Books are Back: Romanticism Lives!

by Cynthia W. Moore

I Love Books

Photo from:

Digital Book World published an article on their blog entitled “Who Cares How You Read? Just Read.”  Writer Laura Brady wrote that “There has been a lot of press lately about data that looks like it’s pointing to declining book sales and surging print sales.”  Well, if third quarter data counts as data, she is, indeed, correct.  Publisher’s Weekly recently posted that third quarter eBook sales were “down” at HarperCollins and “weak” at Penguin Random House.  Is the ever-climbing eBook sales graph line headed to the long tail?  Perish the thought!

The digital publishing industry is just hitting puberty and suitors of all kinds are lining up at the door.  Brady writes that, although she is now an eBook developer, she “loves books [and] started working in publishing because of a romantic idea of what books and the people who publish them are all about.”  She even admits that she doesn’t “apply the same romanticism to the business she works in now.”  Ah, there’s the rub.  People really do have an attachment to their books.  Reading books digitally is utilitarian.  You can’t really cuddle up to an e-reader, but you can get your work done.

Even playground bully Amazon has weighed in on the disruptive mess it has created by changing its status to brick-and-mortar bookstore owner as well.  Many “Like” the move and the comments are overwhelmingly favorable.

Laura Brady, though, is really addressing publishers and doing some much-needed PR for eBooks:

“I think there are certainly a lot of misconceptions about ebooks—that they can’t be nicely-designed, that they are worth less than print, that reading them is a “less-than” experience. None of these things are true. But they will become a self-fulfilling prophecy if publishers believe them and put little to no energy or creative attention into their digital publishing programs. Just like mass market paperbacks upended a staid publishing culture in the ‘30s, ebooks aren’t going anywhere and need to be a critical part of the publishing planning process.”

Brady goes on to say that “Some of us are working constantly to make future-proof ebooks that are nice to look at and easy to consume despite the confusing proliferation of specs and devices.”  Apparently it is up to publishers to save eBooks’ fourth quarter sales and thereby the industry overall.  Sometimes, though, I like rooting for the underdog and unlike Brady, I do “get jazzed by the smell of paper” in a newly purchased book.



Cynthia Moore is a writer and former educator who joined the M.P.S. in Publishing program at The George Washington University to gain cutting edge industry know-how to launch her own publishing venture.


Leading Dairy Brand Announces Free Online Interactive eCookbook

A recent press release put out by Hood® Cream caught my attention. The title of the release reads, “Hood® Cream Teams Up With Chef Chris Coombs To Launch Its First-Ever eCookbook“.

HP Hood eCookbook
Hood(R) Cream partners with renowned New England Chef Chris Coombs to launch the brand’s first-ever eCookbook. (PRNewsFoto/HP Hood)

The words that stand out to me are “First-Ever eCookbook” as if it has never been done before…ever. This is of course Hood’s first attempt at venturing into the e-publishing space so it is their first e-book. I like that they are using this as a marketing and promotional tool. They have partnered with Chef Chris Coombs, so it lends authority to the eCookbook, while building their brand identity.

The book is called Chef Creations Inspired by Hood Cream and it downloaded as a PDF for free.

Users can take the eCookbook with them anywhere they go with the ability to download it on multiple devices like tablets, desktop computers and smartphones. At-home chefs will enjoy thoughtful notes from Chef Coombs about each recipe and can also take advantage of the eCookbook’s interactive features including simple social media sharing on Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook, and a step-by-step hands-free countertop “cook mode” viewing option.

They are heavily noting the ease of use that their e-Cookbook provides to users and how it can be taken anywhere. Since this is only a PDF, there is no video but they do have “simple” sharing options.

This appears to be a big deal for Hood® Cream to have published an electronic cookbook. I wonder how long it took the company to come to the realization that they should be utilizing an e-Cookbook to promote their product.  Perhaps their next e-Cookbook will be more interactive. Only time will tell.

Indiana University Saving Its Students Millions with Electronic Textbooks

By Samantha Akridge

In 2012 Indiana University implemented a Digital Learning Program. Students pay about $35 for a textbook and they can access it on their computers, tablets, or phones. They can also make notes or comments, highlight, and share the text electronically. The students have access to these books the entire time they are at the University.

