Monthly Archives: January 2013

Houston we have a (BOOK) Problem!

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Running a Production/Manufacturing department is a bit like overseeing the graphite rods at a nuclear power plant. That’s a bit of an extreme analogy, but you are in command of where the rubber hits the road in the complete publishing process, and anything that occurs on the title after it goes to press is yours to own and troubleshoot.

Murphy’s Law

Over the past few years there have been times when titles have gone off to the printer and the end result has not been pretty (i.e.: signatures missing, books bound with the wrong cover, inserts/endsheets printed incorrectly, sigs bound in upside down, or content not matching the cover). When this happens, what are your options:

1. Alert your Customer Service department of the problem immediately. In this way they can stop a bad situation from getting worse by sending more books out into the marketplace. Have them put a hold on the entire inventory in stock until you can ascertain what the next step should be.

2. Do an internal to figure out if the printer was at fault or if you’re internal staff missed/dropped the ball as the files were being prepared to go to press. It’s always nicer if your vendor happens to have a signed PO that circumvents what you received as far as a sample copy. Printer errors are always more fun.

3. Have your warehouse do a spot check or run check to make sure there is no more bad inventory in stock. If bad inventory is found during this check, get an accounting of how many copies and prepare that information for the printer. Also, your customer service group may still get residual phone calls for errors on this book as there were advance copies that went out into the world before anyone had a chance to say anything.

4. Prepare your printer for the worst. If the fault lies with your production department, then immediately get corrected files ready to go back to press. Get these files into the hands of the printer, while you are working out the details on who will pay for the problems.

5. Once the new books come off the press, backfill books to all of the customers affected by this error and make sure they get a pristine copy. Also, give affected parties a little something extra when they call in to complain of the problems experienced when reviewing a copy.

6. If the warehouse completes a check and all the books are affected, then go back to the printer and negotiate with them to get a credit on the run, and also get a timeline on how quickly they can speed a corrected file through their shop and replace your warehouse inventory.

7. If the warehouse completes a check and only a few books are affected, then the printer should overprint the title based on the original number of affected copies and those copies that have already gone out to customers and reviewers. If you overprint then you will have stock to backfill books that may be returned when the purchaser reports the problems to Customer Service.



As a Production/Manufacturing professional, you will learn quickly that these issues will happen from time to time. The real test is the planning and drill on how quickly you can clean up the mess and move on. Flexibility and having a plan “B” are essential.

Publishing like it Oughta Be!  (Homage to the ’86 Mets!)


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Eighty-Years Since Weimar Capitulated: Shirer Chronicled The Events

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What is a lifetime? Is it eighty years? Are we moving away from a point in time when the horror was there for us to see? Do we remember the events? Is it all just an insane story that happened in a far off land? How could this little man with the black toothbrush mustache hypnotize a nation? Even more incredible, how could a country with a 98 % literacy rate choose to follow this man with the ranting oratory?

When World War I ended, Hitler was in an army hospital recovering from the effects of a gas attack on the German lines. He had temporarily lost his sight, but was read the articles of cease-fire that were imposed by the Allies as terms for an Armistice. Germany was an economically exhausted country, but the fact that no armies ever set foot on German soil became the seeds for the “Stab in the Back” theory.

Hitler recovered and was asked by German military intelligence to spy on a small group of men that had formed a political party with a marked right wing (FreiKorps) ideology. Hitler attended a meeting, and rather than spy on them, he joined the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP). Most people would think that Hitler founded the party, based on his leadership later on, but actually Hitler was member number 7 in the NSDAP (Nazi) party.

Hitler tried to take power by brute force in the Beer Hall Putsch in 1923, but this attempt was unsuccessful and only ended up putting the future Nazi leader behind bars in Landsberg Prison for less than a year. It was while in Landsberg that Hitler wrote “Mein Kampf”. If anyone has ever tried to read this book, it is the most disjointed semblance of unconnected political theorems known, but maybe it was more coherent in the original German language version.

