Too Big to FAIL – FAIL Blog to WIN Book

FAIL blog LOLcatsThe FAIL blog is a blog for our times.  It’s a visual celebration of human foibles and fallability.   The Wikipedia describes the site and its community thus:

. . . a comedic blog website originally created by Leechio in January 2008. The blog steadily grew in popularity, and in April 2008 was sold to Pet Holdings Inc., owner of I Can Has Cheezburger?.  The site prominently features pictures and videos of someone (or something) failing at something they are supposed to do, or displaying blatant stupidity or incompetence, captioned with the words “fail” or “epic fail”.

The site has become wildly popular and fostered its own FAIL community.  Visitors can upload their own fail pictures or videos and also vote on their favorite fails.  The success of the site has led to the word “fail” becoming the go to adjective or noun used for any kind of wacky failure.  There are degrees of fail – e.g. EPIC FAIL.  The inevitable imitation fail blogs have begun appearing – there’s even a FAIL-book social site.



FAIL Nation book coverNo surprise then that the folks who started the FAIL blog and I Can Has Cheezburger Blog sites have published a book based on the blog content called FAIL Nation.  Described as “. . . your silent guide and handler to the not-even-close-to-perfect nation of FAIL, chock-full of irrelevant tips and useless suggestions” the book has defied its title and marched to an Amazon sales rank of  6,873 since it’s release in October. 

Much like the print success of Frank Warren’s Post Secret series, FAIL Nation has proven that its highly visual blog material can translate to book success.  Can Hollywood be far behind? 

Sometimes FAIL is WIN.

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Influence and Authority Book Marketing

Sheila Clover-EnglishBook Vid Lit

by Sheila Clover-English

Sheila Clover English, the CEO of Circle of Seven Productions, is a pioneer in book video production, marketing and distribution for authors and publishers.

There are many ways to do marketing and promotions but I want to focus on two:  influence and authority

Influence marketing happens when you promote yourself indirectly. You influence someone with your style, your behavior and how much they like you.  It is “personality” promotion. You are so well liked or respected that people want to be like you or associated with you in some way. That means buying what you recommend because they believe in and/or like you.

Authority marketing happens more directly. There are people out there looking for what you are selling but they can’t buy it if they don’t know it exists. Or they may not know they need it unless you can convince them they need it. So you advertise to let people know about your book, and give them all the information they need to make a purchase. Or at least link to that information within your ad.

Here are examples of each type of marketing used to promote the same book. 

Influence Marketing

This could be a blog or Facebook note.

“When I wrote this book I was going through a very difficult time. I researched for months both in resources and in my heart before I ever touched pen to paper. My sister died of breast cancer and I wanted anyone reading my book that is going through the same thing to know they are not alone. Someone is here who understands.”

Notice that at no time was there a direct sale of the book.  Nothing in the blog says “Buy my book”. What it does though is create a personality and an environment around the book’s theme. You feel connected to this person because they are willing to share something of themselves. This invites comments. It invites us to care and to want to be involved with the author of the blog.

Authority Marketing

authorityMy Sister is Dying and the World Keeps Turning takes the reader inside the final stages of death for living sister, the one who will be left behind.

A true story of love, faith and acceptance with a forward by renown psychologist Dr. Emen Touchstone, author of Final Stages, Final Goodbyes: Hospice For Survivors.

Note the differences in the two styles of marketing. With the second blog we get more of a commercial feel. We know exactly what the name of the book is. We see that a doctor with a well-known background in the field is involved with the book. This doesn’t invite questions as openly or as intimately as the first blog. There isn’t a question that a book is being promoted in the second blog.

Which is the best way to promote a book?

There is a time and a place for everything. If you have a blog, website or profile on MySpace, Bebo, Facebook, etc. and you use that to promote yourself or your work, then you are an authority there and can use Authority Marketing in that space.

If you are in an online community which you use primarily as a social platform, you should use Influence Marketing as your promotional strategy.

How do I know which to use?

Here are the questions you should ask yourself to determine which strategy is best fo you: 

  • What is the expectation of the readership of this profile/blog?
  • Why are they there?
  • Why do they think YOU are there?

You need to be honest in whatever it is you are doing. If you are there to pitch your work that’s fine. Just be sure people know that.  If you are there to make friends and be social, you can let people know you will be releasing information about your work occasionally. Then you have established why you are there and what you are doing. Everyone knows what to expect.

But, if you act like you are there to socialize and make friends and all you do is promote yourself you are setting yourself up for trouble.  Think of it like a spam e-mail:  your subject line says “I’m here to make friends!” but your content is all about making a sale.

