Free Lunch, Anyone?

On the first day of 9th grade, my son came home to tell me about his Global class. The teacher had held up a dollar bill and asked the kids what it was. One said “money,” another said “a dollar,” etc. The teacher went on to explain that it was in fact just a piece of paper, and that the faith people put in that paper is what gives it value. That story blew my son away (and me too, in fact).

Cut to this week when I have been asked for more FREE things than I ever remember. In one week, I received the following requests:

  • Dozens of people (media, bloggers, and everyday ordinary folk) have asked for FREE tickets to a conference we’re hosting (And by the way, this conference business is supposed to be a revenue source because everyone wants their books for FREE these days. Turns out they want conferences for free too.).
  • A TV Show wants 140 FREE books for the audience members. This seems to be a standard request these days. I’ve never quite understood how the author and publisher benefit from this, but it is practically expected.
  • A blogger asked me for 100 copies of an author’s book for FREE to give away to his readers. He was writing a review. After much deliberation and hesitation, I agreed to 50 copies, which still seemed extreme to me.

At first I was appalled, and then I realized that maybe this is The Economics of Integrity…and maybe I should be going back to these requesters and making my own counter-requests…and maybe this is how the new economy works.

Share This Post
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Tumblr
  • Blogger Post
  • TypePad Post
  • StumbleUpon
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • MySpace
  • Google Bookmarks
  • AIM


 

Enhanced Salsa

Have you seen this video yet? If you haven’t, click on over to Vimeo and watch (can’t embed, for good reason). If you have, I’m pretty sure you would click on over to watch it again, just for fun. I would. Heck, I will. Be right back.

Okay, so. Amazing, right? I was absolutely stunned when I watched that video the first time, and I didn’t even comprehend that it was a site takeover until I watched the entire page swirl back into the salsa jar at the end. I had to watch it again (and again, and again) to catch the genius animation that snuck onto the screen, from the vines that creep up from the bottom to the slicing up of the Vimeo logo when the girl steps out of the frame to dance around the background. It’s interesting how much I have to force my brain to see the subtle shifting of the video frame and background zoom-in, since it didn’t even register the first few times I watched. This was more than an advertisement…viewing this was an experience. And even though I don’t like tomatoes or site takeovers, dang it if I don’t want to crack open a jar of salsa right now.

But aside from making me really hungry, the video also made me think of how certain media is presented to allow for an experience, to make the technology behind it disappear. That oh-so-smooth transition from “video on a video hosting website” to “Salsa Show!” was clutch to making me view this as more than a 40-second clip about a vegetable I really couldn’t care less about and something I wanted to click away from. Movie theaters are certainly designed to be invisible, and I think physical books are as well, providing only the turn of a page as the sole interruption between the written word and the reader’s imagination. Even then, that interruption is the mark of a good book: a “page-turner.” With the boom of electronic reading devices, it’s important to keep this feature in mind; which device will allow you to have an experience with a book, to make you want that salsa and nothing else, and then give it to you?

In the ramp-up to the iPad announcement, the internet ate up every little rumor and spit out post upon post of speculation about the features, capabilities, and technical specifications of the mythical creature. Then both during and after the event, many found themselves underwhelmed by the lack of glitter (No flash! No camera! That name!). Adam Frucci over at Gizmodo listed 8+ things that suck about the iPad, considering the lack of multitasking to be “a backbreaker.” But Joanne McNeil argues for the lack of multitasking in both the iPad and other devices because it solidifies the reading experience. The New York Times’s David Carr, as well as Jon Gruber at Daring Fireball, also noted the iPhone and iPad’s ability to, as gadgets, disappear, leaving as little as a finger swipe (page turn) between the user and the content. Similarly, while the Kindle can’t do much else, it certainly lets you read. What others may consider faults in these devices, readers should appreciate as features for creating a reading experience.

Now, as for what content is necessary for an experience, I’m not sure. That’s a whole ‘nother ballpark, but I think Kassia Kroszer hits one over the fence with her “What Are Enhanced Ebooks?” post. Now that we have the technology that allows us to create such enhancements and focus on them when reading, we need to actually deliver good salsa.

Share This Post
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Tumblr
  • Blogger Post
  • TypePad Post
  • StumbleUpon
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • MySpace
  • Google Bookmarks
  • AIM


 

Take-Aways From Tools of Change 2010

I’ve been hearing a lot of chatter that there wasn’t much new to learn at this year’s Tools of Change conference. In fact I heard the same things said about Digital Book World. I don’t know…..that’s not at all what I take away from these things. I attend a lot of conferences, even ones that have nothing to do with publishing. In fact, one of my all time favorites was Brad Inman’s Real Estate conference.

But here’s the thing, I don’t go expecting to take away some big revelation, and what I’ve learned over the years is that the lessons often take time to marinate and reveal themselves, and I don’t even know what I learned until weeks or months later. Also, for me, it’s every bit as much about the networking and connecting in the real world as it is about the lectures and panels. I firmly believe that magic can happen when you bring interesting people together face to face; the potency of that real world connection can’t be replicated virtually.

