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 Adam Hodgkin

In this series of interviews, called Publishing Talks, I have been talking to book industry professionals 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 its economics?

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

These interviews give people in 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.

Adam Hodgkin is one of the three publishing and technology experienced founders of Exact Editions, which started as a digital publishing solution for magazines to run on the iPhone (and of course now on the iPad as well).    Exact Editions enables magazine publishers to sell “in-app” subscriptions, and notably, preserves the notion of the designed page, something that has been a concern for many publishers of illustrated books as well.  I’ve been reading the Exact Editions blog for some time and have been impressed with Adam’s understanding of the emerging digital publishing universe.  Something he wrote recently caught my attention immediately, as I have long been interested in the ways that authors, publishers and readers will learn to connect with one another in the online environment.  Here’s what Adam wrote about the Apple environment upon which EE is built:

“The Apple e-commerce system works extremely well in my view and with the freemium method that we are adopting at Exact Editions it works in a way in which the ratios between ‘sampling’ and ‘purchasing’ are extremely informative. And as we get more data and get on top of it and learn how to do SRO (SampleRevisionOptimisation – a bit like SEO and it will be an equally dark art) the business of presenting the right amount of content to optimise sales will be established. We currently recommend working at about 8-15% exposure, but its guesstimatory at this point. Amazon must know quite a lot about this from their system, but I am not sure if they have issued any guidance to publishers.

The Apple system is better than most physical bookshops because it can put ‘samples’ in the hands of thousands (many thousands) of potential subscribers/purchasers much more efficiently than can be done with printed paper pages. The economics of this are pretty compelling even if the ‘sample’ to ‘purchase’ ratio is as low as 1%. And in most cases its quite a bit higher than that.

Will probably blog something a bit more informative about this in the next few days. But just let me say that I am simply ASTONISHED by how much more takeup there is for the iPad than for the iPhone. More in absolute terms, by quite a margin, even though there are maybe 40X as many iPhone/IPod touches in the market than iPads.

The iPad is turning out to be a hugely strong reading environment. Absolutely no question about it. And its darn easy to buy stuff on it that you might want to read.”

I thought it would be interesting to talk to Adam about Exact Editions and some of the things he and his colleagues have learned through the experience of working in the Apple environment, not only with magazine publishers but now as they are expanding into working with book publishers as well.  My discussion with Adam covered his background and experience in traditional publishing, technology, and some of the lessons learned by the Exact Editions team in their work in digital publishing apps and proved to be as compelling as I had expected.

Publishing Talks: David Wilk interviews Ron Hogan

April 18, 2010 by  
Filed under PublishingTalks, The Future

In this series of interviews, called Publishing Talks, I have been talking to book industry professionals 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 its economics? Publishing Talks interviews help us understand the outlines of what is happening, and how we might ourselves interact with and influence the future of publishing as it unfolds.

These interviews give people in 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.
I believe these interviews 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 within the industry.

Ron Hogan has been a very busy guy in the book business over the past fifteen years or so, starting in the book business at the well known and now lamented Dutton’s Bookstore in Los Angeles.  He founded Beatrice.com in 1995 (the site is still going strong today as a popular book-centric blog), worked for Amazon, and then for Mediabistro’s Galleycat (“the first word on the book publishing business”), and is now the new Director of E-Marketing Strategy for publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in New York City.  If you look him up online, he seems to be everywhere at once, involved in many aspects of publishing, books and new media.  It’s difficult to imagine someone more aware of how books and readers interact in the online environment.

Ron is also an author, including The Stewardess Is Flying the Plane!: American Films of the 1970s and most recently Getting Right with Tao: A Contemporary Spin on the Tao Te Ching.

In his new role at HMH, he will now have an opportunity to apply what he knows about marketing and online communities to the practical issues of helping to connect books and readers.  In this interview, Ron talked with me about his past work, and particularly what he has learned from his experience in retail bookselling, as well as his extensive online experience, and provides some specific and useful advice for authors (and publishers) to help them thrive in the brave new world of publishing.

Publishing Talks: David Wilk interviews Tim O’Reilly

January 12, 2010 by  
Filed under PublishingTalks

tim-2008jpegIn this series of interviews, called Publishing Talks, I am talking to book industry professionals who have varying perspectives and thoughts about the future of publishing, books, and culture.  This is a period of disruption and change for all media businesses.
Publishing has been a crucial part of human culture for as long as people have been writing and reading.  How will publishing evolve as our culture is affected by technology, climate change, population density, and the ebb and flow of civilization and its economics? Publishing Talks interviews help us understand the outlines of what is happening, and how we might ourselves interact with and influence the future of publishing as it unfolds. Publishing Talks interviews give people in the book business a chance to talk about ideas and concerns in a public forum that are often only talked about “around the water cooler,” at industry conventions and events, and in emails between friends.
I hope that Publishing Talks interviews will give people inside and outside the book industry a chance to hear about some of the thoughts, ideas and concepts that are currently being discussed by engaged individuals within the industry.

It was very exciting for me to have a chance to interview Tim O’Reilly, widely considered to be one of the smartest and most innovative publishers around.  He’s been involved in the World Wide Web and computers for a very long time, and throughout that time, his work has been marked by intelligence, innovation, and clarity about what matters to consumers. We talked about the history of his involvement in publishing, the web, publishing technology, and his views about the way publishing needs to evolve using new digital tools and establishing new business models – with examples.

Here’s his bio: Tim O’Reilly is the founder and CEO of O’Reilly Media, thought by many to be the best computer book publisher in the world. The company also publishes online through the O’Reilly Network and hosts conferences on technology topics. Tim is an activist for open source, open standards, and sensible intellectual property laws.

Since 1978, Tim has led the company’s pursuit of its core goal: to be a catalyst for technology change by capturing and transmitting the knowledge of “alpha geeks” and other innovators. His active engagement with technology communities drives both the company’s product development and its marketing. Tim has built a culture where advocacy, meme-making, and evangelism are key tenets of the business philosophy.

Tim has served on the board of trustees for both the Internet Society and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, two organizations devoted to making sure that the internet fulfills its promise. He was on the board of Macromedia up until the recent merger with Adobe. He is currently on the board of CollabNet.

Tim graduated from Harvard College in 1975 with a B.A. cum laude in Classics. His honors thesis explored the tension between mysticism and logic in Plato’s dialogues.

An archive of Tim’s online articles, talks, and interviews can be found at Tim’s archive page.