In August 2016 BookMachine invited a group of publishing-savvy professionals to join its editorial board. This, in short, means that it’s not just the 3 of us (Sam, Laura, Norah) who are thinking about how to publish the best ideas insights about the industry on the site – there is now a group of experienced insiders working on this.
Emma Barnes taught herself to code after founding her own independent publisher, Snowbooks. She went on to build Bibliocloud, the next-generation publishing system. Now she’s on a mission to promote tech skills within the publishing industry and beyond. Emma is also on the newly-formed BookMachine Editorial Board.
6.50am Wake up, wonder what day it is and remember – great! It’s the one day this week that I can dedicate to programming. I’m the MD of the indie publisher Snowbooks, and I’m CEO of Bibliocloud, responsible for sales, finance, and customer success, so each day is very different. But I reserve at least one day a week for slipping the needle in and luxuriating in single-minded programming. It so happens that it’s a Saturday, but that’s when the emails stop… context switching is my biggest foe.
8am First coffee, and a read through the opening chapters of the new Sandi Metz book about object-oriented programming in Ruby. It’s great when you find a book that directly addresses the real-world problems you’re facing. I click through to a podcast that she’s on to hear more.
11am Tests. Yesterday I discussed a piece of code that needs some attention with my colleague, Andy. The code is a method which returns a collection of external URLs that gets displayed in Bibliocloud. The URLs take you to a book’s Amazon.co.uk page, or Amazon.com page, or Wordery page, or British Library page, and so on — a handy and quick way to check what data is out there in the wild. The method doesn’t have automatic test coverage yet, so I’m going to start by documenting current behaviour. I do this using an integration test which mirrors what a user would do. We use Cucumber which gives us a common language between non-technical team members and programmers. I start by creating a new branch of the code based on our master branch, and create a Cucumber feature which literally reads “When I visit the ‘Autodrome’ page in Bibliocloud, and I click on the Amazon.com link, then I should be taken to the ‘Autodrome’ page on Amazon.com”. I then write some code to translate that into automatic test steps.
1pm The grand refactor. The Sandi Metz book has given me a couple more clues as to how this method could be improved, and I’m trying to hold all the concepts in my head so I can look at the problem squarely. Sandi Metz talks about finding the right level of abstraction, so I’m trying to think about which objects this problem is actually concerned with. Is it the validity of the ISBN that is key? Or the destinations themselves? Or the structure of the URLs? Some are built using the ISBN10, others with the ISBN13. Will there be a future case where the URL is built using an ISSN, or a DOI, or an ASIN, or an ISTC, or an ISNI, or an ORCiD iD? If a book belongs to a series, can we say that the book has an ISSN? If its authors have ORCiD IDs, can we use those to create external links for the book? What about linking to the client’s own website?
Or is this a case of YAGNI (‘you ain’t gonna need it’)? All this matters because I want to put the code in the right place, named properly, so that we can find, and change it easily, later. Maintainability, in a large, active system such as Bibliocloud, is probably the most important thing. I start by working with David to sketch out the problem (see the picture), then create a new Rubyclass by adding a text file to my local code repository called external_links.rb.
Like the common language provided by Cucumber, the challenge so far has been approached not with code, but with language, reading, grammar, discussion, and story. I reflect — not for the first time — on how relevant publishers’ skills are for programming.
2pm Lunch and back to the other Sandi Metz book I’m reading: Practical Object-Oriented Design in Ruby. There’s a good bit on page 93 where she talks about duck typing, which I wonder might be relevant. The idea about duck typing is that “if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck”. So my ExternalLinks class doesn’t need to actually be handed an actual book object in order to build the URL. It only expects to be able to get an answer when it asks “what’s your ISBN?” (even if it’s “nope, I don’t have one”). I could similarly give ExternalLinks a display spinner, or a CD, or a cassette audiobook: just so long as it can say what its ISBN is. I’m going to use this idea to write ExternalLinks so that it’s not tightly coupled to the Book class itself – though I’m a bit worried that this is another case of YAGNI. I commit this code to my local branch, glad that I’ve named it “spike/external_url_refactor” so that I can discuss this approach with my colleagues before considering it for a merge into our production system.
