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Posts Tagged ‘new models’

BABY NEW YEAR!

Happy New Year everybody!

Hope your holiday season has been lovely. I’ve been spending time with family and friends, traveling just the littlest bit, and relaxing in preparation for 2010 – a year, and the start of a brand new decade-both bound to be full of more challenges, excitement and wonderful opportunities for the world of book publishing and reading.

In honor of the occasion of a brand new year, #FollowReader tomorrow will be a very casual Twitter Open House. I’ll be hosting, and you can find me on Twitter from 4 pm to 5pm ET. (Truth be told, I’ll probably be there long before and long after, as well).

While there’s no official topic, our good friend and blogger, Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind‘s Sarah Weinman (@SarahW) spurred a possible discussion thread: How can book blogs best help fill the void left by the loss of KIRKUS?

Hopefully, Sarah will be able to join us – and hopefully many of us will be around to chat in a casual and optimistic conversation about the year ahead for books!

If you can’t join the discussion, watch this space next week for a recap of the highlights.

To join the #followreader conversation on Friday, here’s what to do:

1. Just before 4pm ET, log in to Twitter or whatever interface you use (we recommend Tweetchat)
2. To follow the discussion, run a search for #followreader
3. I’ll start by asking a few questions.
4. To post to the discussion, make sure that the hashtag #followreader is in each tweet

NOTE: TweetChat refreshes quickly and automatically loads your hashtag when you are in the discussion.

Please feel free to suggest topics for upcoming #followreader chats below.

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Read on for today’s delivery of a pretty little package all dressed up with a big red bow.

Today NetGalley announced a partnership with Edelweiss. (Read the release.) Edelweiss, owned by Above the Treeline, provides web-based interactive publisher catalogs used by booksellers, retailers and other professional readers to research, organize and order new titles. Starting in early spring 2010, all the reading options you use in NetGalley can be made available inside Edelweiss’s digital catalogs.

Best of all, if you are a customer of both Edelweiss and NetGalley, this additional functionality will come at no additional charge. Edelweiss users will be able to read online and download full-text digital galleys. Publishers will continue to set reading options for their galleys, which can be uploaded with or without DRM.

John Rubin, founder and CEO of Above the Treeline, and Fran Toolan, Chief Igniter of Firebrand Technologies, NetGalley’s parent, opine below about how this partnership will benefit readers and publishers alike.

John Rubin, Founder and CEO, Above the Treeline (Edelweiss’s parent):

We’re really excited about partnering with Firebrand because, really, how can it not help readers and publishers?

We’re both trying to get info about new books to the people who care about them.With the recent demise of Kirkus, it’s more important than ever to develop new ways to spread the word. I have a lot of respect for what Firebrand has done with NetGalley and can’t think of a better partner. At the core, I think we see the marketplace in the same way that Firebrand does and have the same type of commitment to it. We’re both interested in helping the industry grow and transform in a way that works for all parties—publishers, retailers, media, authors, etc.. We’re both about solutions that work but that don’t undermine publishers and the authors they serve.

Fran Toolan, Chief Igniter, Firebrand Technologies (NetGalley’s parent):
“From my perspective, there are three main benefits to this collaboration. The first is that we are broadening our ability to deliver secure electronic galleys outside of http://www.netgalley.com, the second is an ability for us to potentially reach new customers, and the last is an opportunity to work on a project of real value with John and his team.

In this collaboration, a “widget” of reading options will be embedded into the Edelweiss catalog for titles in the NetGalley system. This widget will provide a list of options for a reader to access our secured content. These options will include our QuickBrowse function as well as our ability to download PDF’s or ePub files (with or without DRM) for use on reading devices. The development of this widget essentially allows us to bring the functionality of http://www.netgalley.com to any online catalog, website, or blog.

One of the very interesting parts of this collaboration is that if a publisher is using Edelweiss, they don’t need to be a regular customer of NetGalley. Under our agreement, if a publisher (who is not a customer of NetGalley) wants to take advantage of the new galley feature in Edelweiss, Above the Treeline will charge that publisher a nominal fee per title which will be shared by both of our companies. In essence, this gives publishers an opportunity to experiment with the reading options piece of NetGalley before taking advantage of its full functionality.

John and I have enjoyed being industry colleagues for some time now, and have looked for ways to collaborate in the past. This particular project is one that is interesting because of its simplicity and mutual benefits. I am very excited about proving our ability to partner on services to the industry. My hope is that over the next year there will be more announcements about a tighter integration between Edelweiss and Firebrand’s Title Management system.

