Publishing Talks: David Wilk Interviews John Sundman

In this series of interviews, called Publishing Talks, I talk 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.  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 will help us better understand the outlines of what is happening in publishing, books and reading culture, and how we can ourselves both understand and influence the future of books and reading.

I’ve had the pleasure of knowing John Sundman for only a brief period of time, but value my emerging friendship with him greatly.  He’s been a writer in a variety of forms, and a visionary thinker about many things I am interested in.  He’s been a self publisher for quite some time, and I thought his experience doing his own publishing would be a good starting point for a conversation about where publishing appears to be going.  Here’s his bio (from his Smashwords page):

John Sundman is a freelance technical writer, essayist, novelist, self-publisher, volunteer firefighter, food pantry co-director, former Peace Corps Volunteer, husband, father, and advocate for people with disabilities who resides on the island of Martha’s Vineyard, very near to Massachusetts, USA. He has spent more than 20 of the last 30 years somehow connected to the Silicon Valley/Boston high-tech/computer industry. He also has experience as a farmer, student of agricultural economics, and worker in rural African agricultural development. His books are more subtle than they appear.

John blogs with a number of other free thinking visionaries at Wetmachine (“we write about, mostly, the nexus of technology, science and social policy in the USA. We also write about software praxis, technoparanoia, the craft of writing, self-publishing, politics, and random bullshit. Sundman and Gray, in particular, are leaders in the “random bullshit” category.”)

John’s books are quite good and well worth reading (here’s a review of his first book, Acts of the Apostles, that more or less set him on a successful path of self-publishing, an early web story, which serves as precursor for so many other stories of discovery).  I could have interviewed him about one of his books, but I thought talking to him about publishing would give us a chance to talk more broadly.  Do take a look at his books (widely available in online retail stores).  And he’s finally doing a book with a publisher other than himself, an overhauled and rewritten Acts of the Apostles with the esteemed Underland Press.

John and I had a great talk.  I’ll be interested to hear from listeners what you think of some of his ideas.

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Publishing Talks: David Wilk interviews Miral Sattar about BiblioCrunch

In this series of interviews, called Publishing Talks, I talk 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.  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 will help us better understand the outlines of what is happening in publishing, books and reading culture, and how we can ourselves both understand and influence the future of books and reading.

Miral Sattar is a young serial entrepreneur with roots in the publishing business.  She is the Founder of Divanee.com and Weddings.Divanee.com and has worked in the media industry for 10 years.   Ms. Sattar is a contributor for Time, teaches entrepreneurial journalism sessions at CUNY, and has contributed to Metro and Jane Magazine. She graduated from Columbia University’s School of Engineering and Applied Science, and recently earned an M.S. in Digital + Print Media.

In many ways Miral represents the future of the book business.  She’s had innovative and smart ideas for new products and new uses of digital technology to create new ways for readers and writers to interact.  Failing to gain any traction for her ideas within traditional publishing institutions, she set out on her own to build what she believes writers and readers want and need, a new and different publishing/reading platform called BiblioCrunch.   There’s alot to be interested in here if you are looking for ways that online publishing can be made simple.

From the BiblioCrunch.com website:

What is BiblioCrunch.com?
BiblioCrunch.com is a platform that empowers writers and publishers to create and market their own manuscripts, completed works, digital books and bookazines. Through our platform anyone – bloggers, authors, aspiring writers, students, writers, journalists, publishers – can share their stories.

•    You can create all your great books online through our easy interface in any format any eReader!
•    Once you’ve written all the chapters for your book you can either post it for FREE or start SELLING.
•    You can start SHARING your book via social media so others can download your book.
•    VOTE your book to the top by sharing it with all your friends.
•    Need to hire an EDITOR or DESIGNER? Why not connect with someone in the MEMBERS community to help edit your book and design an awesome cover.

Why use BiblioCrunch.com?
•    BiblioCrunch is the place for you to write, read, and distribute your favorite books in just a few steps.
•    Create virtual bookshelves, discover new books, connect with friends and learn more about your favorite books – all for free.
•    On BiblioCrunch.com you can connect with writers, publishers, readers, editors, copyeditors, and designers to create the best books.
•    We’re also cheaper than other services that take 30% of each book sold.

How can I share my books?
•    Each book has it’s own public download page that you can share on Twitter and Facebook.

Building tools that make it easy for people to publish their work and for readers to read it is really a publishing function.  As with many other sites, the idea here is that readers can decide for themselves what they want to read.  It will be interesting to see if, as some traditionally minded digerati have suggested, that the editorial or curatorial role will be needed, perhaps more than ever, but if so, my guess is that it will develop in different ways, based on the different understanding of the editorial function that today’s writers and readers have developed.