If visitors know you are going to sell something and they still come to your site then they are interested in what you have to sell. It is acceptable to use an authoritative marketing tool to communicate with them. The expectation is set. There is no trickery or subterfuge. They can still trust you because you are doing what you said you would be doing.

A great book on this subject is Trust Agents by Chris Brogran and Julien Smith ( that can help you better understand the need for building trust online and strategies for doing that. If you are marketing online I highly recommend this book.

Which is better to help sell my books?

With all the hype about online marketing and social media technology, it is easy to overlook the most important element of marketing:  what does my audience want?

Know your readers.  Take the time to research your audience.  Ask yourself these questions:

  • How will they benefit from your book?
  • What would inspire word-of-mouth about your book? 
  • How do they like to be communicated to?

From those answers you should be able to identify whether to use Influence Marketing or Authority Marketing.  Or a combination of the two – e.g. use Authority Marketing on your website and Influence Marketing on your social profile. Just remember to let people know what to expect wherever they “meet” you online.

We are an accumulation of our words and deeds.   How do your readers see you?

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A New Ecology of Book Publishing

Several interlinked shifts are leading to a whole new ecology within book publishing.   First is the loss of jobs in the industry.  Over the past year, for example, employment in print related industries, including book publishing, has fallen by almost 90,000 jobs.  Second, as technology plays a bigger role in all aspects of book publishing, many publishing jobs are becoming obsolete or are being radically transformed.  Third, the expectations that publishers have of authors is changing.  More and more, authors are asked to do a greater share of the marketing for their titles both before and after publication.

At the same time,  the continuing democritization of book publishing means that more books are being produced and marketed than ever before despite the down economy. These trends are symptomatic of an ongoing process of creative destruction and haves created a (mostly) freelance ecology of contractors who are retooling for the new era in publishing,

In addition to the traditional freelance jobs associated with the development of a book, here are some examples of non-traditional jobs this new ecosystem does or might include:

  • Ghost blogger – Many authors use blogs now as a way to build and maintain an audience for their work.  But blogging can be time consuming and the pace of frequent blogging can be demanding.  A ghost blogger is an individual that writes blog posts or tweets on behalf of an author.
  • Blog tour specialist – A person who sets up and manages blog tours, where an author’s work is reviewed on blog sites pertinent to the book’s content.


How to Create a Virtual Book Tour

  • Social media specialist – Someone who monitors and manages an author’s online presence, especially as it relates to the use of social sites like Facebook, Twitter, Shelfari and the like.  Many folks from the realms of traditional book PR are moving into this area.
  • Book project manager – As more of the work of marketing titles shifts to authors, they will need the assistance of a team of specialists who can help them get the greatest possible exposure for their work.  The role of this person is to help guide the author through the maze of choices and assemble / manage the right team of people for their book project.
  • Web developer – The continuing incursion of technology into book publishing arena brings with it the need for experts to help with author website development, widget creation, even database setup for certain types of titles.
  • E-book conversion specialists – There are now many e-book formats, some easier to navigate than others.  A number of companies and individuals now provide assistance with getting titles converted into all the major formats and making sure they look good in those formats.
  • Book video producers – Book trailers are becoming a popular and effective marketing tool.  Creating and distributing a quality video usually requires expertise outside that of the author or their publisher.
  • Analytics interpreter – These days, authors and publishers can be awash in numbers- e.g. website traffic, blog metrics, book sales data from BookScan, social media stats.  Gathering and interpreting this data will become more important as we move from intuition based to evidence based publishing.  Making sense of it all could become a specialty of its own.
  • Online writing coaches – This individual works with authors making the transition to new, compressed forms of writing – e.g. mobile phones, blogs, Twitter, etc.

The emergence of a new book publishing ecosystem is inevitable as the industry embraces technology.  It offers new opportunities and hope for those who have been displaced from book publishing firms over the last decade.

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Rick Moody’s Novel Experiment with Microserialization

Electric Literature will begin a new venture in microserialization by ‘tweeting’ Rick Moody’s new story, Some Contemporary Characters, from November 30th to December 2nd.  Mr. Moody wrote the story expressly for Twitter. 

Rick Moody  

As Andy Hunter, Editor in Cheif of Electric Literature remarked in his announcement of the Twitter story:   

It is broken into bursts 140 characters or less, each clearly labored over with a precision and lyricism that floored us.

 Rick went head-to-head with the 140 character limitation of Twitter and used it as a source of creative inspiration. It reminds us of the film The Five Obstructions, wherein an artist’s acceptance of an arbitrary constraint leads to innovation. We feel Rick has taken something that could seem gimmicky – “Twitter-fiction” – and created something transcendent.

