By Porter Anderson | @Porter_Anderson
From February 9, 2012
Part of my series of columns on publishing, Writing on the Ether, appearing Thursdays through the kind (and brave) benevolence of Jane Friedman at JaneFriedman.com
ToC’s techs to the rescue! (Greenfield, Albanese, Curtis, Owen, Shatzkin)
So if Digital Book World helped prepare our souls for the coming travail — as Jeremy Greenfield‘s ongoing DBW Insights show us on a daily basis — the battle now is joined by reinforcements, in the form of the annual Tools of Change Conference. In ToC we trust.
Selected keynotes and more from the theater of endeavor will be streamed live on video for you to see, from the safety of your favorite redoubt.
And there we were, holding the DBW vigil with Bishop Shatzkin; chanting BookRepublic numbers about ebook adoption with Brother Marco; beating our breasts with Friar Matteo:
Forgive us, we have DRM-ed everything in sight like music-industry people in wayward sheep’s clothing!
We even had the Sisters of Romantica entertain the troops. But, of course, not enough conferencing yet: our beloved publishing industry is still under siege from within and without.
Now the 2012 season’s (and every season’s) best hopes — our technologists — charge into Manhattan. Weapons are arrayed in the Digital Petting Zoo curated by Nate Hoffelder and Joe Wikert. Ordained by O’Reilly himself, the Tools of Change crusade convenes at the Marriott, where the industry will wrestle with its digital demons. (Yes, even those Small Demons, Rev. Vakili.)
One prayer for many, as a reception is staged at the New York Public Library during the conference: May Penguin (and the other Big Six, some day) follow RandomHouse in enabling full public book lending. Andrew Albanese gave us the word this way, in Fair Trade: Random House Will Raise Library E-book Prices, But Commits to E-Book Lending.
Rejoice, fellow Ethernaut, let us go into the (next) temple of publishing confabs, this time to behold Science as she girds us in this baffling War of Digital Aggression. Quoth Richard Curtis, For the First Time In History, Print Is Optional. Now What?
When we talk about the death of printed books we are really talking about the death of printed books distributed in bookstores. With the death of a Borders and the announced reduction of Barnes & Noble’s bookstore floor space by 25%, print on demand, a business model that does not depend on store sales or the returnability of books the way traditional bookstores do, increasingly becomes an option. If publishers elect POD for all their books they will not only continue to make money from printed books but could potentially rescue their identities, and maybe their souls as well.
What do you think?
Here be the crossed bookmarks of titans. And we must turn to Lovely Tech, for she is just about the last goddess left:
- May a working, professional civility overtake Amazonia and all those bricks-and-mortar Amazon Refuseniks that Laura Hazard Owen has taught us would banish from their fertile shelves the books our authors need to sell. This standoff needs sorting. As Mike Shatzkin enunciates in Clever moves all around in the B&N and Amazon chess game:
The bottom line here is that as Amazon’s power to sign up books away from the major publishers grows, the retailers who depend on publishers for a flow of commercial product suffer along with the publishers…B&N’s decision seems to me like the right move for them…On the other hand, authors and agents who might have considered an Amazon publishing deal will have to think twice if they know very few bookstores will carry it…There are a lot of smart people engaged in a pitched battle here.
- May our writers learn whether and when to till the soil of their own backyards as self-publishers — and whether and when to enter once more into the Halls of Traditional Publishing. Not that the writers will be at ToC. It’s another grand gathering, like DBW, designed for everybody in publishing except the people who create the essential element of the realm: the stories. It’s understandable but regrettable that the community of authors still can be so distant, at times, during this rush to digital. It affects them keenly.
- May Knitting Laura Dawson, the Madame Defarge of Firebrand, guide us to know the dangers of the intern-novitiate when you mis-assign your metadata to pizza-stained hands.
- May we see — somewhere between the River ePub and the Mobi-Dictum — Prior Wikert bringing us together in the merciful sanctuary of a Unified eBook Market. More on his call to action in a moment.
- And may the calm, gracious, welcoming friendliness that passeth all understanding of Wikert’s co-chair, the saintly Kat Meyer, rub off on the rest of us.
Here is my and my fellow seminarian Dan Blank‘s latest sermon-with-video Preview: O’Reilly’s Tools of Change Conference.
Our saints go marching into conference on Monday and raise the fray through Wednesday. Observe the battle from the safe hilltop of the Twitter hashtag #TOCcon or in the chapel of my site: PorterAnderson.com. Some of our bravest strategists are at work here. And the stakes are high for us all.
Click to read this week’s full Writing on the Ether column at JaneFriedman.com.