I wanted to talk to Miral about BiblioCrunch because I am always interested in new ideas and constructs, and also because I think the story she tells about the genesis and plans for this site will be instructive and valuable to others in the book universe.  And hopefully, her ideas might generate some additional thinking about how platforms, innovation and audiences for reading will develop in the near future. Creating a new publishing platform is no small feat, but the real challenge will be to attract readers and writers in significant numbers.  I’m hoping this site will succeed through innovation and creativity, as a healthy publishing ecosystem requires a wide variety of niches, large and small.

Publishing Talks: David Wilk Interviews Peter Costanzo

In this ongoing 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 believe that 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 and broadly about ideas and concerns that are often only talked about “around the water cooler,” at industry conventions and events, and in emails between friends.  These conversations 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 active participants in the book business.

I’ve known Peter Costanzo for a number of years (and have worked with him on a few projects) – I have always been impressed with his intelligence and his insightful understanding of online media and digital publishing.  Peter is now the Director of Digital Content for F+W Media where he is in charge of a diverse and creative set of digital initiatives.  Since he is now directing content and production for a publisher that has made a deep commitment to digital publishing, I wanted to talk to him in depth about ebooks, apps and online marketing, from his perspective as a producer as well as a consumer and keen observer of the digital publishing scene.

Peter has been involved in online bookselling for longer than most people in our industry.  He began selling autographed books online in 1996.  By 1998 he became the Online Retail Marketing Manager for HarperCollins.  He then worked at Random House as Online Marketing Manager for the Audiobooks division, and in 2001 became Director of Online Merchandising for Steve Brill’s Contentville, one of the first online retailers to sell e-books. After that he became the Director of Online Marketing for Perseus Books for several years, before moving to F + W Media.   He also teaches the “Introduction to Interactive Media” course at NYU.  You can follow Peter on Twitter @PeterCostanzo and read his personal blog BookCurrents.

Peter has a lot of important things to say in this discussion that anyone interested in digital publishing will find useful and compelling.

Publishing Talks: David Wilk interviews Kate Wilson

In this ongoing 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 believe that 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.

I was recently introduced to the apps and books created by the new UK based children’s publisher Nosy Crow.  I bought their first app, the Three Little Pigs and immediately understood that this company had a vision and an approach that made sense to me.  Here is the message from their website that caught my attention right way:

“We make innovative, multimedia, highly interactive apps for tablets, smart phones and other touchscreen devices. These apps are not existing books squashed onto phones, but instead are specially created to take advantage of the devices to tell stories and provide information to children in new and engaging ways.”  Books too by the way.

When I finally got a chance to talk to company founder Kate Wilson, I found out right away why the company is so smart, and off to such a great start.  I believe that Kate deeply understands how technology and publishing can and will intersect for the creation of great experiences for children readers.  She has a vision, one that makes sense, and she has combined creativity with a keen sense of what parents and children want both from new technologies and from traditional books.  And her experience in publishing has taught her important lessons which she is now applying in this new publishing space (after attending Oxford University, she worked for a number of UK children’s publishers, including Macmillan Children’s and Scholastic UK, both of which she ran.  If you are interested in how children’s publishing is going to evolve, I suggest paying close attention to Nosy Crow, and of course listening to this conversation with Kate Wilson.

Publishing Talks: David Wilk Interviews Frank Rose

In 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.

Frank Rose is a journalist and author, most recently of a book called The Art of Immersion, How the Digital Generation Is Remaking Hollywood, Madison Avenue, and the Way We Tell Stories.  I could easily have interviewed him about that book, which is interesting enough in its own right (and later this year I plan to talk to him about it for WritersCast).

But for this conversation, I wanted to talk to Frank about how writers are adapting to the changes wrought in publishing by the advent of digital books.

Frank has recently reprinted another one of his books, one that has been out of print for a number of years; it fits the profile of a fine book from the recent past that cannot be published or re-published commercially anymore.  That book is called West of Eden: The End of Innocence at Apple Computer.  It’s about the power struggle at Apple that ended up with Steve Jobs being pushed out of the company he had helped found. West of Eden was originally published in 1989 at which time it was a national best-seller and was rated as one of the ten best business books of the year by BusinessWeek.

In 2009, Frank published an updated version of the book himself for Amazon’s Kindle, as well as a digitally printed paperback edition under his own press name (Stuyvesant Street Press) and the book has been doing quite decently.  One assumes that there are a fairly large number of people today who are interested in and knowledgeable about the history of modern computing and the computer industry.  Enough for an author, if not for a commercial publisher to make a reasonable profit from publishing this book digitally.

