Untethered: The Wrap Up and Drinking Game

Thursday 17 June I attended The Big Money’s “Untethered” conference, all about publishing in the tablet era (0_o). As predicted, it was high in unintentional comedy, with some sessions that I hope are made available online for their unparalleled awesomeness. Be warned: this entry is HELLA LONG but the sections about NPR (awesome) and the device panel where folks were dismissive of the consumer who asked a question about ebook pricing (me) are probably the juicy parts if you want to skip ahead.

Don Graham, CEO of Washington Post, began the sessions by speaking from the perspective of a reader – I have to wonder if being the reader is like establishing street cred. Sadly, I don’t think enough of the reader perspective was prevalent in the sessions that followed, though I appreciated Graham’s impressions of his own perspective.

Graham was an early adopter of the Kindle: “I’ve been reading all my life, and I developed a set of prejudices and preferences I didn’t fully understand. With the Kindle, I noticed what the same, and what was different.”

Note: no one from Amazon was present, and neither was anyone from Apple. So to begin a conference discussing the “Tablet Era” which has been brought about by the arrival of one particular machine that is not from Amazon, and, in my opinion, one particular machine that’s not much of a device for reading, was interesting.

I would have raised a lighter in support of Graham’s statements about how the Kindle changed reading in his opinion. While publishing, he said, hasn’t changed much since the days of Gutenberg, the Kindle was an enormous step forward. Using the device, he could read whatever he wanted wherever he was, without limits by geography. Newspapers from around the world available on Kindle, so if he wants to read a newspaper from China, he can. If he wants to read the Washington Post while he’s in a place that doesn’t receive the print edition, he can. I thought Graham’s examples of the global and local advantages – read your hometown newspaper wherever you are, and read international newspapers wherever you are – was fascinating.

He also brought up the change in reading brought by digital readers like the Kindle that most readers his age welcome? Size of type adjustment. (Oh hell yes!) *Raises lighter*

Next was Sarah Rotman Epps from Forrester Research, and before I recap her much-quoted statistics, here’s my entry for Totally Looks Like:

Sarah Rotman Epps:

totally look like…

Rachel Maddow

OK, moving on.

Rotman Epps kicked off the drinking game with the most-commonly used word in the whole show: “Form factor.” What the hell is form factor, you ask? It’s the physical dimensions of a computer, or, in other words, what it looks like, how much it weighs, what features it has, and how big it is.

The tablet is not a new form factor. There have been tablets since 1993. But Apple makes your content look SO MUCH better, it’s hard to resist. According to their research, the Kindle is a portable device mostly used outside the home. The iPad is used most often inside the home. The iPad expands the use of computers to rooms where they were not so common, like the bathroom. Because of it’s… wait for it…. FORM FACTOR, the iPad is a device you use where laptops are not as common. The question of the iPad is not just how it is used but WHERE it is used.

Forrester predicts exponential growth of tablet pcs, but only slight growth of dedicated ereaders. Desktop users will decline but still be the most predominant device. As Sarah Weinman (aka “The Real Sarah W”) noted in her wrap up Forrester also predicted that ebooks would bring in $7.8b in revenue by 2006. So, as always, a grain of salt is a good thing when looking at statistical predictions – and these are the ones most reported and re-tweeted after the conference that I’ve seen:

By 2012: Forrester predicts there will be more tablets than dedicated eReaders.
By 2014: the tablets will outnumber netbook computers.

Time to print out those TEAM TABLET t-shirts, right?

Not so fast: according to the same prediction set, tablets will still be outnumbered by smartphone users, and PC desktop users as well.

Rotman-Epps also stated that the most common question from publishers: do we need on iPad? Do we need to be on android? Her answer: “Your future is multi- platform and app centric.”

(Later in the day, NPR’s CEO explained how NPR accomplished that goal, with a multi-platform, app-centric connection point for just about everyone who wanted NPR access, so there was some practical application included, too – woo!)

Rotman-Epps stated that last year, more phone shipped with android installed than iPhone, so if she “had to put my money on where tablet market is going, its most likely to be smart phones, not tablets.”