Professors are also able to comment on a text or highlight passages for more careful reading. This kind of social reading is highly beneficial in a classroom environment.

By making textbooks available digitally they have saved their students approximately $8 million. However, Professors note that print is not dying on campus. Many students still prefer print for their textbooks and either buy the real book or print out individual chapters as they go.

With over 40% of students opting in to the program this year it is helping to make backpacks lighter and wallets heavier.

Link to Original Story

Publishers Will Need Independent Tech to Level Playing Field

Technology in the hands of businessmen

By Danielle Desjardins

“Google, Facebook, and Twitter — Are they media companies disguised as technology companies?”

This is the question at the heart of “Publishers Will Need Independent Tech to Level Playing Field,” by Kirk McDonald, President of PubMatic, and although the answer to this hotly debated issue isn’t quite clear, one thing is: regardless of whether these outlets are media or technology companies, traditional publishers will need to up their game, and rethink their roles, to compete.

Premium content is no longer the failsafe recipe for success that it was for publishers for decades. Instead, technology and data are upending the monetization strategies that publishers have relied on for so long.

The world of publishing has changed dramatically over the past several years, and according to McDonald, this has created a new paradigm for publishers. “Premium content is no longer the failsafe recipe for success that it was for publishers for decades. Instead, technology and data are upending the monetization strategies that publishers have relied on for so long.” And these changes show in user behavior.

According to a study by Publishing Technology, a leading supplier of data and content solutions, 43% of mobile phone users (both in the United States and United Kingdom) use their phones to read books. The remaining 57%, however, find the experience of reading on a mobile phone unpleasant (36% in the US; 29% in the UK) or found the mobile platforms designed for reading too difficult to use (26% in the US; 21% in the UK). This indicates that unlike game developers, social networking sites, and other media/technology hybrids, publishing companies are not concentrating on continuously refining the user experience of their digital content — a necessity when users can, and will, easily switch loyalties. And considering that an estimated 2.4 billion smartphones will be sold in 2015 alone — approximately 120 times the number of Kindle e-readers sold from 2007 to 2014 — this represents a lost opportunity on a huge scale.

But that is only one technology. As millennials and other digital natives increasingly affect the marketplace, this need for excellent user experiences, and more convenient print/digital hybrid solutions, will only increase.

But the task of developing new monetization strategies and redirecting focus requires publishers to rethink their roles entirely. No longer will they solely be responsible for acquiring, producing, and disseminating content; instead, the average publisher will also need to consider the development or acquisition of specialized technologies built around their unique products — and their unique challenges.

Although some may rush to partner with the Facebooks and Twitters of the world to gain access to these groundbreaking technologies without a substantial internal investment, this strategy may prove short-sighted, especially as the partner technology company moves (often lightning fast) to change the offered technology to fit their own needs, not the publisher’s.

These marketplaces are no more invested in a publisher’s success than the NASDAQ is invented in the success of a particular mutual fund that makes trades on its exchange.

Instead, according to McDonald, the secret to adapting is to locate and partner with independent technology companies — or create individualized technology perfectly suited to your requirements in-house — to solve problems such as the need for greater market automation and real-time inventory management. In a sense, it is only by redefining themselves as both media and technology companies — effectively blurring the lines between each segment — that publishers will survive.

“It’s time for publishers to stop asking, “Are Google and Facebook media companies or tech companies?’” says McDonald, “And start asking themselves, ‘How am I using technology to build the media company of the future?’”

Big Data and the Value of Data-Sharing


By Stacy Masucci


The existing notions of big data and the value of sharing information is a controversial subject from its core- should we share information, how much, and if so how?

In a recent article from the UCLA Newsroom, Christine Borgman (UCLA Professor and Presidential Chair in Information Studies) explains her vision for a new project (which has a three-year grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation). Simply, the project will look at how researchers in a data-intensive environment handle and share information. But on closer inspection, the project is much more than that. Of note is the question that was posed in the title of the grant:

“If data sharing is the answer, what is the question?”