3pm Iteration. I run the test that was passing earlier and it fails. Huh. I abandon the integration test and start unit testing at a deeper level of the code. I realise that there’s a requirement I hadn’t understood: some of the destinations are dependent on format, as well as ISBN type. Writing the tests illuminate some of the nuances of the domain and I jump between revising the tests and revising the code (avoiding doing both at the same time which is a recipe for misery).
4pm Leave to pick up my son, as I do every day of the week. Programming allows for flexible hours. It’s the sort of job that benefits from a bit of percolation, and fitting it around family makes me happy that I can experience life and motherhood as it happens, rather than only working hard for some imaginary future.
8pm Share today’s programming. Bedtime is done, and I look at the code again, but I think I’ve got as far as my brain will take me today, so I push the code to a branch on Bitbucket, our remote code repository, and raise a pull request with my colleagues. I’ll look forward to discussing this approach with them on Monday and seeing if they notice any glaring or subtle errors, and suggest better ways to structure the code. [Postscript from the future: on Monday, we found no errors as such, but we improved the test suite and I got a lot of clarity about separation of concerns from my code review with Andy.]
10pm Bit more of that Sandi Metz book. It really is very moreish.
This is a guest blog post by Steve Connolly, Publishing Director for FE and Digital at Hodder Education. This blog post first appeared on the Publishing Training Centre Blog.
When we pause for thought to contemplate the evolution of digital publishing, it is clear that a revolution has taken place in the way that content is produced and consumed. However, it is equally remarkable (and healthy to note) that print product still drives much of what the publishing industry produces and monetises. The most notable player in terms of driving the eBook revolution (now slowing to an evolution) is Amazon: a major disruptor in online retailing, positioning and recommending product, manufacturing innovative hardware (yes – Kindle was innovative in terms of adopting established technology and making it a mass market device), driving down prices and providing publishers with new ways of packaging and distributing their IP. In addition, mobile technology is now so prevalent worldwide that it cannot be ignored as a means of consuming content.
So, other than driving this rapid growth in digital consumption that can’t be ignored, what does mobile technology represent for publishers? It has promoted the creation of universally adopted (adapted in Amazon’s case) standards in the shape of ePub, and has forced us all to think in terms of the creation of our content in new ways. Any publisher who fails to think in terms of scalable and standards-driven workflow / outputs is not necessarily going to go out of business, but they will seriously hinder their ability to leverage their IP to its greatest potential. Others who have posted on this site have pointed to the ways in which copy-editing has evolved, with most editorial tasks now being completed on screen, including standard mark-up and tagging of content using consumer tools such as Word. This is a quiet but fundamental shift; and where we start to standardise the ways in which we describe elements of content (form and function), we have the foundations of a workflow that results in content that can be re-used with greater efficiency in a myriad of contexts – print, online, mobile, XML, interactive games and assessment etc.
For many of us working in what is ostensibly a creative industry, standards can seem to be the equivalent of watching digital paint dry. In my journey from being a print publisher to someone who creates and helps others create interactive content, I have discovered the importance of standards (tagging, XML, epub etc.) in the planning, generation and distribution of a range of published products – from interactive etextbooks to standardised assessment engines. All of this originates from a set of principles that were agreed across our business and were applied at each point in the supply chain. Some of what we do is driven by international standards and some by our own proprietary rules, allowing us to provide the market with innovative and high-quality content-led services at a faster rate and at lower cost than would have otherwise been the case.
Decisions on “digital” require a multi-component model that considers at least eight aspects, such as:
Developments in technology – what’s important and (importantly) what’s not?
Business expectations and rules
Analysis of the competition
Defining your product
Workflow and content creation
Return on investment
Marketing and selling
Steve is a tutor on the PTC’s flagship course for editors in the educational, academic, scientific and professional sectors, Commissioning and List Management (CLM) happening next on September 25 – 28 2017.
Back in 2010, working at a scholarly publisher, I had a bet with our Production Director that half our revenue would be digital by the end of 2013. I lost. (We weren’t too far off, in my defence – scholarly publishers generally migrated their library revenues to digital faster and more fully than trade publishers have managed, but still.)
What he realised six years ago and I didn’t was the way that print as a technology suits us as humans so beautifully. For most of us, reading a book is more than simply translating the author’s brain output into our brain input. And reading on a flat screen, with the whole distracting noisy internet just one click away, is a very different technological and sensual experience. Not worse, necessarily, but different.
