Jenn Webb

Jenn Webb is a veteran of the newspaper industry turned freelance scribe, editor and researcher. She is a nerd with a passion for publishing, technology and cultural disruption.

Long-form content counterbalances short-form, for consumption as well as creation

Ev Williams on Medium and giving quality content a place.

The Internet gave rise to a plethora of short-attention-span content — one need only look to blog platforms, status updates, and the number of people skilled in writing in 140-characters. In recent months, however, we’re seeing an uptick in the desire for (and production of) deeper, quality content and long-form journalism on the web. Read more…

Comment |

Publishing News: Apple’s used iBookstore?

Apple's used digital content patent, B&N's uncertain fate, and Ev Williams chats with Jason Calacanis about Medium.

Apple patent points to used digital resale

Apple_logo_black_smQuick on Amazon’s heels, Apple has filed its own patent for selling or loaning used digital content, including ebooks, music, movies, and software applications. Mikey Campbell reported at Apple Insider that the patent, published Thursday by the U.S. Patent and Trademark office, “provides for the authorized access to digital content, otherwise known as digital rights, to be transferred from one user to another.” He noted that Apple’s patent differs from Amazon’s in that Amazon’s establishes a marketplace environment and Apple’s “decentralizes the process by taking the online store out of the equation.” Campbell quoted from the patent:

“Alternatively, instead of a third party determining whether one or more criteria are satisfied, the first (or second) user’s device makes the determination and may be responsible for preventing the first user’s device from further consuming the digital content item. In some embodiments, the online store and/or the publisher of the digital content item may receive a portion of the proceeds of the transfer.”

Read more…

Comment |

The ISBN still has a place in the digital world

The Economist may think ISBNs are doomed, but Bowker's Laura Dawson has a different take.

A recent post at The Economist declared the International Standard Book Number (ISBN) an analog relic that “increasingly hampers new, small and individual publishers,” and an industry shift toward digital is “weakening its monopoly.” The post stated:

“Self-published writers are booming; sales of their books increased by a third in America in 2011. Digital self-publishing was up by 129%. This ends the distinction between publisher, distributor and bookshop, making ISBNs less necessary. … in the digital realm what matters is not the number that a publisher gives a book, but how easily it can be downloaded and for how much.”

I reached out to Laura Dawson (@ljndawson), product manager for identifiers at Bowker, to find out if the ISBN is indeed on its way out. Our interview follows.

Is the post at The Economist onto something? Are ISBNs becoming less necessary?

Laura DawsonLaura Dawson: ISBNs are necessary if the self-published author intends to sell her books using the traditional book supply chain. If the author is selling direct from her own website, or solely through Amazon (which doesn’t require ISBNs), then no ISBN is necessary. But if the author is distributing her books through a third-party distributor (such as Ingram, or Bookmasters, etc.), then an ISBN will be required. If the author is placing books at Barnes & Noble or Books-A-Million or Hastings, an ISBN will be required.

Read more…

Comments: 5 |

Goodreads evolution from discovery platform to reader community

Goodreads CEO Otis Chandler on how Goodreads engages its more than 15 million registered users.

Last week, O’Reilly GM and publisher Joe Wikert reviewed Goodreads’ CEO Otis Chandler’s TOC session, in which Chandler presented the results of a recent Goodreads readers survey. One of the interesting pieces from the survey covered the effectiveness of Goodreads reviews. In relation to Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn and The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, 58% of surveyed readers said they bought Gone Girl because of Goodreads reviews and 52% said they bought The Night Circus because of Goodreads reviews.

The more interesting bit here, though, might be the sheer number of Goodreads reviews of each book: according to Chandler’s presentation slide, Gone Girl had 34,200 reviews and The Night Circus had 22,000. Compare that to the number of Amazon reviews (as of the time of writing) of 8,557 and 1,996 respectively.

I had an opportunity to sit down with Chandler during the TOC conference to talk about the Goodreads platform and how it has managed to become so engaging with its more than 15 million registered users. Chandler says the platform started with a mission of discovery but has evolved and become its own community:

“I think, first of all, our mission is book discovery. We’re basically in the business of helping people find good books and helping them share those books with friends. That’s something that people innately want to do, so we’ve created a place where you can connect to friends, browse all their bookshelves, find a ton of good books through that, and that was really the genesis of the site was to discover good books through your friends.

Read more…

Comments: 2 |

Self-publishers will be the publishers of the future

Tim O'Reilly on self-publishing and the cycles of democratization via technology.

Tim O’Reilly opened the TOC conference in New York a couple weeks ago with some words of optimism for the publishing industry, noting that copyright common sense is gaining momentum and that our fears of the future are abating. “The fear that everybody had that the new thing was going to be a bad thing is going away,” he said. (You can watch O’Reilly’s keynote on YouTube.)