The Four Fingers of Death book coverRick Moody is one of the most celebrated American writers of his generation.  He is the author of four novels, three collections of stories, and a memoir, The Black Veil which won the PEN/Martha Albrand award for the Art of the Memoir.. In 1994, he published The Ice Storm, which became a best seller and was made into a feature film of the same name, directed by Ang Lee.  His new novel, The Four Fingers of Death will be published in July 2010. He also plays music in The Wingdale Community Singers, whose new album, Spirit Duplicator, is out now.We had the opportunity to ask Rick about Some Contemporary Characters and the challenges this new medium presents to authors.

FPP:  What inspired you to write a Twitter story?

RM:  I think my contempt for Twitter is what inspired it, initially. In general, I think the way to describe the world is to get longer not shorter. Twitter, by virtue of brevity, abdicates any responsibility where real complexity is concerned, because it forbids length. This seemed to me like a challenge, then: how to get complex in a medium that is anathema to complexity and rigor. And a challenge is always thrilling.

FPP:  What is the most difficult part of writing a story 140 characters at a time?

RM:  That’s it’s 140 characters at a time! Is that not difficult enough? It’s very difficult to get real traction and real change into that space.

FPP:  What is essential to carrying the story line in this new species of storytelling?

RM:  I think you have to imply a lot of story because there’s just not that much action you can get into the character-count box. You can’t dramatize a scene so much on Twitter. Or, you have to cut up scenes into the little hunks available. To the extent that you can imply action rather than depicting it, you’ll have more room available for doing other bits of fictive work. Description, dialogue, character, and so on.

FPP:  How does character development change in the Twitter format?

RM:  It didn’t change that much for me. It’s still central to this piece, as it most often is, in my work.

FPP:  Did you create Some Contemporary Characters as a Twitter story originally or take a full blown story and trim it down for the Twitter format?

RM:  It was absolutely written ground up on Twitter, for Twitter, about Twitter, with the character counter page open the whole time, to keep me from going OVER.

FPP:  Would you consider using Twitter as a means to preview future stories for your readers?

RM:  Never say never. But I sort of think that if you mean to use Twitter well you should use it from the start, rather than carving up hitherto existing text to fit into its strictures. That seems slightly obscene to me. It’s cheating.

FPP:  What did you learn as an author from creating “Some Contemporary Characters”?

RM:  That, despite my contempt for Twitter, it IS sort of like writing haiku all day long. And I like writing haiku. Twitter’s brevity, that is, started to have some sublime qualities.

FPP:  Do you think micro-serialized Twitter stories can find a permanent place in literary fiction or is the format too restrictive to be viable long term?

RM:  It remains to be seen, really, because the form is still in its infancy. I’m betting it’s a flash in the pan. I’m betting Twitter itself is a flash in the pan, and that as soon as video is more readily available a lot of these text-based media on the web will be a thing of the past. That’s good, because the word “tweet” is really embarrassing.

FPP:  Are you planning to do more Twitter stories in the future?

RM:  As of right now, I am not. But you never know.

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e-Book Alchemy – An Interview with Olive Technology’s Virginia Thomas

By almost any reckoning, e-books are a fast growing segment of the book publishing industry.  Many self-published authors and traditional publishers who have been reluctant to publish in e-book format are now considering it.  However, because there are many competing standards, navigating the technical / logistical ins and outs of e-book publishing can seem a bit daunting at first. 

We recently had the opportunity to discuss print to e-book conversion and the outlook for e-books with Virginia Thomas, the Business Development Manager at Olive Technology, a leading provider of eBook conversion services. Virginia has lived and worked in Alaska, Argentina, Oregon, California, Texas, Hawaii, India and Colorado and was previously in corporate sales with Paradigm Engineering.  (One of her favorite book genres is confessional memoirs.)

FPP:  What e-book formats should a publisher consider absolutely essential for their titles?

VT:  Since the arrival of ebooks and eReaders, the number of digital content retailers has significantly increased. Each retailer would want to cover most device formats. Since the two most popular readers, the Amazon Kindle and Sony Reader use ePub and Mobi, it is recommended that Publishers should at least have these two formats available.EPUB is an open standard created by the IDPF, and is used on numerous devices such as the Sony Reader, the Barnes and Noble Nook, and the Stanza iPhone app. Mobipocket, or .mobi, can be read on the Kindle, but also on a Blackberry, Windows Mobile device, Symbian or Palm device. .azw is Amazon’s proprietary format for the Kindle, for which they provide free conversion when a title is listed in’s eBook store. Like .azw, .mobi can be read on a Kindle, but unlike .azw, it can be sold in a number of distribution channels including Symtio and a publisher’s own website.