The next panel was about “The Media’s Digital Plans” and featured Sarah Chubb, President of Conde Nast Digital, Matt Jones, the VP of Mobile Strategy for Gannett Digital, Jeff Price, President and Publisher of Sporting News, Vijay Ravindran, Sr. VP and Chief Digital Officer (that’s a cool title) for The Washington Post.

The panel started off with a discussion of one of the points Rotman-Epps made: a multi-device and multi-platform publishing world means print has room, too. There are people who will want static text. And that is fine. But how to do that economically? (SW: This is news? That print has an audience? Holy smoke!)

I *think* it was Matt Jones who began by explaining that customer expectations are high, and it was hard to meet expectations. (SW: I don’t actually think that is true. Confusion of expectations comes from not listening to us.)

Sarah Chubb then explained how they didn’t think so, because they were looking at different groups of customers: “We suspected early on that certain customers (for example, a GQ customer, which is why GQ was one of the early iPhone apps) might not subscribe to a print magazine, but would read digital newsstand copy on their iPhone. The early adopter who loves beautiful Apple experience is our customer.”

So listening to customers and understanding that they don’t all want the exact same presentation of content in the exact same… wait for it… device form factor is key to success? THE DEVIL YOU SAY. Much more interesting statement than “customers want stuff and it’s hard to meet their pesky expectations.”

Jeff Price from Sporting News rocked it. He spoke about sticking to their strengths (which is sporting news for specific sports) and focusing on that information in multiple platforms. The question he is most often asked is, “What platforms are you on?” which led him to make the point that his “future focus is on real time” delivery of data in multiple platforms.      

One audience member asked a key question for Chubb: can there be universal subscription so content is in every device for one subscription price? Her answer: They are “working through possibilities.”

I’d personally be very curious to see if someone subscribed to print and digital, or digital on more than one device or platform – like iPhone & web access vs. iPhone and print. 

Then the next questioner said, “That’s because consumers want it for free.” I wanted to stand up and yell but restrained myself. No, we do not have expectations of free content. Maybe some people do but I absolutely do not believe we are the majority. HOWEVER, we don’t want to pay for the same thing multiple times.

The next panel could have moved much more quickly: “Will the Ipad Kill Off eReaders?” Short answer: No. By this point the sessions were 20 minutes behind schedule so we could have caught up by giving the answer and moving on to the next one. But if we had, there would have been some high comedy and abject rudeness missed – this is the panel where I dared ask a question about ebook pricing.

It was a panel of unintentional comedy, as Sarah Weiman said. IRex is bankrupt, Spring Design sued Barnes and Noble and they’re sitting next to each other. The entire tone of the panel was defensive, and this seems so counter-productive – because the individuals present – Anthony “Condescension, I has It” Astarita, VP of Digital Products for Barnes & Noble, David Donovan, Sr. VP of Business Development for IREX, Priscilla “It’s not for you, it’s for me” Lu, CEO of Spring Design, and Bob Nell, Dir. of Business Development, Digital Reading Business Division for Sony USA – could have spun the session from negative to positive.

For example: “No, iPads will not kill the digital readers. Here are some features that my/our device has that the iPad cannot replicate (like, um, the ability to READ OUTSIDE).” But no one would discuss product development or future features (which, given the litigation was somewhat understandable) or step away one inch from the defensive tone. The title of the session was unfortunate, but the conduct of some of the panelists was even worse.

Lu spent some time discussing the openness of Alex device and closed platform of Apple and Kindle. She pointed out that the user interface needs to be as good as the closed system ui for any of their devices. Nell also touted the open platform of the Sony, stating that users can get books from a variety of locations, including the library.

The moderator made the point that to a consumer, the closed systems don’t seem closed because consumers can buy one book and read it in multiple places. Mr. Nell’s response cued my question: “Open platforms are very important. ”

I outed myself during the Q&A as a Kindle user by pointing out that I carry both a digital reading device AND an iPad because I cannot stand reading on the iPad. It’s uncomfortable and impractical in locations where I like to read (such as, anywhere the sun shines). Because the panel spent so much time talking about that open platform, I had to ask: when prices are so high and so varied outside of the closed-system vendors, what’s the point or advantage of open? What is the value of an open platform when ebooks cost so much?

My answer was: dismissal, derision, and affront. Why? How much I pay for an ebook is important. To me.