This week in The Extraordinary Business Book Club I spoke to Dr Tom Chatfield, author of the gorgeously tactile Live This Book. It’s a highly designed series of provocations: invitations to explore our own minds rather than bringing our questions to the internet to find out what everybody else thinks.
We talked about the role of the print book in an increasingly online world, and how it can work for both writer and reader.
‘This is a book that you write in, that you carry around with you, and I guess the genesis of it was the fact that I’ve done five books exploring technology in society. I love this idea of trying to use technology well. More and more as I spoke and wrote and consulted in this that I found people saying that their time, their attention, their focus was this incredibly scarce resource that they were really having enormous trouble keeping under control, and I became very interested in the kind of art and science of concentration, attention, and focus, and how actually a physical book and the physical act of writing on paper is an astonishingly good tool for kind of carving out a small amount of time each day for introspection, for planning a different type and texture of quality of time that you might not otherwise get in terms of working out what really matters, what’s really on your mind, what you’re really planning and hoping and dreaming of, and so on…
‘I’m very interested in getting away from tech bashing and a vague nostalgia for “Weren’t things better in the old days?” Some things are much, much better now. We have astonishing resources at our fingertips, so I’m interested in trying to be precise about this, and what you find if you look at the cognitive science is that resisting temptation, resisting the temptation to click elsewhere, to look elsewhere, to check your email, that burns through a certain amount of mental resource. I think attention management is one of the great skills for the next generation of workers and thinkers, because human attention is spent on our behalf and maybe mispriced by all of the services we use, and the physical tactile object of the act of writing, it lights up your brain in a very different way to stuff on a screen.
‘I’m very conscious of the fact that when I take my wonderful phone or my wonderful Kindle out, everything is in competition with everything else, and I’m dealing with suffusion, and so I think in a way to try to build different kinds of time into your day, and people, I think, are doing this more and more anyway in that nobody wants all their time to be the same kind of time. As human beings, we need difference and variety if we’re going to make the most of our mental resources. We need to sort of put things in boxes, have differentiation. Otherwise, in a way, we risk doing everything as if we were machines, as if we had a limitless data capacity and a limitless memory, and we’re not… We need interpersonal contact. We need things to have friction and texture. Really, memory and understanding are information plus emotion, if you like, and I think to make things stick in our minds, to make things really belong to us, to work out what we mean rather than just what is out there in the Web of information, this is becoming more and more valuable as we’re lucky enough to have more and more information at our fingertips.’
That phrase, ‘friction and texture’ summed it up for me: this is what print provides and a white screen does not. There’s a permanence and a fitness to the words on a printed page that is simply not there with a screen that will show something entirely different the next second.
I’m no less in love with digital books and their possibilities. I love having instant access to my entire library, being able to access a new book immediately, searching for and rediscovering half-remembered phrases. But I better understand now why print is so resilient. I’ll continue to be ambidextrous, reading in print or online as the inclination takes me, knowing that both serve me in different ways. It’s all good.
Alison Jones (@bookstothesky) is a publishing partner for businesses and organizations writing world-changing books. She also provides executive coaching, consultancy and training services to publishers. www.alisonjones.com.
I was talking to a customer about their ebook publishing programme last week and heard that they are looking for a simple way to send copies of reflowable and fixed layout ebooks out for approval. Their question was this:
“Is there a straightforward way for someone outside of the company to open and read an eBook?”
Well someone once said “knowledge is power” and as the newly christened head of the BookMachine Production channel I thought I should share the answer I gave them here.
A little history
EPUB2 was first approved as an ebook standard way back in 2007. For reflowable text novels it was, and arguably still is, a good enough format. However, ebooks have the potential to be much more. Lots of new features that have were introduced into of the EPUB3 standard such as audio, video, animation, read aloud text highlighting, fixed layout design control and more. Here’s a longer list if you really want to know more.
With extra interactions and much better accessibility too it sounds like a good idea, right? But, although EPUB3 happened five years ago, still today the appetite from publishers for adding interactivity into their ebooks is… well… lets say less than ravenous. There are a few reasons for this but one of the biggest is the lack of reliable support for these feature in most ebook reading devices.
The IDPF (the body that decide upon and maintain the EPUB standards) have made it their mission to encourage the uptake of the modern EPUB3 standard. A very neat way for them to demonstrate how modern EPUB3 readers could and should work is by building one. They have done this. It’s called Readium. It’s very good.