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Last Friday’s #FollowReader chat was a real treat. Our guest was Open Road Integrated Media’s CEO and co-founder, Jane Friedman. Much of the discussion centered around the innovative publishing model that Open Road is embarking upon, and Jane generously shared information about everything from the formats that ORIM will be publishing in, to author compensation, to their plans for marketing. You can read the transcript from Friday’s chat by clicking on this link.

Below we’ve included a few insights offered by Jane during last Friday’s chat:

On the traditional role of the publisher, and how Open Road differs from the traditional model:

The publisher has traditionally discovered that author, most of the time through agents, and paid the author an advance against royalties. The author worked with an editor and when the manuscript was ready to be published the marketing and publicity and sales staffs geared up to introduce the book to the public. Open Road Media is based on a profit share model. We do not pay advances. We are only dealing with electronic formats with a p-o-d component when possible. The author supplies the content; Open Road Media does the marketing.

On Open Road’s approach to marketing:

  • The marketing platform is based on 3 principles: scale, reach and ease of use. It’s goal is to connect readers to authors in communities where readers currently live.
  • Our marketing will be a combination of traditional heavily weighted to the digital/emerging channels.
  • Lead time: our marketing begins on signing of contract versus close to the on-sale date.

On reaching communities where readers already live:

It’s not just aboutFacebook and Twitter. Readers live on crowd-sourced content sites, social networks, opinion sites, media sites, etc. They also live where their passions are. Cooking sites, craft and art sites, parenting sites. These are our readers as well.

We will expand to reach new audiences. There is a big world out there of people who read and do not fall into traditional.

To be clear, we will go to large sites but MAIN driver is to find right niche communities to partner with and supply content to.

On author profit share:

Authors like profit-sharing, particularly as advances are moving in the wrong direction.

On author branding versus publisher branding:

Absolutely. The author is the brand. Open Road Media as a consumer brand is not part of our thinking. We recognize that consumers will find content on our site, but the brands we are promoting are the authors and their works.

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Our gratitude to Jane for taking the time to join us. Be sure to follow Open Road Integrated Media on Twitter: www.twitter.com/openroadmedia and on Facebook: www.facebook.com/openroadmedia. And,  for the complete transcript of Friday’s chat with Jane Friedman, just click here.

Be sure to join us for this Friday’s #FollowReader at 4pm ET.

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Jane Friedman of Open Road Integrated Media

Our stellar guest appearances for #FollowReader chats continue this Friday, when we’ll be joined by  Jane Friedman, CEO and Co-Founder of Open Road Integrated Media.

Conceived as  a content marketing company that places the e-book in the center of a multi-platform universe, Open Road Integrated Media is taking a bold approach to the business of books as well as to their format.  ORIM is doing away with author advances, instead offering authors a higher-than-normal royalty, coupled with aggressive marketing.

And, what exactly will ORIM be marketing, you may ask? Good question, and ORIM has a good answer:

  • e-versions of popular backlist titles (among the first ORIM e-rights to be acquired were titles by Dame Iris Murdoch, Pat Conroy and William Styron),
  • Studio “e-riginals” – titles developed for digital format, and
  • ORIM also plans to launch a premium self-publishing program which will be called Discovery.

We’re excited to talk with Jane about Open Road, and about the quickly changing landscape of publishing in general. Some of the topics we’ll be discussing on Friday include:

  • What is the traditional role of publishers, and how is this changing?
  • What about agents?If advances seem to be going the way of the dodo, is it time to re-evaluate how agents are compensated?
  • What should authors and agents make of MacMillan’s boilerplate contract (20% net for digital sales); what about RH + others who are a bit higher, but still at net?
  • How much should authors be asked to do in regards of marketing and promoting their books? Should authors be compensated for the marketing efforts they are asked to undertake?
  • As the barriers to actually publishing a book erode, does the role of the publisher become more or less important to the reading public?

And, as always with #FollowReader, the conversation will no doubt be fun and interesting.

Please join us – this Friday, December 11th at 4pm ET.

New to #FollowReader chats? It’s easy:

1. Just before 4pm ET,  log in to Twitter or whatever interface you use (e.g. Tweetchat.com, Tweetdeck, Twitterific, etc.)
2. To follow the discussion, run a search for #followreader
3. To post to the discussion, type #followreader in each tweet

NOTE: You might want to experiment with TweetChat, which refreshes quickly and automatically loads your hashtag when you are in the discussion.

And if you can’t make it, don’t feel too bad. We will post a recap of the highlights, along with a summary on the blog.

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When it comes to book advertising, what are the do’s and don’ts for authors and publishers? How useful are metrics like ad click-through rates? And how are publishers and authors reaching audiences in specific subject areas or “verticals” on the web?

Those are some of the questions we explore in the second half of our conversation about trends in book advertising with Verso Advertising President, Denise Berthiaume, and Group Director Tom Thompson, which picks up where we left off Monday’s interview.   

