ˈvər-chə-wəlˈdā-vəs Serial storyteller, poetry pusher, digital doodler, flâneur.

Self-Publish with Borders and Barnes & Noble

The publishing industry’s changing landscape (

Not to be outdone by Amazon, Borders and Barnes & Noble have entered the publishing racket.

Earlier this month Barnes & Noble launched a self-publishing platform called PubIt! that will compete directly with Amazon CreateSpace and indirectly with Apple’s iBookstore.

In an attempt to do for indie writers what InstantAction has done for indie game developers,… the world’s largest bookseller is hoping to expand its importance in the digital realm by giving wannabe authors the ability to upload and sell their material through B&N’s website and eBookstore… the real kicker here is this won’t be limited to the Nook; pretty much any e-reader, tablet or PC will be able to tap in and make purchases, so the potential audience is quite large. (engadget)

Of course, Kindle too ensured that their electronic books are universally accessible by developing apps that work across devices and platforms, but B&N’s open publishing model is smart. Sure, Nook has been a bit of a sleeper next to the Kindle, and B&N doesn’t want to limit the potential market (or perception) by being number two in the reader market. Or number three when the iPad is thrown into the mix? Whatever the logic guiding this policy, it’s welcome and overdue. Limiting media to Kindle or iPad, though lucrative in the short run, is a major turnoff for the consumer. It’s like saying, “Here, buy our glossy print book, but you can only read it at home. Not at work. Not on vacation. Not on the bus. At home!” Okay, so it’s not exactly like that, but it is perceived as unnecessarily restrictive. And if B&N can manage to open up the electronic publishing industry, I’m confident that consumers (and authors) will respond.

Okay, enough prattling and jab-jab-jabberwocky… What’s the bottom line?

[PubIt!] is essentially designed to give independent writers a venue for hawking their masterpieces, with PubIt! converting files to ePUB for use on a wide range of e-readers… Published titles will be available for sale within 24 to 72 hours after upload on the B&N eBookstore, and the company’s pretty proud of its “no hidden fees” policy… PubIt! ebooks will also be lendable for a fortnight… (engadget)

Inevitable, but no less exciting, Borders has announced that they want a piece of the indie action too. Their self-publishing platform, Borders Get Published, appears to be a joint venture with BookBrewer (the blog-to-ebook folks) and is scheduled to launch on Monday.

Using the service, authors can publish and sell eBooks through the Borders eBook store, as well as other partner eBook retailers… Authors can sell works of any length and chose [sic] the price within a price range set by the retailer. Authors can add content by typing in the platform, by copying and pasting it into an online form, or content can be fed from an existing website or blog. The content will be saved as an ePub file.

There are two tiers of pricing for those looking to get published –$89.99 and $199.99. Under the basic package, BookBrewer will assign the book an ISBN and make it available to major eBook stores at a price set by the writer. Royalties will be based on sales and will vary with each retailer. The higher priced package comes with a full version of the ePub file, that authors can share with friends, family and press and submit to other eBook stores. (

Exciting times. Unless you’re in the traditional publishing industry, I would think. It’s a little surreal that the new publishing map is being hashed up by retail/distribution power players while traditional publishers sit idly by worrying, griping, soap boxing and nay saying. I have to believe that earth shattering innovations are in the offing from the Big Six, right? I mean, these are smart, powerful companies. They won’t just sit back and watch as the new guys gobble up their lunch, dinner and cocktails! Or will they?

While print book sales continue to decline, e-book sales are up 192.9% this year to date, according to figures gathered from 14 publishers by the Association of American Publishers (AAP). E-books now make up 9% of all trade sales in the U.S.; last year, they made up a mere 3.3%. E-book sales have reined in $263 million thus far in 2010, and $39 million in August alone — a 172.4% increase over last year’s sales numbers. Meanwhile, sales of paperback and hardcover books continue to decline across the board… ( Mashable )

The publishing industry is shifting so rapidly that it’s still difficult to anticipate what tomorrow will look like. I suspect that a decade from now we’ll have an entirely new understanding of media creation, publication, distribution and curatorship. And I hope that it will be a more open, less top-down model. Just as there’s reason to worry that a shift will not necessarily amount to progress, there’s ample reason for optimism. I’m sticking with Pollyanna!


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Ryu Murakami Bypasses Publishers, Opts for IPad

Are you familiar with Ryu Murakami? He’s a successful, established Japanese novelist, and he’s breaking away from the heard with his next novel, A Singing Whale. Although he’s still ironing out the details for an ink and paper edition, he’s releasing the digital version directly to his audience via Apple’s iBookstore, “circumventing his traditional publisher in the process…

Murakami’s project should be hailed less as a blow against the monopoly of big publishing houses over authors and the circulation of their work, and more as a celebration of the kinds of opportunities that devices like the iPad can provide for creativity and cost-efficient distribution.

Other authors are, however, dispatching more direct challenges to the traditional publishing industry model by signing deals directly with e-book retailers, rather than through their publishers. This spring, bestselling suspense novelist Stephen King released his latest work, Blockade Billy as an e-book one month before releasing the hardcover version in the U.S. and Canada, and published a short story, “UR,” exclusively for the Kindle in February 2009. Other prominent American writers have also sold the e-book rights to past and current work exclusively to Amazon. (

Wall Street Journal blogger, Yoree Koh, explains that the release and rapid adoption of Apple’s iPad has fueled a world of worry among old guard publishing industry heavyweights who “have feared the worst: thatprecious big-name authors might sign directly with e-book retailers, relegating the old-school publishers as the dispensable middleman.”

