David Wilk talks with Sherisse Hawkins from Beneath the Ink

32d90e3 HawkinsPublishing Talks began as a series of conversations with book industry professionals and others involved in media and technology about the future of publishing, books, and culture. As we continue to experience disruption and change in all media businesses, I’ve been talking with some of the people involved in our industry about how publishing might evolve as our culture is affected by technology and the larger context of civilization and economics.

It’s my hope that these conversations can help us understand the outlines of what is happening in publishing and writing, and how we might ourselves interact with and influence the future of publishing as it unfolds.

Sherisse Hawkins is co-founder with Alex Milewski of Beneath the Ink, a Boulder, Colorado based ebook technology company. Beneath the Ink is working on what is likely the next phase in ebook development evolution, which is the provision of tools that enable authors and publishers to easily create ebooks with interactive content and multimedia resources. As Sherisse says in our interview, the story must and will remain the core of the book, but there are many types of books where the reading experience can be meaningfully expanded with the addition of expanded content.

This concept is not new of course, but what differentiates Beneath the Ink is the way their technology integrates the additional material to enable the reader to choose whether to engage or not, and making sure the presence of the option is not distracting to the reader. Their proprietary technology creates what they call “binks,” which contain the media content within the book file, as opposed to simply being a link out to the open web (which is, of course, also always enabled in epubs and mobi files). Another other key offering is to make it easy for creators to manage their own ebook media production process simply and easily.

I think it makes sense to enable this sort of feature in the digital reading experience. Not all readers want to “go deeper” or be taken out of the main text. But many others do. In a way it’s like having enhanced footnotes – and many of us do enjoy a good footnote to enhance our understanding of the text at hand. Fiction is another matter and is likely going to be a much greater challenge both for writers and for readers. But again, there are plenty of readers who do enjoy taking side trips from the main text, perhaps to better understand a character or a place inside a novel.

Beneath the Ink creates the tools for expanded reading experiences; of course, it remains to be seen how they are used and deployed by creators, and appreciated by readers. Aside from Binks, Beneath the Ink now has a new product called PageDip, which enables the one-click creation and has also created the option for users to offer their ebooks as hosted WebBooks, essentially untethering the reading experience from devices and apps, something that many in the ebook development world have been promoting for a number of years.

Beneath the Ink appeared on Shark Tank April 17, 2015!  heavy.com did an interview with Sherisse about her appearance.

I like what this company is doing and have done some experimenting with their technology for my clients. I wanted to talk to Sherisse about her vision for the future of digital publishing and also to learn more about her experiences in creating technology and offering it to the publishing community. Beneath the Ink has done a great deal of research into the ways that readers prefer to interact with digital content and Sherisse and her team have developed their software accordingly. Her insights into the ways that digital reading is evolving are very worthwhile to hear.

Sherisse is the former VP of software development at Time Warner cable and was a Senior Electrical Engineer in the Walt Disney Imagineering Show and Ride division, responsible for the design, development, and installation of attractions in four major Disney theme parks. She received a BS degree in Engineering from the University of Arizona, and earned a Masters in Engineering Management from the University of Colorado. Alex Milewski is the other co-founder of Beneath The Ink. His background is in web and mobile application development using Javascript, PHP, CSS3, HTML5 and many other programming languages. Beneath the Ink is based in Boulder, Colorado.Beneath the Ink logo

David Wilk talks with Lyndee Prickitt about We Are Angry

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERALyndee Prickitt’s powerful and engaging storytelling project, We Are Angry, fits readily into both the categories of interviews I am doing here – she’s both the author of the (book) project as well as the primary publishing impressario who put together an innovative form of digital storytelling. But the interview does need to go into just one category, so I have chosen to call it a Publishing Talks interview.  Publishing Talks began as a series of conversations with book industry professionals and others involved in media and technology about the future of publishing, books, and culture; Lyndee Prickett’s work is an important addition to that conversation.

We Are Angry is a fictional response to the very real and difficult issues of rape and abuse of women in modern India.

From the We Are Angry website:

“After the brutal December 16, 2012 gang-rape in New Delhi, many people in India and beyond felt a need to express their anger, fears and concerns about why this was happening. Women and men took to the streets to put a voice to their anger. Social media swelled with introspection and pontification. Anonymous mourners created real life and online commemorations. Movie stars satirized and campaigned. Artists painted street walls and canvasses. Actors staged plays in local parks and international cultural festivals. Screenwriters wrote movies. Singers sang.

