The Future Of Publishing – The Book is Dead; Long Live the Book

Is the traditional publishing model dead?

I’ve touched on this topic before (for example,  Amazon becoming a publisher; Amazon really stepping up publication efforts; ebook growth; blogcasting), but three recent events bring it back to the forefront. First was a conversation with someone at a TCN panel talk I gave last week who had just self-published her own book, second was a conversation with a friend who had just published a book with a traditional publisher and third was an interesting piece just published by Matthew Ingram at GigaOM about the value of publishers.

At the panel last week I was discussing intellectual property issues in the start-up context, and one of the participants was focused on IP questions around a book she had just published. The questions were straight-forward, but what was interesting was that when asked who her publisher was, she said that she had self-published.

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Why Google+ Will be a Big Win for Google (and the rest of us) [UPDATED]

[Originally Published July 19, 2011.  See current updates at end.]

Its always dangerous to make predictions, especially with Google, which tends to (1) garner an inordinate amount of breathless coverage for its every initiative and (2) reveal its true plans slowly while it plays for the long, long, term.  But I’ve been thinking about, reading about and messing about with Google+ quite a bit since getting my invitation a little over a week ago, and based on my observations so far, I am willing to venture that this one is going to be a biggie.  Here’s a baker’s dozen reasons why:

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Shooting Out The Lights: Google + Motorola Mobility

Great analysis by PEHubWire on the Google / Motorola Mobility announcement this morning.  Pretty much captures it.  Look for increased anti-trust scrutiny on this one:

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Brian S. Hall Hates Google

Brian S. Hall has posted a super-harsh smack-down of Google entitled “How Do I Hate Google? Let Me Count the Ways.”  (Link is to Business Insider repost because the original post includes offensive language that detracts from his points.)  As a big fan of a lot of what Google has done (noted here and here for example), I am not sure I agree with Brian’s rant on all fronts, but I do think it is a valuable perspective that is worth having out there in the mix.   There were a couple areas, however, where I think we are in total agreement, and I mentioned both of them in my post on Google+.  Here are those excerpts from my original post:

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Hard Not To Admire Chris Sacca

Foundation 07 // Chris Sacca from Kevin Rose on Vimeo.

Shout out to Ty Danco for turning me onto a great interview of uber-angel Chris Sacca by Digg Founder Kevin Rose.  In his always excellent blog, Ty rightly points out that there are some very interesting bits of wisdom around the importance of paying it forward in life, and I agree 100% with that, but I am also blown away by Sacca’s other keys to success: versatility, smarts, like-abilty, hustle, networking, courage, and, yes, good old-fashioned luck – the luck to have landed right in the center of a circle of amazing people, in an amazing town, doing amazing things.  He couldn’t have done what he did without his native abilities, but the backdrop of timing and the springboard of early experience at Google didn’t hurt a bit.  Really excellent interview – well worth the time it takes to watch it.  Thanks Ty!


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When Everybody Wins

Gotta love when everybody wins.  I finally got around to trying the optical character recognition (OCR) engine recently built into Google Docs, and I have to say, I am pretty impressed.  It’s not perfect, but its GOOD ENOUGH to turn the text in any scan or PDF or photo into editable text.  Some editing and clean-up is required, but it beats re-typing the whole document.

Little miracles like this always make me stand back and contemplate the forces that conspired to bring them to me.  In this case we can thank one of the more powerful forces in the universe: the beneficial alignment of interests.

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Open: Good, But Not Easy

In an NYT piece about GoogleTV this week, Ashley Vance illustrates one of the major difficulties of totally open systems – in their raw form, they are horribly unpredictable and therefore very difficult to build a business on.  As Google moves into the device space, they have caused quite a bit of heartburn with their partners: delays in ChromeOS caused laptop manufacturers to miss this holiday season; delays with Android have caused major headaches with phone launch delays, tablet launch delays and phone upgrade issues; and now Google has asked major TV manufacturers to cancel their plans for GoogleTV roll-outs at the Consumer Electronics show in a few weeks.

Don’t get me wrong – open software projects are awesome, but experienced software people are fond of the saying “real engineers ship” for a reason.  In the enterprise space you see hybrid models being adopted for working with open projects – manufacturers will certify, ship and offer support only for certain reference versions.

Google’s ready, fire, aim approach has worked very well and driven very rapid innovation for its cloud-based the software, and an incredibly fast ramp for Android, but as they begin to mate their software more closely with hardware, something’s gotta to give.

Rough Start for Google TV

Google TV is off to a really rough start.  David Pogue slammed it in his review.  He probably didn’t set out to slam it, but by the time he is done describing it there is no conclusion you can reach other than v. 1.0 is a bag of hurt.

Then Walt Mossberg of the WSJ has added to the chorus of jeers, pointing out how fragmented and difficult GoogleTV is to use at this point.

For the record, I am not saying that the platform is the next Google Wave and will never morph into something interesting – it might – but it really shows the importance of a seamless experience and in sweating the details to make things feel integrated and easy. But even if they get there on the UI, the jury is still out on the basic premise that underlies GoogleTV: that people want the full internet/web/browser experience in the “lean back” context of the big screen TV environment. Many have argued that the Internet is a lean forward medium (i.e. a close-up, fine-grained, interactive, text-heavy desk or lap experience) that won’t translate well into the lean-back big screen context. When I consider how easy it is to just browse YouTube videos on the $99 AppleTV box, you have to wonder if that isn’t 90% of the value for 0% of the hassle?

Simplicity counts.

Nicaragua Raids Costa Rica, Blames Google Maps


Widespread complaints about slow Gmail, accidental war in Central America, people being directed to the wrong places to vote… Somewhere along the way Google ceased to be a mere provider of cool web toys and found its wish had come true; it has become a critical piece of infrastructure. Is it up to the task?

Android: Barely Controlled Chaos and Kludgy Results

Perhaps the biggest point of friction for Android is the same thing that led to its success. Because Google makes its software available free to a range of phone manufacturers, there are dozens of different Android-compatible devices on the market, each with different screen sizes, memory capacities, processor speeds and graphics capabilities. An app that works beautifully on, say, a Motorola Droid might suffer from glitches on a phone made by HTC. IPhone developers, meanwhile, need to worry about only a few devices: iPhones, iPods and iPads.

Talking about Android momentum is very much in fashion at the moment, and it is a good thing to have some competition for Apple, but Jenna Wortham hits the Android nail on the head in today’s NYT Technology Section – this platform is barely controlled chaos and the kludgy results appeal to only the geekiest of users.