Monthly Archives: April 2013

Most social networks don’t understand original content

28 April 2013

From Paid Content:

The trend among social networks to produce original content often ends badly, as Tumblr’s shuttering of Storyboard showed. Here’s where other big services, from Facebook to YouTube, are going wrong – or, in the case of LinkedIn, going right.

. . . .

Community-inspired initiatives, much like journalism, need a sense of purpose, passion and objective urgency – the ability to look unflinchingly at a subject and capture it in a way that’s surprising and insightful. With that in mind, here’s how some of the most popular communities and social networks are experimenting with original content — and what works and doesn’t.

. . . .

The greater  problem with Facebook Stories has been one of approach. It publishes monthly, a bizarre strategy that utterly defies the very best characteristics of the site and is obviously in direct conflict with the online ethos. Content on Facebook is instantaneous and reactionary; it’s about celebrating small moments not just milestones, and any editorial effort should mirror that.

. . . .

The career-oriented network is oddly the rare success story of implementing original content. Even before LinkedIn’s $90 million acquisition of popular news-reader Pulse, the professional network was making all the right moves in terms of content creation and curation with a leadership board in the form of LinkedIn Influencers and a daily news feed that distributes third-party content selected by users.

Where the company has invested in original content, it’s done so by popular demand, tapping proven influencers like Virgin CEO Richard Branson and ex-FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski for exclusive articles that cater specifically to the network’s business-savvy audience. As Jennifer Van Grove noted for CNET, “content is quickly becoming the new connection on LinkedIn.”

Link to the rest at Paid Content

Netflix for Ebooks

27 April 2013

From Publishing Technology:

In just a few short years, subscription-based streaming services like Spotify and Netflix have gone from being tiny start-ups to companies that many believe hold the future of entertainment business in their hands. According to recent forecasts Netflix is on track to have over 45 million paying subscribers in the US alone by the end of 2013, while Spotify disclosed at the end of 2012 that its subscriber base now tops 6 million worldwide.

There is now a growing sense that what has worked for film, TV and music could also work for the book business. Consequently we’ve seen quite a few subscription-based start-ups appear over the past few months, vying to become the ‘Netflix’ or ‘Spotify’ for books.

. . . .

What most of them have in common is a core belief that readers will benefit from an ‘all you can eat’ model for consuming books, while publishers will be attracted to a service that delivers consistent subscription revenue. After all, it’s a payment model that has worked extremely well for journal publishers.

How such services can be structured so that they offer readers sufficient content to sign up, yet still deliver satisfactory revenue to publishers is a point that will no doubt be discussed at length in the coming year.

. . . .

2. Amazon Kindle FreeTime

This is another children-focused subscription service from Amazon itself, which launched in the US last year. An added value package for Amazon Prime subscribers the Free Time service costs from $4.99 per month (in addition to the Amazon Prime subscription) and gives the subscriber’s children infinite access to a selection of games, books and films on a Kindle Fire.

While this is an entertainment rather than books-focused service it is an interesting example of how one subscription can be used to pay for content provided in multiple formats. It also begs the question as to what other subscription services will start to diversify into books.

3. Blinkboxbooks

When UK supermarket chain Tesco acquired the ebook platform and store Mobcast in late 2012, there was feverish discussion as to what it would do with it. The retailer answered some of those questions on 4 March when it announced that Mobcast would be brought under the Blinkbox on-demand TV brand that Tesco also acquired in 2011, along with the music streaming service We7.

While there are no details as to what Blinkboxbooks will ultimately look like, the fact it’s being positioned as part of a well-known streaming services suggests that Tesco will pursue a subscription model to some extent. It will certainly be interesting to see what the new venture’s MD, Gavin Sathianathan, who joins from Facebook, has planned, and how he will translate Tesco’s might in the physical book sales market into the online space.

Link to the rest at Publishing Technology and thanks to L for the tip.

Is Wikipedia Ghettoizing Female Writers?