And tomorrow, Berthiaume and Thompson join us for a live chat, in our weekly #FollowReader conversation on Twitter (Friday, December 4, 2009, from 4-5pm ET). To follow to our discussion in real time and contribute your own comments, go to TweetChat and type in #followreader. 

Q&A with Denise Berthiaume and Tom Thompson

What are the biggest mistakes that publishers and authors make when trying to engage with online audiences?     

Denise: The biggest mistake I see is authors and companies spending a lot of money on very cool site design, but leaving no part of the budget (and that includes money, employee time and enthusiasm for the project!) for the marketing required to drive people to the site.     

Tom:  Because budgets are so tight, publishers often use the “silver bullet approach” – hoping a single marketing or promotion piece will make all the difference. Instead, we really need to think about all the factors, the whole ecosystem that leads to a book being discovered and purchased.     

What’s the smartest thing publishers and authors can do in their online ad strategy?     

Tom: Think of your online strategy hand-in-hand with, and really no different from, your “offline” strategy. Authors should use the web to drive foot traffic into physical stores and use their in-person appearances to build audience for their site/blog/etc. Authors need to think about their brand long term.     

Denise: Focus first on your audience wherever they are: on- and offline. Usually both, and usually at  the same time.   

In determining the effect of online ads, how useful are metrics like click-through rates, site traffic and Bookscan book sales – and how effectively can you map one variable to another? 

 Denise:  Obviously, our job is to sell books. So our primary goal with each campaign is to drive sales.  To that end we recently worked with Nielsen BookScan to study book sales during Verso Reader Channel ad campaigns and found a significant correlation – meaning a bump in sales – when campaigns served 1.5 million + ad impressions. We go into that in a bit more detail about that in a post on our blog.  

Tom Thompson

 Tom: Click Through Rate (CTR) tends to be the first and only number people want to know. But it’s misleading. With the FSG and Vanguard campaigns mentioned above, for example, neither performed astonishingly well in terms of CTR. But both spectacularly accomplished their goals.  

Denise: CTR is a big topic in advertising right now. Everyone’s looking for guidance on measuring performance, but no one knows what that measure should be. CTR has been declining and worrying people for a long time (if you Google it, the first thing that comes up is a blog from January 2001 about declining CTR).  

Tom:  The general CTR average is .08% — which matches up with what I’m seeing with our clients everywhere except the NYTimes.com, which is generally higher. That .08% figure comes from a DoubleClick report cited by ComScore

Denise:  There have been lots of CTR-boosting remedies proposed over the years, most prominently the Cost Per Engagement model of rich media. But in the end, click-throughs  of any variety have to be considered in the context of content, impression level, and campaign goal. What I mean by that is:   

  1. Content: Are you offering something of value that is targeted either by context or behavior to the audience that’s seeing the ad?
  2. Impression level: Are you serving enough impressions to make a difference?
  3. Campaign goal: What do you want out of the campaign? Awareness? Clicks? Newsletter sign-ups? Sales?

Tell us about the online network of 5,000 sites you have put together for book publisher ads. What subject categories have the most sites and are the most popular with advertisers?  

Denise Berthiaume

 Denise: The Verso Reader Channels were created after we saw the need for marketing plans that truly took advantage of the unique ways different interest-groups are now clustering online. Now that there are sites for every interest group – from cooking to pop culture, fitness to parenting – we can target hundreds of relevant sites at a time, thanks to our partnership with Burst Media. Burst is a  leading network that’s been around since the early days of the commercial web, has relationships with over 4,500 sites that provide over 110 million unique users a month, and reaches over 60% of the web population. Our partnership leverages Burst’s strengths in aggregating content into verticals along with our knowledge of publishing categories and creative expertise to give our clients extremely cost-efficient online media buys.  

Tom: The other advantage of the network model is that we don’t have to confront the minimum spends that we face with buying ads for a single site. The standard $10-25k minimum spends for ad buys on single sites that we’re seeing now are well down from the $30-50k minimums of 2007, but still too high for most campaigns.  There is no minimum with a Reader Channel buy – although you do face diminishing returns if you spend less than $5k. The standard cost per thousand impressions (CPM) for ads on the Reader Channels is $6.    

If bloggers or bookstores want to apply to join your network, how do they go about it? How much do the sites get paid to run your ads?     

Denise: While we’re big fans of bloggers and do buy ads on blogs for most of our clients separately, blogs are not part of the Reader Channels because Burst has strict rules about member-site content, audience level and comment field moderation that most blogs cannot meet, according to the eligibility requirements of the network.      

What have you learned about what readers respond to from observing the activity in this network of 5,000 sites?     

