Three questions for…Adam Salomone of The Harvard Common Press

Startups offer the key ingredients of partnership and inspiration

1. The Harvard Common Press recently announced plans to open an office in San Francisco to become more closely aligned with the food startup community. The food industry probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when most people think of startups. Can you give us an example of some of the exciting startup activity you’re seeing in this space?

There’s a lot going on in food right now, and it’s a great time to be talking about food + technology. As you say, I don’t think food is the first thing that comes to people’s minds when they think of innovation and startup entrepreneurship, but unsurprisingly it is happening all around us. I bet many of those same people are avid users of Foodspotting (which, coincidentally, was recently acquired by OpenTable for $10M) or GrubHub or any number of other apps and digital platforms that make it easier, more efficient, or fun to discover and try new foods.

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Content ownership and resale

Amazon's AutoRip service could further complicate matters

Over the past few weeks we’ve seen some landmark decisions on whether you really own that content you bought and if you can resell it. First, in the Kirtsaeng vs. Wiley case we learned that it’s OK to buy low-priced print books from overseas, ship them to the U.S. and resell them for a profit. That’s a victory for the middleman entrepreneur and everyone frustrated with high-priced textbooks. Well, it’s a victory till publishers raise their overseas prices to be more in line with U.S. prices, at which point students in those foreign countries lose.

Next, we have the federal ruling against ReDigi on the digital content resale front. I’m hoping ReDigi appeals but for now this means you can’t sell your iTunes library, for example. That ruling is considered a victory for labels (and publishers as ReDigi is looking to move into used ebook sales) and a loss for consumers.

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Current state of formats and platforms

A free SPI Global whitepaper summarizing industry trends

SPi GlobalRemember the old days when PDF was pretty much the only way to distribute content and those PDFs were read on computer screens? PDF still lives, of course, but now we’re also faced with offering content in mobi and EPUB formats for consumption on a variety of platforms and devices.

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Goodreads + Amazon: Winners and losers

Tremendous potential, but will Amazon take full advantage of it?

I decided to wait a few days before writing about Amazon’s acquisition of Goodreads. I wanted to let the dust settle before weighing in with my own opinion. Now that I’ve had some time to mull it over, here’s what I think: This has the potential to be a game-changer that could be the next, and possibly final, nail in the coffins of other ebook retailers…but only if Amazon actually does something with the Goodreads platform.

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Inspired by children’s ebooks

Bologna Ragazzi digital award winners break free of print constraints

The third TOC Bologna took place this past Sunday on the eve of the Bologna Children’s Book Fair. It was a terrific show and closed with a session announcing the winners of the Bologna Ragazzi Awards for digital publishing. You’ll find all the details about the finalists here and I’ve also embedded a short video below where you can see the winners in action.

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A Nate Silver book recommendation engine

The algorithm's role in discovery and serendipity

It’s NCAA tournament time here in the U.S. and plenty of bracketologists are turning to Nate Silver for his statistical expertise. Silver, of course, is known for his book, The Signal and the Noise, as well as predicting presidential elections and Major League Baseball player performance. I’m not aware of any statistical analysis he’s done in the book recommendation space but I know someone who has applied Silver’s thinking to help us figure out what book we should read next.

I’m talking about Stephanie Sun and a terrific article she wrote called Nate Silverizing Book Recommendations. I encourage you to read the entire piece, even if it’s been awhile since your last statistics class.

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The Kirtsaeng ruling: What’s your opinion?

This wasn't the outcome I was anticipating

Wow. I’m very surprised by the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Kirtsaeng vs. Wiley case. I figured it would go the other way. Here’s a nice summary of the majority opinion from the Supreme Court (you’ll find more detailed analysis here):

Putting section numbers to the side, we ask whether the “first sale” doctrine applies to protect a buyer or other lawful owner of a copy (of a copyrighted work) lawfully manufactured abroad. Can that buyer bring that copy into the United States (and sell it or give it away) without obtaining permission to do so from the copyright owner? Can, for example, someone who purchases, say at a used bookstore, a book printed abroad subsequently resell it without the copyright owner’s permission?

In our view, the answers to these questions are, yes. We hold that the “first sale” doctrine applies to copies of a copyrighted work lawfully made abroad.

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What devices and formats do your customers prefer?

Your future content plans can be shaped by asking these questions

Most publishers create ebooks in all formats figuring it doesn’t matter whether mobi is more important than EPUB or if the content is read on an iPad more frequently than on a mobile phone. That approach means these publishers have no idea how their content is being consumed. It also means they probably don’t have a direct channel to their customers or some other way of polling them on their preferences.

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Reverse showrooming

Improving the B&N shopping experience with...the Amazon mobile app

This past weekend a friend asked me to pick up a couple of books for them. Print books, btw, and they needed them later that day. That meant it was time to head to a local bookstore, something I’m doing less and less of these days.

B&N was the closest and when I walked in I immediately realized why online shopping sometimes offers such a better experience than in-person. My local B&N moved all their categories around from the last time I was there and I must have circled the entire store three or four times just to find the two books I needed.

Then there’s the reviews and top-seller lists I’m so used to seeing online. They don’t exist in the brick-and-mortar world, so I decided it was time to do some reverse showrooming.

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Join the ebook subscription model movement

Learn more and ask your questions at our free webcast on April 26

The ebook revenue stream has much more potential beyond simply selling standalone titles, one by one, to customers. If you’re not already offering your content in an ebook subscription program you need to. I’m not talking about a broad program like Amazon’s Kindle Owner Lending Library model; publishers and authors should focus instead on genre-specific vertical subscriptions that pay content creators based on the title’s performance, not some portion of a flat licensing fee assigned for an entire collection of titles.

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