Not content with just demonstrating how it can be done they also license the SDK (the ‘software development kit’) to ebook developers for use in their own products e.g. Adobe Digital Editions and Cloudshelf Reader. But, best of all, they allow web developers and everyone else to use Readium in the browser entirely free of charge.
3) Launch and click the ‘Add to Library’ (the plus icon) to upload any EPUB2 or EPUB3 either reflowable or fixed layout.
4) Click on the cover to open and read the EPUB, including the table of content, links and rich interactive features all work right there in the browser.
Note: By adding a book to the library you are not uploading it. Even though you are in a browser, the Readium Chrome Extension will continue to work whilst offline.
Tip: To delete an ebook you must view the library in list view and then click on the ‘Details’ button to find the ‘Delete’ button.
A word of warning
The EPUB is an ‘open’ standard just like MP3 or PDF. This is important and intentional but it does mean that sending your unrestricted EPUB file to someone means they are able to read and also SHARE this file, just like you did. Along with discoverability, the restrictions on sharing that Apple, Amazon and other ebook retailers add on top the ebook is the real value that they add for their 30% cut of the sale price.
For publishers looking for a little more, these powerful Readium tools also make it possible for companies like mine to build more features into a browser based service. For instance by adding full text search and access/sharing controls that work by simply sharing a URL that can be opened in any modern browser.
Ken Jones is a publishing software expert with over ten years experience as Technical Production Manager, software trainer and developer at DK and Penguin Group UK. Ken’s company ‘Circular Software’ provides software tools and services for a range of illustrated book publishing customers including Hachette, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, Thames & Hudson and Nosy Crow. Contact Ken via twitter @circularken or www.circularsoftware.com
Small independent publishers and self-published authors need to maximize the impact of their books and ensure they are easily found on the Internet. Ralph Möllers, the founder of a children’s publisher based in German decided to develop his own book widget, Book2Look, that would enable book buyers, both trade and consumer, to look inside the book before they purchase. The Internet makes content readily available for free. Ralph felt by offering easily digestible free content as a hook would encourage readers to want to read on and most importantly to click ‘buy’. Making the point of discovery the point of purchase.
As a starting point before any book campaign, publishers should think about whom their current readers are and what is happening in the marketplace. Here are some of Ralph Möllers’ latest observations, together with how this led to the development and continuing enhancement of the Book2Look widget.
Your Readers are web savvy
According to BBC research, young people now spend an average of three hours online a day. This seems quite a conservative estimate really, and professionals must spend more than double this amount. Tech savvy millenials are wise to advertising and many use ad blockers to protect them from the ‘lure’ of online shopping ads, which are becoming increasingly sophisticated. According to eMarketer, about a quarter of all U.S. internet users, nearly 70 million people will use technology to block online ads in 2016. Publishers therefore need to develop respectful ways of promoting to these readers, as a result of this. Nielsen Book2Look is therefore an ideal option that lets you share sample content, video, audio clips and other promotional material via the internet on social media sites, on your own site, author site or with retailers, bloggers and reviewers. Each version can be tailored to meet your audience needs.
Shelf space is decreasing
Despite books such as the Cursed Child by JK Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, which achieve huge sales, shelf space for the average book in traditional book stores has been decreasing and this makes discoverability of new books extremely difficult for publishers. Author James Patterson launched an admirable initiative to help indie bookshops survive and thrive – however, in the UK in 2014, almost twice as many bookshops closed down as new ones opened. Between 2009 and 2016*, the number of independent booksellers in the UK and Ireland, has fallen by 25%. With fewer options to browse books in-stores, publishers need to replicate the ability to browse books online, and that’s where Nielsen Book2Look can help you reach a wider audience for your books.
The social media frenzy continues
Trends in Social Media usage are changing. Many Facebook users have migrated to Instagram or Twitter away from parental observation. Groups of friends prefer to communicate via closed groups on Path or What’s App. Professional networks such as Yammer give work colleagues a valid reason to chat online. Nothing remains constant but the one thing all forms of social media have in common is that they give their users the opportunity to share. Nielsen Book2Look lets your readers share sample content. It gives them a valid reason to communicate on their preferred social channels, and you can add a link to your preferred retailer, ensuring that you achieve sales.
