Brian O Leary

Denis Wilson is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Executive, Printing Impressions' sister publication that covers the magazine publishing business.

Big ideas are new ideas. Big ideas are bold ideas. Sometimes big ideas are small ideas. Often, big ideas seem wrong at first glance because they present such a different way of doing things. 

These are the types of ideas we’ve tried to capture with the Book Business Big Ideas Issue. Industry thinkers -- and readers and supporters of Book Business -- contributed mini-essays, exploring what they think are the imperatives for a thriving, progressive, effective book business.

Print or digital? Digital or print? Sick of that debate yet?

The answer: “Integrated.” That is the keyword down here in Mississippi, from whence I write while attending the ACT Experience magazine conference. ACT stands for Amplify, Clarify and Testify. The Experience lasts for two and a half days on the campus of The University of Mississippi's Meek School of Journalism and New Media.

A book is a book is a book—is it not?  Not in the hall at the former Church of Christ, Scientist, now turned into the magnificent home of the Internet Archive on Funston Avenue at the edge of the Presidio in San Francisco. The Archive, established in 1996 with the goal of offering permanent access to records that exist in digital format, is the venue for the annual Books in Browsers conference, which took place on October 24th and 25th. This reporter attended this year for the first time, and had her mind blown.

If we start to think of “books as data,” then the traditional publisher’s role starts to sound a lot like the role of providing an API: A publisher’s job is to manage how and when and under what circumstances people (readers) or other services (book stores, libraries, other?) access books (data).

We know what this job looks like in the old world of bound paper and bricks and mortar stores, and we’re pretty sure we understand it in a world of EPUB and Kindle.

But as we move into a primarily digital world…

Look at the publishing news these days and you'll read as much about devices as you do about books. There are new families of Kindles, Kobos and Nooks on the block; Google's Nexus 7 is outselling the Kindle Fire; Microsoft is betting big on its Surface tablet; oh, and maybe you've heard about an iPad mini coming 'round the bend? And let's not even get into the wild world of smartphones. Point is, while the printed book was once a platform unto itself, now the ways people read "books," and the devices they read on, are expanding.

It used to be you really only had one distribution platform: The print version. In fact, back then it would have been redundant to call it "the print version." There was only one version. Now that we're living in the much ballyhooed four-screen world—TV, computer, smart phone, tablet/ereader—it's really no longer efficient or feasible to create for print and then backtrack to get your products into digital streams.

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