TOOLS OF CHANGE FOR

PUBLISHING

Best of
TOC

Best of TOC

by Peter Brantley, Bob Stein, Joseph J. Esposito, James Bridle,
Liza Daly, Kate Eltham, Adam Hodgkin, Kassia Krozser, Bill
McCoy, Tim O’Reilly, Sara Lloyd, Andrew Savikas, and Mac
Slocum
Copyright © 2009 O’Reilly Media, Inc., All rights reserved.
Published by O’Reilly Media, Inc., 1005 Gravenstein Highway
North, Sebastopol, CA 95472.
O’Reilly books may be purchased for educational, business, or
sales promotional use. Online editions are also available for
most titles (http://safari.oreilly.com). For more information,
contact our corporate/institutional sales department:
800-998-9938 or corporate@oreilly.com .

Editor: Mac Slocum
ISBN: 9780596800628

Interior Designer: Mark
Paglietti

Table of Contents

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Best of TOC .......................................................... 1
1.1

Introduction .................................................... 1

1.2

Digital Rights Management Versus
Enforcement ................................................... 2

1.3

Amazon Ups the Ante on Platform LockIn ................................................................... 4

1.4

Ebook Format Primer ...................................... 8

1.5

Ergonomics and Ebook Success .................... 11

1.6

Responsibly Assuaging Author Concerns
About File Sharing and “Piracy” .................... 13

1.7

A Book Publisher’s Manifesto for the 21st
Century ........................................................ 16

1.8

It’s Time to Accept an Ambiguous Digital
Fate .............................................................. 35

1.9

Storytelling 2.0: Alternate Reality Games ....... 37

1.10 Content Owners and Consumers Need
Digital Quid Pro Quo .................................... 42
1.11 The Pitfalls of Publishing’s E-Reader
Guessing Game ............................................ 44
1.12 Treating Ebooks Like Software ...................... 46
1.13 On Publishers and Software Development ..... 51
1.14 Ebooks and Print Books Are Not Mutually
Exclusive ...................................................... 53
1.15 POD Opens Door to Magazine Experiments
and Customization ........................................ 55
1.16 Web Community Management Tips ............... 59

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Table of Contents

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1.17 Reinventing the Book and Killing It Are
Separate Things ............................................ 61
1.18 Q&A with Developer Who Turns Ebooks
into iPhone Applications ................................ 63
1.19 Terry Goodkind Follows The Money .............. 68
1.20 Web Analytics Primer for Publishers .............. 71
1.21 A Unified Field Theory of Publishing in the
Networked Era ............................................. 76
1.22 How Many Publishing CEOs Know What an
API Is? .......................................................... 87
1.23 Why You Should Care About XML ................. 89
1.24 Publisher as Brand? ....................................... 93
1.25 Regulating the Google Settlement ................ 95
1.26 Point-Counterpoint: On Digital Book
DRM ............................................................. 98
1.27 Point-Counterpoint: Digital Book DRM, the
Least Worst Solution ................................... 106
1.28 Interstitial Publishing: A New Market from
Wasted Time .............................................. 112
1.29 The Once and Future Ebook: On Reading in
the Digital Age ........................................... 116

Appendix A: Piracy Is Progressive Taxation,
and Other Thoughts on the Evolution of
Online Distribution .......................................... 147

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1.1. Introduction
Best of TOC is a collection of essential posts from the last 12
months, selected from the TOC blog and a number of external sources. We thank the contributors who allowed us to
include their work.
One of the mantras at Tools of Change is “fail forward
fast,” which is an alliterative way of encouraging experimentation. That’s why we felt it appropriate to use Best of TOC
as a testing ground for a “Web-to-book” process.
As we hoped, experimentation led to lessons we wouldn’t
have learned otherwise. Most notable among these: Readers
have different expectations for different formats, and it’s the
publisher’s job to make sure these expectations are met.
Considerable time went into the handling of hyperlinks, for
example. Looking at early Best of TOC drafts, it was clear
long URLs disrupted the narrative structure of the posts when
they were ported to book form, so we settled on footnotes
as an interim solution. We now have a better sense of the
pros and cons of this technique, and this knowledge will
undoubtedly inform future efforts.
The material in Best of TOC is a small part of an ongoing
dialog. We hope you’ll join us on the TOC blog 1 and the
TOC Community 2 as we collaboratively discuss the tools,
1
2

http://toc.oreilly.com
http://community.toc.oreilly.com

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developments and organizations that are shaping the future
of publishing.

1.2. Digital Rights Management Versus Enforcement
Andrew Savikas
February 21, 2008
Original Link: http://toc.oreilly.com/2008/02/digital-rights-manage

ment-vs-enforcement.html

On his blog, Bob DuCharme makes the point that what we
usually refer to as Digital Rights Management really refers to
enforcement 3, and that the actual management of rights is
both more complex and more important:
The management of digital rights, as opposed to
their enforcement, is a real problem in the publishing
industry, but discussion is usually drowned out by the
shouting matches about digital rights enforcement.
Here’s a typical use case: an editor wants to take an
article with six pictures from her magazine’s print edition and put it online. Two of the pictures come from
a cookbook being reviewed by the article, two were
shot for the article by a freelancer, and two come from
a stock photo house. Which images can the editor use
in the online version?
This is an issue we wrestle with regularly at O’Reilly, especially in the context of digital distribution. For Safari Books
Online 4, royalties are calculated with a fairly straightforward
formula involving print MSRP, page views, and a few other
variables. Recently, we’ve added video content to Safari 5,
3
http://www.snee.com/bobdc.blog/2008/02/managing_digi
tal_rights_in_the.html
4
http://my.safaribooksonline.com/?portal=oreilly
5
http://safari.oreilly.com/video

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which presented the challenge of applying the concept of
“page views” to video (we settled in part on using time increments as an analog).
Remix application SafariU also presented a more nuanced
set of use-cases. The original intent was to calculate based
on the proportion of pages a particular work represented
within a custom book. But this potentially favored books with
smaller trim sizes, where the same amount of content would
usually require more pages. So in the end we normalized all
the content to the same trim size (using XML, XQuery, and
XSL-FO) prior to rendering out as PDF.
Part of the problem is a lack of systems and standards for
dealing with this stuff sanely, as Bob rightly notes:
Whether you build or buy a system to track this,
there are three basic approaches, but first, a note on
software: there are vendors who will tell you “our fabulous product takes care of all that! Simply check in
the pictures or other content and enter the re-use
terms, and then you can look it up any time!” I’m not
interested in this unless the software can read and
write the re-use terms in a standard format whose
specs are independent of the software.

(That last sentence could really be applied to nearly every
vendor evaluation you do: “I’m not interested in this unless
the software can read and write _____ in a standard format
whose specs are independent of the software”)
It’d be great to see a constructive dialog on these crucial
rights management issues that sets aside the highly-charged
topic of enforcement 6.

6

http://radar.oreilly.com/archives/2005/09/ny-times-op-ed-on-authors-guil.html

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1.3. Amazon Ups the Ante on Platform Lock-In
Andrew Savikas
March 28, 2008
Original Link: http://toc.oreilly.com/2008/03/amazon-ups-the-ante

-on-platform-lock-in.html

We often hold up Amazon as an example of one of the original Web 2.0 companies 7. Their survival amid the tech meltdown was driven largely by the value of the data they’d acquired through thousands of reader reviews, recommendations, and “people who bought this bought that” collaborative filtering. Amazon was a system that grew more valuable
with more users: a network-effect-driven data lock-in.
That kind of lock-in is implicit : publishers were free to sell
their books elsewhere, and readers were free to buy them
elsewhere. Such implicit lock-in is characteristic of other Web
2.0 success stories, like eBay and craigslist. These sites relied
on the value of the unique data/marketplace they were building to implicitly raise enormous barriers of entry. Not much
fun if you’re a newspaper 8, but a boon for buyers and sellers.
But today’s news 9 from Amazon about print on demand
(POD) is the latest move from Amazon revealing a trend toward much more aggressive explicit lock-in attempts. (Not
that it’s an entirely new strategy from the folks that brought
you the “one-click” patent 10.) Amazon has effectively told
publishers that if they wish to sell POD books on Amazon,
they must use Amazon as the POD printer. Small/selfpublishers are unsurprisingly feeling bullied 11.
7
http://www.oreilly.com/pub/a/oreilly/tim/news/2005/09/30/what-isweb-20.html
8
http://www.ryansholin.com/2008/03/05/mercury-falling/
9
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120667525724970997.html?
mod=rss_whats_news_technology
10
http://www.oreilly.com/news/patent_archive.html
11
http://www.writersweekly.com/the_latest_from_angelahoycom/
004597_03272008.html

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Let’s look at four levels of lock-in at play here:
1. Data-driven lock-in. This is the core “Web 2.0” piece. Reviews and recommendations (and now data on S3 and
EC2 usage). Again, this is implicit, and in general is good
for consumers .
2. Format lock-in. Now things start to get explicit. Much like
Apple/iTunes, the Kindle is built around a proprietary data
format, and if you want to sell your title on the Kindle, it
has to be i n their format. This one is bad for consumers
(who can’t read their Kindle books on another device—oh,
the irony 12!), but isn’t immediately much of a problem for
publishers—at least until it leads to ...
3. Pricing power lock-in. Just as Apple reset the price of music (Wal-Mart just got the memo 13), Amazon is resetting
the price of a book 14. For customers who feel they
shouldn’t have to pay as much for something that never
needed to be printed or shipped, this makes sense. It’s
good for consumers, but bad for publishers . Then again,
the reason it’s bad for publishers means it may wind up
bad for consumers, too. When there are only three major
retail outlets for a computer book publisher like O’Reilly,
our publishing decisions are heavily influenced by three
very powerful industry buyers. If they don’t want it in retail,
we can either pass on publishing it, or try just going direct
—but the smaller volumes resulting from going direct
mean the price must be higher; consumers will either have
less choice (because we don’t publish titles that those
three buyers don’t want) or higher prices for some titles
12
http://phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=176060&p=irol-newsArti
cle&ID=1003003
13
http://www.rollingstone.com/news/story/6558540/walmart_wants_10_cds
14
http://www.teleread.org/blog/2008/03/25/the-price-of-a-k-book-new-20-ri
chard-price-novel-in-kindle-format-cut-to-995-after-buyers-balk/

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(since we have to make up for the reduced volume). The
upshot here is that lower prices in the short term can have
expensive long-term consequences 15.
4. Channel lock-in. This one raises the stakes considerably.
There are implicit ways of working this one, as Amazon has
done with their Prime 16 program: if you want that free twoday shipping, you gotta buy it from Amazon. But today’s
news means that for publishers (and I use that term loosely 17) who want to sell a POD book in Amazon, Amazon is
demanding they be the ones that print it. This is very bad
for publishers , particularly because it’s really a one-two
punch of pricing-power lock in as well 18. When a book
intended for POD has only one route to customers, the
company controlling that route is free to add whatever
tolls it would like. But it’s also bad for consumers , who will
soon have fewer places to find POD-only titles, and less
choice is rarely 19 a good thing.
Lock-in per se is almost always good for businesses , at
least initially, and that’s certainly the case here. But rather
than building or improving a system that’s built to implicitly
add another brick into the barriers of entry every time someone uses it, Amazon is taking the shortcut of using market
dominance to dictate favorable terms. Of course, Amazon is
not a charity, and if Jeff & Co. believe this is the best way to
create a sustainable competitive advantage, that’s their
choice—but publishers will defensively respond to this by
treating Amazon more like an adversary than a partner (eBay

http://www.walmarteffectbook.com/
http://www.amazon.com/gp/subs/primeclub/signup/main.html
17
http://www.lulu.com/
18
http://www.writersweekly.com/the_latest_from_angelahoycom/
004597_03272008.html
19
http://www.columbia.edu/~ss957/whenchoice.html
15
16

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has some experience on that front 20), which in the long run
isn’t good for anybody.
More coverage from around the Web:
• Publishers Weekly 21: “‘I feel like the flea between two

giant elephants,’ said the head of one PO)D publisher
about the upcoming battle between Lightning Source and
BookSurge/Amazon.”
• PersonaNonData 22: “As a practical matter, it is becoming

harder (and may be financially impossible for many small
POD publishers) to maintain separate relationships with
Amazon and all the rest of the publishing community.”
• LibaryThing 23: “Amazon’s move should concern all pub-

lishers, and indeed readers. Amazon has always had a lot
of leverage, but they haven’t used it. That’s clearly changing.”
• TeleRead 24: “I’m not saying that Amazon can achieve as

complete a control of e-books as Rockefeller did of oil, but
if you go by WritersWeekly’s account of the BookSurge
move, Amazon comes across as a bully who can be predatory with both E and P.”
• VirtualBookWorm 25: “This move would also force publish-

ers to increase the retail price of books, since Booksurge/
Amazon is going to charge for the printing of the book
http://money.cnn.com/2008/01/31/smbusiness/ebay_fee_hike.fsb/
http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6545772.html?
nid=2286&source=title&rid=1238994716
22
http://personanondata.blogspot.com/2008/03/amazon-monopoly.html
23
http://www.librarything.com/thingology/2008/03/amazon-deletes-competi
tion.php
24
http://www.teleread.org/blog/2008/03/28/amazons-pod-monopoly-bezosrockefeller-and-the-epub-angle/
25
http://www.virtualbookworm.com/
20
21

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AND take 48% of the net (although some have been told
48% of the retail)!”
• Booksquare 26: “While the publishing industry worries

about Google (and I am still convinced that working with
search engines to optimize access to your content is in the
best interest of everyone) and watches while Barnes & Noble moves further into traditional publisher territory, Amazon is amassing what is essentially a secret army.”
• Self Publishing 27: “But Amazon is a huge corporation with

plenty of room for mistakes, and I’d like to believe that
some rogue operators in their publishing division have
been overstepping their responsibilities. Otherwise, it
bodes ill for the future of the publishing industry to see the
new retailing behemoth so rudely throwing its weight
around. I just hope that we’re seeing the behemoth’s grafted on tail wagging its body, and the head at Amazon will
find out what’s going on and put the tail back in its place.”

1.4. Ebook Format Primer
Liza Daly
April 21, 2008
Original Link: http://toc.oreilly.com/2008/04/ebook-format-primer

.html

Amid all the recent ebook news 28, many publishers may still
be unclear about the different formats and devices. How do
ebooks actually get made? What changes need to be made
to existing workflows to enable content distribution to ebook
26
http://www.booksquare.com/amazon-changes-pod-tactics-removes-velvetgloves/
27
http://www.fonerbooks.com/cornered.htm
28
http://blogs.oreilly.com/cgi-bin/mt/mt-search.cgi?tag=ebooks&blog_id=40

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devices? We’ve put together this primer to help clear things
up.
The simplest solution, of course, is to partner directly with
the ebook manufacturers and let them take care of the details. These partnerships must be drawn up for each new
platform and publishers are at the whims of the devicemakers’ terms of use. Innovative publishers may want to first
experiment on their own and be prepared to shift platforms
strategically: this means ebook distribution must fit into existing workflows. Although some of the formats below support digital rights management (DRM), consider eschewing
DRM in favor of flexibility and cross-platform support.
Let’s start with the major devices first:
1. The Sony Reader primarily uses Sony’s proprietary Broadband eBooks (BBeB) format for documents with DRM but
also supports RTF and non-DRM PDF. Sony does not provide any official tools for end users to convert to BBeB
although at least one unofficial open source tool 29 can
convert HTML to BBeB. The most flexible non-DRM formats are RTF and PDF. Microsoft Word can readily save
to RTF and Microsoft offers detailed instructions 30 on converting from XML to RTF, but pure open-source alternatives are not mature. XML to PDF conversion has stronger
open source support 31 but files may need to be specially
tweaked for optimum display on the Reader.
2. The Amazon Kindle uses Amazon’s proprietary AZW format, which supports DRM. There are no tools available to
directly convert to AZW, but AZW is a wrapper around the
Mobipocket 32 format and DRM-free Mobipocket files can
http://code.google.com/p/bbebinder
http://support.microsoft.com/kb/311461/en-us
31
http://xmlgraphics.apache.org/fop
32
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mobipocket
29
30

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be read on the device. Mobipocket documents can be
created using a free (but not open-source) tool called
Mobipocket Creator 33. As if the format wars weren’t confusing enough already, “Mobipocket DRM” is not the
same as AZW, and files created as Mobipocket DRM cannot be read on the Kindle. Mobipocket Creator does have
a “batch” creation mode which could be integrated into
an existing workflow, but the software is Windows-only.
The Kindle also supports HTML and Word documents, but
not PDF.
Specialized readers aren’t the only way consumers may be
viewing ebook content. Ultra-portable laptops like the Eee
PC 34 and OLPC XO 35 are price-competitive with standalone
readers. (I have an OLPC and reading by the pool in bright
sunlight is quite a joy.) The next version of the iPhone is expected soon, and while the first edition was already a serviceable reader 36, the next version is likely to be more so, and
to reach a wider audience.
All the devices listed above, except the Sony Reader, can
read a common format: HTML. If XML is already a part of your
workflow, converting to HTML is trivial. If not, HTML is a
worthwhile investment for a number of reasons:
1. XHTML is the standard markup for book content in OPS/
ePub 37. ePub support is just getting off the ground but is
expected to become widespread 38.
http://www.mobipocket.com/en/DownloadSoft/ProductDetailsCreator.asp
http://www.teleread.org/blog/2008/03/10/asus-eee-pc-as-an-e-book-ma
chine-new-model-offers-89-inch-screen-higher-res-starting-us-price-of-499/
35
http://wowio.wordpress.com/2008/01/07/xo-laptop-as-pdf-ebook-reader-afirst-look/
36
http://radar.oreilly.com/archives/2007/01/the-iphone-as-an-ebook-read
er.html
37
http://www.idpf.org/
38
http://toc.oreilly.com/2008/04/keep-your-eye-on-the-epub-ball-but-playnice.html
33
34

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2. If your publishing workflow includes HTML, your organization is able to distribute content to dozens of devices in
addition to the open Web.
HTML is also the lingua franca of online search engines,
and inclusion of partial or full HTML books will attract casual
surfers and can drive community engagement with your content. Whether it’s BBeB or AZW that becomes the Betamax
of the next decade (and one, if not both, will be obsolete by
then), HTML conversion is guaranteed to pay off in the foreseeable future.

1.5. Ergonomics and Ebook Success
Mac Slocum
April 22, 2008
Original Link: http://toc.oreilly.com/2008/04/ergonomics-and

-ebook-success.html

Lee Gomes of the Wall Street Journal discusses the pleasant
surprise of reading ebooks on his BlackBerry 39:
Your thumb doesn’t fall off turning teeny-tiny digital
pages thousands of times to get through even the
most fleeting novella. In fact, the ergonomics almost
beats that of books.
Some will argue that mobile screen sizes don’t encourage
extended ebook experiences, but there’s something to be
said for the convenience of flicking through pages 40 with
your fingers or zooming along on a track ball 41 (or if you’re
old school, a click wheel). In fact, e-reader manufacturers
39
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120830725738118045.html?mod=hpp_us_in
side_today
40
http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1636
41
http://crackberry.com/new-blackberry-trackball-good-or-bad

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might want to look at popular handheld devices for design
inspiration—and by “handheld” I mean anything that can be
held in your hand, not just mobile gadgets.
Take the TiVo remote. In 2004, the New York Times did a
feature story 42 on this device:
Because of the nature of the TiVo video recorder,
the remote is held for long periods as users continually
choose shows to record, skip commercials, fast-forward and rewind recorded shows, rate programs by
pressing the thumbs-up or thumbs-down buttons,
and even pause live TV. Designing a remote that consumers would find comfortable was a high priority.
An e-reader doesn’t have much in common with a TV remote, but that’s not really the point. It’s all about core use.
The TiVo remote works because the oversized pause button
—embodying the essence of a DVR—is impossible to miss.
The iPhone works because the touchscreen gives you maneuverability in a small space, thereby narrowing the gap
between a mobile device and a PC. And the BlackBerry works
because the track ball lets you fly through menus and information. Moreover, each of these design elements is now
second nature to users, so manufacturers can safely incorporate similar (not stolen; similar ) functionality while avoiding user-interface re-education 43.
It could be that touchscreens and intuitively placed buttons/wheels/balls don’t enhance the ebook experience (although I think they might), but the current insistence on
meshing traditional books with ebooks isn’t a design nirvana,

42
http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?
res=9C0DE2D6123DF93AA25751C0A9629C8B63&sec=&spon=&pagewan
ted=all
43
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graffiti_(Palm_OS)

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either. As Gomes notes, the book-ebook connection isn’t
really necessary:
Until a few weeks ago, my assumption had been
that a useable electronic book would need to resemble a Gutenberg book as much as possible, with, for
example, pages of screen text about the same size as
pages of print ... The Sony Reader, however, turned
out to be a gateway device. Once you’ve experienced
its great rush of convenience, choice and portability ,
you just have to have more. It’s then that you cross the
line and start downloading British novels onto a BlackBerry. [Emphasis added.]
If “convenience, choice, portability” and other core ebook
attributes 44 define e-reader hardware design, then the resulting ergonomics could be the key attribute that reinvents 45 the established market 46.
(Via Teleread 47.)

1.6. Responsibly Assuaging Author Concerns About
File Sharing and “Piracy”
Andrew Savikas
April 28, 2008
Original Link: http://toc.oreilly.com/2008/04/responsibly-assuag

ing-author-concerns-about-piracy.html

Eric Freeman 48, co-author of O’Reilly’s Head First HTML with
CSS & XHTML 49 and Head First Design Patterns 50, recently
http://epublishersweekly.blogspot.com/2008/02/30-benefits-of-ebooks.html
http://www.apple.com/iphone/
http://www.palm.com/us/products/smartphones/treo650/
47
http://www.teleread.org/blog/2008/04/16/the-joys-of-e-books-on-a-blackber
ry-could-the-kindle-tablet-actually-lead-to-more-e-reading-on-bbs/
48
http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/au/2003
49
http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/hfhtmlcss
44
45
46

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asked via email about a rise in activity for Head First books
on a popular file-sharing site. His query sparked an interesting thread on the Radar 51 back-channel that I thought worth
sharing here.
The original question (sent to Tim O’Reilly 52, who passed
it along to the Radar list):
Tim
Any thoughts on the rise of Head First titles (mostly
HFDP and HTML) on Pirate Bay 53? I’m trying to just
take it as a sign there is strong interest in the books
still ;)
Hope all is well,
Eric
First to respond was Nat Torkington 54, who nicely summarizes the “Piracy is Progressive Taxation 55” argument (emphasis added):
Fantastic! There’s absolutely nothing you can do
about it, and unless you see sales dipping off then I
don’t think there’s anything you should do about it.
The HF books work really well as books, so at best the
torrents act as advertisements for the superior print
product (not often you can say that with a straight
face). At worst most of your downloads are going to
people who wouldn’t have bought the book at cover
price and who will, if they enjoy it, rave about it to
others.

http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/hfdesignpat
http://radar.oreilly.com
52
http://radar.oreilly.com/tim
53
http://thepiratebay.org/
54
http://radar.oreilly.com/nat/
55
http://www.openp2p.com/pub/a/p2p/2002/12/11/piracy.html
50
51

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So long as the royalty checks are strong, take BitTorrent as a sign of success rather than a problem. A
wise dog doesn’t let his fleas bother him.
Nikolaj Nyholm 56 followed up referencing Make Magazine’s 57 experience:
I agree with Nat. Tim, this is your own “my problem
isn’t piracy, it’s obscurity.” PT [Phil Torrone] has made
the argument that he tracks Make popularity based
on number of seeders on Pirate Bay (correct me if i’m
wrong, PT). However, I’m starting to see O’Reilly
books in Poland, printed in China, but with a different
cover. While it’s a market that you probably wouldn’t
reach with their current buying power, it’s something
I’d look into nonetheless. I’ll pick up a couple of books
next time I’m there and bring them next time I’m
stateside.
... and then Make’s own Phil Torrone 58 weighed in (again,
emphasis added):
Yup—seeing your books / magazines on Pirate Bay
is always a good thing—You’re current, you’re interesting, if you’re lucky your content transforms in to
advertising for other things—for Make, the magazines
become a campaign for our kits and events.
Authors are rightfully concerned to see their work pop up
on peer-to-peer file sharing sites (though on occasion they’re
the ones who put them there 59), but the answer should not
be to reflexively seek to stop it (you can’t anyway).
http://radar.oreilly.com/nikolaj/?
http://www.makezine.com
58
http://blog.makezine.com/
59
http://toc.oreilly.com/2008/03/bittorrent-as-a-book-publicity.html
56
57

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1.7. A Book Publisher’s Manifesto for the 21st Century
Sara Lloyd
May 13, 2008
Original Link: http://thedigitalist.net/?p=137

Print sales are falling. According to the National Endowment
for the Arts’ 2007 report To Read or Not to Read 60 both
reading standards and voluntary reading rates of traditional
print material amongst young people are falling. Textbook
publishers are fighting for sales; campaigning to alert students to the necessity of using their products. Hardback fiction has almost gone the way of the dinosaur. The open access debate rages on. Publishers and retailers have consolidated. More and more books are produced, but there is less
and less choice on the high street. Leisure time is transferring
away from books and reading, away from television even, to
the Web; to social networking sites, blogs, instant messaging, video and music file sharing sites. The attention economy is shrinking, fast. Academic research is—for many students—all about search. Let’s face it, for most students, actually, it’s all about Google. Who needs books anymore?
More to the point, who needs publishers?
In an “always on” world in which everything is increasingly
digital, where content is increasingly fragmented and “bitesized,” where “prosumers” merge the traditionally disparate
roles of producer and consumer, where search replaces the
library and where multimedia mash-ups—not text—holds
the attraction for the digital natives who are growing up fast
into the mass market of tomorrow, what role do publishers
still have to play and how will they have to evolve to hold on
to a continuing role in the writing and reading culture of the
future? Will there even be a writing and reading culture as
60

http://www.nea.gov/research/ToRead.pdf

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we know it, tomorrow? Is the publishing industry acting fast
enough and working creatively enough to adapt to the new
information and leisure economies?
Publishing is an old and established industry with its foundations firmly rooted in print culture. The publishing model
has evolved over history in a very slow, organic fashion. The
sedate pace of change has suited publishers. Stated simply,
the journey of a text from author to reader has been a linear
one, with publishers traditionally fulfilling the intermediary
roles of arbiter, filter, custodian, marketer and distributor.
There has been some blurring at the edges, some tinkering
with the process, but little radical change. In the literary
world, agents have, at least partially, usurped the arbiter and
filter roles. Retailers have become, to some extent, marketers
and, occasionally, have even become publishers themselves.
However, by and large, the stages in the process have been
clearly delineated and the role of the publisher clearly defined. From a print perspective at least, publishers have offered one key, relatively unique set of abilities: to produce,
store and distribute the product to the market. The rise and
rise of the Internet has begun to disrupt this linear structure
and to introduce the circularity of a network. More challengingly, perhaps, it has raised the distinct possibility of publisher disintermediation by more or less removing as an obstacle the one critical offering previously unique to publishers—distribution.
Publishers—and, importantly, authors—will need increasingly to accept huge cultural and social and economic and
educational changes and to respond to these in a positive
and creative way. We will need to think much less about
products and much more about content; we will need to
think of “the book” as a core or base structure but perhaps
one with more porous edges than it has had before. We will
need to work out how to position the book at the centre of