The other lesson (which I learned before, but was confirmed for me here) is that the least likely talks that I stumble into by accident are often the most interesting. This year, I fell into Brian O’Leary and Ashley Gordon’s talk about Print On Demand and it got me thinking in directions I had never considered……and the only reason I found myself there was because the Twitter room was too crowded. It was the most thought provoking hour of the week for me and I’m sure will lead me in directions I never imagined.

A lot of people are headed to SXSW this year and are asking me which panels to attend — and I’m going to give a big plug here for serendipity. I’ll be trying to steer myself clear of the obvious and will be looking to discover the magic in the least likely places. I’ll be the one looking to swim in a different pond. My favorite panel from last year had nothing to do with publishing, per se. It was called something to the effect of “How the Brain Works” by a lawyer named Craig Ball, and subsequently changed the way I give presentations (and as an aside, not to dis anyone specifically…..but I think others in our industry could benefit from what Craig Ball has to say). Another panel by YouTube star Felicia Day was hugely informative for me too — and I stumbled into it by accident.

Here are a few quick & dirty observations from TOC:

  • There were many more laptops than I saw at DWB
  • In France, all books are priced exactly the same, wherever they are sold. It’s the law. (Wow. That blew me away. Can you imagine? That changes everything for everyone). Check out Julia’s post from last Fall.
  • Peter Meyers is a visionary. I don’t know if all of his ideas will “work” — but he has really done some deep thinking about what a “book” can be.
  • Everyone needs to hear Kirk Biglione’s presentation about the history of DRM. I’m not sure I agree 100% with everything he says about how it should be in the future, but it is very informative to hear a detailed history of what happened to the music industry.
  • Tim O’Reilly says get back to work. Stop trying to be so “visionary” and work on the meat and potatoes of great book publishing.
  • Brad Inman said that trying to make stuff happen with big publishers is like trying to swim through a jar of peanut butter. I love that. I’ve been saying the same thing for years — but I call it the “sludge.” You have a great idea, and then you’ve got to swim through the sludge to try to make it happen. Not a lot of fun. I’ve learned to dodge and weave and bob my way around it. From now on, every time I think to myself “how do I make this happen” — it’s going to be symbolized by a big jar of Skippy.

All in all, I loved TOC 2010. I signed up for next year before I left the conference center.

Share This Post
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Tumblr
  • Blogger Post
  • TypePad Post
  • StumbleUpon
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • MySpace
  • Google Bookmarks
  • AIM


 

Snow Day at the Hospital

Winter Well logoIn Theresa Brown’s latest blog for the New York Times’ Well feature, she writes beautifully about how a “snow day” at a hospital is different from one at home. It may not involve hot cocoa and missing school, but it has lessons to offer about life and death, and what it means to have an effect on another human being.

Share This Post
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Tumblr
  • Blogger Post
  • TypePad Post
  • StumbleUpon
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • MySpace
  • Google Bookmarks
  • AIM


 

Thought Leaders — And Eggs

Re-Set Business Conference, Hosted by HarperStudio and Vanity Fair

Yes, you heard that right. We’re hosting a breakfast with Vanity Fair called Re-Set Business.

Vanity Fair is our media partner, and Seth Godin is the host/moderator.  The four panelists are Anna Bernasek, Michael Eisner, Tom Peters and Gary Vaynerchuk, so we are guaranteed a provocative conversation about what it will take to succeed in the “re-set” business world ahead.

It’s taking place at the Harvard Club, 35 West 44th Street (bet. 5th and 6th Avenues), on April 20, 2010, from 8:00 a.m. to 10:45 am (there will be a V.I.P. reception from 11:00 am to noon, which requires a separate ticket).

TICKET PRICES INCLUDE BOOK BY EACH AUTHOR.

Pre-registration (closing 3/05): $275

Early Bird Registration (closing 3/19): $320

Standard Registration: $375

V.I.P. Reception (limited capacity): $225 additional

For more information, pls go to www.resetbusiness.com, or call 917-338-0491.

Hope to see you there!!!

Oh…..and one more thing……you can keep in touch with us about the conference on Twitter and Facebook.

Share This Post
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Tumblr
  • Blogger Post
  • TypePad Post
  • StumbleUpon
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • MySpace
  • Google Bookmarks
  • AIM


 

Sometimes It’s Worth Going the Extra Mile (Lessons from Tom Peters)

It was about a year ago that Susan Danziger, the brilliant founder of DailyLit.com, turned me on to the “success tips” that Tom Peters had been posting on his blog. Reading them was like eating popcorn; once I started I couldn’t stop. But unlike popcorn, Tom’s tips made me want to make something happen.

It was in that spirit that I wrote to Tom on his site, saying that I thought his success tips should be published as a book. To my amazement, Tom actually wrote back, inviting me to visit him at his farm in Vermont. A few days later, after driving through the snow and spending the day with Tom (and his colleague, Erik Hansen, and his wife, Susan Sargent, who provided us with the world’s most delicious sandwiches), my head was spinning with provocative thoughts about business, and books…and we had agreed to give it a try.

