David Wilk talks with Lise Quintana of Lithomobilus

Lise Quintana headshotsmallPublishing 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.

As many listeners here know, I have an ongoing interest in experiments in technology that expand the writing experience for creators and of course then the reading experience as well. Honestly, while we have seen many attempts, thus far, not very many have captured the greater imagination of writers or readers.

The latest undertaking I have run across is Lithomobilus, founded by writer Lise Quintana, whose “online writing software gives authors the power to expand upon their existing works, create new works with built-in expansion opportunities, and craft amazing nonlinear works….Readers can then download the reader software and enjoy the first e-book reading experience that values words without slavishly following the format of a printed book.”

I’m ready to see what happens and I thought it would be fun to talk to Lise to find out more.

Creating compelling “interactive” fiction and new forms of storytelling is a hugely challenging undertaking. I found a comprehensive review of Lithomobilus by Emily Short, who knows a lot about new narrative forms, her blog is well worth reading. “There’s a core problem of interactive fiction design here: if you design a narrative where the intention is that the reader will read as much as she’s curious about and then stop, but you don’t communicate that she’s allowed to do that, she’ll continue exploring the story space past the point where she’s started to feel bored and then blame the author for that boredom. This is genuinely not easy to resolve, and it’s at the heart of what Lithomobilus appears to be trying to do: to offer stories that aren’t consumed completely, but yield more and more content in response to a reader’s desire, inexhaustibly, never saying that your experience is complete.”

I like Lise Quintana’s own piece of writing in the Lithomobilus app, it’s called The Strangely-Browne Episode, and even though it’s likely meant as a demonstration of the app’s capabilities, it is an engaging story. I know there are many who doubt that there is a “need” for new technology to create interactive reading experiences. It seems possible that even if it’s “better” storytelling, it may not be a mainstream sort of thing – recumbent bicycles come to mind here. They are demonstrably better riding devices than traditional bikes, but they will never be popular with more than a minority of riders, they take time to learn to ride, they look weird and they cost more. I think similar factors are at play with writing that tries to harness new technologies to tell stories differently. Too hard for most readers to learn, interactivity changes the reading experience from what is expected, and “costs” more time and effort than readers are willing to give. But for those who do want “something more”, apps like Lithomobilus do provide an opportunity that may be worth the effort to engage.img_0151

Lise’s publishing effort is called Zoetic Press, which publishes using the Lithomobilus app platform. She is Lise the CEO and founder of Narrative Technologies, which uses interactive and hypertext narrative tools to publish new kinds of literature.  Quintana was formerly the editor-in-chief of Lunch Ticket, a literary journal of Antioch University Los Angeles. Previously she worked as a writer and project manager at various hardware and software companies in Silicon Valley. Quintana is on the Board of Trustees for Antioch University Los Angeles and formerly on the Board of Directors for Friends of the Santa Cruz Public Library.

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 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

Douglas Rushkoff: Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now

September 21, 2013 by  
Filed under Non-Fiction, WritersCast

Present Shock978-1591844761 – Current – Hardcover – $26.95 (ebook versions available at lower prices, and paperback edition due February 2014)

“If the end of the twentieth century can be characterized by futurism, the twenty-first can be defined by presentism.”

As it happens, I started this Writerscast project as an antidote to my own sense of what Douglas Rushkoff calls Present Shock, which is about how time, technology, attention, human intelligence, culture, meaning, advertising, commerce and belief systems that mark 21st century modern life have changed the way we experience our lives.  This is an important book that having read and thought about, I can highly recommend.

What is ironic is that all of the things about our time that Rushkoff talks about in Present Shock, our feeling of being too busy and overwhelmed with input, our inability to filter out what does not matter to us and to focus on what does matter most are all the reasons why so many people I know will end up not reading this book at all.  In fact the author felt those same issues during the writing of the book, and had to devise a plan and method that allowed him to concentrate on getting the work done.

You are not alone if you are feeling the need to make some space for yourself.  It took me much longer to read this book than it would have some years ago.  And it took me much longer to find the space in my life to write this short piece and post it than I am comfortable with.  Technology in communication has enabled tremendous gains for many of us, while at the same time enslaving us to our devices.

Rushkoff brilliantly describes what has happened to us – the end of narrative, changes in the way we perceive and operate in time, what he calls digiphrenia – mental chaos provoked by digital experience – our need to escape the present, and our inability to filter information and sensory input.  We instinctively know what he is talking about because we experience it ourselves every day.

But most of the time, most of us believe all of these concerns are personal and individual – how do I learn how to cope with the modern world?  I think Rushkoff’s point in this book is that these are not individual problems, they are structural, and we need to start thinking about ways we can alter the course of our culture, to take control of technology, to act rather than be acted upon.  In that way, this is an inspiring book, which I hope will lead to change in thinking and behavior.

I interviewed Doug about one of his earlier books, Program or Be Programmed.  He is a terrific talker as well as writer and I am sure you will enjoy listening to our conversation. Rushkoff

 

 

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.

 

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 Liza Daly

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 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 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.

Liza Daly and her partner Keith Fahlgren work together as ThreePress Consulting, providing “expert consulting services and software engineering in digital publishing.”  Liza’s name comes up constantly in discussions about ebooks and the emerging technology of publishing.  Recently I’ve become interested in how HTML5 operates, as this new standard appears to have a great deal of potential use for handling online display and consumption of digital publishing in a web browser environment and elsewhere.  Liza created Bookworm as a free platform for reading ePub format ebooks online and now with Keith, she has developed Ibis Reader, which enables reading ebooks on computers and devices without having to download ebook files or even understand how ebook files and devices work (and Ibis is written in HTML5).