Nell noted that my question was a loaded one (Yes. Yes, it was) and that pricing is something they are grappling with too. He gave a skimming explanation of the agency model, but didn’t really give an answer.

Lu then said, that when she discusses “open platform,” that “open” doesn’t mean open for me, as a consumer. Open is for her as a device manufacturer, not me as a consumer, because their device may be open but the bookstore that uses it may be closed. She then said that her device was for business-to-business use, not business-to-consumer use.

Farhad Manjoo, the Slate Technology Columnist then asked, “Doesn’t that mean that consumer choosing your device will have to pay more for books?” Nell: “Yes.”

Then came my favorite moment. Anthony Astarita said in as snide a voice as you can imagine, “Enjoy your $9.99 bestsellers while you can.”


I outed myself as Kindle user and was dismissed as not worth manufacturer time and spoiled idiot who doesn’t understand prices. If there was any doubt to whether reader is actual participant in development of digital publishing or just meaningless buzzword used by speakers, the response to my question about ebook prices eliminated it. Reader is tangential to irrelevant. Wow.

To add to the iron-y rich atmosphere: I use a Kindle but don’t actually buy that many books from Amazon. I buy mobi files, strip the DRM, and email them to the Kindle. So I circumvent the closed system and don’t access my books on my phone or my laptop, price compare for .mobi files (which are increasingly difficult to find) and use the Kindle because of the ease-of-loading and the screen quality.

But don’t mind me. I’m just a consumer who should enjoy my spoiled price-deluded reading material while I still can. (It was awhile before I picked my jaw up off the floor.)

Then came one of the best panels of the day: an interview with Vivian Schiller, CEO of NPR. Oh, if polygamy were legal, I’d ask her to digitally marry me.

NPR decided (WISELY) to focus all their data into an API and therefore build apps faster, customized for each platform. This echoes what Foursquare said at the Mashable conference: they focused on the API, trusting that individuals who wanted apps for specific platforms would build them on their own. In other words, if you build the API, the platforms will come to you.

NPR is unique as a case study (that more publishers should study) because they are a mission-driven not-for-profit: their goal is to have their content available as much as possible. Individual radio stations can use content and localize with their own additions. Developers have created new products for various platforms and as they do, they bring more audience members to their content stream. In one example, a Google developer built the NPR android app as part of his pro-bono hours for the company – and he was motivated in part by the desire to listen to NPR. In another, the NPR iPad app was built specifically for the iPad and developed and released in only three weeks.

The interesting thing about NPR’s customized iPad app is that the iPad is not listening device. (SW: I use it to listen to Pandora all the time – does that count?) Are users approaching the NPR app for listening use or news-reading use? Schiller noted that it was a bit too soon to know how everyone will use the app. While the iPad is not a natural listening device, it absolutely moves NPR to a greater news audience.   

And that was the crux of her interview: NPR wants to serve their audience and present their content with fewest number of steps. They want to direct listeners to local stations but all their news is at NPR.org. They want to get their information to the audience. (I was seriously about to swoon and wanted to give a standing ovation when she was done. Not only did she say she was all about the audience/reader/listener but she explained HOW that individual and those groups were served by the various NPR apps and platforms. LE SWOON!)  

To answer the question of apps vs web – Schiller noted that we were “two seconds into long history of tablets for media. It’s easier to go to the web but only because there aren’t that many apps designed for iPad in mind. The iPad is not same as iPhone, and NPR recognizes that.”

Schiller also spent time explaining the unique position of NPR: they are predominantly radio. But they are “obsessive” about researching their audience: “what do they want? What are they listening to?” They don’t compete with magazines and tv, because “radio is literally a unique voice.” But 35 MILLION people consume NPR in one form or another, and they’re not out to compete with tv and print – there is room for their voice. Radio isn’t dead and it’s not going anywhere (thank heaven) but Schiller acknowledged that “radio-to-text is tricker than text-newspaper-to-digital-text.” Because of that complex transition, all NPR reports had digital media training made possible by a Knight Foundation grant, so they had to learn the differences and unique factors of digital media vs. radio.

