Wednesday, February 13, 2008

More Snow = More Sickness. Anger Is The Answer

Everyone in my office is out with some form of illness this week, whether it's a cold or strep throat, I am in mortal fear that I'll catch something and be even sicker, with the stupid cough still hanging around after three weeks I'm ready to toss myself in a snowbank and just be done with it. So I'm holed up in my cubby at work frightened to leave or breath any air. Which means I did a bit of surfing this morning before settling in with a cup of Wild Sweet Orange tea.

So, there's an interesting article over at the Guardian blog about how publishers just don't know what to do with the internet. And while it's an interesting point of view, Nicholas Clee says:
It is 17 years since the creation of the world wide web, and still no publisher has any idea how to deal with it. Is it a threat? An opportunity? Will it be the medium for the spread of free, mostly pirated texts, or will it broaden the market for authors' works? How do you promote books on the internet? By giving them away? By giving them away in snippets? By charging small sums for snippets? We haven't got a clue.
And I don't entirely agree. I mean sure, publishers may still be working out how to work with content online; but I think many, if not all, agree that it's quite fun to promote books on the internet. In fact, many of my colleagues around the globe would agree that with the decline of traditional media devoted to books, the explosion of intelligent, well written and extremely well read book blogs, and the use of multimedia (podcasts, book trailers, author interviews, viral videos) books have found a natural home on the web.

And I think it's absolutely clear, even with the two or three big news items he points to, Random House offering chapters for a small fee and HarperCollins offering up whole books from its digital warehouse project, that publishers are testing in the space. And isn't that exactly what the internet is about? They're learning from industries who are currently getting absolutely whooped by the ease of content flowing online (anyone think the music peeps did a better job; the movie guys?). And so what if both models don't work: we'll simply try something else next time.

And why do so many journalists focus on the idea of recreating the reading experience online as the key way for publishers to (for lack of a better word) play in the digital age? It's just a part of overall strategy, one aspect of how book content can be used online, but it's all the media seems to glom onto these days. There's so much out there for books online, and every single person I know in the business is exploring many, many ways of not only promoting books, but building word of mouth, exposing readers to new authors, and breaking down the virtual walls that may have separated the publishers from the readers in days gone by.

Why so negative Nicholas? It seems to me that we've all got a pretty good idea that there are book lovers online who love not only to read our books, but to write about them, to talk about them, and to buy them. So what if we're taking baby steps.

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