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a network rather than how to distribute it to the end of a
chain. We will need to recognise that readers are also writers
and opinion formers and that those operate online within and
across networks. We will need to understand that parts of
books reference parts of other books and that now the network of meaning can be woven together digitally in a very
real way, between content published and hosted by entirely
separate entities. Perhaps most radically, we will have to
consider whether a primary focus on text is enough in a world
of multimedia mash-ups. In other words, publishers will need
to think entirely differently about the very nature of the book
and, in parallel, about how to market and sell those “books”
in the context of a wired world. Crucially, we will need to work
out how we can add value as publishers within a circular,
networked environment.
One of the key perception shifts that publishers need to
make, then, is about the book as “product.” Whilst the book
continues to be viewed as a definable object within covers,
as a singular “unit,” publishers will continue to limit their role
in its production and distribution, and this is a sure fire way
for publishers to write themselves out of the future of content
creation and dissemination. There are two areas of activity in
the linear progression of a text between author and reader
which have previously remained hidden to the reader: the
development of the text itself; the writing and editing process, and the sales, marketing and distribution of the text.
Readers have traditionally had no role in the former and only
a limited role in the latter, through word of mouth recommendations or viral marketing. It is likely that today’s digital
natives, who have become “prosumers” (producer / consumers) with alarming speed and perhaps even more alarmingly different levels of proficiency, will expect a great deal
more involvement in both of these areas of activity if they are
to be engaged by texts. Witness two mainstream examples,

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the Star Wars films and the Harry Potter books and films, both
of which have developed massive prosumer (or “superfan”)
followings, and both of which have seen conflict between the
film companies and the fans that are creating content.
A minority of publishers have begun to experiment with
the blurring of these traditionally distinct boundaries already.
Chris Anderson’s The Long Tail 61 was of course written “in
public” via a blog, allowing readers to post comments and
to be involved in the very act of writing the book. O’Reilly’s
Rough Cuts 62 make a virtue of the concept of developing a
book online first and have established a business model for
combining pre-publication and post-publication access.
McKenzie Wark’s Gamer Theory was also blogged before it
was produced as a book, allowing readers to post comments
and to make suggestions about the shape of the book.
GAM3R 7H30RY 1.1 was “a first stab at a new sort of “networked book,” a book that actually contains the conversation
it engenders, and which, in turn, engenders it.” At the Institute for the Future of the Book 63 readers can read the original
version (v1.1), view the fully annotated version with all the
reader comments alongside the core text, read v2.0, join a
related discussion forum or view visualisations of theories
within the text.
The locked-in perception of the book as a unit or a product
has also led to digital “strategies” which largely consist of
the digitisation of existing print texts in order to create
ebooks. This in turn has led to an obsessive focus on the
reading device and a perception that the emergence of a
“killer device” will be a key driver in unlocking a digital future
for books in the way that the iPod was, say, for music. This is
a flawed perspective in a number of ways, not least because
http://www.thelongtail.com
http://www.oreilly.com/roughcuts/
63
http://www.futureofthebook.org/mckenziewark/
61
62

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it fails to recognise the enormous amount of online or digital
“reading” that already takes place on non-book-specific devices such as desktop PCs, laptops, PDAs and mobiles, but
also because it fails to recognise that the very nature of books
and reading is changing and will continue to change substantially. What is absolutely clear is that publishers need to
become enablers for reading and its associated processes
(discussion; research; note-taking; writing; reference following) to take place across a multitude of platforms and
throughout all the varying modes of a readers’ activities and
lifestyle.
As digital reading devices go, Amazon’s Kindle 64 is probably the first to at least recognise the importance of the
“connectivity” between our differing modes of reading, the
fact that readers might like to follow up references within the
text or to conduct a related search. The addition of wireless
connectivity to the device and the capacity (although frustratingly limited) to connect to blogs, online newspapers and
other Web-based content goes some way towards recognising this as well as to acknowledging the fragmented, “always on” nature of most people’s reading habits today, allowing readers to move seamlessly from reading a few pages
of a novel, say, to snacking on some news, before picking up
a couple of blog feeds. This is absolutely not to say that the
Kindle has tied up the future of digital reading and defined
what the experience should be; far from it. It signals a step
change in that it connects downloadable digital units of
reading matter (“ebooks”) with the more exploratory-style
online reading and researching, and it is the first device to
be intrinsically connected to a commercially viable ebook
platform. However, the Kindle is merely one device with one
64
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00154JDAI/ref=nav_swm_kindle2?
pf_rd_p=469966691&pf_rd_s=nav-sitewide-msg&pf_rd_t=4201&pf_rd_i=nav
bar-4201&pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_r=1RF6JGHJ976DREYAPMVS

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very specific agenda and, as such, it only provides one small,
rather flawed element of the picture that is emerging of a
future for digital reading.
Reading is not an activity that can be defined simply and
it is all too often described as a solitary, immersive experience, as in the experience of reading a novel for hours at a
time. This is only one type of reading, and it is important to
recognise that narrative fiction makes up less than 25% of the
entire book market. In any case, even if a reader spends some
solitary time reading, readers have always traditionally liked
to swap views and ideas about the content of books, to turn
over the corners of pages in which favourite passages appear
to which they want to refer again, and to write notes in the
margins. Reading is a much less passive activity than it at first
appears, and it is connected with many and diverse related
activities. The Internet has not created a more active or proactive approach to reading but it has enhanced it, enabled
it to happen across more disparate networks and allowed it
to be recorded, aggregated and interlinked in exciting new
ways. The way in which books might begin to “live” on the
Internet will perhaps be the most palpable incarnation of
Roland Barthes’ theories in Death of the Author 65, in which
the author is no longer the focus of creative influence but
merely a scriptor, and every work is “eternally written here
and now,” with each re-reading, because the “origin” of
meaning lies exclusively in “language itself” and its impressions on the reader.
Publishers need to provide the tools of interaction and
communication around book content and to be active within
the digital spaces in which readers can discuss and interact
with their content. It will no doubt become standard for digital texts to provide messaging and commenting functions
65
http://www.amazon.com/Image-Music-Text-Roland-Barthes/dp/0374521360/
ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1235307880&sr=8-2

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alongside the core text, to enable readers to connect with
other readers of the same text and to open up a dialogue
with them. Readers are already connecting with each other
—through blogs, discussion forums, social book-marking
sites, book cataloguing sites and wikis. Publishers need to be
at the centre of these digital conversations, driving their development and providing the tools for readers to engage
with the text and with each other if they are to remain relevant. Bob Stein at the Institute for the Future of the Book 66
talks about the networked book 67:
... the book as a place, as social software—but basically ... the book at its most essential, a structured,
sustained intellectual experience, a mover of ideas—
reinvented in a peer-to-peer ecology.
I like Chris Meade’s story 68 illustrating how publishers
should not hold on too tight to the shores as we set sail into
future waters:
We (a novelist friend and I) visit(ed) a fish shop by
the river that was flooded out. They’d only just
opened an extension built at a height recommended
by a local fisherman who had told them, “That’s as
high as the tide went nine years ago—you’ll be all
right.” They weren’t.
Bloggers mix text with still images with moving pictures embedded from YouTube etc.—young people
take that media mix for granted, and as consumers we
all do, watching TV adaptations of favourite books,
using the Web to research more about the author to
discuss at our reading group. A new generation of
http://www.futureofthebook.org
http://www.libraryjournal.com/article/CA6332156.html
68
http://www.futureofthebook.org/blog/archives/2007/11/not_drown
ing_but_waving.html
66
67

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more consciously transliterate reader will take it as
read that the text is surrounded by researches, images, networks of reader response to the point where
these become an entirely integral part of the work of
art, the author’s creative voice distinct but no longer
so alone.
The flooded fields are rather beautiful and it’s already hard to recall what the landscape looked like
before. Nature can adapt instantly to change; it takes
longer to redraw the maps.
Not all books need to be networked books. There will still
be a place for that deeply immersive, solitary reading, I hope,
in the future. But publishers had better be the ones defining
what the shape of a “networked book” should be nonetheless, because if they are not someone else sure as hell will
be.
And whilst the edges of the book become more porous,
the concept of a “book as unit” slowly disappears further into
history, new business models are already emerging. The value in the chain moves from a model which intertwines content with distribution to a model which simply values the
content. Tim O’Reilly spotted this years ago and his company
built Safari books online as a subscription service accessed
with a browser, which now has revenues in excess of those
widely cited for the entire downloadable ebook industry. As
he points out in his recent blog post Bad Math among ebook
enthusiasts 69 on O’Reilly Radar:
... as for the kind of books that you don’t read from
beginning to end, but just use to do a job like looking
up information, or learning something new, the “all
you can eat” subscription model may be more appro69

http://radar.oreilly.com/archives/2007/12/bad_math_ebooks_kindle.html

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priate [than unitary pricing]. With Safari, we’ve increasingly moved from a “bookshelf” model (in which
you put books on a bookshelf and can only swap at
month end) to an all you can eat model, because
we’ve discovered that people consume about the
same amount of content regardless of how much you
make available. All you can eat pricing lets people
take what they need from more books, but it doesn’t
increase the total amount of content they consume. It
merely changes the distribution, and in particular, favors the long tail over the head.
As Scott Karp observes on O’Reilly’s comments in his blog
post on The Future of Print Publishing and Paid Content 70
on Publishing 2.0:
Instant full access to a searchable digital library is a
radically different form of distribution from buying reference books one at a time and putting them on your
bookshelf. But here’s the fascinating part—“it doesn’t
increase the total amount of content they consume.”
People still value and use the content in much the
same way, despite the radically different distribution
model. By unbundling these books into a digital library, consumers essentially repackage them by
searching for and selecting specific content items.
So even when consumers value content enough to
pay for it, they intuitively understand that it doesn’t
cost the publisher nearly as much to make the content
available digitally as it did to put all of those books
physically on a shelf. That’s why consumers aren’t willing to pay for the equivalent of buying ALL the books
70
http://publishing2.com/2007/12/06/the-future-of-print-publishing-and-paidcontent/

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in print. You can’t price a bus ticket the same as a
plane ticket simply because they both get you from
point A to point B—it costs a lot less to drive a bus
than fly a plane.
Online science fiction publisher Baen Books’ Webscriptions 71 offering puts a value on material pre-publication and
demonstrates a successful, early move from unitary distribution and pricing to a flexible, subscription offering. This Webbased re-creation of the serialized novel using science fiction
published by Baen Books 72 offers novels published in three
segments, one month apart, beginning three months before
the actual publication date. Each month four books are made
available for $15 per month. About two weeks after the last
quarter is delivered, print versions of the books become
available in bookshops.
Publishers are also slowly waking up to the idea that, whilst
the book online can no longer always afford to be an island,
neither can the publisher. Consumers of books care very little, if at all, about publisher brands. Some authors are
brands, but publishers have largely remained invisible to
consumers in terms of branding. In the online space, publishers need to recognise that readers simply want the content they require—and fast, simply, without barriers or walls
ring-fencing random selections of content purely because
one content set belongs to one publisher and another set to
a second, different publisher. A useful network of books will
almost always, inevitably, cross the boundaries between a
number of publishers. In the journals world this has been
recognised and resolved by cross-publisher platforms and
linking systems such as CrossRef 73 and IngentaConnect 74.
http://www.webscription.net/
http://www.baen.com/
73
http://www.crossref.org
74
http://www.ingentaconnect.com
71
72

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As books move online, similar developments will be necessary to connect the multiple references between books published by many different publishers, but book publishers
have been far slower to develop cross-publisher platforms
than journals publishers were, perhaps because the critical
nature of citations in journals publishing offered a clearer
strategic and commercial driver in the journals world. In the
education market at least, the requirements for custom publishing in which institutions, their academics and students are
able to construct bespoke textbooks and course materials
drawn from content published by multiple publishers will also no doubt only increase, and publishers will need to get a
whole lot better at finding ways to come down from their
ivory towers and work together.
Customisation will not stop at bundling multiple texts together, though. Something that has shocked traditional media companies perhaps more than anything about the Web
2.0 world is the desire of consumers to produce and to share
rich media content of their own rather than or in addition to
being passive consumers of media streamed down to them
by the corporations. The explosion in blogs, the popularity
of digital photo sharing sites, the more or less overnight success of YouTube, the rise of “citizen journalism,” the development of “machinima” (the creation of films or clips created
by gamers manipulating the characters in video games) all
bear witness to the strong desire of individuals to express
themselves and their creativity and to share their productions
with the world via the Web. As Jeff Gomez 75 points out in
his book, Print is Dead , the emerging generation of digital
natives quickly graduated from “Generation Download” to
“Generation Upload,” a generation which is “beginning to
define itself by mixing, mashing, and combining disparate

75

http://printisdeadblog.com/

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elements of what they’ve pulled from the Internet and then
changing it into something else.” Publishers will need to
provide the wherewithal for these new “prosumers” to customise published texts, to create their own complementary,
ancillary content and to link it to the core text if they are to
continue to provide an experience of reading which engages
“Generation Upload.” And as a new generation of readers
interacts with texts online publishers will be wise to place
themselves in a position to harness the network data and
collective intelligence produced by social annotation and
media creation, the sum of the “Wisdom of Crowds,” and to
apply this to its future content development and to its marketing.
But as texts become increasingly interlinked and prosumer-generated ancillary content and commentary grows, and
as the distribution model moves from chain to network, the
power of search—a.k.a. Google, at least in today’s world—
will only increase. The economics of distribution have been
devalued by the digital content stream, but access—and
search—have become all-important. Publishers in the trade
space especially—and Amazon, too—might well be focusing
far too much attention on the future of the download. Could
it be that Amazon is betting on the wrong horse, assuming
device (Kindle) plus distribution platform (Amazon ebook
store) will be the killer combination? Many publishers are
watching the mobile space with interest, and even more are
observing Apple particularly closely to see how the iPhone
and the iTouch perform, and whether either is widely adopted as a reading device. Both devices are already very text
capable and Apple is likely to improve these capabilities. As
Adam Hodgkin points out in a November 2007 post on his
Exact Editions blog, Amazon versus Google for Ebooks? 76:
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http://exacteditions.blogspot.com/2007/11/amazon-versus-google-forebooks.html

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Google with its Book Search 77 program and its alliances with libraries 78 is going to occupy the place
that would otherwise appear to be Amazon’s of becoming our preferred source of access to published
literature. Amazon seems to have taken a wrong turn
in supposing that distribution, rather than access and
search, is the key challenge for digital print.
The TeleRead 79 blog has been giving the most
thorough all-round coverage of the Kindle and Sony
ebook readers. David Rothman who blogs many of
the TeleRead pieces admits to being close to being a
Kindle supporter 80; he probably would be, if only it
eschewed DRM and embraced the ePub 81 open
ebook standard. But what would Google say to the
ePub format? Google will ignore ePub, which is inimical to their advertising business model. The Google
Book Search approach makes downloads irrelevant
(the downloads GBS provides are very clunky, much
less usable than the online GBS). In fact, for Google,
downloads are just as outmoded and unneccessary as
DRM.
Google and Apple, between them already have the
solution for ebooks (and it’s not a download solution).
Read and search on your iPhone and access via a Web
browser, anything in print can be handled that way.
More to the point: everything in print can be handled
that way. Everything will be searched via the Web,
everything will be accessed via the Web. Downloads

http://books.google.com/
http://www.managinginformation.com/news/content_show_full.php?
id=5547
79
http://www.teleread.org
80
http://www.teleread.org/blog/2007/11/24/motley-fool-challenges-kindlesellout-ballyhoo-oh-and-how-about-the-segway/
81
http://www.openebook.org
77
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are pretty much of an irrelevance. The question is:
what do authors and publishers plan to do about that?
Answer: “Maybe the publishers should themselves
try selling/granting access direct.” Aside from Google
with its Book Search, the publishers are the other variable in the market-place which has a promising opportunity if the Amazon Kindle download system
bombs. ... After all, scientific and technical publishers
have made a reasonable fist of creating a digital market for their STM periodicals. Book publishers need to
create access opportunities and figure out how to sell
digitally direct.
The question really is no longer, “Will consumers read on
screens in the future?” or “Will all content be found on the
Internet?” The question is rather, “How will consumers read
on screens in the future?” and “How will all content be found
on the Internet?” And as publishers have been latecomers
to the online party, the question lurking behind all of this is
what, if any, role do publishers have in the digital future? It’s
a future which is not too distant and in which texts are potentially increasingly inter-related, multiple information sources and media types are mashed, and a combination of
search and social networks provides the gateway and the
guide to content online.
Perhaps publishers might position themselves in new intermediary roles: helping authors to write through platforms,
or bringing authors and readers together in new and creative
ways. However, by and large, on a strictly technical level at
least, publishers aren’t needed at all for these functions.
There is a tremendous amount of available application software online which can bring most of this about. Initiatives
such as Amazon’s CreateSpace bring authors and readers
together and then apply the “Wisdom of Crowds” to ensure

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that the best and most popular content rises to the top. Perhaps it could be argued that publishers will always be required in order to bear—or at least share—the financial risk
of publishing a work, but again, with print distribution out of
the equation, and with print on demand offering the ability
to print a single copy for each single order, financial outlay
in terms of production and product storage and delivery disappears. Publishers need to work quickly to define what the
quintessence of publishing is, what the core value provided
by the publisher is beyond the technicalities of matching
content with readers. When pressed to think about this,
much of what publishers have to offer beyond the technicalities is qualitative rather than quantitative: stewardship, consultancy, an imprimatur. Will authors continue to value these
things enough to believe that publishers are critical to the
publication of their works?
An interesting question is that of scale. Should publishers
be joining forces to create multi-publisher platforms, to dominate content networks by developing critical mass across
content types and ensuring that content is interlinked in the
most valuable and rich ways? If that is the case then publishers are probably mistaken in handing off this role to Google.
In its current form, Google Book Search is already providing
the access key to multi-publisher book content. It is, in effect,
creating the online book platform. It does little to interlink
the various texts but that would be a logical next step. Any
publisher which continues to regard Google as a benign
partner helping to bring their valuable content to light on the
Internet has their head firmly buried in the sand, but in the
Internet space, publishers attempting to stand up to Google
is a little like a small shoal of fish attempting to push back a
tidal wave. In fact, “standing up to Google” may not be the
answer at all, but finding a way to complement Google is
difficult, when this Internet giant is so easily able to move and

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occupy new digital spaces. And Google’s quiet announcement that it will invite Internet users to produce “Knols”
(units of knowledge; introductions to topics that will appear
when a user searches on that subject) has been widely touted
as a direct competitor to Wikipedia, but, more to the point,
it firmly signals the search company’s intent to move directly
into the publishing space.
Perhaps the only way to answer this will be for publishers
to focus back on developing specialist expertise around vertical niches, taking advantage of the “deep niche” provided
in the long tail world of the Internet, as described so well by
Michael Jensen in his article on the subject in the Journal of
Electronic Publishing (The Deep Niche, The Journal of Electronic Publishing, vol 10, no 2, Spring 2007). In this context
publishers would focus value around subject or genre expertise and intimate, direct market knowledge, providing
editorial and marketing functions beyond the merely “technical.” In this scenario publishers would need to move back
further into the territory of filter and editorial consultant and
to re-focus energies on their (oft forsaken) role as career nurturers for authors (a space currently shared at least by agents
in the trade space). They would also need to develop brands
around subject or genre niches so that their platforms are
able to gain traction over those developed by competitors
and to become far, far better at direct sales and marketing.
Publishers will need to press further into the retail space, developing direct relationships with consumers of their content, if they are to become an effective bridge between authors and readers. Whatever shape the future holds, it looks
like publishers won’t survive unless they regain some of the
roles that over the years have been handed off to other partners in the distribution chain.
Publishers have always spoken proudly of their role as custodians of copyright, preservers of culture, but how much

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have they really done to ensure the existence of a digital archive? This—along with developing the interconnections
within and across archives of content from multiple publishers—would be a clear role for publishers to take, but has
Google already stolen a march there, too? The publishing
world awaits the outcome of Google’s legal battle with the
Author’s Guild, but in a way, the bluster about Google’s
generous interpretation of the fair use clause often only
serves to cover up a sense of shame that it was not publishers
who first chose to invest in the digitisation of our print archives and to develop the means to access them. Many historians and archivists and librarians are concerned about the
possible impact on content quality of a mega-corporation
focused in the main on expanding search, adding to its advertising revenue potential and providing “good enough”
information for the attention poor consumers of today. Robert B Townsend outlines some of the flaws in the content and
the metadata provided via Google Book Search and asks:
... what’s the rush? In Google’s case the answer
seems clear enough. Like any large corporation with
a lot of excess cash the company seems bent on
scooping up as much market share as possible, driving competition off the board, and increasing the
number of people seeing (and clicking on) its highly
lucrative ads or “renting” copies of the books. But I
am not sure why the rest of us should share the company’s sense of haste. Surely the libraries providing
the content, and anyone else who cares about a rich
digital environment, need to worry about the potential costs of creating a “universal library” that is filled
with mistakes and an increasingly impenetrable smog
of (mis)information.

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As historians we should ponder the costs to history
if the real libraries take error-filled digital versions of
particular books and bury the originals in a dark archive or the dumpster. And we should weigh the cost
to historical thinking if the only substantive information one can glean from Google is precisely the kind
of narrow facts and dates that earn history classes such
a poor reputation. It is time, it seems, to think in a
careful and systematic way about how this will affect
our discipline, and the new modes of training and apparatus that will make it possible to negotiate the volume and flaws of the emerging digital landscape.
(Robert B Townsend, Google Books: Is it good for
History?, Perspectives, September 2007).
Whilst Google has led the drive to make book content
“discoverable” online, publishers have been slow to harness
Web techniques to promote and sell books, both in print and
in digital formats. Many, many publishers are still nowhere
near even managing the basics, of systematically creating
and storing and “seeding” sample chapters, excerpts, audio
or video author interviews, schedules of author appearances,
links to media coverage, featured material on social networking sites and rich bibliographic material. Whether publishers will find a way to cohabit with Google and the other
search engines, to ensure that their content is discoverable
through search but on their terms , to regain the lead as specialists in the marketing and selling of books, of content, remains to be seen. Publishers certainly could have a role to
play in trying to work with Google and the other search engines to ensure the highest standards of quality are upheld,
that the metadata is accurate, that the future users of the
digital archive will find more than simply “good enough” in-

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formation and will be able to plough a rich seam of digital
marketing materials in support of authors and their books.
Let’s hope that is possible for a moment. Whichever way
it goes, in order for publishers to break their traditional boundaries and to develop into the publishing companies of tomorrow will require a step change in their form, culture and
approach. Digital publishing strategies will need to move
from defensive or protective to creative and liberal, with an
emphasis on enabling readers to share and to change what
they read. A move away from text-centricity and towards
multimedia will no doubt be key and this has repercussions
for the kinds of rights that publishers will need to negotiate
as well as for the skills they will require of their staff. Publishers will need to view themselves as shapers and enablers
rather than producers and distributors, to take a project rather than a product approach and to embrace their position as
merely a component element in a reader, writer, publisher
circularity. They will need to embrace new business models
and they may even need to become media companies rather
than publishing companies. They will need to understand
and know and connect with their readers far, far better and
they will need to develop brands that hold the highest kudos
for authors and imply brand values to consumers that appeal
to readers around identifiable niches. Ultimately they may
need to ready themselves sooner rather than later for a fight
to the death not only with their current partners in the distribution chain but also with non-traditional competitors who
are rapidly devouring the space which has traditionally been
reserved for them.

Sara Lloyd is Digital Director for the UK trade publishing
house, Pan Macmillan 82 . She is responsible for developing
the company’s digital strategy and publishing program,
82

http://www.panmacmillan.com

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management of Pan’s Web platform, applications and tools
and leading the organisational, cultural and operational
change to enable Pan Macmillan to position itself for an increasingly digital future.

1.8. It’s Time to Accept an Ambiguous Digital Fate
Mac Slocum
May 15, 2008
Original Link: http://toc.oreilly.com/2008/05/its-time-to-accept-an

-ambiguou.html

“Digital transition” articles and discussions tend to fall into
one of two camps:
1. The “change is inevitable and/or positive” camp —These
pieces are typically marked by an enthusiastic tone and
broad generalizations about the rosy future of digital industries, but firm numbers and case studies 83 are in short
supply. (I tend to write and gravitate toward this camp 84.)
2. The “path is murky; the money isn’t there” camp —Few of
these stories fully embrace a sky is falling mentality 85, but
they do plant themselves 86 between the old rock (the current system is broken) and the new hard place (most digital business models aren’t viable).
But lately I’ve noticed a third camp emerging amidst the
discourse, and I think this one might hold the most promise:
It’s the “embrace ambiguity” position.

http://toc.oreilly.com/2008/05/lessons-for-publishers-in-idgs.html
http://toc.oreilly.com/2008/04/how-do-publishers-and-authors.html
85
http://ajkeen.com/e.htm
86
http://www.ajr.org/Article.asp?id=4427
83
84

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Chris O’Brien from Media Shift touches on this perspective 87 in his report from the National Association of Music
Retailers conference:
I listened hard for any obvious lessons or strategies
that newspapers should consider, and I didn’t necessarily hear any. Experiment wildly. Study the audi-

ence. Be platform agnostic. Embrace any format or
device where users get their music. [Emphasis added.]
Not exactly a “Braveheart”-esque call to arms, but
O’Brien’s practical standpoint is thematically related to the
forward-thinking “Valley of Death” concept developed by
Michael Cairns from PersonaNonData 88:
The ‘valley of death’ is the graphic depiction of what
will happen to your revenue line as you proactively
make a transition from print to digital. If you are lucky,
after 3-4yrs you will regain the revenue you had in the
year before you attempted to transform your business. Ultimately, the business becomes stronger and
more flexible in the manner in which the publisher can
seek new markets and business development. It’s just
that the valley looks so horrible (and no one will make
their bonus) that discourages the publisher.
I’m sure many people would place both of these excerpts
squarely in the negative camp, but I see it differently. They
share an undercurrent of reality—a shoulder shrug toward
acceptance—that says, “If ambiguity is the best we can hope
for, then ambiguity is what we’ll work with.” At this point, as
http://www.pbs.org/idealab/2008/05/its-not-just-a-newspaper-probl.html
http://personanondata.blogspot.com/2008/04/georgia-state-sued-for-copy
right.html
87
88

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Web revenue continues to find its footing and the path toward digital sustainability is still being built, an embrace of
ambiguity is the best available option.

