Drop a note to firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule an appointment.
We can't help wondering, though, how many consumers will really pay $400 for a single-purpose reading device, when alternatives from a riotously competitive hardware market combine reading with phone, messaging, music and other capabilities.
For example, the iPhone pictured here, with a tasty looking page delivered via Tizra's Agile PDF. We wish we could say it's the result of some special technology we came up with for delivering books to mobile devices, but really it's just a byproduct of the fact that Agile PDF makes books work like the web. So as the web finds its way into more mobile devices, so will books published with Agile PDF. Meanwhile, of course, there are already a billion or so eager readers accessing the web through more traditional means.
By the way, the sesame crusted tuna's from Montreal's Aix Cuisine du Terroir, one of hundreds of restaurants reviewed by the eat.shop guides, which you'll be hearing more about soon.
Rhode Island's small, but it's got talent. I'd put the community of designers and software engineers surrounding Brown and RISD up against any I've worked with in New York or Boston. Yet technology startups haven't flourished here as you might expect, and much of Rhode Island's talent gets lured to the brighter lights of bigger cities.
Yesterday, we got more evidence that the state is working to correct that when the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation approved our application for a $100,000 Innovation Tax Credit. The credit will provide one more reason for investors to bet their capital on Tizra, and will mean Tizra can put more of those great engineers and designers to work close to home.
A brief moment for a minor bit of boosterism. Duke University Press has come on board with Tizra as a charter customer, something we’re excited about for a couple of reasons.
We're seeing how the emergence of long tail sales strategies is beginning to transform book publishers’ business models. The Duke books program, with its combination of long-lived scholarly and trade content, is particularly well-suited to a long tail sales strategy.
We are also really delighted at the prospect of working with such a smart and forward-looking publisher.
The Adobe announcements last week were very interesting, but not for the reasons most people seem to think.
Here's the real story: The most important producer of print publishing tools is backing an XML-based format for electronic delivery, by making it a (relatively) painless option after preparing something for print. This means the new electronic format can come out the kind of editorial process publishers are already using. With all the limitations that this XML format has, it's much more in reach of publishers who can't afford to change all their editorial processes in a single go.
There's been a lot of concentration on the idea that a standard format will speed ebook reader adoption. This is something that vendors like Sony are realizing is important. Is this their first open format use in electronic media?. And indeed for the long-term future, I think that this is an important issue for vendors. For publishers and businesses right now, though, the focus on new reading platforms is insignificant outside of niche markets.
The Web is the platform that matters, especially for non-fiction content. At Tizra we've concentrated on PDF as the format that most publishers have in quantity, and on making it as close to a first-class web citizen as possible: that means we don't re-implement features (like bookmarks and emailing links) that web browsers already have, but instead we create a site where those features work as usual. That also means delivering pages as embedded content in HTML (with file download as an option, where it makes sense).
With our deep XML experience, we are going to be looking closely at how to take what is still designed as a monolithic file format for delivery and "Warehousing", and really get web marketing and product oomph out of it. Disaggregating .epub files will be as important as it is for PDF, but the results will be a little more precise and considerably more flexible.
And when we do it, PDF backfile or primary content will be delivered and managed the same way as .epub documents are managed.
The Adobe announcements (especially integration of new e-book formats into print-oriented production tools) seems to present a more practical way for smaller publishers to change their workflows than the "big-bang" conversion project. But that kind of incremental strategy leaves existing PDF and image backlists just the way they are, and means that PDF will be a key part of all solutions for online marketing and product definition for the foreseeable future.
Sometimes the future's so bright that it can blind you to the present, or tomorrow.
I'll have more to say about Adobe's news, but I can say that I don't think the reader is the interesting part, even if it is a very Flash-ey demo
I have seen far from all the talks here, but from what I've seen and the buzz that I've heard the winner of the "coolest presentation award" was Manolis Kelaidis. He showed a paper e-book device that he's been prototyping. By means of conductive ink traces, a person touching a button on the page can trigger an action by an embedded processor. He had a book where pads on the page triggered actions on his laptop: going to web pages, playing songs on iTunes, and so forth.