Over the next 5 years, from 1925-1930, Germany began to rebound economically from the First World War. The Treaty of Versailles (Der Diktat) had made Germany accept massive reparations payments to the victorious Allies as well as responsibility for starting the war. During this period, the ranks of the NSDAP began to swell. Nazi candidates were put up for election, and began to win seats in the Reichstag. The party was only one of many fringe parties on the left and the right that were winning parliamentary seats, but they were not a huge player in the world of Weimar politics. Everything changed in October of 1929. The Stock Market Crash in the United States brought the world economy to a standstill, and thrust Europe into Depression.

As the early 1930s began, a war erupted in the streets of German cities as Communists of the left and Nazis from the right battled to pick up the pieces of a country languishing on the verge of financial ruin. The Nazis began to win more seats in the Reichstag, and became the second most powerful political party in Germany. Hitler unsuccessfully ran for the German Presidency against World War I hero and Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg, but lost handily on both occasions. Fearing a Leftist coup and or revolution that could spell the end for traditional German society, Hindenburg was persuaded by Franz von Papen and the German industrialists, that the only way to keep Germany whole was to allow the Nazis to form a government. Von Papen, who would be the vice-Chancellor, made the statement that once Hitler was brought into the government, he could be controlled.

On January 30, 1933, Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany. When Hindenburg died in 1934, Hitler became “Der Fuhrer”. Evil does not have to come to power at the end of a rifle; evil can be democratically placed into power.

Look into the face of evil. See it, listen to the words, but steel yourself to the resolve, “Never Again.”

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Social Media and the Workplace: Say What?

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I read this article by Steven Greenhouse on the New York Times Business page. In this piece he is explaining that we are in a whole new world of employee interactions due to the rulings of the National Labor Relations Board to overturn some punitive employer actions based on employee social media posts in the recent past.

“Many view social media as the new water cooler,” said Mark G. Pearce, the board’s chairman, noting that federal law has long protected the right of employees to discuss work-related matters. “All we’re doing is applying traditional rules to a new technology.”

Posts on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are now more palatable and companies cannot take a universally hard-line stance on employees who blow off a little online steam without compromising company financials or secrets.

Click here for more information  ——->

I have mixed emotions about this article. On the one hand, I think that it is every American’s right to exercise their free speech and emote with others of a like-mind. As long as there are no avenues to bully the persons or people who are causing you corporate turmoil, than you should be able to chat, post and interact to a certain point.

On the other hand, as noted in Spiderman (the movie): With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility. Employees now have access to the most influential “Bully Pulpit” ever seen in history. One person can load a post and in the span of seconds to a few minutes can reach thousands of people with whatever information they would like to expound. If you take the time to build a cadre of connections on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter, you can do amazing damage to an individual or a company in the blink of an eye.

“The labor board’s rulings, which apply to virtually all private sector employers, generally tell companies that it is illegal to adopt broad social media policies — like bans on “disrespectful” comments or posts that criticize the employer — if those policies discourage workers from exercising their right to communicate with one another with the aim of improving wages, benefits or working conditions.

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What is the answer?

1. Companies should look deeply into their corporate culture soul and see where there might be problems. If there is a high turnover rate, than find out the reasons why. Retention and advancement through the ranks will build corporate loyalty. A path to success is one that employees will relish with their loyalty. You give to them and they will give back in years of service.

2. To stave off any employee turning a blog post, tweet or Facebook post into Waterloo, look at those companies that are in the “Best Places to Work” listings and find out what makes them tick. Implement whatever they are doing in your own corporate structure. Build a bridge to your employees and pave it with good intentions that are for real.

3. Listen to your employees when they voice concerns. The worst thing you can do as a corporate structure is turn a deaf ear to your internal staff. If you are not listening to them, then maybe someone on Facebook will and your sales and productivity will suffer if enough ex-employees are out in the field trashing your products and company.

“Denise M. Keyser, a labor lawyer who advises many companies, said employers should adopt social media policies that are specific rather than impose across-the-board prohibitions.”

Employees will walk through walls for employers if they know there is some loyalty and sincerity behind the “company-speak” they receive at meetings.

“Do not just tell workers not to post confidential information, Ms. Keyser said. Instead, tell them not to disclose, for example, trade secrets, product introduction dates or private health details.

