You will know by now that I am a trail runner. This weekend my favourite trail running podcast, The Ginger Runner, celebrated 100k subscribers on YouTube by livestreaming a 100k trail run. It was a wonderful 14 hour experience we got to share with him. With all the hoopla around podcasts it really made me think about the ways we interact with our subscribers, and how we can think of truly original and generous ways of giving to them.
Digital: Where Now?
For as long as I can remember, we have known that the future of publishing is digital. And as indies we have always felt at the forefront of whatever that meant. But “whatever that meant” has been somewhat less well defined. There were ebooks. Then there were ebooks with their own dedicated devices to read them on. Then there were enhanced ebooks. Then there were ebooks but without a dedicated device. This week, as we see yet another rise in resilient print sales, Frankfurt Bookfair has issued a fascinating white paper that asks what the future of books looks like. A conclusion that stands out notes: “the digital business models tend to privilege subscriptions and streaming over purchases and ownership.” And the body of text namechecks the likes of crowdfunding publisher Unbound, Chinese giant Tencent, and serialisation innovator Wattpad.
The paper is surely right to point out that these companies are all doing innovative things. It is also right to add social reading to the growing list of trends. But I wonder if the privileging of streaming has to do with technical practicalities rather than the direction of innovation. The difficulty of owning ebooks (see the fierceness of arguments over DRM, a mechanism that ensures we can't own books) is a problem. Companies like Publica are making it possible to own ebooks outright. That feels exciting. Cloud computing and superfast broadband facilitate streaming and subscription. On the other hand I know many writers, and readers, who would not only hope that in this case the medium is not the message, but believe it to be so.
Regulation: Is it Working for Us?
I reported recently on the EU's move to make the owners of platforms check uploaded material for copyright infringement. It was a move that could have created a massive and potentially fatal administrative burden for us like the doomed SOPA/PIPA in the USA. Well, that battle is not over and the debate will continue. It is very interesting to see how coverage of this varies. Techcrunch breathed a sigh of relief, while at Publishing Perspectives Porter Anderson took a much dimmer view. As noted above, we are still finding our way in the digital world. Regulation that we are all dealing with already, meanwhile, is GDPR. This week we learned that AI has discovered some major flaws in the wording of GDPR policy from giants Google, Facebook, and Amazon. Don't forget you can find Howard Lovy's piece on GDPR here.
Brace yourselves. This year's Prime Day (Amazon seems to be dropping the “Amazon” bit of the title wherever it can) is upon us, and will be with us for 36 hours on and around Monday 16 July. It will probably be the biggest shopping day of the year outside December and it is a suitable reminder just how much our lives are dominated by the biggest players.
Kobo: Restrictions on Descriptions
One of the things that has always been exciting about Kobo is its willingness to make partnerships. This means you can put your books into interesting places. Overdrive, through its ownership by Rakuten, gets you into libraries, and your books can appear on the shelves of retail giants like France's Fnac and Walmart. This week we learned that if you want to keep your books going to Walmart, some of you may need to dial down your book description as descriptions of more than 4000 characters will lead to your title being withdrawn. That is a lot of characters, and it will affect very few of you (and Kobo Writing Life are letting people know), but it illustrates an important issue. Getting your books into large monolithic outlets means that when their requirements and yours clash, there will only be one outcome – as indies we would do well to remember that.Top #selfpub news stories for #indieauthors, in one quick read, by #ALLi News Editor Dan Holloway @agnieszkasshoes Click To Tweet
Upcoming Conferences and Events
Historical Novel Society Conference, Aug 24-26 [Scotland]
Digital Book World, Oct 2-4 [Nashville] Ness Book Fest, Oct 4-7 [Scotland] Frankfurt Book Fair, Oct 10-14 [Frankfurt] Helsinki Book Fair, 25-28 Oct [Helsinki] Croydon Litfest, 27 October [Croydon, UK]