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Harper Collins last week launched HarperPlus (see Bookseller coverage here). The site describes itself as “designed to enhance the reading experience”. By entering a page number from the print title where a symbol is displayed, you will get access to a variety of additional content (either video, audio, image, text or game).

The first book on the site is Apache by Ed Macy. It’s easy to see why a book like this works well. There are lots of additional photos, and creating a platform like this is a way to introduce additional value without adding to production charges, while at the same time creating something that readers can interact with.

This is a great strategy by HC. Not just in terms of reader engagement, but more for the benefit of providing the book with free online advertising. Readers get to experience something of the book’s essence outside of just the print title.

Where I think HC’s site falls down is in the levels of interaction possible. Given this is a very glossy-web.2.0-looking site, it’s almost frustrating to find that actually, once you’re on there, it’s all pretty much flat content, with little or no opportunities for the fans to engage on the site. They can read the additional content, listen to the audio and watch the videos, but they have no choice other than to do this on their own. This is missing a trick: while reading is a solitary activity, sites like this should be faciliating dialogue, and letting fans connect. Other than social media bookmarking, you’re on your own on HC Plus. Shame.

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Yes it’s still the talk of the dinner table. And now my appetite is well and truly whet after a week’s holiday in the US. I was out in suburban New England and yet even so was surprised that the large Barnes and Noble that I came across had no idea what I was talking about when I approached the desk and asked if they stocked the new Sony eReader. The polite store helper suggested I have a look on Amazon instead. Hmm.

So anyway after a week of unsuccessful hunting, imagine my joy when at the airport, I came across (and yes I really did find this quite entertaining) a Sony vending machine!! I’d thought the paperback vending machines in the UK were fun, but this was really the one you wanted to get the accidental extra packet from!

And in the Sony vending machine, there it was…

Unfortunately stuck inside a box, but nevertheless looking sleek and attractive.

Guess what. That wasn’t the only e-Reader in the airport. To my great joy, guess what was adorning the sales desk in Borders? Yes. A ‘try me’ Sony e-Reader. Loaded with books and ready to use.

Well I have to say I am not a techy. And I’m not an early adopter. And I like my paperbacks and magazines in print. But I have to say I liked it. It’s very very aesthetically pleasing. It’s much smaller than the older models I’d seen, and the navigation is simple and sensible. The e-ink is actually more impressive than I thought it would be too – it really is easy to read.

Will I buy one though? Really not sure. The Bookseller this last week shared discussions between publishers on e-book pricing ahead of the UK launch. There’ll be some interesting follow ups over the coming weeks as we see what areas of publishing will be most successful here, and where this just isn’t going to work. Will the prices go down if there is no uptake? Will there be some interesting new business models developing? 

I’m in the camp that there’ll be a lot of early adopters on this one, despite the cost, as it really is a nice looking package, but for me, for now at least, I’m just going to sit back and watch what will be a really interesting autumn.

Seems to be a bit of a battle commencing for market share in e-readers when the Sony e-reader hits our shores later this year. I have to confess I’ve only been mildly interested in e-readers from a business perspective – not really as a user. I’m a bit behind the times to be honest – haven’t even managed to invest in an ipod yet (the shame…)…

But I was interested when a colleague told me this morning that Waterstones are claiming exclusive rights to selling the e-reader when it launches. Clearly a statement setting up not only the e-reader against the Amazon Kindle but setting up some direct competition between the two booksellers.

What I find particularly interesting about this soon-to-be battle is the idea that the product is being bought to make e-content portable. So does this have any bearing on whether the Kindle (sold by the great e-tailer), or the e-reader (brought into the UK marketing by the largest highstreet book retailer) will see greater take up.

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Perhaps being sold on the highstreet or through e-tail actually has no real bearing on eventual uptake: certainly sales of other portable devices (e.g. the i-pod) occur on street level and through e-tail, but I can’t think of an example of pitting two new brands against each other like this. Also I am kind of discounting Waterstone’s abilities to generate online sales: I don’t have the figures on what their online sales are like: perhaps they are quite high, but I doubt they are comparable to Amazon’s figures.

There are obviously other factors to consider too: I attended a presentation in February that strongly suggested the e-reader is the better beast – better functionality, usability, and ultimately (I think?) a better price. If there’s going to be a move towards widespread e-book use, all these factors will most certainly come into play. Look forward to seeing where this one goes.

You may have come across my previous blog when I initially started doing my dissertation for a CIPR diploma in 2007. Having finished in September last year, I’ve since been a little quiet, and have not been doing a great job of managing my professional development. So with the arrival of a rather snowy April, I’m setting out my thoughts on PR in publishing, and hoping to pen some ideas for professional development on the way. All comments as ever are very welcome.