1.9. Storytelling 2.0: Alternate Reality Games
Liza Daly
May 21, 2008
Original Link: http://toc.oreilly.com/2008/05/storytelling-20-alter

nate-real.html

Publishers are experimenting 89 with an emerging form of interactive entertainment known as Alternate Reality Games
(ARG) 90. ARGs are mediated by the Web but they also extend into the real world, with players traveling to physical
places and interacting with game characters via email, text
messaging, Twitter 91, and even “old-fashioned” telephones.
I spoke to the founders of ARG design firm Fourth Wall
Studios 92, the company that created the first publishing
ARG, Cathy’s Book 93. I wanted to know if ARGs are a viable
form of commercial storytelling, if they can be packaged up
after the experience has ended, and if they can engage with
a wider audience beyond hard-core gamers.
Do you think the high level of engagement required of an
ARG limits the audience? Is there such a thing as a “casual”
ARG, that can be enjoyed in the spare moments between
soccer practice and dinner time?
Elan Lee 94, Fourth Wall Studios Founder/Chief Designer:
ARGs up until now have been like rock concerts. Thousands
(if not millions) of people come together at one point in time
http://wetellstories.co.uk/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alternate_reality_games?
91
http://www.twitter.com/
92
http://www.fourthwallstudios.com
93
http://cathysbook.com/
94
http://www.fourthwallstudios.com/founders.htm?
89
90

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to collectively experience something incredible. They have
a good time, sing along, maybe buy a T-shirt, but when they
go home to tell their friends about it, there’s no action their
friends can take other than to hope they don’t miss the next
one. The traditional ARG is an experience that exists between the start and end date of the campaign, and if you
weren’t there at the right time, you simply miss out.
To continue the metaphor, think of our games [at Fourth
Wall] as ARG “albums” instead of concerts: something you
can play when, where, and how you want. Ultimately, it is only
through this “album” approach that this new form of entertainment is going to evolve into a mainstream genre of storytelling.
Many ARGs have been developed as promotional tools for
other media: music releases 95, films 96, TV series 97, video
games 98, and now books. Is there a perception that ARGs
have to be in support of something else, rather than entertainment themselves?
Elan Lee: ARGs have had their roots in marketing because
frankly, at this early stage, that’s a great place to find money.
Marketers have a tougher job every day of finding ways to
get their message heard above the noise, and they have a
lot of money to throw at the problem. It’s a great situation
for both sides: marketers get to engage their audience in a
way that attracts, involves, and maintains an audience
around a product. ARGs benefit in that we get to run wild
and ground-breaking experiments as we birth this new art
form.

http://www.42entertainment.com/yearzero/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Beast_%28game%29
97
http://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/01/arts/television/01manl.html?
ex=1317355200&;en=9a89c6ab5bf568c9&;ei=5088&;partner=rssnyt&;emc=rss
98
http://www.ilovebees.com/
95
96

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Also, at least in the case of Nine Inch Nail’s Year Zero 99
and Cathy’s Book 100, the ARG elements were not conceived
as marketing, but as an inextricable part of the content. An
album or a book was the spine of the experience, but the
work of art itself was conceived as an interactive multimedia
whole.
Cathy’s Book was targeted at a young adult (YA) audience.
Do you think YA is a strong market for this kind of interactive
entertainment? Would it be possible to engage even younger children?
Sean Stewart 101, Fourth Wall Studios Founder/Chief Creative: Cathy’s Book and the new hardcover, Cathy’s Key 102,
are designed to be first and foremost a fun (and funny) adventure story. We’ve added a lot of “fourth wall” elements
—you can call Cathy’s phone number and leave her a message, investigate clues she doesn’t have time to investigate
or write to email addresses you find in the book and see what
responses come back to you. Cathy even hosts a gallery
where readers can submit their own artwork—the best of
which will be published in the paperback of Cathy’s Key. The
basic impulse behind this series is to make books—a traditionally passive, solitary activity—something with an active,
social component as well.
“Fourth Wall” fiction—experiences that play out at least
partly over your browser, your phone, your life—feels somehow very right for this new age; it’s a kind of storytelling that
arises naturally from the world of three-way calls, instant
messenger, text messaging, and shooting a friend an email
with a link to something cool you saw on the Web. To that

http://yearzero.nin.com/
http://www.cathysbook.com/
101
http://www.fourthwallstudios.com/founders.htm
102
http://www.cathyskey.com/
99

100

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extent, it’s going to feel the most natural to the people most
comfortable with that kind of wired world.
When I was in New York last year, meeting with the publisher of Cathy’s Book, my 12-year-old daughter emailed me
a PowerPoint slide deck, complete with music and animations, explaining why I should get her a Mac laptop for Christmas. Yeah, I think her generation finds interactive entertainment more natural than mine. And yes, I think it would be
not only possible, but really effective to build interactive, exploratory stories for even younger kids—but to do that, we
need to get away from the traditional ARGs willingness to be
confusing. Most people like to have some clue what the heck
they are supposed to do next. It won’t surprise you to learn
that this is another crucial design issue Fourth Wall Studios
has set out to solve.
Reading is usually a solitary pursuit, but there’s an almost
universal desire to “live” in some genres, whether it’s idealized period romances, spy novels, or detective stories (murder mystery parties, especially popular in the 1980s, illustrate
this). How important are traditional fiction genres in ARG?
Can there be an element of role-playing involved? Are there
genres that haven’t been explored yet that have potential?
Sean Stewart: The first paid writing I ever did, actually, was
for live-action role-playing games and murder mystery dinner parties in the ’80s. I never would have guessed that writing for those things would turn out to be extremely important
training for me, but in fact the intersection of writing and
theater, where you try to find ways for the audience to participate in the story, lies at the heart, I think, of the next evolution in storytelling.
We believe that immersing yourself in a world is a fundamental part of what makes fiction fun. Any time I follow a
character—whether in a Jane Austen novel or a “Matrix”
movie—I am imagining what that must be like. One of the

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biggest pay-offs in an ARG is that you don’t just imagine a
fictional world, as in a book, or see it, as in a movie: you
actually inhabit it. When I read a Harry Potter novel, I get to
go to Hogwarts vicariously; when I play an ARG, I get to go
myself. I am finding Web sites on my browser, I am talking
to characters on my phone: the world of the fiction has
reached out to me.
That proposition, by the way, shouldn’t be limited by
genre. ARGs have often had a thriller/science fiction slant to
them, but even inside our games we’ve done romantic comedies, spy plots, documentary-style slice-of-life experiences,
tragedies, and even Westerns. Fourth-wall fiction isn’t about
a given genre: it’s a set of tools and approaches for letting
the audience participate in any kind of story.
What happens when the game is over? Is it possible to
package up an ARG as a complete work (whether online or
in print) to be experienced linearly? Or is the experience
meaningless without real-time participation?
Elan Lee: Here’s where I’m going to try to get as much
mileage out of the “rock concert” metaphor as I can. There
is no denying the electric energy present at a concert and
there is absolutely no substitute for “being there.” However,
there are only so many available seats per venue, and only
so many venues you can play before exhaustion sets in (both
for the artist and the audience). For ARGs to evolve into a
mainstream form of entertainment, they must create their
own version of “albums” to complement the “concert.”
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying we have to find a way to
put a package around these things and call it a day; I only
suggest that both pieces of the experience must exist for the
real potential of the form to be realized.

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1.10. Content Owners and Consumers Need Digital
Quid Pro Quo
Mac Slocum
May 28, 2008
Original Link: http://toc.oreilly.com/2008/05/content-owners-and

-consumers-n.html

Recent comments 103 from Jeff Gaspin, president and chief
operating officer of NBC Universal Television Group, illustrate the one-step-forward / one-step-back mindset plaguing mainstream media organizations.
First, the step forward:
On-demand viewing is a key component of the increase in viewers, Gaspin asserted. “I believe the ability for consumers to sample content elsewhere,
whether it’s VOD 104 [video on demand], DVD or [online] streaming, helps build a new fan base. So when
hit shows come back, I believe more people come
back than in prior seasons. That has all contributed to
growth in cable.”
Using VOD and other technologies to increase awareness
and woo viewers to an established platform—such as a TV
show 105—is a progressive perspective. Incorporation of VOD
and online access also builds good will with consumers because it works with their usage patterns, rather them forcing
them into specific programming at specific times.
But then there’s the step back:

103
http://marketwatch.nytimes.com/custom/nyt-com/html-story.asp?guid=
%7BE9BCCDAF-A447-494C-9548-9466201F96C1%7D
104
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Video_on_demand
105
http://toc.oreilly.com/2008/05/web-community-lessons-from-ste.html

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“I think it’s [VOD] a smart offering for the [cable]
operators and for us,” Gaspin said. “But a couple of
things have to happen: Fast-forward has to be disabled, we have to have dynamic ad insertion, and we
have to have legitimate measurement of the viewership.”
Flexible advertising and reliable measurement tools 106 are
reasonable requests, but disabling the fast-forward button
contradicts the consumer-friendly perspective in the first
quote (hence, “step back”). Granted, the same article containing the Gaspin quotes also notes a VOD pilot program
that disabled fast-forward 107 and was still well received
among consumers, but the overall inconsistency in these
messages is what’s troubling. Gaspin seems to understand
the value of consumer empowerment to an extent, but the
old command-and-control mindset creeps back in when it
comes to the details.
That said, the success of digital efforts—whether it’s videoon-demand, online access, or distribution of free ebooks—
does require concessions from content owners and consumers. But these concessions need to be marked by consistency. If a content owner, such as NBC, wants to use VOD to
drive viewers back to its primary platform, then the VOD material should have all the functionality consumers have grown
to expect (i.e. keep your paws off my remote ... and my computer ... and my e-reader). But in exchange for easy access
and availability, consumers shouldn’t be offended by inepisode advertising 108, visible sponsorship branding, or requests for demographic data (with opt-out options, of
course). Ultimately, a reasonable amount of quid pro quo—
http://toc.oreilly.com/2008/05/digital-experiments-and-useful.html
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/25/business/media/25abc.html
108
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/CommercialPopUp
106
107

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defined by consistency—allows both sides to take advantage
of digital platforms.

1.11. The Pitfalls of Publishing’s E-Reader Guessing
Game
Mac Slocum
June 3, 2008
Original Link: http://toc.oreilly.com/2008/06/the-pitfalls-of-publish

ings-er.html

A parlor game is working its way through the publishing industry: “Guess E-Reader Sales.”
Neither Amazon nor Sony will reveal sales figures for Kindles or Readers, so publishing professionals and prognosticators are relying on ambiguous data 109—e.g. financial line
items 110, or the amount and tone of user comments 111 on
the Kindle’s Amazon listing—to squeak out guesstimates.
Parlor games are generally innocuous, but two short paragraphs in the New York Times’ BEA roundup 112 touch on the
competitive disadvantages stemming from e-reader
ambiguity:
But neither Amazon nor Sony will say how many of
their products they have sold, making it impossible for

publishers to assess the size of the market or for bookstore owners to evaluate the threat .
One publisher estimated that Amazon had sold
roughly 10,000 Kindles, while another estimated that
as many as 50,000 electronic-book readers of all types
http://biz.yahoo.com/ap/080403/the_state_of_e_books.html?.v=3
http://www.alleyinsider.com/2008/5/how_many_kindles_sold_last_quarter_
111
http://www.amazon.com/review/product/B000FI73MA/
ref=dp_db_cm_cr_acr_img?_encoding=UTF8&showViewpoints=1
112
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/02/books/02bea.html?pagewan
ted=1&partner=MW_CUSTOM
109
110

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are in general circulation. But both publishers, who
spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that those
figures were little more than educated guesses . [Emphasis added.]
Again, this guessing game may seem harmless on first
blush, but closer inspection reveals three business pitfalls
bubbling beneath the surface:
1. False response through vapor messages: Amazon’s two
recent Kindle “announcements” (here 113 and here 114) are
intricately developed statements, each of which requires
second and third looks 115 to realize there’s no “there,”
there. Combine these official announcements with customer comments and sales guesses already in circulation,
and soon we’re all amplifying messages that don’t actually
exist. Meanwhile, Amazon receives attention without ever
showing its hand.
2. As the Times notes, ambiguous threats are impossible to
evaluate: The default response to closely guarded sales
figures is to assume those figures are low. But the longer
the e-reader guessing game goes on, the easier it becomes for imagination and fear to creep into the equation.
These emotional responses, if taken to an extreme, may
actually hinder publishers from developing their own digital gameplans.
But there’s a flip side to extended ambiguity: If/when
Amazon and Sony ever reveal reliable information, publishers might breath a sign of relief because they finally
know what they’re dealing with. The anxious shuffling
we’re currently witnessing could finally turn into definitive
http://toc.oreilly.com/2008/05/amazon-kindle-owners-buy-more.html
http://toc.oreilly.com/2008/05/kindle-bits-price-drop-and-rou.html
115
http://radar.oreilly.com/archives/2008/05/twittering-d-conference-and-kin
dle-sales-stats-finally.html
113
114

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business strategies—and this is a prime reason why we
may never see hard data from either of these companies.
3. The distraction component: All this talk about Kindles and
Readers and the impending doom heralded by electronic
formats distracts everyone from the larger digital issue: It’s
not the device that matters, it’s the platform.
Making books available in digital formats (“the platform”)
is vital to sustained and future growth because digital is both
a way to take advantage of current devices like the Kindle
and the Reader, and it’s a way around hardware lock-in 116.
Popularity defines the power of a content device (this is why
the iPod is infinitely more powerful than the Zune), but if a
content provider cannot accurately gauge popularity, then
the focus needs to elevate to a broader level of analysis: How
can my company take advantage of digital as a whole? How
can we best position ourselves to adapt if/when the electronic book tipping point emerges? How do we make the
platform work for us ?
Distraction from these core questions makes it easier for a
third party to swoop in and grab the platform itself, which,
as we’ve seen on the music side, is where the real power
lies 117.

1.12. Treating Ebooks Like Software
Mac Slocum
June 5, 2008
Original Link: http://toc.oreilly.com/2008/06/treating-ebooks-like

-software.html

http://toc.oreilly.com/2008/03/amazon-ups-the-ante-on-platform-lock-in.html
http://toc.oreilly.com/2008/02/what-itunes-as-no2-retailer-might-mean-forpublishers.html
116
117

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Peter Kent 118, DNAML’s 119 senior vice president for U.S. operations, brings a software-centric perspective to ebooks. In
the following Q&A, Kent discusses the merits of in-book
transactions, affiliate marketing, and other digital initiatives
that can benefit book publishers.
In your presentation at last month’s IDPF Digital
Book ’08 120 you discussed treating ebooks like software. Do
you feel the software model is directly related to ebooks, or
are there specific aspects of the software model (“try before
you buy” trialware, download ebooks through multiple outlets, etc.) that are more in line with ebook/publishing goals?
Not sure of the distinction you’re making here. I think that
there’s much about software distribution that applies to
ebooks, and why not? Ebooks are, of course, pieces of software. In particular, providing ebooks in a trialware 121 format
makes a lot of sense, and is a proven model. That’s why Amazon let’s people view a portion of a book, that’s why Barnes
& Noble likes having people in their stores hanging out reading. And of course, download through multiple outlets
makes a lot of sense, too. Why wouldn’t you distribute your
products as widely as possible? If trialware works—and it
does—then you naturally want as many people as possible
to get the books in their hands. The large, established publishers are going to have a shock when they see the new
book-distribution world. It’s no longer a gentleman’s game
in which everyone hands over their books to a bookstore,
and then they all compete on the same level. In the future
the more aggressive publishers are going to go out and find
book buyers even before the buyers have thought about
buying!

http://en.oreilly.com/toc2008/public/schedule/speaker/295
http://www.dnaml.com
120
http://www.idpf.org/digitalbook08/default.htm
121
http://www.google.com/search?q=define%3A+trialware
118
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Do publishers focus too much on the “book” aspect of
ebooks? Would a shift toward a file/software perspective
open things up?
Some do. The more advanced publishers understand
what’s going on, but I do think there’s still a bias toward the
old method of distributing books: give your books to a retailer who puts the books on shelves. Certainly up until recently most publishers have had the idea in their mind that
in order to sell ebooks they have to create the ebooks and
then give them to Amazon and other retailers to sell. Little
thought has gone into new methods of distribution. What
may save the publishers is that new distributors will come on
the scene: distributors who understand the new landscape
and go out and push the books.
Are ebooks available through sites like Download.com 122, Tucows.com 123 and other software-specific
hubs? If not, should they be?
You can already find ebooks in many software download
sites, though most do not yet have specific ebook categories. ZDNet’s download site doesn’t have an ebook category,
for instance, though it does have an ebook “tag 124.” Download.com has a music category and a games category, why
wouldn’t they have a book category? Of course they will
eventually, as more and more books become available. But
one thing holding back the creation of ebook categories is
that only free books, or trialware books, will fit. Once books
from major publishers are commonly sold as trialware, you’ll
see the download sites pay more attention.
What about ebook availability through P2P sites/mechanisms, such as BitTorrent 125?

http://www.download.com
http://www.tucows.com
124
http://updates.zdnet.com/tags/E-books.html
125
http://toc.oreilly.com/2008/03/bittorrent-as-a-book-publicity.html
122
123

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Trialware books are perfect for this form of distribution.
In your conversations with publishers and others in the industry, do you feel most people understand the basics of
internal ebook transactions and affiliate tagging? How do
you describe these concepts to newcomers?
Most publishers haven’t the slightest idea about this.
When I ask publishers “do you know what affiliate marketing
is?” I typically get a response such as “um, well ...”. So if they
don’t understand what affiliate marketing is, they certainly
don’t understand affiliate tagging. This isn’t true of all publishers; Harlequin, for instance, is really good at online marketing, and certainly understands affiliate-marketing well.
So, how do I explain these things? Well, by internal transactions, I mean that each ebook is its own shopping-cart system. You reach a point inside the book that you cannot get
past without paying. You enter your credit card information
into the book itself (though the actual form is retrieved from
a server so, for instance, the book price can be changed at
any time), and when you submit your card and it’s approved,
the server automatically unlocks the book, so you can continue reading.
As for affiliate tagging, this is the ability to add a code to
each book you distribute—one code for each specific distribution channel—so the publisher or distributor knows where
that book came from. If you distribute through Web Site A,
10,000 people download the book, and 500 buy it, you know
that those 500 people came from Web Site A. If you put the
book in a magazine insert, 100,000 people buy the magazine, 10,000 copy the book to their computers, and 500 buy
it, then you know that those 500 customers came from that
particular magazine insert. Thus you can pay the right company the required affiliate commissions.
So these two components, along with the ability to partially lock a book, allow you to create trialware books—

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try-before-you-buy books—that can be distributed widely,
through many different channels.
Is there an opportunity for competing publishers to generate affiliate revenue by selling other publishers’ books?
Absolutely! Books can be bundled within books—certainly
our DNL format allows this—so a publisher might bundle
several locked books at the end of the book. Those books
might belong to the publisher or, in appropriate cases, from
another publisher. In particular, of course, small publishers
could benefit from these sorts of relationships with other
publishers.
What is the upside of “try before you buy” in ebooks?
A try-before-you-buy book with built-in transaction processing, and built-in affiliate tagging, opens up a whole new
world of distribution options. All of a sudden, the book can
go anywhere. Sell computer books? Talk with computer manufacturers about putting your books on the desktop of every
new computer sold, and talk to software manufacturers
about bundling the books in their software downloads. Sell
photography books? Put them on the software CDs inside
digital-camera packaging. Sell wine books? Give away trybefore-you-buy books on wine Web sites. Science fiction
novels? Give books away on fan sites. Those three things—
try-before-you-buy, internal transaction processing, and affiliate tagging—free books from ecommerce Web sites, and
provide almost limitless marketing opportunities.
What viral/social aspects does your company include in
ebooks? (Email to a friend, etc.)
We include email-to-a-friend, of course. If you try a book,
like it, and buy it, that book is now unlocked. But if you email
it to a friend or colleague, when it lands on the recipient’s
computer it’s now locked. Word of mouth is hugely important in book sales; it always has been. Email-to-a-friend is
essentially a modern-day word-of-mouth feature. We also

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allow people to share notes. Members of a book club could
highlight areas of the books, add notes, then email the highlights and notes to each other. Members can import these
things, and see who said what based on the name at the top
of the notes.
Are ebook giveaways useful?
Of course. Companies such as Harlequin use giveaways to
build interest. I think, though, that these giveaways will get
more sophisticated, as publishers learn more about trybefore-you-buy books. For instance, if you’re giving away a
book, you’re hoping that the reader will come to your site
and buy another one at some point. But why not create a
giveaway book, a single file, that includes a book for sale at
the end of the free book? Or several books from which the
reader can choose?
Do you recommend user tracking and registration? How
in-depth should this tracking/registration be?
Of course you want as much information as possible; we’re
in business, after all, so we need to create relationships with
buyers. Amazon does this. I like to point out to publishers
that someone owns the relationship, it’s just not them. If you
sell photography books and someone buys one of your
books through Amazon today, tomorrow Amazon will start
promoting other photography books to this buyer. Some of
these books will be yours, perhaps, but most won’t! So Amazon’s tracking, and Amazon’s benefiting. Publishers are going to learn to do the same for themselves, and some already
are.

1.13. On Publishers and Software Development
James Bridle
July 16, 2008

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Original Link: http://booktwo.org/notebook/on-publishers-and

-software-development/

“The blogosphere has been buzzing since the App
Store launched over last weekend with comments
about ‘dozy publishers’ who have missed a great opportunity to make their books available on the iPhone.
But apart from a few digital PR points scored against
competing publishers, there doesn’t seem to me to
be any huge value in first mover advantage here for
publishers, unless we want to make the decision to
become software developers.”
Sara Lloyd has responded over at The Digitalist 126 to the
many comments (including ours 127) on this issue. She strikes
a note of caution, and suggests that publishers adopt a
“wait-and-see” attitude—in some contrast to her excellent,
and must-read, “Book Publisher’s Manifesto for the 21st
Century” 128.
But what I’m interested in is the suggestion that publishers
are not in the business of developing software. I think there’s
an interesting discussion here, and a couple of points to be
made.
Firstly, publishers—particularly Macmillan—are already in
the business of developing software. Macmillan’s MPS Technologies 129 division built the software, BookStore 130, which
runs key parts of many publisher’s businesses, including their
own. Indeed, they even launched ebook delivery sites 131
based on this technology, although these appear to have
http://thedigitalist.net/?p=190
http://booktwo.org/notebook/a-salute-to-michael-stackpole
128
http://thedigitalist.net/?p=137
129
http://www.mpstechnologies.com/index.htm
130
http://www.mpstechnologies.com/bookstore.htm
131
http://www.mpstechnologies.com/bookstorediscovery.htm
126
127

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gone offline. The big publishers employ developers for the
Web, for their IT systems, for much else, most of the time.
Secondly, who better than publishers to craft such software? Most ereader technologies are built by techies who
put the technology before the reading experience: the combined skills of typesetters, print designers, editors and technologists that only publishers possess could, with the right
direction, produce a far superior e-reader app than any we’ve
seen so far.
The development of the book has always been driven by
publishers. Bookselling is a business, and while I’m far less
convinced of the “death of the book” than appearances may
suggest, a terminal attitude of “wait and see” does not indicate a healthy, growing industry. Publishers have the tools
at their disposal. Why not use them?

James Bridle is an editor, publisher, and technologist. He
writes about literature and technology at booktwo.org 132, is
the creator of bkkeepr.com 133, a Web application for tracking your reading, and Bookkake, a technology-led, independent publisher (bookkake.com 134).

1.14. Ebooks and Print Books Are Not Mutually
Exclusive
Mac Slocum
July 16, 2008
Original Link: http://toc.oreilly.com/2008/07/ebooks-and-print

-books-are-not.html

Ebook discussions invariably lead to the “tactile experience 135” counter argument. Many folks love the sensory
associations of a printed book, and they’ll defend those
http://www.booktwo.com
http://www.bkkeepr.com
134
http://www.bookkake.com
132
133

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feelings vociferously—even when no one is challenging
them. The simple suggestion that an ebook could offer functionality beyond the scope of a printed book causes some
book lovers to pull up the castle gates and light the moat on
fire.
But here’s the odd thing: A small group of bleeding edgers
believe print’s demise is imminent, but in many more instances the people taking a pro-ebook stance are also fans of
printed books. They’re not looking for printed books to go
away, rather, they want to consume content in the best possible format for their particular needs.
I’ve witnessed a number of lively discussions in which the
sensory argument overwhelms a broader analysis of future
reading behaviors, and that’s where the problem lies. In each
case, the print defenders run through the “sensory checklist”:
• Reading in bed
• Reading to your children
• Slowing down, sitting down, curling up ...
• Holding, feeling, smelling, experiencing ...
All of these are excellent print book defenses, but each is
a counterpoint to debates that were never raised. The bigger
conversation—and something that often gets pushed to the
back burner—is about the reading ecosystem . Print books,
ebooks, Web sites, mobile and whatever emerges down the
road are merely conduits for content. Unnecessary defense
of one format of another obscures the opportunity to customize and improve the reading experience on a title by title
and consumer by consumer basis.
135
http://news.soft32.com/electronic-books-with-musty-book-smelllaunched_4902.html

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Sara Nelson 136 summed up this same idea in a recent
column:
... the e-worriers are, I predict, way wrong, just as
those who worried that audiobooks would supplant
“real” books, and DVDs would demolish cinemas
were wrong. Sure, there is some cannibalizing and
crossover, but just as there are certain books you
would rather listen to than read (and vice versa) and
some movies you’ll rush to the theater to see, there is
room in the world for another way to enjoy written
narrative.

1.15. POD Opens Door to Magazine Experiments and
Customization
Mac Slocum
July 28, 2008
Original Link: http://toc.oreilly.com/2008/07/pod-opens-door-to

-magazine-exp.html

MagCloud 137 is a new print-on-demand (POD) service targeting the magazine industry. In the following Q&A, MagCloud consultant Derek Powazek 138—co-founder of JPG
Magazine 139 and founder of Fray 140—discusses the utility of
POD and the evolving relationship between print and Web
content.
How did you get involved with MagCloud?
I came into the project over a year ago—it had been percolating in HP Labs 141 for a long time before that, led by
http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6574045.html
http://magcloud.com/
138
http://powazek.com/about
139
http://jpgmag.com/
140
http://www.fray.com/
141
http://www.hpl.hp.com/
136
137

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Andy Fitzhugh, Udi Chatow, and Andrew Bolwell. Andy is the
one who brought me in. We had this meet and greet lunch
to talk about the future of publishing and it turned out we
had the same vision. He kept saying, “Right, now push that
further.”
When did you first encounter POD?
Years ago, when Heather [Champ] and I were exploring
ways to make a photography magazine, Lulu 142 was really
the only game in town. We learned so much creating JPG
there, and starting with a POD service allowed us to experiment, develop the voice and vision of the magazine, and
build an audience. I think it’s a very natural way to start a
magazine.
How did you gravitate toward a POD model for magazines?
It’s all about the Giant Pile. I’ve worked on a lot of newspaper and magazine projects, and they all had one thing in
common: A huge print run, followed by the slow, terrible realization that you’ve gotta get rid of all that paper.
POD banishes the Giant Pile to the dustbin of history
where it belongs. Because, with a POD system, you don’t
print it until somebody wants it. It avoids the pile. It avoids
creating trash (70 percent of all magazines are never bought).
It brings some of the elegance of the Internet to this very old
industry.
But mostly it was just a financial decision. Heather and I
weren’t out to become publishing magnates. We just had an
idea that we thought people would like. We wouldn’t have
been able to do it at all if not for POD.
What types of magazine publishers (large, small, individuals, etc.) are best suited for MagCloud?

142

http://www.lulu.com/

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I think that magazines are about nurturing a community. If
you look at the most successful magazines (Rolling
Stone 143 in the ’60s, Wired 144 in the ’90s, Make 145 now),
they’ve always been the ones that surfed the zeitgeist. They
found a growing community of people and reflected it, and
in that reflection, began to lead it for a time.
But if you tell people in the publishing industry that they’re
really in the community business, they’ll say “shut up, hippy”
and go back to monetizing their audience metrics.
So the trick is to find those niche audiences that need a
voice. And there are a lot of them. And the truth is, they know
who they are better than we do. So, with MagCloud, the idea
is to open up the tools so that those communities can create
their own magazines. We think they’re going to make amazing things.
Do you see larger magazine publishers eventually moving
to POD, or will this be a niche option?
Not only do I think that large magazine publishers will
move to digital printing, but I think that the idea that we used
to print millions of things that were exactly the same will
someday be seen as a cute historical artifact. “You mean every copy of this magazine was the same for everyone, Grandpa? Weird!”
For the biggies, it’s just a matter of economics. As soon as
the price per page for printing on digital is cheaper than traditional offset printing, the biggies will move. The quality of
POD is already the same or better than offset.
It’ll start with smaller publications because they’re the
most agile, and they don’t see the real price savings of scale
anyway. Right now, if you’re printing a few thousand copies,
digital printing is the same cost as traditional offset. (I’ve
http://www.rollingstone.com
http://www.wired.com
145
http://makezine.com/
143
144

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been wrestling with this for Fray.com—we’re right at the
cusp. Our first issue 146 was printed via traditional offset, but
issue two will be printed with MagCloud.)
And once magazines move to POD, they’ll realize it opens
up opportunities they never had before. When you can really
tailor each issue for each subscriber, what will you do?
Exciting, huh?
Book publishers often focus on the short-term elements of
POD, most notably POD’s higher cost per page. Some industry folks try to cite the long-range benefits, such as efficiency, higher retail prices via customization, etc., but the
per-page discrepancy continues to be a sticking point. Have
you encountered similar obstacles on the magazine side?
Magazines are a better fit for POD because, unlike books,
they’re usually all color and timeliness is much more of a factor. Plus, the price per page for digital print is falling fast,
while the price per page of traditional offset has remained
very steady. Still, the exciting part is all the opportunities
digital printing enables. Ultimately, POD services like
MagCloud will enable a degree of customization that is not
only cheaper, but just plain impossible to do via traditional
means.
Beyond strict numbers, what do you see as the upside to
print editions? Does a print product carry a higher level of
esteem for a writer or consumer?
I love the Web. I think it’s still a publisher’s dream come
true. But, inconveniently, we humans are still real world creatures. And no matter how much connectivity blankets the
planet, and how good our devices get, there will still be a
role for print.
I don’t say this because I’m some ancient technology fetishist. I don’t own a tube amp. I sold all my CDs. It’s just that

146

http://www.fray.com/issue1/

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print is a really good delivery mechanism for some kinds of
experiences. Reading a physical magazine is a different experience than surfing hypertext online.
And, yes, I think the scarcity of print does give it a higher
level of importance for its creators and consumers. On the
Web, where every page is just a click away from any other,
there’s no relative importance communicated. But in a magazine, you know that a team of writers and editors picked this
story to go here. That has a profound effect on how that media is consumed.

