeGrowMedia:twitter , as well, always a pleasure.
-p.

Dan Blank

Okay, I just counted: this week’s Ether is 6,478 words!

Porter Anderson

Wait, @DanBlank:twitter  You mean @JaneFriedman:twitter doesn’t pay guests by the word? 🙂

Danezeller

Great compilation! Note to myself: Don’t forget to write.

Porter Anderson

Hey, @Danzeller:twitter , thanks so much for checking out the Ether and dropping a word here, great to have you. And here’s a reminder: Remember to write. 🙂

Victoria Noe

Dan, are you suggesting that Porter self-edit??? I say no, not as long as he quotes Noel Coward.

Porter Anderson

This is why those handy subheads, @twitter-240542789:disqus , you just drop in and find the categories you like — Writing, Publishing, Self-Publishing, Libraries and so on. Don’t try to read it all. Some have never come back.

JamesHRH

In what language is this written? That’s some serious Inside Baseball gobbledegook.

Simple truths – of which you are a reliable source – are better.

1) Books, as a rule, are dying. Digital forms will replace them.
2) Writing  (or producing any content) is a commodity. Insight is not.
3) Connecting to an audience is the job. The pay varies. 

Stay calm. Carry on.

Go to conferences if you wish – but go to meet people.

Don’t go in search of salvation.

And skim the drivel.

Porter Anderson

Hey, @JamesHRH:twitter , thanks for the comment and for dropping by the Ether. Come back often, here on Thursdays, thanks to the generosity of @JaneFriedman:twitter Cheers –
-p.

Bricker27

Porter, you serve up a feast here, seasoned with insight and wit. (Thanks for including Tavanti and the self-pub tales on the menu this week.) Keep dishing – you do us a great service.

Porter Anderson

Grazie, @RebeccaBricker:twitter , and delighted to find you flying so high with the @CreateSpace:twitter experience, thanks for all the great info in @KathyPooler:twitter ‘s blog post and keep after that Kindle version of Tales so your book will be … on the Ether. 🙂

Janet Boyer

Crappity crap crap, Porter. Mea culpa! Can we be friends? *wince* ;o)

Porter Anderson

We totally are friends, Janet, I loved that tweet. 🙂 Thanks for the laugh and welcome to the Ether. 
-p.

Anonymous

Hey,Porter, another grand and galloping roundup here this week! Thanks so much for your links to Rebecca’s guest post and for adding your comments there. I like your subheads so we can pick and choose but I find myself reading everything..my husband calls that FOMO (fear of missing out). That’s why I didn’t get to comment until later. Darn, life interferes everytime. Keep it coming,Porter. It’s good stuff even at 6478 words!

Porter Anderson

Hey,  @KathyPooler:twitter , glad to have the material from your site on @RebeccaBricker:twitter ‘s book, and thanks for reading the Ether — tell your husband it’s FOME — Fear of Missing Ether. 🙂  Love that addiction, may it afflict you on every Thursday, and thanks, as ever, for your input. 🙂
-p.

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Richard

Open your eyes: shops are falling pray to internet selling. Do you really think that the tactile book is sacred? Look what happened to records and CDs. The media is the message. 

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