The conversation across the nation changed. Women and their rights was not just a matter for earnest do-gooders and NGOs, but the topic du jour and the inspiration for a panoply of expression for weeks and months. And then the din quietened. People tired of talking about how women, at home and abroad, have been and should be treated.

We Are Angry is an effort to keep the conversation alive – fusing traditional fictional text storytelling with other media, bolstered by real news content and annotations, and showcasing a range of art and expression from a team of people who want to harness their anger and work creatively for change.”

Lyndee Prickitt is a multimedia writer and journalist. She created her company, Digital Fables, to tell stories using the web as a platform. After working with Reuters and the BBC for more than 15 years, she wrote and produced the award winning digital short-story, Weareangry.net. Though a native Texan, Prickitt lives in New Delhi with her Indian husband and their daughter.

We Are Angry was nominated for a Webby, won the Transmedia Story of the Year from Digital Book World, and was a runner up in the New Media Writing Prize. The Guardian newspaper called it “devastatingly powerful.”

There has been a great deal of discussion within the international ebook community about whether digital storytelling will migrate away from devices and out to the web. What Lyndee Prickitt has done with We Are Angry is a powerful example of how this can be done. When you land on the site, you are immediately offered two options, one to “read” and the other to “experience” the story. I suspect most readers choose first to experience the story.

I really like what she says on the We Are Angry site about this project:

“We are living in mixed media times and yet rarely do we find the media coalescing in a truly integrated and artistic way, a way that could take storytelling – especially issue-based storytelling – to another level, not replacing books or the linear text experience, but offering another construct.

We Are Angry is an attempt, a humble first attempt, at doing this: creating 360 degree digital fiction.”

Listen to this interview, then visit the website and experience the story for yourself. Let me know what you think about it.

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David Wilk talks with Liz Dubelman about Vidlit

 

21160 DubelmanPublishing Talks began as a series of conversations with book industry professionals and others involved in media and technology about the future of publishing, books, and culture. As we continue to experience disruption and change in all media businesses, I’ve been talking with some of the people involved in our industry about how publishing might evolve as our culture is affected by technology and the larger context of civilization and economics.

I’ve now expanded the series to include conversations that go beyond the future of publishing. I’ve talked with editors and publishers who have been innovators and leaders in independent publishing in the past and into the present, and will continue to explore the ebb and flow of writing, books, and publishing in all sorts of forms and formats, as change continues to be the one constant we can count on.

It’s my hope that these conversations can help us understand the outlines of what is happening in publishing and writing, and how we might ourselves interact with and influence the future of publishing as it unfolds.

My friend, and sometimes colleague, Liz Dubelman is the founder and CEO of VidLit Productions, LLC, a renowned and well regarded book marketing and content-creating company. I’ve been a big fan of her work for a long time, since first coming across her wonderful and hilarious video promotion for the really fun book, Yiddish With Dick and Jane by Ellis Weiner and Barbara Davilman. In fact that video was one of the very earliest book trailers, and was certainly one of the best and most successful of the many that have followed it. As soon as I saw it, I quickly sought out Liz, and discovered how smart she is about online content and communities, and over the years we have collaborated on a number of projects.

From 2011 – 2013 Liz was VP, Production for JibJab Media, the pioneering digital entertainment company that specializes in personalized social expression and has provided laughs to 100 million users worldwide.

Liz co-edited and contributed to What Was I Thinking? 58 Bad Boyfriend Stories, which was based on the VidLit series of the same name. She is also a magazine writer of both fiction and nonfiction. Well over a million people have viewed her short story Craziest on the Web.

Prior to her digital career, she worked for ten years in film production. Her television work won her two Emmys – one as a producer and one as a director. She was the first woman member of the labor negotiating committee of I.A.T.S.E., New York local 644 (cinematographers), and is an establishing member of Women in New Technology.

Liz is now taking Vidlit into new areas of online book marketing and publishing. Vidlit is providing authors with a platform to help them with the challenging and complicated task of self promotion. The supposition, which seems correct to me, is that authors are often best at writing, and while in today’s publishing environment, they need to think about and act like marketers, that is not their core competency, and they will almost always need creative, intelligent and friendly helpers to do this kind of work for them. Vidlit comes from a writer’s imagination and mindset. Liz wants to make writers successful, bring their stories to audiences and she has a good track record of understanding how online media can work. What she has to say about writers and readers interacting in the new media environment is an ideal topic for a Writerscast interview.