The two most common phrases used in NPR interview: “form factor” and “to the audience.” That speaks, to make a bad joke, volumes because the iPad is unique in it’s style and usage, but the audience is the one who determines how it’s going to be used, and that’s often on a unit-by-unit basis. How I use my iPad is different from how someone else might use theirs, even with the exact same apps in the exact same order. NPR’s focus on their audience development and retention identifies that not everyone is a “listener” – some might be “readers” or “watchers” and they design their apps with purpose, use and device-specific features in mind. SERIOUSLY. I AM GOING TO SWOON if I keep thinking about how awesome she was. And it’s not rocket science. How much could other audience-ignorant operations learn from NPR? Oh, the places they could go.

After NPR, there was a panel on Apps which said nothing of interest because no one would talk about what was coming next. If the panelists kept saying, “We are at the beginning of…” they never placed themselves in the next box on the board game of the tablet era because they wouldn’t discuss upcoming hardware or software, which gave me a massively frustrated sadface.

Then came the CEO panel, where everyone was frantically transcribing the 20 minutes of conversation between Peter Davis, President of McGraw-Hill, Brian Murray, President and CEO of HarperCollins, Carolyn Reidy, President and CEO of Simon & Schuster, David Steinberger, President and CEO of The Perseus Books Group, and Tom Turvey, Director, of Strategic Partnerships for Google.

Mmmmm. That last one is rich in iron-y and (folic) acid.

Moderator Peter Osnos began the session by saying publishing is not in peril. The business model is healthy.

SAY IT WITH ME NOW: “It’s just a flesh wound!”

The key moment for me was Reidy using the example of bundling – print with digital, or print with audio, for example – as ways that publishing is considering adapting to the increasing digital marketplace, but when Osnos pressed her to state that Simon & Schuster were considering those options in the near future, she said they were not: “Bundling is confusing for the consumer,” she said, and it’s “difficult to figure out the royalties.”

Let’s say it again! “It’s just a flesh wound!”

Others, including Cal Reid at Publisher’s Weekly covered the full import of the CEO panel better than I did. All I could think of was Monty Python. It’s just a flesh wound! We don’t know what the consumer wants yet! We’re on the edge of the future! This is just the beginning!

But that didn’t stop me from compiling the Untethered Drinking Game! This was the first of what I believe will be an annual conference, so bring your flask next year and see if you hear any of the following words!

Return on investment of branding: refill needed, then 6 sips

Form factor: 2 sips

App centric: 1 sip

Curation: 1 sip

Sunsetting products (WTF does that mean?): CHUG TO DULL THE PAIN

“We have to focus on consumer:” 1 sip

“We don’t know what the consumer wants yet:” CHUG TO DULL THE PAIN

Core competency: 2 sips

Double edged: 4 sips

Workflow to keep up with uniqueness: 4 sips

“In the eyes of the customer…”: 3 sips

“In the eyes of the customer” followed by something a customer would never, ever ask for in a million, billion years: go get a refill

“To be in all the right places:” 2 sips

“Get your house in order:” 3 sips

“Healthy price for content:” CHUG TO DULL THE PAIN

DICHOTOMY: Weep into your flask to dilute the contents.

Packaging of content: 2 sips

Platform agnostic: 4 sips

Evergreen: 5 sips

Ecosystem: 1 sip

Organic: 2 sips

Enabling content: 3 sips

B to b, b to c: doodle alphabet in condensation on tabletop

Global market not just US: 2 gulps

Derision, dismissal and patronization of question from reader perspective: omg, drink with me.

Game changer: HOLD YOUR FIRE. Your liver cannot take that kind of abuse!

Discovery (as a verb): 2 sips

Transformative challenges: 4 sips

Leveraging based on user ability: CHUG

“Sky’s the limit, and we’re getting there:” TIME FOR A REFILL!

Contentizing with commerce engine: drink until that makes sense. Never mind. It doesn’t.

Harness function of search space: See above.

Architecting device agnostic options: CHUG TO DULL THE PAIN

Media marketing value chain: Just bring a fifth with you next time. This is crazy!      

So there you have it, my long-ass Untethered wrap up. I’m not usually one to make product purchase decisions based on one employee’s conduct, but I noticed that, despite the announcement today that the Nook is $149 with wifi and $199 with 3G, I’m completely and utterly not interested because I’m going to go pretend to enjoy my $9.99 bestsellers (that I don’t buy) while I can. Pah.



Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Jan Oda says:

    Seems like my low expectations, caused by the “who owns the costumers” line, were met.
    Except maybe for NPR.

  2. 2
    meoskop says:

    Yea, I’ll never consider the Nook for about the same reason. I appreciate the hard sell they’re giving e-reading, but I don’t care for their corporate structure.

    I love this wrap up, but I have to say – did you really not know that the reader is the absolute lowest point of consideration for publishing ? (in general) We’re not their customer. We’re their customer’s customer and therefore not their problem. The dismissal has been pretty clear and actually removed all my deeply entrenched reservations about removing DRM. I’m not pirating, but I went from happy enough to live with DRM to Aw Hell No over the course of agency modeling.

  3. 3
    SB Sarah says:

    I’m not pirating, but I went from happy enough to live with DRM to Aw Hell No over the course of agency modeling.

    @meoskop, I am raising my lighter in tribute and singing along with you, there.

  4. 4
    Teddypig says:

    Those Forrester Research numbers were freaking hilarious.

    What bothered me most was not only the disregard for “the reader” or “the customer” but the disregard for the iPhone/Android Phone markets that are gaining strength with higher graphics and bigger screens and are multi-functioning thus more likely to be bought by consumers and were one of the main thrusts for a healthy eBook market to begin with.

    They seem to be focused only on products “labeled” (tablet or readers) and not on functions or apps in the smart phone markets changing as we speak.

    But then these speakers were not representing the hot companies in the current market just the failing ones.

    iRex and HP? Really!

  5. 5
    Teddypig says:

    I still buy Microsoft .lit format if available to strip DRM easily or I have started playing with the FIctionwise Secure eReader format which can also be stripped easily it seems.

    But the prices have really put a lid on buying most mainstream publishers eBooks.

  6. 6
    Scrin says:

    I had a minor premonition that SOMEONE on that panel is going to regret that dismissal of a question.

    Just sayin’. I would piss off these classy bitches for any amount of money. ESPECIALLY not on company time.

    Also, it looks to me…well, without Amazon and Apple there, this is mostly just a gathering of the small-timers, trying to tell people they’re important, that they’re movers and shakers in the industry…when they’ll be in panic mode the next time Google or Apple announce something.

    With apologies to NPR, of course. NPR is awesome.

  7. 7
    Scrin says:

    Wouldn’t piss them off. Wouldn’t. Wouldn’t.

    Damn typos.

  8. 8
    terripatrick says:

    Thanks for embracing the transformative challenges to inform us consumers regarding the media marketing value chain.  Now we can understand the game changer of sunsetting products and architecting device agnostic options and harness function of search space.

    I’m in awe of your workflow to keep up with uniqueness and think your form factor is stellar.  You and NPR really understand enabling content and packaging of content is worthless without a consumer who wants that content.

    OMG!  my head hurts.  Good thing I have a printed magazine, a paperback novel and can listen to NPR on a radio.  Life is good.

  9. 9
    meganb says:

    I’m only part way through the post, but I couldn’t stay silent any longer.

    “Untethered” my ass.  In my lovely home in Portland, OR, I have wifi, and I even can sometimes get my iPhone to get a 3G signal.  I am now at my aunt’s in the wilds of Monterey County, CA.  There is no wifi, there is no AT&T signal (my uncle laughed so hard he had to pull over when I asked) and there is no laptop for me to sync my iPad or iPhone to.  I may be wandering into the bathroom with the iPad, but it’s not to stay connected to anything, and I sure as hell can’t download any new content.

    Theoretically, I can download anything I want to read any time (as long as it’s epublished in the first place), but in practice that only works when I’m in a metropolitan area.

    So, what am I doing today on my vacay?  I’m driving an hour and a half to Monterey to take my aunt to the doctor, and to go to a [major chain bookstore] for the free wifi and a book or two.

    I’m getting a little worked up.

  10. 10
    Mireya says:

    DRM what is that… oh right, that thingie I delete from my ebook purchases … *snort*

    Head’s firmly stuck up their asses … not that I am surprised…

  11. 11

    I’ve been waiting for your summary, and you did not disappoint.  Not surprised that NPR is the king of awesomeness.

