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Jason Allen Ashlock

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

Essential Reading

Essential Reading

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Why an Innovation Firm Goes to an Old-Fashioned Book Fair

Beer swilling and book selling are the two most common reasons to go to Frankfurt in October. And good reasons both. But we’re headed there for another reason: business innovation. Here’s why.

 

Publishers Gave Away 122,951,031 Books During World War II

"The plan, breathtaking in its ambition, was sure to engender skepticism among publishers asked to donate the rights to some of their most valuable property. So the chair of the committee, W.W. Norton, took care to appeal not just to the patriotism of his fellow publishers, but also to their pursuit of profits. "The net result to the industry and to the future of book reading can only be helpful," he explained. "The very fact that millions of men will have the opportunity to learn what a book is and what it can mean is likely now and in postwar years to exert a tremendous influence on the postwar course of the industry."

The Atlantic

Kids today with their selfies and their Snapchats and their love of literature.

A study out today from the Pew Research Center shows millennials are reading more books than the over-30 crowd.

Some 88 percent of Americans younger than 30 said they read a book in the past year compared with 79 percent of those older than 30. 

All authors should have a Margin Clause in their contracts. Covers are just there to protect pages with beautiful margins.

Craig Mod, writing with his characteristic blend of sentiment and instruction, reminds us to pay close attention to the “thoughtful decisions concerned with details marginal or marginalized” which “conspire to affect greatness.” Not least of these details: the margins. Worth reading twice.

You Write a Novel and Leave it on a Park Bench

“… you write a novel, and leave it on a park bench. Is this a published novel? Let’s say you print 1,000 copies, leaving them on 1,000 park benches. How about now? Or how about a publisher buys it, takes out masses of adverts, but literally no one buys a single copy? In what sense has that work been published?”

That’s the most cited passage in final papers submitted by my students in this summer’s Intro to Publishing Class. Professors of publishing, media studies, digital books, book history; students of same; professionals and the intellectually curious: if you’ve not encountered Bhaskar’s The Content Machine, find a copy soonest. 

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