Currently Frank writes for Wired, where he has been a contributing editor for almost ten years.  Before this assignment, he was a contributing writer at Fortune, writing about Hollywood and global media conglomerates, he’s also been at Esquire, Premiere and Travel + Leisure, and has written for the New York Times Magazine among many other magazines.  And he began his writing career at the Village Voice covering the emerging punk scene in Lower Manhattan in the ’70s.

Chances are good that Frank Rose’s experience as an author turned publisher will be reflective of a myriad of similar authors in the next few years.  And perhaps will indicate some interesting opportunities for other segments within the publishing ecosystem. I think this conversation will be interesting to many in the book business who are thinking about how roles are changing in publishing, especially as digital publishing creates so many new opportunities for easy distribution to readers.

More on Frank Rose here.  More on West of Eden at Amazon.

Publishing Talks: David Wilk interviews Cevin Bryerman

In 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.

Cevin Bryerman is Publisher and Vice President of Publishers Weekly, the well-known international trade magazine for book publishing. Recently Cevin spoke at Montreal’s Atwater Library and Computer Centre about the changes revolutionizing the publishing world.  His message there was reported to be “fatalistic, prescriptive, dismaying, and upbeat,” which probably reflects the way a large number of publishing people feel these days.

“The digital age is definitely here,” he told an auditorium packed with book industry professionals, “and you have to embrace it.”  Indeed, the revolution has not left PW untouched, and the challenge that magazine has faced in transforming itself from a traditional subscription based print trade magazine into something very different is a continuing process.

I’m hopeful that our wide ranging and hopefully provocative conversation will spur further discussions and perhaps even raise some controversy about the current condition and future prospects for all the elements of the publishing ecosystem. Publishers Weekly online here.  Very interesting (though brief) history of PW in Wikipedia here.

Publishing Talks: David Wilk interviews Maxine Bleiweis

In 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.

Since so many of the people I’ve talked to in the Publishing Talks interviews have been in the areas of publishing and technology, I have wanted to broaden the conversation to include other perspectives.  And following the conversation with Hugh McGuire about the future of libraries (a hot topic it seems, as a recent post by Seth Godin seems to indicate), it made sense to talk to a librarian who is working on the issues of access and technology from the user side of the publishing equation.   I live near Westport, Connecticut, which has a fabulous library, with a myriad of public events, an incredibly active and engaged community, and a deep commitment to using technology to increase access to knowledge and information, as well as a wonderful and engaged staff.

Maxine Bleiweis is the Director of the Westport Public Library.   She is a terrifically innovative manager, known for her ability to predict trends and determine ways to meet the latest “customer” needs as they emerge.  Before she became director in Westport in 1998, she was director in Suffield, CT for six years and Newington, CT for 18 years.

I also noticed that she was recently named Outstanding Librarian for 2011 by the CT Library Association, so she is recognized by her peers as well as her own community.

Maxine has a great deal to say about publishing and technology, and her thoughts and ideas are well worth paying attention to.  And even though the Westport Public Library does represent the beliefs and commitment of a very affluent, educated and progressive town, what this library does to enrich the intellectual and artistic life of its community is not enabled simply by having more resources than others.  The principle at work here will work elsewhere – the idea of paying attention to what the community needs and doing everything possible to meet those needs is universally applicable.  You can see what they are doing here.

Maxine and I had a wide ranging conversation about books, community, the future of publishing in the digital age, how libraries will handle ebooks and digital access, and how some of the controversies that have arisen in these important areas may be resolved.

Publishing Talks: David Wilk interviews Hugh McGuire

In 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.

Hugh McGuire is a serial digital entrepreneur.  There’s a great story about him and an online interview at NextMontreal, in which the focus of the conversation is a company he started a few years ago called Book Oven, aiming to build an online book publishing platform.  That particular venture did not meet expectations, but it’s a great story for anyone interested in digital publishing and start-up businesses in publishing (and resulted in a very cool tool called PressBooks, that “lets you and your team easily author and output books in multiple formats including: epub, Kindle, print-on-demand-ready PDF, HTML, and inDesign-ready XML.”)

Hugh is also the founder of the outstanding free audio book LibriVox, which currently features perhaps the largest catalog of audio books drawn from the public domain. It’s a great service and operates on open source principles.  In addition to LibriVox, Hugh has also started and now runs a for-profit audio book business called Iambik, which shares many principles with LibriVox except in its profit goals, which of course drives a different business model.