Nielsen Book2Look is a tool that encourages readers to share and spread the word about the books they like. A tool that supports your local retailer by offering customised sample content. And lastly but not least, it’s a tool that gives you great analytical data about the performance of your book content that can be connected to your existing Google analytics account.
Today Nielsen Book2Look is helping thousands of publishers of all sizes worldwide to promote and sell their books. Nielsen Book2Look has achieved millions of book views, last year the figure was 20m, and we expect that to increase this year. Ralph Möllers says: “As a developer and as a publisher I am really proud of this contribution to our industry and I am delighted that so many publishers around the world can take advantage of this remarkable book widget. Even better news is that Nielsen Book has launched its new ISBN Store which enables publishers not only to purchase their ISBNs online but the Book2Look widget too – what could be simpler than that?”
*2016 is seeing a number of new independent bookshops starting up, which might lead to a resurgence of high street retailing, but this is still a hugely competitive market with customers being offered a huge of point of purchase.
Long considered nothing more than a gimmicky fad, it turns out that augmented reality (AR) is actually alive and well. At least that’s the case when it’s associated with a brand as large as Pokemon.
By now you’ve undoubtedly heard all the Pokemon Go stories and maybe you’ve even dodged a player or two, overly-focused on their phone while embarking on a virtual hunting expedition. On the surface it’s nothing more than another time-wasting game but I believe it offers some very important lessons for publishers.
Let’s start with the hybrid, print-plus-digital opportunity. Recent reports indicate ebook sales have plateaued and growth has shifted back to the print format. There are a number of underlying reasons for these trends including higher ebook prices as well as the adult coloring book phenomenon. But as I’ve said before, publishers need to stop thinking about print and digital as an either/or proposition. Some customers prefer print while others lean towards digital. Many readers are in both camps, switching between print and digital based on genre, pricing, convenience, etc.
Most publishers overlook the fact that digital can be used to complement and enhance print. Skeptical? Have a look at a few of the demos Layar offers on this page.
Stop and think about how something like Layar could be used to bring your static pages to life. Maybe you publish how-to guides, print is your dominant format and you’ve always wondered how you could integrate videos with the text. You’ve tried inserting urls but very few readers bother typing them in. QR codes are an option but they’re clunky and take up precious space on the page. Why not use AR to virtually overlay those videos on the page without having to dump in a bunch of cryptic-looking urls or QR codes?
Are you looking to engage your readers in the book’s/author’s social stream? Here’s your chance to integrate them virtually using a platform like Layar.
Better yet… have you always wanted to know who all those nameless, faceless consumers are who bought your print book from third-party retailers like Amazon or Barnes & Noble? Here’s an opportunity as a publisher or author to initiate a conversation directly with your readers. Add an Easter egg to the print edition where readers can receive a reward via an AR-powered offer; you will, of course, ask for each reader’s name and email address before handing out those rewards.
This approach to marrying digital to print is totally unobtrusive. Print readers who don’t want to bother with their phones can continue reading the book without interruption. Those customers interested in learning more, interacting with authors or uncovering special publisher offers will likely see the value of connecting their phones with the printed page.
The possibilities are endless. So the next time you see a Pokemon Go player wandering aimlessly be sure to thank them for helping identify new ways of distributing, promoting and enriching content.
Global book club and digital reading platform The Pigeonhole has teamed up with Kingston University to digitally serialise this year’s Kingston University Big Read choice, Matt Haig’s The Humans.
The Kingston University Big Read scheme sends a limited-edition copy of a book to all new undergraduate and postgraduate students, so they can start the year as part of a shared reading scheme – and become part of the Kingston community before they even arrive. The partnership with The Pigeonhole will allow up to a further 10,000 members of staff and existing students to join the scheme and receive a free digital version of the book.
From 16 September, The Pigeonhole will be serialising The Humans in ten digital instalments. The unique Kingston University Big Read edition will include extras such as links, images, music and videos, as well as an in-text comments function that allows readers to discuss the book with each other within the digital margins of the book itself.
The Kingston University Big Read scheme, which is based on similar projects in the US, was set up by Kingston University in 2015 to create a community through shared reading. Last year saw more than 13,000 copies of Nick Hornby’s About a Boy given to students and staff. The 2016 choice is The Humans, and, this time, in addition to the circulation of a special Big Read edition and a series of associated events for both the university and the local Kingston community, the Pigeonhole edition will create a community online.