But placing clear limits on social media posts without crossing the legal line remains difficult, said Steven M. Swirsky, another labor lawyer. “Even when you review the N.L.R.B. rules and think you’re following the mandates,” he said, “there’s still a good deal of uncertainty.””

Good Karma will always win out in the end. Do right by your staff, and they will do right by you!

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Hot Off the (Electronic) Press: Three Obstacles to Global E-book Sales

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At this point in time the Digital Book World Conference is meeting in New York. There have been seminars and keynote speakers. I’m sure the atmosphere is charged with anticipation as the throngs compare notes about how the e-book revolution is proceeding. I’ve been reading the articles and keeping tabs on how the conference has been proceeding, and the linked article I have attached caught my eye. The premise seems pretty basic, but if you miss one of these important aspects of e-book sales, you may lose out on revenue streams that could propel your business.

1. Pricing: “First and foremost, pricing should be established in the currency that the consumer pays in.” This would seem to be self-evident, but trying to price out titles in all the different currencies may not become an important issue until you are ready to sell your e-book.

2. Rights and Metadata: “Metadata must be accurate and reviewed thoroughly by the publisher.” In school we were taught that Metadata is the information about data. If your Metadata is not accurate, then your titles cannot be accurately marketed through the distribution portal. If your Metadata is not all-inclusive (including foreign rights encompassing all foreign markets) then you are cutting yourself off from revenue streams that could be putting cash in your coffers.

3. Publicity: “Popularity often grows faster than rights negotiations transpire.” Advance marketing and word of mouth will ensure that your titles get into the marketplace and find the receptive audience. Do not worry about the final sale but make sure your Rights, Metadata and Publicity coincide. If availability is not blocked due to rights issues and your publicity has been spot on, you will have a successful selling season for your title.

Follow these rules and the door to profits will swing open.

Publishing like it Oughta Be!  (Homage to the ’86 Mets!)


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Fun with Percentages: Children 9-17 Read more E-books


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I was thumbing through Publishers Weekly last night, well, OK, I was reading the online version, when I came across this article, Scholastic Report Finds More E-book Reading Among Children. This report was an updated version of a report originally completed in 2006. As I read through, there were various percentages of this and that, where the reading is done, what devices the reading is done on. I started thinking: I’m seeing all of these percentages, but I have absolutely no idea what the total pool was that these numbers were drawn from. Was it 10 children, 50 children, 3000 children?

It’s actually not surprising to me that children are reading more e-books. Some school systems are turning completely to database and digital e-learning over print products at a breakneck speed. As I detailed in my last blog post, McGraw-Hill is revolutionizing learning in the K-12 arena with the Smartbook technology. It was only a matter of time before studies would begin to see shifts in the reading patterns of the nation’s children. The Book Kahuna is all about getting content and teaching materials into the hands of the masses to ensure we have leaders in all fields tomorrow. Whatever format this content takes will be dictated by many different criteria, but the main focus should be getting students engaged and reading in whatever delivery system successfully completes the job.

Some of the statistics that caught my eye were the following:

1. “Forty-Six percent of kids 6-17 have read an e-book, up from twenty-five percent in 2010.”

2. “The number of boys who read e-books rose at a slightly faster rate than for girls, but more girls (47 %) read an e-book than boys (44 %) last fall.”

3. “There was not too much variation in e-book reading among age groups, with children age 12-14 the most likely to have read an e-book (48 %) and those 15-17 the least likely (43 %).”

4. “Reading on an Ipad or other tablet increased the most between 2010 and 2012, jumping from 3 % to 21 %… “

Even with all of these statistics giving us the bird’s eye view, the most telling statistic was this one:

1. “And while children reported reading for fun less, their parents in increasing numbers, said their children don’t read enough with that percentage rising to 49 % from 36 %.”

Although all of the numbers tell a story of technology moving forward in the classroom, what does the last statistic tell us about children’s reading habits? There is a chance that the reading devices that the children are using to read the e-books, are not only used as dedicated reading devices. If you are using an IPad to read a book, chances are you are also using that IPad to play a game, watch videos, or movies, send e-mail, tweets and /or texts.