Denise: We surveyed thousands of respondents about their book buying habits and preferences, with early data showing some surprising behavior by heavy readers and ebook enthusiasts. We will reveal more about that at the Digital Book World Conference on January 26 and 27.     

Join us for tomorrow’s live chat with Berthiaume and Thompson (Friday, December 4, 2009, from 4-5pm ET), in our weekly #FollowReader conversation on Twitter.

To follow to our discussion in real time and contribute your own comments, go to TweetChat and type in #followreader. 

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Two of my non-professional book interests collided last week sort of unexpectedly.

#1: I had the opportunity last weekend to attend a seminar held by Daniel Traister, Curator of the Annenberg Rare Book and Manuscript Library at the University of Pennsylvania (my alma mater). The session was titled, “What Good is an Old Book in the Age of Google?”

#2: I ran the Scholastic Book Fair at my kids’ elementary school, not for the first time. One of the biggest aspects of the job (besides steering kids away from $5 pens!) is of course helping them select books that are a. appropriate and b. they can afford.

Here’s where the collision fits in.

During the Penn session, the attendees were treated to a glimpse of two editions of the Nuremberg Chronicle, printed in 1493, a phenomenal specimen. The book has a rich history in art and literature and much has been written about it….but what struck me was Professor Traister’s reminder that the book was never intended to be read. It was intended to be owned. It’s large, unwieldy, heavy, not particularly well-written, and the material isn’t all that exciting. But if you could afford to display it in your house? Well, then…

Fast forward 516 years to present day, where the same principles are applied (loosely) on a small scale at my book fair. Magic Tree House: $4.99 paperback. Displayed next to $11.99 hardcover of the newest book. Jan Brett’s Gingerbread Friends: hardcover, $17.99. Softcover school edition, also available, with fold-out insert: $4.99.

I understand the economics of publishing: hardcovers are more profitable. But where is the value to the consumer? How can I, in good conscience, direct any child to purchase the same product in different binding for 3 times more when the reading experience will be exactly the same (maybe better for the softcover if you consider the fold-out insert)? We didn’t. We directed kids away from the $17+ hardcovers and to the softcover editions, where they could spend the same amount of money and walk away with triple the number of books to love and enjoy.

It’s not that the $17.99 by itself is too much (that’s another debate). It’s the additional cost for the hardcover when the content is the same. Particularly–and why don’t more people say this?–when there are just too many quality books available out there.

Certain formats will always demand to be owned rather than consumed, it’s true (see this video from HarperStudio about the Art of Bookmaking). But I’d like to suggest that for most books this simply isn’t the case, especially as ebooks continue to push prices lower and there is a larger gap between the hardcover and “other format” prices. Timing, too: as the time between hardcover, paperback and ebook releases shorten, there is a greater incentive for consumers to just wait it out until the less expensive version is available. Particularly when–and why don’t more people say this!–there are just too many quality books available out there.

In many ways, the pricing model for books was established over 500 years ago, when the physical format of the book clearly denoted its worth and purpose. Though many publishers continue to experiment with formats and release schedules, now seems to be the time for publishers to veer dramatically away from the traditional process to consider at the manuscript stage: What format provides the best value for the consumer? Is it useful content, format-agnostic? Maybe best as a website or iphone app or ebook, then. Is it for entertainment and a one-time use? Perhaps the hardcover version is eliminated, or published after the paperback, as a “collector’s edition” the way DVD collections of TV shows are (ie, when the book’s saleability warrants the hardcover edition.)

Although price is set by the publisher (or retailer), value is of course determined by the consumer. It’s anecdotal, but what I hear from regular old consumers, at book fairs, shopping for birthday gifts, on the playground, is that book pricing is confusing, too expensive and even a little manipulative. In a frugal economy with an abundance of options for information consumption and entertainment, where consumers can compare prices nearly anywhere, are we getting it right for our readers?

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pretty book

Paper?

Is it just me, or have you noticed that there are some bookish types who like to pit electronic against paper as if it’s an either/or proposition? And have you also noticed that more often than not, discussions about utilizing new publishing technologies, quickly become polarizing arguments where one must supposedly choose: paper or plastic? Consider, for example, the Green Apple Bookstore videos poking fun at the Kindle — funny? Yes. silly? Yes. But, many a truth is said in jest, and a lot of people seem to think digital means the demise of the paper book.

I just want to say, for the record that: e- does not stand for “evil.”

Nor does it stand for “enemy.”

For anyone intent on finding enemies of the book, they need look no further than the traditional publishing model which goes something like this: Over-saturate market with hundreds of thousands of titles printed in paper, a few of which will be blockbusters, the rest of which will be returned to publishers. Repeat (until the money runs out).

