Brian Howard

Brian Howard
BEA Show Notes, Day 1, Brian's Take

We're pounding the hard concrete floors of the Javits Center today — it's day 1 of our Book Expo coverage, as we juggle sessions at two compelling events packed with content: IDPF Digital Book 2013 and Publishers Launch. My colleague Lynn Rosen and I have each gathered snippets of wisdom to share with our readers from presentations we have heard today.

This morning at the International Digital Publishing Forum's Digital Book 2013 Plenary Session, Laura Hazard Owen of paidContent.org interviewed Chantal Restivo-Alessi Chief Digital Officer of HarperCollins in a session titled: Digital Publishing In Transition: Steering a Course in the Middle of A Storm. Restivo-Alessi, who comes to publishing from the music business, noted some differences between the two industries, notably how music is more about selling individual songs rather than albums (not as much of a concern in book publishing). She noted great areas of opportunity in catalog reinvigoration through price promotions, but saw bigger gains to be made in product innovation, both with apps and with enhanced books.

Numbers Game: Books or Beer?

If a picture is worth a thousand words, what's a picture of words worth?

This month's Harper's Index featured a fascinating snapshot (see photo), in just a few lines, of a current trend in book publishing:

Percentage change in the past twenty-five years in the Consumer Price Index: +41

In the price of beer: +40

Of books: -1

On my honeymoon, I fell in love all over again… with my e-reader (and my wife, of course.)

In anticipation of a rare week-long block of reading time (electricity is limited in Tulum, Mexico, and, as a result, so are televisions), I loaded up my Nook Simple Touch with another rare treat: fiction.

I've found my reading habits have tended toward nonfiction in recent years and, in the last year or so, toward my tablet (at home) or phone (in transit) and away from fiction and my trusty eInk reader. But last week, as I was loath to get sand up in my iPad's, let's call them delicate areas, and wary of trying to read from that back-lit screen under the Yucatan's intense glare—not to mention that I was anxious to get caught up in an epic tale—the Nook and Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings won the dias day.

How Has the Tablet Changed Your Life? Your Business? Your General Disposition?

It's hard to believe it's already/only been three years since the iPad descended from the heavens Apple introduced it's category defining iPad. On the one hand, it seems like only yesterday. On the other hand, for those of us with tablet computers of one stripe or another, it's hard to imagine life before our new constant companions. 

There's a great piece on Ars Technica today in which its editors reflect on the device, their initial impressions and its impact on their lives since.

I recall my own pre-iPad days as ones of awkwardly balancing a MacBook on my knees or an ottoman while doing my couch computing, or lugging it to the kitchen—and exposing it to risk of spills, splatters and crashes to the floor—while cooking. I resisted forking over the big bucks for a long time until I had the opportunity to buy one, and I was hooked, springing for the then-New iPad (aka iPad 3). Now I ponder not only when I should upgrade, but whether one tablet is enough. With the new Nexus 7 on the way, I have a feeling I'll be dipping into the 7-inch form factor soon enough.

The April issue of Book Business magazine available now!

This month's edition of Book Business magazine—here in all of its digital glory—features a sprawling examination of the many ways ebooks have transformed book publishing. Think of John Parson's "The Year of Living Digitally" as your crib-sheet to the digital disruption and how publishers can adapt to new delivery methods and business models. While Parsons digs into the data, bestselling novelist Susan Isaacs, in an exclusive interview with Lynn Rosen, waxes on the myriad ways the industry has changed from the author's perspective.

Happy Tolkien Day!

Do you know your Hobbitses from your Uruk-hai? Your Rivendell from Mordor? Your Gandalf the Grey from Gandalf the White?

Now's the time to put your Middle Earth trivia knowledge to the test: It's Tolkien Day.

The good folks at The Guardian have a quiz up to celebrate.

Sample question:

Sound Off: What does the SCOTUS' Wiley v. Kirtsaeng decision mean for books, publishing

By now you've likely heard that the Supreme Court has ruled, in a 6-3 decision, in favor of immigrant scientist Supap Kirtsaeng in Kirtsaeng V. Wiley.

In what's being heralded as a win for consumers and libraries, and a loss for publishers, the SCOTUS overturned a previous ruling against Kirtsaeng, who had been buying textbooks printed (legally) abroad—where they cost significantly less than they do in, say, the United States—and then reselling them in the U.S. on eBay and turning a handsome profit in the process.

In a statement yesterday, Wiley's President & CEO Stephen M. Smith wrote: "We are disappointed that the U.S. Supreme Court has decided in favor of Supap Kirtsaeng and overturned the Second Circuit’s ruling.  It is a loss for the U.S. economy, and students and authors in the U.S. and around the world."