I had the opportunity to sit down with O’Reilly to talk about the bright future of publishing — a future in which he said self-publishing is going to play a major role:

“There’s no question in my mind that self-publishing is the wave of the future, with one big caveat: self-publishers will become publishers. You know, everybody sees the beginnings of a new democratization via technology. People take advantage of it, they get good at what they do, then they start to extend their services to others.

Read more…

Comments: 10 |

Publishing News: B&N is at a “fork in the road”

B&N's dismal earnings call, fine-tuning paywalls, and German booksellers launch an ereader.

B&N, analysts respond to Nook losses

Nook_DigitalShopHeadline news this week was the dismal Nook news from Barnes & Noble’s earnings call on Thursday. The news wasn’t unexpected — Leslie Kaufman reported at the New York Times on Sunday that B&N warned it expected “losses in its Nook Media division” and she quoted a source “familiar with Barnes & Noble’s strategy” as saying, “They are not completely getting out of the hardware business, but they are going to lean a lot more on the comprehensive digital catalog of content.” A B&N spokesperson assured John Cook at GeekWire, “To be clear, we have no plans to discontinue our award-winning line of Nook products.”

Cyrus Farivar reported at ArsTechnica that, on Monday, Leonard Riggio, B&N’s largest shareholder, offered to buy the company — minus the Nook and college bookstore divisions — and take it private, causing B&N’s stock price to rise 11% that day.

Read more…

Comment |

The Internet has fundamentally changed reader/writer dynamics

Wattpad's Allen Lau on the changing publishing landscape and the influence of the social network.

The disruption in publishing is affecting every aspect of the industry, from the way stories are created to how they’re published to how they’re consumed. And much like many other areas of our lives, the writing and reading processes are becoming more social and more mobile, giving rise to community reader/writer platforms like Wattpad.

At the recent TOC conference in New York, I had the chance to sit down with Allen Lau, co-founder and CEO of Wattpad, to talk about the changing publishing landscape. In our video interview (embedded below), Lau attributes the shifts in the way content is created, discovered, and consumed to the Internet:

“I think the Internet has fundamentally changed the way people connect. In the last few years, the advancement of the social network — both from the social perspective and from the technology perspective — has advanced a lot, and that helps to bring the readers and the writers together. For the first time in human history, writers can reach out to millions of people in other parts of the world that they could never have reached.

“So, that creates a very interesting dynamic among the readers and writers because the scale is very different now. Someone who is sitting in the comfort of their own home can reach, potentially, millions of people. Those people can not only consume the content, but they can also participate in part of the content creation. In some cases on Wattpad, the readers would write Chapter 2 for the writer. People who have never met before may co-write a story together. That completely changes the dynamics, and the readers, in a way, are part of the content creation process, too.” (At the 1:57 mark.)

Lau also talks about mobile ereading, the role self-publishing will play, and he predicts the end of the term “traditional publisher.” You can view Lau’s full interview in the following video:

All keynotes and video interviews from TOC NY 2013 can be found on the TOC 2013 YouTube playlist.

Comments: 2 |

Rich multi-media and a web of devices is driving us to a world of standards

W3C's Jeff Jaffe talks about the Open Web Platform, a harmonious coexistence of HTML5 and EPUB, and the importance of standardization.

At the recent TOC conference in New York, I had the opportunity to sit down with Jeff Jaffe, CEO of the World Wide Web Consortium, to talk about the Open Web Platform and standardization issues. In our video interview (embedded below), Jaffe says HTML5 is by no means a replacement for ebook formats like EPUB or Mobi — he says HTML5 is the core markup used on the web and that EPUB can be viewed as a specialization (at the 0:44 mark) and that increased communication between the communities “will allow us to have better standards built into HTML, so that way, publishing specific standards like EPUB would be able to have far greater capabilities.” (At the 1:39 mark.)

Read more…

Comment: 1 |

Publishers are entering a “soul-searching moment”

PBS MediaShift executive editor Mark Glaser on the game-changing nature of the self-publishing trend.

In a recent edition of the Mediatwits podcast, Mark Glaser, executive editor at PBS MediaShift, talked with Guy Kawasaki about self-publishing his latest book APE, how he, as an author, makes the decision between self- and traditional publishing, and where publishing is headed. I had an opportunity to sit down with Glaser at the recent TOC conference in New York to find out what he thinks of the self-publishing trend and whether or not he feels it’s an industry game changer.

Read more…

Comment |

Expanding the “ereading pie” with device simplicity

Txtr's Dan Vidra says the Beagle ereader isn't aiming to take down Amazon and Apple but hopes to expand the ereading ecosystem.

Last fall, German startup Txtr announced it would be releasing a new ereading device called the Beagle in 2013. At the recent TOC conference in New York, I had an opportunity to sit down with Dan Vidra, VP Americas at Txtr, to talk about the Beagle and the market it’s targeting. (Our video interview is embedded below.)

Read more…

Comment |