27 April 2013

From Freakonomics:

The novelist Amanda Filipacchi (a very good writer; I happen to have gone to grad school with her) writes in the Times that female novelists seem to be getting ghettoized on Wikipedia:

I just noticed something strange on Wikipedia. It appears that gradually, over time, editors have begun the process of moving women, one by one, alphabetically, from the “American Novelists” category to the “American Women Novelists” subcategory. So far, female authors whose last names begin with A or B have been most affected, although many others have, too.

The intention appears to be to create a list of “American Novelists” on Wikipedia that is made up almost entirely of men. The category lists 3,837 authors, and the first few hundred of them are mainly men. The explanation at the top of the page is that the list of “American Novelists” is too long, and therefore the novelists have to be put in subcategories whenever possible.

Too bad there isn’t a subcategory for “American Men Novelists.”

Link to the rest at Freakonomics and thanks to Joshua for the tip.

Even on Central Avenue

27 April 2013

Even on Central Avenue, not the quietest dressed street in the world, he looked about as inconspicuous as a tarantula on a slice of angel food.

Raymond Chandler

Senate spares e-books from sales tax

27 April 2013

From MarketWatch:

Most online purchases will be subject to sales tax under the law under consideration in Congress. But there’s one big exception: digital books, music, or any other content composed of ones and zeros.

Scheduled to be voted on May 6 in the Senate, the Marketplace Fairness Act, would mark the beginning of the end of tax-free shopping for clothing and electronics. Supporters say it will help put an end to “showrooming” — where people visit physical stores to shop for items they later purchase online — while critics contend it will hurt e-commerce and small Internet companies.

The legislation would put the onus on vendors — instead of consumers — to pay tax on online purchases made on sites like, eBay  and smaller e-commerce companies. The Marketplace Fairness Act doesn’t specifically mention digital content, but leaves interpretation up to state law. “It does not change what digital goods are subject to state sales tax,” says Rachelle Bernstein, vice president of tax for the National Retail Federation, “but it does require companies to collect that tax.”

. . . .

But e-books shouldn’t be taxed along with a pair of skis or garden furniture from, says Steve DelBianco, executive director of NetChoice, a coalition of e-commerce firms like Yahoo and News Corp., owner of The Wall Street Journal and MarketWatch. “Downloads can’t be resold, gifted or traded, and they’re often of lower quality than physical copies.” Some states are already grappling with such complexities. New Jersey introduced a sales tax on e-books, music and even ringtones in 2006, but apps and other custom-made software for business use was excluded.

Link to the rest at MarketWatch and thanks to Abel for the tip.

Self-Publishers: Do You Need Nurturing?

27 April 2013

From regular visitor and author JW Manus:

I get several emails a week from people who are self-publishing or thinking about self-publishing. They ask me questions about the process.

Sometimes I can answer: “What’s a good program for making an ebook?”

. . . .

Sometimes I have no answers: “What’s the most effective type of marketing and promotion?” (who knows?) “Will I make money selling ebooks?” (maybe, maybe not)

. . . .

A common thread running through most of those emails is this: I feel alone and I’m not sure what to do.

I want to assure those folks that one) self-publishing DOES NOT mean going it alone; and two) by asking questions, you are doing EXACTLY THE RIGHT THING.

The number one reason I hear for going the trad pub route is this: “I just want to write and let a publisher or my agent take care of all the business-production-marketing stuff.”

I understand that. I honestly do. When I’m caught up in creative throes, I don’t want to bothered by, you know, life. Here’s the reality. I sold my first piece of writing in 1990. I’ve worked with several publishers. I have a stack of book contracts. I’ve belonged to several professional writer organizations. I’ve listened to and talked to hundreds of industry professionals–writers, editors, publishers, publicists, agents, and booksellers. So I’ve been around the block once or twice. One thing I know for a hard fact is this: The industry is full of weasels and sharks, and if you abdicate your responsibility to your writing and your career, you will get bitten. It might be a small, barely noticeable wound, or you might get eaten altogether.

. . . .

It’s actually more in response to something I’ve heard several times in the past week. Proponents of traditional publishers and agents proclaiming their valuable role in “nurturing” writers.

Um… no.

Nurturing is what mothers do for babies. Writers are not infants. Most aren’t children, either.