FPP:  What steps a publisher should take to prepare for submitting a title for conversion into an e-book?

VT:  Publishers looking at reaching a wide market should first develop a basic idea of planning their marketing and decide on how they would like to take care of the digital rights management. Subsequently, they should identify a reliable technology team that can do a high quality conversion work that can replicate the original book experience into digital format. As they identify the team, the publisher should have their high priority titles organized by the different available format such as hard copy, PDF, Quark Express, InDesign etc. This would allow the conversion team to organize their own conversion steps.

FPP:  What occurs during the process of e-book conversion?

VT:  Depending on the format, the conversion process involves:

  1. Converting the original source format (such as PDF) into a editable format, such (MS Word or HTML)
  2. Reformatting of the editable format so that it can be seamlessly ported into a conversion tool. Depending on the type of book, this step may involve extensive coding to re-create the formatting from the original book. Aspects such as clickable footnotes, endnotes and images are all taken care of in this phase.
  3. The formatted file is then ported into a conversion tool that can then generate the needed extension required. Aspects such as Table of Contents, book details and Metatags are taken into consideration at this phase. (Metatags are information about information—they help identify and position the digital content in order of relevance. For more information see
  4. An eBook conversion team then takes a thorough line-by-line comparison with the original book to make sure that all the needed formats and expressions have been replicated in the converted book. This is a very important step as it ensures a good reading experience for the reader. Depending on the service provider, a conversion team would have multiple quality checks by different members of the team.

FPP:  What are the most common problems that occur in e-book conversion?

VT:  Formatting errors can come in easily, especially inserting spaces into words. This is why Olive Technology does not rely solely on software for corrections. Olive’s proofreading team pores over every word in the eBooks they convert.

FPP:  What is the typical turnaround time for an e-book conversion?

VT:  Average turnaround time for a 200 page book is 2 working days. However, it may take additional time if there are lots of footnotes and endnotes that require extensive coding of tags or there are lots of images that need to be edited before including in the eBook.

FPP:  How much should a publisher budget for converting a title into the most popular e-book formats?

VT:  This depends on how long the book is, how many titles are being converted in the batch, and how complicated it is to convert. Most conversion companies provide a price per page. The more special formatting, pictures, charts, graphs, sidebars, etc. a work has, the more difficult it is to convert.As for a ballpark, conversion of a 200 page novel with a few illustrations from PDF to EPUB and Mobipocket, Olive Technology would charge $160.

FPP:  What limitations / differences in appearance should a publisher expect when going from print to e-book?

VT:  Because of limitations in the eReaders, it is not possible to enforce the original font types into the eBook formats. However, some eReaders allow the fonts to be changed. Since the reader has options to change the font size to large print or smaller print, there are no set page numbers in an eBook. Also, the style of s Table of Contents is limited to one column. All required images would render as black and white in most eReaders, but in smartphones they can be in color.

FPP:  Do you think we will get to a single e-book standard in the near future?

VT:  That’s the question of the hour. Members of the IDPF would scream “YES! EPUB!,” and the industry has already seen a great adoption of the EPUB format. However, Forrester has said that of the 3 million eBook readers predicted to be sold in 2009, 60% of them are Kindles. While Bbeb may be a dying breed, I think .azw and Mobipocket will be around with EPUB for years to come—especially if Amazon keeps making mobile apps. Unless, that is, Jeff Bezos decides to become an open format fan. That will probably occur the same day Steve Jobs endorses Windows 7.

FPP:  Does having a title in XML format simplify e-book conversion?

VT:  Not necessarily. In fact in our experience the reformatting of DocBookXML can be even more challenging and costly. However, the use of XML allows quicker conversion to any future formats that would be made available.

FPP:  How important are mobile phones in the e-book market now?

VT:  According to research done by Nielsen in 2008, younger people favor the idea of books downloadable to mobile phones or iPods over eReaders or PCs (A third of 16-30 year olds compared to 23% of over 30s). The mobile phone market share is relatively small, but growing. The most popular mobile phone for eBook reading now is the iPhone, which only had 6.5% of the eBook downloads in the first two quarters of 2009. However, in a November 1 report the research firm Flurry predicted that with thousands of eBook apps being produced, the iPhone will be in a serious position to steal market share from the Kindle in reading the way it stole from the Nintendo DS in gaming.F

PP:  How do you see the e-book market evolving in the next 3-5 years?

VT:  With the fast adoption rate and decrease in price of eReaders, the only certainties I see are growth, increasing involvement of Google, and device convergence. According to Association of American Publishers, eBook sales have grown by more than 300% in last 2 years. While eBooks are still a small portion of book sales, they more than tripled from the second quarter of 2008 to the second quarter of 2009, and the exponential growth is predicted to continue.

