Book publishing. And everything else.

Archive for the tag “Books”

We Interrupt This Lack of Blog Posts

I’ve been experimenting. As one might imagine, I’ve been experimenting with metadata and identifiers. On this blog.

Links to books now have DOIs. I’m kinda proud of that. I don’t know what it’ll get me – that’s the experiment. A DOI identifies a thing and the place on the web where it lives. So the ISBNs or ISTCs of the books I’m reading link to a location on Google Sites that I’ve set up. The Google Sites link further to Wikipedia entries, Amazon product pages, and other sites of interest.

I’ve also been experimenting unsuccessfully with semantic markup. I say unsuccessfully because this blog is in WordPress – which has a couple of markup plugins, but I’m still on the WordPress domain (this will change in a bit – so I will give my site a DOI and if you use THAT instead of the URL, you’ll always be able to find it even when the URL changes).

Why semantic markup? Because I am excited about proving the utility of rich snippets. For book publishers and retailers, this is going to be a critical way of differentiating your products from the mass of products that’s out there. God help me, I can’t find any pilot partners in the book industry, so I figure I’ll just do it myself. (If any adventurous publisher or book retailer wants to volunteer for a pilot, you know where to reach me.)

So that will happen, when I can get more time.

If You Want People To Read More, Teach More People To Read

A Twitter conversation with Nick Ruffilo led to a discussion on a listserv I belong to, which has led to this post.

Yesterday at Making Information Pay, there was a reference to wooing potential readers away from Angry Birds, to books. While I wasn’t there (I had a long-fought-for doctor’s appointment), I was following the tweetstream – and at the invocation of Angry Birds, my head hit my desk. Repeatedly.

Angry Birds is not the problem.

If publishers are marketing to people who know how to read and choose not to, they are talking to brick walls. They might as well be selling vitamins, or broccoli. But if publishers focused some of their efforts on people who don’t know how to read (even in the US, these numbers are larger than you might think – in prisons, in rural areas, in inner cities) – well, that market is fairly well untapped. Particularly overseas.

A first-world example: Bernardo teaches Jonathan Kozol to his students at BMCC. Many of these kids are from distinctly un-trendy parts of Brooklyn, from the Bronx, from areas of Queens that have been blighted. Kozol talks about the amount of money that gets spent on education for these kids versus what gets spent in suburbs – and the difference is obscene. Bernardo’s students begin to see how the decks have been stacked against them since before they (or their parents) were born.

And they begin to read. They read Huckleberry Finn, The Awakening, Frederick Douglass’s autobiography. In the context of where they are from, these are radical books. (One might argue that these are public domain titles and therefore the revenue they generate isn’t so great. But they are Norton Critical Editions, and Kozol’s work itself is not yet out of copyright. There’s plenty of revenue happening.)

Part of growing your market is creating demand. And creating demand by making books “more like Angry Birds” is superficial. It’s the easy way out, and it doesn’t really benefit very many people. Publishers who are focused on that sort of superficial change are just biding time from financial quarter to financial quarter.

Some have (on the listserv I belong to) argued that increasing literacy is social policy and not the province of business. I would argue (and I did) that in publishing in particular, you don’t have to separate the two. Our business is predicated on education – if fewer people are educated, then the market shrinks by definition. The more people who can read, the more books will be sold. Ignoring that, or saying that it’s not a concern of the business, is short-sighted. And we’re in this for the long game.

Some folks on the listserv have kindly provided me with organizations that are addressing literacy:

Here’s what’s critical: many, many of these organizations work through public libraries. Publishers have been edgy around libraries for a good long while. It’s yet another reason why it’s time to get over that – for the good of the business.

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