The Young to Publishing Group is excited to announce their eBook Brown Bag Lunch!
Please join the YPG on Wednesday, January 12th, 2011 from 12:30-1:30 in Hachette’s 13th floor Atrium (46th & Lexington) for a discussion on how enhanced eBooks go beyond the realm of ordinary books and how these new products are facilitating a transformation in the publishing business and media industry at large. Pack your bags, bring your lunch, and prepare for the future!
The panel, which will be moderated by Guy LeCharles Gonzalez, Director of Programming & Business Development, Digital Book World, includes Liz Kessler, Digital Managing Editor, Hachette Book Group; Dan Sanicola, Director of Digital Assets, Penguin; Sue Fleming, VP Director of Content and Programming for Digital, Simon & Schuster.
The Young to Publishing Group (YPG) strives to give entry-level employees a chance to build a community outside of their own publishing house and to educate themselves about the industry as a whole. YPG is an initiative of the Association of American Publishers (AAP).
In his lecture on November 30th at the Midtown Executive Club, Professor Healy, Pace’s David J. Pecker Distinguished Visiting Professor in Publishing and Executive Director of the Book Rights Registry, waxes philosophically and fatalistically about the current direction in which publishers are taking e-book technology. He proclaims that the digital reading experience can often be outright “horrible,” and gives a laundry list of complaints he associates with the platform. Reading devices are often single-purpose devices, designed only or primarily for reading—an aberration he believes is only a temporary one as devices with enhanced functionality ala the iPad continue to be developed. He also cites an acute feeling of exploitation as publishers and retailers grapple over wholesale and agency models of book pricing, which can result in being charged “28 dollars for the Kindle version of a book that costs a dollar less in hardcover.” Finally, for Professor Healy, both windowing (the practice of releasing the digital edition of a book months after the hardcover version has already been in circulation) and restrictive digital rights management also impede his appreciation for e-books. Of course, Professor Healy’s himself cautions that the pessimistic picture he paints can’t be taken entirely at face value. He notes that e-books are set to amount between 8 and 10 percent of total sales for publishers in 2010, “impressive figures” for a product category that didn’t exist four years ago.
What’s interesting to me is that so many of these faults lie with the publisher. Perhaps, speaking to a crowd of publishers, Professor Healy was less inclined to launch into a bitter polemic of the industry, instead criticizing the e-book as though it were an autonomous entity independent of the organizations that created it. In fact, he defends publishers by nothing that their work with developing electronic publications is only “the first step on a journey” and that several such “baby steps” are necessary to “stop them from falling flat on their face on this new playground.” The metaphor is a telling one—who among us can fault a baby for their developmental trials and errors?
Towards the end of his talk, he did touch upon one of the largest potential threats facing publishers today: online communities of readers acting as arbiters of quality, or “curators” who can “commission content … identify and nurture authorial talent, and apply skills and experience to the editing of a manuscript.” Publishers can no longer depend on their role as “authoritative gatekeepers carefully distinguishing the diamond hidden in the carbon,” as this function has the looming potential to be outsourced to those very same communities. But what he doesn’t mention is that the poor quality of the e-books that publishers are trying to sell (for inflated prices), coupled with the ease of retail distribution (see Google eBooks) and this loss of centralized control over quality content, the threat of authors publishing independently and circumventing publishing houses completely is pressing and significant.
Professor Healy ends on a positive note for physical book traditionalists, remarking that they have a “very distinctive magic of their own, a magic quite separate from the magic of the truth they contain.” This viewpoint is a positive one for the publishing industry, as a large portion of their continued success depends on consumers reading print books, the reading experience of which can never be replicated with e-books. At least, not yet.
Also, in case you missed it, Pace University’s Opportunitas newsletter published a wonderful interview with Mr. Healy, reprinted here for your viewing pleasure:
From Gutenberg to Google
When the dot com bubbled in the 90s, venture capitalists and internet startups around the world screamed that print was dead. While that wasn’t the case (and may never be), there’s no denying the impact recent strides in technology have had on publishing. Just hop on any plane, train, or automobile and look around—people are reading their Kindles, listening to the latest Audible.com download, catching up on current events via their iPad. On November 30, Professor Healy, gave one in a series of lectures on the future of the industry for the MS in Publishing Program and industry insiders.
Here, he shares some of his insight into the future of ePublishing.
You are involved in some of the seminal events that are shaping the future of digital publishing, such as working with publishers and authors on the Google Book Settlement. Can you tell us a bit more about that?