You know that place where there are lots and lots of unsold, unread paper books, and lots and lots of out-of-work book industry folks? We’re so there.

ereader

or Plastic?

So, why demonize digital when digital appears to be a really viable part of the solution? And why suggest that any one format will ever be the solution? The way I see it, the only real solution is to have many solutions all working simultaneously to make available a diversity of content, a diversity of distribution alternatives, a diversity of formats and pricing, and even a diversity of features. Oh, and paper books are a part of this many-solution solution.

This same many-solution solution is a solution where publishers print POD if conditions call for it; gigantic print runs should that make sense; and lovely gorgeous full color hardbound books with gilded edges if that’s what the market demands — Yup, all of these options are part of the solution.

Paper is fabulous. Lots of people love it. Some swear by it. Heck, some of my best friends even sell paper (@permanentpaper).

Other readers love reading on plastic, and will have it no other way. Though, even they can not agree with one another on the best format or delivery mechanism for their electronic literature.

Many of us like to read different ways at different times. Sometimes we find it most pleasurable to read paper books– all manner of paper books: board books, pop-up books, mass market, hard cover, picture books, trade paper, (why, I’ve been known to read cereal boxes and I don’t see those going e- any time soon) — and sometimes we like to read ebooks – we will read them in a car, we will read them at the bar. We will read them on a Kindle, on a nook, on our computers, on our iphones, on our Play Stations — no doubt someone somewhere right this second is reading an ebook on their television.

And that’s okay. You see, one need not eschew the hand bound letter press book in order to enjoy a digitally delivered novella via their iphone. Theoretically, we can have it all.

Consider Follow the Reader’s sponsor, NetGalley. NetGalley allows professional readers and industry folks to read the book in digital form, prior to its paper debut, thus saving the costs – both financial and envirornmental, that would otherwise be spent on printed ARCs, galleys, and BLADs. For those reviewers who prefer the printed version of an ARC, publishers can offer that via NetGalley,  as well. In this case, the e-option can work beautifully alongside the printed paper book. Everyone goes home a winner. And that’s just one example where a digital version of a book is not necessarily a substitute for a finished paper book, but offers an alternative solution for the reader’s specific needs or preferences.

So, stop worrying about the death of paper books. Digital doesn’t mean the end of paper. It just means more opportunities for more readers to read “books” in the ways that are best suited to them.  And, by the way, I know I’m far from alone in believing the form of a book should fit its purpose and/or a reader’s preferences, and that there’s room for all kinds of books to live together peacefully.

Because, a book by any other name is just as sweet.

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Last Monday’s news that Publishers Weekly had excluded women from its Top Ten Best Books of 2009, and included only 29 women in its list of top 100 books of the year, met with incredulity, groans and outrage. On Twitter, the conversation quickly morphed into the #fembook hashtag, where participants suggested ways to challenge what some called a pervasive bias against women when it comes to major reviews and literary awards, particularly in a year that many consider a great year for books by women. 
Bethanne Patrick

@thebookmaven

For more on where the #fembook conversation led, keep scrolling.  Where will the conversation go next? That’s up to you!

Join me, Charlotte Abbott,  on Friday, November 13, from 4-5pm ET,  for a joint session of #FollowReader and #fembook, where we’ll discuss what can be done to elevate the status of women writers and books by women in a world where most authors, readers, book buyers and publishing staffers are women.

Our guest will be Bethanne Patrick (a.k.a. @thebookmaven), host of the Book Studio at WETA.org and moderator of #FridayReads (who we profiled here earlier this year).

#Fembook: A Hashtag is Born

Early last week on #fembook, book bloggers, critics, authors, publishing professionals and readers shared links to the Guardian (UK) story about how a new group called Women in Letters and Literary Arts  (WILLA) had confronted the PW announcement with an open letter of complaint and a wiki of great books published by women in 2009, and invited sympathizers to join its Facebook group (created when the group called itself WILA). Others noted that, lest we unfairly vilify PW, the magazine’s long list did include categories that are overlooked elsewhere, such as graphic format and mass market titles, as well as a number of writers of color.

Still others observed that the year-end picks by Amazon’s editors were also heavily weighted toward men, and that Fox TV host Glen Beck, an enthusiastic propnent of thrillers, rarely mentions any written by women. 

By last Wednesday, several book critics had weighed in on the #fembooks debate, including Politico’s Lizzie Skurnick and Salon’s Laura Miller, along with author Susan Steinberg, writing in the The Rumpus. The librarian blog Earlyword.com offered a helpful breakdown of the representation of women among the National Book Award finalists, as well as on Publishers Weekly‘s Best Children’s Books list, and among the year’s most popular books on Amazon. (Guess what? Women get more prizes for children’s books than adult books!)

