Monthly Archives: March 2012

E-Book Price Increase May Stir Readers’ Passions- by Motoko Rich and Brad Stone

Still has relevance 2 years later:

The article I have chosen to write on was in the New York Times on February 11, 2010.

The article started out by making the assertion that the days of the $9.99 e-book download are over.  The days of the $12.99-$14.99 e-books are looming on the horizon.  With this information as the cover, the article launched into a retrospective of information that covered all the bases of the aggrieved parties in this controversy.

The publishers are portrayed as greedy because the e-books are not as expensive to produce and there are no printing and warehousing costs that need to be accounted for when thinking in terms of e-book production.  The publishers view was propounded by Mark Gompertz, digital vice president at Simon and Schuster, that the author, editor, copyeditor, typesetter/layout person, proofreader, and indexer are all parts of this puzzle that take a cut of the money that goes into making a QUALITY e-book.  You can scrimp in different areas, but the quality of the content will be in question when the e-book finally hits the download trail.

The consumer viewpoint was covered by quotes from individuals who seem to be “mad as hell and are not going to take it anymore” to quote a scene from the movie Network.  As the price increase is threatened, these individuals are going onto Amazon and giving books with higher prices bad reviews.  The book by Douglas Preston, Impact, was skewered since his publisher held back the e-book for 4 months waiting for the hardcover print sales to wane before the e-book hit the market.  Preston, on the other hand, attacked the consumer’s Wal-Mart mentality that thrives on Rock bottom pricing.  His view is that this mind-set is not particularly American and that selling products for no profits helps no one in the long run.

The advent of the I-Pad was mentioned as a game-changer in this serve and volley game of e-readers, publishers and consumers.  The I-Pad Agency model may be the selling process that helps to push Apple into the lead in the e-reader.  Since new purchasers may be coming into the market, the Amazon price point of $9.99 may mean nothing to them.  The new customers will accept the higher pricing since they know no other price structure.  If enough of these new customers are drawn to the I-Pad, then this influx will offset any backlash that occurs due to the increase in the pricing for the Amazon e-book downloads.

Americans also have the right to keep their wallets in their pockets.  There are many different areas of entertainment that could benefit from the spending that does not go toward Kindles, Nooks, and Sony E-Readers and their downloads.  The gaming industry is as strong as ever, and game cards and systems such as the X-Box and Wii may eventually be the beneficiaries of this war over e-books.  If the prices stay high, then consumers will be putting their dollars in other directions.

My analysis from reading this article is that this is just the beginning of a long-term protracted struggle between the Amazons, publishers, authors, and consumers that will have many skirmishes before an easing of tensions will ensue.

The real winner in this war of digital downloaded content may be the print book industry.  Some of the individuals interviewed mentioned the fact that Libraries are stocked full of great books that can be borrowed and read for free.  Nice to see that a low-tech answer may help to enhance and expand the print book industry that is continually flat year after year.  Wouldn’t this be an ironic twist since e-books were supposed to replace print books roughly 10 years ago?

 

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Describe your qualities as a networker and explain how you are developing your network to obtain your first job in the publishing industry or a promotion in your current job.

Graduation Day, 5/16/12

Graduation Day, 5/16/12

The Book Kahuna

The company where I currently work, ABC-CLIO, purchased the license to produce Greenwood/Praeger/Libraries Unlimited titles in late 2008.  Although I was part of the company that made the purchase, the company that had a smaller list purchased the company that was much larger.  As such, the production/manufacturing department that I managed shifted to a completely different model of production throughput.  That was my wake-up call to start networking as much as possible.   The first and most important piece in the networking puzzle was to get accepted to the Masters in Publishing Science Program at Pace University.

  1.  LinkedIn:  I had a profile on this website since the early 2000s, but never really used it until one of my staff friended me.  When I looked at the number of friends that she had, I started to realize the power of this networking tool.  I started to join publishing related groups whenever I found them on the LinkedIn site.  When there was no group in the Denver area for publishing professionals, I formed the Denver Publishing Professionals (DPP).  This group currently has over 300 members.   When LinkedIn hit 100 million users I received a thank you e-mail from the founders as I was among the first 360K users who signed up in 2002.
  2. I retained my membership in Bookbinders Guild of NY.  I still stay in contact with many of the people I worked with in NY in the first 20 years of my career, and I nurture those contacts and stay in touch with them often since they are my friends.  I will be meeting with some of my friends and sales reps in 8-weeks when I am back in Manhattan for graduation.
  3. I was asked to be on the Board of Directors for PubWest in November 2009.  I am in my second year as a board member and I have met many professionals within the Western Publishing community that should help me immensely now and in the future.
  4. I was asked to give a presentation at CIPA (Colorado Independent Publishers Association) on the new direction of publishing in the digital age.  I included process, careers and content formats in my presentation.
  5. I sought out and pitched myself to Joyce Meskis and Jill Smith, who are the Executive Directors of the Denver Publishing Institute.  I wanted to get on the docket of speakers for their summer session as a digital print lecturer.  I was successful at getting the Directors to give me a chance, and I am on the docket with some really high-powered Publishing Pros.  This was a coup that I am still ecstatic about since the other speakers are extremely influential within the publishing community.