Author Matt Haig spoke of his delight at being associated with the Kingston University Big Read. “I’m incredibly happy that The Humans has been chosen, it’s such an honour to be part of such an initiative,” he said. “I’d have loved the idea of being part of something like the Big Read when I was at university.”
Jenny Todd, Publisher at Canongate, said, “The digital serialisation of Matt’s wonderful novel is an exciting and innovative development of the Kingston University Big Read scheme and we are delighted to be involved.”
Associate Professor Alison Baverstock, Co-founder of MA Publishing at Kingston University, and now Director of the Kingston University Big Read, commented: “Working with The Pigeonhole enables us both to create and be part of an online discussion involving our whole community, students and staff. We are really interested to see how this can work alongside the print edition and events – as well as explore the implications this has for our learning environment. Exciting times!”
For more information, please contact Alison Baverstock (firstname.lastname@example.org/07765 934435) or Sarah Ream (email@example.com/07914 850069)
We define Scriggler as a writing, blogging and debating platform, but it is a lot more than that. It combines elements of social network, blogging platform and, above all, it is a community with the goal of not just providing its members with an opportunity to present their work, their opinions and ideas, but to give them a voice, by providing a significant promotional support both within the Scriggler membership circles and outside.
It’s all about helping our members reach out to a much wider audience than they otherwise would be able to and also about helping readers discover stories, poetry, opinions and ideas that would resonate with them the most.
2) What problem does it solve?
The problem is exactly what any new author will be faced with – how do you get your work in front of people and ultimately make sure they are prepared to buy your books. Most still appear to think the solution is to write more books or write better books until you get noticed by an agent/publisher and they take care of the rest. In reality, whether you self-publish or go conventional way – arguably it’s your ability to get visibility, build your author platform that counts the most and publishers look at that ability as one of the major factors, books themselves almost come secondary. After all, they are in the business of selling books, not rewarding literary merit.
What Scriggler aims to achieve here is to help our members through the most difficult stages of audience acquisition – their very first steps. We don’t just get their work seen, we help them develop the whole package – their social media presence, their website, newsletter; experiment with the strategy to find what works best for them. We also encourage them to find similar authors to partner with, either creatively or purely for promotion.
We don’t forget about the bigger picture too. Scriggler is open to all genres and topics and is certainly not confined to showcases of fiction and poetry – our members share opinions, ideas, blogs, etc. It opens up the membership to a much wider mix of people, it’s not just writers mingling with each other. It also ensures much more diverse conversations and increases the chances of our contributors to connect with the actual audience, not just fellow writers, after all selling your books to other authors is a pretty difficult, if not impossible, task.
It all contributes to our ultimate goal of becoming an intellectual and cultural blender, where all views and ideas are well represented.
3) Who is your target market?
There are two distinct parts to Scriggler – one is the website itself and the free services we provide, the other is additional, premium services, like our Twitter management and book promotion service. When talking about target market it makes sense to talk about these separately.
The free service is designed to appeal to as broad an audience as possible, we are open to all genres and topics and certainly, would like all of them to be well represented.
The premium part is designed for people who would benefit from higher visibility – for example, those actively developing their author platform. Primarily the services we currently offer concentrate on social media and predominantly Twitter, where we take advantage of both our expertise and current presence. This is the area we would like to expand on, making sure we give our audience access to as diverse a list of services and tools as possible. We don’t necessarily need to be the sole provider – so we are very much open to partnerships.
4) What results do you hope to see over the next few years?
We have big plans, of course, and some, particularly ones concerning future development, I would prefer to keep under wraps for the time being.
Right now we are focused on growth of the already sizeable community behind the website, our ability to impact on the discovery and distribution of our contributor’s content. We would like to see more success stories from our members and certainly want to be a big factor behind it. I will also be looking to expand the team behind the website, ideally bringing in a new co-founder with publishing background.
5) What will be next for Scriggler?
In the immediate future, we’ll hold our current course – expand the social media presence and grow both the user base and the readership and start building relationships with other industry participants – anyone who would help us have more impact on the careers of our members.
iAuthor, the book discovery platform, launches LitSampler 2.0 today. Here iAuthor’s founder, Adam Kolczynski, tells us more.