I suppose I should have realized that a guy who writes about excellence (“If not excellence, what?”) would push me and the staff of HarperStudio to question all of our book-making assumptions. Why not make the book bright orange instead? Why not do two-color endpapers so “The 19 E’s of Excellence” would have 19 red “E”s? Why not re-write the existing success tips and add new ones, and then re-arrange the whole thing thematically? Why not, indeed?

Tom pushed us to go the extra mile, and now we’re grateful. Because now we’re holding his new, bright orange, chock-full-of-inspiration book, THE LITTLE BIG THINGS, in our hands, and damn if he wasn’t right: a book that tells businesspeople that they should over-deliver should be a book that overdelivers. And this one certainly does so.

Thanks, Tom!!!

Share This Post
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Tumblr
  • Blogger Post
  • TypePad Post
  • StumbleUpon
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • MySpace
  • Google Bookmarks
  • AIM


 

A Novel to be Savored Like a Gourmet Meal

I’ve been wanting to write something about Martha McPhee’s upcoming book, Dear Money, but I’ve been having trouble articulating what I want to say.

It’s a gorgeous book — delicate, elegant, subtle and lyrical — and yet it took me an embarrassing amount of time to read, and I think the point I want to make is somewhere in that; It’s to be savored like a gourmet meal — and that’s not a bad thing — but this type of reading doesn’t seem to have a place in my everyday life in the way that Swedish massage doesn’t either, and yet I love that too. The world I’m immersed in (for better or worse) is whiplash fast; it’s a world made for skimming idea books in big gulps on an iPhone and then summing it up in 140 characters.

Am I alone with this dilemma? It’s not that I don’t value a luxurious read – in fact I aspire to have a life where it fits in on a daily basis and isn’t just relegated to a stack of “vacation” reading. Am I the only one who can’t find 8 hours to carve out for a delicate novel?

I actually believe that there are still people out there who make the time to luxuriate in a literary novel. In fact I follow Gotham Gal’s blog in awe at how much she reads.  Big fat literary novels seem to be devoured like candy. The question becomes how does this reader find a book like Dear Money?

The review sections that built these literary authors are an endangered species; over 200 newspapers closed in 2009 alone.

So Martha’s got to blog, right? And work the tools out there today to tell her own story…and she is. Martha joined Twitter and Facebook; she started a beautiful blog that I love to visit because there’s always a little treasure to discover: a story, a recipe, or sometimes a great photograph. But if the truth be told, it may not be as much “fun” for everyone as I can make it out to be. I always tell authors “it’s like a big cocktail party”…but maybe there are authors who don’t like cocktail parties…

I want to live in a world where an artist is nurtured and allowed to flourish; a world that wouldn’t force an artist like a square peg into a round hole in order to survive. It’s the same world where Northshire Bookstore would flourish because it’s a magical haven of inspiration and ideas and should be exempt from playing in a field where Walmart and Amazon fight over loss leaders.

I don’t have answers here, just more questions.

UPDATE: Bob just told me to take a day off and go get a massage and read a book :)

Share This Post
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Tumblr
  • Blogger Post
  • TypePad Post
  • StumbleUpon
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • MySpace
  • Google Bookmarks
  • AIM


 

Editorial Alchemy: When an Article Becomes a Book and then another Article

Every editor who acquires a certain kind of topical nonfiction has come up against the people-will-read-the-article-and-not-buy-the-book conundrum. But what about an article that says in plain language “really, you don’t need to read this book!!”? I don’t know quite how to feel about Newsweek’s “We Read It (So You Don’t Have to)” column. On the one hand, it’s yet another indication that the world at large equates reading a book to, I don’t know, flossing your teeth. On the other, I actually READ the Lori Gottlieb book (in part because I had pursued her after reading the original article in the Atlantic on which her new book “Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough” is based and I wanted to see how it turned out in book form) and I’d like to have those two hours of my life back (OK, a good skim takes 20 minutes;))

Share This Post
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Tumblr
  • Blogger Post
  • TypePad Post
  • StumbleUpon
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • MySpace
  • Google Bookmarks
  • AIM


 

Greatest Michael Jackson Tribute EVER

Some of us clearly still have Michael on the brain. Stick with this video for the first 2 minutes… You won’t be disappointed.

Share This Post
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Tumblr
  • Blogger Post
  • TypePad Post
  • StumbleUpon
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • MySpace
  • Google Bookmarks
  • AIM


 

The Economics of Integrity: Why Toyota Will Ultimately Triumph

I was blown away by this brave Toyota ad and it immediately made me think of Anna Bernasek’s book The Economics of Integrity which shows how integrity is our greatest economic asset (there’s a whole chapter on Toyota). Anna spoke to the WSJ.com recently about Toyota’s mess, and why they will get out of it.

Share This Post
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Tumblr
  • Blogger Post
  • TypePad Post
  • StumbleUpon
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • MySpace
  • Google Bookmarks
  • AIM


 
Next »
« Previous