    I guess I’ll continue to enjoy my $9.99 bestsellers while I can, too. 


    Thank you again for attending these conferences (so we don’t have to).

  12. 12
    jody says:

    Has no one learned ANYTHING from Detroit?  You can make stuff, great stuff all day long, but if no one wants to buy it, you’re in doo-doo, real fast.


  13. 13
    Kerry says:

    Using the device, he could read whatever he wanted wherever he was, without limits by geography.

    Okay, so personal hot-button here, but this statement you quoted from Don Graham got my hackles up.

    Clearly then, he’s an American who hasn’t had to deal with geographic restrictions.

    If this were true and geography wasn’t a limiting factor, I’d be able to buy the ebooks I want instead of constantly hitting the “cannot sell to your geographical location” roadblock.

    Between this and DRM, it’s a good thing I’ve got a helpful, tech-savvy husband to help me shop!

  14. 14
    meoskop says:

    Kerry, as a fan of European nonfiction, I have to say that the restriction are not limited to one country. I’m willing to give Waterstone’s (or the like) fist fulls of cash for access to their books – sadly I’m stuck with Glenn Beck books instead of a thoughtful examination of Bedlam. (Wait, that’s the same book, isn’t it?)

  15. 15

    Bravo for standing up for the consumers, but in the long run I think the big boys pricing will cost them the game.  While the major pubs want to list for 9.99 and above, most indie authors sell their books for far, far less. 

    It’s nice that the Royals are helping out indie authors by doing what we can’t do ourselves – leveling the playing field.

    Game On!!!

  16. 16
    Marsha says:

    1) You really heard “game changer”?  I’m so proud!  We use it all the live long day at work (in a completely different industry that is also facing challenges relating to channels, public perception, availability/desirability of new products).  That I’m asked to hold my fire in the drinking game is no guarantee that I’ll do just that.  There!  Chugged the last of the vinho verde and feelin’ ffffiiiiinnne…..

    2) The idea that readers are “the customers of their customers” is one I hadn’t considered before.  (So much for the expensive MBA.)  Without their customers’ customers, though, there’s not much of a business and these companies had better expand their worldview.  Despite my frequent claim that “I’ll read anything as long as it’s something to read” the truth lies somewhere far south of that – make it easy, make it accessible, make if affordable, make it good and I’m with you.  Otherwise, there are UBSs, friends’ overburdened shelves, libraries and direct contribution to authors whose work I’ve enjoyed (yes, I’ve done that). 

    I don’t need these people nearly as much as they need me.  They just don’t know it yet.  Kind of sad, really.

  17. 17
    Meredith says:

    I love NPR. :)

    How can you manage to make even a wrap-up of an all-day conference like this fun to read?

  18. 18

    I’d love to buy you a drink just for having had the fortitude to sit through that BS. (NPR aside)

    It’s that kind of close-minded, dismissive craptastic attitude that has pushed me to publish my next book on Smashwords – in multiple formats for a variety of devices, no DRM, and at a reasonable price that I, the author, set. This post just reinforces that I’ve made the right decision. 

    Alienate the readers enough and that wound will be fatal…

  19. 19
    saltwaterknitter says:

    If the aliens ever land in my garden and ask me to take them to my leader, I’m directing them to you, Sarah.

        I’m so grateful you are wiling to take the time to explain and discuss this issue. You’re like a genius technical writer, taking hugely complicated ideas and definitions, and putting them into real life concepts I can relate to and understand. I frequently hear and read about this in lots of other places, but I mainly rely on you to translate the e.reading issue into my native language. Because usually? I can’t freaking understand what they’re talking about let alone how it relates to me.

        Why don’t they have you (yes, you, specifically), and people like you helping with design and content? It kind of sounds like they really do neglect the reader aspect, which, hello?  Isn’t the reader the whole (freaking) point?

