I checked a book out of my local library the other day, and when I went to read it I discovered that someone had been there before me, littering the words and sentences with sharp lines and emphatic scrawls. Not a rare occurrence in my life, to be sure, but one that always makes me think the vandal (or vandals in this case, if the three different colors of emboldened ink are indeed evidence of serial abuse) is revealing something deeply disturbing about themselves in this simple, narcissistic, and completely self-absorbed anti-social act. [ Read more ]
When I was first making my rounds on the web to get up to speed on the state of online storytelling, it took me very little time to come across Novelr.com. Busy as I was, however, I filed the URL away in my ever-growing list of sites-to-visit, and promptly got lost in other things.
A few days ago Janoda kindly thought to suggest the site to me on Twitter, whereupon I immediately vowed to visit the site before promptly getting lost in other things.
Which brings me to yesterday, when Eli (the person behind Novelr) stopped by and added a comment to one of my posts, innocently punishing me for being such a slacker. Of such self-induced slights are my better motivations born.
The post Eli commented on was called Taking Stock, in which I updated myself and you about my current level of interest in all things digital and storytelling. One of the things I said I’m less interested in now is the broader question of online fiction, in part because it’s just so damn broad. If not unending.
Happily, as my dedicated visit to Novelr revealed, Eli and the Novelr community are very much on top of the subject, and very much probing the further reaches. Which means Eli and Novelr can do the heavy lifting on this subject for all of us. Wink!
Stop by, take a look around, and if you’re new to subject, say hello before Eli finds you first. You’ll be glad you did.
— Mark Barrett
A couple of days ago I was working my way through a slate of storytelling and publishing links when I found myself on the O’Reilly site. It’s one of those sites chock full of interesting links and notes, so I spent a few minutes just clicking around until I ended up looking at splash screen for Safari Books Online, which included works from Peachpit.
In that instant my current interest in digital and online storytelling suddenly merged with my ongoing interest in interactive storytelling, and I felt as if those divergent worlds had become a single focused image in mind. The cause for this convergence was my work as technical editor on Chris Crawford On Interactive Storytelling, a book written by Chris about his pioneering work in that fascinating and maddening field. [ Read more ]
Full disclosure: I am by definition not qualified to have the opinions I am about to express. The book in question, Groundswell, by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff, is a national bestseller. It says so right on the front cover. I don’t have any bestsellers to my name. The book was also published by Harvard Business Press. I didn’t go to Harvard.
At the library the other day I snagged a copy of a book called Groundswell. I think I grabbed it because of the zany hypo-glasses-like book cover, but I was grabbing a lot of books from the newly-acquired shelf that day, so I can’t be sure.
The authors of Groundswell are both employees of Forrester Research, about which I know almost nothing. I figured maybe it meant something useful in a data-driven way, so a couple of days ago I started reading. Turns out the ‘groundswell’ in the title is the internet + social networking + tech + the inability of the corporations to control their messaging + the author’s desire to identify, brand, trademark and exploit a cultural phenomenon. Not particularly earth-shattering stuff, but okay. [ Read more ]
Kassia Krozser, one of the principals of now-defunct Quartet Press, has a post up about how she spent her summer:
Here are some pain points to consider as you try to build a digital publishing business — this is an incomplete list, of course: ISBN madness (really, one ISBN for every format? the mind continues to boggle) and alternate product identifiers; formats, formats everywhere and not a hint of resolution; third party distributors, or, how do you get your books to retailers in the most efficient manner?; customer service (see: formats, devices, and all-around confusion); the challenges of getting your book to show up in retail outlets before release, particularly when you don’t have a corresponding print product; the imposition of DRM despite your stated preferences (really, who are the retailers protecting when they force DRM on the publisher?); pricing and consumer savvy.
As I said in my earlier note, I think being a third-party player (publisher) in the content-delivery business these days must be a nightmare. I also think this is exactly right:
So it’s easier to start from the bottom, figure out what it’s going to cost, and then build the model.
If the new publishing relationship is a direct connection from content creator to content consumer — and it is — then every additional layer added to that process is going to have to pay for itself. And the only way you can figure out how to do that profitably is to start with the absolute minimum cost to do X at quality Y and go from there.
Nothing else makes sense. Nothing else will work.
Read the whole post.
— Mark Barrett
[Since this post was originally published Bowker has changed their website, their marketing approach, and some of the business practices I objected to. Links which could not be updated have been removed and the text revised where necessary. — MB.]