In addition Liza and Keith are active in the open source technology community and are strong advocates for experimentation, agile development, and innovation in publishing. In April of 2010, Liza was elected to the IDPF Board of Directors. Both Keith and Liza are members of various IDPF EPUB Working Groups, including the EPUB 3.0 Working Group. Liza was a member of the advisory board for the Web 2.0 Expo NYC conference in 2008 and 2009, and was also on the board for O’Reilly’s digital publishing conference, Tools of Change 2009-2011.

I wanted to talk to Liza to better understand the emerging landscape of ebooks and e-reading as she sees it from her perspective.  She is so deeply involved in new technologies and also has a terrific understanding of use and useability, which of course are critical for the future of digital publishing.  I’ve used Ibis Reader now and it works really well.  What comes next will be very interesting to see and hopefully this talk with Liza will be useful to listeners who are interested, as I am, in how new technologies will create opportunities for publishers, writers and readers in the near future.  It’s critical that we understand how we interact with new software, how its use affects our comprehension of information and ideas, and how we can in turn influence the emerging future we are about to inhabit.  Since Liza is one of the proverbial “smartest people in the room” I can’t think of anyone better from which to learn.

Publishing Talks: David Wilk interviews John Oakes

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 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 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.

OR Books was founded in 2009 by two very experienced book publishing veterans, Colin Robinson and John Oakes, who realized that after many years, that the way books have been published and sold in the 20th century no longer applies in the 21st.  John’s description of their new venture (as told to O’Reilly Radar for their “TOC Evolvers” series) goes like this:

OR Books is driven by two concepts. Well, three. One: the current system of distribution and production, returns and discounts, in publishing doesn’t work for stores, authors, or publishers. Two: we will publish politically progressive and culturally adventurous work. Three: the classic rules of publishing still hold true: you need good editing, design, and marketing.

To address the first concept, we decided to scratch the Byzantine rules that surround the distribution and production of books: we sell straight to consumers, do intensive marketing, and then license the book to “traditional publishers.” We generally do not sell to wholesalers or booksellers, be they independent, Amazon, or Barnes & Noble. We are “platform agnostic,” offering consumers their books as ebooks or in physical, printed form. They choose.

I originally wanted to interview both John and Colin together, but the timing did not work out.  Colin was someplace exotic like London, so I talked to John in his tiny home office in Manhattan.  We had a great talk, as there is alot to talk about.  Alert to listeners, and while this is the longest Publishing Talks interview I have done, at about 45 minutes long, I think well worth the investment of time and you can always listen to it in more than one sitting.

OR Books was founded by John Oakes and Colin Robinson as a publishing company embracing e-books and other new technologies. They have already published some excellent (and timely) books, their first being Going Rouge (a great book to launch with), Eileen Myles’ riveting novel Inferno, and Doug Rushkoff’s new Program or be Programmed.  Their work is political, cultural, and literary, and so far has been terrifically interesting work.

John Oakes co-founded the publishing company Four Walls Eight Windows. When his company was purchased by the Avalon Publishing Group, he became publisher of Thunder’s Mouth Press, co-publisher of Nation Books, and vice president of Avalon. Among the authors he has published are Andrei Codrescu, Sue Coe, R. Crumb, Cory Doctorow, Andrea Dworkin, Abbie Hoffman, Gordon Lish, Harvey Pekar, Rudy Rucker, John Waters and Edmund White. Oakes serves on the board of PEN America. He has written for the Associated Press, the International Herald Tribune, and the Review of Contemporary Fiction.

Colin Robinson was until recently a senior editor at Scribner. Previously he was managing director of Verso Books and publisher of The New Press. Among the authors he has published are Tariq Ali, Noam Chomsky, Alexander Cockburn, Mike Davis, Norman Finkelstein, Eduardo Galeano, Eric Hobsbawm, Lewis Lapham, Mike Marqusee, Rigoberta Menchú, Matt Taibbi and Jann Wenner. He has written for a broad range of publications including The New York Times, The Sunday Times (London) and The Guardian (London) and has appeared on a wide range of broadcast media including NPR (“On the Media”), CNN, MSNBC, CBC and CSPN.

Publishing Talks: David Wilk interviews Eoin Purcell

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.

Eoin Purcell works and lives in Dublin, Ireland. He is a publishing industry analyst and commentator. He runs Green Lamp Media, a publishing and publishing services company and also edits Irish Publishing News.

He has worked as Commissioning Editor with one of Ireland’s oldest independent publishers Mercier Press and at Nonsuch Ireland (now The History Press Ireland). He writes occasional blog posts and columns on the Irish book trade for The Bookseller magazine.

I was prompted to talk to Eoin by his persuasive and cogent article that appeared in (Ed Nawotka’s highly recommended online newsletter) Publishing Perspectives called “E-Books are a Cul-de-sac: Why Publishing Needs to Rethink its Digital Strategy.”  In my view, Eoin consistently thinks and writes clearly about the unfolding future of a digital publishing future.  In this conversation we talked mainly about how publishers (and authors) can and must adapt to the emerging environment created by new technology (and new distribution models), including practical ideas and actions they can take to embrace new tools and methods of reaching readers in a profitable way.  He expressed his view that publishers need to focus on longer term trends, the values they can provide to readers (and writers) and then build their businesses around identifiable communities of readers.  We also talked about the differences in marketing paradigms that digital publishing establishes for publishers, the idea of “publishing as community” and much more.

Eoin provides a fresh, incisive perspective along with realistic ideas and strategies for publishers who want to embrace a new paradigm of publishing based on a web-centric environment.  I think this conversation will be valuable to anyone (publisher or author) who is interested in creating a successful digital strategy for the long term future.

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