I like the simplicity of Vidlit’s mission statement:

“…to make fiction and creative non-fiction indispensable. It’s our belief that stories help our lives to make sense.”vidlit-logo3

What Was I thinking

David Wilk talks with Doug Messerli of Green Integer

Messerli-Douglas_Ch-Bernstein_12-10-06_NYC_72dpi Publishing Talks began as a series of conversations with book industry professionals and others involved in media and technology about the future of publishing, books, and culture. As we continue to experience disruption and change in all media businesses, I’ve been talking with some of the people involved in our industry about how publishing might evolve as our culture is affected by technology and the larger context of civilization and economics.

I’ve now expanded the series to include conversations that go beyond the future of publishing. I’ve talked with editors and publishers who have been innovators and leaders in independent publishing in the past and into the present, and will continue to explore the ebb and flow of writing, books, and publishing in all sorts of forms and formats, as change continues to be the one constant we can count on.

It’s my hope that these Publishing Talks can help us understand the outlines of what is happening in publishing and writing, and how we might ourselves interact with and influence the future of publishing as it unfolds.

Douglas Messerli is an old friend in poetry and publishing – I’ve known him since sometime in the late 1970’s. He’s one of the most prolific writers and publishers I know of, with an encyclopedic mind and a scope of interests that is virtually unmatched (and how much he writes and how well…it is hard for me to fathom how he does so much and is so consistently intelligent and perceptive on so many subjects!)

Although his writing is inevitably interwoven with his publishing work, this conversation is mainly focused on Doug’s efforts over the years as an editor and publisher. So we talked about his first publishing projects, Sun & Moon (magazine and books), La-Bas (magazine) and then his more recent work with the highly prolific Green Integer. It’s a wide ranging conversation reflecting Doug’s broad interests in writing, art, and publishing, and his always deeply engaged intellect.

Doug, his partner Howard Fox, and Green Integer are strongly identified with Los Angeles and the literary and art scene there. But the influence of his work extends worldwide. The level and intensity of engagement with readers, writers and artists reflects an intentional process on Messerli’s part – he invites the reader to participate in every aspect of his creative process, both in writing and in presenting the work of innovative writers and artists across a wide range of aesthetics and backgrounds, generations and geography. That’s why, for a long period of time, Messerli ran a public gallery and salon in Los Angeles to reach beyond publishing, and why Green Integer is so thoroughly digital in its publishing model.

His is a decidedly modern, globally engaged effort that is unmatched in contemporary publishing.

Length alert: this interview is almost exactly an hour long. It went by really fast for me, and I hope you find listening to Doug Messerli as interesting as I did.

The Green Integer website is exceptional. Go there now for an incredible array of interesting, complicated and challenging writing with a deeply international and avant garde focus.

A nice bit of Sun & Moon history here at SUNY Buffalo’s archive.

And a wonderful collection of free PDFs of La-Bas here at the incredibly rich Jacket2 website.

I love Doug’s essay on Bob Brown (a poet I first heard of through Jerry Rothenberg) on a website I recommend visiting right away -Hyperallergenic.

And to extend the conversation further, here is an exceptionally interesting interview published on Harriet, the blog of the Poetry Foundation (which recursively enough is entitled: Republished Douglas Messerli Interview on Green Integer Blog).gi_86

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David Wilk talks with Dominique Raccah of Sourcebooks

dominique-e1343235975545-150x150Publishing Talks began as a series of conversations with book industry professionals and others involved in media and technology about the future of publishing, books, and culture. As we continue to experience disruption and change in all media businesses, I’ve been talking with some of the people involved in our industry about how publishing might evolve as our culture is affected by technology and the larger context of civilization and economics.

I’ve now expanded the series to include conversations that go beyond the future of publishing. I’ve talked with editors and publishers who have been innovators and leaders in independent publishing in the past and into the present, and will continue to explore the ebb and flow of writing, books, and publishing in all sorts of forms and formats, as change continues to be the one constant we can count on.

It’s my hope that these conversations can help us understand the outlines of what is happening in publishing and writing, and how we might ourselves interact with and influence the future of publishing as it unfolds.