I don’t know much about ISBN numbers (which is redundant, because the ‘N’ in ISBN stands for ‘number’), but I thought I knew their basic function, and I had some vague sense that I knew how they were doled out. Having hopped from link to link to here to here, however, I realized I was wrong about everything.
I don’t use ISBN’s* much at all, if ever. I’ve had a few friends request one from me regarding a book I mentioned, and I now know that’s the best way to make sure you end up with the same version of a book that someone else is talking about. It might not be the most recent version, but it will be the same, because ISBN’s are only given out once and never reissued.
But that little tidbit was only the first domino to fall in my head. I used to think that ISBN’s were given out in some way that was vaguely associated with the copyright process. Or maybe I thought it was in some way vaguely associated with getting a bar code. (Because it’s all so vague, I can’t remember.) [ Read more ]
I don’t know anything about Quartet Press other than the fact that they announced today that they’re closing. And I mean nothing.
Reading the post about their closure, however, made me think of a similar note I’d read only a few days ago. This one was about Manifesto Games, a site/biz run by a friend in the interactive industry. The owner, Greg Costikyan, closed up shop in June, saying:
We did not achieve the critical mass of support by independent developers that we had initially envisioned (some of whom, bizarrely, viewed us as a competitor), though we appreciate the strong and enduring support we received from some. We always knew that the essential problem we were trying to solve was a marketing one, but we never figured out how to crack the marketing nut, at least with the minimal financial resources we had available.
Now, Greg knows more about the business side of the games business than I ever will, but I’m not sure that what hurt Manifesto was a marketing problem. And while I know nothing about Quartet Press or the reason for its demise, I’m struck by one way in which the two companies are similar. They were both third parties to the relationship that exists between content provider and content consumer. [ Read more ]
After three weeks of blogging and Site Seeing I definitely have a better handle on what’s happening out there, but I’ve also come to grips with the fact that I simply can’t keep track of it all. And that’s true even if I avail myself of all the latest tech, tech filters and social networks — which I would also have to spend a great deal of time reading about in order to achieve cutting-edge productivity.
(There’s a reason they call it the ‘cutting’ edge.)
In the end there’s too much to see and digest, let alone comment on, let alone act on. So it’s time to tighten the focus a bit, in anticipation of tightening it more in the future. Although this is an exclusionary process in some respects, I tend to think of it as irising in on something in the distance and pulling it into sharper focus. Simplification as zoom lens. Or sniper scope.
I can’t really say the industry is dead, because it’s not dead. What I can say is that it’s broken, and I think everybody gets that. But I don’t think it’s simply broken relative to some newfangled process or advance (the internet), but rather that it’s inherently broken in ways that the internet is only now revealing. [ Read more ]
Many of the better bloggers out there are thoughtful people who also have the ability to slap multiple short, pithy posts and quirky links onto their sites over the course of each day. Unfortunately, that’s not me. In fact, the last time I took a cursory look at something was in high school when I was supposed to be studying algebra.
What I’m interested in, and what I hope you’re interested in, is depth. And I don’t just mean intellectual depth, in which everything is erudite and sophisticated and an allusion to something else that’s erudite and sophisticated. I’m talking about understanding things, and in particular, understanding the techniques and craft knowledge which allow for successful storytelling (by whatever criteria) in any medium. I’m completely, totally interested in that, but it’s not the kind of thing you can talk about in short posts or 140-character blurbs.
So on days like this, when I barely get a post up before the clock ticks to a new day, I hope you’ll forgive me. I’ve been burning through a massive amount of information in the past couple of weeks, trying to get up to speed on what’s happening in so many different and interesting storytelling arenas. It’s an amazing time, but I clearly need to sharpen my focus if only to keep from being swamped. More soon.
— Mark Barrett
Visiting well-established e-book sites like Smashwords.com makes it clear that the possibilities inherent in the digital revolution are already being fully investigated. Here and on other sites I’m seeing every logical web-enabled expression of the middleman/publisher role in delivering content from creator to consumer. And in Smashwords I have to say that the clarity of this expression seems particularly good.
As someone who is interested in creating content that can be directly consumed by an audience, it’s still an open question whether I want to involve anyone else. If I was thinking about going that route, however, I would take a serious look at Smashwords because I think it gets a lot of things right. But you don’t have to take my word for it. [ Read more ]