This is the challenge going forward: How do we keep the children engaged and looking to read and learn beyond the classroom, when there are so many different distractions to pull them in many varied directions? I think this question will only be answered as the revolution in book content unfolds. We’re scratching the surface of a brave new world.

Publishing like it Oughta Be!  (Homage to the ’86 Mets!)


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One Small Step for (a) Man: One Giant Leap for Education

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I read this blog post and I was completely blown away with what my old company, McGraw-Hill had up their sleeve. If I read this correctly, they have developed an interactive digital learning system that balances the needs of the individual reader’s pace of learning and gears the lessons accordingly. This new adaptive e-book, named Smartbook, could be a completely relevant revolution in learning techniques for all students going forward.

“This is about breaking a model that isn’t really working” in education, said Brian Kibby, president of McGraw-Hill Higher Education, in an interview.

Now, I like the direction that this takes us. The learning process can be accelerated to a degree that students start to learn more quickly and advance through curriculums with better comprehension then at any time in the past.

“It changes what is normally a static product to something that’s individualized to the learner,” said Ulrik Christensen, Chief Executive of Area9, the McGraw-Hill partner that developed the technology behind SmartBook.

The only drawback I can even remotely see with this learning system would be in the basic reality of our “human-ness” during the course of answering the initial five questions. If a student is given the opportunity to excel, they may not make the choices that would point them in that direction due to a reluctance to push the envelope. The option to take the red pill or the blue pill, ala The Matrix, might not lead them to the fastest path to the academic summit. I don’t want to say a child may opt for answers that throw off the results due to laziness, but a reluctance to continually work at the highest level may not be all that enticing to a young mind in the midst of expanding the boundaries of knowledge.

All reservations aside, this is an incredible piece of technological forethought and innovation. The years of educational publishing and market research that McGraw possesses would make me believe that this educational leap will be hugely successful. Though I am sad to see the age of textbooks disappearing before our very eyes, the content and the process are the most important features that need to be considered as our children walk through our current educational system. Finding the path of least resistance to graduate the best in future minds should be the prime objective in any educational strategy going forward. How we get there will take many different and disparate avenues, but ultimately we must be successful in shaping the leaders of tomorrow.

To finish up with the space analogies, I would much rather be quoting the “One small step” from Neil Armstrong, than the “Houston, we have a problem” from Jim Lovell in terms of our educational system and learning process!

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The Digital Age: Back to the Future with Paper

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The one thing I have always been in my professional career is someone who cares about the environment.  As you work in publishing for a number of years, you see that we are a fraternity of professionals who know that our products can have detrimental side-effects for the planet, so we weigh these issues in the balance as we make our choices on where to print, how many to print, how much paper to use in filing and invoicing and what vendors carry forth our own concerns for bio-responsible resource usage.  Sometimes the road is long and difficult when cost stipulations are thrown into the equation.

When I first walked into my new position as Production Manager in 2004, there were file cabinets everywhere with production folders.  Each folder contained contracts, purchase orders, specification paperwork and invoices from the vendors who worked on the project.  When a project completed, we would receive an invoice that would be in paper form mailed to us from the individual vendor that was seeking payment.  These invoices would then be copied into duplicate, triplicate and sometimes quadruplicate copies so that all departments that needed to see the copy would have a copy on file.  When a title was going through the manuscript to bound book process, we would receive pdf files that would be loaded for us onto our ftp (File-Transfer-Protocol) site, and then they would be printed out on our copier and shipped out via overnight mail to authors, proofreaders and indexers.  We were generating a very large carbon footprint.

As I have stated before, I am a tech guy and love gadgets.  The Book Kahuna also loves his planet because, where else can we go?  Right now no other planets are receptive to having us, so we have to make due where we are.  I’m also not a proponent of global warming or climate change political dogma, but I believe that being a good steward of the planet and the resources we have for the generation that succeeds us is the only right and fair way to live on this biosphere.  Leave the planet as you found it, but make good use, in an environmentally friendly way, of the resources that are here for the betterment of all.