1.16. Web Community Management Tips
Mac Slocum
August 4, 2008
Original Link: http://toc.oreilly.com/2008/08/web-community-man

agement-tips.html

Whether intentional or not, Bob Garfield from NPR’s “On the
Media” reopened an old wound when he questioned the
need for user comments on newspaper Web sites 147.
The “comments issue” is polarizing. Die-hard community
advocates believe comments are an integral part of the online experience. Detractors draw a straight line between user
comments and the apocalypse. It’s a contentious topic with
very little middle ground.
For our purposes, there’s no point in looking at all the arguments and counter-arguments. The comments debate has
been going on for at least 10 years (much longer, if you count
Usenet 148 ), and it will persist as long as trolls 149 continue to
lower the conversational bar. That’s just the way it is.

http://www.onthemedia.org/episodes/2008/07/25/segments/104537
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Usenet
149
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Troll_(Internet)
147
148

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However, this latest flare up offers an opportunity to redirect the focus to some of the time-tested best practices for
managing Web communities. Derek Powazek (whom we
recently interviewed 150 for an unrelated piece) offers an excellent starting point with “10 Ways Newspapers Can
Improve Comments 151,” and Cory Doctorow’s “How To
Keep Hostile Jerks From Taking Over Your Online Community 152” is recommended reading.
I’ve also picked up a few bits of wisdom from my own experiences as a community manager:
1. Nurture the Good—The majority of people want to do the
right thing. They want to engage in fruitful and fulfilling
conversations. They want to build and protect special
communities. These are the people you focus on .
2. Push Trolls to the Margins—All popular communities will
eventually suffer through a troll infestation. The trick is the
minimize a troll’s impact by not taking the bait. Moderators should never engage in a public argument, and key
community members should be encouraged via private
messages and back channels to ignore troll attacks. A
marginalized troll is a useless troll, and they know it.
3. Share Ownership—I focused on inclusiveness in my first
community because I was unsure about my own voice and
opinions. In a serendipitous twist, the “we’re all equal and
we’re all in this together” perspective led to a shared
sense of ownership. It took a while for folks to buy what I
was selling, but a consistent focus on collaboration and
equality eventually led to individual responsibility and effective self-policing. I’ve used this same technique on subhttp://toc.oreilly.com/2008/07/pod-opens-door-to-magazine-exp.html
http://powazek.com/posts/1063
152
http://www.informationweek.com/news/internet/ebusiness/showArti
cle.jhtml?articleID=199600005
150
151

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sequent communities and the results have always been
positive.
4. Calm by Example—Experienced community managers
know that the Web is a fickle place; today’s egregious
opinion often evaporates within a matter of days. A
measured community manager allows fiery debates to run
their course without spilling out of control, and on those
rare occasions when guidance is required, a calm force is
far more powerful.

1.17. Reinventing the Book and Killing It Are Separate
Things
Mac Slocum
August 11, 2008
Original Link: http://toc.oreilly.com/2008/08/reinventing-the-book

-and-killi.html

Richard Cohen has a bone to pick with Amazon, the Kindle,
digital books, and anyone who threatens the welfare of
bookstores, children and unknown literature. From Cohen’s
Washington Post column 153:
... over at Amazon they are inadvertently thinking of
ways to make the world worse for children and for the
grown-ups who love them to pieces. What Jeffrey P.
Bezos, Amazon’s founder, wants more than anything
is to do away with the book as we know it. “Jeff once
said that he couldn’t imagine anything more important than reinventing the book,” said Steven Kessel,
one of Bezos’s top guys. Kessel is in charge of digitizing everything in sight.
153
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/08/04/
AR2008080401823.html

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Nothing more important than reinventing the
book? Not ending world hunger? Not taking Rush
Limbaugh off the air? None of these? What’s wrong
with the book? I understand that it’s bulky and expensive to ship and that it entails the consumption of
paper, which is probably not green, but then what is?
The book has been around for a very long time (Google the exact number of years, please), and I love it
so.
Cohen’s column adheres to the “book lover overreaction 154” we’ve discussed previously. Market forces and
changing consumer tastes may indeed signal the end of traditional bookstores, and that’s something to lament and fight
against 155. But this idea that digital books have been set
loose by entrepreneurial masterminds—diabolical sorts intent on destroying the print universe—is overwrought. “Reinventing” the book is not synonymous with “killing the print
book.” Digital books are nothing more than alternative delivery mechanisms for content. Their intent (if ebooks can
have intent) is to expand choice, not eradicate the printed
volume.
I can’t tell if Cohen is saying goodbye to print books or
bookstores or some combination of the two. His column is
clearly a cathartic exercise, not a market analysis, but the association he seems to make between a downturn in bookstores and the rise of digital books is incorrect. Bookstores
are in decline partly because consumers are purchasing their
core product—print books —through online retailers like
Amazon 156. Ebooks may eventually achieve widespread
http://toc.oreilly.com/2008/07/ebooks-and-print-books-are-not.html
http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/a/oreilly/tim/articles/buy_where_shop.html
156
http://www.marketwatch.com/news/story/amazon-earnings-double-strongsales/story.aspx?guid={9A9D30D7-E16F-4E79-877CA4A627A08325}&dist=msr_35
154
155

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adoption and, by extension, lead to the shuttering of traditional bookstores, but that’s not currently the case 157.
(Via Shelf Awareness 158)

1.18. Q&A with Developer Who Turns Ebooks into
iPhone Applications
Mac Slocum
August 21, 2008
Original Link: http://toc.oreilly.com/2008/08/qa-with-developer

-who-turns-eb.html

Ebook files and e-reader software usually exist as separate
entities, but Tom Peck of AppEngines 159 merged the two to
create individual ebook applications for the iPhone App
Store 160. In the following Q&A, Peck discusses his ebook
software development process, consumer response to his
apps, and future ebook projects.
Why did you opt to bundle individual ebooks as software
applications rather than create a single e-reader program?
I have been reading ebooks (mostly from eReader.com 161) for many years. I wanted to make a book reader
program for the iPhone that was as simple to use as possible.
I feel that the way existing ebook solutions work is too complex for many users: they have to download the ebook software, then go to a separate Web site and create an account,
enter credit card data, and then find and purchase content.
The iPhone App Store sales and distribution process
makes it simpler and more convenient to have an ebook
reader as part of an ebook itself. Developers can only dis-

http://www.openebook.org/doc_library/industrystats.htm
http://news.shelf-awareness.com/nview.jsp?appid=411&j=515575
159
http://www.appengines.com/iphonebooks.html
160
http://www.apple.com/iphone/appstore/
161
http://www.ereader.com
157
158

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tribute applications through the App Store; there is no way
to distribute data files like ebooks. Therefore, it made sense
to me that each book had to be a complete application.
Although this is more convenient for App Store customers
to get a book, the process of making each book into an app
takes more time for development. Each book becomes its
own Xcode project 162, requires testing, and requires time to
load all of the data (descriptions, screen shots, application
file) to the App Store. I have developed tools and techniques
that automate as much as possible, but each book takes several hours to complete, not counting the many hours spent
writing the ebook reader itself.
Have you used any of the e-reader applications available
through the App Store (e.g. Stanza 163, eReader 164, etc.)? If
so, how do these compare to your own apps?
I have used the eReader software. I am a long-time
eReader customer, having purchased dozens of their books
and read them on my Treo. I have not used Stanza.
The biggest difference is that those products let the user
download content from the Internet. Some let users create
their own content and download it to the iPhone, which is
nice. My reader is purely a book reader.
The eReader app supports a bookshelf list, showing all the
ebooks. With my apps, each ebook appears as its own icon
on the home screen.
My current reader program compares nicely to eReader.
At the moment, I do not support landscape mode, which
eReader does. Both offer text search and table of contents.
I admit that the search function in my first batch of books was
not very usable; newer books have a much better implementation, even better than eReader’s. Both programs support
http://developer.apple.com/tools/xcode/
http://www.lexcycle.com/iphone
164
http://www.ereader.com/ereader/help/iphoneFAQ.htm
162
163

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different font sizes, images embedded within the text, layout
options such as indenting and centering, and font styles.
One feature my reader has is instant repagination when
the user changes font size. Using my reader, the user can
increase or decrease font size using the “pinch” gesture,
similar to zooming in and out of photos, and the results are
immediate. I spent a lot of time to make this very, very fast.
Changing the font size in eReader requires the program to
repaginate in the background, a process that can take over
30 seconds for the entire book.
How many ebooks have you made available through the
App Store?
Currently, about 140. More are in the pipeline; all newer,
copyrighted works from other publishers and authors.
What has the response been like?
Response has been very good. My current download numbers for all books (not counting several free books) is almost
1,000 books a day. The numbers per book vary day by day,
with some books having as many as 50 downloads a day.
Most of the public domain titles have counts around five per
day.
Most encouraging are that the newer works are selling just
as well as the classic stuff. iPulp 165, a publisher of sciencefiction and adventure short stories for young adults, has four
works in the store right now, with six more in review. These
are priced at $0.99 and $1.99 and have sales of about 10 per
day. The two Max Quick 166 novels 167 sell for $5.99 each.
Currently they are selling about 13 copies per day and the
numbers are increasing (they’ve been in the store for less
than two weeks).
http://www.incwell.com/ipulp/libraryINDEX.html
http://phobos.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewSoftware?
id=287248071&mt=8
167
http://phobos.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewSoftware?
id=287248928&mt=8
165
166

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Are you selling ebooks or ebook applications through other platforms?
Right now, I am only working with the App Store. I am
watching to see what other cell phone vendors and carriers
do. As some of your blog postings have noted 168, the success of the App Store is making other carriers look at copying
Apple.
I have spent time with Google’s Android platform 169 and
have a version of the ebook software that runs on Android.
How much of your ebook content comes from Project
Gutenberg 170?
My initial group of books, about 110, were all from Project
Gutenberg. I constantly get requests from customers to add
new books, so I have added more Project Gutenberg stuff.
Now that I am working with publishers and authors to produce their works as ebooks, I will focus primarily on new
works.
Can you list some of these publishers/authors? How did
your relationships with these publishers and authors come
together?
In the store now are a book on computer security by Neal
Puff 171 and a memoir by Teresa Wright 172. All relationships
came about because of my presence in the App Store with
the initial set of ebooks. I’ve been contacted by small publishers and individual authors to turn their works into ebooks
for the iPhone. I work with them to get the content in an
appropriate format, get the various graphic elements (cover

http://toc.oreilly.com/2008/08/a-big-boost-to-books-as-apps.html
http://code.google.com/android/
http://www.gutenberg.org/wiki/Main_Page
171
http://phobos.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewSoftware?
id=287247416&mt=8
172
http://phobos.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewSoftware?
id=286777935&mt=8
168
169
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art, icons, etc.), produce the ebook app, have them review
the app, and put the app into the App Store.
Do publishers pay you a flat fee to prep App Store titles
or is it a revenue share?
Revenue share.
Did you anticipate this type of publisher response?
I was a bit surprised at how quickly publishers contacted
me. I thought I would have to market to them.
Are there other content sources or types you’d like to incorporate?
One publisher I am working with offers textbooks. That
would be an interesting type of content. A textbook could
take advantage of the ebook being a standalone app, offering more interactive content for quizzes that would appear
within the book.
Some App Store reviewers complain that you’re making
money off of public domain content. How do you address
these complaints?
The Project Gutenberg license clearly allows people to sell
works based on the Gutenberg files. I am following the license, and I do send 20 percent of the revenue earned to
the Project Gutenberg Foundation. Mobipocket, eReader
and Amazon Kindle all sell public domain works for much
more than $0.99.
Each book requires a lot of manual work. The Project Gutenberg text files are a good starting point, but I have to edit
each one to add information about chapter starts, poems,
songs, emphasized text, etc. Many files have extra data like
page numbers that have to be cleaned up. I tried to automate this part, but there is so much variety in the files that
only hand editing can get the correct results.
Since your ebooks are applications, and iPhone apps are
stored on the device’s docking screens, is there a concern

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about clutter? Do you have any organization tips for people
who buy multiple ebook apps?
I would say that this is a general problem with the iPhone
Home Screen user interface. iPhone blog sites describe users
with 100 apps or more on their devices, and finding a specific
app can become a problem.
iTunes does allow users to selectively install apps on individual devices. This is probably the best way to deal with lots
of apps: for users to only install the apps they need, and keep
the rest on their desktop machine. Personally, I tend to read
about two books at a time, then I remove them from the device when finished.
What near-term features or products are you planning?
I am working on a new version of the reader software that
adds many new features: bookmarks, notes, landscape
mode, etc. Once completed, I will re-release all existing
books with the new features. Customers will get the updates
for free.
I also am working on several non-ebook iPhone apps.

1.19. Terry Goodkind Follows The Money
Kassia Krozser
August 26, 2008
Original Link: http://booksquare.com/terry-goodkind-follows-the

-money/

I remain bemused by authors who insist, when refusing to
grant ebook rights, that their works are meant to be experienced in a certain (bound and printed) format. It’s a bit
quaint, when you think about it, that they would impose their
own vision of art on the beholder—it’s a bit like Michelangelo
insisting that we only view the ceiling of Sistine Chapel while
supine, X feet away from the work.

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It is not how the artist creates the work that defines the
experience: it is how the viewer/reader/listener/casual observer interacts with it that matters. Every time you reread a
book, aren’t you having a different experience? Is every
word, every phrase, every insight exactly the same the second, third, eighth time? Why authors want to define our
experience is beyond me—authors should want that
experience to be as rich and varied as possible. Once the
book is published, it is no longer the author’s to shape.
Terry Goodkind has recently elected to have his works
published in electronic format. While one source says he’s
held back those rights, just as JK Rowling did, because of his
insistence of maintaining the integrity of form and format,
the announcement in Publisher’s Weekly puts a more financial spin on the deal 173:
When asked why Goodkind opted to be published
in e-book by an independent, in Rosetta, Goodkind’s
agent, Russell Galen, said Rosetta “offered us much
better terms.” [Arthur] Klebanoff [CEO of RosettaBooks], who negotiated the Goodkind deal with
Galen, added that he thinks the size of a publisher is
also less important in e-book publishing. “Obviously
Random House has a compelling argument when it
comes to what it can do [in publishing] a physical
book,” he told PW. “But in e-book [publishing] the
people selling the books are Kindle, Sony Reader and
various other e-tailers. So, whether the title is fed by
Rosetta or Random House makes no difference.”
The second part of that paragraph is fascinating and very
much the topic of today’s thoughts. Why should an author
173
http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6589364.html?
nid=2286&source=title&rid=383006433

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give over his or her e-publishing rights to a traditional print
house? What advantage comes from this sort of arrangement? I am not asking a rhetorical question. In a new distribution landscape, what advantage does a traditional, printbased publisher offer?
First, let us begin with a truth: because Goodkind held
back his rights for so long, he created an underground
market for his works. Keeping these rights close doesn’t keep
ebooks from being created and distributed. Witness the
Google results for “Terry Goodkind ebook 174.” One surefire
way to combat the pirates is to make legal editions easily
available at a reasonable price through legitimate retailers ...
and then do everything in your power to make sure those
search results appear first, before the pirates. People are lazy, don’t make pirating a more attractive option than buying
legal.
That ought to be the first law of digital media: Make legal
products easier and more cost effective than pirated
products.
As some publishers tell me, a major challenge to their digital migration is getting authors and agents on board with
this new distribution channel (and that’s all it is, a new distribution channel). I can see why, but look at the example above
for the obvious drawback in holding back these rights. The
reason Goodkind’s agent stated for choosing Rosetta Stone
over Random House: it’s the money, stupid. And that’s
something publishers, traditional publishers, have to face.
The competition is not located in a shiny Manhattan office
building. Publishers are no longer competing just with each
other, announcing pre-empts and huge advances. As the
market moves online, the money has to change. Goodkind
and authors like him have the power to do it—if and when

174

http://www.google.com/search?q=terry+goodkind+ebook

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Rowling enters into the ebook market, if her agent is half as
good as reputed, you don’t think she’s going to settle for
relatively small royalties, do you?
As publishers like Random House try to redefine concepts
such as “out-of-print,” savvy authors and agents will be more
diligent about defining tight deadlines for contracts (in fact,
I’m a bit surprised this isn’t happening more frequently). Firm
deadlines allow authors to renegotiate terms, especially as
the digital market grows and evolves. While publishers love
the idea of locking someone into 2008 rules, it’s a safe bet
to say that this landscape will be vastly different in 10 years.
It’s insanity to suggest someone should carve these rights
in stone now, when the future’s so bright, blah, blah, blah.
Of course, digital rights and how they’re compensated are
just a small part of the overall challenge. That’s another topic
for another today. Yeah, just call me your little ray of
sunshine.

Kassia Krozser is the founder and primary voice for Booksquare.com 175, a Web site focused on dissecting the publishing industry with love and skepticism. She is also a founding partner at Medialoper.com 176—same love and skepticism applied to all entertainment media. Her work on both
sites frequently focuses on how new technology impacts traditional media. She is a reviewer for PaperbackReader.net 177 and a regular contributor to other publications .

1.20. Web Analytics Primer for Publishers
Mac Slocum
September 2, 2008

http://www.booksquare.com
http://www.medialoper.com
177
http://www.paperbackreader.net
175
176

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Original Link: http://toc.oreilly.com/2008/09/web-analytics-primer

-for-publi.html

Web content allows for a level of tracking and analysis
unseen in other forms of media, but I get the sense some
publishers are a little hazy when it comes to the established
analytic measurements. This primer touches on the main
measures I’ve used in my own efforts, but it is not exhaustive.
I encourage other analytics folks to chime in with their
thoughts and techniques in the comments area 178.
A few notes before we get into it:
• Note #1: If you check stats religiously and you’re a whiz
with your analytics tools, this post will be elementary and
quite dull. You’re better off perusing the excellent conversations at Webmaster World 179.
• Note #2: The term “hits 180” was outdated in 1999. I won’t
be using it here and I implore you to avoid this word—and
anyone using it within a Web traffic context—at all costs.
With that out of the way, let’s dive in ...
Visits—When you access a specific Web site, that counts
as one visit. If you leave and return, that usually counts as a
second visit. I say “usually” because most analytics tools use
a timer. For example: If you leave and return to a site running
Google Analytics 181 within 30 minutes, one visit is logged.
But if you return after 30 minutes, a second visit is added to
the tally.

http://toc.oreilly.com/2008/09/web-analytics-primer-for-publi.html
http://www.webmasterworld.com
180
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hit_(web_request)
181
http://www.google.com/support/analytics/bin/answer.py?hl=en&an
swer=57164#visits_vs_visitors
178
179

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• Caveat —“Visits” should not be equated with “people.”
Even with a timer in place, it’s possible for a single person
to rack up multiple visits to your site.
• Recommendation —Track visits over a period of months,
not weeks. Long stretches will reveal the overall growth of
your site and your audience.
Unique Visitors—Unique visitors represent individual visitors to your site (in theory). This is an important metric because it gives you a sense of your audience size.
• Caveat —Analytics tools rely on cookies to track unique
visits, but cookies can be deleted or rejected by the
user 182. There’s also no way to differentiate between people using the same Web browser. Public terminals, lab
computers and family PCs will all register as single users.
• Recommendation —Limits on privacy (a good thing) and
technology (not so good) prevent analytics tools from achieving the 1:1 visitor tracking utopia. For the foreseeable
future, the unique visitors metric offers the best approximation of audience size. Just make sure bosses and
advertisers understand the limits.
Page Views—A page view represents a single view of a
single page under a certain Web domain. If you click to another site and then click back to the original site, you’ll log
another page view. If you refresh the page you’re viewing,
another page view will be counted.
• Caveat —A single visitor can log dozens of page views,
especially if they’ve got an itchy refresh finger.
182

http://www.poynter.org/column.asp?id=31&aid=121682

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• Recommendation —Page view figures should be used for
general analysis. Their real value comes from the manual
parsing of page view data. Close examination will reveal
popular pages and topics, which can help guide future
editorial efforts.
Pages Per Visit—The Web’s built-in context makes it possible to attract visitors with one piece of content, then
present them with additional material on the same site
through related links, embedded links, recommendations,
etc. A high pages per visit average (3+ pages is quite good)
means visitors are interacting with your content. A low
average means visitors are viewing one page and quickly
moving on to other sites.
• Caveat —Want to see how the pages-per-visit average can
be manipulated? Visit any major media site and look for
the photo galleries. Placing a single photo on a single
page and then encouraging users to click the “next” button is an easy way to boost the pages-per-visit number.
Pages per visit is also influenced by traffic spikes. If you
receive an inbound link from a popular recommendation
site (Slashdot 183, Digg 184), you’ll likely see a huge increase
in page views but a dramatic drop in pages per visit. Most
visitors from these sites look at one piece of content and
then move on to the next popular destination.
• Recommendation —Like most analytics measurements,
the pages-per-visit average should be examined over multi-month stretches. Traffic spikes should be disregarded—
not ignored outright, just disregarded in this case. If you

183
184

http://www.slashdot.com
http://www.digg.com

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see the average go up by a full page over the course of
three to six months, you’re doing something right.
Average Time on Site—The more time users spend on
your site, the more you can assume they’re engaged with
your content and your brand ... and your sponsors’ brands.
Given the hyperactive nature of Web browsing, holding visitor attention for a full minute or more is considered a
success.
• Caveat —As the Google Analytics FAQ 185 notes, some visitors leave unattended browser windows open. Analytics
tools make no distinction between an engaged viewer and
a distracted viewer with messy browsing habits.
• Recommendation —Analysis over a multi-month period is
the best use for this measurement (sound familiar?). Consistent growth = good. Consistent decrease = bad.
Again, this primer is the tip of the analytics iceberg. There
are many related topics worth further discussion and inquiry,
including search engine optimization 186 and Web advertising models 187.
There’s an interesting shift that’s also worth monitoring.
Some publishers are looking beyond site-based statistics to
gauge their overall reach across social networks, recommendation engines, RSS, mobile applications and other distributed platforms. Douglas McLennan, the founder and editor
of ArtsJournal 188, touched on this topic in a recent interview 189:
185
http://www.google.com/support/analytics/bin/answer.py?hl=en&an
swer=60127
186
http://searchengineland.com/
187
http://www.webmasterworld.com/forum20/
188
http://www.artsjournal.com/
189
http://www.crosscut.com/arts-beat/15700/The+founder+of+ArtsJournal
+talks+about+arts+and+new+media/

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I’ve come to the realization that ArtsJournal is not
just a Web site anymore. Only 25 percent of our users
ever come to the Web site, the rest get it through
newsletters. We have 35,000 newsletter subscribers.
Others get ArtsJournal through “newsbeats” that we
provide on other Web sites. Some people get ArtsJournal through RSS feeds. In the course of an average day, there are 45,000 to 50,000 visitors—people
who use Artsjournal every day. The unique visitors per
month is probably 250,000. We probably get 500,000
to 600,000 visits a month and a few million page
views. So ArtsJournal is not huge by the scale of large
Web sites, but it’s substantial.
We may eventually see Q scores 190—or a variation on that
concept—integrated into future analytics toolsets.

1.21. A Unified Field Theory of Publishing in the
Networked Era
Bob Stein
September 4, 2008
Original Link: http://www.futureofthebook.org/blog/archives/

2008/09/a_unified_field_theory_of_publ_1.html

The following is a set of notes, written over several months,
in an attempt to weave together a number of ideas that have
emerged in the course of the Institute for the Future of the
Book’s work. I’m hoping for a lot of feedback. If there’s
enough interest, we’ll put this into CommentPress so that the
discussion can be more extensive than the blog’s comment
field.
Preface

190

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Q_Score

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I’ve been exploring the potential of “new media” for nearly 30 years. There was an important aha moment early on
when I was trying to understand the essential nature of books
as a medium. The breakthrough came when I stopped thinking about the physical form or content of books and focused
instead on how they are used. At that time print was unique
compared to other media, in terms of giving its users
complete control of the sequence and pace at which they
accessed the contents. The ability to re-read a paragraph
until its understood, to flip back and forth almost instantly
between passages, to stop and write in the margins, or just
think. This affordance of reflection (in a relatively inexpensive
portable package) was the key to understanding why books
have been such a powerful vehicle for moving ideas across
space and time. I started calling books user-driven media—
in contrast to movies, radio, and television, which at the time
were producer-driven. Once microprocessors were integrated into audio and video devices, I reasoned, this distinction
would disappear. However—and this is crucial—back in 1981
I also reasoned that its permanence was another important
defining aspect of a book. The book of the future would be
just like the book of the past, except that it might contain
audio and video on its frozen “pages.” This was the videodisc/CD-ROM era of electronic publishing.
The emergence of the Web turned this vision of the book
of the future as a solid, albeit multimedia object, completely
upside down and inside out. Multimedia is engaging, especially in a format that encourages reflection, but locating
discourse inside of a dynamic network promises even more
profound changes. Reading and writing have always been
social activities, but that fact tends to be obscured by the
medium of print. We grew up with images of the solitary
reader curled up in a chair or under a tree and the writer
alone in his garret. The most important thing my colleagues

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and I have learned during our experiments with networked
books over the past few years is that as discourse moves off
the page onto the network, the social aspects are revealed
in sometimes startling clarity. These exchanges move from
background to foreground, a transition that has dramatic implications.
So ...
I haven’t published anything for nearly 12 years because,
frankly, I didn’t have a model that made any sense to me.
One day when I was walking around the streets of London I
suddenly I realized I did have a model. I jokingly labeled my
little conceptual breakthrough “a unified field theory of
publishing,” but the more I think about it, the more apt that
sounds, because getting here has involved understanding
how a number of different aspects both compliment and
contradict each other to make up a dynamic whole. I’m excited about this because for the first time the whole hangs
together for me. I hope it will for you too. If not, please say
where the model breaks, or which parts need deepening,
fixing or wholesale reconsideration.
Key questions a unified field theory has to answer:
• What are the characteristics of a successful author in the
era of the digital network?
• Ditto for readers: how do you account for the range of
behaviors that comprise reading in the era of the digital
network?
• What is the role of the publisher and the editor?
• What is the relationship between the professional (author)
and the amateur (reader)?
• Do the answers to 1–4 afford a viable economic model?
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So how exactly did I get here?
a) I was thinking about Who Built America 191 , a 1993 Voyager CD-ROM based on a wonderful two-volume history
originally published by Knopf. In a lively back and forth with
the book’s authors over the course of a year, we tried to understand the potential of an electronic edition. Our conceptual breakthrough came when we started thinking about
process—that a history book represents a synthesis of an author’s reading of original source documents, the works of
other historians and conversations with colleagues. So we
added hundreds of historical documents—text, pictures, audio, video—to the CD-ROM edition, woven into dozens of
“excursions” distributed throughout the text. Our hope was
to engage readers with the author’s conclusions at a deeper,
more satisfying level. That day in London, as I thought about
how this might occur in the context of a dynamic network
(rather than a frozen CD-ROM), there seemed to be an explosion of new possibilities. Here are just a few:
• Access to source documents can be much more extensive
free of the size, space and copyright constraints of
CD-ROM.
• Dynamic comment fields enable classes to have their
unique editions, where a lively conversation can take place
in the margins.
• A continuously evolving text, as the authors add new findings in their work and engage in back and forth with “readers” who have begun to learn history by “doing history,”
and have begun both to question the authors’ conclusions
and to suggest new sources and alternative syntheses.
Bingo! That last one leads to ...
191

http://blip.tv/file/462077/

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b) Hmmm. On the surface that sounds a lot like a Wikipedia
article, in the sense that it’s always in process and consideration of the the back and forth is crucial to making sense of
the whole. However it’s also different, because a defining
aspect of the Wikipedia is that once an article is started, there
is no special, ongoing role accorded to the the person who
initiated it or tends it over time. And that’s definitely not what
I’m talking about here. Locating discourse in a dynamic network doesn’t erase the distinction between authors and
readers, but it significantly flattens the traditional perceived
hierarchy. Ever since we published Ken Wark’s Gamer Theory 192 , I’ve tended to think of the author of a networked book
as a leader of a group effort, similar in many respects to the
role of a professor in a seminar. The professor has presumably set the topic and likely knows more about it than the
other participants, but her role is to lead the group in a combined effort to synthesize and extend knowledge. This is not
to suggest that one size will fit all authors, especially during
this period of experimentation and transition. Some authors
will want to lay down a completed text for discussion; others
may want to put up drafts in the anticipation of substantial
re-writing based on reader input. Other “authors” may be
more comfortable setting the terms and boundaries of the
subject and allowing others to participate directly in the
writing ...
The key element running through all these possibilities is
the author’s commitment to engage directly with readers. If
the print author’s commitment has been to engage with a
particular subject matter on behalf of her readers, in the era
of the network that shifts to a commitment to engage with
readers in the context of a particular subject.

