Scroll to top
Jason Allen Ashlock

about

Projects Strategy Events About Contact

blog

Jason Allen Ashlock

profile

Entrepreneurship and experimentation at the intersection of traditional publishing, digital product design, and savvy authorship.

Essential Reading

Essential Reading

-->

Nook’s Pivotal Month

In early June, Barnes and Noble announced a partnership with Samsung to produce a co-branded Nook, a move that effectively signaled B&Ns evacuation of the e-reader space. CEO Huseby called it “a major milestone in Barnes & Noble’s efforts to rationalize the NOOK business.”

Now, three weeks later, Barnes and Noble announces its plans to sever the retail business from the Nook business, creating two separate, publicly-traded companies. Response among commentators, reading the latest earnings reports: it’s a good move, that will allow the stable retail business to break free of the weight of the digital.

That second announcement was really two and a half years in coming. Back in January 2012, of course, the split was attractive for exactly opposite reasonsthe Nook business was “a faster-growing technology asset trapped within a slower retail stock”. Back then, investors were “frightened of the prospect of a Barnes & Noble stock that would reflect only its traditional retail business.”

Times change. Now Nook is far from the “fast-growing tech asset” it was seen as in 2012, with revenues down 35% for the year. Suddenly it’s the retail business that shareholders wish they could value separately.

But times will change again. With its new Samsung partnership, and the decreased exposure it will enjoy by not being in the hardware development game, can Nook succeed where it once stumbled?

Perhaps. But now it will have to do so on its own.

What Byliner’s Stumble Can Teach You (and Me) About Engagement

"In other words, Byliner is a beautiful, innovative publisher with high profile contributors, but evidence suggests they do a bad job at encouraging people to visit their site and actually read and share the work they publish." 

Read Exhibits A - E for a smart checklist to have in hand when assessing your own efforts. Via LitRagger.

International Digital Publishing Forum

I’m speaking at next week’s IDPF Digital Book 2014 conference. Most know IDPF for their oversight of the EPUB standard, but they also run an intense and useful conference. Wendy Wels and Bill McCoy annually organize some of the best programming you’ll find anywhere, and I’m delighted to be a part. Hope to see you there. More info: idpf.org/db14.

Productive book-planning dinner with @scottxwayne (at Frankfurter Botschaft)

Productive book-planning dinner with @scottxwayne (at Frankfurter Botschaft)

Piss off: I’m reading ‘War and Peace’. (Or: On Interstitial Reading)

"Smartphones, even more than tablets and e-readers, have fostered a new type of reading, sometimes called “interstitial” reading. It’s the chapters, pages and paragraphs snatched up during those scraps of time that might once have been squandered on People magazine or just staring off into space. Interstitial reading happens while people are sitting in waiting rooms and the backs of taxis or standing at bus stops and in line for movie tickets or at the DMV. As un-ideal as such circumstances sound for absorbing a serious or challenging book, many smartphone owners are choosing to spend this salvaged time on literary classics.”

- Laura Miller writing in Salon.com

A Different Frankfurt Fair

Every year, once Labor Day has passed, Publishing’s thoughts turn Frankfurt-ward, eyeing the bustling bookish fair in mid-October.

But next week, mid-May, I’m heading to Frankfurt for a different reason: IMEX Frankfurt, an international gathering of meeting planners, event designers, marketing managers, tourism boards, sales directors, and vendors of various stripes. 

The seasonal shift is not by accident. Behind closed doors I’ve talked non-stop over the past year about the potential of digital publishing to break The Book out of its ghetto. Book publishing’s little corner of the global cultural economy might seem quaint and comfortable, but it will continue to shrink, its square footage reduced by the encroachment of media formats more friendly to the eye, ear, and attention span of a culture in present shock.

Unless the book pushes back.

