Category Archives: Publishers

Push Pop Press – significantly extending ‘the book’

Software developer Mike Matas demos a full-length interactive book for the iPad — with clever, swipeable video and graphics and some very cool data visualizations to play with. The book is “Our Choice,” Al Gore’s sequel to “An Inconvenient Truth.”

Watch this 5 minute TED talk to get the full picture.

In brief, this is technology for book publishers, and what you will see is:

  • a full-length interactive book ‘Our Choice’ authored by Al Gore
  • moving images, web links
  • chapter browsing by chapter cover image, or, scrolling through page images
  • all images expanded to full screen size
  • audio tracks to accompany an opened image
  • map links to check geographic location of photo
  • embedded documentary footage (that continues to play while you browse elsewhere)
  • interactive (by touch) infographics – see new information presented as you move your finger across a map
  • interactive (by blowing from your mouth!) images – the reader can blow the windmill to see the energy flow to batteries and lighting.

It only works on the iPad or iPhone, but is still a terrific demonstration of how the ‘long-form’ book functionality will continue to be extended.

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University Press Content Consortium – a major USA collaboration to watch

Further to our February 22 blog advocating for more collaboration amongst Australian university presses, the March announcement of the USA’s University Press Content Consortium (UPCC) launching in January 1, 2012, confirms and expands the potential for such collaboration.

Although precise details are hazy, the primary driver for this initiative appears to be more on the marketing and distribution side of things, rather than on the production side. Their media release states: “The partnership allows e-books from an anticipated 60-70 university presses and non-profit scholarly presses—representing as many as 30,000 frontlist and backlist titles—to be discovered and searched in an integrated environment with content from nearly 500 journals currently on MUSE.”

It will be interesting to watch over time how this level of collaboration spills over to sharing production platforms also. It would make sense for the 60-70 presses to develop alliances around platforms, and perhaps some services, for manuscript submission, peer-review, copy editing, design & layout, ebook formatting, print-on-demand, and other common areas of need.

For a stimulating collection of thoughts about the future of scholarly publishing, see this edition of the Journal of Electronic Publishing dedicated to ‘reimagining the university press’.

O’Reilly Media took five years to have confidence in POD

This report in Publisher Weekly highlights how slowly things work in book publishing, and how building the right supply relationships takes time.

O’Reilly has to be considered one of the most innovative and tech-savvy book publishers on the planet, but even for them it took five years of dedicated trialing of print-on-demand before they could be ‘comfortable that moving more printing to pod to will free up cash to be used on the acquisition of content’.

And their partner is Ingram, parent of Lightning Source, the most well-resourced book wholesaler with pod facilities in the world.

It is further evidence that the Lightning Source model makes sense. In one way it heightens the challenge for local printers who can not match Ingram’s global distribution capability, but it may also give them some hope. It is difficult for large companies like Ingram to always respond quickly and effectively to the needs of local smaller publishers, and that’s how new players can get a stronger hold on local opportunities.

Business opportunities: students and their ‘everyday life research’

In First Monday’s recent issue (Volume 4, 4 April 2011) researchers Alison Head and Michael Eisenberg from the University of Washington report on their research into college students’ everyday life information-seeking behaviour.

A few helpful findings for book industry players:

  • ‘books’ are often considered more authoritative than blogs or random info – one student went in search of methods for curing food, they ‘blew those (blogs) off’ and went to an online cookbook.
  • students are ‘more engaged’ with ‘everyday life research’ than conventional course work.
  • search engines are used most for making purchasing-related decisions and other high-risk decisions (like curing food properly so it doesn’t make you sick).

Most importantly, this research points to  business opportunities for publishers and campus book-sellers in:

  • identifying the everyday life research that students engage in.
  • developing online information services to meet these needs.
  • integrating these information services with course-related products and services they already access.

Shared Scholarly Publishing Infrastructure – a sure way to promote Australia’s research excellence

Academics form one of the most prolific online user communities throughout the world. They are also amongst the most well-defined groups of ‘users’ that act simultaneously as both authors and readers.  The online environment has enabled geographically dispersed academics to be more closely and actively connected around their core fields of research. However, research outputs in print or electronic book form are still hampered by relatively high costs of production that require better economies of scale to overcome.

In recent years the Australian federal government has invested heavily in digital repositories to provide some of the necessary infrastructure for storing and accessing the great wealth of our academic research output. ‘Open Access’ has also been openly advocated by Minister Carr throughout his term as being a logical approach to sharing publically funded research.

However, electronic means for packaging (ebooks/digital books/bits of books, for web/mobile device/print on demand) and distributing (via wholesale, retail, and library networks) are also needed, in addition to storage and access, to achieve a substantially higher level of exposure for Australian academics both here and overseas, even if ‘open access’ models are adopted.

A collaborative approach to packaging and distribution would be a logical development alongside the various collaborations invested in for storage and access.  These include the Australasian Digital Theses Program and the National Collaborative Research Strategy into eResearch.

At least seven universities (ANU, Monash, RMIT, Uni of Melb, Uni of Syd, UNSW, UQ) have been developing different but complementary approaches to electronic publishing in recent years. These efforts could be analysed to identify what common infrastructure would best serve the further development of e-publishing  models for academic research outputs from all universities in Australia.

A shared scholarly publishing infrastructure used by each university with its own identity and secure space, perhaps under an Application Service Provider (ASP) model, could offer a range of functions, including the following:

1.     Manuscript submission – tools for authors to submit works for review by editors or editorial committees.

2.     Peer review – a place where reports are administered, submitted and stored.

3.     Design and layout tools – a toolkit for converting manuscripts (prepared in pre-defined templates) into files ready for print and electronic packaging.

4.     Book packaging tools – a set of tools for preparing files for specific book products types such printed formats, standard and large print, various ebook formats, including ePub, HTML, and PDF.

5.     Print on Demand services – an integrated print service (perhaps tendered on an annual or other basis) for all university publishers to access bulk rates and high standards of quality service.

6.     Marketing – a set of tools for generating relevant information for lodging with international databases for marketing and distribution purposes.

7.     Distribution – an electronic platform for lodging new titles with international distribution channels to book-sellers, and libraries. Whether they are free-of-charge or for-charge materials, this function could be established to provide a gateway for content subject to the terms established by each publisher, and for each work.

There are many more aspects of book production and distribution that a shared platform might provision. However, those mentioned above are probably the core components that might attract sufficient interest from those willing and able to invest in a collaborative venture.

The federal government’s support would provide necessary impetus for this important foundation to be established, to support the greater and enhanced dissemination of Australia’s excellence in academic research.

(This is an extract from Enakt’s recent submission to the Australian Federal Government’s Book Industry Strategy Group)

Publishers focussing on ‘curating’

Seth Godin recently gave an excellent speech to the 26th annual Independent Book Publishers Association Publishing University 2010. Hear the audio at this link. One of his main points is that the most viable role publishers have today is that of being curators. Therefore, he suggests, they might focus less on manufacturing (less reliance on long runs), distribution (just utilize the ‘infinite’ shelf space of online retailers), or sales and marketing (let your best customers sell for you), and more on content development around specialized topics targeted to well-defined audiences, or, in his words, ‘tribes’.

Pascal Press have taken this to a whole new level with their Mathletics site that reaches hundreds of thousands of students every year through more than 7,000 schools all around the globe.

Hardie Grant are practicing this successfully in a more conventional form with products such as their Wine Companion which appears to be enjoying considerable success building a community around wine with the web-site and the iphone app.