192
http://www.futureofthebook.org/mckenziewark/gamertheory/?cat=1&pag
ed=1

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c) As networked books evolve, readers will increasingly see
themselves as participants in a social process. As with authors, especially in what is likely to be a long transitional period, we will see many levels of (reader) engagement—from
the simple acknowledgement of the presence of others’
presence to very active engagement with authors and fellow
readers.
(An anecdotal report regarding reading in the networked
era)
A mother in London recently described her 10-year-old
boy’s reading behavior: “He’ll be reading a (printed) book.
He’ll put the book down and go to the book’s Web site.
Then, he’ll check what other readers are writing in the
forums, and maybe leave a message himself, then return to
the book. He’ll put the book down again and Google a query
that’s occurred to him.”
I’d like to suggest that we change our description of reading to include the full range of these activities, not just time
spent looking at the printed page.
Continuing ...
d) One thing I particularly like about this view of the author
is that it resolves the professional/amateur contradiction. It
doesn’t suggest a flat equality between all potential participants; on the contrary it acknowledges that the author brings
an accepted expertise in the subject AND the willingness/
ability to work with the community that gathers around.
Readers will not have to take on direct responsibility for the
integrity of the content (as they do in Wikipedia); hopefully
they will provide oversight through their comments and participation, but the model can absorb a broad range of reader
abilities and commitment.
e) Once we acknowledge the possibility of a flatter hierarchy that displaces the writer from the center or from the top
of the food chain and moves the reader into a space of par-

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allel importance and consideration—i.e. once we acknowledge the intrinsic relationship between reading and writing
as equally crucial elements of the same equation—we can
begin to redefine the roles of publisher and editor. An oldstyle formulation might be that publishers and editors serve
the packaging and distribution of authors’ ideas. A new formulation might be that publishers and editors contribute to
building a community that involves an author and a group of
readers who are exploring a subject.
f) So it turns out that far from becoming obsolete, publishers and editors in the networked era have a crucial role to
play. The editor of the future is increasingly a producer, a role
that includes signing up projects and overseeing all elements
of production and distribution, and that of course includes
building and nurturing communities of various demographics, size, and shape. Successful publishers will build brands
around curatorial and community building know-how AND
be really good at designing and developing the robust technical infrastructures that underlie a complex range of user
experiences. [(I know I’m using “publisher” to encompass an
array of tasks and responsibilities, but I don’t think the shorthand does too much damage to the discussion).
g) Once there are roles for author/reader/editor/publisher,
we can begin to assess who adds what kind of value, and
when. From there we can begin to develop a business model. My sense is that this transitional period (5, 10, 50 years)
will encompass a variety of monetizing schemes. People will
buy subscriptions to works, to publishers, or to channels that
aggregate works from different publishers. People might
purchase access to specific titles for specific periods of time.
We might see tiered access, where something is free in
“read-only” form, but publishers charge for the links that
take you OUT of the document or INTO the community.

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Smart experimenting and careful listening to users/readers/
authors will be very important.
h) The ideas above seem to apply equally well to all
genres—whether textbooks, history, self-help, cookbooks,
business or fiction—particularly as the model expands to include the more complex arena of interactive narrative. (Think
complex and densely textured online events/games whose
authors create worlds in which readers play a role in creating
the ongoing narrative, rather than choose-your-own ending
stories.)
This is not to say that one size will fit all. For example, different subjects or genres will have different optimal community paradigms—e.g. a real-time multi-player game vs.
close readings of historical or philosophical essays. Even
within a single genre, it will make a difference whether the
community consists of students in the same class or of realworld strangers.
Other thoughts/questions
• Authors should be able to choose the level of moderation/
participation at which they want to engage; ditto for
readers.
• It’s not necessary for ALL projects to take this continuous/
never-finished form.
• This applies to all modes of expression, not just textbased. The main distinction of this new model is not type
of media but the mechanism of distribution. Something is
published when the individual reader/user/viewer determines the timing and mode of interaction with the content
and the community. Something is broadcast when it’s distributed to an audience simultaneously and in real-time.
Eventually, presumably, only LIVE content will be broadcast.
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• When talking about some of these ideas with people, quite
often the most passionate response is that “surely, you are
not talking about fiction.” If by fiction we mean the 400page novel then the answer is no, but in the long term arc
of change I am imagining, novels will not continue to be
the dominant form of fiction. My bet now is that to understand where fiction is going we should look at what’s happening with “video games.” World of Warcraft is an online
game with 10 million subscribers paying $15 per month to
assemble themselves into guilds (teams) of 30 or more
people who work together to accomplish the tasks and
goals that make up the never-ending game. It’s not a big
leap to think of the person who developed the game as an
author whose art is conceiving, designing and building a
virtual world in which players (readers) don’t merely watch
or read the narrative as it unfolds—they construct it as they
play. Indeed, from this perspective, extending the narrative is the essence of the game play.
• As active participants in this space, the millions of player/
readers do not merely watch or read the unfolding narrative, they are constructing it as they play.
• Editors should have the option of using relatively generic
publishing templates for projects whose authors, for one
reason or another, do not justify the expense of building
a custom site. I can even imagine giving authors access to
authoring environments where they can write first drafts or
publish experimentally.
• A corollary of the foregrounding of the social relations of
reading and writing is that we are going to see the emergence of celebrity editors and readers who are valued for
their contributions to a work.

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• Over time we are also likely to see the emergence of “professional readers” whose work consists of tagging our
digitized culture (not just new content, but everything
that’s been digitized and in all media types ... books, video, audio, graphics). This is not meant to undervalue the
role of Delicious and other tagging schemes, or the combined wisdom of the undifferentiated crowd, but just a
recognition of the likelihood that over time the complexity
of the task of filtering the Web will give rise to a new job
category.
• As this model develops, the way in which readers can
comment/contribute/interact needs to evolve
continuously in order to allow ever more complex conversations among ever more people.
• How does re-mix fit in? As a mode of expression for authors? As something that readers do? As something that
other people are allowed to do with someone’s else’s
material?
• It’s important to design sites that are outward-looking,
emphasizing the fact that boundaries with the rest of the
net are porous.
• Books can have momentum, not in the current sense of
position on a best-seller or Amazon list, but rather in the
size and activity-level of their communities.
• Books can be imagined as channels, especially when they
“gather” other books around them. Consider, for example, the Communist Manifesto or the Bible as core works
that inspire endless other works and commentary—a constellation of conversations.

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• Successful publishers will develop and/or embrace new
ways of visualizing content and the resulting conversations
(e.g. imagine Google searches that make visible not just
the interconnections between hits but also how the content of each hit relates to the rest of the document and/or
discipline it’s part of ... NOTE: this is an example of imagining something we can’t do yet, but that informs the way
we design/invent the future).
• In the videodisc/CD-ROM phase of electronic publishing
we explored the value and potential of integrating all media types in a new multi-medium which afforded reflection.
With the rise of the Net we began exploring the possibilities of what happens when you locate discourse in a
dynamic network. A whole host of bandwidth and hardware issues made the Internet unfriendly to multimedia but
those limitations are coming to an end. It’s now possible
to imagine weaving the strands back together. (Perhaps
this last point makes this even more of a unified field
theory.)

Robert Stein was the founder of The Voyager Company.
For 13 years he led the development of over 300 titles in The
Criterion Collection, a series of definitive films on videodisc,
and more than 75 CD-ROM titles including the CD Companion to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, Who Built America, and
the Voyager edition of Macbeth. Previous to Voyager, Stein
worked with Alan Kay in the Research Group at Atari on a
variety of electronic publishing projects. Seven years ago,
Stein started Night Kitchen to develop authoring tools for
the next generation of electronic publishing. Currently he is
a Senior Fellow at the London School of Economics and the
Director of the Institute for the Future of the Book (futureofthebook.org 193), a think & do tank based in London and New
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tellectual discourse is changing as it shifts from printed pages
to networked screens .

1.22. How Many Publishing CEOs Know What an API
Is?
Adam Hodgkin
September 23, 2008
Original Link: http://exacteditions.blogspot.com/2008/09/how

-many-publishing-ceos-know-what-api.html

Google yesterday announced their API for the Google Book
Search platform (well it had sort of been pre-announced
more than six months ago 194) but it has been given more
breadth and visibility via this blog announcement 195. An
API 196 or Application Programming Interface is what allows
one Web service to integrate with and collaborate with another. If you have an API you need to be prepared to welcome the fact that other systems will figure out how to do
cool stuff with your data that you never thought possible .
The Google Book Search API is pretty tightly constrained,
they list three APIs 197 and I expect that there will be more,
but cool stuff will happen.
The system works efficiently and it’s much faster than some
of the clunky preview systems on offer elsewhere. Here is a
title 198 from Arcadia that comes across swiftly and informatively. I can well imagine wanting to buy this book after
glimpsing it in the Google search and preview mode. But
http://www.futureofthebook.org
http://exacteditions.blogspot.com/2008/05/amazingly-compilcated-viewabili
ty.html
195
http://booksearch.blogspot.com/2008/09/book-search-everywhere-withnew.html
196
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/API?
197
http://code.google.com/apis/books/
198
http://www.arcadiapublishing.com/mm5/merchant.mvc?
Screen=VPROD&Product_Code=0738531367
193
194

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there is a tendency for the Google system to reduce all the
titles it manages to a gray uniformity. In some cases, as with
this OUP book hosted at Blackwells 199, the text appears to
be literally grayed 200. Is this because many of the titles are
being scanned into the system? I am not sure. But I am sure
that many publishers who care deeply about the look and
feel, the design and readability of their texts, will not be won
over to the Google platform.
The Google Book Search API is a great start, but it is not
rich and deep. For that Google will need the active participation of publishers, Google itself will need to be committed
to a more open Google Book Search, and there will be a lot
more work on structuring texts.
Why does it matter whether your CEO knows what an API
is? It matters because publishers (and newspaper owners, TV
networks, film studios, content makers of all shapes) are not
going to allow Google (YouTube, he she or ItTube, or anybody else) to manage and define the API that has access to
their content. Having, or buying into, allying with, the APIs
that manage and accesses your content may be the key decision for media companies in the next decade. Either your
CEO knows what an API is, and can find out how, in strategic
terms, to negotiate Google’s, Amazon’s, Facebook’s and
Apple’s, or he/she needs to be a media genius who does it
by gut instinct (Rupert Murdoch is the only one of those that
I can think of, and he is the wrong side of 70). The heads of
Random House, Conde Nast, Elsevier, Cengage, Hachette
and Pearson really ought to have an intuition about the way
their business can develop an API to the servers that are
hosting all their content. I wonder if any of them do?

199
http://bookshop.blackwell.co.uk/jsp/id/The_Law_Students_Handbook/
9780199212712
200
http://www.arcadiapublishing.com/mm5/merchant.mvc?
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Adam Hodgkin is chairman of Exact Editions 201.

1.23. Why You Should Care About XML
Andrew Savikas
September 25, 2008
Original Link: http://toc.oreilly.com/2008/09/why-you-should-care

-about-xml.html

Since we began talking about the StartWithXML project, 202
a few offline comments have come in suggesting that imposing XML on authors (and editors for that matter) won’t
work.
When framed that way, I’m in violent agreement. I would
never argue that authors and editors should or will become
fluent in XML or be expected to manually mark-up their content. I naively tried fighting that battle before, and was defeated soundly. It is simply too much “extra” work that gets
in the way of the writing process.
But there are several reasons why it’s really really important
for publishers to start paying attention to XML right now , and
across their entire workflow:
• XML is here to stay, for the reasonably forseeable future.
While it’s always dangerous to attempt to predict expiration dates on technology, I think it’s fair to assume XML
will have a shelf life at least as long as ASCII 203, which has
been with us for more than 40 years, and isn’t going anywhere soon.
• Web publishing and print publishing are converging, and
writing and production for print will be much more influenced by the Web than vice-versa. It will only get harder
http://www.exacteditions.com
http://toc.oreilly.com/startwithxml/
203
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ASCII
201
202

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to succeed in publishing without putting the Web on par
with (or ahead of) print as the primary target. The longer
you wait to get that content into Web-friendly and
re-usable XML, the worse.
Many in publishing balk at bringing XML “up the stack” to
the production, editing, or even the authoring stage. And
with good reason; XML isn’t really meant to be created or
edited by hand (though a nice feature is that in a pinch it
easily can be). There are two places to look for useful clues
about how XML will actually fit into a publisher’s workflow:
Web publishing and the “alpha geeks.”
Web Publishing
In the early days (mid ’90s), there were two primary ways
that content got from a writer to the Web:
1. Adventurous authors dove into HTML, learning the code
needed to express lists and headings and tables. Most
people relied on simple text editors, though HTMLspecific tools like BBEdit 204 began to emerge
2. For many other writers, the workflow didn’t change
much—articles were written with a word processor, then
handed off to the production staff—in the case of the
Web, for markup as HTML rather than for composition into
print.
Today, the writers behind successful new media and content companies like the Huffington Post 205, PaidContent 206,
TechCrunch 207, or Gawker 208 depend on Web-friendly tools
like blog platforms 209, RSS readers 210, and more recently,
http://www.barebones.com/
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/
206
http://www.paidcontent.org/
207
http://www.techcrunch.com/
208
http://gawker.com/
204
205

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dedicated writing software for bloggers 211 (I’m writing this
post with Mars Edit 212, though Ecto 213 and Windows Live
Writer 214 are other popular choices). For most writers, most
of the time, there’s little need to know more than minimal
tagging (how to fix an errant hyperlink, for example). The
substantial complexity of the XML at work is hidden. But no
one will become the next Huffington Post accepting submissions as Word attachments. The tools will evolve, and there’s
a real opportunity for publishers and writers willing to
experiment on the edge, which brings me to the next place
to look for clues about the future:
Alpha Geeks
By “alpha geeks” I mean those experimenting and innovating out on the edge, often doing it as much for the challenge and the learning value as for any specific payback.
These early experiments can have a sizable impact on the
direction of later effort and innovation. In the context of publishing, I’d say that much of what Harlequin has been doing
lately qualifies 215, as does Bookworm 216, the Web-based
ePub reader project. Here at O’Reilly we believe in “eating
our own dogfood,” and for a large chunk of our frontlist,
books are either written directly in XML, or are converted to
XML as the first step of production. That’s meant the ability
to rapidly prototype new design elements and features, as
well as to effectively separate design and content, and to
achieve real “single source” publishing for many titles—simultaneously creating on-demand output for print, for Webhttp://www.pcworld.com/article/128620/blogging_platforms.html
http://toc.oreilly.com/resources/rss.html
http://lifehacker.com/software/blogging/desktop-blog-editor-compari
son-190652.php
212
http://www.red-sweater.com/marsedit/
213
http://infinite-sushi.com/software/ecto/
214
http://windowslivewriter.spaces.live.com/
215
http://toc.oreilly.com/2008/07/harlequin-embeds-hyperlinks-in.html
216
http://bookworm.threepress.org/
209
210
211

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friendly PDFs, for ebooks, and for online-access via Safari
Books Online 217. What we’re doing might not make sense
for a lot of publishers today, but sitting on the sidelines waiting indefinitely for tools that don’t require new knowledge
or skills doesn’t make much sense either.
I wouldn’t be surprised at all if publishers start seeing
“manuscripts” in the form of a series of blog posts, or a set
of Google Docs 218. In either case, that’s already Web-friendly XML, and if publishers want to spend their time and money
pushing that it into Quark, then onto PDF, and finally on to
a vendor to create an ebook, that’s their choice. But
someone more nimble and willing to work natively in a Webfriendly format will be difficult to compete with.
Arguing over whether authors can/should/will “use XML”
is not a debate I’m interested in having. Maybe they will,
maybe they won’t. But XML is becoming part of the fabric of
what will only become more digital and more networked
219
content creation, production, and distribution, and continuing to treat it as just an output format for a vendor or
developer to care about means missing substantial opportunities. And as books become more connected to the Web,
the collaboration and communication made possible become powerful motivators. As Marc Andreessen 220 said
(quoted in The World is Flat 221) about the early Web and the
technical hurdles it presented:
People will change their habits quickly when they
have a strong reason to do so, and people have an
innate urge to connect with other people. And when

http://safaribooksonline.com/
http://toc.oreilly.com/2008/03/writing-a-book-with-google-docs.html
219
http://www.futureofthebook.org/blog/archives/2008/09/a_unified_field_theo
ry_of_publ_1.html
220
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marc_Andreessen
221
http://www.thomaslfriedman.com/bookshelf/the-world-is-flat
217
218

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you give people a new way to connect with other
people, they will punch through any technical barrier,
they will learn new languages—people are wired to
want to connect with other people and they find it
objectionable not to be able to.
But what authors will (or won’t) do with XML doesn’t
change the importance for publishers of understanding and
applying XML to their workflow.

1.24. Publisher as Brand?
Kate Eltham
October 4, 2008
Original Link: http://electricalphabet.wordpress.com/2008/10/04/

publisher-as-brand/

Recently the friendly-looking team at HarperStudio asked a
question 222 on their blog, The 26th Story 223, about whether
to invest in a full-featured Web site or keep up the blog. Since
they invited input, I weighed in with an oft-quoted phrase in
the industry: “The author is the brand.”
The general idea (which someone else much smarter than
I had a long time ago) is that customers don’t walk into a
bookstore and ask for the latest HarperCollins or Macmillan.
They seek out their favourite authors and genres. Readers
want to buy the next Alexander McCall Smith or Stephen
King or the latest crime thriller or epic fantasy.
In this context, there doesn’t seem much point in investing
a lot of money in a publisher Web site with a lot of bells and
whistles, unless you can master the challenges of searchability in order to drive attention to your authors and titles.
Instead it makes more sense to invest in communities of in222
223

http://www.26thstory.com/blog/2008/09/website-vs-blog.html
http://www.26thstory.com/blog/

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terest around topics or genres, such as the Spinebreakers 224 or Tor.com 225 sites, or individual author brands.
But then I had a quick look through the HarperStudio blog
and static pages and was pretty charmed, actually. When was
the last time you saw a publishing company Web site with
candid photos of the publishers? Open, humorous bios with
real human details? There aren’t a heap of publisher blogs
that are more than publicity channels for the books they’re
putting out. The Penguin blog 226 is funky and well written
with a diversity of voices, but these are still disembodied
voices emanating from an opaque corporate behemoth. The
26th Story 227 is one of the few blogs where I feel like I’m
actually engaging in a conversation with the real people behind the enterprise, instead of being fed marketing copy.
Perhaps that will change as HarperStudio signs more authors and has more titles to manage and promote. Perhaps
it will change when they create their new site—although I
note they’ve decided to stick with a blog platform for now,
using WordPress (good decision!)—but for now I like the
small team feel of the blog, the sense (however idealistic)
that I could take an elevator to the 26th floor of the HarperCollins digs and find Bob & Co. sitting around the table much
the same as they are in their photo 228.
And all this got me thinking ... is the author the only brand?
Isn’t it possible, however unlikely, that some publishers could
create an identity so strong and a community so vibrant that
audiences seek out their books because they trust and like
the people producing them? It’s hard to imagine of the multinationals, but not so hard to imagine of the quirky independents who have well-known identities associated with
http://www.spinebreakers.co.uk/Pages/Home.aspx
http://www.tor.com/
226
http://thepenguinblog.typepad.com/
227
http://www.26thstory.com/blog/
228
http://electricalphabet.files.wordpress.com/2008/10/harperstudio.jpg
224
225

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them, such as McSweeney’s 229 (Dave Eggers) or Small Beer
Press 230 (Kelly Link).
Of course, even a wildly successful publisher blog is unlikely to generate the kind of audience that would shift books
in the quantities required to make the return on investment
worth it. Then again, when you look at blogs like Boing
Boing 231 it’s quite clear the awesome power of conversation
and community. The publisher as brand may not be something to write off just yet. Perhaps publishers just haven’t
worked out how to do it well in the new paradigm.
I’ve got some thoughts about author sites and branding
too, but this is getting to be an awfully long post already so
I’ll hold that over for next time.
What are your thoughts 232? Do you think it’s worth publishers spending the time and resources on their own brand
identity?
P.S. Keep up the cello practice, Bob. It is the most sublime
of stringed instruments.

Kate Eltham is a writer and creative industries professional
based in Brisbane, Australia. She is the Chief Executive Officer of Queensland Writers Centre and has previously
worked as a small business consultant focusing on micro enterprises, non-profits and individual artists in the creative
sectors. You can read more of her writing at Electric Alphabet 233.

1.25. Regulating the Google Settlement
Adam Hodgkin
November 9, 2008

http://www.mcsweeneys.net/
http://lcrw.net/wordpress/
231
http://www.boingboing.net
232
http://electricalphabet.wordpress.com/2008/10/04/publisher-as-brand/
233
http://electricalphabet.wordpress.com
229
230

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Original Link: http://exacteditions.blogspot.com/2008/11/regulat

ing-google-settlement.html

While it is a very good thing that Google and the authors and
publishers are not going to be involved in years of fruitless
and expensive litigation, there may be some awkward consequences. The draft settlement 234 stops the head-on dispute, but the compromise does appear to have some rough
edges. Signing off on this settlement is going to be a tricky
problem: no judge will want to be blamed for approving a
system that violates public trust or creates a de facto monopoly. A lot in the settlement is indicative and provisional
and interim (they don’t quite say “If this doesn’t work both
parties agree that we will whistle up something else,” but
they come damned close to doing so on more than one occasion). Who, at this stage, knows how the various business
models will work out (take a look at Georgia Harper’s speculations on pricing “bins” here 235 )? Will a poorly crafted and
hastily approved settlement create as many problems as it
solves?
But one of the clear things is that there is going to be a
Books Rights Registry. This doesn’t wait for the judge. It is
already whirling into action and authors and publishers are
addressing it. This agency is something that the book world
needs and it has precedents and cousins in the many “collection societies” that look after dispersed copyright interests (e.g. in music, graphic art, xerography, etc.). So we have
a new “Rights Society,” one that serves the interests of authors and publishers in the management and exploitation of
digital texts (so far only in the U.S., but the same model will
doubtless be rolled out in other jurisdictions—think about it:

http://books.google.com/booksrightsholders/agreement.html
http://chaucer.umuc.edu/blogcip/collectanea/2008/11/settlement_control
led_pricing_1.html
234
235

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we just called up 150 or more digital collection agencies in
different jurisdictions and languages). Google is paying
$34.5 million for the creation of the first Books Rights Registry (whose ongoing operation will be funded by a levy from
the rights managed) and it would seem highly likely that
Google is already building it. That Google is doing this is in
many ways a good thing—what an appalling prospect if the
publishers were to try and build such a system! But there are
dangers and ironies in a situation where Google as the commercial fox, the first and prime exploiter of the distribution
opportunities flowing from the settlement, is also designing
the chicken wire and building the coop in which the hens will
be housed. It is a bit odd for a commercial operator to be
building its own regulator. Yes, I know that the eight directors
of the Registry are all appointed by the publishers and the
authors (four each). But directors decide the issues that haven’t already been decided, it’s the architect and the plumbers who get the building to function. Odd, but possibly
unavoidable in these strange circumstances.
Google, unlike the publishers, the authors or their agents,
is capable of rapidly and elegantly building a database system that maps and regulates the incredibly complex real
world of copyright exceptions (I recall Frances Haugen’s
comment about Google’s management of “amazingly complicated” viewability restrictions 236). Google’s code already
understands much of the bizarre detail of the world of rights
and Google also understands how these rights might need
to be exploited (or “circumnavigated”; the international ramifications are quite mind-boggling) so their system is more
than likely going to work. This is certainly an area in which
code will become law.

236
http://exacteditions.blogspot.com/2008/05/amazingly-compilcated-viewabili
ty.html

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But all this makes me wonder whether the judge who signs
off on the settlement will really devote a small portion of his/
her time to the 300 odd pages in the settlement documentation. A lot of that documentation will and should evolve in
light of experience. She should really be looking very carefully at the application programming interface (API) the rights
system will incorporate and the principles that underline the
API. Devising the principles that should govern this API and
crystallizing the objectives that the Rights Registry should
foster is a matter on which the judge can make a real impact.
These are matters of principle and public good, barely
touched on in the public documents about the settlement,
where we need judicial oversight. Perhaps she will spend
some of her time looking at the Android 237 constitution and
I hope she will require that the commercial exploitation of
literary rights is as open and at least as un-Google biased as
Google has promised to make the Android playing field.
Some of the Android slogans work rather well for our vision
of digital books: “Books without borders,” “Books can easily
embed the Web,” “Books are created equal,” “Books can
run in parallel.” Digital books should do all of that, and if they
run on Android devices 238 as well, who knows, all books may
soon be “available” anywhere for everybody. Nearly all available for free search ... but that is not yet enough.

Adam Hodgkin is chairman of Exact Editions 239 .