        I want an ereader, but I’m waiting until there is a better one out there, one I just can’t live without. I can totally live without the current crop of readers and tablets and smartphones. I read everywhere (in traffic, the bathroom, the bed, the plane, coffeeshops, parks, the gym, etc), so ebooks would absolutely fit into my life in a wonderful way, the key words being ‘a wonderful way.’ Not ‘still buggy and problematic way.’  And fyi, I don’t want free books. My mother trained me from a young age to feel like I was getting the better end of the bargain when I paid for a book, and I’m doing the same with my daughters. I like the idea that my money helps my favorite author eat three meals a day so she can write more books. However, I can’t afford to buy all of the five or more books a week that I read…SO… I need an e.reader that lets me check out library books. This is a critical selling point for me. Also, I listen to NPR off and on all day and sometimes night long.  Being able do to the same with an e.reader or tablet will absolutely influence what I eventually buy.

  20. 20
    Gretchen says:

    Great recap, thank you for being so smart so I don’t have to. I do have to admit shaking my head at the perplexity(?) displayed at the term sunsetting. It’s well known term in the IT industry and has been used for years by software manufacturers. The funny thing is that the concept echoes the very attitude that seemed to draw your ire the most (assuming I didn’t completely misread the article). The manufacturer retains the right to decide when the useful life of a product has ended, without regard to what their customers may think. Oh, and by the way we have this new product with all the blinky things enabled that will allow you to experience that new app smell and remind you of the joy of finding all those pesky bugs they finally managed to remove from the previous generation product anew.

  21. 21
    Jon F. Merz says:

    Thanks for the recap!  As a traditionally pub’d author who is now embracing indie ebook publishing on the Kindle, this is just one more indicator that big publishers have failed to. get. it.

    The future is going to be paved by smart authors who know how to reach their audience and offer the most entertaining stories at the best prices.  With the technology now available, we can do that and bypass all those NYC middlemen.  Now that’s pretty freakin’ cool.

    Have a great day!

  22. 22
    missfancy says:

    @Saltwaterknitter…as far as I know, both the nook (which I own and love) and the Kindle will let you check out library books.  I would imagine most ereaders have this capability.  The key is whether or not your local library has ebooks.

    @Everybody in general…I am not a bit surprised that consumers aren’t condsidered much, because consumers are notorious for not actually knowing what they need/want, and saying one thing in focus groups but doing the complete opposite in practice.  Ever heard the saying “Buyers are liars?”  Sounds harsh, and I was horrified when I first encountered it when I went into commission sales, but not only personal experience but business book after business book bears me out, even the ones written by consumer centric gurus like Guy Kawasaki.  I personally have given up listening to my clients and have instead just presented my products/services in a very honest, straightforward fashion, and have been rewarded by markedly increased sales and happier clients.  Weird, but you gotta go with what works for all parties.

    I think it’s like parenting.  Give kids too many choices and let them have too many opinions and too much control and you’ll create a monster.  Tell them “this is how it is, deal with it” and they comply.  No surprise that consumers respond exactly the same way.

    Where exactly did we get the idea that the world should be completely customizable and conform exactly to our expectations anyway?  Isn’t that the very definition of entitlement?

  23. 23
    missfancy says:

    Forgot one last thing…remember the episode of the Simpsons where Homer got to design the “Homermobile?”  That’s why consumers aren’t invited to the design party.

    Also, there’s a hilarious site that I can’t remember the name of where graphic designers post their horror stories about problem clients.  If you ever run across it, take a few minutes to read, because these stories are close to being the norm in design and consultative sales.

  24. 24
    SB Sarah says:

    @saltwaterknitter: thank you! That’s some high praise right there. I’m all blushing now. Thank you very much.

    @missfancy: to my knowledge you cannot read library books on the Kindle, and I am not sure at all about the Nook. I suspect the answer is a solid “Yes With Steps:” per this link


    You should be able to register the device and download the book through Adobe Digital Editions and move it onto a Nook. Note: “Should.” I’ve never, alas, made any of this work on the first try unless the book was bare-ass naked of any DRM technology.

    You can definitely read library books on the Sony, and I believe the Kobo, pending registration and other steps above.

  25. 25
    meoskop says:

    @missfancy – wow – my career completely refutes yours. Mine shows me that maximum profit arises from identifying consumer need and meeting it in as cost effective a method as possible – that notifying my clients of more attractive pricing options increases long term contracts and respect for their business model (square peg? square hole!) increases access to sales opportunity.

    I don’t think it’s entitled to say “Why should I pay 8.39 for a use restricted copy of a 7.99 book at is widely available in paper for 5.49?”  That’s just basic sense. If the paper copy doesn’t meet my needs, I’m going to find another vendor.