Also, I think it’s a matter of time before foldable/flexible mobile devices cause device convergence to occur. The problem now is that eBook readers are too big to be phones, and phones are too small to read on without a whole lot of scrolling. However, when mobile phone manufacturers roll out devices that can be folded or unfolded to the size of a phone or eReader, consumers will probably opt for the convenience of only carrying around one device. Motorola is said to be hard at work on their line of flexible devices.

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Murder She Twote – Here Come the Twitter Novels

Nick BelardesAs social media, like Facebook and Twitter, become more embedded into our lives, it seems only natural that writers would begin exploring how to use them as a new literary medium.  At first glance, it doesn’t seem feasible or sensible to consider a service like Twitter as a writing vehicle; after all what can you possibly say in 140 characters.  But, as Sarah Schmelling recently noted in the Huffington Post:

Twitter, too, is full of stories. It may be a cacophony of voices, but you can still easily “follow” someone through the establishment of their problem, rising tension, conflict, climax and resolution. And the trends like “first draft movie lines” can also be narrative entertainment: they’re like the movie scene where someone starts singing and little by little everyone, even that unlikely thug in the corner, eventually joins in.

Like full-blown blogs, Twitter microblogs could emerge as another form of writing in public.  The experiments are well underway.  These projects come in several flavors:

  • Story in chunks – A single author builds the story post by post.  He or she may already have a manuscript, but it gets chunked out a 140 or fewer characters at a time.  Author Nick Belardes has used this approach in his two Twitter novels Small Places and Bumble Square. 
  • Single post, single story – The ultra compressed novel.  An example is novelsin3lines by Félix Fénéon.  This is akin to the first draft movie lines that Ms. Schmelling refers to.
  • Collaborative story seeds -A starting post, followed by a sequence of  Twitter posts contributed by followers.  This process creates a story like one of those school science projects where you grow a crystal in a liquid.  One example is BBC Audiobooks America Twitter novel project.  Here is how it works.  Author Neil Gaiman kicked off the novel with the post:  Sam was brushing her hair when the girl in the mirror put down the hairbrush, smiled & said, “We don’t love you anymore.”  Thousands of people have responded with the next possible sentences.  The selected tweets are chosen by BBC Audiobooks and the final result will be posted on iTunes as a free podcast.


For more examples, check out the Read Write Web which posted a nice list of Twitter novels in progress. 

Inspired?  Brandon Mendelson, who has written the Twitter novel The Falcon Can Hear the Falconer, has posted some good advice for wannabe Twitter novelists on TwiTips.  Key among his pointers is to maintain a separate site to provide the story’s updates from where it began and link to this site from the Twitter novel site.

So far, publishers aren’t lining up to sign Twitter novelists.  But as the medium evolves, it could become a good place to try out story ideas and see what can build a following.  Japanese cell phone novelists have shown that novels in short bites can be successful.  (Now, if we could only come up with a better name for this writing form – something that didn’t start with “Tw” and sound like baby talk.)

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In Demand! The Espresso Book Machine from On Demand Books

espresso_book_machine_version_2The Espresso Book Machine, manufactured and distributed by On Demand Books,  has created quite a stir since it was launched a few years ago.  The book printing system has been compared to a “book ATM.”  It can print books, stored in a digital repository, in a matter of minutes.  Essentially, the system provides the capability to produce books at the point of purchase. 

Version 2.0, a smaller and more efficient version of the Espresso Book Machine is now available and is helping drive sale at On Demand Books.  In addition, the company has recently announced deals with Lightning Source and Google which give it access to a greater catalog of books.  The video below demonstrates how the Espresso Book Machine produces a book it has retrieved from a digital repository.


Google Books: Classic Books Available via the Espresso Book Machine

Dane NellerDane Neller is the CEO of On Demand Books LLC, which he co-founded with publishing legend Jason Epstein.  He has extensive operating experience in the retail sector as former President and CEO of Dean & Deluca for over 8 years.formerly.  Future Perfect Publishing interviewed him a couple of years ago, and he recently updated us on the company’s progress since that time and the outlook for the Espresso Book Machine.

FPP – Originally, mostly libraries were purchasing the EBM. Now it seems that more bookstores are acquiring the EBM. What do you think has caused the shift?

DN – Our primary market continues to be the University Setting both campus bookstores and research libraries. Independent Trade Bookstores also are buying as they recognize the value of localized self publishing programs being able to respond immediately to their customers.