1.26. Point-Counterpoint: On Digital Book DRM
Peter Brantley
November 20, 2008

http://code.google.com/android/
http://blogs.lib.berkeley.edu/shimenawa.php/2008/05/26/books_devices_an
droids
239
http://www.exacteditions.com
237
238

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Original Link: http://toc.oreilly.com/2008/11/on-digital-book-drm

.html

There is increased interest among trade publishers in pursuing some sort of “interoperable digital rights management”
(DRM 240) for digital ebooks. There are many unlikely allies,
who think that achieving a little DRM encourages publishers
to move into digital spheres, and gives them breathing room.
I think this is a really bad idea, and I wanted to publicly detail
a few reasons.
What I’ve compiled is largely a list of counter-arguments;
there are many affirmative defenses for unencumbered content that could be promoted. I’ve also numbered these paragraphs; on re-reading, they more often than not meld and
intertwine as a potlatch of thoughts, and have not taken to
my weak organization very well.
In a separate post, my friend and colleague Bill McCoy
from Adobe will attempt to establish his own conclusions
about whether an ebook DRM standard is a useful compromise, or a fool’s errand.
Why digital book DRM is bad bad bad
The embrace of content restrictions reduces sales, lowers
price points, and reduces revenues. No one has ever made
this argument better than Tim O’Reilly, and he said it nearly
six years ago: piracy is progressive taxation 241. The take
home: “Give the wookie what he wants.”
1. DRM antagonizes customers. DRM solutions inevitably
frustrate the ability of consumers to interact with content
they purchase (or license—this being an important distinction and an issue addressed separately). I recently
heard one senior trade publishing executive indicate that

240
241

http://toc.oreilly.com/resources/drm.html
http://tim.oreilly.com/pub/a/p2p/2002/12/11/piracy.html

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DRM will be particularly necessary for libraries, presumably because books are more widely in circulation within
libraries, and one wouldn’t want the students sharing
books too widely, would one? Suspending for a moment
the fact that any respectable engineering student would
see ebook DRM as fruit ripe for picking, let us instead turn
for comparison to the market for licensed journal content,
where in book publishing theory there should be articles
zipping around peer-to-peer (P2P) networks faster than
hotwired bits, driving Elsevier into the fiscal ground. Ahh,
nope.
2. First sale. Increasingly, content industries are persisting to
embrace forms of either DRM-protected or licensed
content acquisition, as opposed to more permissive
ownership. I find many things disquieting with this approach, not the least of which it weakens the bond that
consumers have with their culture. While that might sound
academic, I would suggest that there is an important and
fundamental difference in my behavior when I know that
I own something that provides me with insight and beauty,
versus knowing that my engagement is brokered by a corporation. In May of this year, I wrote a blog post called
“On Owning Books 242” in which I suggested that the implicit prohibition of the first sale doctrine—the ability that
I have to gift books that I own, and for libraries to lend
them—would be a serious and gross mistake by publishers. I hold my faith in the truth of those words.
3. DRM restricts the future. Even if DRM can be made relatively inconspicuous and step on the user with a relatively
soft footprint, our expectations of media use and functionality will change more rapidly than the bodies gov242

http://blogs.lib.berkeley.edu/shimenawa.php/2008/05/21/on_owning_books

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erning DRM specifications can adjust to them. DRM can
only be built for the world at hand, along with glimmers
of the world just now peeking over the horizon; the greater
promise of our inventiveness and creativity will inevitably
be prohibited by any DRM system. DRM that is a requisite
ticket to play in a market that is inherently anti-competitive
and frustrates system-breaking innovation. We have no
idea what the book of the future will look like: how it will
be combined with other media, integrated with other content, and premised on user interaction. Publishers think
they will be selling “books” but the books they will be
selling are not the books of today. As Sara Lloyd of Pan
Macmillan UK has noted in “A Book Publisher’s
Manifesto 243”:
One of the key perception shifts that publishers
need to make, then, is about the book as “product.” Whilst the book continues to be viewed as a
definable object within covers, as a singular “unit,”
publishers will continue to limit their role in its production and distribution, and this is a sure fire way
for publishers to write themselves out of the future
of content creation and dissemination. ...
Publishers need to provide the tools of interaction and communication around book content and
to be active within the digital spaces in which readers can discuss and interact with their content. It will
no doubt become standard for digital texts to provide messaging and commenting functions alongside the core text, to enable readers to connect
with other readers of the same text and to open up
a dialogue with them. Readers are already connecting with each other ...
243

http://thedigitalist.net/?p=155

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4. Technically infeasible. All DRM, technically, is reliant on a
“closed system”—in other words, a system where there
are tightly controlled and protected inputs and outputs.
Apple, for example, appears to be complying with the
desires of content owners and embedding support for
High Bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP) in its
laptops 244. This standard frustrates copying content as it
moves across display connectors. The classic problem
with closed system design is that the system architect has
to permit enough permeability to allow the user to actually
interact with the system; additionally, operating systems
themselves are rarely truly closed, and there are myriad
ways of utilizing lower level services to frustrate permissions expectations for higher level software and hardware
systems.
5. Technically fragile. DRM systems do not age gracefully.
Because they are tightly coupled systems—a series of
protections that must all be aligned in order to permit
proper functioning—DRM is particularly sensitive to technical obsolescence. Thus the value of content secured by
DRM is inherently reduced compared to its unrestricted
use state, because its anticipated future value is less. In
turn, that reduces the ability of a DRM protected system
to maximize revenue generation over the content’s lifecycle—and for books, the potential value should last more
than my lifetime, but be able to be handed down to my
daughter, now seven years old, and generations beyond
that. Libraries are not just about access, but preservation
for the ages. DRM breaks libraries.

244
http://www.appleinsider.com/articles/08/11/18/apples_new_mac
books_have_built_in_copy_protection_measures.html

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6. Sociologically unrealistic. There is a weird veil of unreality
in DRM discussions because it presumes that the publishing market is coherent, stable, and interoperable enough
to not only permit but encourage creation and compliance
with a standard DRM specification. This is not the case.
Just to name one obvious example: Amazon has few incentives to relax its own proprietary approach to the distribution of content through the Kindle. Arguably, DRM
can only be envisioned as a market-wide system only if
those sectors of the market likely to opt-out are not financially relevant. However, the organizational “field” of
publishing—the complete set of firms involved in the publishing enterprise—is heterogeneous, and likely to be
more so over time.
7. Strategically unsound. DRM discussions are feasible when
there is an identified digital asset that can be protected.
That might hold true, as a characteristic, for something like
a song, or a movie. Books are texts, and DRM will only
work when they are downloadable objects possessing binary wrappers. However, as the Google Book Search system might suggest, increasingly people may well turn to
networked access for books, in which reading a book becomes a set of HTTP-brokered requests. There are tremendous advantages to network-based reading 245, and
as networks become more pervasive and more mobile, it
is hazardous to presume that they will not evolve into the
most prevalent form of book “ownership.”
Google will vend access to online books to consumers
and institutions if the proposed settlement 246 with the
Association of American Publishers (AAP) and the Authors
Guild is approved by the U.S. Southern District of New
245
246

http://www.slideshare.net/naypinya/reading-the-next-book
http://toc.oreilly.com/2008/10/reaction-to-google-book-search.html

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York court, but they will be gating book access via account
names and institutional IP address ranges—authentication and authorization—a very different approach from
restricting behaviors over a book “object” with DRM.
Google has reserved the option of selling downloaded
content (for now, most often mentioned in a PDF format),
but whether they would want to participate in a publishing-centric DRM scheme of downloadable content is subject to some considerable debate. And, for what it’s worth,
not mentioned as part of the settlement.
8. DRM is unfair. DRM requires technically sophisticated systems. This would limit access to digital books by those
who could most benefit from it, in the developing world.
At the bottom of the pyramid, prospective readers are
least likely to have robust network connections, up to date
software stacks, and modern devices. DRM disenfranchises the most important part of the world—the portion of
the world that most seeks change, on one hand, and is
most likely to be the source of world-changing transformation, on the other. What works in Africa will work everywhere, and what will be created for Africa, by Africans,
will be the light of the future for more of the world than
we might imagine. Publishers, above everyone, have an
obligation to embrace the world, supporting access to the
world’s knowledge and understanding.
9. A final bit of history: DVDs. Some of my publishing colleagues point to DVDs as a positive case for DRM, positing
that the (weak) DRM on DVDs preserved a market and enhanced revenue. There are many problems with this argument, just one being that DVDs didn’t strictly embrace
DRM, but rather combined a weak encryption scheme

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(CSS) with embedded region encodings that prevented
playback on the most prevalent consumer equipment.
Let’s remember some critical characteristics of DVDs:
a. They are likely the last digital media to be produced successfully in a physical format (with Blu-ray 247 expected to
be nearly dead on arrival). DVDs have been successful
because they are convenient to use when network bandwidth is limited, and because they are owned objects, not
because DRM encouraged greater sales. In many ways,
DVDs are more like (print) books than ebooks. The growth
sector is now Netflix/Roku 248, and Hulu 249, not DVD.
b. Region codes 250 actually reduced the size of potential
markets. Regional, geographic restriction is a concept
unfortunately familiar to book publishers, who are just now
beginning to see their geographic sale 251 of rights beginning to erode. In practice, DVD region codes sharply reduced the potential world market. A personal example:
my household is Japanese and English, and yet these are
two different region codes (“2” and “1” respectively).
With some effort, I obtained a dual-region player, but the
region codes helped keep Japanese films absurdly expensive in DVD format within the U.S., and sharply limited
my household’s consumption of movies that we otherwise
would have been happy to acquire.
c. The DVD encryption scheme (CSS) was ripped off 252 almost immediately, and has achieved a lore and fame singular in the Internet’s intersection with media industries.
http://www.news.com/8301-10784_3-9877031-7.html?tag=nefd.pop
http://www.roku.com/netflixplayer/
249
http://hulu.com/
250
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DVD_region_codes
251
http://beyondhall8.blogspot.com/2008/11/book-tradefree-trade.html
252
http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/openlaw/DVD/dvd-discuss-faq.html
247
248

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It’s trivially easy to move DVD content to one’s computer,
if one is so inclined 253.
In sum, I think DRM for digital books is a bad idea for publishers, authors, and readers, not just today, but even more
importantly, for the future.

1.27. Point-Counterpoint: Digital Book DRM, the Least
Worst Solution
Bill McCoy
November 24, 2008
Original Link: http://toc.oreilly.com/2008/11/an-industry-standard

-digital-b.html

Last week my friend and International Digital Publishing Forum 254 board colleague Peter Brantley 255, Executive Director
for the Digital Library Federation 256, published a thoughtful
article on TOC arguing that “digital book digital rights management (DRM) is bad bad bad 257.”
I rashly volunteered to offer a counterpoint. Now, let me
say up front that I don’t think ebook DRM is “good good
good” any more than I think that of taxation, standing armies,
or the proliferation of nuclear technology. But although one
may dislike taxation, one may dislike even more the likely
consequences of eliminating taxes (diminished schools,
roads, law enforcement ...). Peter’s post focused on negative
attributes of DRM in isolation. But to me, the important thing
is to look at likely outcomes given various scenarios, and to
consider what these outcomes would mean for the principal
actors involved (authors, publishers, and readers). Not
http://handbrake.fr/
http://www.idpf.org/
255
http://blogs.lib.berkeley.edu/shimenawa.php
256
http://www.diglib.org/
257
http://toc.oreilly.com/2008/11/on-digital-book-drm.html
253
254

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whether something is good or bad but whether it’s better
or worse than the likely alternative.
To me, it’s pretty clear that the establishment by the industry of a broadly adopted cross-platform ebook DRM system should lead to a significantly better outcome for all concerned than if no such platform ends up getting established.
“DRM” is a somewhat loaded term: to clarify, by “ebook
DRM” I mean a relatively lightweight means of limiting and/
or discouraging copying and use beyond publisherpermitted limits, intended more to “keep honest people
honest” than to totally prevent copying. After all, a book can
be scanned and digitized, or even re-keyed, with only a middling level of difficulty—so aiming for “ironclad” DRM is not
warranted, even if it were feasible.
Adapting Peter’s numbered list approach—with the same
caveat that these points are really more interconnected—
here’s some likely outcomes five years out if an interoperable
DRM standard (de facto or de jure) does not happen:
1. While there might be somewhat more DRM-free content,
ebook DRM will not go away—instead there will be multiple islands of non-interoperable DRMed ebooks. Users
will have to install and use multiple applications, and end
up with fragmented bookshelves tied to particular software or devices, in some cases being forced to re-buy
content as they move from device to device.
It seems obvious that this consequence would follow,
and I doubt Peter would predict otherwise. While music
appears to be moving away from DRM, the music business
is in the unique situation of having proliferated a freely
copyable digital format. Copy protection remains prevalent among the other major segments of paid content:
video, games, PC software, mobile content and applications.

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2. There will be an increased use of online-only reading systems, despite reader preferences to the contrary 258. For
end users, this will reduce usability, control, privacy, and
access. “Cloud” applications are not always optimal, as
evidenced by Google’s moves into desktop apps and the
much higher adoption of client-based iPhone apps over
the previous Web-only model. And if ad-supported online
reading becomes the only sustainable business model for
publishers, region-restricted content 259 will likely increase
—if you aren’t in a high-consumption country where ad
models pay, you may not have access, at any price.
Again, the tradeoff between availability of copyprotected downloadable content and controlled-access
online reading systems seems relatively obvious. It is interesting that despite Tim O’Reilly having established a
preference among his readership for downloadable content, four out of the current top 10 O’Reilly bestsellers 260 are available digitally only for online reading via
Safari 261. I have to believe this is at least in part due to
concern about piracy of the DRM-free digital editions that
O’Reilly is presently distributing.
3. There will be less digital content available to readers. Due
to the lack of a DRM standard, costs in getting digital
content distributed will be higher, and authors and publishers will be slower to make premium content available
digitally. This implies that certain parts of the world, where
paper books are not readily available, will remain information-poor. It also implies continued prevalence of paper, which despite all its positive attributes, is energy- and
resource-intensive to make and ship, and highly polluting.
http://radar.oreilly.com/2006/05/gentlemen-prefer-pdfs.html
http://radar.oreilly.com/2006/05/gentlemen-prefer-pdfs.html
260
http://oreilly.com/store/bestsellers.html
261
http://safari.oreilly.com/
258
259

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4. Publishers and authors will experience reduced sales of
both digital and print books. Due to a higher level of piracy and consumer adoption of alternative forms of learning and entertainment, the quality and quantity of longform premium content that gets published will be diminished, and author and publisher revenue will shrink. The
book will increasingly be seen as a legacy format.
The impact of freely-copyable music CDs on recorded
music sales supports this likely outcome, as does the trend
of free-access Web news leading to reduced coverage by
professional journalists employed by newspapers and
magazines.
OK, this is overall not a pretty picture. Now, how about the
outcomes five years out if as an industry we standardize on
a cross-platform ebook DRM solution that gets adopted
across devices:
1. Consumers will be able to read on whatever device they
choose, with a single collection of their content that they
can search, organize, and annotate. They will even have
an increased ability to break their DRM shackles when
necessary. With a single DRM scheme, there will be no
“security from obscurity,” and as with DVD’s CSS DRM,
when push comes to shove, consumers will be able to do
what they need to do with the content they acquire.
2. Online reading systems will be in use, and likely prevalent
for short-form digital reading, but consumers will also enjoy the improved usability, control, and privacy of downloadable content for use with client/device-based reading
systems.
3. Everything published commercially will be available digitally, worldwide. There will be DRM-free content available, and it may become the preferred delivery format in
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certain segments where there is a high degree of trust with
readers (K-12 textbooks) and/or where there is an ingrained customer resistance to copy-limiting technology
(computer books, perhaps). Publishers will have more
options for business models, with lower costs, ultimately
resulting in reduced prices to consumers. Paper consumption will decrease more rapidly, leading to lower energy
consumption and reduced pollution and carbon
emissions.
4. Publishers and authors will experience higher sales, both
digital and print, thanks to reduced piracy and broad
availability of digital books. The book will be revitalized as
it morphs into a digital-centric format, inclusive of rich
media and interactivity as well as text, and will attract a
new generation of readers across the globe.
Admittedly I perhaps paint an exaggerated picture of the
two alternatives, and the actual future is likely in any case to
surprise us. But it seems pretty obvious that the first scenario
would be significantly worse for authors, publishers, and
readers. The primary counter-argument I have heard to this
point of view starts with the admission that “well, maybe it
will be worse in the short term” but continues hopefully that
“in the long run it will lead to all content being free.” I classify
this argument with “in the long run, the communist state will
wither away 262.”
A valid concern is whether an industry-wide interoperable
DRM system can realistically be achieved within the next
several years. Peter’s article 263 implicitly questions this. I say:
why not? After all, the movie industry achieved this outcome
once (with DVD’s CSS DRM), and is on its way to achieving it
262
263

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stateless_communism
http://toc.oreilly.com/2008/11/on-digital-book-drm.html

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a second time (with Blu-ray). The mobile content industry has
achieved a wide measure of interoperability of copy-protected ringtones and screen-savers with OMA DRM,http://en
.wikipedia.org/wiki/OMA_DRM which is even supported by
Google’s open-source Android platform.
There are many possible roads to Rome. One is “social
DRM 264”: not explicitly limiting copying, but “watermarking”
user information into content, visibly (“Ex Libris ...”) and/or
invisibly. Another is that the industry, perhaps through a
body like the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF),
would adopt a de jure ebook DRM open standard. Lastly, a
particular vendor’s solution might become a de facto
cross-platform standard, with support across a critical mass
of desktops and devices.
In the interests of full disclosure, I should point out that
Adobe has set a course 265 to establish such a de facto industry standard for ebook DRM. But at Adobe we are also
engaged in dialog with authors and publishers about social
DRM, and within the IDPF around the potential for a vendorindependent standard. Personally, my goal is to see everything available digitally, for all people worldwide, as soon as
possible, with a net positive effect on author and publisher
revenue. As a libertarian geek, I in many respects share Peter’s gut feeling that DRM is “bad, bad, bad ...”. And at the
end of the day, Adobe is more advantaged if the digital market grows most rapidly, and is focused on promoting open
standards 266 like ISO 32000 267 (aka PDF) and ePub 268,
around which we build a variety of tools and services. DRM
is not our central value proposition, by any means. But if a
http://blogs.adobe.com/billmccoy/2007/02/steve_jobs_elim.html
http://www.adobe.com/products/contentserver/
266
http://www.adobe.com/devnet/digitalpublishing/
267
http://blogs.adobe.com/insidepdf/2007/12/iso_bal
lot_for_pdf_17_passed.html
268
http://www.idpf.org/
264
265

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sensible ebook DRM solution, from Adobe or otherwise, can
help advance our goals, i.e. lead to better outcomes for
readers, publishers, and authors, then I’m all for it. Yeah, and
I guess I’m for taxes, too.

1.28. Interstitial Publishing: A New Market from
Wasted Time
Joseph J. Esposito
December 12, 2008
Original Link: http://toc.oreilly.com/2008/12/interstitial-publishing.html 269

To grow, publishers must either battle other publishers over
market share or identify and serve new markets. Digital media are useful to publishers only insofar as they serve one of
these aims. (A separate matter is using digital media to drive
down costs and boost profits, but that is not growth in the
defined sense.) Using digital media to redistribute market
share may be costly and not lead to the expected gains, as
a publisher’s rivals are likely to use the very same tactics:
anyone can publish for the iPhone and Stanza, anyone can
get books onto the Kindle. But with market share battles
there is no relief; it is an arms race, and a publisher can no
more forego publishing in digital form than it can stop seeking new and creative authors. For a publisher pursuing
growth, alas, it’s new markets or nothing.
Digital media do not necessarily lead to new markets 270,
and in some situations, digital media may actually serve to
shrink markets. For consumer or trade publishing in the developed world, finding a new market can be challenging. Our
lives are full, our calendars are snug, and our attention is
http://arstechnica.com/features/2009/02/the-once-and-future-e-book.ars
http://pubfrontier.com/2008/10/21/how-the-kindle-and-its-kin-will-reducebook-sales/
269
270

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spread over a seemingly infinite number of media choices,
ranging from old-fashioned books to social networks, music,
movies, museums, and countless other things. To find a new
market here requires opening up a crack in a broad, seamless
facade.
Which brings us to interstitial publishing, publishing between the cracks. (No, uh, wisecracks, please.) For a day filled
with IMs and music and slathered over with email, one opportunity for publishers is to promote interstitial reading,
reading that is done in the brief moments between other
engagements, whether those claims on our attention are
other media or simply the wiggle room in a schedule: the
time spent waiting for a plane, a doctor, or for a meeting to
begin. That’s a huge number of minutes in any day; a good
portion of our lives is wasted while we are waiting for the
main course to arrive.
This point was brought to mind by a mailgroup post by
O’Reilly’s Andrew Savikas 271, who commented that he was
stuck for an hour in an airport. What a great opportunity to
pull out his iPhone and check out mail, alerts, and Web sites.
But he could have been reading, if publishers had provided
formal material (formal here means “the kind of stuff you are
willing to pay for”) to slip between the interstices of Andrew’s
day.
An hour is a big crack in the day; to become a true interstitial publisher, you would have to aim smaller. How about
the 10-minute crack? Five minutes? Think of your own day:
How often are you simply waiting, doing nothing? Daydreams don’t count—because ultimately the aim of every
media business is to colonize your mind’s every moment.
(Dust off that old copy of the science fiction classic The Space
Merchants 272 by Frederik Pohl and Cyril M. Kornbluth for a
271
272

http://toc.oreilly.com/andrew-savikas
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Space_Merchants

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satiric vision of imperial marketing.) If you had something to
read that you could sip in draughts of five minutes at a time
or perhaps 10, you would participate in the growth of the
new market for interstitial publishing. And this is genuine
growth, as at this moment the total sales in the interstices is
zero or close to it. The goal is to go from zero to 60 in five
minutes.
For interstitial publishing to work, you need a handy device
(PDA, iPhone, or something like that), which you carry with
you all the time so that you can take advantage of the cracks
in the day. For this kind of thing, a Kindle or any dedicated
ebook reader won’t work, as it is more of an effort to pull
such a device out of your bag as you wait in line in the
supermarket. So if it’s growth you want (as distinct from market share), forget the Kindle. A smart phone is a different
matter, however: How many times do you see someone yank
a Blackberry from a belt clip and glance at incoming email?
Instead of email, that could be the twenty-third chapter of
the new micronovel by William Adama. The proper device is
critical, and the software that runs on it must have sophisticated bookmarking capabilities.
You also need (and this ultimately may be the harder part)
content crafted with the interstices in mind. Reformatting
“Moby-Dick” for interstitial publishing simply won’t do, as
the structure of the text, even the syntax of the sentences,
militates against draughts of only 5 minutes. This is not a
matter of immersive vs. non-immersive reading: it’s entirely
possible to get immersed in 5 minutes. But it is an issue of
what you get immersed in. Sorry, Tolstoy and Grisham, even
William Gibson, but we need a new breed of writer, who is
born digital, who is born in the interstices.
Often interstitial publishing is confused with having a short
attention span, as though a moment is somehow less valuable than an hour. The key to this new form of publishing,

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however, is that it views the short period of each entry not as
a watered-down version of the “real thing,” a long text, but
as something built perfectly for the space and time it occupies. This is what McLuhan 273 meant by “understanding media”: it’s not about the content in itself but the content as it
accommodates itself to the shape of the surface, which in
turn is created and supported by the underlying technology.
Interstitial publishing can be fiction or nonfiction, but it is
unlikely to be a single isolated five-minute item, as it would
be hard to market or to find such an item. More likely short
items will be strung together in an anthology; the thesis of
the anthology (“brief bursts about the new administration”;
“101 short poems about transistors and current”) will suffuse
each item with a sense of being part of a whole.
Narratives for interstitial media may very will be linear
within each five-minute episode, but it is improbable that
item A will lead serially to item B, to item C, and so forth. It
would simply be hard to gather the narrative in our minds if
it were written in this way. More likely each episode will have
a beginning and an end—and then cut to another episode,
which may be built around a different time or place or another character. All the pieces get assembled in our minds,
five minutes at a time.
For “five-minute fiction” to catch on, we will need creative
people who probe the nature of the interstitial medium. It’s
easy to forget (or never to have known) that the linear narrative as we think of it today was in fact invented once upon
a time when writers were faced with books that were inexpensively manufactured and distributed to wide audiences
for the first time. Publishers will need to seek out writers who
comprehend the new medium, who can engage a reader for
fie minutes, who can make the many pieces of the work con-

273

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mcluhan

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geal in the reader’s mind. These writers will study readers,
PDAs or smart phones in hand, standing before the spinning
dryer in the laundromat, stopped at a red light, preparing to
board a plane, waiting for the meeting to begin. In all of this
publishers will see growth.
The aim of digital media should not be (or should not only
be) to substitute a screen for a printed page but to reinvent
the text on the screen and, in so doing, to bring new readers
into the marketplace.

1.29. The Once and Future Ebook: On Reading in the
Digital Age
John Siracusa
February 1, 2009
Original Link: http://arstechnica.com/features/2009/02/the-once

-and-future-e-book.ars

I was pitched headfirst into the world of ebooks in 2002 when
I took a job with Palm Digital Media. The company, originally
called Peanut Press, was founded in 1998 with a simple plan:
publish books in electronic form. As it turns out, that simple
plan leads directly into a technological, economic, and political hornet’s nest. But thanks to some good initial decisions
(more on those later), little Peanut Press did pretty well for
itself in those first few years, eventually having a legitimate
claim to its self-declared title of “the world’s largest ebook
store.”
Unfortunately, despite starting the company near the peak
of the original dot-com bubble, the founders of Peanut Press
lost control of the company very early on. In retrospect, this
signaled an important truth that persists to this day: people
don’t get ebooks.
A succession of increasingly disengaged and (later) incompetent owners effectively killed Peanut Press, first flattening
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its growth curve, then abandoning all of the original employees by moving the company several hundred miles away. In
January of 2008, what remained of the once-proud ebook
store (now called eReader.com 274) was scraped up off the
floor and acquired by a competitor, Fictionwise.com 275.
Unlike previous owners, Fictionwise has some actual
knowledge of and interest in ebooks. But though the
“world’s largest ebook store” appellation still adorns the
eReader.com Web site, larger fish 276 have long since entered
the pond.
And so, a sad end for the eReader that I knew (née Palm
Digital Media, née Peanut Press). But this story is not just
about them, or me. Notice that I used the present tense earlier: “people don’t get ebooks.” This is as true today as it was
10 years ago. Venture capitalists didn’t get it then, nor did
the series of owners that killed Peanut Press, nor do many of
the players in the ebook market today. And then there are
the consumers, their own notions about ebooks left to solidify in the absence of any clear vision from the industry.
The sentiment seeping through the paragraphs above
should seem familiar to most Ars Technica 277 readers. Do
you detect a faint whiff of OS/2? Amiga, perhaps? Or, more
likely, the overwhelming miasma of “Mac user, circa 1996.”
That’s right, it’s the defiance and bitterness of the marginalized: those who feel that their particular passion has been
unjustly shunned by the ignorant masses.
Usually, this sentiment marks the tail end of a movement,
or a product in decline. But sometimes it’s just a sign of a
slow start. I believe this is the case with ebooks. The pace of
the ebook market over the past decade has been excruciat-

http://www.ereader.com/
http://www.fictionwise.com/
276
http://www.amazon.com/
277
http://www.arstechnica.com
274
275

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ingly—and yes, you guessed it, unjustly—slow. My frustration is much like that of the Mac users of old. Here’s an awesome, obvious, inevitable idea, seemingly thwarted at every
turn by widespread consumer misunderstanding and an endemic lack of will among the big players.
I don’t pretend to be able to move corporate mountains,
but I do have a lot of ebook related things to get off my chest.
And so, this will be part editorial, part polemic, part rant, but
also, I hope, somewhat educational. As for Apple, that connection will be clear by the end, if it isn’t already. Buckle up.
A book by any other name
Part of the problem is right there in the name: ebook. In
the print world, the word “book” is used to refer to both the
content and the medium. In the digital realm, “ebook” refers
to the content only—or rather, that’s the intention. Unfortunately, the conflation of these two concepts in the nomenclature of print naturally carries over to the digital terminology, much to the confusion of all.
This is not the case with music, for example, where the
medium and the content are separate. The medium changes
—vinyl, 8-track, cassette, CD, MP3—but music is still music.
Music is the product. Music is what you’re buying. The medium is just a vessel, and that vessel changes ruthlessly.
When a better, cheaper, faster, or more convenient medium
appears, the music follows—with or without the content
owners.
But books there’s a lot of baggage attached to that name.
Giant tomes, portable paperbacks, or standard hardcovers,
they’re all recognizable as books. In the modern era, there
have been no discontinuities of form on par with the those
in the music industry to emphasize the separation of content
and medium for the written word.
Certain genres in particular have clung stubbornly to the
word and the medium of books: novels, biography, history.