Let the nightmare begin. Novelist Ryu Murakami… replaced the publishers with a software company to help develop the e-book titled “A Singing Whale,” or “Utau Kujira” in Japanese. The digital package will include video content and set to music composed by Academy Award winning composer Ryuichi Sakamoto… Mr. Murakami’s decision is the latest step taken by well known authors in re-writing the business model of the publishing industry… [By] offering fresh material only in an electronic format, Mr. Murakami’s plan has basically removed the traditional book publisher from the calculation entirely. (Wall Street Journal)

Obvious growing pains will follow such a bold move, but this as an inevitable and exciting evolution as the publishing industry moves away from the Gutenberg Paradigm toward a more audience-centric publishing model. I see this transition not so much as a challenge, but rather as a reminder that content can easily and quickly be packaged into engaging, innovative, multi-modal, portable and user friendly formats. Vook, iBookstore, Kindle and others are leading the innovation, while the lumbering dinosaurs sit by and grumble.

Why? Catch up. Surpass. Imagine an even sexier future! Paper and ink publishing is grand. Aesthetically pleasing, nostalgic, luxurious and enduring in a fragile sort of way. All true. I love books. And they’re here to stay, though their production will not continue to be the primary vessel for publishing content. They’ll likely become a specialty item. Electric format books offer outstanding financial benefits, distribution benefits, and creativity benefits. The biggest challenge will be to storytellers and content providers. It’s time for us to begin dreaming up the next frontier of storytelling, and Ryu Murakami’s A Singing Whale is just the inspiration we need. It’s time to liberate words from their bindings, time to let them soar and dance!


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Publish and Distribute with CreateSpace

Create. Collaborate. Distribute.

Our free online publishing tools and Community can help you complete and sell your work. Distribute on, your own website, and other retailers without setup fees or inventory. (

I’ve been reading up on CreateSpace self-publishing, and I’m impressed. Especially interested in the “Expanded Distribution Channel”… Any experience/reviews out there?


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Audiences Don’t Pay for Content

Where to Look for Opportunities

When we start with the premise that consumers haven’t paid for content in the past, we gain visibility into new ideas that make sense for the digital era.

It’s not micro-payments alone that will save the future for professional quality media content. On the other hand, the idea that the consumer will always pay for distribution that massively over-serves their needs is not a foregone conclusion either. Paying $2500+ per year for cable/broadband/telephony/mobile in order to gain access to a million times more content than you could ever possibly need is not going to work out so well for the media industry either.

We need solutions that improve the relevance of content for individual consumers without expecting individual consumers to be able to predict exactly what they want. The Internet has exploded the supply of content but digital technologies have only just begun to filter and sample that content for the consumer in an effective manner.

Content providers who used to enjoy control over the method of distribution are feeling a lot of pain but their content remains vital and appealing to consumers. Rather than stomping our foot like Mr. Isaacson, it is better to focus on new solutions that tie content and distribution together in ways that create great consumer experiences.

We don’t know what the other side of this transformation will look like but we have guidance;

  • Look at what the iPod did for music. Think about the critical role of sampling in the success of the micropayment model for songs.
  • Look at the potential of what Kindle can do for print publications.
  • Study the legacy of syndication that makes business partners of the content distributor and the content provider.
  • Look at the popularity of expensive sets of DVDs for old TV episodes.
  • Anticipate what the near-future DVR will be capable of doing.
  • Think of what GPS will mean for the distribution of local and timely content.
  • Think about what Twitter and search are doing to reveal the consumer’s need for specific content at precise moments in time.

It is time to think about distribution and content holistically. Digital technologies are not the enemy, they are an enormous opportunity to improve the relevance of content to the individual consumer. Don’t think so small as micropayments for one article at a time and don’t take for granted the current ability to charge a big fee for massively over-delivering irrelevant content. Look in the middle.

Somewhere in between asking the consumer to buy content “al a carte” and asking the consumer to pay for the whole menu, new “prix fixe” solutions are going to mature.

A Final Word from Our Sponsor

While we are at it, let’s not lose sight of the value of the advertising supported model. We are in the middle of a complex media transformation and a brutal recession. At times like this, pundits like Bob Garfield want to convince us that advertising is dead.

Advertising works. In the digital era, the consumer finds it very easy to ignore irrelevant advertising but they are quicker to engage with relevant advertising than ever before because the Internet makes engagement easy.

Be careful not to throw the baby out with the bath water in pursuit of the goal of getting the consumer to pay for the content. The advertiser remains happy to assume that role so long as we can offer a reasonably scaled and engaged audience. We just need to apply our new resources to help the advertiser better align their message with the right consumer at the right time.

Media companies can create new and better advertising values and it will still command a premium relative to the costs of distribution. Now that digital efficiencies have greatly reduced the cost of distribution, media companies need to look hard at the overhead that is a hangover from the analog era.

Some legacy media executives complain that they are trading analog dollars for digital pennies as advertising moves online. That is a valid concern so we can’t drag our feet when it comes to rethinking overhead costs from analog dollars to digital pennies as well.

We can reduce overhead, improve advertising value and find new consumer revenue models built on interesting combinations of content and distribution all at the same time. We need to be more disciplined about who the consumer is and what they really want as we build our new solutions, but the solutions are just waiting for the imaginations of new media moguls to find them.


I excerpted this from an informative piece with sound thinking that I’d recommend to anyone creating content (word, video, music, etc.) for an audience. A few highlights:

#1. “We need solutions that improve the relevance of content for individual consumers without expecting individual consumers to be able to predict exactly what they want.”

#2. “Study the legacy of syndication that makes business partners of the content distributor and the content provider.”

#3. “Think about what Twitter and search are doing to reveal the consumer’s need for specific content at precise moments in time.”

4. “We need to be more disciplined about who the consumer is and what they really want as we build our new solutions, but the solutions are just waiting for the imaginations of new media moguls to find them.”

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