What is LitSampler 2.0?
LitSampler 2.0 is iAuthor’s book sampling tool. An industry-first, it allows authors and publishers to upload an enticing excerpt of their book, controlled from their iAuthor dashboard. Readers can try before they buy, decreasing their inbuilt risk aversion to a new book by an unknown author.
LitSampler 2.0 brings the point of book discovery nearer the point of purchase. For authors? An ultra-intuitive typographical tool to showcase their books. For readers? An immersive e-reader. We asked ourselves what the ideal sampling tool should do. It should be responsive, allowing effortless sampling on all screen-sizes. It should be formattable, giving authors and publishers the power to lay out their books exactly as they wish, complete with indents, drop-caps, section breaks, images, tables and more. It should be shareable, so readers can harness their global network to maximise author discoverability. It should be embeddable, so book samples can travel to any site or blog with just one line of HTML. It should be browser-centric, so the sampling process won’t require downloading software or files. We believe that iAuthor’s reimagined sampling tool covers all of the above, and elegantly completes the “Browse-Sample-Buy” discovery funnel.
From a UX/UI perspective, we felt that many existing book samplers were decidedly awkward. An over-reliance on skeuomorphic elements rooted the design in the pre-iPad era, page navigation was unintuitive, and reader-centric features such as in-line search, bookmarking and contrast control weren’t optimised for mobile. At iAuthor, we believe that design should be invisible to the user. Book excerpts should take centre-stage, not toolbars, bloated menus or banner adverts. Ideally: all signal, no noise. By minimising visual clutter, LitSampler 2.0 not only increases reader dwell-time, but enhances the quality of that engagement.
Featured in The Bookseller, Digital Book World and GalleyCat, Adam Kolczynski is best known for iAuthor, the London-based startup. In tackling the perennial problem of book discoverability, Kolczynski has straddled both ends of the publishing spectrum: first as an author, then as a publisher with Polybius Books.
I remember the first time I heard the phrase “info snacking” back in 2007. It was when the Kindle launched and Jeff Bezos said his newfangled device would slow the info snacking trend and enable deeper engagement with content.
The Kindle platform certainly launched the ebook revolution but it’s interesting that it didn’t halt short-form content momentum. In fact, I’d argue that info snacking is more popular than ever before and, ironically, that popularity is largely driven by Bezos’ own company, Amazon.
Remember the late 1990’s when it seemed like publishers could generate digital income by selling individual book chapters? Once upon a time I too thought that might be a viable model but in hindsight it’s clear books and chapters can’t be treated like albums and songs. Most books are written so that the individual chapters are too reliant on each other, thereby making them far less valuable individually.
We need to think about taking things in the opposite direction. Rather than tearing apart a book and trying to sell individual chapters, content needs to be developed in short, granular formats so that each piece can be sold on its own and can be remixed with other granular pieces. And while this is mostly true for non-fiction I can see where it also has potential for some fiction works as well.
Short-form content success is all around us. Amazon launched Kindle Singles several years ago and the program has grown to more than 2,000 titles today. A few days ago they announced a program called Singles Classics where they’re breathing new life into older short-form evergreen content from the pre-digital era. And earlier this month they launched a short-form initiative within one of their audio subsidiaries called Audible Channels.
All of this simply reflects the fact that we’re all pressed for time but we still want to consume content. Sure, there’s nothing quite like fully immersing yourself in a long book written by a wonderful storyteller. But these short form services are simply addressing our craving to be hyper-efficient, aware of the latest trends in our jobs/careers and always up-to-the-date on worldly news.
Peter Hudson is the co-founder of Shelfie. The idea for Shelfie came out of an argument Peter was having with his friend Dan in a bar. Dan said he had a book at home that would prove he was right. In frustration that he couldn’t make his point, Dan said “I wish I had digital copies of all my paper books on my phone”.
1) What exactly is the Shelfie app?
Shelfie is a free app for iOS and Android where you can take a picture of your bookshelf (a “shelfie”) and the app will automatically identify all of your books. It’s kind of like Shazam for bookworms.
2) What problem does is solve?
Shelfie solves two problems. The first is format shifting, that is, if you buy a print book we believe that you should also get the digital edition either for free or at the very least at a huge discount. The second problem we solve is book discovery and recommendations.