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“I’m writing a book.” “Bring a book with you on your trip.”
“I work in a bookstore.” Though much of the content at Ars
Technica could conceivably 278 appear in a book, that’s probably not the kind of thing you are thinking of when you read
the the word “book” in the three previous sentences. Like I
said, a lot of baggage.
Lest you think I’m belaboring the nomenclature point,
you’ll see its ugly little face peeking out from behind some
of the most common complaints about ebooks.
Paper tigers
The popular objections to ebooks are legion. Perhaps surprisingly, technology enthusiasts (i.e., most of the people
reading this) are among the worst offenders. Here are some
of the greatest hits.
The screen
“I can’t read an entire novel off a screen!” “I’ll stick to paper with its vastly superior contrast ratio.” “Eye strain! Eye
strain!” “Yawn. Wake me up when we have 1200dpi displays.”
With very few exceptions, all the unfavorable comparisons
of bitmapped displays to print on paper are technically accurate. I’m here to tell you that they don’t matter.
The amount of time people in the industrialized world
spend reading text off a screen has long since nullified this
complaint. Literally billions of people have proven that
they’re willing and able to read huge volumes of text off absolutely horrible screens. Think of text messaging on pagers
and early cell phones, for example. Text messages are short,
you say? I’m willing to bet that the average American 279 will
read substantially more text off his or her cell phone screen
this year than from a book.
278
http://www.amazon.com/Inside-Machine-Introduction-Microprocessors-Archi
tecture/dp/1593271042
279
http://www.buzzmachine.com/2006/07/21/thebook-on-books/

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But cell phones are only the tip of the iceberg—an iceberg
called “the Web.” How many words of text on Web pages
do you think will be read this year in the U.S. and other firstworld countries with similar Internet penetration? How do
you think that compares with the number of words that will
be read from books in the same time period by those same
people?
People are clearly willing to read text off screens. Plain,
old, often awful screens with tiny, ugly text and large pixels.
Vast amounts of text, read over extended periods of time.
Up to 40 hours a week at work alone, in the case of most
office workers who sit in front of a computer all day. And
more at home for pleasure. Hell, you’re likely doing it right
now (unless you printed the PDF version of this article or are
being paid to read it).
I’ll say it again: people will read text off screens. The optical
superiority of paper is still very real, but also irrelevant . The
minimum quality threshold for extended reading was passed
a long, long time ago.
Now then, does that mean people are inclined to read
novels and other traditional “books” off screens? Not necessarily. My sole point in this section is to get the screen
technology argument off the table once and for all.
I’m not going to tell you that you really do want to read a
novel off a screen. I am going to tell you that your reticence
to do so has absolutely nothing to do with the state of screen
technology, despite your fervent protestations to the contrary (... where “you” is a statistically average fuzz of an individual, obviously. Some people have legitimate physical issues with prolonged reading from emissive screens—and
paper, for that matter. They are in the statistical noise,
however).
I think people understand this, intellectually. Yet the reticence to even consider reading a “book” on something

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that’s not a book is very real. The mind cries out for a logical
explanation, particularly the geek mind, thus the bogus rationalizations about screen technology, the limitations of
which technology enthusiasts know all too well.
The device
Ah, first cousin to the venerable screen technology complaint: dissatisfaction with the reading device. “It’s too big.”
“It’s too small.” “I can’t roll it up.” “I’m afraid of breaking it.”
“The battery never runs out on a real book.”
Mention the term ebook to someone who has never heard
it before and it’s their natural inclination to think first of some
sort of vaguely book-shaped electronic device. The fact that
devices like this exist and are marketed without much regard
for the difference between an “ebook reader” and an
“ebook” solidifies this association even among consumers
with some knowledge of ebooks.
Indeed, the physical book connection is usually embraced
wholeheartedly by the industry, resulting in devices with
book-like proportions, technology names like “e-ink,” and
even vestigial bindings and cover flaps 280. All of this conspires to cement the connection between the device and the
content. Therefore, dissatisfaction with the device translates
into dissatisfaction with ebooks in general.
And most of the time, there’s plenty to be dissatisfied
about. The screen is usually the first target of criticism. We’ve
already covered issues of appearance, but screen proportions and durability also come under fire, not to mention the
screen’s influence on battery life. It’s also difficult to get the
size, weight, and price of the device as a whole all exactly
right in a single product. And if any one of those things is off,
it can sour the customer on the idea of ebooks.

280

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Clearly, there are devices, both portable and stationary,
from which people have proven that they are willing and able
to read large volumes of text and (in the case of portables)
carry with them nearly every waking moment. And yet, when
it comes time to consider investing in something called
“ebooks,” there is an immediate context switch in the minds
of customers and they begin fretting over the real or
imagined failings of the dedicated devices that purport to
embody this concept.
The hardware hard sell
The public’s insistence on thinking of ebooks in physical
terms—books with batteries and a screen—rather than in
terms of their content has a direct analogue in the business
world. Businesses, after all, are composed of members of the
public.
To both consumers and businesses, dedicated reading
devices seem to be the obvious answer to the ebook question. During the early days of ebooks (i.e., the 1990s, not
2006, as many seem to believe these days), a steady stream
of purpose-built ebook reading devices were launched, in
many shapes and sizes, using many different technologies,
and at many different price points. Today, even those in the
business are hard-pressed to remember all their names.
Dedicated readers were actually a bit of a running joke
back at Peanut Press. Especially in a nascent market like
ebooks circa 2000, it’s difficult to get people to shell out
$100 or more for a device that then requires them to pay
again for each ebook they plan to read on it. The Peanut
Press guys saw this from the start and wisely decided to concentrate on creating ebook reader software for devices that
people already owned.

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Back then, PDAs 281 were the richest target, and Palm 282
PDAs in particular. No other device had a better combination
of computing power, size, weight, screen technology, and
most importantly, market penetration.
Compared to contemporary ebook devices, the Palm PDA
seems like a woefully inadequate reading platform. Early
Palm PDAs were tiny, and the screen resolution was, from
today’s perspective, inconceivably low: 160 pixels
square 283. Even when using very small text (itself a problem)
it was hard to fit more than a few sentences onto the screen.
And yet, while the technically and optically superior dedicated ebook reading devices came and went, the few companies that had wisely chosen to ride the hardware wave of
PDAs (and, eventually, cell phones) were the ones that came
out on top.
Ironically, the very thing that motivated the creation of all
those book-like dedicated reading devices is the same the
thing that kept customers from buying them. Businesses
couldn’t see past the physical connotations of the word
“book,” leading them to produce book-like hardware devices. And customers, when presented with said devices, compared their value proposition to the obvious physical analog,
paper books, and decided that they sure as hell were not
going to pay triple-digit prices for such a thing when they
could get a paperback for less than $10.
(I know many of you are probably already thinking of the
Kindle 284, but remember that, thus far, I’ve been talking
about the past, not the present or future. We’ll get there
eventually, I promise.)
The inevitable ebook

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personal_digital_assistant
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palm,_Inc.
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284
http://www.amazon.com/Amazon-com-kindle/dp/B000FI73MA
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The straightforward application of logic and reasoning to
the actions of large groups of people is a futile exercise. All
of the previous arguments about screen quality and medium/
content separation crumble to dust in the face of these inconvenient truths: broadly speaking, people aren’t buying
ebooks; people don’t want ebooks; people do not want to
read book-length texts off of a screen. Or, to paraphrase a
long-forgotten but nevertheless surprisingly applicable movie from the ’90s 285, people love their books .
But the truth is, these things always turn out the same way.
And I have some bad news for the bibliophiles. The beloved,
less technically sophisticated information conveyance with
the pedigreed history doesn’t win.
Time and again this happens, and it can happen without
changing a single person’s mind. To put it bluntly, people
die. Indeed, death is arguably the single most important
driver for all human progress. Even in a community as reasonbased as science, it’s often necessary to wait for one generation of scientists to die off before a new theory gains
mainstream acceptance. It’s a bit much to hold consumers’
text-based media preferences to a higher standard.
So, death and the passage of time—hardly romantic. It
doesn’t have to be that way, of course. Plenty of new technologies gain widespread adoption without the aid of a generational turnover. But so far, books have held their ground.
The message here is simply that, on the long graph, the result
will be the same.
The next generation, though influenced by the prejudices
of their parents, are nevertheless more likely to judge new
technologies on their merits, and so on for each new generation. And in the case of ebooks, the merits are there, as plain

285

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0105415/

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as day. In fact, they’re some of the same merits that have
driven other successful media transitions.
Convenience: One thousand songs 286 in your pocket?
One million books in your pocket. Carry your entire reading
list with you at all times. No loose bookmarks. No dog-eared
pages. No rips, tears, or smudges. No shelf space required.
No trip to the store. Purchase and start reading in seconds.
Read anywhere, any time, using only one hand. Stop reading
at a moment’s notice without fear of losing your place.
Power: Search the text instantly. Look up the definition of
any word with a single tap or click. Add and remove highlighting an infinite number of times without degrading the
text. Annotate without being constrained by the size of the
margins. Create multiple bookmarks and links from one part
of the text to another.
Potential: Consume, share, and remix 287 all of the above
with anyone, an unlimited number of times.
Fine. Great. But is that really enough? Are these things so
important that they’re going to inevitably foment a media
transition? That seems like a pretty dubious claim. To gain a
better perspective, think about some of the other media
transitions that have happened in your lifetime.
What advantages did CDs have that allowed them to replace vinyl records and cassette tapes? The geeks are surely
thinking about audio quality (although vinyl fans may debate
that) and the possibility of digital copies. But digital copying
was not mainstream when CDs first burst onto the scene, and
increased audio quality doesn’t exactly have mass-market
appeal (as we’ll see in a moment).
The CD’s most important characteristics were much more
mundane. CDs were more durable and smaller than vinyl,
and you didn’t have to fast-forward, rewind, or flip them over
286
287

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IPod_advertising
http://remix.lessig.org

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to play a certain song. (Oh, and record companies couldn’t
wait to have everyone re-purchase all their music, but that’s
true of every media transition, so it cancels out.) The audio
quality and futuristic shiny appearance were just icing. And
the digital copying, well, even most geeks weren’t thinking
about that in the days when CDs first arrived (when computers still had RAM measured in kilobytes and CD burners did
not yet exist).
Speaking of which, let’s consider another transition, from
CDs to digital downloads. We’re in the midst of that one right
now. What advantages do AACs and MP3s have over CDs?
Time for some more extremely boring features. You can purchase a digital download without leaving your house, and
you can start listening to it immediately. The physical storage
space for each album is also eliminated. That’s about it.
What about the audio quality? That’s actually gotten worse
during this transition. Consumers also gave up lyrics and
liner notes, and accepted decreased fidelity for the album
art. This is an upgrade? In the eyes of consumers, the answer
is a resounding “yes.” Behold, the power of convenience and
instant gratification!
Now look again at the virtues of ebooks listed above. I
hope you’ll agree that they’re more than sufficient. Still not
budging? Okay, time to go to the nuclear option ...
Horses for courses
If you remain unconvinced, here’s one final exercise, in the
grand tradition of a particular family 288 of Internet analogies.
Take all of your arguments against the inevitability of ebooks
and substitute the word “horse” for “book” and the word
“car” for “ebook.” Here are a few examples to whet your
appetite for the (really ) inevitable debate in the discussion
section 289 at the end of this article.

288

http://www.google.com/search?q=car+analogies

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“Books will never go away.” True! Horses have not gone
away either.
“Books have advantages over ebooks that will never be
overcome.” True! Horses can travel over rough terrain that
no car can navigate. Paved roads don’t go everywhere, nor
should they.
“Books provide sensory/sentimental/sensual experiences
that ebooks can’t match.” True! Cars just can’t match the
experience of caring for and riding a horse: the smells, the
textures, the sensations, the companionship with another living being.
Lather, rinse, repeat. Did you ride a horse to work today?
I didn’t. I’m sure plenty of people swore they would never
ride in or operate a “horseless carriage”—and they never
did! And then they died.
The final boss
If it seems like I’ve spent an inordinate number of words
vainly chastising the book-reading public for its stubbornly
illogical tastes, rest assured that I believe the bulk of the
blame lies elsewhere. It’s just that the guilty party’s actions
follow a formula that is familiar to the point of cliché.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.
A group of media owners with a comfortable, wellestablished business model is faced with new digital technology that threatens to change the landscape of the market.
At first, the media owners ignore the new technology. Long
after it has become apparent that this is an untenable strategy, the media owners reluctantly submit to the long-standing chorus of requests to provide their content in digital
form. However, all digital distribution is contingent upon the
most draconian digital rights management 290 scheme that
289
http://episteme.arstechnica.com/eve/forums?
a=dl&f=174096756&x_id=mtid34671
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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_rights_management

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the media owners can shove down the distributors’ collective
throats.
While this DRM is intended to protect the media owners’
rights and prevent the illegal distribution of perfect digital
copies of their content, it actually has no effect on piracy.
Every piece of digital media that is in demand is supplied for
free, whether by cracking the DRM, copying an unprotected
digital source, or synthesizing a new digital copy from an
unprotected analog source. What the DRM does do is frustrate legitimate users and stifle the fledgling market for digital distribution.
DRM: a refresher course
To most people who follow the technology sector, this
kind of story is old news. But just in case you find yourself
faced with the task of explaining the futility of DRM to a layperson, let me briefly summarize one of the best techniques
I’ve seen. (I believe I first saw it in a video of a lecture delivered by a guest speaker at Microsoft, though I could be mistaken. Update: It was Cory Doctorow 291 in 2004.)
In academic circles, the fictional characters Alice and
Bob 292 are often used to explain various methods of communication. Alice needs to get some message to Bob, but
there is some sort of enemy—often named Eve 293, which is
short for eavesdropper—that wants to intercept the
message.
To use this technique, you should do the traditional Alice
and Bob setup, then proceed to explain the various forms of
cryptography 294: Alice and Bob could share a secret piece of
information before separating from each other, thus allowing
them, and not Eve, to encrypt and decrypt their messages;

http://craphound.com/?p=1663
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alice_and_bob
293
http://www.xkcd.org/177/
294
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cryptography
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or they could use a form of public key cryptography 295 which
allows Alice and Bob to have their own, private secrets that
do not need to be coordinated and shared; and so on. Explain these concepts to a depth that you and your audience
are comfortable.
By this point, a layperson’s head is usually spinning thanks
to all the technical jargon, but they should be thoroughly
convinced that there are some very powerful tools for
protecting information. You should now bring the subject
back around to DRM and digital media distribution. This is
when you land the killing blow.
Your audience now understands that the purpose of DRM
is to prevent consumers from making illegal copies of the
media that they have purchased. It is only natural for them
to assume, after the long explanation of cryptography featuring Alice and Bob, that the law-breaking consumer fills the
role of the devious Eve, and is thus faced with the daunting
task of overcoming all that clever math to get at the protected information. But that’s not the full story.
The consumer is also Bob . He is the intended recipient of
the “message,” whether it be a song or a video or text. He
must be given all the tools required to decrypt and consume
the information!
At this point, the hope is that clouds will part and the layperson will finally grasp the inherent paradox of DRM.
Now, a technically savvy person may try to emphasize the
subtle distinction between the device-as-recipient and the
human being, but in this case, the layperson’s instincts are
correct. That distinction is significant only insofar as it slightly
delays the discovery of the decryption key and mechanism.
But this information is always in the consumer’s possession.
All of the mathematical and algorithmic strength of cryptog-

295

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cryptography#Public-key_cryptography

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raphy goes out the window when that is the case. What remains is merely security through obscurity 296. (Please save
your always-network-connected DRM dystopias for the comments section 297; I’m confining this discussion to the present
and near-future.)
Nuances aside, the big picture remains the same: DRM for
digital media distribution to consumers is a mathematically,
technologically, and intellectually bankrupt exercise. It fails
utterly to deliver its intended benefit: the prevention of piracy. Its disadvantages, however, are provided in full force:
limiting what consumers can legally do with content they
have legitimately purchased, under threat of civil penalties
or criminal prosecution.
Live and don’t learn
Back to our content owners. For music, there are record
labels; for movies, there are studios; for books and printed
media of all kinds, there are publishers, and they make the
music and movie folks seem positively progressive.
You’d think that publishers would have learned from the
travails of the music and movie folks, and they did, in a way.
Unfortunately, what they learned was fear . Early on, publishers saw what happened to the music business when Napster 298 arrived on the scene, and they were shaken to the
core. In fact, some of the very same executives, casualties of
the the digital music wars, ended up at publishing houses,
arriving with the digital equivalent of PTSD 299 and harrowing
tales of a business model’s collapse. And so, the order of the
days was “DRM everywhere,” or, just as likely, “no digital
distribution at all.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Security_through_obscurity
http://arstechnica.com/features/2009/02/the-once-and-future-e-book.ars
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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Napster
299
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This position is even more insane once you understand
how the traditional, non-digital publishing business works.
As in the music and movie industries, there’s the usual,
shockingly small cut given to the actual content creators, plus
the physical mechanism of manufacturing and distributing
the products. In the case of books, there’s an extra dose of
nonsense layered on top. Here’s an excerpt from a
Salon.com article 300 on the topic:
Books are sold to retailers in a process that resembles consignment. Bookstores pay for the books they
order, but they are able to return any unsold books
for a full refund (though they usually have to pay shipping). This practice began during the Depression,
when publishers wanted to keep selling books in bad
economic times, and it continues today despite frequent calls for its abolition.
This means that if a publisher ships 100 copies of a
book to a bookstore and only 50 sell, the remaining
books are shipped back and the bookseller is given
credit for them. (The returned books are sometimes
destroyed, although increasingly they are sold to “remainders” dealers who in turn supply retailers with
reduced-price sale books.) The estimated cost of
these returns is also figured into the price of a book.
“When you’re buying a book, you’re not only paying for that book, but you’re also paying for the book
that will be returned and destroyed,” explains Jason
Epstein, former editorial director at Random House.
For an even more sobering look at the brass tacks of this
business, read this complete example with actual numbers 301. It’ll surely seem byzantine to an outsider, but that’s
300

http://dir.salon.com/story/books/feature/2002/12/03/prices/index.html

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the point. Really try to power through the whole thing if you
want a clear picture of the pre-digital status quo in the publishing business.
Now imagine an ebook entrepreneur coming to a publisher and offering to sell digital copies of the publisher’s
books at retail. His proposition is simple. The publisher will
provide a digital representation of a book. The ebook
entrepreneur will format it for reading on one or more devices and sell it through a Web site (or, in the very early,
pre-Internet-penetration days, a physical kiosk in a store
somewhere). For each ebook sold, the ebook entrepreneur
will pay the publisher a royalty, traditionally about half of the
list price.
(Note that the list price is not the price the book was sold
for, which is typically much lower. For example, a book sold
for $12.99 may have a list price of $20. With a 50 percent
royalty, that means $10 of the $12.99 sale goes to the publisher, leaving $2.99 for the ebook seller. Some royalties are
based on the sale price instead (with or without tax), and
some are even fixed amounts on specific books, but the
“percentage of list price” royalty deal is extremely common,
and imposes a clear lower bound on the sale price of an
ebook.)
What are the publisher’s costs for this deal? Well, there
may be a one-time, fixed cost to prepare a digital incarnation
of the book to hand over to the ebook seller. But the publisher probably already has such a thing, e.g., for use in the
editing process prior to traditional print publishing. In fact,
these days, most authors produce the original work in digital
form to begin with.
Let’s see, what else? Um, that’s it. The publisher hands
over a file. Then, every month, a check arrives from the ebook

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http://forums.writersbeat.com/showthread.php?t=1767

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seller. There is no additional cost to the publisher per unit
sold. There are no printing costs, no warehousing, no trucks
or planes to deliver merchandise. There’s no forecast of demand, with the accompanying dire consequences of unsold
inventory or unrealized income if the predictions are wrong
one direction or the other. There’s no tracking of and accounting for unsold books, no retailers cutting the covers off
of paperbacks and shipping them back to the publisher as
proof of their destruction. (These days, an affidavit is accepted as proof of the books’ destruction, which is only slightly
less wasteful and absurd.)
In short, the terms are unbelievably favorable for publishers. It essentially moves them from print publishing margins
to software publishing margins: pay once for the creation of
the content, sell an infinite number of times with no additional per-unit cost.
And the downside? “Piracy!” the publishers cry. “This is
exactly what happened to the music business!” This is a good
place to point out yet another reality not recognized by this
panic over digital distribution. Whether or not publishers
choose to sell ebooks, digital versions of their content are
already available online thanks to OCR 302 (etc. 303) and, in the
case of the most popular books, collaborative transcription.
(For example, when photographs depicting all 759 pages of
the final Harry Potter book were leaked, the entire book was
transcribed before the official release date of the printed
book.)
To sum up, ebooks have an incredible upside for publishers and little to no downside, since all the things publishers
fear will happen as a consequence of selling ebooks have
already happened, and will continue to happen with or without the widespread sale of ebooks.
302
303

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Optical_character_recognition
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I can’t stand it, I know you planned it
So, how did publishers actually respond to content requests from ebook vendors? When ebook vendors weren’t
ignored entirely, they were usually met with one hard and
fast rule: “You will not get our content unless you protect it
with DRM!” In the case of Peanut Press, one publisher actually commissioned an expensive, defense-level security
analysis of Peanut’s DRM technology. Only if it was given a
passing grade would this publisher supply Peanut Press with
any of its content. (It passed ... with the caveat that bruteforce attacks would likely become feasible in a decade or so.)
And even when a deal for content was struck, the very best
content was often withheld, if not outright, then effectively,
through the use of financial barriers. For the ebook rights to
certain popular novels, publishers sometimes wanted a large
sum of money up front. Other ebook rights, such as those for
the Harry Potter novels, were unavailable at any price. (Believe me, we asked.)
Along similar lines, most publishers dictated list prices for
ebooks that were based on the prices of the printed versions.
When a book was available only as a hardcover, the list price
of the ebook version was the hardcover list price. Later, when
the book became available as a paperback, the ebook list
price was reduced to match the paperback price. This, despite the fact that the ebook version remained unchanged
during this time. Pricing based on cost and demand is all well
and good, but it should be the cost and demand of the actual
product for sale, not another product with entirely different
costs and demand!
This makes absolutely no sense until you look at it not as
a way to sell ebooks, but rather, as a way to ensure that
ebook sales do not eat into hardcover sales. That, in turn,
makes even less sense, given the comparative profit margins
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The unchanged nature of an ebook during the hardcoverto-paperback transition of the physical book brings up another issue. The digital text supplied to ebook vendors was
often rife with typos. And the kicker: ebook vendors were
not allowed to correct these typos. This fell under the contract clause that forbade all modifications to the text. The
only recourse an ebook vendor had was to inform the publisher of the error and request a corrected copy. Some publishers proved “less than responsive,” let us say, to such
requests.
All of this is to say that the publishers effectively sabotaged
the ebook market from day one. The DRM, the pricing, the
general treatment as second-class citizens, it all added up to
an insurmountable drag on a budding industry. Without
some minimum level of buy-in from content owners, there
was simply no way to break through to the mainstream, no
way to ever sell enough copies of those popular novels to
recoup a large up-front fee, and no way to persuade content
owners to allow the most desirable best-sellers to be sold in
ebook form.
Low-hanging fruit
Back at Peanut Press, we were incredibly frustrated by
publishers’ unwillingness to work with us to grow the market.
Withholding their best content and dictating print-like prices
for ebooks through their royalty structures effectively tied our
hands.
We were always looking for some way to break through.
Something needed to give, and if it wasn’t going to be the
publishers, then it would have to come from the other direction. If we could somehow rack up enough sales, even without the best content and with an unattractive pricing structure, then perhaps we would have enough clout to alter the
balance of power in negotiations with publishers.

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Things were not looking good, however. Aside from the
publishers, there were problems on the hardware side. PDA
sales were falling off, and while cell phones looked like the
next mass-market reading platform, their hardware specs
were far below that of PDAs. The so-called “smart phone”
was not yet a force in the market.
This was around the same time that the iPod started to gain
some momentum. Most of the Peanut Press software developers were longtime Mac users, and so, of course, we all had
iPods already. But the iPod only started to become
interesting as a reading platform once it began to sell in
much greater numbers, and to non-Mac users.
In 2003, Apple started selling music for the iPod through
its iTunes music store. Apple sold audio books as well,
through a partnership with Audible 304. Perhaps unknowingly,
Apple had just positioned itself perfectly for ebook domination.
It was all happening right before our eyes. First the device,
already far past the minimum threshold for screen size and
legibility, and rapidly gaining market penetration. Then the
digital distribution channel, accessed via a desktop application used by every iPod owner. Then the deals with content
owners—not just the independent labels or the scraps from
the big table, but all the top record labels, and for their most
popular content.
We Mac guys at Peanut Press saw the future as clear as
day. Indeed, it seemed that Apple, and Apple alone, had the
complete package: a mass-market reading device to target
—one that they owned, no less; an online store with millions
of customers who’d proven their willingness to buy things
from that store; unmatched experience negotiating with
“digitally unsophisticated” (to put it charitably) content own-

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ers. One by one, the dominoes had fallen. It all seemed so
inevitable.
The ebook market was Apple’s for the taking.
And then a funny thing happened: Apple never took it.
Peanut Press and the other early ebook innovators stagnated
or faded away. The iPod sold in numbers that made the PDA
phenomenon look quaint. And still Apple didn’t move. No
one moved. The entire ebook market was stalled.
These were the dark times for the ebook market, akin to
the five years during which Internet Explorer 6 had over 90
percent market share and received no major updates. Here
was this technology that had so much potential but was not
making any substantial progress in the market because the
players who were motivated to drive it forward had failed or
been rendered powerless by larger forces.
What was Apple’s problem? Surely the company could see
how neatly ebooks would fit into its business. This passage
from a recent New York Times article on Steve Jobs 305 provides a pretty clear answer:
[Jobs] had a wide range of observations on the industry, including the Amazon Kindle book reader,
which he said would go nowhere largely because
Americans have stopped reading.
“It doesn’t matter how good or bad the product is,
the fact is that people don’t read anymore,” he said.
“Forty percent of the people in the U.S. read one
book or less last year. The whole conception is flawed
at the top because people don’t read anymore.”
It’s hard not to view this as merely another incarnation of
the Apple product cycle, variation 2 306 (stage 4, specifically).
305
306

http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/01/15/the-passion-of-steve-jobs/
http://arstechnica.com/staff/fatbits.ars/2005/9/20/1314

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And indeed, with the advent of the Kindle (which I will get to
soon, I swear) and the (relative) resurgence of ebooks in the
past year or so, I think that’s an apt analysis.
But taking the statement at face value also explains why
Apple ignored the ebook market for so many years in the
past. Put simply, it was just too small to care about. Hell, Apple couldn’t even be bothered to buy Audible, which remains
the source for audio books in the iTunes store to this day.
That’s an entirely un-Apple-like move; it’s as if Apple had let
Pixo 307 make the iPhone OS.
All the early ebook companies were at the bottom looking
up at the book market, which appeared to them vast and
plentiful. Apple, in contrast, was looking down from its perch
atop the music market. To Apple, the entire world of print
publishing was but a molehill.
And so, the heir apparent to the ebook throne looked
away. But the power vacuum in the ebook market would not
last forever.
Modern times
The current ebook market is like a “re-imagining” (as the
movie and TV folks put it 308) of the old ebook market. Some
things have changed drastically, but it’s still basically the
same story.
Some changes are obvious. With iTunes as the number
one music retailer in the US 309, the viability of digital media
sales is no longer in question. Content owners are starting to
show some 310 signs 311 of cluefulness when it comes to DRM.
“Smart phones” are getting ever closer to being just

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pixo
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battlestar_Galactica_(re-imagining)
http://www.apple.com/pr/library/2008/04/03itunes.html
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http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20070516-amazon-announces-drmfree-music-store.html
311
http://arstechnica.com/journals/apple.ars/2009/01/06/apple-labels-both-winwith-drm-free-itunes-tiered-pricing
307
308
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“phones,” and one phone in particular 312 is bringing the
mobile digital marketplace 313 beyond its timid ringtone
roots. But from the perspective of someone who was a part
of it the first time around, the most notable aspect of the
“new” ebook market is how much it echoes the old.
When faced with the ebook question, the “obvious answer” of a dedicated reading device is just as popular as it
was in the 1990s. The Amazon Kindle is today’s Rocketbook 314, with the huge difference that it’s backed by one of
the most powerful retailers in the world that just so happens
to sell exclusively over the Internet. (I know most readers
have never even heard of the Rocketbook, but that’s kind of
the point.) And just like in the ’90s, there are other players
placing their bets on “the device people already own 315.”
As a wizened veteran of the first ebook wars, and having
just retold of the ill fortunes of dedicated reading devices at
that time, you might expect me to predict the same outcome
this time around: doom for the likes of the Kindle 316 and Sony
Reader 317, and triumph for the phone and/or iPod.
I do still believe that dedicated readers are more appropriate for a mature ebook market, when consumers can more
easily justify the cost of such a specialized device. But that
doesn’t mean a dedicated reader can’t succeed. The Kindle
is the best example, hitching itself to the star of Amazon’s
existing retail store. Maybe Amazon will haul the ungainly
Kindle right across the critical mass threshold and it will become “the iPod of ebooks.” Then again, maybe Apple will
finally figure out that the iPod (and, yes, the iPhone) is “the
http://www.apple.com/iphone
http://www.apple.com/iphone/appstore/
http://blip.tv/file/493181/
315
http://www.forbes.com/2008/10/02/stanza-kindle-iphone-tech-personalcx_ag_ja_1002stanza.html
316
http://arstechnica.com/reviews/hardware/amazon-kindle-review.ars
317
http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20081003-sony-goes-after-kindle-withnew-touchscreen-ebook-reader.html?
312
313
314

