O'Reilly Tools of Change for Publishing Conference (Part 3)
I spent half a day on Wednesday, February 11, 2009 at the O'Reilly Tools of Change for Publishing Conference. The conference opened with a number of keynote speakers. It was in a very large auditorium.
I took longhand notes on what each speaker was saying. Then I wrote them out into sentences. Now, I am transcribing them onto my computer at home. These notes are my interpretation of what I thought came across as important to me while listening to the speakers. They are not exact transcriptions.
Neelan Choksi opened the keynotes with a speech, Building A New World Publishing Business Lessons From Stanza. Neelan Choksi is the Chief Operating Officer of the Stanza ebook reading software. Stanza is ebook reading software for the Apple Iphone. They plan on expanding it to other platfoms like the Sony Ereader and the Kindle. There are currently 1.3 million downloads of the application, and 5 million books downloaded to read on the application. This includes over 100,000 titles. .1% of these titles are books which people pay for. The majority of downloads were for free books.
Ebooks have reached the inflection point in the book market. Inflection point is the point where more money is being made selling an item than producing and marketing the item. There is a $44 million dollar ebook market. Part of the reason ebooks have reached this point is because of popularization of the technology by Oprah for the Kindle, and large companies like Sony and Amazon selling ebook technology.
Mr. Choksi identified the unique qualities of the Iphone. The Iphone is being sold in over 75 countries, has a high resolution lcd display, is a multi-function device, has built in wireless, and is backlit so there is no external light required. On a personal note, I will probably wait until March 31, the point where AT&T is willing to give me a discount to buy the Iphone.
Iphones are convenient they can be used almost anywhere. Many people use them in waiting rooms and on the train.
There are currently 44,000 titles which are being sold for the Stanza reader. It costs an average of $10.25 for an individual book. The buying pattern is representative of print sales. Many of the early adopters of ebooks on cell phones are women who read romance novels.
His final point was every device is set up uniquely and every reader is unique. You have to pay attention to your reader and give your reader a voice and produce quality.
The second speaker was Nick Bolton of the New York Times Research and Development Lab. The title of the keynote was The Narrative Is Changing, Sensors, Social Editors and The New Storytelling.
There has always been a shock at the experience of new technology. In March 22, 1876 it was said we would never leave our homes with the invention of the telephone. In November 7, 1877 we would never leave our homes with the invention of the phonograph.
Whatever technology we use, "It's All Storytelling." Everyone is a storyteller. We are bombarded with content every single day. In an average day, I look at 162,000 links. We cull information. Social networks are emerging as a filter for information. They help us choose what we are looking for.
At the New York Times R&D Lab we are looking to create smart content tailored to the reader. This is not just online. We are working to create a customized newspaper kiosk. (An image was shown of a newspaper kiosk which would let you choose which sections of the paper you wanted.)
We are trying to build sensors into what you are reading. We already have GPS and RFID. We are currently working on creating smart tracking cookies for computers that based on where you go on the web will make suggestions about where you might want to go.
Some of the material was a bit beyond me. I was a little stunned by the picture of a "Digital Living Room."
Nick Bolton reminded us that paper is a device like any other reading device and it has its uses. It is not going to go away.
The world is changing. Children are growing up in an omnivorous world of instant information. They are not going to wait to get their information. They are growing up with phones and computers.
Blogs are not the end point of book publishing. The New York Times created a multimedia experience for The Night of the Gun by David Carr. It is a full narrative experience.
Journalism is no longer controlled by the elite. A lot of it is being directed from the bottom by people like bloggers.
After Tim Bolton spoke, I had a chance to speak to Joe Wikert and thank him for telling me about the O'Reilly Tools of Change for Publishing Conference. I am very grateful to him for making this possible. Joe Wikert has an excellent blog, Joe Wikert's Publishing 2020 Blog.
The third speaker was Tim O'Reilly the CEO of O'Reilly Media. Media is a better term than books. Publishers like libraries are no longer just book oriented, they are media oriented.
This is an exciting time. There are a lot of reasons to be excited. One billion people are coming out of poverty and will bring new ideas and knowledge. The current financial crisis will only accelerate change.
The internet promises to become a global intelligence network. It will it make it possible to have universal literacy. The internet houses more content than all the books in human history.
There are phones everywhere. This leads to information being everywhere. There are constantly more new ways of delivering information. We should embrace the web, people are still reading.
Twitter was a big subject in this conference. Tim O'reilly mentioned that Stephen Fry and Barack Obama were the two users on Twitter with the most followers. People can learn something on Twitter: Steve Case, Kathy Sierra, and David Pogue are on Twitter.
The internet is not free, people pay $25.8 billion dollars for internet access. You should share what you have. DRM-- Digital Rights Management is a barrier to sharing information. It is the content that people want not the format.
The more you make your information shareable and commentable, the more money you will make as a publisher. Participation increases revenue. For example, O'Reilly is selling a book called Real World Haskell. There is a free version online where every paragraph is commentable. It has received over 7500 comments. This is the blog for the book.
We are selling Iphone the Missing Manual at this conference for $4.99 as an ebook. It has sold 4X the amount of copies as it would have sold at $9.99. This is called algorithmic pricing.
Free ebooks enable the market for paid books.
This is a time of tremendous change and opportunity. Alan Kay said "The best way to predict the future is to invent it."
After the speakers spoke, I wandered around a bit looking at the different booths. Some of it I did not understand a whole lot. There were a variety of specialty software vendors for the publishing industry like Adobe, Connotate, Mark Logic, and Quark. Most of this was beyond me. It was interesting but a bit technical.
What really caught my attention was some of the hardware they had. Plastic Logic http://www.plasticlogic.com/ had a very interesting ebook reader. It was about the size of a small clipboard and was very light. The reader measured 8 1/2 inches by 11 inches and was about a half inch thick. The electronic ink was very readable. The reader itself was rigid. I think this would do quite well in a library setting because of its size and its weight.
The other piece of hardware was the Espresso Book Machine 2.0. It was a little bigger than a library copier. It printed a full size, full color trade paperback book in a little less than four minutes. The only residue were some paper clippings. I found it to be utterly fascinating.
These were the two things in the exhibit hall which most caught my attention. Someone also gave me a copy of the latest Fodor's New York City 2009 which I will add to the library collection.
I had just enough time to sit down for lunch. On the way home I got an email from School Library Journal. I may be in the back of School Library Journal with a few quotes. I am not sure yet.