I am currently the Executive Director of the Book Rights Registry, a new organization that will be created as a result of the Google Book Settlement. As you may remember, there was a well-publicized class action lawsuit which was brought in 2005 by the Authors Guild and Association of American Publishers to prevent Google from displaying parts of books it had been digitizing through its relationships with a number of university libraries. The authors and publishers felt Google’s display of the books was an infringement of copyright, a claim Google denied by saying it was “fair use”. The lawsuit was settled in October 2008 (although the settlement has not been finally approved by the judge). The proposed settlement contains several provisions: One is the establishment of a nonprofit Book Rights Registry that will represent the interests of authors and publishers in the settlement. The primary role of the organization will be to act as a place where authors and publishers can claim their books and register how they would like them to be used by Google and possibly others in the future. When Google earns money from using the books, 63 percent of the money will go back to the Registry for distribution to the authors and publishers (once a judge approves the settlement). We have been waiting to hear the outcome since February of this year. In the meantime, my job is to prepare for the establishment of the new organization.
If the settlement is approved and the Google Book Settlement moves forward, how will this affect the publishing industry?
The settlement focuses on books that are largely still in copyright, but mainly out of print. These are an estimated seven to eight million somewhat obscure or forgotten books—books that you will find in libraries but not bookstores. One of the great benefits is that Google Books will create a mechanism for getting those hard to find, out of print books. It’s very good for both publishers and authors, as it gives them a new stream of revenue for books that were previously earning little or nothing, and great for scholars, students and other readers because it opens up a treasure trove of books previously hidden in the collections of libraries.
How did you get involved in the field of digital publishing?
I think I’m something of an oddity. I have been in publishing for about 25 years, in one form or another. Unlike many others, I never did much conventional print or book publishing. I have been in digital publishing my whole career. That can be surprising to people who think that digital publishing is only five years or as old… as old as the Kindle. It
has actually been around since the 70s. In the early days in the 80s, digital publishing was a phenomenon that mainly affected academic publishing—databases in library and universities, and ultimately journals. All of the excitement and controversy that’s now going on is because it’s affecting consumer and trade publishing, what many equate to the “publishing industry.” But there are other publishing sectors, such as academic, scientific, and medical, where digital technology is nothing new—those sectors have been grappling with its opportunities and challenges for some time.
You’ve been giving a series of lectures at Pace that focus on new developments in digital publishing. Can you provide some highlights from your most recent lecture?
This lecture is called “Building a Better Mousetrap: Form, Function, and the Evolution of eBooks.” It’s based on the observation that technology is radically changing the way books are promoted and delivered, and the way people are consuming with readers and tablets. The way we consume, market, and distribute books today—everything in the supply chain is subject to change. However, the books themselves are changing much more slowly: the content is not changing, only the format is changing… in a very superficial sense. A lot of eBooks are electronic facsimiles of printed equivalents. So I wanted to examine, with all the technology and innovation available to us, why that is occurring, is the text remaining largely unchanged?
It’s an interesting point that, in their current form, eBooks are little more than electronic versions of the print. Are there any areas where you are seeing innovation?
There are pockets of experimentation, and that’s what I want to explore—what they are, what they reveal about publishers and readers, what the next generation of digital books might look like. For example, I read a lot of books electronically and when I’m traveling, instead of buying several guide books, I load them onto my iPad. What struck
me about using these new types was how imperfect they were, how they were inferior in functionality to the ones I would have traditionally bought in print! Why are publishers so reluctant right now, to experiment in new forms? Travel, cookery, and all sorts of non-fiction books could be enhanced so easily and cheaply with digital technology, but it’s not happening in a significant way yet. There are one or two trade publishers who are starting to enhance books with video, and some, like Penguin, have been linking text to websites, TV adaptations, and video on the web. In cookery, you’re starting to see links to videos where you can see the finished recipe, or where you have the ability to enter information, such as ingredients, into the device to find a recipe. Interesting things are being done, but these are the exceptions rather than the norm. However, I think that will change. The appetite for digital books is high at the moment, so publishers are growing in confidence, and that builds more confidence in the medium.
How do you think this ability to “publish” affordably online is changing the industry? Do you find more and more people are deciding to just do it themselves?
Self-publishing is taking off—that’s an extraordinary phenomenon. I think the stigma is disappearing and it’s becoming more acceptable to do it. We’re going to see a great deal more of that going forward, particularly as more big-name celebrity authors start asking: Do we need traditional book publishers? For example, the well-known writer Seth Godin,
has recently announced he will be self-publishing his next book. That calls into question what is truly distinctive and valuable about the modern publisher. It used to be that authors needed publishers for production, distribution, and sales, but technology now is forcing everyone – publishers, authors, agents and booksellers – to ask where the distinctive contribution of a publisher really lies. It’s a fascinating time to be in the industry for these reasons.
You recently came back from a conference in China about the future of digital publishing. Were there any surprises or new developments there?
They are grappling with many of the same sets of issues as we are in the United States. We may be a little further ahead in the process, but we’re all on the same journey. It was striking how similar the challenges are. The world really has shrunk.
Most grad students in the M.S. in Publishing program are on the hunt for jobs or internships, and any connection or bit of advice that we can use to get ahead is extremely valuable.