A New Brand of Book News: Book Business's Lynn Rosen on the Copyright Clearance Center's "Beyond the Book" Podcast

Earlier this year, Book Business magazine published a cover story titled "Who Are You?" that delved into the issue of publishers and branding. The story suggested that now—especially in this time of digital content and Internet discovery—book publishers need to get sophisticated about their branding efforts.

In the new installment of the Copyright Clearance Center's Beyond The Book podcast, Christopher Keanneally, the CCC's Director, Business Development (and a member of Book Business's editorial advisory board) interviews Lynn Rosen, Editorial Director of the Publishing Business Group.

Biblioboard

"I've been waiting my whole career to sell something like this," says Mitchell Davis of BiblioBoard, a platform that helps libraries and institutions create and sell elegant multimedia anthologies and "exhibits" from their catalogs and collections.

Davis is a veteran of Amazon: He sold his first company, Book Surge, an integrated publishing and print-on-demand platform, to the Seattle etailer in 2005 and then went to work for them. In 2007, says Davis, the original founders of Book Surge got back together in their hometown of Chareston, S.C., to start BiblioLabs with the focus of reducing the costs of making historical books available via POD.

"We didn't do much with digital in the early days," says Davis, "because most of the devices were E Ink and we just didn't think they would do justice to historical artifacts. The iPad changed all of that."

Ownshelf

For Rick Marazzani, the idea for Ownshelf—a service that allows users to share ebooks across devices and among friends—originated at home. After taking his household completely digital—"no more DVDs, no more CD players, no more books, except for the baby who had board books but likes playing on the iPad"—Marazzani grew frustrated trying to share titles across the various e-readers and tablets his family members possessed.

"I wanted a way to replace the old-fashioned bookshelf," says Marazzani, who comes to the book world via the video game industry. "I wanted something to let you show off what you're reading, see it and interact with it. To grab a book from any device and not have to go through the hassle of DRM."

Pubslush

When Pubslush started, it launched as more or less a Kickstarter for book projects, with books that met their funding goals being published exclusively by Pubslush. But the company relaunched last year with a different angle on its concept. Think of Pubslush now as part book incubator, and part market intelligence provider.

"When we relaunched, we wanted to be a friend to everyone in the industry," says Amanda Barbara, development director at Pubslush. "With the old model, we were in competition."

What would become of an independent Nook?

While predicting doom for Nook, as our columnist Michael Weinstein put it, has become the favored pastime of the book and tech press of late, it’s hard not to read the news of B&N Chairman Leonard S. Riggio’s bid to purchase the chain’s retail stores and take them private—leaving the company’s foundering Nook division to fend for itself—as the beginning of the end for the little e-reader that could. (Or maybe it’s the end of the end for the little e-reader that couldn’t quite.)

Show Notes: Book^2 Camp Unconference, Sun., Feb. 10, Workman Publishing

Book Business spent last Sunday hunkered down at Workman Publishing in New York attending… camp. Specifically, Book^2 Camp ("book squared"), an annual pre-TOC "unconference" dedicated to discussing, well, just about anything related to book publishing, but with an eye toward sussing out the future of the industry.

A big task, for sure, but the campers were up to the task, compiling an agenda on the fly, gathering into intimate, round-table discussions—in conference rooms, offices, break rooms and really any otherwise unoccupied space at Workman—about profitbility, discoverability, readers, editors, the Internet, etc. and asking a lot of "what if" questions:

  • What if publishing started today?
  • If there was no money in publishing books, what would book publishing look like?
  • What if digital predated print?

In general, the conversations were focused on possibilities and opportunities, with a pinch of pragmatism thrown in to hold it all togther.

In the interest of trying new things, we're going to present our report using Storify, a platform for turning social media into narratives. It's not new to many of you, but we've never used it before. So here goes nothing. Tell us what you think/

The Big Merge: Experts Weigh In on the Random House/Penguin deal

In this month’s edition of our print magazine (featuring our snappy new redesign), I take a look at the announced-last-year merger of publishing powerhouses Penguin and Random House.

While info out of the two houses is expected to be on lock-down until all the paperwork goes through and regulators are pleased, we asked some experts with a set of unique perspectives on how the merger will affect the publishers involved and the industry at large to weigh in.

While perspectives differ, one of the most common areas of interest is technology and data: Will the merger help or hinder the two houses impressive track records for innovation? Will the real innovation that comes out of this deal, and further consolidation, come not out of the big houses but out of displacement on the fringes.