Dominique Raccah is the founder and CEO of independent publisher Sourcebooks, based in Naperville, Illinois, which she began in 1987 after an earlier career in advertising. Reflecting Raccah’s background and interests, Sourcebooks has always been strongly oriented toward marketing and promotion, devoting countless hours and dedicating significant resources to research, intelligence and outreach, and to understanding what customers want. This significantly differentiates Sourcebooks from most other independent publishers, so many of whom are more focused on developing content as opposed to what the customer needs or wants.

But Raccah is more than a smart marketer. She is a highly capable business person, an active entrepreneur, and somewhat of a visionary in terms of technology, business structure. She has been  and continues to be willing and able to pivot on her business models and plans much more quickly and readily than most of her peers.

At this stage, after more than a quarter century of successful innovation, she has become a thought leader in the book industry and her presentations about publishing and business structure and opportunities are often models of clarity and deep perception, that are valued by colleagues and competitors alike. In November 2013 she was named FutureBook’s Most Inspiring Digital Publishing Person of 2013.

Indicative of the ways Raccah has embraced technology to drive her business forward, in an interview with the Chicago Tribune last year she said that digital technology “has been transformative because it allows you to tackle new kinds of problems and create new ways of connecting books and readers.”

In our conversation, which took place in New York City in January, 2015, we covered a wide range of topics, from the history of Sourcebooks, through the present business and publishing landscape that interests and motivates Dominique as she continues to moves her company forward in a highly challenging environment. Much of our conversation focuses on Raccah’s industry leading efforts to work directly with readers to make Sourcebooks’ publishing brands meaningful to readers, and to learn directly what consumers want in their reading experiences. After a concerted effort over the past few years, Sourcebooks is now one of the leaders in the book industry in selling books directly to readers. It was a pleasure speaking with Dominique – who gives a great interview – and I hope this is a conversation that will be both useful and valuable to anyone interested in contemporary publishing.

Sourcebooks features a long list of innovative and successful publishing programs and projects, including Poetry Speaks, The Shakesperience, an interactive iBook that combines audio, video and a glossary to aid understanding of Shakespeare’s plays, and Put Me In The Story, which customizes children’s picture books with the reader’s own name and photos to get kids excited about reading.

Raccah has a master’s degree in quantitative psychology from the University of Illinois at Chicago Circle and worked at Leo Burnett’s quantitative research department before starting Sourcebooks in her home in 1987.

Sourcebooks now has 120 employees, eight imprints and publishes more than 350 titles annually, several of which have been national best-sellers in recent years.

Some worthwhile links:

Dominique’s TedX slideshare The Book in Transformation: A Publisher Vision for the Future

Chicago Tribune interview with Dominique Raccah

Mercy Pilkington article Sourcebooks Dominique Raccah Speaks on Driving Innovation

Put Me in the Story site460_345_resize Sourcebooks image

David Wilk talks with Andrew Lipstein about 0s and 1s

static.squarespace.comPublishing Talks began as a series of conversations with book industry professionals and others involved in media and technology about the future of publishing, books, and culture.  As we continue to experience disruption and change in all media businesses, I’ve been talking with some of the people involved in our industry about how they believe publishing might evolve as our culture is affected by technology and the ebb and flow of civilization and  economics.

I’ve now expanded the series to include conversations that go beyond the future of publishing.  I’ve talked with editors and publishers who have been innovators and leaders in independent publishing in the past and into the present, and will continue to explore the ebb and flow of writing, books, and publishing in all sorts of forms and formats, as change continues to be the one constant we can count on.

It’s my hope that these conversations can help us understand the outlines of what is happening in publishing and writing, and how we might ourselves interact with and influence the future of publishing as it unfolds.  This new interview reflects my interest in the history of independent literary publishing, an area in which I have been active for a long time. And this particular conversation reflects some longstanding personal relationships as well.

Andrew Lipstein is one of the new wave of writers interested in changing the way books are published, distributed and read. When I first read about his new venture 0s and 1s, I was immediately interested (that’s “zeroes and ones” – I misread it initially as “os and 1s” and you will hear that in my interview with Andrew). 0s and 1s is a curation project, offering ebooks for download at very attractive prices selected from a limited number of like-minded independent publishers. It is diametrically opposed to the way we have been trained to think about ebook retailing, where for the most part, readers are tied to the ecosystems created by the platform owners.

