We’ve noticed that people seem to really enjoy our profiles of bookish types. (Yes, we actually do pay attention to things like reader comments and website traffic – not to mention retweets!). So, we are making a concerted effort to shine the light more frequently (and possibly more brightly) on the interesting individuals who make the bookish world go round.
Today we chat with Laura Dawson, who blogs at LJNDawson.com, and also pens the industry newsletter: The Big Picture . Laura (AKA: @LJNDawson on Twitter where she is a very valuable member of the bookish tweeting community), is a book tech savvy gal about town. As the CEO of LJNDawson.com, Laura helps lots of different players in the industry position themselves in publishing’s rapidly changing landscape. When not spreading the news that “books aren’t just books anymore,” Laura raises two fantastic daughters, and perfects her skills as a consumate foodie. But, since we’re here to learn about her bookish side, we managed to keep the conversation centered on that…
KM: What is the focus of your work at LJNDawson.com?
LD: I work with publishers, booksellers, and service providers in the book industry to help them navigate the challenges imposed on them by technological innovation. It’s a natural outgrowth of the work I have done in traditional jobs – at Muze, at Barnes & Noble.com, at SirsiDynix – all of these positions involved looking at different aspects of the book industry.
E-commerce, publishing, libraries – in each position, I had to get well-versed very quickly. But there’s only so much you can accomplish at any one company – what’s great about consulting is that you are continually exposed to new problems and new challenges, and you’re always learning.
KM:What’s your favorite part of your job?
LD: Um, all of it? I just really love what I do. I grew up in a very rural area where there were no bookstores. There still aren’t! I had two ways to get my mitts on books – the public library (which conveniently was right behind my house) and Scholastic Book Clubs.
I’ve become very passionate about access – about getting information to curious people (particularly kids) regardless of their economic or demographic circumstances. There is no reason curiosity should run up against walls anymore. I see technology – ebooks, syndication, content licensing, adaptive technology for the disabled – as being incredibly liberating for people who normally wouldn’t have access to big libraries or bookstores…or even traditional books as we know them.
I’m all about getting information to people – to the “end user” (I hate that term – it sounds like Judgment Day) – as rapidly, cheaply, and universally as possible. There should not be economic barriers to information. Balancing this belief with the belief that content is valuable and content creators should be paid (well) for what they do – this is the conundrum of my life. My career takes place between these two beliefs.
KM: What inspired you to start your blog and what inspired you to start your newsletter?
LD: I’ve been waiting for someone to ask me this! I started my blog in 2005, right after BEA. I just felt at that point I’d been in the business long enough to have valuable things to say. I started my newsletter in 2006 – I wanted something a little more long-form than the blog, where I could ruminate and pontificate more. And do fun things like “The Breadline” – which is where I talk about cool start-ups that are growing in the recession – or This Issue’s Acronym, which has turned out to be enormously popular.
Occasionally I’ll have a guest post. And I keep track of my colleagues as they roam around and release new products and move to different companies – the newsletter is like a playground for me.
KM Has the focus for either your blog or newsletter changed over time?
LD: No, I think it’s still short-form vs. long-form. It’s more about what the reader can take at any given moment. If you open a newsletter, you know you’ll be there a while. If you land on a blog, you don’t expect to be there for long. I will say that I feel a bit freer on the blog – I can launch a rant, or get passionate about something – and I’m more guarded and “professional” in the newsletter.
KM: Which of your blog posts so far is your favorite or most popular?
LD: I think my most favorite is like my second post ever, which was called “Lou Dobbs Is A Raving Nutball,” where I ended it: “Things that are supposed to make this blog massively popular. Excuse me while I do the necessary: sex, alien abduction, Oprah, Tom Cruise, Lindsay Lohan, Pat Robertson, Dick Cheney, Mark of the Beast, Armageddon, free money, Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt. Sex. Oprah.”
Lou Dobbs IS a raving nutball, by the way. That much hasn’t changed.
KM: What do you find most rewarding about blogging?
LD: Definitely the cash. (j/k) Truthfully, I’m just grateful to have a platform that seems to be self-supporting. My father was a minister – he delivered a sermon every Sunday. He was unusual – he almost never did re-runs, and my brother and sister and I would tease him unmercifully if he did. “We heard that one before!” If I had to get all evangelical about it, I’ve got two pulpits and a big message. And I don’t want to do re-runs.
KM: Is there anything that gets you down about blogging?
LD: A blog is like a baby – it has to be fed, nurtured, changed. Babies grow up. Blogs never do. This can be rather draining sometimes.
KM: What is your take on the changes in publishing right now? Good-bad? both/neither?
LD: Exciting. Just exciting. Models are changing, the definition of “book” is changing – I love the atomization of content. There are all these different ways of packaging it and making it available to people – I think this is amazing. I see how it is also frightening or threatening to traditional ways of thinking. I empathize. Not liking it, however, doesn’t make it go away.
My aim is to bring publishers and others along in their own time, the way they should naturally evolve. Some like a fast move, others not so much. We’ll all get there in the end. This is a time of upheaval and not everybody’s going to respond equally to that. That’s okay.
KM: Do you read paper books, ebooks, both/neither?
LD: I read everything I can get my hands on, in whatever format I can get it. I have a Kindle. Not everything’s available for it yet, though. Digital reading is great and I prefer it, but if I can get paper books cheaper/faster, I’ll go that route. Let’s not underestimate the library. I can go online and reserve an entire series of books for no money, pick them up at my local branch – which is three blocks away from me. That beats paying $9.99 apiece for a mystery series I’m going to forget next week. But if the library can’t supply that crucial third book in the series when I want it, I’ll buy it.
KM: What’s your favorite book?