Bookstores benefit as well from an increase in their sales per square foot, increase inventory turnover, derive new customer traffic to the machine, eliminate out-of-stocks and free up shelf space for faster moving, higher-margin inventory. For libraries, the machine enhances the academic experience for students/faculty and makes more books available to more patrons. By allowing the library to acquire a title for its collection on demand when requested by the patron, the EBM helps make the library’s acquisition strategy more efficient. Our technology also enables the library to reproduce rare books in physical form, provides a vehicle for University Press titles, and improves the inter-library loans process.

FPP– Have you begun to see interest from non-bookstore retailers?

DN – Yes, as they see the Espresso Book Machine enables them to add books as a new product line.

FPP – What’s the easiest way for publishers to make their titles available through the EBM?

DN – We are committed to adding content to our network and will accommodate whatever method is preferred by the publisher. There are three methods for publishers to make their titles available to us:

(1) Through our partner Lightning Source. This is our preferred way – publishers add their content to Lightning’s POD repository, and it becomes available through the EBM at the identical pricing offered by Lightning.

(2) By providing us with an API that allows our network to access the publisher’s digital repository – in effect, we “pull” the file from the publisher any time a book is purchased on one of the machines.

(3) By the publisher “pushing” their digital repository to us and allowing our servers to host their files. In this case, we host the publisher’s digital files and perform a regular reconciliation to keep the titles and their associated metadata up to date.

FPP – What does an EBM cost? Are there lease as well as purchase options?

DN – We sell the EBM for $97,500 plus the cost of the text printer (note that the EBM comes equipped with the full-color cover printer). The price of the text printer ranges from a little over $4,000 for the mid-speed printer (35 pages a minute – or a book ever 7-10 minutes) to roughly $28,000 for the high-speed printer (120 pages a minute – or a book every 3-4 minutes).

FPP – How do you anticipate the agreement with Lightning Source and Google will impact sales of the Espresso Book Machine (EBM)?

DN – Both Lightning and Google represent significant sources of high-value books. They’ve made the EBM more attractive to our customers and are helping sales.

FPP – What are the barriers to getting all publishers to sign on with ODB and what is the company’s strategy for growing the number of books available via the EBM?

DN – Distributed printing clearly is attractive to publishers who see the advantages of a greener distribution and sales channel. There may be some technical barriers on the publishers’ side to aggregate their printable files but most are creating or outsourcing Digital Asset Management repositories. Our strategy is to make our customers successful by going after content that will sell well through their setting. Academic content for the University Bookstore, for example.

FPP – Do you see a potential market for magazines, journals or newspapers using the EBM?

DN – Absolutely. The Espresso Book Machine will print, bind, and trim absolutely anything that a laser printer can print. In addition, customers have used the machine to print journals with personalized covers and lined pages, technical manuals, custom anthologies, professor-created textbooks, lab journals, study guides, coloring books, conference documents, corporate reports, recipe books, collections of (digitized) letters, and the list goes on . . .

FPP – E-books have been steadily growing in popularity. Do you see this as competition for the EBM?

DN – No. The growth in e-books has helped us in several ways. First, to the extent that growing e-book sales help publishers and booksellers, then we are helped, since these represent our partners and customers. More concretely, the digitization of backlist books for e-readers has made more titles available to our machines. Also, with the growth in e-books, publishers and retailers have grown more comfortable with nontraditional methods of book distribution, including our own.

FPP – What new features would you like to see in the next version of the EBM?

DN – We have no major upcoming changes to the EBM. In summer 2009 we began our full commercial rollout of the new EBM, version 2.0 (previously we had installed earlier-generation machines to test the market and the technology). At 3.8′ x 2.7′, the new 2.0 machine is half the size of the previous model. Interest in the machine has been fantastic, and we expect our installations to accelerate significantly in 2010, with an early emphasis on trade bookstores and the university bookstore and library market.

FPP – What do you see as the biggest challenges ahead for On Demand Books?

DN – Managing rapid growth is the biggest challenge. Other challenges relate to selling internationally. It is an exciting time for On Demand Books and our customers and we are very confident about our ability to meet challenges as they arise.

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How m-books Could Change Reading

The day of the m-book (e-books on mobile phones)  is rapidly approaching.  Recently one of the founders of LexCycle, the company that makes the Stanza e-book reader for iPhone, recently spoke at a Book Publishers Northwest meeting.  Stanaza’s numbers are impressive.  In a very short time, over 100,000 titles have been converted into Stanza books.  And there are now more than 1.3 million readers using Stanza on iPhones.  And Stanza has added some distribution muscle by teaming up with two major retail partners, Fictionwise and Smashwords (both of which also provide e-books in other formats as well). 


