Hugh McGuire

We have our running shoes on today, day 1 of our Book Expo experience, as we race back and forth between two compelling events packed with content: IDPF
Digital Book 2013 and Publishers Launch. My colleague Brian Howard and I have each gathered snippets of wisdom to share with our readers from presentations we have heard today.
In a morning session at IDPF, Richard Nash talked about the book (ebook, that is) as algorithm vs. the book as data. As far as data, he says, the problem we face is abundance. He cites cognitive psychologists who study what our brains do when we read and it turns out what we do is we imagine ourselves doing the action we reading about. A novel, says Nash, is a novel is a program that runs inside the reader.

What big issues do you see publishers thinking and talking about these days?

You can't toss a conference program without hitting someone talking about "discovery," particularly across online platforms. I wish that the conversation was a bit less driven by talk of metadata (although that matters a lot). Institutions like libraries play a critical role in discovering books, but they have been largely shut out of the digital conversation. That needs to change.

A year ago, Hugh McGuire, the founder of PressBooks, was ready to give up. “I was ready to just quit because it was so frustrating,” he says of his latest startup, which allows people to use a simple blog-like content management system to publish ebooks – for free. But a lot has happened in 12 months. “We’ve stuck at it, the market’s moved a little bit, and the product’s a bit better,” says McGuire. “We’re now on the cusp of really making a difference in the world.”

PressBooks founder Hugh McGuire refers to his company as “the indie rock band of ebooks startups,” which is why, unless you’ve been watching PandoDaily really closely, you wouldn’t have seen much of it in the media.

Today, just like an indie band that relies on its fan base for its survival, two-year-old PressBooks has announced that it is making its free book publishing software open source. McGuire, a Montreal-based entrepreneur who also founded crowdsourced audiobooks publisher Librivox, hopes that third-party developers can help PressBooks expand the meaning and utility of ebooks.

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