By the end of the week, #fembook had become a fast-flowing conversation about great books by women published in 2009 – thanks to the announcement by #FridayReads moderator Bethanne Patrick that the two hashtags would join forces for an all-women’s edition of  the weekly #FridayReads book recommendation discussion.

For those interested in the #fembook discussion and title recommendations, here’s an archive of the complete conversation between November 5 and November 10.

And here are a few other commentaries, and efforts to elevate the status of women writers, that cropped up this week  - please let us know about any we’ve missed!

  • SheWrites Day of Action calls for women to write a blog post about PW’s exclusion of women from its Top 10 list, buy a book by a woman and take a photo of yourself holding it, and tell five women to do the same – by Friday, November 13, 2009.
  • Women Unbound Reading Challenge encourages people to read fiction and nonfiction by women. The challenge runs for a year, from November 1, 2009 to November 30, 2010.
  • In the latest podcast from Books on the Nightstand, Random House sales reps Ann Kingman and Michael Kindness present a lively examination of the books by women writers on their own shelves, and talk passionately about their all-time favorite woman-authored books.
  • In the Guardian, editor-turned-author Harriet Evans writes, “I’m fed up with seeing some of our best novelists written off as ‘chick lit’.”

To join the #followreader conversation on Friday, here’s what to do:

  1. Just before 4pm ET,  log in to Twitter or whatever interface you use (e.g. Tweetchat, Tweetdeck, Twitterific, etc.)
  2. To follow the discussion, run a search for #followreader
  3. I’ll start by asking Bethanne Patrick (@thebookmaven) a few questions, before opening up the discussion to the group.
  4. To post to the discussion, type #followreader in each tweet 

NOTE: You might want to experiment with TweetChat, which refreshes quickly and automatically loads your hashtag when you are in the discussion.

Looking forward to tweeting with you on Friday! 

Watch this space next week for a recap of the highlights. And please feel free to suggest topics for upcoming #followreader chats below.

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Lately there’s been a lot of hubbub surrounding the emergence of  “book as app.”

Sure it sounds exciting, but is the book app here to stay, or merely the current IT GIRL in publishing’s endless search for the next big thing? What can an app do that a book can’t? Is an app inherently better than other ways of experiencing book content?

Well, that depends. The short answer might be: maybe and sometimes, and if the two companies profiled below are any indication of what book apps can be, then I’d be willing to wager that the book as app is here to stay.

im184_crushitthe VOOK
Yey! Another silly name for a digital publishing offering! Though, in all fairness, the Vook was the Vook before the nook was the nook.  Anyway, what exactly is a vook?

In the words of Vook’s VP of Marketing and Brand Director, Matthew Cavnar, “A vook is a new innovation that blends a book with videos into one complete story. Vooks are currently available in a browser based version and as an application for your iPhone or iPod touch.”

(Editor’s Note: So, it’s acutally not just an iphone app, as it’s also available via the world wide web – and this blows my whole “books as apps” approach to this article, but whatever. It’s still an app, too.)

Vook launched its first titles with Simon and Schuster and recently released Gary Vaynerchuk’s Crush It! with Harper Studio. Relationships with other publishers are underway.  Beyond the very cool multimedia features of vooks, a notably appealing feature of currently available vooks are their price tags. HarperStudio has priced both browser based and iphone app versions of the Crush It! vook at $11.99.

Simon and Schuster has priced each of their five currently available vooks (three lifestyle titles, as well as Promises by romance author Jude Deveraux, and the thriller Embassy by Richard Doetsch) at $6.99. Neither publisher is offering their vook titles as bundled content with ebooks or printed versions of the books, though HarperStudio considered it, and may bundle future titles. (more…)

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How do major book reviewers select books, and how much has social media and other technology changed the way they discover new titles?  Do print galleys, pre-pub reviews and trade shows matter any more, as digital tools expand and print review outlets continue to shrink? 

Those were some of the questions we explored with Lev Grossman, Time magazine’s book critic, technology writer and Nerd World blogger, and Carolyn Kellogg, who reviews for the Los Angeles Times and writes the Jacket Copy blog, last Friday our #followreader discussion on Twitter (October 30, 2009).

Among the highlights:

  • Social media buzz is gaining importance, but it can’t make up for a book that doesn’t deliver
  • Paper galleys are most desireable because taking notes in them is easy
  • Standalone e-readers are still too expensive for these professional readers
  • Some reviewers pay more attention to publisher marketing efforts than others
  • Small houses do have a shot at getting reviewed
  • Becoming the author of three novels has made Grossman wince at what he used to say in his reviews
  • Reviewers do regret it when they miss the chance to review good books

Here’s the full conversation:

What makes you sit up & decide to review a book?