  26. 26
    Brigit says:

    Using the device, he could read whatever he wanted wherever he was, without limits by geography.

    That’s so obviously not true (I wonder if he ever tried to buy content for the Kindle while being outside the US); I’m just glad I checked the (non-)availability of my favorite authors before shelling out all my hard-earned Euros for the device. What a disappointment that would have been.

  27. 27
    Laurel says:

    There is a huge difference between overwhelming a consumer with too many choices and dismissing the consumer’s needs entirely.  I’ve been in sales of one kind or another for nearly twenty years and have found that yes, absolutely you can kill a sale by offering too much choice. You freak somebody out with more info than they can handle and they decide to cool their boots while they do more research.

    Effective sales discussion, however, the kind that closes business, involves me talking less than 25% of the time and when I do talk it is to ask a question. About that person’s specific need. What product they do use. What do they like about it. Is there something that product doesn’t do for them that they wish it would.

    Publishing is not doing this. They are trying to defend the way they do business instead of adjust to the market.

    eBooks are a simple product made complicated by equal parts paranoia and resistance to change. It is content in digital form. The labor pool for developing (authors) and polishing (editors) content is already in place. It starts off in electronic form anyway.

    How FRIGGIN hard is it to keep in digital form and sell it to me? And for the love of all that is holy, STOP telling me how much of my money a book, digital or print, is worth. I decide that. The publisher gets to decide how much they have to charge for however many they think they can sell and turn a profit. If they guess wrong, that’s not my fault. It’s just business and risk applies to every product or service out there. Telling me that a book is worth $25 doesn’t make me say, “Oh, alrighty then,” and plunk down my money. Telling me that you will go out of business if I don’t pay $25 for a product I think is worth half that doesn’t work, either.

    I would absolutely pay $25.00 for an eBook, on the release date, that I have been waiting a year for. I’ll pay $12.99 for it from B&N if I can get it on the release date instead of $9.99 for the Kindle version six weeks later. And I own a Kindle. I will not pay that for an author I’ve not had the chance to sample.

    If I am not buying a proven commodity, then somewhere between $5 and $7 is where I want to be. Non traditional, strictly ePub companies are turning a profit at that price point so I’d really like to stop hearing about how it’s unsustainable.

  28. 28
    sao says:

    What I find interesting is that publishers have said for years that it is bestsellers which make their profits. But when I look at how badly they serve their customers with e-books, I wonder if they know how to sell print books, too. Maybe their business has always been selling to the bookstores, not the readers.

    I don’t know if I can read a book on my phone, but one of my requirements for a phone is that it fit comfortably in my pocket. One of my requirements for reading is that the screen/printed page be a reasonable size. The two are mutually exclusive. I have a hard time believing people who always have their phones with them and people who read a lot of books will read books on their phones.

    Developing a phone app for non-readers is nice, but I think figuring out how to capture the used book dollars and get a few bucks from people who would otherwise have gone to the library will be more profitable.

  29. 29
    Katie says:

    I agree with Kerry about the frustration of reaching the checkout only to find that the book is not available outside the US and Canada.  I don’t get the logic of this – I could buy the paperback from the US and they would happily post it to me, so why can’t I buy the ebook?

    Printed books are relatively expensive in Australia (AU$20 – 30 for a full-priced paperback), so I disagree with meoskop: I would happily pay more for an ebook that I can immediately download (DRM or not) when the alternative is waiting a week or more for the printed copy to arrive from the US or UK.

    Surely there is a huge gap in the market for an Australian ebook supplier.  We do have ereaders – we’re not that far behind, after all!

  30. 30
    MaryK says:

    @sao – I used to scoff at the idea of reading on an iPhone sized screen, but I’ve been experimenting with reading on my iTouch and am amazed at how much I like it.  In the last few years, I’ve developed a problem with attention deficit, and, to my great dismay, have become intimidated by books of any length.  Reading small blocks of text at a time distracts me from the “size” of the book.  Now if only there was a smallish e-ink device.

    “That’s because consumers want it for free.”

    Where do they get that idea, anyway?  Aren’t ebook sales increasing dramatically?  Consumers want to not get ripped off.

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