I’ve learned that keeping the network you have is a job all in and of itself.  The one thing you must keep in mind:  Be the Expert.  Get some visibility that sets you apart from the herd.  This visibility will give added clout when you are job-hunting.  The ultimate job for me would be a Vice-President of Publishing Operations either with my current employment situation or a new forward-looking company.

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Interview With Steve Kotrch/Simon & Schuster

http://www.simonandschuster.com/

On December 13, 2010, I had the distinct privilege to conduct an interview with Mr. Steve Kotrch, the Director for Publishing Technology at Simon & Schuster on the CMS system they have incorporated into their technology structure for archiving and disseminating their DAMs.

Company Profile— Simon & Schuster-Simon & Schuster, Inc. is a global leader in the field of general interest publishing, providing consumers worldwide with a diverse range of quality books across a wide variety of genres and formats. It is the publishing operation of CBS Corporation, one of the world’s premier media companies. (Company Website Information) Interviewee: Mr. Steve Kotrch Currently Steve Kotrch is Director of Publishing Technology for Simon & Schuster. He is responsible for creating and supporting all systems having to do with design and editorial, and the company’s digital asset management system. He recently designed a system that takes data from S&S’s product database, uses Mark Logic to create book cover layouts, and re-ingests the text with any changes on those layouts back into the database for distribution over the internet. Steve has been involved for over 20 years in various kinds of publishing: of not only consumer books, but reference and elementary and high-school texts; in publishing financial newsletters, magazines and major retail catalogs.

Questions:

Don: What is the primary Digital Asset Management system that you use for the creation, archiving and delivery of your content?

Steve Kotrch: Chuckwalla, v. 4 for DAM, MarkLogic Server v.4.1 for delivery

Don: What were the discussions and R & D investigations that led you to choose this Information Delivery System?

Steve Kotrch: Chuckwalla is .NET-based, which has been key to integrating it with our other systems, particularly with our product database. It also has a robust Mac client. MarkLogic was the most powerful XML database at the time (it may still be), needed for combining feeds and content, excerpting content (e.g., sample chapters).

Don: Have you seen any ROI from your decision to use this particular system? If so, do you have any idea what the difference would have been if you had not integrated this system into your overall strategic company initiative?

Steve Kotrch: The system was not done for cost savings, but for pursuing a digital strategy: being able to better market our products on the internet as well as conventionally; being able to reach our customers with more timely information. E.g., providing the Ad/Promo department with the latest book covers, author photos, etc.; the subsidiary rights department with interior files on a timely basis, so they could sell the rights to book clubs and foreign publishers. The DAMS also powers a digital catalog which has up-to-date prices, the latest images and metadata of our products. If we had not implemented this strategy we would not be able to, for example, sell our ebooks nearly as efficiently. Without the systems we have in place I don’t believe we would have any of our ebooks available on iBooks at this date.

Don: Were there any unexpected benefits from integrating this system?

Steve Kotrch: We have been able to create the digital catalog in record time, with an effectiveness we couldn’t have counted on. We now sell our files to subsidiary rights customers, e.g., book clubs. In the past, we simply directed them to purchase those files from the printer. With the kinds of exception reports and ad hoc reporting the system allows us to do we can make sure the sales support materials needed are available exactly on time. We can attain favorable status with our largest vendors, e.g., Amazon, because our data is so timely and clean. And because it is so complete and clean, our books appear higher in the search results on their web pages.

Don: What were the challenges that confronted you and your company once you made the decision to go with this technical advancement in your ability to deliver your content and/or services?

Steve Kotrch: Eleven years ago, when we first embarked on building an enterprise-wide DAM, people did not understand what it was, why it was needed, why they needed to change the way they did things, what it was for. Change management, including a great deal of training, was a large part of the implementation. Once we changed, more recently, to Chuckwalla, we had to cope with the problem that Chuckwalla’s system was not robust enough for the quantity of data we had. It took them months and months before the system could be counted on to reliably deliver previews of our files, and had to be optimized in terms of response times. Now it is very quick and responsive. People had to become accustomed to the notion that it was imperative that materials be available on-time and correctly. There could be no lag between a file going to the printer, for example, and its being placed into the DAMS.

What system are you using?

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As an editor, what do you see as the most critical issue facing the publishing industry? What is your proposed solution?