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iPod of ebooks.” Amazon’s efforts are handicapped by the
hurdle of that separate hardware purchase, so the door is still
open for a strong competitor targeting an existing readercapable hardware platform, whether it be Apple or someone
else.
Popular attitudes towards ebooks haven’t changed much.
In fact, they may even be worse than the first time around.
Many consumers have learned just enough about ebooks
during the past ten years to have cemented their unfavorable
opinions. And don’t forget the horse riders 318, filling their
role as enthusiastic opponents of technological progress unto their dying breath.
Overall, there’s definitely an “all of this has happened before 319” vibe, perhaps even with a hint of “all of this will happen again,” if I’m feeling pessimistic. It’s almost as if those
first attempts to get the ebook market off the ground never
happened.
On a more personal level, it’s like Peanut Press never happened, which partially explains the defiance and resentment
with which I began this article. For those of us who were
ground up in the unforgiving gears of the market during that
first, hopeful go at getting ebooks into the hands of the
masses, seeing it all unfold again, in much the same way, and
with no apparent understanding of the past, is bittersweet at
best. It’s not so much that we’re morbidly dwelling on what
might have been, but rather, we’re disappointed that so few
have learned from our mistakes. After all, you have to be
aware of history before you can learn from it.
Finally, there are the publishers, the notable constants in
this struggle. Have they learned anything? I sometimes feel
like they’re disappointed that ebooks didn’t just go away. But
318
http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/features/ebooksdont-furnish-a-room-919089.html
319
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eternal_return

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times have been tough for publishers, and they’re only getting tougher 320. There’s an air of desperation about the recent, sweeping deals 321 between big publishers and some
relatively obscure electronic publishing companies. These
deals could have been market-shattering five years ago, but
today they hardly make a ripple because they don’t involve
Apple, Amazon, or one of the other established digital media
kingpins.
Everything is set for another run at this ebook thing. Will
Apple wake from its apparent slumber and pull the sword
from the stone—the sword that’s currently taped to its hand
and sheathed in a teflon-lined crevice? That’d certainly be
the shortest path between the present and the inevitable
ebook future.
Failing that, Amazon is a strong contender that’s already
using its retail clout to put significant downward price pressure on publishers. Kindle’s “hardcover” (ugh) ebook prices
are around $10 322, versus $15 to $18 elsewhere 323. But I fear
that the dedicated reader strategy will result in a long, shallow ramp before ebooks hit that “hockey-stick moment 324.”
That leaves a big opening for another player to cut in.
Meanwhile, on the platform 325 closest to my heart, it
seems like ebook confusion reigns. We’ve got a fantasticlooking reader 326 serving up public domain text only, a
blight 327 of applications-posing-as-books that seems like it
will only get worse 328, and widespread misunderstanding of

http://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/20090115/business/901150213
http://blog.wired.com/business/2008/12/app-developer-s.html
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/ref=kinw_ddp/B0015DYKU2
323
http://www.ereader.com/ereader/eBooks/eBook76192.htm
324
http://radar.oreilly.com/2008/11/twitters-hockey-stick-moment.html
325
http://developer.apple.com/iphone/
326
http://www.classicsapp.com/
327
http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewGenre?
id=6018&mt=8
328
http://blog.wired.com/business/2008/12/app-developer-s.html
320
321
322

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how ebooks can and should work on a mobile platform. It’s
the ebook equivalent of a dog humping a tree. I admire the
enthusiasm, but it is perhaps not the most productive course
of action.
And hey, even Peanut Press lives on, in a fashion 329. The
eReader (née Palm Reader, née Peanut Reader) software is
still available on a wide variety of platforms 330, and there are
still plenty of best-sellers for sale ... even if those Harry Potter
ebook rights are still only a dream. And yes, the DRM is still
there. Publishers have a long way to go to match even the
minimal enlightenment of the record labels. (On the other
hand, at least publishers didn’t file 35,000 lawsuits 331 against
their customers over the past five years.)
Still, if you want to see a good approximation of the ebook
market as I envisioned it many years ago, install eReader 332
or Stanza 333 on your iPhone or iPod (both are free), purchase
and download a book, and start reading. You can do this all
wirelessly (Wi-Fi, EDGE, or 3G) from a small, thin, lightweight
device that has a sharp, high-resolution color screen, lots of
solid-state storage, and oh, by the way, is also a phone, digital music player, application platform, Web browser, and
game machine.
There’s still a big piece of the puzzle missing, however: a
trusted online store with a loyal, established customer base
of millions through which to sell the actual ebooks. Not to
belittle the ebook stores attached to eReader 334 and Stanza 335, but let’s be frank: neither of them have 50 million credit-card-bearing customers and several billion digital media

http://www.ereader.com
http://www.ereader.com/ereader/software/browse.htm
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122966038836021137.html
332
http://www.ereader.com/help/iphonefaq.htm
333
http://www.lexcycle.com/iphone
334
http://www.ereader.com/help/iphonefaq.htm
335
http://www.lexcycle.com/
329
330
331

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sales under their belt. And let me reiterate, the App
Store 336 is not the place to sell ebooks, nor is it the equivalent, in any measure, of Apple itself selling ebooks alongside
its existing music and video offerings in the (yes, increasingly
inappropriately named) iTunes store 337.
All of that said, there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic
about the business side of the ebook equation. There are
now some powerful players making moves, with others that
seem poised to do so. And if the publishers have still not
come to their senses, then at least they seem desperate
enough to entertain offers that they would have snubbed in
the past.
That leaves you, dear reader, the consumer—the final unaddressed barrier to the ebook future. This is another area
where Apple is uniquely qualified to help. What other company has so successfully convinced consumers, en masse, to
purchase devices they never thought they needed and use
them to do things they’ve never done before? An Apple
product launch and associated marketing campaign could
get the world reading ebooks faster than anything else I can
imagine. Short of that, it looks like it’s going to be up to individuals to make it happen, albeit on a much longer
timeline.
Let me end with my own personal ebook origin story 338.
Before I started at Peanut Press, I’d never even heard the
word “ebook.” I remember Jeff, one of the company’s
founders, showing me the book he was currently reading on
his Palm PDA during my interview. It was clear that he expected me to be impressed, but all I could see was miniscule
text on a small, dim, low-resolution screen. But hey, I was
going to be developing the Web store anyway. What was
http://www.apple.com/iphone/appstore
http://www.apple.com/itunes/store/
338
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Origin_story
336
337

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actually sold and downloaded by customers wasn’t foremost
on my mind.
I’ll bet you’re expecting me to describe some kind of eureka moment, maybe after the first month or two working
there, when I saw the light of ebooks and was changed forever. But it didn’t happen like that. I was pretty much headdown, working on the Web store and ebook production
back-end, learning the details of the business as needed, but
mostly from the vendor’s perspective.
Still, that fact that literally every other developer in the
company had a Palm PDA and used it to read ebooks did not
go unnoticed. Soon, I had one too—the company bought
one for all developers since it was necessary to close the loop
on the whole production/sale/download process. What was
I going to do with the thing besides try reading an ebook on
it? (Well, that and play Vexed 339.)
I honestly can’t remember the first ebook I read on its
160x160-pixel screen. Like I said, there was no blinding flash,
no instant conversion. What happened instead is that I just
put another ebook on it when I finished with the first. Because, again, what else was I going to do with it? (Yes, I know,
it does other things 340!)
At a certain point, I realized I’d read my last five or six
books on this thing. Without noticing, I’d gone off paper
books entirely. Only then did I take the time to examine what
had happened. Why was reading off of this tiny PDA not just
tolerable, but (apparently) satisfying enough to keep me
from returning to paper books?
Here’s what I came up with. First, I was more likely to have
my Palm with me than a book. When I had an opportunity to
read during the day, my Palm was there, and a paper book,
had I been in the middle of one, would not have been. (In339
340

http://vexed.sourceforge.net
http://www.seinfeldscripts.com/TheWizard.htm

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cidentally, this also lead to a vast expansion 341 of the definition of “an opportunity to read.”) Second, I could read in the
dark next to my sleeping wife without disturbing her with
bright lights and page-turning noises 342. (The tan-on-black
reader color theme was affectionately known as “wife mode”
at Peanut Press.) Third, I was loathe to give up the ability to
tap any word I didn’t understand and get its dictionary definition.
That’s pretty much it. Of all the virtues of ebooks, these
were the ones that sealed the deal for me, personally. Your
list may be different. Or maybe you’ll never be satisfied by
reading anything other than a paper book. All I ask is that
you give it an honest try.
That’s harder to do than you might think. I essentially
tricked myself into auditioning ebooks without even understanding that was what I was doing. And had I been introduced to ebooks through, say, the Kindle, I would very likely
have rejected them. The Kindle is too big to carry with me
all the time, and the screen is not backlit, eliminating two out
of the three things that sold me on ebooks.
Does that mean the Kindle 343 is a poor ebook reader and
the Palm m505 344 is a good one? Hardly. It just hammers
home, once again, the distinction between the device and
the content. If you don’t like a particular reader or business
model or purchase experience, don’t write off ebooks entirely. Your needs may yet be filled by some other vendor.
Remember, the ebook is the text , not the device. But I repeat
myself ...
Let me leave you with a quote from another Peanut Press
founder, one which reflects his not-entirely unfounded opti-

http://twitter.com/siracusa/statuses/981555096
http://static.arstechnica.com/bliss.jpg
343
http://arstechnica.com/reviews/hardware/amazon-kindle-review.ars
344
http://www.palminfocenter.com/view_story.asp?ID=1867
341
342

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mism about the subtle seduction of ebooks: “You know what
we call people who finally try ebooks after they’ve sworn they
could never read on a handheld device? ‘Customers.’”
It happened to me; it could happen to you. I hope it does,
because the future of ebooks has been a long time coming.
I just hope it gets here soon 345.

This post is reprinted with permission from Ars Technica 346.

345
346

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LDiDK_yBCw0
http://www.arstechnica.com

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Piracy Is Progressive
Taxation, and Other
Thoughts on the
Evolution of Online
Distribution
Tim O’Reilly
December 11, 2002
Original Link: http://www.openp2p.com/pub/a/p2p/2002/12/11/

piracy.html

Editor’s Note: This 2002 essay is an important reference
point for TOC’s coverage on piracy and free distribution.
The continuing controversy over online file sharing sparks
me to offer a few thoughts as an author and publisher. To be
sure, I write and publish neither movies nor music, but books.
But I think that some of the lessons of my experience still
apply.
Lesson 1: Obscurity is a far greater threat to authors and
creative artists than piracy.
Let me start with book publishing. More than 100,000
books are published each year, with several million books in
print, yet fewer than 10,000 of those new books have any
significant sales, and only a hundred thousand or so of all the
books in print are carried in even the largest stores. Most
books have a few months on the shelves of the major chains,
and then wait in the darkness of warehouses from which they
will move only to the recycling bin. Authors think that getting
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a publisher will be the realization of their dreams, but for so
many, it’s just the start of a long disappointment.
Sites like Amazon that create a virtual storefront for all the
books in print cast a ray of light into the gloom of those
warehouses, and so books that would otherwise have no
outlet at all can be discovered and bought. Authors who are
fortunate enough to get the rights to their book back from
the publisher often put them up freely online, in hopes of
finding readers. The web has been a boon for readers, since
it makes it easier to spread book recommendations and to
purchase the books once you hear about them. But even
then, few books survive their first year or two in print. Empty
the warehouses and you couldn’t give many of them away.
Many works linger in deserved obscurity, but so many
more suffer simply from the vast differential between supply
and demand.
I don’t know the exact size of the entire CD catalog, but I
imagine that it is similar in scope. Tens of thousands of musicians self-publish their own CDs; a happy few get a recording contract. Of those, fewer still have their records sell in
appreciable numbers. The deep backlist of music publishers
is lost to consumers because the music just isn’t available in
stores.
There are fewer films, to be sure, because of the cost of
film making, but even there, obscurity is a constant enemy.
Thousands of independent film makers are desperate for
distribution. A few independent films, like Denmark’s Dogme
films, get visibility. But for most, visibility is limited to occasional showings at local film festivals. The rise of digital video
also promises that film making will soon be as much a garage
opportunity as starting a rock band, and as much of a garret
opportunity as the great American novel.
Lesson 2: Piracy is progressive taxation .

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For all of these creative artists, most laboring in obscurity,
being well-enough known to be pirated would be a crowning
achievement. Piracy is a kind of progressive taxation, which
may shave a few percentage points off the sales of wellknown artists (and I say “may” because even that point is not
proven), in exchange for massive benefits to the far greater
number for whom exposure may lead to increased revenues.
Our current distribution systems for books, music, and
movies are skewed heavily in favor of the “haves” against the
“have nots.” A few high-profile products receive the bulk of
the promotional budget and are distributed in large quantities; the majority depend, in the words of Tennessee Williams’ character Blanche DuBois, “on the kindness of strangers.”
Lowering the barriers to entry in distribution, and the continuous availability of the entire catalog rather than just the
most popular works, is good for artists, since it gives them a
chance to build their own reputation and visibility, working
with entrepreneurs of the new medium who will be the publishers and distributors of tomorrow.
I have watched my 19 year-old daughter and her friends
sample countless bands on Napster and Kazaa and, enthusiastic for their music, go out to purchase CDs. My daughter
now owns more CDs than I have collected in a lifetime of less
exploratory listening. What’s more, she has introduced me
to her favorite music, and I too have bought CDs as a result.
And no, she isn’t downloading Britney Spears, but forgotten
bands from the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s, as well as their musical
forebears in other genres. This is music that is difficult to find
—except online—but, once found, leads to a focused search
for CDs, records, and other artifacts. eBay is doing a nice
business with much of this material, even if the RIAA fails to
see the opportunity.

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Lesson 3: Customers want to do the right thing, if they can.
Piracy is a loaded word, which we used to reserve for
wholesale copying and resale of illegitimate product. The
music and film industry usage, applying it to peer-to-peer file
sharing, is a disservice to honest discussion.
Online file sharing is the work of enthusiasts who are trading their music because there is no legitimate alternative. Piracy is an illegal commercial activity that is typically a substantial problem only in countries without strong enforcement of existing copyright law.
At O’Reilly, we publish many of our books in online form.
There are people who take advantage of that fact to redistribute unpaid copies. (The biggest problem, incidentally, is
not on file sharing networks, but from copies of our CD
Bookshelf product line being put up on public Web servers,
or copied wholesale and offered for sale on eBay.) While
these pirated copies are annoying, they hardly destroy our
business. We’ve found little or no abatement of sales of printed books that are also available for sale online.
What’s more, many of those who do infringe respond to
little more than a polite letter asking them to take the materials down. Those servers that ignore our requests are typically in countries where the books are not available for sale
or are far too expensive for local consumers to buy.
What’s even more interesting, though, is that our enforcement activities are customer-driven. We receive thousands
of emails from customers letting us know about infringing
copies and sites. Why? They value our company and our authors, and they want to see our work continue. They know
that there is a legitimate way to pay for online access—our
Safari Books Online 1 subscription service can be had for as

1

http://my.safaribooksonline.com/?portal=oreilly

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little as $9.95 a month—and accordingly recognize free copies as illegitimate.
A similar data point comes from Jon Schull, the former
CTO of Softlock, the company that worked with Stephen
King on his eBook experiment, “Riding the Bullet”. Softlock,
which used a strong DRM scheme, was relying on “superdistribution” to reduce the costs of hosting the content—the
idea that customers would redistribute their copies to
friends, who would then simply need to download a key to
unlock said copy. But most of the copies were downloaded
anyway and very few were passed along. Softlock ran a customer survey to find out why there was so little “pass-along”
activity. The answer, surprisingly, was that customers didn’t
understand that redistribution was desired. They didn’t do it
because they “thought it was wrong.”
The simplest way to get customers to stop trading illicit
digital copies of music and movies is to give those customers
a legitimate alternative, at a fair price.
Lesson 4: Shoplifting is a bigger threat than piracy .
While few of the people putting books on public web servers seek to profit from the activity, those who are putting up
CDs for sale on eBay containing PDF or HTML copies of dozens of books are in fact practicing piracy—organized copying
of content for resale.
But even so, we see no need for stronger copyright laws,
or strong Digital Rights Management software, because existing law allows us to prosecute the few deliberate pirates.
We don’t have a substantial piracy problem in the US and
Europe. The fact that its software products have been available for years on warez sites (and now on file trading networks) has not kept Microsoft from becoming one of the
world’s largest and most successful companies. Estimates of
“lost” revenue assume that illicit copies would have been
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the ledger for copies that are sold because of “upgrades”
from familiarity bred by illicit copies.
What we have is a problem that is analogous, at best, to
shoplifting, an annoying cost of doing business.
And overall, as a book publisher who also makes many of
our books available in electronic form, we rate the piracy
problem as somewhere below shoplifting as a tax on our
revenues. Consistent with my observation that obscurity is a
greater danger than piracy, shoplifting of a single copy can
lead to lost sales of many more. If a bookstore has only one
copy of your book, or a music store one copy of your CD, a
shoplifted copy essentially makes it disappear from the next
potential buyer’s field of possibility. Because the store’s inventory control system says the product hasn’t been sold, it
may not be reordered for weeks or months, perhaps not at
all.
I have many times asked a bookstore why they didn’t have
copies of one of my books, only to be told, after a quick look
at the inventory control system: “But we do. It says we still
have one copy in stock, and it hasn’t sold in months, so we
see no need to reorder.” It takes some prodding to force the
point that perhaps it hasn’t sold because it is no longer on
the shelf.
Because an online copy is never out of stock, we at least
have a chance at a sale, rather than being subject to the
enormous inefficiencies and arbitrary choke points in the distribution system.
Lesson 5: File sharing networks don’t threaten book, music, or film publishing. They threaten existing publishers .
The music and film industries like to suggest that file sharing networks will destroy their industries.
Those who make this argument completely fail to understand the nature of publishing. Publishing is not a role that
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mandated by mathematics. Millions of buyers and millions of
sellers cannot find one another without one or more middlemen who, like a kind of step-down transformer, segment the
market into more manageable pieces. In fact, there is usually
a rich ecology of middlemen. Publishers aggregate authors
for retailers. Retailers aggregate customers for publishers.
Wholesalers aggregate small publishers for retailers and
small retailers for publishers. Specialty distributors find ways
into non-standard channels.
Those of us who watched the rise of the Web as a new
medium for publishing have seen this ecology evolve within
less than a decade. In the Web’s early days, rhetoric claimed
that we faced an age of disintermediation, that everyone
could be his or her own publisher. But before long, individual
web site owners were paying others to help them increase
their visibility in Yahoo!, Google, and other search engines
(the equivalent of Barnes & Noble and Borders for the Web),
and Web authors were happily writing for sites like AOL and
MSN, or on the technology side, Cnet, Slashdot, O’Reilly
Network, and other Web publishers. Meanwhile, authors
from Matt Drudge to Dave Winer and Cory Doctorow made
their names by publishing for the new medium.
As Jared Diamond points out in his book Guns, Germs,
and Steel 2, mathematics is behind the rise of all complex
social organization.
There is nothing in technology that changes the fundamental dynamic by which millions of potentially fungible
products reach millions of potential consumers. The means
by which aggregation and selection are made may change
with technology, but the need for aggregation and selection
will not. Google’s use of implicit peer recommendation in its
page rankings plays much the same role as the large retailers’

2

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0393317552/oreillycom-20/?

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use of detailed sell-through data to help them select their
offerings.
The question before us is not whether technologies such
as peer-to-peer file sharing will undermine the role of the
creative artist or the publisher, but how creative artists can
leverage new technologies to increase the visibility of their
work. For publishers, the question is whether they will understand how to perform their role in the new medium before
someone else does. Publishing is an ecological niche; new
publishers will rush in to fill it if the old ones fail to do so.
If we take the discussion back to first principles, we understand that publishing isn’t just about physical aggregation of
product but also requires an intangible aggregation and
management of “reputation.” People go to Google or Yahoo!, Barnes & Noble or Borders, HMV, or MediaPlay, because they believe that they will find what they want there.
And they seek out particular publishers, like Knopf or O’Reilly, because we have built a track-record of trust in our ability
to find interesting topics and skilled authors.
Now, let’s take this discussion over to music file sharing.
How do people find songs on Kazaa or any of the other postNapster file sharing services? First, they may be looking for
a song they already know. But such searches for a known
artist or song title are fundamentally self-limiting, since they
depend on the marketing of a “name space” (artist/song
pairs) that is extrinsic to the file sharing service. To truly supplant the existing music distribution system, any replacement
must develop its own mechanisms for marketing and recommendation of new music.
And in fact, we already see those mechanisms emerging.
File sharing services rely heavily on that most effective of
marketing techniques: word of mouth. But over time, anyone
who has studied the evolution of previous media will see that
searches based on either pre-existing knowledge or word of

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mouth represent only the low-hanging fruit. As the market
matures, paid marketing is added, and step by step, we build
up the same rich ecology of middlemen that characterizes
existing media marketplaces.
New media have historically not replaced but rather augmented and expanded existing media marketplaces, at least
in the short term. Opportunities exist to arbitrage between
the new distribution medium and the old, as, for instance,
the rise of file sharing networks has helped to fuel the trading
of records and CDs (unavailable through normal recording
industry channels) on eBay.
Over time, it may be that online music publishing services
will replace CDs and other physical distribution media, much
as recorded music relegated sheet music publishers to a niche and, for many, made household pianos a nostalgic affectation rather than the home entertainment center. But the
role of the artist and the music publisher will remain. The
question then, is not the death of book publishing, music
publishing, or film production, but rather one of who will be
the publishers.
Lesson 6: “Free” is eventually replaced by a higher-quality
paid service .
A question for my readers: How many of you still get your
email via peer-to-peer UUCP dialups or the old “free” Internet, and how many of you pay $19.95 a month or more to an
ISP? How many of you watch “free” television over the airwaves, and how many of you pay $20-$60 a month for cable
or satellite television? (Not to mention continue to rent movies on videotape and DVD, and purchasing physical copies
of your favorites.)
Services like Kazaa flourish in the absence of competitive
alternatives. I confidently predict that once the music industry provides a service that provides access to all the same
songs, freedom from onerous copy-restriction, more accu-

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rate metadata and other added value, there will be hundreds
of millions of paying subscribers. That is, unless they wait too
long, in which case, Kazaa itself will start to offer (and charge
for) these advantages. (Or would, in the absence of legal
challenges.) Much as AOL, MSN, Yahoo!, Cnet, and many
others have collectively built a multi-billion dollar media
business on the “free” web, “publishers” will evolve on file
sharing networks.
Why would you pay for a song that you could get for free?
For the same reason that you will buy a book that you could
borrow from the public library or buy a DVD of a movie that
you could watch on television or rent for the weekend. Convenience, ease-of-use,selection, ability to find what you
want, and for enthusiasts, the sheer pleasure of owning
something you treasure.
The current experience of online file sharing services is
mediocre at best. Students and others with time on their
hands may find them adequate. But they leave much to be
desired, with redundant copies of uneven quality, intermittent availability of some works, incorrect identification of artist or song, and many other quality problems.
Opponents may argue that the Web demonstrates precisely what they are afraid of, that content on the Web is
“free”, that advertising is an insufficient revenue model for
content providers, and that subscription models have not
been successful. However, I will argue that the story is still
unfinished.
Subscription sites are on the rise. Computer industry professionals can be seen as the “early adopters” in this market.
For example, O’Reilly’s Safari Books Online is growing at 30
percent a month, and now represents a multi-million dollar
revenue stream for us and other participating publishers.
Most observers also seem to miss the point that the internet is already sold as a subscription service. All we’re working

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on is the development of added-value premium services.
What’s more, there are already a few vertically-integrated
ISPs (notably AOL Time Warner) that provide “basic” connectivity but own vast libraries of premium content.
In looking at online content subscription services, analogies with television are instructive. Free, advertiser-supported television has largely been supplanted—or should I say
supplemented (because the advertising remains)—by paid
subscriptions to cable TV. What’s more, revenue from “basic
cable” has been supplemented by various aggregated premium channels. HBO, one of those channels, is now television’s most profitable network. Meanwhile, over on the internet, people pay their ISP $19.95/month for the equivalent
of “basic cable”, and an ideal opportunity for a premium
channel, a music download service, has gone begging for
lack of vision on the part of existing music publishers.
Another lesson from television is that people prefer subscriptions to pay-per-view, except for very special events.
What’s more, they prefer subscriptions to larger collections
of content, rather than single channels. So, people subscribe
to “the movie package,” “the sports package” and so on.
The recording industry’s “per song” trial balloons may work,
but I predict that in the long term, an “all-you-can-eat”
monthly subscription service (perhaps segmented by musical
genre) will prevail in the marketplace.
Lesson 7: There’s more than one way to do it.
A study of other media marketplaces shows, though, that
there is no single silver-bullet solution. A smart company
maximizes revenue through all its channels, realizing that its
real opportunity comes when it serves the customer who ultimately pays its bills.
At O’Reilly, we’ve been experimenting with online distribution of our books for years. We know that we must offer a
compelling online alternative before someone else does. As

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the Hawaiian proverb says, “No one promised us tomorrow.”
Competition with free alternatives forces us to explore new
distribution media and new forms of publishing.
In addition to the Safari subscription service mentioned
above, we publish an extensive network of advertising-supported “free” information sites as the O’Reilly Network
(www.oreillynet.com 3). We have published a number of
books under “open publication licenses” where free redistribution is explicitly allowed (oreilly.com/openbook 4). We
do this for several reasons: to build awareness of products
that might otherwise be ignored, to build brand loyalty
among online communities, or, sometimes, because a product can no longer be economically sold in traditional channels, and we’d rather make it available for free than have it
completely disappear from the market.
We have also published many of our books on CD ROM,
in a format referred to as the CD Bookshelf, typically a collection of a half dozen or so related books.
And of course, we continue to publish print books. The
availability of free online copies is sometimes used to promote a topic or author (as books such as The Cathedral and
the Bazaar or The Cluetrain Manifesto became bestsellers in
print as a result of the wide exposure it received online). We
make available substantial portions of all of our books online,
as a way for potential readers to sample what they contain.
We’ve even found ways to integrate our books into the online help system for software products, including Dreamweaver 5 and Microsoft’s Visual Studio 6.
Interestingly, some of our most successful print/online hybrids have come about where we present the same material

http://www.oreillynet.com/
http://www.oreilly.com/openbook/
5
http://www.adobe.com/products/dreamweaver
6
http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/vstudio/default.aspx
3
4

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in different ways for the print and online contexts. For example, much of the content of our bestselling book Programming Perl (more than 600,000 copies in print) is available online as part of the standard Perl documentation. But
the entire package—not to mention the convenience of a
paper copy, and the aesthetic pleasure of the strongly branded packaging—is only available in print. Multiple ways to
present the same information and the same product increase
the overall size and richness of the market.
And that’s the ultimate lesson. “Give the wookie what he
wants!” as Han Solo said so memorably in the first Star Wars
movie. Give it to him in as many ways as you can find, at a
fair price, and let him choose which works best for him.

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