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Jason Allen Ashlock


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Jason Allen Ashlock


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

Essential Reading

Essential Reading


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:

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

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: At the very least, I’ll introduce you to Scott Wayne. And your life will never be the same.)


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