Graduation Day with my MS In Publishing from Pace University, 5/16/12

Graduation Day with my MS In Publishing from Pace University, 5/16/12

The Book Kahuna

The most crucial issue facing the publishing industry as a whole are the technological advances that are giving the consumer multiple streams of content, but may be leaving the authors and intellectual property rights behind.  If and when a company takes content that was originally set up with the author and one set of contractual tenets, does the publisher than have the ability and right to take that content and re-use it in another title, or repackaged in another format completely?

Companies are furiously looking for new and varied revenue streams by tapping into content that was relevant in the past and has maintained its attraction for the consuming public.  If a title was published in 1988, before the rights for electronic and digital formats were born, can the company use the content in a variety of ways without first getting the approval of the author who penned the content in the first place?  The avenue for big publishing profits with little royalty pay-outs is something that lawyers will be looking at for some time to come.  Also, what are the parameters for usage that would signify a breach on the part of the publisher?  Would it be 500 words of usage?  600 words?  If only 100 words were used directly from the original work, and the integrity and scholarship of the work were not impugned, could the publisher rightly claim that the work did not exceed any boundaries and the re-use of the content was thereby permissible?  Authors will need to have watch-dogs looking out for them when all content is released from their publishing company in whatever format it publishes.

My solution is a fair and equitable distribution of profits to the authors or families of the originators of the content.  A good-faith effort to get authors monies that they are due would help to ease the fears of the authors in the field.  If a sliding scale that was universal in nature could be developed for percentages of usage, then I think the tension between authors and publishers would begin to wane.  Authors are already dismayed at e-books and the skimpy royalty returns from their sales.  Also, some companies are taking steps to ensure that authors are availed certain amounts of royalties when their title is in an e-book format.  The Harper decision to stipulate 26 downloads of an e-book license from a library brings this point completely into focus.  Harper is leading the way in keeping libraries from having a never ending stream of e-products ad infinitum, since an e-product will never suffer damage in its hardcover format and need to be replaced.  As an editor, it is my responsibility to walk the line between loyalties for the company that pays my salary, and the authors I sign to write the books that generate the revenue for my company that pays my salary.  It is a tightrope, but those who do it well are the top-notch editors and I aspire to be one of them.

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Of the last three novels that you’ve read, identify one that you believe was not necessary and explain your reasons for not publishing the book.

I read voraciously about battles and wars to try and understand what was happening at that particular time.  The geopolitical conflicts that forced nation to draw sword on nation have always been the central core of my reading programs.

I look at this question more as a link between what was, and what might have been and so my pick for a book that I would pass on is All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque published in 1929.

This book is a classic.  It was well written, it was insightful, it was ironic, but it was the wrong book at the wrong time.  I can imagine myself as an editor in the 1920s and 1930s maybe I myself am a veteran of the “Great War”.  Millions of my generation are dead on the barbed wire that was Flanders Fields.  We are gaunt, we are hollow, and we are emotionally dead inside.  It is this lack of spark that is our undoing.  We live in France, or Britain, or the United States, or Russia (Soviet Union), and as one we are tired and drained.  We are Paul Baumer.

Had Paul Baumer lived, he would most definitely not have been part of the National Socialist Movement.  His pacifist revelations would have made him commit to a path that detested conflict and saw military confrontation as repugnant and wasteful in human suffering.  He had learned his life-lessons well in the trenches of France, especially the night he spent in the cemetery with the French soldier he knifed and watched die a slow death.  He might have been a Spartacist or a Communist, but that would not be a path worth living after 1933.

Kat (Stanislaus Katczinsky) is a survivor.  He does not survive the book, but if he had, I see Kat as one of the leading members of the SA (Sturmabtielungen).  He would not be good material for the Aryan minded SS (Schutstaffeln) under Himmler, so his demise may have occurred in the “Knight of the Long Knives” along with SA commander Ernst Roehm in June 1934.

Kantorek, the schoolmaster, would be the epitome of the National Socialist zealot.  His ideas of Nationalism prompted Paul, Kropp, Muller, Kemmerich and Behm to enlist in the war in 1914 to help save Germany.  These same ideas would sow the seeds of anti-Semitism after the defeat in 1918 and the subsequent Treaty of Versailles in 1919 (Der Diktat).

Books like this allowed the Kantorek’s of Germany to achieve a power-base that would cost more millions their lives than died in World War I.  If the “Lost Generation” had somehow healed, instead of being thrown into economic tumult in the late 1920s and early 1930s, the world may have reacted with a much stronger resolve and with much quicker timing than actually occurred.  Books like this one kept the world from waking up to the danger, and Hitler savaged that world before he was stopped at a bloody cost.

What would your novel be?

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