Lev Grossman@leverus: Have your publicist tuck a $50 right around page 100. Works like a charm. Not many people know this. #followreader

@Corb21: we tucked 1,000,000 dollar bills in our books once…funny, but not necessarily more reviews. #followreader

@leverus: My antennae start to crackle when I see somebody doing something genuinely risky or genuinely new. #followreader

@leverus: Doesn’t happen very often. For example: I skipped the Doctorow this fall. It’s a great book. But not a new book. #followreader

@leverus: Formally, stylistically, thematically: I had seen Doctorow do these things before. No one does them better. But: not new. #followreader

@paperhaus: Well I nearly fell over dead when my editor showed me the new Thomas Pynchon. Having a recognizable name helps. Esp. Pynchon. #followreader@paperhaus

@leverus: Counterexample: Jess Walters’ FINANCIAL LIVES OF THE POETS. Nothing else I’ve read this year felt that utterly contemporary. #followreader

@leverus: (Except Cory Doctorow’s MAKERS) #followreader

@leverus: The more I review, the less I’m interested in names. The writing has to deliver. #followreader

@paperhaus: Since advance copies of books don’t have art, we rarely judge by the cover. #followreader

@charabbott: Does this mean you read 10x more books than you review? #followreader

@leverus: I wouldn’t put it as high as 10X. But I read a lot more books than I review. And I read a HELL of a lot of first chapters. #followreader

@bnreviewer: Curious to know what books over past year you passed on and now wish you’d covered (assuming any). #followreader

@leverus: There are so many worthy books I regret skipping. The Dan Chaon comes to mind. #followreader

@CollectedMisc: Is there a place for audacious failures? Works that tried something big but failed or did so in an interesting way? #followreader

@paperhaus: Yes, one of the great things about Jacket Copy (the LA Times book blog) is that we can cover so much #followreader

@leverus: Give an example of an audacious failure! I want names named. #followreader

@paperhaus: There was an intentionally failed book, @leverus, called B is for Bad Poetry – genuinely terrible poems, cute blog post. #followreader

@leverus: I would call KINDLY ONES an audacious failure. I was truly blown away by its ambition. #followreader

Where do you pick up buzz about new books and authors?

@charabbott: Do you just read the books on your desk? What else influences you? #followreader

@leverus: I read the trades. But I don’t trust them. I talk to editors and publicists and agents, a lot. And other writers. #followreader

@charabbott: Why not trust the trades? #followreader

@leverus: in the case of PW: no bylines. I need to know who the reviewers are, so I can understand their context, biases,etc #followreader

@Corb21: What chance does a smaller publishing house have at getting reviewed? What ups their ante? #followreader

@paperhaus: Indie houses have a good chance of getting attention around here. We review New Directions, Two Dollar Radio… #followreader

@charabbott: What’s the most offbeat book you’ve covered lately? #followreader

@paperhaus: Offbeat: probably LA BIZARRO, an updated list of wildly eclectic restaurants & places around LA. #followreader

@charabbott: How did you find out about LA BIZARRO. Sounds like a local publisher? #followreader

@paperhaus: LA BIZARRO was pubbed by Chronicle Books. #followreader

Do you use digital Galleys and e-Readers?

@NetGalley: Does having a printed galley on your desk influence you or will you track down a book if you want it? #followreader

@leverus: It never hurts to have a paper galley kicking around. But yes, I’ll hunt down a book if I know I want it. #followreader

@Corb21: how do you feel about a digital copy? Does it HAVE to be paper for you? #followreader

@leverus: No digital ARCs here. I don’t think e-reader tech is mature yet. and I need to take notes as I read. #followreader

@paperhaus: No digi ARCs here, either. Until a free reader shows up on my doorstep, I can’t afford to switch. #followreader

@leverus: It’s really about the note-taking functionality. Though also, yes, the $$$. Kindles are expensive. #followreader

@CollectedMisc: Just thought I would note that you can highlight and take notes on the Kindle and export as a text file. #followreader

@leverus Exporting from Kindle = possible but cumbersome. I’m a technophilic guy, but it has to outperform paper. to me, it doesn’t yet #followreader

@Corb21: if you got something digital would you ignore it or request the paper? #followreader

@leverus: I would request paper. Though if the pitch was v off-base, I would (to my lasting shame) probably ignore. #followreader

@paperhaus: I do not own an ebook reader, other than my iphone, on which I’ve installed several e-reader apps. #followreader

charabbott: Do you read for work on your iPhone? and if so, how does it affect the reviewing experience? #followreader

@paperhaus: I read on my iphone to compare apps for a blog post. But now it’s recreational; haven’t finished Moby Dick yet. #followreader

How Important is Publisher Marketing?

