Evan Ratliff: What I Learned In 2013
Evan Ratliff is the co-founder of Atavist, a long-form digital publishing and publishing software company. Here are 3 things Evan learned in 2013:
1. No matter how fast you think technology is moving, it's probably moving faster. When we started Atavist, it was to fill gaps we thought existed in digital publishing -- for a certain kind of book, and a certain kind of highly-designed digital reading experience. The speed with which others followed us into those gaps, and pushed those ideas to places that frankly we hadn't predicted at the beginning, continues to surprise us. And this year has seen changes that even last year we wouldn't have anticipated. We found this year in particular, the pace of technological change in publishing (some of it our own doing!) forced us to adjust and experiment ourselves more than we probably expected.
2. At the same time...we figured out this year that it's not worth paying too much attention to competition in the tech and publishing world. The flip side of that accelerated technological change is how quickly the landscape can fill with new entities and ideas that won't stand up over time. Some of the competitors we might have spent time worrying about in 2011 were already gone by 2013. Some of the ones we'd be inclined to worry about now didn't exist last year. So while we always want to keep an eye on what's happening around us, and take lessons from it, we've slowly learned not to waste time fretting about it. The reality is that most of this world is not nearly as zero-sum as people are afraid it might be.
3. The lines publishers would like to exist between "self-publishing" and "professional publishing" increasingly don't. Up until recently, publishers could conveniently divide the world into authors they paid to publish, and those who paid to publish themselves. The former represented quality, the latter represented vanity. Those barriers have been breaking down for a while, but 2013 was the year that we really learned how different the landscape had become. When we opened up our own publishing software, Creatavist, for anyone to use, we were struck by the incredible diversity of organizations and individuals that started putting it to use. How do you classify a collection of a writer, editor, and designer that raise money on Kickstarter to produce a high-quality non-fiction, multimedia book and sell it online? For us, at least, 2013 was the year when it stopped mattering where publishers drew those lines, because given the available tools, people who want to publish books no longer care on which side they fall.
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