Once you’ve used Shelfie to inventory your library, the app allows you to download the digital or audio editions of your paper books at a huge discount (usually 80-90% off what you’d have to pay normally). At the moment (summer 2016) we’ve been able to sign “bundling” deals with about 1800 publishers to offer about 450,000 titles. This is usually around 25% of the books on an “average” bookshelf.
Shelfie helps you discover new books that you’ll enjoy by looking at the patterns of how you organize your bookshelf and by correlating that pattern with the way that millions of other books are organized on other readers’ bookshelves. Where Amazon has “people who bought this also bought”, Shelfie has “readers who love this book put it on a shelf beside” — this is human curation of books at scale.
3) Who is your target market?
People who love books, readers who always want to have their library in their pocket, and bibliophiles who are always looking for their next book.
4) What results do you hope to see over the next few years?
We’re very keen to sign the last two of the “big five” publishers to offer print + digital bundle deals. We currently have agreements with HarperCollins, Hachette, and Macmillan. We’re working on bringing Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster on board.
5) What is next for the Shelfie app?
We’ve very excited about the social aspects of Shelfie. We recently built in features that allow readers to browse each others’ bookshelves. If you’ve ever been at a party and found yourself browsing the host’s bookcase, you’ll probably enjoy the “feed” in Shelfie.
Crystal Mahey-Morgan is Founder at OWN IT! Entertainment Limited. OWN IT! is a storytelling lifestyle brand, telling stories across books, music, fashion and film. At the heart of everything it does is a desire to share, empower, celebrate and inspire. We wanted to find out more about Crystal and her vision.
1) Your writing has been taken seriously since a young age (16). What helped you to write, and what should budding writers be doing to perfect their craft?
My journalism for me was about sharing my passion about things I loved and expressing an opinion about things I cared about. For The Face Magazine, I wrote about music, fashion and the creativity that was coming from the underground sub-cultures that surrounded me growing up in London. For The Guardian, I wrote articles which included exploring gang culture and the negative effects an irresponsible advertising industry was having on young women growing up. The thing that helped me was everything came from the heart and nothing was forced. I think the best way for budding writers to perfect their craft is not to write what the think will make people like them but to have the confidence to stay true to their ideas, stories, characters etc, as this will probably result in better content.
Do you have a keen eye for detail and love process? Does Excel put a smile on your face? Is accuracy important to you? Then we have a job for you in the Data team at Abrams & Chronicle Books.
Abrams & Chronicle Books is a highly successful publisher and distributor of illustrated books and stationery products based in Farringdon, London. We are looking for someone with a passion for title data and processes. The Data Assistant/Executive (position dependent on experience) will work in the Data team to maintain the company title database and produce timely and accurate title data feeds. Our ideal candidate is calm, self-motivated and above all organised with excellent Excel skills and a keen eye for detail. Knowledge of Amazon Advantage/Vendor central, Nielsen Title Data and ONIX is desirable and a working knowledge of HTML is also useful but not integral.
Reports to: Digital & Data Manager
Purpose of Position: The Data Assistant/Executive will work in the Digital and Data team to maintain the company database, produce timely and accurate data feeds and manage the sales material process.
Responsible for updating and maintaining company title database
Administer timely and accurate data feeds; including electronic catalogue, VISTA seasonal uploads, Nielsen and Amazon, and communicate title updates internally
Maintaining A&CB Nielsen Pub Web account
Management of Amazon Advantage; raising case logs, amending errors, uploading press quotes
Key point person for title data queries
Supply data grids to key rep teams and key accounts
Work with Digital & Data Manager to consolidate, streamline and maintain backlist and frontlist data
Regularly review data processes, suggest and incorporate improvements
Manage image process including organisation and distribution
Using a critical path timeline, ensure that all sales materials are available on time and in full
Work with the Sales Assistants to ensure all sales materials are available on time and in full
Perform any additional business critical task as directed by Digital & Data Manager
Qualifications and skills:
A keen eye for detail
Excellent communication skills
Ability to manage multiple projects and work to deadlines
Knowledge of Amazon Advantage/Vendor Central
Experience working with Nielsen Title Data
Experience/understanding of ONIX
Experience working with a title management system
Working knowledge of HTML
Please reply with a full CV and a covering letter stating your experience, qualifications and current salary details to firstname.lastname@example.org