It was for this reason that so many of us could be found sitting in the Midtown Center computer lab last Tuesday, listening to a presentation given by Deborah Friedman, the Human Resources Assistant from Random House, Inc. The M.S. in Publishing program, in cooperation with Bookjobs.com and the Association of American Publishers (AAP), hosted the informational session.
Miss Friedman opened the talk by asking each of us to introduce ourselves, what undergraduate work we did, and which aspect of the publishing industry we are interested in. Once she had a sense of what we were interested in, she started in to her presentation. She began with an overview of Random House, Inc., and then delved into the entry level positions and career paths for each of their many departments. She also impressed us with the benefits package that Random House employees enjoy.
Then she gave us what we were all waiting for – those valuable tips for applications, resumes, cover letters, and interviews. Here are a few of the valuable tidbits we picked up from her:
Don’t apply across the board to every job that is offered – be specific and make sure your experience matches the criteria that the position requires.
If you are asked to provide references, be sure to notify those people that they may be contacted!
Your cover letter is often looked at even before your resume, so make sure it stands out!
Tailor it to the job you are applying for – don’t just send a general letter. Talk about why your experience fits the job description.
Make sure you have the correct names of the people and of the company! It sounds obvious, but she said that they often receive letters written to a different company. Yikes!
Try for 3-4 paragraphs to fill out the page. But go for quality over quantity!
Highlight your experience! It represents YOU, so give it effort. Make it clean, simple, and show attention to detail.
Office and administrative experience is ALWAYS a plus, and internship experience is very valuable.
If you have a blog or are involved in social networks, make sure you include those too.
Show up ON TIME. Even early is acceptable, but don’t show up any more than 15 mins early. That can throw off someone’s schedule and make you look too eager.
Dress appropriately. If possible, ladies should wear a skirt and heels, and gentlemen should wear nice slacks and shoes (no sneakers!)
You are usually meeting with more than one person, so try to get (and remember) names.
After the interview:
Send a thank-you note to every person you met with, and send it as quickly as possible after the interview takes place. Make sure you write more than just a line or two, and try to personalize it to each individual you met (mention something they said or something that you connected with them over). This can be just as important as your cover letter and resume!
Follow up. After you send your thank-you notes, give it about 5 days to a week before you send a follow up email. If you don’t get a response after a few more days, then try calling.
If you don’t get the job, don’t be afraid to ask for feedback. If there’s something that you could have done better, you’ll know for next time!
The Marketing and Magazine Production classes taught by professors Soares and Baron were treated to a glimpse of the future last week. On Monday, November 22, 2010 the Vice President and Group Publisher of Bonnier Corporation’s Technology Group, Gregg Hano, visited Pace University’s midtown campus to speak about what students have to look forward to as they enter the world of magazine publishing.
In the spirit of the Bonnier Technology Group’s tagline: “We Own the Future”, Hano’s lecture centered on the future effects of the iPad and its imitators on website content and print magazines. Mr. Hano spoke about the possibilities offered by the iPad and the other tablets that will soon be flooding the marketplace and households around the world. He explained how his technology group helped to create software, called Mag +, to fully utilize the tablet platform and add more interactivity and multi-media presentations to their iPad applications and allowed them to make Popular Science (his group’s premier title) the first magazine on the iPad. As he continued on, he talked about managing website content and creating paid-for internet content. It is Mr. Hano’s belief that putting printed content on the world-wide web for free was the biggest mistake the publishing industry has made. He advocated the creation of web-only content that would be paid for by its readers rather than given away for free. Hano also believes that publishers should increase the price of print magazines in order to keep magazines afloat rather than continuing to lower prices and scrambling for dwindling advertising dollars.
Throughout his talk about the future Mr. Hano tied in advice that was given to him by his boss, Bonnier Corporation’s CEO, Jonas Bonnier: “Test a lot of things. You’re going to fail a lot. Fail quickly and cheaply”. When speaking about the multi-media “Genius Guides” that his group created for Popular Science, Hano admitted that they put too much “stuff” into the applications, and as a result, they were not as popular as the company had hoped. They used that experience to scale back and hone their iPad applications to perfection. He also talked about testing new versions of their magazines on new technology platforms. Hano then touched on the successes and failures of the magazines in his group, including the reinvention of Sound+Vision and American Photo; Sound+Vision took off while American Photo is in Hano’s words “broken” and returning to development.
After answering questions, Gregg Hano imparted his last bit of advice: be bold, be revolutionary, and be ready to get fired. It is his belief that if you don’t get fired you aren’t making waves, and if you aren’t making waves, you aren’t doing your job. If you are pushing the envelope and creating change, you are going to cause tension, and tension can get you fired, but making changes is more important so remember: Always look forward!
-Russell Spangler, Graduate Student at Pace University’s M.S. in Publishing Program