Finding that root “question” is truly at the heart of the project. The group will analyze how data is handled in four research projects (astronomy, biology and medical sciences). They will simplify data practices and present findings back to the scientific communities as well as to funding agencies, government agencies, publishers and stakeholders, to effect change in current policy. There are no specifics within the article as to which policies the group is targeting, but the report will certainly be of great interest and will no doubt shape future roles and responsibilities of stakeholders.

Personally, I can’t wait to see what the question is…

Will Facebook Dominate the News Publishing Space?

By Sarah McArthur

Instant Articles is a new way for publishers to build fast interactive articles on Facebook. It’s been live since May 2015, but has been rolling out gradually. The Facebook news platform allows partner publishers and media companies to publish directly on users’ newsfeeds, instead of pointing users to their main websites.

What this means is that when browsing your feed, you’ll see articles posted by launch partners, such as The New York Times, National Geographic, NBC News, and others. You might also see a share in your feed from a friend who saw the article in their feed. Either way, tap on the post and the article loads instantly without departing the Facebook news platform. Fast and responsive is its main selling point. For the publishers, it’s all about speed and quick access for the user. Publishers are afraid, and maybe rightly so, that readers will bolt if the article takes more than 10 seconds, if that, to load. Instant Articles also offer interaction, scalability, as well as control and customization of content, business model, ad sales and revenue, analytics tools, and brand identity to the publishers.

And, that’s why in a major departure from the rest of the pack, The Washington Post announced this week (9/23/15) that it will post all of its news content on Facebook’s Instant Articles. That’s 1200 stories every day. The Washington Post is the first major publication to commit to publishing all of its stories through the social network.

What does this mean?

It means a solution to lengthy download times and exasperated readers. It means that we of the audience platform won’t have to leave Facebook to read Washington Post articles and soon we’ll be able to stay on the site for many other providers’ news as well. (Remember when you had to go to the corner and pay a dollar for a newspaper? No more of that, you won’t even have to change websites!)

It means more publicity for media companies as their content is on display for the millions (billions?) in Facebooks user base. This could help generate more ad revenue.

It seems a great strategy for Facebook, whose goal is to dominate the online news publishing space. Their competition is Apple News (another Post Partner) and Google and Twitter are working on news services as well.

Is it great for publishers? This is a good question. Most partner publications have chosen to post a limited number of articles on the platform, but not all. Some media outlets have put off fully committing to Instant Articles because to become a full partner requires sharing subscriber information to Facebook that they don’t want to share. Another downside is where in the past (and tentative present), news publications used Facebook to steer traffic to their sites, now readers will be more likely to stay on Facebook. They won’t read the entire newspaper or even an entire section. They won’t see the newspapers’ other offerings, but just the one article if they are lucky enough to catch it as it blazes through their feed. In the case of guinea pig The Washington Post, this strategy could extend its reach across the multitudes or it could be cutting its own throat by severing its direct links to readers.

“Hooked” on a New App for Short Fiction

By Rebecca Winterburn

Telepathic Inc., a narrative technology company founded by Perna Gupta and her husband, Parag Chordia, released a new app this week called Hooked. Hooked features young adult short fiction meant to be read on an iPhone or Apple Watch.

Each book is approximately 1,000 words and is designed to be read in a few minutes. They are told through dialogue that appears on the screen like texts; new messages appear as readers click through.

Gupta describes her app as “Twitter for fiction” and likens it to Bram Stoker’s Dracula,  told entirely through letters.

Writers for the app were recruited through MFA programs and received what Gupta describes as “competitive” pay. For now all of the content is from screened contributors, but the goal is that users will eventually be able to submit their own content. The app is rated 9+ for infrequent suggestive themes, mild horror, and occasional crude humor.

At the moment there are over 200 stories available with more being added daily. They are grouped according to “Channels” (categories) like “Love As Deep,” “Dark & Stormy,” “Primal Terror,” and “Android Dreams,” among others.

Hooked is free to download and users receive one free story per day. They also offer a subscription service that enables readers to access more stories. The price for one week is $2.99, one month is $7.99, and a year of unlimited stories is $39.99.

While writing 100,000 pages of a sci fi fantasy trilogy, Gupta was inspired by the “technology of reading” to stop writing and create the app. It was the possibilities of new innovations in reading that drove her to begin working on new tools for modern readers.