For example, if you are a Kindle reader, you buy all your ebooks from Amazon, for example, and whether you know it or not, or care or not, your choices of what to read, or what to think about reading, are highly contextualized. Online ebook stores have incredible limitations, and ironically, the huge breadth of titles potentially available to readers ultimately mean a hegemonically limited selection of reading possibilities.

As Andrew states on the 0s and 1s site: “The selling of digital books has become an oligopoly, with only a few important players—& a lot of power. The world of e-reading shouldn’t be proprietary to any one brand, reader, or (set of) publishers. Selling a digital book is as simple as transmitting a series of zeroes & ones, & there’s never been a better time to take advantage of that fact.”

Personally, I think it’s an opportune moment for publishers and writers to start experimenting with alternative models of engaging with readers. Andrew and the publishers and authors he is promoting here deserve credit and support for taking a necessary step toward demonstrating how we might imagine alternatives to big box retail book selling and a better way to promote a culturally diverse and meaningful reading culture. 0s and 1s is aware of the need to explain to readers what it’s doing by selling all its ebooks at $6 each and has a very clear explanation of why this is good for authors on its website.

Andrew Lipstein is a writer too, and also curates a really interesting micro-publishing site, well worth a visit, called Thickjam.andrew_2

In many ways this project reminds me of some of the experiments in independent book distribution and marketing from the seventies (many supported by what was then called CCLM, the Coordinating Council of Literary Magazines – now called CLMP -  with a grant from the Ford Foundation). Some of those projects were highly influential and in various forms lasted for a number of years. I hope we can say the same about 0s and 1s in the future.

If you’re interested in the history of CCLM and CLMP and the organization’s key role in supporting independent magazine and book publishers, there is a nice bit of history here.  The Publishing Talks interview with CLMP’s current dynamic director Jeffrey Lependorf is here.  You can find links to publishers participating in the 0s and 1s project here. One of the several distribution projects funded by CCLM and the Ford Foundation was Truck Distribution Service, started in St. Paul, MN, by yours truly, which later became the very successful small press wholesaler, Bookslinger, and another was the still flourishing Writers and Books, founded in Rochester, NY, by Joe Flaherty.

Thanks to John Marshall Media and engineer Nathan Rosborough for this recording.

David Wilk interviews Bradford Morrow of Conjunctions Magazine

conj61dPublishing Talks began as a series of conversations with book industry professionals and others involved in media and technology about the future of publishing, books, and culture.  As we continue to experience disruption and change in all media businesses, I’ve been talking with some of the people involved in our industry about how they believe publishing might evolve as our culture is affected by technology and the ebb and flow of civilization and  economics.

Recently, the series has expanded to include conversations that go beyond the future of publishing.  I’ve talked with editors and publishers who have been innovators and leaders in independent publishing in the past and into the present, and will continue to explore the past, present and future of writing, books, and publishing in all sorts of forms and formats, as change continues to be the one constant we can count on.

It’s my hope that these conversations can help us understand the outlines of what is happening in publishing and writing, and how we might ourselves interact with and influence the future of publishing as it unfolds.  My latest interview reflects my interest in the history of independent literary publishing, an area I have been involved in for a very long time.

Bradford Morrow is an accomplished novelist and poet. In fact we talked about his outstanding novel The Diviner’s Tale in 2011. Brad is also the founder and editor of Conjunctions magazine, which he began in 1981. Conjunctions is truly an exceptional literary endeavor that is now sponsored and hosted by Bard College. Conjunctions has long provided a platform for a host of unknown writers, many of whom are now well known, as well as enabling a number of established writers to create work that challenges reader expectations. Every May and November the magazine publishes anthology form collections around specific themes that include significant long-form work.

Conjunctions has embraced digital publishing, offering a weekly online journal of new work by individual authors, called Web Conjunctions, as well as a multimedia collection of recorded readings, and an archival collection of full-text selections from the anthologies. In particular, I like this line on their website, as an appropriate epigraph for the three-plus decades Conjunctions has been publishing: “a living notebook in which authors can write freely and audiences can read dangerously.” I can’t think of a better motto under which to publish.brad morrow 2

It was a pleasure for me to spend some time talking to Brad about the past, present and future of Conjunctions and the challenges and enjoyments of the work of literary publishing, and I hope also just as much a pleasure for you to hear what Brad has to say here.

