Boy what a few weeks to be in the publishing business. Apple comes out with their iPad among the flashing lights of paparazzi and technology journalists. Macmillan and Amazon duke it out for a Price is Right type eBook war. What’s next?
The Apple of Your Eye
Apple showcased stunning photos and content from the New York Times, Time Magazine, and National Geographic during the iPad launch press conference in late January 2010. This is a blend of futuristic tools and top-rated journalism at its best. Can it work? Sure…
Then there’s Apple iBooks service. You know publishers will want to be all over this, like white on rice. This service is much the same as iTunes except for electronic books. There are plenty of opportunities for users to modify how their eBooks appear: books can be viewed one page at a time in portrait view, or two pages at a time in landscape view, and they will be able to change the font size and typeface to suit their needs and preferences.
How exciting is this? I can help my reader get the most out of my work once it’s on the Internet or in eBook format. Love it. Of course…this points to the need for writers to get their work out there.
Everyone has an opinion on how long it will take for print to be obsolete. It all serves to reinforce the importance of a writer’s adaptability.
Traditional writing styles for print media such as magazines and newspapers, niche writing for journals, and the more casual and conversational tone of online content management are all merging together.
Have you seen your favorite fashion magazine lately? It’s probably so skinny, it rivals the images of starved models inside its pages. This is all because, after years of indulging in too much advertising, now all that’s left is content! Imagine that.
So what we’re seeing in Wall Street translates into advertising and subscription reductions. Newspapers are juggling staff reorganization, reduced advertising dollars, and the prospect of having to put up pay walls (NYT paywall article here) on their online content delivery.
Major players such as the New York Times are wondering whether they should tease online readers with a preview and then ask to pay per view or for an outright subscription (more about this here).
Rupert Murdoch announced to the world that he’s now hiding his content from online search engines—inspiring both mockery and a serious conversation about protecting traditional journalism content (more on the mockery here and more on the serious discussion here).
Murdoch says that “there are no websites, news websites or blog sites anywhere in the world today making any serious money.” Are you so sure about that? Apparently, he is enough to put his money where his mouth is: “we’d rather have fewer people coming to our websites, but paying.”
Many newspapers think this is the way too, just as the Wall Street Journal has for some time now. Is this a way to protect writers’ intellectual property, protect revenue flows for hurting media, or just desperate clawing at a shriveling vintage business model? Only time will tell.
Nobody Does It Better
The New York Times has been in business for 150 years and therefore is in a position to provide a fantastic and solid role model for publications and writers everywhere.
The NYT website is content intensive, but richly and attractively displayed to appeal to all the senses. The photographs bring to life the words, the words capably paint images in the reader’s mind, and additional multimedia content (interviews and videos) helps ground the story.
The NYT proves there is a lucrative future for excellently written content disseminated via diverse Internet channels (the new iPad—bringing in readership while allowing them the flexibility of choosing how best to access the content they need. Smart!
Publishers seem to also be making headway in the electronic book frontier. Just ask Macmillan Publishing.
Amazon.com attempted to deliver a blow below the belt to Macmillan Publishing when it opposed the publishing house’s request to raise eBook pricing to $14.99 from $9.99. Amazon refused and proceeded to pull all of Macmillan’s eBooks offline. Just when everyone thought Macmillan was down for the count, the publishing house legal team KO’d Amazon.
The eBooks were reinstated and royalties flowed back to wearied authors. Check out the NYT coverage of this fight here.
What does this all mean? As a user of eBooks I’d prefer the lower price, but as a writer, wouldn’t it be neat to enjoy the higher royalties?
Comrades: L’union fait la force! Where would Amazon be if publishing houses such as Macmillan, Random House, and Penguin Books ganged up and took their content away from Amazon and Barnes and Noble? You can’t run a book store by selling air.
In this same vein, my next post will cover some of these newfangled and diverse dissemination channels. Writers have quite a rich marketplace available to disseminate their work, but only if they’re prepared to 1) let go of their favorite formats, and 2) be very flexible–or as one writer put it, be format agnostic.