Twice in Frankfurt I’ll be presenting on this idea: how books are the ideal means by which experiences can transcend their limitations. How digital publishing can transform an event from a one-time occurrence to an on-going relationship, from a discrete experience to an open-ended conversation. In the process, what I’m calling “event publishing” can remind us that a book is an object we can all create and deploy, a relevant and accessible technology rather than an establishment commodity.

Of course, while I’m there, I’ll stop by the Haus des Buches and talk shop. How could I not?

(If you’re in Frankfurt—or Hamburg! or Dusseldorf! Or Bonn!—and interested in publishing’s expansion, reach out: jason@thefrontierproject.com. At the very least, I’ll introduce you to Scott Wayne. And your life will never be the same.)

#PubReads

A colleague asked for recommendations for good reading about publishing. Here were my first 10 responses. What are yours? 

1. Merchants of Culture by John Thompson

2. The Late Age of Print by Ted Striphas

3. The Content Machine by Michael Bhaskar

4. Book Business by Jason Epstein

5. The Business of Books by Andre Shiffrin

6. The Time of Their Lives by Al Silverman

7. Book: A Futurist’s Manifesto, edited by Hugh McGuire and Brian O’Leary

8. Rebel Bookseller by Andrew Laties

9. A Garret at Goodge Street by Felix Dennis

10. At Random by Bennett Cerf

"In five years’ time there will be more Posman Books in Manhattan than there will be Barnes & Nobles."

-Robert Fader, VP of Posman Books, in this morning’s NPR segment on the indie chain. 

"A super-book that is engrossing, interactive, networked; with pages that change before your eyes; that knows more or less everything…A science-fictional object that served as the lodestone for Amazon’s efforts, in the early 2000s, to develop an e-reader…A palimpsest of influence, visible to all Amazon customers who log in to manage their super-book stolen from the pages of science fiction."

-Robin Sloan’s pleasant insight into Fiona, Amazon’s easter egg.

What Amazon Prime might become.

"With the influx of unlimited subscription models for our digital lifestyle consumption, I decided to figure out how much it would cost for me to access to unlimited eBooks, Movies, Music, and Magazines," says Lo Min Ming

His answer: about $75. 

This is what I think Amazon Prime aims to be - a single subscription plan for everything…”

Yup.

Let’s grow up in this business together.

MS: That story reminds me of what Michael Crichton told Lynn Nesbit when he chose her as his agent. He said, “Let’s grow up in the business together.”
SG: Yes! Jonathan and I are very close in age—he’s exactly six months older than I. We really did grow up together. I remember sitting with him and Jonathan Galassi at our table at the National Book Awards the year The Corrections had been nominated. Before the prize was announced, someone had let it be known that Jonathan had won, and we just sat and looked at each other, beaming. It felt beautiful. Jonathan Galassi had been quite new at Farrar, Straus, after he had been fired from Random House, so Jonathan Franzen was an early success of his as well.

Michael Szczerban interviews Susan Golomb in this month’s P&W.

A filter. A tool. A trend. A truth. And a question.

My picks for this week’s essential reads. (NB: this went out today to email subscribers. If you’d like to sign up, I’ll send them to you too. Only a couple of times a month. See sign-up at top of page.)


A filter.
My favorite new discovery, Delancey Place, a daily excerpt + commentary. Low on predetermination. High on serendipity.

A tool.
DotEPUB, a surprisingly tidy plug-in that transform web pages into epubs. For the extra-long reads you want to capture. (Try it with Michael Szczerban’s interview with Susan Golomb)

A trend.
As publishers (read: labels) spend less on marketing, concert bookers (read: agents) ramp up services. (Can’t wait to see a WSJ article boasting same of lit agents.) 

A truth.
In the battle of ebooks vs print books, the new Harris poll suggests we’ve reached armistice. Print holds strong, ebooks pervade, and our hybrid reality emerges.

A question.
What makes a writer’s voice distinctive, recognizable? Julia Quinn considers. And you? Which author’s work would you recognize anywhere — even without a byline?