(Alert to listeners – as are many of the Publishing Talks interviews, this one is quite long at 51 minutes, but you can always pause and return if it’s too long for one sitting)

Publishing Talks: David Wilk interviews Liam Sharp and Ben Abernathy of Madefire

treatment-cropped-625x326Publishing Talks began as a series of conversations with book industry professionals and other smart people about the future of publishing, books, and culture.  As we continue to experience disruption and change in all media businesses, I’ve been talking with some of the people involved in our industry about how they believe publishing might evolve as our culture is affected by technology, climate change, population density, and the ebb and flow of civilization and  economics.

Recently, the series has been expanding recently to include conversations about a wider range of subjects than my initial interest in the future of publishing.  I’ve talked with editors and publishers who have been innovators and leaders in independent publishing in the past and into the present, and will continue to explore the past, present and future of writing, books, and publishing in all sorts of forms and formats, as change continues to be the one constant we can count on.
It’s my hope that these conversations can help us understand the outlines of what is happening in publishing and writing, and how we might ourselves interact with and influence the future of publishing as it unfolds.  This week’s interview reflects my interest in comic art, illustrated story telling and new technology as a platform for expanding story telling in interesting and challenging ways.
Madefire is a very cool development in the evolution of technology platforms that enable digital storytelling.  Founded by Ben Wolstenholme, Eugene Walden and artist/writer Liam Sharp, Madefire has big ambitions, and has drawn significant support from investors, creators and readers.  In their own words, it’s a big play: “Madefire is undertaking an epic journey – One that we believe will revolutionize how stories are told, read, and shared. One that will transform a once static medium into an interactive experience that unfolds dynamically on mobile devices, and evolves with each new episode. It’s our Motion Book Tool that will make all this possible. We built it to unite the timeless beauty of sequential art with cutting-edge technology, and to give new creative freedom to the world’s most visionary creators and storytellers. All in the service of advancing the art of storytelling.”
At the October 2013 New York Comicon, I had a chance to get a demo of the software in action and was impressed by the Madefire approach, which provides comic artists with a whole new set of tools to enhance the visual storytelling mode in digital form.  What is most appealing is the organicism of the approach – they are not trying to overwhelm us with game based features, but enabling the creators to expand their vision and engage their readers.  It is indeed a big project and new developments continue to emerge.  They call what they are making “Motion Books” which gets across pretty clearly what they are after. Their alliance with DeviantArt is a mind opening approach to publishing and engaging with communities of readers and creators online.
For this Publishing Talks interview, I spoke with both founder and CCO Liam Sharp and editor Ben Abernathy, formerly a group editor at DC Comics. I highly recommend downloading the Madefire app and experiencing some of the work that has been made using the Madefire tools. Listeners please note, this is a relatively long interview at just over 40 minutes.Liam Sharpben

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Publishing Talks: David Wilk interviews Eugene Schwartz

Gene Schwartz PhotoIn this series of interviews, called Publishing Talks, I have been talking to book industry professionals and other smart people about the future of publishing, books, and culture.  This is a period of disruption and change for all media businesses.  We must wonder now, how will publishing evolve as our culture is affected by technology, climate change, population density, and the ebb and flow of civilization and  economics?

I hope these Publishing Talks conversations can help us understand the outlines of what is happening in the publishing industry, and how we might ourselves interact with and influence the future of publishing as it unfolds.

These interviews give people in and around the book business a chance to talk openly about ideas and concerns that are often only talked about “around the water cooler,” at industry conventions and events, and in emails between friends and they give people inside and outside the book industry a chance to hear first hand some of the most interesting and challenging thoughts, ideas and concepts being discussed by people in the book business.

Gene Schwartz has been an active participant in the publishing business for many years.  I first knew him as the ubiquitous representative of the magazine Foreword, covering every possible book and technology event for the benefit of independent publishers.  He still works as editor at large of Foreword Reviews.   He is an industry observer, an occasional blogger and columnist for Book Business magazine,  a member of its editorial advisory board and its Publishing Business Conference and Expo Advisory Board. He heads his own publishing consultancy, Consortium House, and is currently engaged in new business development projects for Waterside Productions, He is also notably co-founder of Worthy Shorts Inc., an innovative online private press and publication service for professionals , publishers and associations

In an earlier career, he was in the printing business, directed production at Random House and CRM Books/Psychology Today and was director of production and operations for Prentice-Hall/Goodyear. He is a former PMA (IBPA) board member and founder of the San Diego Publishers Group.

