Monday, March 29th, 2010
The afternoon broke into two streams, and I chose Track 2, which featured presentations from various companies doing neat stuff with writing and publishing. First up was Ian Barker from Symtext. I was interested to see this presentation, because WLU Press has signed on already, and it is only a matter of time before profs will be able to make their own electronic course packs using our material. The demo was slick, and showed the ability to drag and drop chosen documents into a course pack. The price is live, so updates as you add and remove. Course packs can be a mixture of free and paid content, text and multimedia, published, self-authored, or student-generated content. It was easy to see the potential for a dynamic course pack that brings together all the content in one document. All documents include space for annotation, so an instructor can highlight text and comment, or bring the students’ attention to specific parts. Symtext also allows an instructor to make available his/her course outlines and notes and monetize them for other uses. Imagine being given a course at the last minute and finding someone else has already done the work needed to teach it effectively. We’re excited about the possibilities of this one.
Another variation on that theme, but more consumer-based and currently a POD model is BookRiff (currently in private beta). Mark Scott walked us through building our own book, selecting any content available. For people not yet convinced of the value of electronic documents, this paperback book can provide all your content in a traditional form. If the database was large enough, I could see using this to build personal books of essays, poetry, short fiction, etc. I’m less inclined to think of it for academic uses, except perhaps in fiction studies. They are playing with social aspects on the site as well, including sharing or Riffit! badges. It should be interesting to see how this evolves.
Next up was Mark Lefebvre of Titles Bookstore at McMaster University. Titles is the proud owner of an Espresso Machine, which pumps out books in the time of an expensive coffee. He is a passionate speaker who loves books and I thoroughly enjoyed his talk. WLU Press has licensed some of our titles for the Espresso and we’re keen to see the possibilities of this technology, especially once there are more machines in more bookstores.
Hugh McGuire talked about Book Oven, a collaborative publishing experience, and touched also on LibriVox, his online repository of open source audio books. I’ll write more about Hugh later, when I talk about his most interesting (to me) project, Bite Size Edits.
Next Mark Coker talked about Smashwords, an online platform for publishing and purchasing e-books. He had some interesting things to say to publishers about the market share of e-books, presenting stats that predict 10% of sales by the end of 2010. He encouraged publishers to hook readers in at the end of the book with links to more content, such as more books by this author, enhanced content, or a link to an eNewsletter. He repeated the oft-heard advice to eliminate all friction for the customer (Terry O’Reilly of CBC’s Age of Persuasion presented an alternate view at last month’s TEDxWaterloo). Read more of Mark’s ideas on the Huffington Post.
The last speaker of the break-out sessions was Len Vlahos from IndieBound, a platform of the American Booksellers Association. He related what their organization is doing to help independent bookstores weather the changes in the industry, including the provision of an indie commerce program that sells books on line and markets bookstores. IndieBound itself has a wealth of material for readers and booksellers alike, and they have an iPhone app for mobile downloading. Your favourite bookseller gets the sale.
So that wraps up the first half of the afternoon. I’m long-winded today. Part 3 will take you from Deanna McFadden’s talk through the Lightning Round Demos and into the wine and cheese.