What prompted me to contact Hugh now is the recent and terrific guest piece he wrote called What are Libraries For? for the outstanding blog In the Library with the Leadpipe (subtitled: The murder victim? Your library assumptions. Suspects? It could have been any of us.)  This piece has so much great stuff in it (and is so well written and clear), that it’s a must-read for anyone interested in the future of publishing, books and readers (and In the Library is a great discovery too).

You may not agree with all of Hugh’s assumptions, nor his conclusions (I mostly do), but what he says will make you think hard about the digital future and what it will mean to libraries and every other institution in the book to reader supply chain.  I’d be happy to hear from Writerscast listeners what you think of Hugh’s article after you read it.  Comments are open.

Here’s the first graph of Hugh’s essay:  “Ebooks will become the dominant form of casual reading for adults at some point in the future1. When this happens, community and public libraries will face a major existential crisis, because a fundamental (perhaps the fundamental) function of community libraries—lending print books—will no longer be a fundamental demand from the community. Libraries that do not adjust will find their services increasingly irrelevant to the populations they serve.”

Publishing Talks: David Wilk interviews Phil Ollila

In 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.

Philip Ollila (widely known as Phil in the book industry) is the Chief Content Officer of Ingram Content Group Inc., one of the largest distributors of book content and providers of digital printing in the North American book industry.  Phil is responsible for Ingram Content Group’s publisher facing business, and has been instrumental in leading the transformation of Ingram from a traditional wholesale service provider, into what is now a fully integrated solutions company for clients. Ingram combines wholesale distribution, print-on-demand, digital distribution, inventory management and comprehensive worldwide services for both physical and digital content.

Phil leads a number of Ingram business units including wholesale merchandising, Lightning Source, Ingram Publisher Services and digital distribution through CoreSource® and also heads up Ingram Content Group marketing.  Before joining Ingram, where he has held several leadership positions, he was Vice President of Marketing and Merchandising for Borders.

Anyone in the book business, and many people outside it know about Ingram.  It is one of the two large book wholesalers transitioning from a key role in the physical supply chain between publishers and retailers.  Perhaps earlier than any other large company in the industry, Ingram had the foresight to invest in a range of services that would enhance their offerings to both their suppliers (mainly publishers) and their customers (bookstores, libraries and many other retailers).  In many ways, it is only the two large former traditional wholesalers, Ingram and its competitor Baker & Taylor that have the unique perspective and ability to act as really powerful and influential transformative agencies as the book business evolves into a combination of print and digital products.

Phil Ollila is therefore now in a key role at a tremendously interesting and  fast moving business that possesses a great deal of information valuable to publishers and to anyone interested in how publishing, books and readers will interact in the future, both near term and much, much farther into the future.

Publishing Talks: David Wilk interviews Don Leeper

In 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 believe 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.

Don Leeper is the founder of Bookmobile, based outside of Minneapolis, providing outsourced production services to independent and academic publishers all over the world.  The company was founded as Stanton Publication Services in 1982, and has grown significantly over the years, now offering not only pre-press services for print books, as well as growing digital printing business, an expanding range of digital book production services, including ebooks and apps, and even an off-shoot business for book distribution.  OR Books has hired Bookmobile to provide all of its production services, as some other publishers have also done.

What attracted my attention most recently to this company is their announcement of Ampersand, an iPad app created to preserve the layout and pagination of poetry (and of course any other book for which specific line and page layouts are critical).  It’s been one of the raps on ebooks that poetry essentially does not work in the Kindle (mobi) and other popular reading devices or platforms that use ePub as the format for their content.  Ampersand enables publishers (and poets who want to publish their own work) to preserve complex page compositions easily and as an app provides both a reading environment and a sales structure on the iPad (and presumably the iPhone and iPod as well).

Clearly Leeper and his crew are creative and working hard to provide a wide range of needed services for independent and academic publishers, for whom the fast changing digital environment presents significant challenges.  He’s also a great example of someone who has been agile in moving from traditional publishing workflows into new digital realms while retaining a strong commitment to the important values of design and interface that will always be necessary for writers, publishers and readers, whatever the devices or delivery systems they use for reading.

Ampersand shows alot of promise for many independent publishers of poetry and other types of work where the actual page concept still matters, especially because cost of production matters most for small circulation content (there are certainly other PDF based e-book publishing methods available, but most are more costly and not highly automated).  A few poetry publishers are on board with Bookmobile to pilot the Ampersand project, and we’ll be interested to see some finished work in coming months.

In this interview, Don and I had a wide ranging and lively conversation about digital publishing, poetry, and the future of print and ebooks.

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