I started by having all of the production paperwork generated electronically.  Everything was stored in a folder framework on our server.  Each person in my department had a file, and could add folders to the file when needed for the new titles they were working on at any given time.  Invoices were sent to us via e-mail, where they were converted from their original format to a pdf.  I worked with the IT department to get everyone in my department the full version of Adobe Acrobat to insert text codes for our accounting department.  I incorporated digital signatures into the invoicing process so that a completely coded, signed version of the invoice was e-mailed to our Accounting Department.  If accounting needed to make a copy of the invoice, then there was only one piece of paper generated as opposed to 4-7 copies previously.

When we received pdfs (Portable-Document-Formats) of page proofs from our vendors, my staff  e-mailed them or loaded them onto the ftp site on our server for the authors, proofreaders, and indexers.  If the author or proofreader found any errors that needed to be corrected, we suggested they only print the page being corrected and mark it up.  If they had access to a scanner they could scan it and e-mail it back to us.  They could also fax the pages, although we tried to get auhors/vendors to send the pages overnight mail if that was the only way available rather than making another copy.  There was a conscious effort on my part to reduce paper in my department by a geometric proportion.

If you are going to use a digital product on your tablet like Evernote, why do you need a paper-based notebook as an accessory as well?

Hey Doc, let’s get the DeLorean ready to rock and roll!



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Fly the Friendly Skies? But Keep Your Ipad Turned Off

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I just finished reading this article about various types of tech that are not permitted to be active while a plane is in flight.  From what I gather from this article, Ipads, cell phones, and laptops that are set for internet access can generate an electromagnetic pulse that may jeopardize the flight.  I loved the comparison of Steve Jobs print biography and an e-book of the same on an Ipad with the weight difference in pounds heavily in favor of the print selection.  No, I do not want to get hit in the head with a copy of the print book, but when it comes to flying, I’ll let the individual airlines and FAA set the rules as to what is permissible and what is not.

There was a flight to Paris that took off from Kennedy Airport in Queens, NY in 1996.  The flight was a routine summer flight that was taking off at 9:30 PM on July 17, 1996.  About twelve minutes after take-off the plane exploded above the Atlantic off the towns of Moriches on Long Island’s South Shore.  The final investigation by the NTSB was that there had been a spark in the fuel tank that had caused the catastrophic failure of the planes structure after an internal explosion.  This explosion was also precipitated by a high-volume increase in the pressure within the fuel cell which eventually destroyed the flight.  Why is this a significant discussion based on our initial information on Ipads and cell phones?  Because the exact cause of the crash has never been ascertained to a high-degree of certainty.

If the fuel tank explosion brought down TWA Flight 800, than a similar problem should have occurred on another flight either prior to or after this devastating tragedy.  Although two other flights may have experienced similar problems (Avianca Flight 203 and Philippine Airlines Flight 143), this does not seem to mesh with the number of flights that actually occur in the course of a year much less over many years time.  There are other theories as to why flight 800 crashed (a US navy missile cruiser was in the area at the time and a rogue missile was thought to have struck the plane) but nothing concrete has ever been brought to light that would overturn the fuel tank explanation.  Is this something that could happen again, the answer would have to be Yes.

Now, getting back to the question at hand:  Should we allow people to use devices that may generate an electromagnetic pulse that could be harmful to the operation of the flight?  The answer is no.  If the decision were made that these devices were allowed, I would be on-board with that as well, but the FAA and the airlines have to be the ones who decide, and public pressure should not be a determining factor when safety issues are in play.  Why add one more item into the mix of things that may be harmful, when just by keeping them turned off there is no danger to the flight, crew and/or passengers?  Also, the pilots have enough to worry about in flying the plane, why throw one more thing at them that could cause a bad day to get really bad quickly?

In this case, bring the e-reader but leave the wireless setting on “OFF”.  Being safe is many times better than being sorry!

Suggested Book Readings:

1.  The Downing of Flight 800

2.  First Strike:  TWA Flight 800 and the Attack on America


Publishing like it Oughta Be!  (Homage to the ’86 Mets!)


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