Stanza iPhone App Review –

LexCycle was purchased by Amazon in April.  Unlike the Kindle, it uses the open standard epub format for its e-books.  With the purchase of Stanza, Amazon may be hedging two bets – the popularity of reading books on a large form factor, single use device in a proprietary format versus a multi-function, small form factor, standard format mobile phone.  Single function mobile devices have an annoying habit of becoming obsolete.

The success of Stanza has me wondering – how will the spread of m-books change the way we regard books and the manner in which we read?   

Size won’t matter.  As books go digital, the notion of personal library becomes something you carry in your pocket.  It’s no big deal to have thousands of songs in your iPod; why not thousands of books on your iPhone (memory permitting).

We’ll need reading management apps.  Gigantic personal libraries means we’ll need apps to help sort it all out and find what we need when we need it. 

Read me a story.  When its difficult to read, we can switch to an audio mode.  Every book will come with two modes – text and audio. For example while commuting on a crowded bus or train,or in your car (there is already a controversy starting to brew about people reading books on their mobile phones while driving).  

Books will become more social.  Finding and texting interesting book snippets to friends will be easy.   

Books will be processed, as well as read.  Processing book content with other apps.  For example, clicking on a location mentioned in a title and using Google maps to view the locale.  Or mark inspiring passages and have them shown to us periodically. 

Perhaps none of this will happen.  It may be that the biggest change m-books will have is simply to make us read more, if in a different manner.  With libraries and educational institutions leading the way, books are being reconceptualized as downloads and reading as an app.   


A Reading Revolution – CBS News

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Village Books and the Espresso Book Machine – 4 million Books to Go

village books-BellinghamFuture Perfect Publishing has been following the Espresso Book Machine for the last several years.  The Espresso Book Machine, sometimes called the “book ATM” is developed and marketed by On Demand Books.  The system, about the size of a photocopier, allows a book to be selected from a digital catalog, then printed and bound in just a few minutes. 

Now it is beginning to make serious inroads into the bookstore community.  Two of the latest installations are going to be right here in the Pacific Northwest.  One is at Third Place Books in Bothell, Washington, just outside of Seattle.  The other is at Village Books. It is a community-based, independent bookstore located in the historic Fairhaven district of Bellingham, Washington, and was honored as the 2008 Outstanding Philanthropic Small Business in Washington State.


Village Books, Outstanding Philanthropic Small Business 

Chuck_Robinson_Village_BooksChuck Robinson has been co-owner, with his wife Dee, of Village Book in Bellingham, WA, since June of 1980.  Chuck has pioneered many causes in his community so it seems only natural that his bookstore would be one of the first to make this innovative new way of producing books available.  He’s a former board member and president of the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association and the American Booksellers Association and currently serves as a board member of the Community Food Coop and as a trustee of Whatcom Community College.  He is currently writing a book about the history of Village Books to be published–on the Espresso Book Machine–during the store’s thirtieth anniversary next June.

Lindsey McGuirkHelping him with the installation is Lindsey McGuirk, Digital Marketing & Publishing Manager.  Lindsey has been in the book industry for over 5 years, beginning as a bookseller at Village Books where she eventually became the Events Coordinator. After a short stint on the publishing end of things with Algonquin Books, she returned to her true love as an independent bookseller at Village Books.  She now does the online marketing for the bookstore and will be the go-to person for Village Books’ Espresso Book Machine.

Chuck and Lindsey recently took the time to share their plans for the bookshop’s new Espresso Book Machine.

FPP:  How did you first learn about the Espresso Book Machine (EBM)?

CR & LM:  Though we had read about the machine in trade publications we first saw an early model of the EBM at Book Expo America a couple of years ago.

FPP:  What convinced you to put it into Village Books and how do you plan to use it?

CR & LM:  We’re convinced that “the times they are a’changing” and that we need to be on board or we’ll be left behind.

FPP:  What type of books do you expect to use the EBM to produce?

CR & LM:  Although we’ll have access to books through LightningSource and now Google’s public domain books, the bulk of the books we will be printing–at least in the short term–will likely be self-published. We have already been receiving inquiries from authors interested in having their books printed on the Espresso Book Machine and have a few projects lined up to print when the machine is installed.

FPP:  How many titles are available in the EBM catalog overall?

CR & LM:  Between LightningSource and Google Books, there are nearly 4 million books available to print through the EBM. There are also nearly 600,000 backlist titles that are in-copyright that we can print thanks to publisher’s permissions.

FPP:  Could you describe what happens when a customer places an order that requires the EBM?