@jenwgilmore: Can we pls address the importance/influence of marketing? #followreader

@leverus: Re: marketing, I agree it is relevant. If a publisher is really investing $$$ in a book, that interests me. #followreader

@paperhaus: Wow, I’m really different than @leverus on this. I don’t care how much $ a pub house spends. This may be an east/west thing. #followreader

@leverus: I feel like I should clarify: marketing interests me b/c somebody at the house is willing to bet money on a book #followreader

@jenwgilmore: With so little marketing on “non-brand” names, what are the signals you respond to? The same as old days? #followreader

@leverus: Same as old days — “buzz,” whatever that means. gossip, good trades. but also blogs and twitter. #followreader

@paperhaus: My creaky old punk self distrusts marketing. Too much push and … I feel pushed. #followreader

@paperhaus: That said, it means a lot to have a genuine publisher or trusted publicist promoting your work. #followreader

@mattbucher: Should books be marketed at all? The cream will rise to the top?? #followreader

@leverus: I wish I believed that. I just don’t see the literary world as reliably meritocratic. sometimes cream sinks! #followreader

How Much Are Your Influenced by Social Media?

@charabbott: In the past year, have you heard more about books through social media or other online sources before publication? #followreader

@leverus: Yes, info about new books is definitely reaching me thru social media. Twitter especially, it’s amazing tool. #followreader

@paperhaus: I love hearing about books thru new channels (Twitter, Facebook) but also standing in the book room and reading #followreader

@paperhaus: But all the buzz in the world can’t save a book that doesn’t have that zing. #followreader

@Corb21: Who do reviewers trust on social media? Authors, Publishers, Publicists? Readers? #followreader

@paperhaus: Reviewers trust all of the above on social media: Authors, Publishers, Publicists, Readers #followreader

@michellekerns: I’d like to know what you both think about the explosion of blogs, etc. reviewing books. Does it drag the art down? #followreader

@paperhaus: I was an indie blogger before coming to the LATimes, so I’m a big fan of book blogging. More conversations! #followreader

@leverus: What a perilous question.More reviewers=more good reviewers, but I think there are irresponsible voices out there #followreader

@leverus: I think good reviewing rests on solid scholarship. must have read the precedents #followreader

@charabbott: Has direct feedback from readers via your blog prompted you to change any of your reviewing practices? #followreader

@paperhaus: re: direct feedback via the blog – never change practices. But my feelings have been hurt once or twice :) #followreader

@ClaudiaC: I’ve read that people are more inteested in ‘people like me’ reviews (Amazon) vs. ‘expert’ reviews. Thoughts? #followreader

@leverus:it’s a huge question. too big for a tweet. shifting from top-down to bottom-up culture. will change everything! #followreader

@ClaudiaC: fascinating change! Do you see bottom-up culture happening? #followreader

@leverus: I really do. See my much maligned WSJ piece “Good Books Don’t Have to Be Hard” for extended-play version. #followreader

How much attention to you pay to trade shows?

@charabbott: What about trade shows? Do you rely on buzz from Book Expo as much as ever? #followreader

@paperhaus: I’ve been to 4 or 5 Book Expos and I think it’s changed a lot.

@leverus, you’ve been to lots more, right? #followreader

@leverus: I’ve been to a grand total of 3 book expos! #followreader

@leverus: I listen to trade show buzz. I’m looking for info everywhere, even if it’s not top quality info. more = more. #followreader

@leverus: But with Book Expo in New York now, I’ll never be able to escape it again. #followreader

How much does your readership, and being an author yourself influence you?

@susanmpls: does your reader demographic influence picks? Or are you selecting what peaks your interest? #followreader

@leverus: reader demo does affect what I cover. I’m paid to serve Time readers. They skew older, and female.I keep it in mind #followreader

@charabbott: How has yr experience as an author changed your approach to reviewing? #followreader

@leverus: Being an author has definitely made me a gentler reviewer. I realize it’s partly a conversation w/ the author. #followreader

@charabbott: It sounds like you don’t review books you hate – so that should help with author relations! #followreader

@leverus: I don’t do hatchet jobs anymore. I used to. I wince when I think about it. #followreader Future of reviews?

@NetGalley: Do you worry about disappearance of standalone book review sections? or trust reviews will be elsewhere? #followreader

@leverus: I worry about disappearing book sections. but at the same time I wonder if they couldn’t do more to save themselves #followreader

@paperhaus: It’s OK for books not to have a stand-alone section; the real challenge today is to newspapers as a whole. #followreader

@paperhaus: I worry that professional reviewing is shrinking – anyone who wants in has to work xtra hard, bloggers or not

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