It was a hand-bound Bluetooth book!
There's clearly a huge expense still involved in platform building and so on, but everything he did is compatible with contemporary printing technology, using inks that are commercially available (not experimental). Other developments in printable circuitry play into this as well: printable batteries, printable electronic components, printable speakers.
Of course this is a technology, not a solution, and there's a huge chain of associated requirements -- protocols for books to notify other devices; security regimes to define so that your new books won't hack your computer. Based on experience in other media, conventions for authoring and use of the new technology are likely to be the most dificult adaptation.
But the great thing about paper is that you can write on it!
I immediately started thinking that this would be a great addition to a notebook. I'd buy a book with 10 generic buttons to a page, and any of them could be mapped to a function on my machine easily. So I could take notes on something I was recording as audio or video and whack a button on the page to make a link. Or to record the page that I'm browsing right at this moment. 100 pages is 1,000 special buttons to memorize some data!
The other interesting thing is that you can make conductive traces by using a silver ink marking pen, so you could just draw buttons onto a page anywhere you want, connecting them to traces on the edge.
If the notebook shell had a slot for a memory and the processor, and a unique ID build in, you might be able to bring the hardware costs way down because you'd just have to clip the brain onto the book, and the brain would know what book it was connected to, so you could have fewer chunks of electronics.
Links to follow soon
The first wave is a wave of posts. I've arrived at the TOC conference, and gave my tutorial yesterday. I expect that the conference will give me ideas for several blog posts over the course of the conference. I've also got some stored up ideas that came from preparing the tutorial that should come out in a while...
I have hope that the second wave will be a wave of action. I was gratified to hear that Digitizing Your Backfile was the tutorial with the highest registration. I'm sure there's selection bias at a conference like this, but it said to me that perhaps people are getting ready to act on projects. I hope that the good tutorial attendance means people are ready to act, not just test the waters. The water is great, and it's time to swim!
I do have the sense that after a pause for a deep preparatory breath, online publishing is now heating up rapidly, and this time it's heading for action, not just interest. As people act, I'd like to be sure that they act carefully, and think about all the options (including ours, of course).
I sometimes worry that our no-development self-managed model is confusingly different to people who have been conditioned by years in which expensive custom builds were the only way to get stuff online without being bundled into someone else's aggregated product.
bestarchival format fastest — because serial content does not have a legacy that needs conversion to make a new channel profitable, so the payoff from a production change can be pretty fast. A publisher with a rich backfile has items that can earn for 20 years or more — as long as costs can be controlled. So any change to the book production process has to pay off immediately on new books. And for any large-scale change across a publisher's line to be successful, it must be very cheap for old books. And that's where e-books stand, revenue unearned because there's not a clear path to get it. XML is great, and enables the production of an optimized presentation for a new media format, but it's not cheap at all. It's an expensive and tricky management challenge to change editorial production processes for new content, and data-conversion costs for old content are very high. Once the data is in hand, the development cost to create a new output format (print, web, handheld, or whatever) is not cheap either. Problems like typesetting, layout and display all have to be solved anew for each output format. It takes work to optimize presentation, especially from the level of abstraction gives good XML that power. So page images (and especially PDF) get a big boost from the XML paradox because they capture a lot of the production value of the existing process and they're the cheapest searchable format to produce from paper. So here I am, a guy who courted his wife over conversations about markup, working with page images. We are managing them with very rich metadata at a fine level, to capture much of the commercial benefit of XML, but still, I'm enabling something I used to rail against. And it's not easy to make page images work over the web, let publishers control the presentation, and still be good to readers. In this discussion I am leaving out the small number of
crown-jewelproperties that earn large amounts quickly in a new channel, and thus merit technology investment — Projects like that are important, but don't shift the business as a whole. And their emphasis on frequent updates makes them similar to serials in the need for continuous editorial management. Coming soon: I used to think that page scanning projects were a waste of money in terms of long-term investment, and I hope to post soon about why I no longer believe that either.