Schwartz has a civil engineering degree from CCNY and completed graduate course work in public administration at NYU, so like many of us in the publishing business, he came to this business from a very different background.

I thought it would be valuable to talk to Gene about publishing, past, present, and future, since he has been involved in so many different aspects of the business over such a long period of time.  He is consistently perceptive about the way technology and change can be harnessed by publishers and others in the book business, and has a terrifically tuned critical sensibility that he can bring to bear on any subject.  We had a great talk and covered a wide range of subjects in this interview.ws100_detail_cover

Publishing Talks: David Wilk interviews Thomas Schinabeck

dotdotdotIn this series of interviews, called Publishing Talks, I have been talking to book industry professionals and other smart people about the future of publishing, books, and culture.  This is a period of disruption and change for all media businesses.  We must wonder now, how will publishing evolve as our culture is affected by technology, climate change, population density, and the ebb and flow of civilization and  economics?

I hope these Publishing Talks conversations can help us understand the outlines of what is happening in the publishing industry, and how we might ourselves interact with and influence the future of publishing as it unfolds.

These interviews give people in and around the book business a chance to talk openly about ideas and concerns that are often only talked about “around the water cooler,” at industry conventions and events, and in emails between friends and they give people inside and outside the book industry a chance to hear first hand some of the most interesting and challenging thoughts, ideas and concepts being discussed by people in the book business.  They also provide an opportunity to hear what all kinds of leaders and participants in publishing have to say about the communication between writers and readers through the particular lenses of their own experiences.

We’re far enough along in the development of ebooks and digital reading for numbers of individuals and companies to be interested in developing new ways to package and present text in ways that differ from those that developed over the last few hundred years of analog “real world” print publishing.  Applications like Flipboard, Instapaper, Pocket, and Readability all allow readers to curate their own reading experiences by “clipping” articles and stories on the web, and saving them into reading software that makes both a better reading experience on your tablet than websites on laptops or desktops allow, and enables reading at leisure in a self controlled context.  And sites like Social Reader from the Washington Post enables sharing and finding web content through existing social networks.

Dotdotdot, a new application now in beta, developed by Thomas Schinabeck and friends in Berlin is similar in shape, but goes farther, I think, to enable readers to have much finer controls over their e-reading experiences.  Dotdotdot allows me to upload my own epubs as well as content I have discovered on the web, or that friends may have sent me.  The site is socially enabled, so that members of the community can choose to share their own and follow what other users are reading.  Annotation also adds to the reading and sharing experience – marginalia is fully integrated into the dotdotdot experience, so it is a truly social reading platform.  And its archive capability allows readers to use dotdotdot as a repository – independent of devices or the closed ecosystems that e-readers create.  And dotdotdot, unlike all the other content aggregating programs I have seen, is designed around long form reading.

“We thought if we find a technical solution for how we can import texts into a platform that the user already has, we can provide all the stuff on top of it that makes a great user experience, and also uses the full potential of digital text,” Schinabeck said in an article about dotdotdot on Pando Daily in January 2013 (now a bit out of date, but still a great description of the site).

Thomas and I had a terrific conversation in March 2013 both about the program he and his partners have created, as well as exploring some of the philosophical and technological underpinnings that drove the establishment and development of what I think is a really compelling new offering.  The partners behind dotdotdot have paid alot of attention to what readers want and will benefit from in digital reading environments, and have really thought long and hard about how to support a worldwide community of readers.  I’ve been using dotdotdot and find it to be an elegant and compelling experience for reading digital texts, interacting with them, and sharing in ways not provided by any other reading experience, an exciting approach to using the web to broaden the experience of text.

Thomas has a masters degree and part of a PhD in digital media studies, and worked for the record label BMG and was a brand manager at MTV Networks in Europe.  His interesting personal website it here.Dotdotdot-300x131

Note, dotdotdot is still very new, in development and not fully realized yet. Right now it works with DRM-free epubs, as well as HTML web content, and is mainly aimed at iPads and iPhones (and a browser add-on is available for most available browsers).  New features are being added regularly.

 

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