Despite my raised hackles over such condescending bullshit, I still understand the appeal. Writing can be lonely. Loneliness leads to frustration. Frustration requires relief lest it fester. You need someone to tell you that you aren’t wasting your life on a dream. You need assurance that you are doing at least something right. Gold stars and pats on the head don’t do a thing for me, but I do understand the very real need for recognition and acknowledgement for a job well done.

So this is for the writers who are looking at self-publishing, but are afraid that it’s a leap into a lonely abyss. Afraid it is too hard. Afraid they’ll make mistakes.

. . . .

You don’t need nurturing. You need connections and support. One of the most fabulous aspects of self-publishing is that the community is large, noisy, active and supportive. Generous, too, with information.

Link to the rest with a lot of good advice at JW Manus and thanks to Julia for the tip.

Library Revolutions

27 April 2013

From Kansas University. For those outside the United States, the KU mascot is the Jayhawk.

and The Lord of the Libraries

I am absolutely cock-a-hoop

27 April 2013

From Times Higher Education:

Paul Magrs was flabbergasted when an institution he hadn’t heard from in years asked if it could use his work to show impact. Here is his reply.

To the person at the University of East Anglia responsible for the Research Assessment Thingummy, or whatever it’s called nowadays:

Thank you very much for your email this afternoon, requesting information about sales of the book I co-edited in 2001 while I was a senior lecturer in the English department at the University of East Anglia teaching on, among other things, the “world famous” creative writing MA course.

I am delighted to hear that you “have finished writing this particular impact case study on behalf of my UEA creative writing colleagues”.

Very well done! I know these box-ticking exercises to do with “research outputs” (or “books” as some of us still like to call them) can be extremely tiring to write. Writing can be quite hard work, can’t it? And it needs lots of time and energy and quiet too, doesn’t it? I hope you’ve had plenty of that while working on your case study.

. . . .

I have to say, I am absolutely cock-a-hoop to hear that “We have listed your Creative Writing Coursebook as one of several distinguished and successful books about writing that have come out of UEA in the last two decades”.

I am so gratified to be on that list of “distinguished and successful” authors from UEA. How marvellous!

And to be seen as successful, too!

It’s funny because, really, I haven’t heard much from UEA since I left, nine years ago. Back then I was teaching and/or organising all the creative writing courses from undergraduate to PhD level. I also invented courses on writing creative essays, and on surrealism and fantasy, and the novel in the 1960s. I was publishing at least one novel of my own a year. I was working pretty hard, really. Very hard, in fact. I think it would be fair to say that by 2004, after seven years there, I was completely burned out.

. . . .

It was in the midst of all this activity that a colleague and I (who were already inventing extracurricular stuff for our students such as readings in pubs, day trips for writing practice and a campus-based publishing initiative) made extra time to outline, construct and pitch The Creative Writing Coursebook to several publishers. Macmillan decided it would love to publish it, and we commissioned 40 authors to write essays about their writing practice, and about their favourite writing exercises for drawing work out of their students or out of their own subconscious. It was a grand undertaking – working through the various stages of producing work in any genre – from first inklings to final drafts. Yes, it was rich and generous and detailed. And yes, people are still using it and buying it and talking about it now, 12 years on.

I have found that UEA hasn’t been terribly keen to remember that I ran those courses for all those years. Last year, when it (self-)published a book about creative writing on campus and its illustrious history, I was completely left out of its roll-call.

. . . .

Yes, yes. Momentarily there, I’d forgotten that, back in 1998. I was hankering after a bit of respectability, you see?

But I knew that respectability and distinguishedness and all that stuff would never come my way.

And that was because I always wrote exactly what I wanted to. In exactly the way I wanted to.

It’s the only way that this writing stuff can happen, you see?

It’s the only way that “outputs” can be “put out”.

And I’ve continued in that way. My own merry, sometimes maudlin, sometimes disastrous, sometimes mildly successful way, in all the years since.

Maybe UEA hasn’t been in touch much in recent years because I once said in an interview that there was a lot of pretension and privilege in the place.

This was shortly after I left, feeling wrung out and used. Feeling exhausted from being made to feel grateful just for having the post.

Link to the rest at Times Higher Education and thanks to Catherine for the tip.

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