CR & LM:  This could be an elaborate answer, but I’ll try to simplify it as much as possible. Assuming that an author brings us print-ready PDFs (those that will not need any additional layout changes or adjustments) of both the book block and the book jacket, we will simply upload those files to the EBM and let it do its work. It prints the book block, glues it, prints the book jacket, and binds it all together. It will then take the book and trim it to its specified trim size. It’s an amazing process!

FPP:  How does the cost of producing a book on the EBM compare with ordering it from a wholesaler or distributor?

CR & LM:  Pricing in print-on-demand, like that of e-books, is still shaking out. However, we expect the retail price for books printed in-store to be comparable to those ordered from distributors.

FPP:  Will having an EBM change how many titles you carry in your physical inventory?

CR & LM:  We believe the EBM will allow us to enhance our inventory by being able to offer books that would otherwise be unavailable. There will be some books that we may carry in smaller numbers because we can instantaneously print a replenishment copy and there will be other books that we won’t have on the shelf–just as there always have been–but, unlike the past, will be able to provide very quickly.

FPP:  What is the purchase model for the EBM? Is it an outright purchase? Lease? Per book fee?

CR & LM:   There are a couple of ways one may obtain a machine. We have chosen to lease ours.

FPP:  Will Village Books use the EBM to support self-published authors or small presses without distribution?

CR & LM:  We absolutely will be supporting self-publishing authors! We’ve been highly supportive of self-published authors for year—we have a strong consignment program and carry dozens of books by local, self-published authors. We haven’t considered printing books for small presses without distribution, but you have just added another element to our growing list of possibilities. Thank you!

FPP:  Are there any special logistical considerations for operating the EBM? For example, space, power, supplies, etc?

CR & LM:  We did have to provide 220V wiring to the site and we will be moving shelves around to accommodate the machine. And, we will, of course, need to stock paper, glue, etc.

FPP:  If you could design the next version of the EBM, what features would be on your wish list?

CR & LM:  It’s a little hard to say prior to our working with the machine for a while. We’ve spent some time with an earlier model and feel that the company has addressed many of the issues we would have had with that machine. I’m sure that this is a question we may have a better answer for in a few months.



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The Google Book Un-Settlement

Google and book settlementThe Google Book Settlement has become the stuff of great courtroom fiction – a battle of titans over the future of digital publishing.  Google’s agreement with the American Association of Publishers and the Authors Guild had been plodding along toward what seemed like an uneventful conclusion.   However, last minute filings by the opposition have made court approval less certain.

The original settlement called for:

  • Payment of $125 million to settle claims and set up a book Registry
  • Give Google the right to store digital copies of books covered by the settlement
  • Let Google include these books in its search results, sell online versions and license book-scans to libraries
  • Allows millions of “orphan” works (books still under copyright but whose copyright-holders can’t be found) to be included in Google’s program

Opponents claim the settlement would, in essence, allow Google to create the world’s largest digital library and bookstore, stifling innovation and competition.  According to the New York Times, filings opposing the settlement have been submitted by a host of organizations, including:

  • Amazon
  • Microsoft
  • Yahoo!
  • Sony
  • groups representing authors and publishers
  • Some foreign governments
  • Antitrust and economics experts in academia
Gary Reback

Gary Reback

Some of these groups have joined a coalition called the Open Book Alliance, co-led by Gary Reback, an antitrust attorney in Silicon Valley who in the 1990s helped persuade the Justice Department to file its landmark antitrust case against Microsoft.  Many of these companies have a vital stake in the digital future of books and are anxious to block any attempt by Google to secure an advantage in managing the process by which readers access and consume book content.  According to the Wall Street Journal, no major publishers in the US have come out against the settlement, though some foreign publisher groups are opposed.

Judge Denny Chin

Judge Denny Chin

The settlement is being reviewed in the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of New York by Judge Denny Chin.  Now the Department of Justice has weighed in with a letter that could alter the course of the settlement.  An article in ZDNet reported that the DOJ letter characterizes the settlement as:

  • Being not “fair, reasonable and adequate to the class members
  • In violation of antitrust law
  • Shutting off competition in digital distribution

Pretty heavy stuff.  But the DOJ is providing some guidance on how to make the settle more palatable.  ZDNet quotes from the letter on this point:

This risk of market foreclosure would be substantially ameliorated if the Proposed Settlement could be amended to provide some mechanism by which Google’s competitors’ could gain comparable access to orphan works (whatever such access turns out to be assuming the parties negotiate modifications to the settlement).

According to CBS News, Google has promised to share its electronic index with its rivals.  The next round in the drama that has become the Goggle Book Settlement will be played out in court on October 7.  Stay tuned!

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